I’M in Berlin this week and there’s an awful lot to like about it. The hotels are cheaper than anywhere else in Europe, the natives are friendly, but best of all there is no litter or dog mess.
On my first long walk through the city I saw business suits walking with takeaway coffee cups, spotty teenagers eating burgers and fries on the go and ladies of leisure walking tiny dogs with diamante collars. In Edinburgh, these people would leave behind them a trail of sauce-stained polystyrene and little piles of poop. In Berlin, the streets stay spotless.
What’s the difference? Well, the project I’m working on here has brought me into contact with a lot of German schoolteachers, primary and secondary. They assure me that litter education begins in primary one and continues right through secondary school. In Germany, it’s just not cool to eat your cheese and onion crisps and drop the bag on the pavement. If you do that, your schoolmates will punch you between the shoulder blades and tell you to put your trash in the nearest bin. If this physical penalty doesn’t cause you to mend your ways, the financial penalty will.
In Edinburgh, the council has just doubled the fine for litter and dog-fouling. It makes for a good headline. Sounds like they’re tackling the problem. In Germany, they don’t just set the fine high, they actually enforce it.
The environmental wardens and police patrol the street, catch litter-bugs and dog-foulers in the act and fine them on the spot.
Now that sounds obvious. What’s the point of setting fines and making laws if those laws are not enforced? This is where, I’m sad to say, our council is letting the side down. Last year in Leith, only two people were fined for dog-fouling. That’s a shameful record.
The excuses we’ve had from the council’s environmental head are feeble: “It’s really hard to catch people dog-fouling.” Read that again. That’s basically an admission of defeat. It’s also untrue. It’s actually really easy to catch people dog-fouling. All you have to do is introduce compulsory DNA testing of dogs. Once you have the dog’s DNA on a database, you can test any pile of poo and trace it back to the owner’s address. Wherever this method has been used – and it’s been introduced all over the world from Spain to the USA – dog-fouling has been reduced by 90 per cent. Edinburgh City Council will tell you “it’s too expensive”. It’s not. And the council wouldn’t know anyway because they have never asked for it to be properly costed.
At the beginning of the year, Leithers Don’t Litter made a presentation to the council’s transport and environment committee. We were given assurances from them that they would back our ideas. The first idea was to offer free litter-pickers and gloves to anybody who pledged to adopt their street and keep it litter-free. The second was to print stickers that would be put on fixed bins reminding dog owners that they could deposit their poo bags there. The third was to build an experimental dog
toilet in the little park off Cables Wynd as an experiment to discourage dog-owners from letting their dogs foul the pavement.
Of these three ideas, only one has happened. You can now get a free
litter-picker and gloves from Leith Library and around 40 people have now pledged to keep their street clean. But the bin stickers and dog toilet haven’t happened.
We gave the council the design for the stickers and the dog toilet three months ago. We’re still waiting.
It’d be a crime to miss out on cabbies’ stories
IN a taxi en route to the airport I noticed a paperback on the driver’s dashboard by an American crime writer called Harlan Coben (pictured below).
I told the cabbie that he was one of my favourite writers. He said “I’ve met him. Two guys got into my taxi last week. One of them was Ian Rankin and he commented on the Harlan Coben book. I said I loved the boy’s stories and Rankin said I’ll tell the guy when I see him . . . he’s sitting right next to me. It was Harlan Coben. He thanked me for being a fan and signed my book.”
Every Edinburgh cabbie has a story to tell. Don’t just sit there. Ask them what’s up – you’ll never be disappointed.
It’s no wonder I’m hooked on fishing
My wife’s from Hungary. She loves Scotland. But she has no great interest in my life’s two overriding passions – Hibs and flyfishing. I must confess I have no great interest in her two great passions either – finding “dusts and fluffs” on the floor and veganism. Otherwise, we get along just fine and she is my business partner as well my fellow-traveller on the journey through life.
I’m doing my best to keep her up to speed, though. She now knows that Hibs’ manager is Alan Stubbs and she knows why he looks so sad all the time. She just can’t fathom why I have to listen to Sportsound’s Open All Mics programme every Saturday.What she also knows off by heart is the ideal feeding temperature of the rainbow trout. It is 11C, in case you were wondering.
When the water warms up to this degree, the rainbow trout stop lounging in the mud at the bottom of the loch and begin to cruise around looking for food. The temperature of the air and the water has an immediate effect on the food the trout eat – mainly midges. Not the wee pinhead ones that eat you alive. The midges rainbow trout feed on begin life in the mud as bright red bloodworms.
Slowly, they wriggle their way up through the water column, changing shape as they go. When they get to the surface, they hang there, waiting until conditions are perfect. They are an easy meal at this stage. If the temperature climbs just a little, these midge larvae begin pumping blood into their thoraxes. They burst out of the skin they’ve been living in, pop out through the surface and wait a few seconds for their wings to dry.
If the rainbow trout see them at this stage, they shoot to the surface and suck them down, leaving a huge boil of water the size of a bin-lid.
When that happens, I know exactly where they are and what they’re feeding on. I rummage through my fly box for a good imitation fly made of thread and feathers – it needs to be the same size and colour as the natural flies that are hatching all around me. I cast it out onto the surface and wait. SLURP! A rainbow trout is fooled and sucks it down. There follows a short tussle. Sometimes the fish escapes. Sometimes it stays on the hook and I eat it for dinner. Either way, in the course of a day, I’ve had to concentrate so hard on this one activity that the stresses of the week disappear.
If there’s a better way to spend a day I’ve yet to find it.