Last words from Riana Scheepers
Riana Scheepers gets the lowdown on litter louts from the detritus left behind after their picnic.
Everyone loves a picnic. Those who don’t, don’t have a sense of humour or adventure. I bet they also don’t like limericks (always a little naughty) or sex (always a little adventurous) – and what would life be without poetry and romance?
Spending time outdoors and unpacking a picnic basket is one of life’s great joys. A wonderful spot in nature, tasty treats beautifully packed, a bottle of chilled wine – and life is good. There doesn’t even have to be such fancy food in the basket – just a hard-boiled egg and a sweet and sour chicken wing will do. Even last night’s braaibroodjie, which usually isn’t that great the next day, tastes wonderful if you eat it outdoors. Somewhere up in the mountains of Tankwa as the sun rises, with a flask of
moerkoffie that’s been carried in a backpack. Ah, how my mouth is watering now for a cold braaibroodjie ! And for a sun rising over the chilly landscape of our beautiful Karoo. And my husband pouring me moerkoffie in a mug and gently placing it on a flat stone. But not all people who have a picnic are nice people. Those who know me well, know that I have an intense dislike for litter and litterbugs – those people who, without remorse, strew bottles and papers and cans everywhere. The upshot of my litter phobia is that I continually pick up other people’s rubbish. No one else is going to do it, so I might as well.
I live in a coastal town known for its cleanliness. It is a joy unparalleled not to have to look at litter all day. But vacations and weekends unleash a different species of humanity. Holidaymakers. They are more than welcome to explore our town’s beauty, but some of them are,
Right in front of my house is an idyllic spot near the lagoon. There’s a convenient boardwalk that takes you safely over the water, and a lovely bench. And a rubbish bin. One Monday morning, I took a stroll down the path, full of the joys of life. But then my heart sank and the sense of joy dissipated. Because the idiots who’d been picnicking there the previous day had decided that the rubbish bin was for the birds and that it was okay to throw their garbage in the water.
No one else would pick up this mess, so I turned around to get a black bag. And my grandson Dirk’s fishing net. So there I was on a Monday morning at eight o’clock, lying flat on my stomach and scooping this rubbish out of the water. I laid everything I retrieved from the muddy water out on the boardwalk. What a sight to behold! There was even a kind of macabre beauty to it, because my picnickers were obviously people with lots of money. Not for them sparkling wine, no! Champagne! Two bottles of French champagne came gloop out of the mud. An empty box of very expensive chocolates, together with the papers that held each delicate truffle, one by one in the net. Empty containers of deli food: salmon pâté and chicken drumsticks and mini quiches. Another bottle was unearthed: imported cream liqueur. This must have been a good party! There were other things floating in the water too, so I scooped them out. Two diapers, one of them filthy.
Like a detective, I began to realise who these people were because sure enough, I also retrieved the credit card slip from the water. With their name on it. So I don’t just know who they are, I also know what type of people they are. Money doesn’t buy you class, or manners.
When I was finished, I climbed into the shower. And then into the bathtub.
What’s my wish after this clean-up attempt? Recognition, money, a certificate that designates me as an ambassador for litter? No, none of this. Just that little Dirk will one day live in a society where it isn’t necessary to pick up other people’s rubbish. And if this isn’t the case, then the hope that he will also be prepared to just do it himself.
Spending time outdoors and unpacking a picnic basket is one of life’s