It’s quite disgusting. Largely down to the volume of canine effluent dotted along the footpath. Fresh dog excrement is the worst as it is soft and difficult to pick up with the litter picker. It isn’t as offensive as the little baggies of dog-poo discarded along the way however. Before I started this adventure it never dawned on me that people could be so stupid. Granted I was aware of dogowners who let their pets do their business and ignore it. But that there’s people who will scoop the manure in a little plastic bag and then abandon it. There’s a cold place in hell for such ignorant environmental scoundrels.
Cigarette butts and bottle tops are also a nightmare – it’s a lot of effort to pick them up, for very little reward in terms of bag weight. Glass bottles are fine – so long as their are intact. Broken glass is a challenge. I would caution against ever walking barefoot along the canal. Aluminium cans are the gold standard in terms of rubbish – light; easy to pick up and they fill the bags up quickly – when it comes to waste it’s a matter of quantity, not quality.
Much of the Royal Canal has had its banks developed into a pleasant urban walkway – with flowers and benches and scenic views. The section I volunteer at is possibly the least lovely section – from North Strand Road, underneath Croke Park to Dorset Street. People don’t walk along this area for nature. It’s a quiet part where homeless people with alcohol problems congregate to drink and socialise. They are a generally friendly group of people however.
People cycling or walking by tend to ignore you. Occasionally someone will say ‘Well done. Thank you.’ which is nice.
Today however i was called a ‘f**king c**t’ who is helping the Catholic Church maintain its reign of terror over the land.
This morning there were more people than in the previous few months. I paired up with another volunteer. She took the North Strand entrance to the canal and I took the Dorset Street entrance. Our plan was to meet in the middle. And so it happened. As we exited the canal pathway to deposit our sacks at the designated points where Dublin Council collects the bags, a middle aged man approached us. At first I thought nothing of it. Judging by his appearance he had known better days. Then he started speaking to us.
‘What the f**k are you doing? You’re taking a job that a man should be paid for doing.’
I actually agreed with him on this point. Keeping the canals clean should be the responsibility of Waterways Ireland who are failing in their duty to the canals by relying on volunteers. They don’t however, so what’s to be done?
The gentlemen looked permanently out of sorts, so I decided that it was not the appropriate time to explain the politics of canal maintenance to him.
I replied by saying ‘The council pays no-one to do this.’
‘Of course they don’t, because f**kers like you are doing it for free. F**king volunteer my arse.’ (My hi-viz jacket declared by position.)
We decided to ignore him. He strode ahead. Then he stopped to wait for us.
‘Are you not going to answer me?’ I glanced at my fellow volunteer.
His question was rhetorical – he didn’t need to wait for an answer – he was in full flow.
‘You f**kers are stealing a man’s job. Someone ought to be paid for doing that.
I vaguely considered offering to google the number for Waterways Ireland to allow him apply for the position. I think I’d be correct in assuming that he was between positions himself at this point; and had been for quite some time. I thought better of it.
‘What the f**king church has done in this country is a disgrace, and you f**king c**ts are maintaining their power.’
I have to admit I felt a shiver of pride at the power he thought we, once-a-month rubbish collectors possessed.
We approached the bridge. He turned. We crossed the road. We parted ways with the dulcet tones of his ‘F**k you’ ringing in our ears.
I looked at my fellow volunteer and said ‘ Well that’s us told’. We burst out laughing.
I am home again and now I am preparing a falafel lunch. Naturally I will be volunteering again next month. My responsibility to maintain the malign influence of the catholic church in Ireland remains undimmed.