New Forest East



By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 1 April 2005

Superstores often get a bad press – so it is good to note that several now operate community projects and programmes. One such is ASDA in Totton, whose tireless Liz Bennett is always hard at work planning and giving practical help to the town.

Last week, it was a ‘Clean-up Totton’ day, which the Echo did well to report so prominently and which the Streetwise Bus team and the Garage Youth Centre did well to support so strongly.

My own contribution – together with that of my long-suffering Parliamentary caseworker, Di Brooks – was to paint out the vile and pathetic graffiti on no fewer than 17 green and grey utilities boxes at the roadside.

As a representative of the law-and-order Party, I am half expecting to be hauled off to court for doing this myself rather than letting the companies concerned put their own houses (or, at least, boxes) in order. But, after valiant but fruitless attempts to get them to act, some of us felt that enough was enough.

While we were applying a fresh green coat to a particularly grotty example, a local Liberal Democrat councillor, who lived opposite, came out – on his way, no doubt, to deliver yet another leaflet extolling the virtues of his Party’s peculiar brand of pavement politics.

“You should be doing this job!”

we told him.

“It’s a never-ending battle,”

he replied.

In fact, I never cease to wonder at the passive way in which so many people tolerate the depressing products of graffiti vandalism in their streets and neighbourhoods instead of reaching for a paintbrush. Perhaps the explanation lies in what a friend of mine once told me at University:

“There’s no such thing as communal property,”

he declared.

“Either it ceases to be communal or it ceases to be property!”

What he meant was that people do not properly look after that which they do not own.

It took us 3–4 hours to get rid of the mess which had been disfiguring the roadsides of Totton for 2–3 years. Even the Co-op store in Water Lane was finally shamed into painting over its own vandalised wall, when Di suggested that I might come along and help them to do it myself!

So, if I do end up under lock-and-key for painting the town – if not red – then, at least, green and grey, it will be a sacrifice worth making for a brighter, cleaner Totton.