Last words from Riana Scheep­ers

Riana Scheep­ers gets the lowdown on lit­ter louts from the de­tri­tus left be­hind af­ter their pic­nic.

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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,

un­for­tu­nately, lit­ter­bugs.

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 great joys...

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