Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Spark Returns

Didn't you all do well with those recipes for resuming normal service after a temporary halt in inspiration? When I read the one from Lakeviewer, it certainly sparked my memory, if not my creative battery. 'Time to clean the gutters' she said.

Gutters. What a glorious sounding word - think I'll say it again. Gutters. The closely following stutters, shutters, putters, butters and mutters, which inner voice interjected at this point, don't give me the same thrill at all. But enough of that.

The question is, did the word gutters send your imagination to rooftop height, with associated fear of heights and wobbly ladders, or did your mind instantly plummet to the drab fringes of our pavements ( sidewalks?) whose gutters tend to collect such a varied assortment of twenty first century, careless, throw away rubbish?

It made my mind link instantly to the other similar word, guttersnipe, which I then Googled - not because I didn't know its meaning, but because I was curious to see what else I might find.

a child of the slums who spends most of his or her time in the streets: contemptuous term applied to anyone regarded as having the manners, morals, etc. of the gutter

Etymology: orig. (Brit dial.), the common snipe, which picks food out of gutters.

As it happens, the Slumdog Millionaire film was shown on TV this week as well as a documentary called Slumdog Secret Millionaire, in which a wealthy London dentist, Seema Sharma, went to live undercover in Mumbai. She chose to stay in Dharavi, where nearly one million people are crammed into one square mile. It is one of the largest slums in india. People live in the poorest, most abject circumstances you could imagine, some even living on the pavement, with a gutter as their permanent home.

But what shone through from the programme, was the incredible pride and work ethic of so many of these adults, but more especially, the children. Far from creating rubbish, they spend their days collecting and sorting other people's rubbish, as a means of earning enough money to live on. One young nine year old boy considered it was his duty to work long, hard hours every day, to support his widowed mother, barely taking time out to go for occasional schooling, when the teacher made it her business to go and find him.

Ms. Sharma visited relations of hers, a family in which the main bread winner was an accountant who enjoyed a good standard of living. She was shocked to find this family had a negative attitude to those much worse off that themselves, shrugging shoulders and saying 'What can we do? They wouldn't appreciate us interfering. They have to do things for themselves'.

With no home, no money, no prospects of a good education, I wonder what he expects the children to do, other than to continue being guttersnipes...


  1. I watched that documentary too, uncomfortable as it made me.

    Guttersnipe! I haven't heard that term in years - my mother saved it for use only for when she was really, really angry - ooh, we knew we were in deeeeeep trouble then! It was the closest she ever got to cursing (smile).

  2. I think the truth is that the problem is so overwhelming that people living close to it ignore the facts as a way of coping. We have our own blind spots here, like the travellers, and also social problems of our own like drug and alcohol addicts. How often do we really spend much time thinking about them?

    Good post! Very thought provoking. And yes, I was called a guttersnipe too!

  3. Glad you got your spark back, Jinksy!

    In the shadow of what's happened in Haiti, many of my blogging friends are wondering, how do we fix this world and all it's problems...and is it fixable?!

  4. The catastrophe in Haiti took the wind out of my blogging sails. I have posted some pre-prepared items (tweaking them if necessary to fit the day) - but it all seemed so mundane and irrelevant beside the horrors of Haiti. Guess this is part of the ebb and flow of blogging - like everything else.

  5. Hello Jinksy,

    My mind tended downwards! In my youth, guttersnipe was a word reserved for only the most unsavoury kind of female (not by me you realise!) and I never realised it could refer to children. The world is packed with troubles that have little real impact on the majority.

  6. I did not see that documentary. I'll have to look for it.

  7. My Grandmother's favourite saying was...... *she was nothing better than a guttersnipe* That referred to a lady of ill repute!

    Nuts in May

  8. See how just one word has sparked you off Jinksy.
    That "what will be, will be" attitude really distresses me but I don't know the answer. I friend recently spent some time over there in a hospital and was horrified at that same attitude.
    It seems so foreign tous.
    Keep that old brain going - if necessary we will feed you a spark word daily. How about nutcracker for tomorrow's word?

  9. Unfortunately, the more abject poverty we hear about the more helpless we feel and the more likely we are to concentrate on our own lives. I suppose I'm like most people; I make my regular payments to my chosen charities and engross myself in my own merry-making.

  10. I've seen this first-hand in many South American countries. I can spin you some horror tales but I'll spare you...

  11. You're off flying on this one. Lots to think about.

  12. We tend to be losing the roof variation of gutter in favour of eavestroughs.

  13. jinksy....I honestly thought of the gutters at the edge of the roof...
    Very thought-provoking post. I haven't seen the program.
    You always have a lot to say that is thought provoking. That's a very good thing, my friend!!!

  14. I love the word gutter too, it's so ripe. I think down to where all the debris collects. I'm rather fond of debris, too. My husband jokes (?) that he rescued me from the gutter, but I quite miss it.


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