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Close to the sea and in a depression surrounded by sand dunes and hidden by the marram grass are the green huts of the smoke people. It’s where they live and work. Their chimneys aren’t smoking at the moment because during the day they rest, but return at night and it’s a different story for that’s when they are hard at work.

During the hours of darkness the smoke people collect the dirty black smoke that billows from the nearby works and take it home to their little green huts. There they wash and clean it before returning it all nice and fluffy white so the factory can put it in their chimneys during the day.

The ‘smoke people’ – keeping Teesside clean!

Words and photographs Copyright © 2014 by Antony J Waller

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Let me declare where I stand straight away. I don’t like smoking; I hate it and dislike being in the company of people who smoke. It’s not the people, well not always; it’s simply I detest the smoke and the smell. I will tolerate smoking to a degree in order to be polite, but I really prefer not to. If people want to smoke, so be it; it’s their decision. Everyone knows the risks. I appreciate too the arguments put forward by both sides of the smoking and non smoking lobbies, the burden smokers and smoking puts on the health service. That’s for someone else to argue about another day.

No, what really does annoy me, well actually infuriates me, gives me a real dose of the ‘Victor Meldrews’, makes me see red and increases the blood pressure, is the debris and detritus that accompanies smokers and smoking. It’s everywhere you go. Discarded cigarette ends, fag ends, tab ends, butts, call them what you like. It’s litter, plain and simple. Rubbish, garbage, trash, junk. Why should we have to put up with all this mess lying all around? Walk down any street and you see it. Not just the odd one or two discarded ‘ends’ but dozens, sometimes whole piles. Like confetti on the pavement, in the gutters and in doorways, strewn about everywhere. You see smokers doing it. Dropping their fag ends to the pavement, flicking them into the gutter, grinding them out beneath their shoes, sticking them to the top of rubbish bins, tossing them out of car windows. Next time you see a smoker watch to see what they do. Pack it in. Stop! You inconsiderate morons.

How would you like it if they were shoved through your letterbox, dumped on your doorstep, thrown over the fence into your front garden? Well, would you mind or just accept it with a resigned shrug! Not only is it an offence to drop litter it’s inconsiderate, offensive. So why do it and why in the street or the park and in a public place. Have I missed something? Are they now suddenly reclassified as ‘non litter ‘or a special item to be treated differently to normal litter? Is there suddenly an open season for discarding smokers’ left overs! Is it suddenly socially acceptable to litter as long as it’s something small. Does no one care anymore?

Then there is the smoke. Yes, I know it has to go somewhere and appreciate the new laws banning smoking from certain public places, bars, pubs etc. A big improvement, and long overdue. But now you find groups of smokers huddled together on doorsteps, outside offices, shops and pubs all lighting up, puffing away and blowing smoke in your direction as you pass. And when they have finished what do they do?

My apologies to those responsible smokers amongst you. To those of you who are not, and you know who you are, pick it up, eat it, put it in your pocket, a waste bin, anywhere. Just don’t drop it. Please!

Litter Bugs

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