Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The New Religion

It was actually in the doctor’s waiting room that the idea came to me. Our teenage son had volunteered to help with the washing-up, so my wife and I brought him down to the surgery as a precautionary measure. Tired of idly guessing what terrible diseases the other occupants of the waiting room had, I started glancing through the countless women’s magazines on display [Memo to doctors – men don’t get sick, huh?] until I came across an article affirming that “Recycling is the New Religion.”
The idea set me to thinking, a dangerous occupation that I normally try to avoid. If recycling was the new religion, I reasoned, then it followed logically that bottle banks were the new churches. My mind then strayed to a very pleasant day that my wife and I spent in Venice a couple of years ago. Armed with a guidebook and the obligatory Cornetto, we had wandered the canals of that magnificent city, visiting a venerable host of magnificent, half-hidden churches, each with its own grandiose history and architecture, gilded with ornate flying buttresses and delicately carved stonework, before bolting hungrily into Alfonso’s Pizzeria.
My mind then performed such an impertinent back-flip that the judges at the Athens Olympics would have been scrambling for their “10” cards. In the new religion, Dublin 15, with its wealth of bottle banks, could be the new Venice. Tourists with an artistic bent, or even an artistic straight, would come flocking here from across Europe, from across the world even, to admire our recycling facilities. Maybe if I got the franchise on postcards, I wouldn’t have to work again….
Open-topped buses would ferry visitors around the highways and byways of the greater Blanchardstown area, stopping off at the more interesting environmentally friendly locations en route. A chirpy tour guide [myself, naturally] would rattle off the spiel with an assured air.
“And on your right, ladies and gentlemen, we are passing by the famous St. Kylie’s Bottle Bank in Clonsilla. Designed by the famous German architect Schäfer, the bottle bank was constructed almost entirely of reinforced plastic. Note the intricate diamond design on the walls of the structures, said to symbolise the wealth – both social and physical – of the recycling movement. This particular style of architecture is art nouveau in feel, with all three types of glass seemingly being put in the same chamber, yet they are in fact compartmentalised. This three-in-one motif was common during the second great age of recycling history…”
“Ahead of you, there is the quaint bottle bank of Littlepace Shopping Centre. Dedicated to St. Britney, the patron saint of Recyclable Rubbish, this bottle bank is one of the earliest examples of its kind, having been designed at the very birth of the new religion. Note how the brown glass container is really a green wheelie bin, with a rough hole cut into it. The local congregation really venerate this bottle bank – so much so, that, as you can see, they present their offerings in plastic bags and leave them respectfully in front of the plastic edifices. If any of you feel like contributing to the Bottle Bank Restoration Fund, I am happy to accept all donations in any currency…”
“Just up ahead of you on your left, you will see what appears to be just a normal pavement. However, this “normal pavement” was in fact the site of the famous St. Ronan de Keating Bottle Bank in Porterstown, which mysteriously disappeared during the reign of Bertie the Bold in 2004. Legend has it that it comprised “three large cylindrical objects, each of whose girth outstretched that of the fattest man of the parish” according to the Annals of Castleknocke, “excepting maybe Jim McArdle.” Local folklore states that a vigil is still kept upon the site on Candlemass Eve, in case the bottle bank should reappear…”
“Further on here, by Porterstown Church, we come across one of the most picturesque of all the bottle banks in the area. Overlooking the Liffey Valley, with the Dublin mountains looming in the distance, this is a place of quiet pilgrimage for many of today’s recyclists, who feel the peaceful tranquility of the location is perfect for smashing bottles in. As you can see, many worshippers have been so entranced by this place, that they have scrawled their names and crude runic symbols over the bottle bank itself…”
“An unusual Bottle Bank here, as it is not for public worship, but is the private preserve of the Roselawn Inn. The three vertically grooved containers are chained together to discourage late night worshippers, who might try to remove them in a recycling frenzy. Note how the architect has installed lockable metallic coverings over the holes, lest the more fanatically orientated should try to make an offering of something other than glass…”
“Up in the corner, there is the newer five tier, bottle, can and clothing bank, named after St. Brian of Westlife. This stands on the site of an older recycling centre, which doubled as the largest breeding ground for wasps on these islands, before the elders of the tribe of Rehab came up with the notion of protective rubber flaps…”
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the highlight of your afternoon, la piece de recyclance – the St. Martin de Cullen Recycling Centre in Coolmine. The Recycling equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica, this monument to environmental friendliness was opened in early 2004. You are free to wander around here at your leisure. Should you have any questions, the Guardians of the Sacred Temple – easily recognisable by their hi-vis vests – will be only too pleased to assist you.
‘I would like to direct you to a few special points of interest. The blue newspaper recycling container there is thought to be the largest in the civilised world, though rumours of an even larger one in deepest Finglas have yet to be substantiated. I would also draw your attention to the small red battery recycling container in the western nave, which is believed to be itself recycled from an old domestic kitchen pedal-bin.
‘Although you are at leisure to visit all the great recycling domes in this magnificent citadel, I would ask you all to proceed in a respectful manner. The use of photography and other recording equipment is strictly forbidden. I do however have a large selection of souvenir postcards which are available for you to purchase. I do hope you have enjoyed your afternoon with us and will recommend us to all of your friends.”
“What are you doing, snoring away like that, making a show of me?” hissed a familiar voice.
“Wha?” I asked, looking around wildly.
“Come on! The doctor says he’s only looking for money to go to the ‘Plex. Perfectly natural, at his age, apparently.”
I meekly followed the pair of them out of the surgery. Somehow I felt a great opportunity had been lost. That’s what thinking does for you, I suppose.

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