The Eaton Diary of London    2001  


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Monday, 2 April, 2001


For 3 weeks now, I've felt like a lone crusader against the dreaded litter of London. With some refreshing exceptions, it has appeared that Londoners have given up the litter war and have accepted that disposable wrappers are a part of modern day living and should be disposed of when and where one has finished with them. Having been trained to think differently, I have been resisting this trend at every turn. Some authorities are trying to address the problem in their own unique way, which I find commendable. For example I was pleased to see signs up in one Tube Station. "Take your litter home with you!" Excellent idea, I thought. And to support their litter campaign, they steadfastly refuse to supply any litterbins. After all, people would only abuse the privilege and fill them to overflowing, as happens in less enlightened municipalities. Their plan is brilliant. No bins to have to empty and you just train the people to take responsibility for their own rubbish, taking it home for proper disposal. But do you know what? They don't! And after 3 weeks of resisting, I must confess I finally caved in and followed the crowd.

It happened on Sunday morning on my way to church, no less, when you would think I would be trying extra hard to do the right thing. I took an apple to eat on the journey. (It's 2 trains, a bus and walk away. A packed lunch would be appropriate, but I settled for an apple.) I had finished the said object of temptation by the end of my first train ride, and as usual held on to the core to dispose of in the correct and proper way. I could have left it on my seat as some are wont to do, or on the floor with the other OH&S hazards. But I didn't. I wanted to do the right thing. While changing trains I searched for a proper receptacle, but this was a "Take-your-litter-home-with-you" station, so I continued to carry my apple core onto the second train. A subtle temptation started to gnaw at me. "Leave it on the train, with all that other rubbish!" - No, I couldn't do it. I knew better. There will surely be a rubbish bin at the next station.

But no, there wasn't a bin in sight. "This is getting ridiculous!" - that voice was getting louder. "Take it home if you're going home, but you're going to church. What are you going to do, put it in your pocket, or in your bag with your Bible!"

So, think less of me if you will, but I confess that I gave in to the temptation and quietly dropped my apple core with the other litter at the end of the platform. I'm not proud of my sins, but I'm still amazed that the powers-that-be around here make it so hard for me to resist. I also find it fascinating that the much maligned fast food chains are actually the places I seek for refuge from my sin. They are often the only place to go for a rubbish bin, (or a clean rest room, for that matter.)

As for my trip to church, to save myself from habitual sin, I guess Iíll have to carry a plastic bag with me, just like the occasional good responsible dog owners do, as they go walkies in the mornings.

Talking of walking, that reminds me of the other evidence of apparent lawlessness that amazes me. Like all civilised cities, London has little green and red men at pedestrian crossings to tell you when to walk and not to walk. After 12 years of insisting on setting a good example for students of Craigmore School at their pedestrian crossing and religiously not walking without the green manís say so, even when there were no cars in sight, imagine the culture shock I suffered when everybody seems to walk clearly without the green manís permission, even when cars and taxis and Double-Decker buses are in sight and bearing down quite rapidly. The only principle I can see in operation is something akin to the survival of the fittest. It seems if you can get across without being hit, itís ok. But one needs to recognize that buses and taxis slow down for no one, so one needs to be careful. After, on a number of occasions, being the only one left still waiting for the green man to show up, while the crowd has already crossed, I again confess to have started following the crowd. Thereís another habit Iíll have to repent of before I can fit back into life in Australia.


After Friday's experience, today God very graciously provided an excellent school for my encouragement. It was a large mixed High School, just one Tube station short of the Heathrow airport, with a large Indian and Pakistani population. (The boys took delight in telling me some cricket scores). There was excellent support and encouragement by the staff, and the students were far more receptive than many Iíve encountered. Iím sure you would have been impressed with my effort at taking the Home Ec classes. They were only assigned theory, fortunately, so some common sense got me through. At least I was clear about the difference between a pin and a needle, which was more than one poor Yr 8 boy could manage. But my main contribution to that Yr 8 classís assignment was more in the mathematical realm. When one girl asked if she could borrow "a scientific calculator" because her regular one couldn't help her work out the costing of her craft enterprise, I figured some basic math might be helpful. They had to add 10% profit margin, and even a technology hungry music teacher knows that resorting to technology to calculate 10% of £2.20 is somewhat unnecessary. So I pretended that I really had come to terms with British Currency, and gave the class some helpful hints for making the complex calculation in their heads. It seemed to work, and they were amazed at my insight into things unmusical. But, rest assured, Iím not looking for more work in either the Home Ec or Mathematical fields.


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