Sunday, October 07, 2007

Match day aftermath

The Rugy World Cup match between New Zealand and France brought 800 coachloads of visitors into the city on Saturday, to add to those already arrived early for the weekend. Clare couldn't work out why everyone taking public tours at the Castle seemed to have antipodean accents - she wasn't aware of who was playing whom.

The sheer volume of traffic added an extra hour to the journey time of our weekend house guest arriving from the North Midlands. An evening kick-off time of 8.00pm (for the sake of TV audiences world-wide) meant that revelling after the game didn't begin in earnest until after 10.00pm. On this occasion, with both teams playing far from home, there wasn't the usual rush out to the city to the motorways, so the streets were more crowded than usual into the early hours.

One consequence of this was that the streets were still rubbish strewn as I made my way to St John's at 7.45am to start the day's worship. After a normal match day or dissolute Saturday in town, the streets are completely clean before 8.00am. It's one the routine things that gets done well in Cardiff. On this occasion, the difference was quite remarkable.

It wasn't that the street cleaning team were absent. There was evidence that the cleaning machines had already passed through streets around the church at least once, but there was so much litter, their wheels had crushed plastic beakers, glass bottles, and fast food wrappers as they passed, leaving glass and plastic splinters everywhere. We could hear the noise of the cleansing activity throughout the morning services. Those guys really earn their money.

One of the two only rubbish bins within 50 yards of the church entrance had been picked up and tossed over the fence into the churchyard, complete with content. I've been asking for more bins now for four years, and am constantly fobbed off with excuses to do with redevelopment plans. I wonder when 'manĂ£na' will become a word in our local languages.

The stairwell into the church tower entrance was ankle deep in paper, bottles and beakers, the fence spikes decorated with beakers, and paper cups, and entire lengths of railing ornaments had been carefully stuffed with Cornish Party food bags from the shop opposite - dozens of them. Macdonald's, Burger King and the Cornish Pasty shop do a huge trade on match days, and the City clears up most of the rubbish left by consumers, but not all by any means. For a few hours during clean-up time, it's not very safe to walk about.

I would like to see a refundable deposit on every consumer food and drink item traded on days like this. Consumers could then save themselves a little by returning empties to where they could be dealt with tidily - or, if discarded on the streets, the city's drug addicted beggars, many of them out all night looking for money anyway, could collect and return empties and earn themselves the price of a fix. Since there is clearly insufficient political will to provide any serious help to the growing numbers of addicts, and policing efforts are constantly frustrated by the policies of the courts, why not convert the problem into an opportunity to make the city cleaner and tidier?

Over £215 million a year in alcohol sales is taken in the city. How much of this actually benefits or costs the local public purse is anybody's guess, when you think of the extra policing and emergency health care demands, not to mention the burden of unnoticed costs borne by businesses, churches and others present in the public domain, who also bear the impact of all this unbridled licentiousness.

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