Saturday, February 19, 2011


My postman collects antique jigsaws, he has asthma, Amazon drives him crazy and his wife runs her own business and earns more than him. he has been a postman for over 20 years.
The wife of this weeks Tesco delivery man left him and the guy last week is passionate about reading to his baby.
Connect people connect. In person-even if only briefly-it is a powerful way to feel alive.

Monday, June 25, 2007

June 24 2007 - the doggy do's ain't going nowhere

It's no good convincing myself otherwise. As carefully as I scoop them up from the garden and drop them in a plastic bag, it makes no difference whatever. Those poos are going nowhere. And they're going nowhere because of the bag. Protected in their totally-un-biodegradable cocoon they're not going to make it back to Mother Earth where they might do some good.

It's even more nonsensical that I purchase the finest quality cat litter, completely biodegradable, from the supermarket each week - only to encase the cats' main contribution to the environment in another totally everlasting plastic bag.

But now I'm under pressure from Tesco to do something about it. The numerous used envelopes I wantonly waste will have to wait, Tesco won't. How's that? you ask. I'll tell you. Apparently sensing a major public relations disaster just because they get about £1 in every £5 spent in the entire Universe, Tesco has suddenly decided to go green. And one way they are doing this is to discourage their customers from using their free plastic bags.

They even offer bag-less delivery, which leaves me in the embarassing position of having to explain to the delivery man why I still wanted bags when all the other guilt-ridden middle class lefties were managing to do without. "It's the animals" was my weak attempt at self-justification.

To make matters worse even the cats and the dog (and the kitchen bin) cannot keep up with our supply of plastic bags - and believe me they try - and it looks like we might have to start throwing some out soon if something doesn't change. I even suspect Beloved might have done so on one or two occasions without telling me.

So, after a quick look around I discover a guy called Tommo1717 (funny, I used to know a Tommy1717) is selling biodegradable carrier bags on Ebay for £5.99 for 150. Tommy1717 has a 99.9% popularity rating, which makes him a lot more popular than even the Prime Minister and George W Bush combined. And I don't think £5.99 is a lot of money to make me that little bit more of a responsible citizen, so I'm going to buy some. I'm not sure the doggy-do's will be that good for the environment even then, but at least we won't have to wait until the year 3050 to find out.


Friday, June 22, 2007

June 22 2007: Took the plastic mountain to Tesco

Having discovered that Tesco are running their own recycling depot in their car park, I decided this would be a good place to dispose of the by now almost unmanageable plastic mountain.

It seems that, whereas only a year or two ago there were restrictions on what plastic could be recylced, now it appears we can take along whatever we like. This is great news, because being such light items, it's difficult to catch ones plastic bottles let alone look underneath them to see what type of plastic they are.

Plastic is a very versatile thing, and some very enterprising and creative people have started reforming the molten stuff into new items. The wife and I bought some very interesting - and inspiring - items at The Eden Project last time we were down there. What they can make from otherwise unwanted items includes pencils, rulers, a fascinating keyring made from an old printed circuit board (aMAZING what some people can create!), notepads, pencil cases made from recycled tyres and even a recycled rubber mouse mat.

Some of these items are made from old tyres that would quite likely otherwise be dumped or burned to create yet more atmospheric pollution. I came away feeling much more hopeful for us all. The Eden Project shop is at: +recycled">>+recycled

So anyway, recycling our plastics at Tesco was fun. You put them in a machine which then grabs them one by one when it's ready. More often than not it seemed to close its non-negotiable jaws at precisely the moment I am chucking a bottle in, so the whole process took a while, including of course chasing around the car park as the ultra-light plasticware bounced out of its recycling box and onto the tarmac.

Only problem is, having driven to Tesco's in the first place, did I use more energy getting there than was saved in the recycling? I think the idea is to be shopping there at the time, but we get our groceries delivered. Except of course the stuff I forget to order every week so there' s an opportunity there. Or maybe Tesco won't mind picking my plastics up for me. They always seem to be driving around in vans.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

7 June 2007 - There's a plastic mountain outside my house

The first thing I should mention is the sterling job Beloved has made today of cooking up all our veges (organic) into three delicious-looking dishes, a fritata, a stewy thing and definitely a soup. She thought I should mention it so I have. Quite rightly.

I keep getting flyers through the post and falling out of the Guardian newspaper I have to put up with suggesting we get a satellite dish and go over to Sky. It's not the corporate enormity of Sky or B-Sky-B or whatever I object to, it's the large, ugly satellite dish you need on top of your house in order to receive it. For a wind-turbine that might save the planet you need planning permission in triplicate from the Council, but you can stick up a rusty old metal soup bowl for free. The resistance continues.

