This morning (2nd December 2021), Waste Reduction (aka Stirling Community Food) had flowers. Pink lilies, the flowers just beginning to open to reveal dark-speckled, suggestive interiors. Huge sprays of Calla lilies, ready to fill a church or a village hall: wedding or funeral, they wouldn’t care. And dozens and dozens of white roses.
Later, we came across a strange incident of semi-tidy semi-litter. There is a bench just up from Barn Road with a sweeping view over Stirling, out towards Edinburgh and the east. It’s so close to home that we don’t really use it, but I know it has been a place for others to mark major life events, such as the passing of a good friend. Today, as I walked passed, my eye was caught by the familiar blue of a corner shop carrier bag. We went to look, half expecting to find another scene to snap and file away under “Tidy Litter.” But this was something different – a scene of rushed departure, perhaps after interruption, or because there was suddenly something more important to do, somewhere more important to go?
Two untouched cans of Stella weighted the carrier bag to the bench. A bottle of Bucky, barely touched, stood upright on the ground. By the bottle, glinting in the fading winter light, were one each of £1, 50p and 10p coins, plus the key to a Yale lock. A sachet of flower food – for roses – lay a metre or so away.
We took the money, the Stella and the flower food but left the Bucky and the key on the bench. We are, after all, responsible citizens. Someone might return for the key; and in a pandemic, best not to share the partially drunk Bucky.
As we walked on towards the pub, I tried to think of someone we could give them Stella to. George was optimistic that we’d find someone. I had visions of it joining the strawberry-flavoured water under the chair in our kitchen, waiting an eternity for a Young, or Stupid, or Desperately Thirsty Person who might be willing to consume it.
Once we were in the Settle, a marvellous thing happened, as marvellous things often do. We were joined by Phoebe and Marvin, two visitors from Coll. Marvin didn’t have a great deal to say – he concentrated on drinking and people-watching and rather ignored us (perhaps because we didn’t offer him any snacks). Phoebe was more willing to engage in conversation. I mentioned my recent visit to Coll, gabbling enthusiastically about the Coll Glass Imploder and how I hoped I would be able to go back and talk to the person who operates it. We talked about how different it is for the islands when it comes to dealing with waste, and Phoebe described taking turns turning the compost for Recycoll. She also gave me some useful background knowledge to help explain the transporter of wrecked cars that had boarded the ferry back to the mainland. After a pleasant hour or so by the fire, sharing waste stories, she and Marvin left, taking the two cans of Stella with them.
So Phoebe, just in case you read this – this is for you.
Cameron took a long swallow of Buckfast. The December air was cold and a bitter breeze cut through his joggers. The Bucky gave a bit of heat, as well as helping him steel himself.
He checked his phone. Not long now. He took another swig and then put the top on the bottle. He fished a mint out of his pocket and crushed it between his teeth. It wouldn’t be right for his breath to smell of booze, not on an occasion like this.
It was the flowers that had made him decide to do it today. For weeks, now, Cam had been sure – known this was the One True Love, the Love of a Lifetime. He wanted to make a gesture, but he could never have afforded a ring, or champagne, or even flowers. But this morning, some angel had smiled on him. First, Stirling Community Food had been pure heaving with flowers. When he’d seen the big white lilies, he’d thought they might be the thing, with their extravagant flowers and intoxicating scent. Then he saw the white roses and knew that was it. The delicate, furled petals, the subtle hint of green: it was all perfect. When he asked if it was OK to take a bunch, the girl who used to have green green hair told him not to be daft. Everything there was for taking, it was the only way to stop it being wasted.
It wasn’t long since payday so Cam still had enough to buy a 4-pack and a bottle. The 4-pack was for the two of them to share – assuming everything went well. The Bucky was both Dutch courage and potential solace, something to turn to if things went wrong.
Cam fiddled nervously with the change in his pocket. He was about to check his phone again when Col came into view, striding up Barn Road. Cam waved. His pulse was racing and he was sweating, despite the cold.
“Alright, mate!” Col called out as he approached the bench.
Shit, it’s now or never:
“I love you,” Cam blurted out as he dropped down on one knee, flowers thrust forward, coins and key spilling out of his trackie bottoms.
For a moment, Col blinked, astonished. Then he took the flowers in one hand, and Cam’s own outstretched hand in the other.