Japanese attitudes to cleaning viewed from Malvern.

I was depressed the other day. Not in a clinical, pass-me-the-Prozac type way, but in a broader fashion that made me reflect on our current throw-away culture. I was near the Malvern Retail Park in the early evening and a September breeze carried several pieces of discarded litter over the tarmac expanse. You can imagine the scene: the card of spent food containers and polystyrene cups scratching their way over the empty lots under the glare of sodium lamps as the daylight expired. Somehow both forlorn and slightly sinister. In my imaginative mind I probably heard a wolf howl somewhere far away . . . but not far away enough.

It made me think though. It seems a damning indictment of modern life that we permit littering to go on. A further slip of our standards since the halcyon days of Old England where a murder at the vicarage at tea time was more likely than any mere anti-social behaviour.

To be fair, I don't think I've ever knowingly discarded litter in an improper manner. On a rare occasion I might have hurled a chewed apple core into the bushes to the delight of the birds, but I've never knowingly dropped any litter!

Then I thought of the Japanese and their reputation for cleanliness. I've heard tales of travellers on the Tokyo underground staring in astonishment as an immaculately attired businessman stooped to pick up some litter dropped accidentally from a passer-by. I've heard others speak of the schoolchildren there who crossed the road to deposit an empty can in a bin, rather than lobbing it like a grenade over the nearest fence with a gleeful Hurrah! And I watched with genuine admiration of the conduct of the Japanese at the Football World Cup, where the subjects of the Chrysanthemum Throne actually took it upon themselves to clean their seats in the stadium after the match had ended (in a Japanese defeat, I believe, which makes their decorum even more praise-worthy).

Perhaps it all stems from our 'Big State' mentality, where people assume that someone else is paid to do it and hence don't have to bother themselves. The trouble begins when these people actually become part of the problem, adding their litter to more natural detritus. In the end, it means we all have to pay more to solve a problem that should never be as bad as it is.

It makes you wonder if cleaning is really a great deal more than just wiping off the dust and hoovering the carpets. Perhaps it can be an attitude to life. (I feel a new blog post is in the making!)

I will finish this post with a cheerful addendum though: Since the night of despair in Malvern Retail Park with the howl of imagined wolves chilling my blood under flickering sodium lights, I have seen an inspiring sight: the manager of the Malvern branch of Macdonald's, outside, brushing up the litter. (And he wasn't Japanese either).


CleaningLubica Church