Litter Queen: 70 bags for a 70th birthday bash

For some 40 years, Veronica Scotton was a professional childminder, rated as outstanding by Ofsted. A key component of her job was to carry out risk assessments to ensure the safety of the children placed in her care.

She learnt quickly that when risk-assessing children’s play areas, litter would be a key factor. So, she would take her gloves and pick up the detritus so that her charges could safely enjoy the facilities.

She soon discovered that the children she was safeguarding thought it great fun to assist her in picking up litter. Older kids would look on and shout, ‘What you doin’… I wouldn’t do that unless I got paid!’

However, money was not the issue for Veronica – more the necessity to make safe and keep clean spaces. For her this was a ‘no-brainer’ and she needed ‘to do her bit’, failing to understand why people would spoil their own environment in the first place.

Veronica said: “Paulo and I started by clearing the ginnel at the back of our house of the cans and bottles that were left there and also around the garages.

“We found that every Monday the binmen would take away the bags we left with their collection.”

Over the years, Veronica and Paulo have interacted with various organisations, including Salford Champions, which provides litter pickers and replenishes bags free of charge.

Regularly on Saturday mornings, V’ron’s Army, made up of husband, children, grandson and great-grandsons gather together with ‘nearly’ auntie Elsie and litter-pick, combining a social service with a social occasion.

Sometimes they combine with Stu on who cycles the loop lines like a scout and reports back to the group where their efforts can best be deployed.

They also work with Friends of the Loopline, who not only clear away the mess left by others but who also find time to plant bulbs and do a quick tidy up with secateurs where necessary.

Veronica said: “It’s incredible what you find when you do this job, once including perfectly good trainers, paired and dumped in bags.

“Also, it’s interesting how the behaviour of children seems to have changed in that their psyche now seems to be to carry drinks around in plastic bottles, take a swig or two and then simply drop it for others to pick up.”

On a more positive note, she and her friends cleared litter near their local shops and a shopkeeper was so grateful that he not only offered them drinks but also pledged to try to maintain the area in the future.

As it happens in the year of Covid-19 when cruises and foreign visits were banned, Veronica celebrated her 70th birthday.

Paulo marked the morning with a breakfast tray in bed and the obligatory glass of bubbly, courtesy of the kids.

On the tray, there was also a card reading ‘See you at eleven for the litter pick!’

Veronica reacted, ‘No way… If they think I’m picking up litter on my birthday they can get lost’. However, as she enjoyed the contents of the tray and with Paulo’s usual wise counsel, she mellowed and realised this was a social outing not to be missed.

So it was that at eleven o’clock on the morning of a significant birthday, Veronica was celebrated by her loving family holding aloft litter pickers, clacking noisily, and forming a guard of honour on both sides of the loop line, through which an exuberant Veronica walked.

After the guard of honour, she was presented with a sparkly pink litter picker and a glitzy pink Litter Queen hi-viz jacket.

More bubbly and an innovative birthday cake fuelled collections throughout the morning, which ended with a triumphant lady standing atop a litter bin surrounded by bags and bags of litter-one for each year of her life as it happens.

Check out Veronica’s special ‘Guard of Honour’ birthday wishes below.

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