Talking of the Council I had a reply from a nice lady from the Council assuring me that the used computers sit by the scrap metal bin and not in it. Was it a case of "place it gently down there by the scrap metal bin and we'll deal with it later, mate", that I was hearing after all? Anyway, it's good to know my humble email resulted in some action as the management of the recycling 'place' (sadly we can't call it the 'dump' anymore, I think it's now a 'resource' or 'centre'. Or maybe it doesn't even have a name, it's just 'the recycling') was consulted with my complaint.

I cleansed my soul to some extent over the weekend by actually reusing an envelope to house the receipts from my computer consultancy. Hopefully the start of a great new habit.

Oh, and finally, what do you do when the recycling bin the Council provides AND the one we brought home with us from New Zealand, still don't hold all the plastics that seem to flow out of our home like lava from Mount Vesuvius? Plastic builds up very quickly indeed, and it blows away easily too. I'm on the lookout for a plastic bottle crusher, I'm sure they exist, or I'll have to invent one in my copious spare time, and then I can advertise it on my super-successful website (still in the design stages), sell a couple of million and retire to a life of blogging on a Spanish island somewhere. I can hardly wait!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

30 May 2007: When recycling computers means scrap metal

Until two weeks ago I believed our local council gave used computers to organisations for reuse and recycling. I based this belief on the Barnet website, which states that computer and home office equipment - and I quote - "are collected by organisations for reuse and recycling".

However, this was not my experience when I took one of the family's many PC castoffs to be recycled - or so I thought. If I had imagined it was going to help a poverty-stricken village in Africa or some other place too hot to mention, I was mistaken.

For as I made my way to the corner where so many of our technological cast-offs end up, I could clearly hear, in the distance, the unmistakable sound of a man.

"Chuck it in the scrap metal mate".

I turned around with all the dignity a man carrying a desktop computer can have, and pointed out that I believed the council policy was to recycle used computers.

"Nah, mate. People keep putting them down with the electronics, but we just chuck them in the scrap metal anyway".

I complied, and made a mental note to check this 'fact' with the local authority, who seem to be trying so hard to reduce waste. And I did so, and I'm waiting for a response to this evening's email. While throwing this piece of 'scrap metal' into the giant skip I pondered over the fact that, so few years ago, an incredibly complex and clever piece of equipment like this would have been someone's prize possession, probably even belonging to a private company and definitely costing thousands. But even for that money I couldn't have acquired one, as the best on the market wasn't even that fast, just a few years ago.

Today, such an item is simply not good enough, not even worth taking to bits for someone else to deal with.

The way people round here behave, you'd think there were way too many computers in the world, but according to Computer Aid International, a charity that distributes PCs to the developing world ( )

"The digital divide that currently exists between the developed and developing countries is enormous. Latest World Bank research shows that there are 5 or less computers per 1,000 people in the vast majority of Sub-Saharan African countries. This figure is also applicable to the South Asian sub-continent."

Here in the UK well over half of households have at least one PC, more than that in ours.

Is there a link between our attitude towards used technology and our attitude to everything else around us? I believe so, but that's another topic for another day.

By the way, the Council seems to be doing something with the monitors. I saw these loaded onto a pallet at quite a rate. It's quite hard for them to keep up with the number coming in.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

29 May 2007: Found a used towel in the rubbish

I was shocked yesterday to spot a used bath towel in the rubbish (garbage) bin (can).

Yesterday, coincidentally, was the day I took Beloved to Brent Cross to buy a set of new bath towels, only the best. It was a moment of great generosity, although it is true we did go halves on the towels. The previous bath towels were still in perfect working order, although admittedly a bit tatty around the edges - a bit 'ribbony' you might say. However, like the bad bits on a lump of cheese, the tatty bits could be removed with a sharp knife or a good pair of scissors.

The towels we had were certainly not new, having been purchased a number of years ago, probably the best part of twenty. Colourwise they were not perfect: they had long since turned that purply or brownish colour all things fabric seem to eventually turn to when washed alongside other colours. And - no matter what the washing instructions say - this WILL happen at some stage in the towel's life, or any other garment for that matter.

The laundering instructions inside clothes make me laugh. Who honestly is going to wash the whole family's numerous pairs of different-coloured denims inside out on their own at forty degrees? I mean the Beloved seems to spend half her time rushing from the machine to the clothes line with a set of pegs between her lips, and that's without the neurosis. And not a million miles away logically are the ironing instructions, which invariably amount to: "iron this item at '3', even though it's not going to look ironed unless you iron it at '4' with maximum steam".

