2 Para, the lads who yomped across the Falklands in ’83 have the proud motto “Ready for Anything”. The SAS, the chaps who abseiled down the front of the Iranian Embassy in 1980 without so much as a single box of Milk Tray between them, sport “Who Dares Wins” on their cap badges. Stirring stuff.
Leith Festival can proudly boast “No Litter left on the Links”.
The Gala Day was exactly the sort of day a festival committee dreams of. Great stalls, wonderful atmosphere and lovely sunshine, which the BBC weather app kept claiming would disappear at 2.00, then 3.00, then 4.00 and then finally gave up being gloomy altogether.
The place was swarming with small kids, all of whom were ramped up to Excited Level 9, heading to 10, because there was a rumour that Mr Boom might be putting in an appearance. You can take your Rolling Stones and strut it away, mate. Any three to five-year-old in Edinburgh will tell you if it’s a choice between Jagger or Boom, it’s Team Boom every time.
Small children mean one thing. Litter. Fortunately, the committee had thought ahead, and the call went out for volunteers to keep the Links clear. I heard the call. I answered.
They gave me a bag and a pick. The power went straight to my head. Litter had to be lifted. I felt like John Wayne in Rio Bravo, which is a bit annoying because he’s one of my least favourite actors.
Sadly, this sheriff had little to do. People were being incredibly well-behaved. Most litter was sun-bleached fag packets blown by the slight breeze, and one little girl who took a bite out of her bright pink candy floss, announced it ‘YUCKY’ and shook it free of the stick, which meant I had to chase it.
Have you have ever used a litter pick to try to lift a jumbo-sized sugary cloud and then shove it into an oversized plastic bag? Do you know where spun sugar can get to on the human body when the playful breeze slaps it in your coupon before it gets into the bag?
Let me put it this way, sticky oxters are a terrible feeling.
So I roamed the Links looking for litter. There was a great moment as I raced over to what looked like a load of discarded drinking straws, only to find it was a pile of feathers.
Are feathers litter? I suppose, strictly speaking, they are. They’ve been dropped by something. Even though it was clearly a dead something, unless there’s a seagull out there that’s decided to go feather-free.
Perhaps it’s not litter. After all, it’s organic. I’m not an expert here, but I assume that they will slowly go back into the soil. Circle of life and all that.
I think I heard feathers are good for composting on Gardeners Question Time on Radio Four, so it must be true.
In the end, I left the mess to Mother Nature and went back to picking up sun-bleached fag packets.
The End Times are upon us when Leith seagulls turn their beaks up at chips
We few, we happy few, we band of litter pickers worked away grabbing candy floss and paper cups. However, one member of the team was letting us down, and it was Mother Nature herself.
Leith seagulls are becoming picky.
The combination of small children, light breeze and hot chips mean that at least two polystyrene trays will hit the deck in any one-hour timeframe.
As soon as they were down, I was there. Like a litter-picking ninja, I got the tray into the bag in one swift movement. The chips, I figured, were the remit of the gulls.
Wrong. What has happened to the Leith seagull?
There was a time when a gull could seize a dropped chip in mid-air. Why, I have watched gulls stalk a likely looking drunk clutching a sausage supper in full expectation of dinner, knowing that Buckfast and/or Special Brew wreaks havoc on the hand-eye-mouth co-ordination.
Not just speed, courage. I’ve seen a gull screaming in to seize a single fish seconds before oblivion under the wheels of a Number 16 bus.
On Leith Gala Day, fallen chips were ignored by the gulls. They strutted past disdainfully, like fussy foodies being offered Dairylee cheese and Branston pickle sarnies. They even, and I am not making this up, let pigeons pick up chips.
When you see a seagull let a pigeon eat a chip, you know the End of Days is upon us.
A Shore thing for weekend
It’s the last weekend of the Festival, so come and join us on The Shore. A small committee of Leithers work throughout the year to organise the festival, and they are the very best of community engagement. They are all too shy to claim credit for themselves, but Nick, Phil, David, Mary, Rita, May, Mo, Tracy, Dean, Kathryn and Festival co-ordinator Lotte are quiet superheroes.