even beach cleaners get the blues

Two cleans in four days left me with a heavy heart and seven new bags of rubbish in my back yard, to add to the two bags from last week:

They are there waiting to be processed – this is when I shake the contents of the bags out onto a sheet, sort the rubbish into categories and count everything. It’s actually not too onerous a task, and usually only takes me about an hour or so. Unless we’ve been picking up polystyrene, in which case it can take quite a while. Here are 900-plus pieces of polystyrene on my dining room table. Doesn’t look like much, but counting all of these was an onerous task. I even had to make a cup of tea half way through.

Two of the seven bags in my back yard are full of foam and polystyrene that Bowen and I picked up between Swanpool and Sunny Cove. We couldn’t pick up everything and almost got caught by the tide, I was so determined to try. This was polystyrene that had got pushed to the back of the beach by the wind and the tide, until it was hidden by grass and rocks.

To even find this stuff you have to be on your hands and knees and pushing back the grass or lifting up stones. Picking up every single piece is almost impossible. And as you pick up pieces lying on top of the sand you discover more underneath. The polystyrene has actually become part of the sand itself. Remember the 900-plus pieces? They came from a different beach. This is something I see over and over again. It can really get you down.

So now I have seven – no, nine! – bags of rubbish I’m trying hard to pretend aren’t there and I know I’ve got all that polystyrene to count out. I’m wondering why I do this and I’m beginning to lose the magic, the joy that just being by the sea first gave me when we moved here two years ago. So I tried something different. I tried to just go to the beach. You know how to do it – you go to the beach, sit and watch the sea and listen to the surf and just have a good time. Easy, right?

It can be. I can sit on the rocks and eat my sandwiches and watch these two characters dig for worms and think about how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place:

But I can only do it if I close my eyes to all the bits of fishing line and plastic wrappers and bottles I passed to get to the rocks. And I can’t do that any more.

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