Thursday, 15 September 2016

Where are the Wombles when you need them? A ReadItTorial

We've just come back from a mini break away in the glorious rolling plains of Surrey and this week's editorial is inspired by something that brought out the grumpy old moaner in me.

It also had me remembering what it was like growing up in London, quite often surrounded by litter which - at the time - was taken largely for granted.

Back when I was a snot-nosed marmite-scoffing schoolkid, you were really spoilt for choice when it came to children's books about litter, rubbish and recycling - and it was often a subject tackled on TV too. In fact most folk of my generation will remember the awesome creations from Elizabeth Beresford - the timeless Wombles of Wimbledon Common...

Both in book and TV form, The Wombles were a huge hit in the late 60s and 1970s, with an eco-message of litter-picking and recycling that was way ahead of its time. Elizabeth Beresford wrote the stories for her daughter and came up with the idea after a Boxing Day stroll on "Wombledon Common (her daughter's mispronunciation of 'Wimbledon' gave birth to a literary classic).

Later adapted for TV by the BBC, The Wombles inspired a generation of children to pick up rubbish, make cool things out of discarded home packaging, and recycle waste way before anyone had a green bin parked outside their house.

Though remade in 1997, and with various plans for a revival, the core message of stories like The Wombles imparted the importance of having a bit of respect for your environment - not just where you live but anywhere you visit too.

The photo at the start of this article was taken at a Devon beauty spot, blighted by a huge pile of rubbish. I saw similar piles dumped in various locations around Surrey (most notably a gigantic pile of discarded food and drink rubbish and wrappers at local dog-walker's favoured destination Bourne Wood). Despite a lot of signs urging people to take their waste home there were also way too many discarded baggies of dog poo, decoratively hung from trees. A "Dirty Protest" from dog owners who just don't want to clean up after their pooches and are bloody-mindedly making sure everyone knows it, in the most disgusting way possible.

Like our previous ReadItTorials about slipping standards in manners, clearing up litter and rubbish - or just not having the mindset to dump your discarded waste on the ground in the first place - seems to be something from a bygone era. "Someone will clear it up" is the knee-jerk answer if you are brave enough (or suicidal enough) to take on someone you see dumping their trash. But quite often with local services stretched to capacity, that rubbish can hang around a long time.

Maybe there's a need for children's books to once again lead the charge, build into our kids a sense that rubbish should be binned. Keep Britain Tidy was once something you saw postered on every street, at every beauty spot, but no longer it seems - and if ever there was a need to revisit this topic, it's most certainly now.