Gerry Farrell: Edinburgh has gone to the dogs for too long

MEET Poopy Puppy. She's the face of a new street campaign to persuade dog owners to bag their pets' mess and bin it.

Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 10:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 12:02 pm
Picture: supplied
Picture: supplied

In a few weeks’ time, Poopy will be on hundreds of fixed litter bins concentrated around those streets in Leith with the worst problem, like Pitt Street, known locally as “S**t Street”. It’s a Leithers Don’t Litter initiative, in partnership with Simon Porteous, community safety manager for Leith and the city centre. It won’t stop dog fouling overnight. But at a time of huge cuts in council services, it’s a low-cost way to remind everybody that our fixed litter bins are for poo bags as well as crisp bags.

Right now, there are no special dog-waste disposal bins in the city. For some folk, that’s all the excuse they need to hurl their reeking poo bags into the bushes and trees. We’re taking that excuse away.

When I say “we”, I include the hundreds of Leithers we consulted in advance who were happy to name Leith’s “streets of shame”. Here are their Top 20: Pitt Street; Restalrig Rd/railway path/ bike path; Lochend Rd; Leith Links; Lochend Rd; Academy St; Sandport St; Albion Rd; Madeira St; Madeira Place; Claremont Rd; Cables Wynd; Albert St; Whale Brae; Newhaven Harbour; Windrush Drive; Water Of Leith Walkway; Pilrig Park; Iona St; Dalmeny St; Henderson St; Giles St.

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Some of the streets on that list don’t have ANY fixed litter bins. The only bin on our own street, Cables Wynd, is in the little park. Despite it being there, the park itself is a minging minefield. What’s the point of the picnic table when there are festering lumps of excrement in the grass all round it? Our bin stickers deliberately point out that dog poo spreads disease, namely toxocariasis. It’s a nasty bug carried by worms in dog poo. NHS Scotland’s website says: “If one of your eyes is affected by toxocariasis, there’s a risk of permanent vision loss.”

To put it bluntly, dog waste isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a health hazard. Even picking up after your dog doesn’t leave the grass clean. As one mum said recently: “Why should my two-year-old have to play on grass where dogs have crapped, even if their owners cleared up?”

It’s a fair question. Three-quarters of us don’t own a dog. Should dogs even be allowed to run free in our parks? Another fair question. Of course they need to exercise and go to the toilet. But couldn’t we create dog-runs and dog toilets separated from the places where children like to play and families like to picnic? In my wife’s hometown, Budapest, that’s exactly how things are arranged so nobody has to suffer.

I accept that in saying these things, I may be getting up the Kennel Club’s nose. They see any attempt to restrict doggy access to public spaces as “an infringement of civil liberties”. Too bad. They’re pretty much Ukip-With-Dogs so let’s not worry too much about their opinion.

These issues need to be aired and debated in Edinburgh. The problems need to be solved. And the people who run our cities need to listen hard to their citizens and accelerate the problem-solving process, cuts or no cuts. Poopy Puppy can’t do it all by herself.

I can make an open and shut-eye case for afternoon snooze

I’m so good at sleeping I can do it with my eyes shut (I plundered that from the internet but it happens to be true about me). I’ve often fantasised about emigrating to France, Italy or Spain simply because the mid-afternoon siesta is scheduled into the working day.

My own body begins to shut down at around 3.30 in the afternoon. By then, I’ll have had my violent surge of morning creativity and raced through a power of work. Lunch will have been had, whether that’s a macaroni pie or a lightly tossed salad with some other kind of pie. Any post-lunch phone calls will have been made. A sense of entitlement will sweep through me. “I deserve a wee kip now,” I’ll tell myself. My body will be telling me the same thing. My eyelids will droop and my legs will carry me to the bedroom. The sight of our well-made bed will make me shiver with anticipatory pleasure and then whoosh – I’m under that duvet and nature does the rest.

We spend a third of our lives in that strange land called Nod. For the most part, it’s a pleasant destination. I say “for the most part” because some of us snore and that’s not very pleasant for the person lying next to us. On a rugby trip to Rome I was made to room with someone I’d never met before. I nodded off first. After five minutes of my snores, he went out in search of a sofa. All he found was a hard wooden table. He would barely look at me next day, never mind speak to me.

For others, even those who sleep alone, getting to sleep is an ordeal. They are fussy about it. They need a blacked-out room. Even the little blinking lights on their laptops and phones can disturb them. They keep turning to the cold side of the pillow. Maybe there’s another pillow folded between their knees. The slightest noise, a fly walking on the ceiling, a grasshopper sighing, is intolerable. I feel for them and offer the following certain formula for escape into delicious oblivion: the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique. It takes two minutes and it works a treat. Look it up on YouTube. Go on, knock yourself out.

Continental drift

Europe: are you In, Out or Shake It All About? We seem to have sleepwalked our way to the brink of a big decision. There will be an irreversible Yes or No after the vote in less than five weeks’ time on June 23. So far, nothing has grabbed the headlines. There is nobody for or against who has made a compelling case either way. What does “being in Europe” mean to you? What do you get out of it? Why might you want to walk away from it? Isn’t it time the politicians hired some clever creative people to get their arguments across? They’re making a poor job of it on their own.