Be very glad that you don’t live on the same street as me. This week saw me both rooting through my neighbour’s rubbish and screaming at a passing driver. I can explain…
Coming back to Enfield, from the sanity and civilisation of a world where it’s okay for anyone to ride a bike from A to B, has been interesting. I may have summed up my reaction in one tweet:
…with my last point being the one I feel most keenly. Being demoted to second-class road citizen – after feeling so normal and acceptable on a bike in the Hague – has been painful. But I don’t feel depressed. For two reasons.
On the one hand, I came back to see real progress on the cycle infrastructure on the A105. So that was cheering.
On the other hand, I’ve been reading this:
…which is making me not depressed but angry. What Chapter 2 drove home (pun not intended, unless subconsciously) was that thousands of deaths a year in the UK are treated as somehow inevitable, rather than an urgent reason to redesign our roads. The numbers on their own are chilling, but then Peter Walker introduces the reader to two families torn apart by the death of their children. Need I say more? Please buy it. Read it. Then underline the important parts and send it to your MP. (I mean it.)
As usual, since the play street changed my relationship with the world outside my front door, I can’t seem to step outside without something happening. Usually, it’s a pleasant interaction with a neighbour. Not so on Tuesday.
I popped out to put something in the wheelie bin, and (as it says in our favourite Irish joke), there it was – gone. The waste has been collected that morning, and it turned out that someone a few doors down had mistaken our bin for theirs and wheeled it into their front garden. I wheeled it back to ours. It already had a full bin bag in it, not tied, and as I pulled it out to tie it I noticed that it was about two-thirds full of stuff that can be recycled. Every household has a blue-lidded recycling bin, but this neighbour had ignored theirs. I’m afraid I couldn’t bear it, and I pulled out all the plastic food trays, cardboard, plastic milk containers and even some food waste (green-lidded bin) to put in our recycling.
Why chuck so much stuff into landfill that can be recycled? All that comes to mind when I contemplate such an act is a) the island of floating plastic waste in the Pacific and b) a photograph of a dead albatross chick with its stomach full of junk. Here it is below so you can be haunted by it too. (Sorry.) Perhaps our waste in Enfield wouldn’t necessarily end up either in the Pacific or in the stomach of a starving albatross.* But it would not be doing the planet any good, wherever it ended up.
My next task was to pop out and get some food supplies before our house guests turned up. When I was a few metres down the street a blue Porsche turned into it and began to accelerate noisily. Yet again, here was a driver using our street as a cut-through, with no concern about either its residents or the legal speed limit. (I don’t know what speed he reached as he got to halfway down the street but I’d be surprised if it was below 40mph.) Seeing this, on the same tarmac where children had happily played two days earlier on our hard-won play street, made my blood boil. Drivers thinking it’s okay to tear up a residential street to shave seconds off their journey is one of the reasons children no longer have any independence – plus what if a child was to step out between two cars onto the road? He’d have zero chance of stopping in time.
Having no idea what else to do, I stepped onto the road far enough so he could hopefully see me, waved my arms and screamed “Stoooop!” at the top of my voice as he hurtled past. He didn’t pay any attention or slow down. I caught the eye of a man across the street who raised his hands in gesture of despair, and we both shook our heads. (The nice thing is that this bloke is staunchly against the play street and pretty much anything I’ve suggested on the street, and here we were agreeing with each other.)
“Did you get his license plate?” I called.
“No, sorry,” he answered.
I’d only noticed the last three letters. No point reporting it, I reasoned, and resumed my journey. And then – a gift. I was crossing a side road three streets away and the very same blue Porsche appeared at the junction. It had a personalised number plate, so the rest of the characters were laughably easy to remember, and I could see the driver’s face. He looked like a nice guy – the sort of person I would probably enjoy talking to. Just woefully oblivious to the world outside his cherished metal box.
I reported the whole thing to the police. I’m afraid that driver chose the wrong week to mess with my street.
To end on a much happier note, the play street on Sunday was a lot of fun. It was warm and sunny, about 23 degrees, and an epic water battle broke out. When four water pistols (and a random spud gun) were not enough to go around, Mr Suburbanite handed out all the tupperware he could find in our kitchen. The usual play street kids soaked each other, and then drew in some neighbours who are recent arrivals to the country and still learning English. Turns out you don’t need much English to empty a bucket of water over someone else’s head.
Our front door was open throughout and our kitchen and bathroom used for reloading ammunition. So by 5pm there was a spectacular mud trail to clear up.
It was worth it.
When I look back on memories of our street, I hope that play street images like the one below come to mind first, rather than a speeding Porsche…
*Looking at the plastic in this photo, I notice a lot of bottle tops, which Enfield Council does not recycle. So whose stomach are our bottle tops are ending up in, I wonder?