It all boils down to this: wash as much as you can all together, as cool as possible in a 'delicate' wash, then iron it if you have to, again everything at full pelt, maxing the steam. (For legal purposes this is NOT advice, just friendly banter. I don't want the pants sued off me, denim or otherwise.)

Anyway, none of the above bothered me much, since age, colour or even ease of ironing are not to me criteria for getting rid of a perfectly good towel that still has many years of good life in it. However, I could see it made Beloved very happy so I think we did the right thing.

I was looking forward to imagining also the joyous look on someone's face when receiving our old-but-still-serviceable towels in some other less fortunate part of the world, so that much greater is my sadness at seeing the towels had been thrown away in such a consumerist manner. I am not sure whether to rescue them and at the same time be covered in used teabags, spaghetti and what-not. It's also raining.

My guilt at all this was compounded by convincing myself that this rain was enough to justify driving my Prius to the local shops. So, a joyous day for consumerism, a sad one for Mother Earth, that's I'm going to say about it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

3 May 2007: A light you don't have to switch on

I'm always willing to give a new innovation a try. Excluding, to some extent, laptop computers, which I work with and after a point can't stand the sight of. About two weeks ago I took a trip to Brent Cross shopping centre in search of some replacement bedside lamps.

The reason for the trip was a mild case of false economy. Not the serious sort, where you get yourself an old banger and it keeps breaking down on you (no reference to any person, living or otherwise). I should know, my first five or six cars were wrecks I purchased to save myself a few bob, then found myself a) walking home from a lot of places and b) spending the money I'd 'saved' in the first place.

Engraved in my otherwise selective memory are at least two pictures of me replacing the front brakes on my Morris Minor, in the snow, on Christmas Eve, on my way to some family event I'd agreed to turn up to. The sequel to this second bit of economy -maintaining my own vehicle - was where, having taken the wheel apart and removed the worn brake pads, I am totally unable to fit the new ones and, in a sweat hot enough to melt the snow for several metres, start the process of collaring someone who knows how to fix cars.

Somewhere in Twickenham there was a guy who used to sell car parts in his small but friendly shop, and he was the guy we used to ask to help out with this sort of thing. I say 'we' because half of Twickenham seemed to converge on his little place to test his formidable knowledge of which parts best fitted any of several marks and models of ageing motor cars.

He was basically a nice guy, but his irrascible nature did let him down at times. The more people came to see him and ask his advice, the more irrascible he seemed to get.

"Talk to me, TALK TO ME!!!" he'd shout, but you had the feeling it was a bark of despair, really. He had to shout to be heard above the din of customers trying to milk his knowledge of cars.

He was the guy who always helped me out on these rather stressed occasions, and I'll always be in his debt, largely because I never had much to pay him with.

Anyway, on this occasion all I was after was a light fitting, and my car is running nicely thank you. The false economy in question was non buying my bedside lamps from John Lewis, but instead going to places like Ikea to 'save a few bob' on something made in a city-sized factory in China for about 1.5 pence. I was drawn to a fascinating innovation displayed in the lighting department of John Lewis. This was a light that responded to the faintest touch of your hand by turning itself on. It didn't have a switch, in the conventional sense, at all. It turned itself on in three levels of intensity, one for each touch. Isn't technology marvellous? I decided to pay the extra £10 and the hell with it, I took two.

When I got it home and installed them the misses and I were both delighted. What a novelty! No more scrambing around in the dark looking for the switch, we just had to swipe with our arms vaguely in the right direction and hope we didn't knock the whole thing over. Magic!

Now here's the irony. It's very Zen, very Ying-Yang. Everything contains its opposite, within.

The best thing about this lamp was its silent, magic switch. However, the worse thing about it was also its silent, magic switch. So, like a scene from some weak horror movie, the bedside light appears to turn itself on in the middle of the night, when my arm accidentally reaches a foot or so to the side. The wife gets a little grouchy, understandably. So, on impulse, I reach out and touch the lamp to make it turn off again. But it isn't programmed to do that. Instead, it turns onto intensity number two, and the wife gets grouchy again.

Now I know I am completely stuck. There is nothing for it but to get through the awful cycle as quickly as possible. I touch the lamp again and - sure enough - it goes up to full intensity, giving the distinct impression that I really don't care at all and only think about myself. In a split second the lamp is back in the off position, and I begin a slow character-redemption process, while programming myself not to move my arms sideways in my sleep.

It's an example of how technology can go dreadfully wrong, I think. But I still rather like it. I look at it and think how lucky I am it isn't a computer.