Helen Martin: No excuses for awful spitting

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MY mother once told me one of the most irritating things about young people (by which she meant me) is that they have convictions and opinions, but none of the experience to back them up.

It was ever thus. But now that I’m around the age she was when she said it, I realise she was right.

The responses in this paper of ­predominantly young people to the prospect of Edinburgh issuing fines for spitting in public places, including on the street, were glibly ­dismissive, as if it was a matter of minor littering or appeasing old folk who thought it wasn’t polite.

One said that “sometimes you need to clear your throat”. Another said “it’s not that big a problem”, and yet another said “it’s part of Scottish ­culture”.

If only they remembered the “culture” of TB hysteria, and the notices on buses, lamp-posts and trains threatening prohibitive fines.

No-one needs to spit ordinary saliva. “Gobbing” usually involves thickened or infected phlegm, otherwise it wouldn’t “stick” in the throat. By all means bring it up . . . in a handkerchief or a tissue. But why on earth would someone feel the need to share their loathsome bacteria and germs with everyone else, let alone being responsible for the nauseating sight of a “gob” on the pavement?

By the early 1900s it was known that TB bacteria could live in sputum for a day – one of the influences on ladies’ skirts becoming shorter, to prevent them dragging the disease into their homes. It was the 1930s before public health awareness saw the disappearance of spittoons in pubs.

Irrelevant history? In 2010, TB rates in Britain reached a 30-year high, mostly in London and other urban areas with high levels of ­immigration, tourism, drug-use and homelessness. At the same time, TB, like many other infections, is becoming resistant to antibiotics.

In 2010 China introduced powers to evict guilty spitters from state-owned housing, specifically because they thought it would slow the spread of tuberculosis. Around ­Britain several local authorities are trying to introduce penalties for the same reason.

Now here are the facts. The chances of catching TB from spit are miniscule. The gob on the ground is actually less harmful than the trajectory it took to get there, sending droplets into the air to be inhaled by others in the vicinity. Just as letting rip a terrific sneeze or cough without covering your nose and mouth can infect someone else for yards around, so can a “gob”. And if it’s not carrying TB, it may well be carrying other ­airborne viruses, colds and flu.

Spitting on the Heart of Midlothian is a Scottish tradition but spitting anywhere else is a filthy habit of those (including some celebrated sportsmen) who think snorting stuff out through their nose or spitting gunk on the street or the pitch makes them “manly” rather than thick and primitive.

The support for cracking down on dog poo is widespread. Quite right. Exactly the same body of ­opinion should be behind a ban on spitting. Do you want to step in it? Do you feel happy about wheel-chair users getting it on their hands, or children coming into contact with it on a picnic on the Meadows or beside a sports field? TB or not TB, spitting is disgusting.

Church beyond redemption

ROOTING out predatory, paedophile priests in the Catholic Church is not a good plan any more. It would be easier and quicker to root out the ones who haven’t crossed the Rubicon, soiled their souls and tortured the young. Then we could have a “new” Catholic Church.

The latest disastrous revelations from Fort Augustus, the pictures of the hierarchy proving them regular visitors, the lack of meaningful response from the Nuncio – who claimed he didn’t watch the BBC documentary – and the “it wisnae us” claim of the Catholic Church in Scotland, are finally having an effect on the laity.

It’s becoming clear that the Church has condoned institutionalised abuse for decades if not centuries. I quit. (Not that they’ll miss me that much). But I will not say I have lapsed. Any lapse belongs to those evil clergy who, in my very un-Christian mood, can never atone or be forgiven.

Way past worry about luggage

PEOPLE used to shop for holiday gear, pack shoes that matched outfits, and take “vanity cases” along with suit cases, hand luggage and handbags on planes. Perhaps young women who are hoping to attract an exotic lumber, and can’t exist without straighteners and hairdryers, still do.

Himself and I are quite happily lumbered with each other so what we look like is immaterial. Our combined wardrobe could squash into a shoulder bag.

Baggage charge blues? Partly, but also because by the time we’ve packed mobile phones, Kindles, iPads, lap-tops and all the chargers we need to operate them we’ve neither the room nor the stamina to carry non-essentials like clothes!

There must be a catch

CALL me a cynic but Scottish gas owner Centrica says it’s hoping to offer free electricity to households on Saturdays so that they’ll use their appliances when industrial demand is lower. Free ‘leckie? So where’s the inevitable catch then?