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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Litter-Buggery
29 December 2020 @ 13:16

Spain has an enviable system of describing distances. Rather than kilometres, they use time. Or they may use rest-stops, cigarettes smoked, the number of songs from Joan Manuel Serrat listened to (and sung along with) on the CD player, or even brothels (depending on your route, Murcia to Almería can be a six-brothel voyage). For shorter peregrinations, I use dustbins.

I walk the dog each day past four green 'contenadores'. These large bins, together with smaller empty waste-baskets with an inverted bin-liner bobbing merrily out of them, are liberally distributed along my route, as indeed they are all over Spain. There is a tendency of course on the part of the public to eschew the friendly nearby dustbin and just hurl the empty gin-bottle out into the campo, but we try. We try.

People often like to leave their rubbish near the giant receptacles, perhaps to stop it from feeling lonely. The excuse might be that maybe the lid is broken, or that they fondly imagine someone might need an unwanted sock to pair with the one they have already, or perhaps an almost new toilet lid. Sometimes, they even put their trash inside the bins (where, in the snootier neighbourhoods, the beggars will then climb in afterwards and throw everything out again).

Unlike some northern nations, Spain has never held a poor opinion towards rubbish, and it is traditionally thrown on the floor, or out of windows or the open doors. I wonder sometimes if that was why they invented windows - an easy place to discard unwanted trash.

I remember my first shrimp, at the age of thirteen. I dutifully dismembered it, chooped its head and left the reamins on the bar. No, no, pantomimed the barman, flapping his hands, the garbage goes on the floor! And he was right. Under my very feet, a woman was mopping the marble flags and loading the detritus into a bucket. They used to say that one could tell a good tapa-bar by the amount of crap on the floor.

Sometimes, as we are lighting a cigarette or searching for the next brothel in the car (with its garish lights and brutish architecture), we must swerve violently as a surprise missile is hurled out of the window from the vehicle in front. It's usually a wrapper of some sort, or maybe a bottle (can, plastic or glass). Evidently, not wanted on voyage.

When walking the dog, along the side of the road we will find glass, trash, rubbish, human poop (it's a terrible thing to be caught short in the campo), dead things, empty wine bottles (do drivers savour the last drop of the vino before jettisoning the bottle?), plastic sheets and bags, mungy bits of clothing and sundry french letter packets. Then, depending on the neighbourhood, clumps of discarded copies of the free English-language press, some pages of which may have found a final use...

Indeed, as I now live in an area noted for its plastic farms, I see where the old rolls of mangled plastic are left in untidy pìles alongside the road, or where bits whip against a piece of barbed wire in the wind, or maybe make their way slowly and majestically towards the sea (often in the back of a truck). In some cases, the plastic sheets are simply ploughed back into the land. Goodness knows what the dog will find on his walk... 

For some reason, there is no Spanish version of 'Keep Britain Tidy', even though those contenadores are emptied daily (rather than twice a month as, apparently, the humble dustbin is in the UK). A Spanish friend explained to me once that the bins here need to be emptied regularly 'as we eat fresh food rather than things out of tins' (which seems to be an argument that's hard to refute).

With the exception of rampant litter-buggery, I love Spain.



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4 Comments


GuyT said:
29 December 2020 @ 20:16

I have to say I love the Spanish habit of dropping all the rubbish on the floor in a bar. I always enjoy dropping my empty sugar sachet, paper napkin, etc on the floor. It infuriates my wife, which gives me even more pleasure watching her get mad. We have a favourite churreria we use a couple of times a year mid winter....get in there at around 09h00 and you have to wade ankle deep through discarded napkins. Always a sign of a good churreria.
(James Michener in Iberia wrote that you could never doubt the physical courage of a people who could face the grease of churros and chocolate on a daily basis.)



ufotour said:
02 January 2021 @ 10:36

There are many great things about living in Spain but their attitude to rubbish is perplexing and disheartening. And this from a nation who are deeply houseproud in terms of their own living space. They're simply not very civically minded and couldn't give a jot about anything which isn't of immediate concern to them. In the country area where we live, as members of the community organization. we've tried for years to make people aware that the village does have a proper rubbish dump, but old fridges and beds appear next to our bins with amazing regularity!!


ufotour said:
02 January 2021 @ 10:36

There are many great things about living in Spain but their attitude to rubbish is perplexing and disheartening. And this from a nation who are deeply houseproud in terms of their own living space. They're simply not very civically minded and couldn't give a jot about anything which isn't of immediate concern to them. In the country area where we live, as members of the community organization. we've tried for years to make people aware that the village does have a proper rubbish dump, but old fridges and beds appear next to our bins with amazing regularity!!


ufotour said:
02 January 2021 @ 10:36

There are many great things about living in Spain but their attitude to rubbish is perplexing and disheartening. And this from a nation who are deeply houseproud in terms of their own living space. They're simply not very civically minded and couldn't give a jot about anything which isn't of immediate concern to them. In the country area where we live, as members of the community organization. we've tried for years to make people aware that the village does have a proper rubbish dump, but old fridges and beds appear next to our bins with amazing regularity!!


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