Friday, July 12, 2013


I can't remember what we did with our trash when we first came here to live for a year, in 1972. Certainly, there was no trash pick-up by the county council, at least not here in what was then the back of the beyond. I suppose we had very little disposable trash, anyway. Our milk came from a neighbor's cow in a reusable tin. Our eggs from another neighbor's hens. Paper got burned in the fireplace. Very little came into the house that had to go out again.

Some of our neighbors who lived near the sea tossed their trash over the cliff. Ravines collected their fair share of refuse. Near the schoolhouse, the verges of the roads glistened with discarded Tayto packets. The scenery was spectacularly beautiful, but up close it could be distressingly messy.

That's all changed now. The sea coves and gullies are pristine. The roadsides are impressively unlittered. Once a week a gigantic garbage truck rolls through the parish, picking up trash from big plastic bins. Not for us, however; not on our little by-road. Two or three times each summer we load up the car and make a trip to the transfer station on the other side of Dingle.

What a place! If a supermarket represents conspicuous consumption, the transfer station represents conspicuous non-consumption. There are containers or bays for metal, wood, paint, cardboard, plastic, newspapers, electronics, appliances. Spic and span. Supermarket clean. I have no idea where all this stuff goes; some of it, I hope, is recycled.

I'm writing this now, because I have just come back from the transfer station. In a way, I am elated, to see what used to go over the cliff or into the ditch gathered into such tidy piles, to be buried, I suppose, in some out-of-the-way landfill. But depressed, too, to see how much of what we consume goes unconsumed. You can't go home again, I know. The past is gone. A new affluence prevails. But I can't help feel a twinge of nostalgia for what we came here for in the first place: milk from a cow, eggs from a hen, and veggies that had just been pulled from the soil.