Lenin’s Saturday

It’s hard to translate this one but people from ex-USSR or ex-USSR satellites may know what this is.
Unless of course it was my country’s own invention.
Just the name was borrowed.
Who knows.
Anyway, Lenin’s Saturday meant public, voluntary, neighbourly cleaning of your neighbourhood.
On a Saturday.
I don’t know which Saturdays.
Of all Saturdays I remember participating in two.
Enough for me to remember them and to use their peculiarity 20 years later in a blog.
How weird is that.

Nevertheless, this post is neither about Saturdays, nor about Lenin.
It is for all the old people sitting on the benches all day long.
And for all the unpicked little pieces of paper and rubbish that’s flying around in the parks, around the public gardens, around the garbage bins and not inside them, and around the benches on which old people sit all day.
The sitting-on-benches and garbage-running-around phenomenon is probably one I’ve seen in my own country and in Malta.
It may not be relevant to other geo destinations.
Most parts of North America of course may be totally excluded.
Their streets and parks and gardens and garbage bins (perhaps) are surgically clean.
You’ll be sued if you don’t keep it clean.
There’s so much suing going on there that you could probably sue someone for suing you which has caused you stress.
Go figure.

Back to Lenin, Saturday, old people, and rubbish.

I have nothing against old people and them sitting on the benches all afternoon and all mid morning.
But, wouldn’t it be healthier for them if they moved around a little?
And, if an old person says that “it’s the young ones who pollute”, I’d answer quoting Shakespeare, “an old man is twice a child”.
Again, I have absolutely no intention of offending old people.
I just believe it’s a great physical and healthy exercise for old people to get their act together and do Lenin Saturdays every now and again.
You never know, those septuagenerian singletons may pick a few chewing gum foils and a friendly companion for their Monday bench-sitting.
It’s still a social setting (as the benches are), but this one comes with an act of nobility – cleaning the environment.
I was with my kids in the park this morning (which morning am I not in the park with my kids), and noticed all the old men and women sitting, idly.
Not even reading or smoking or doing naughty stuff.
Just chatting or gazing.
Then I noticed the little pieces of plastic on the floor, an empty bag of crisps, a paper from a muffin, without the muffin, and all sorts of other little annoying debris from human consumption.
My daughter was first to pick the most colourful ones because they’re … colourful and I’d go after her, pick the dirt and throw it in the bin.
The old fellas though kept staring and sitting idly on their benches.
These guys need some blood circulation.
And by that, I don’t mean that they hit the gym.
I mean move.
And why not combine the movement with something useful?
Old people always give advice and talk wise and preachy, but how much of it they actually do themselves?
It can’t be much by sitting on a bench, really.

The BBC Two program my husband and I watched about a month ago proclaimed that “the chair is a killer”.
In septuagenarian terms, “the bench is a killer”.
Human beings aren’t meant to be sitting but standing up, moving, walking.
The program wasn’t just a manipulative show.
The presenter put himself under weekly tests and experiments (with blood samples and all) to find out about certain truths, claims and research experiments about exercising and the effects from exercising.
If you can’t see the documentary from the provided link above, you could read a synopsis about the experiments here.
The conclusion was that you either start walking and moving as much as you can or you do 3 minute burst exercises once a week to keep the bad fat from storing around your vital organs.
For oldies, frequent moving might do better than the 3 minute burst workout.

Now, back to the funny title of this post.

When I was a kid, about 6 or 8 or 10, somewhere pre-teen but not necessarily an even number, we had the Lenin’s Saturdays.
No closer way of translating it.
Neighbourhoods across cities and towns would get scrubadubdubed like freshly washed baby bottoms by their honourable inhabitants.
Everyone – young and old – would gear up with all cleaning paraphernalia that could come to your mind, or at least that a communist store could offer, and would march in front of their residential buildings and start cleaning.
The streets, the gardens in front of their blocks, the nearby parks.
It was fun because you’d get a lot of heated gossip going on.
You’d take mental notes about who came to clean and who didn’t.
Not us kids, but the neighbourhoods’ biggest busybodies.
And dare not show up with your broom on a Lenin’s Saturday – you’d be lynched.
To the point of having to change the neighbourhood.

The good thing about Lenin’s Saturdays was, obviously, that we turned our parks and streets spotless, our green plots and patches – weedless and combed.
Our bodies – toned and fat-free (although the last one wasn’t a common problem at all at the time).

And remembering Lenin’s Saturdays in combination with all the old men and women sitting on the park benches made me think about four things:

  1. Do we people need to be told or imposed on what to do (like the Lenin’s Saturdays) in order to get up and do it?
  2. Do we feel ashamed if we have to clean in a public place (apparently not as ashamed when polluting it)?
  3. Or, is it just plain “not my responsibility” mentality that makes us unbothered about picking random rubbish from the floor?
  4. Are old people feeling the most privileged of all? “I’m old and need to be pitied and spared because I’ve done my part”…

Sitting on the bench certainly isn’t any more honourable.

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