Tag Archives: recycling

I am afraid I may be becoming a voyeur or, at the very least, an eavesdropper

A symbol of going round in circles

A sign of going round in circles

This is a tale of good intentions messed-up and of coincidence.

I was talking to my eternally-un-named friend last week about the recycling information on packaging. Yes, I lead a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

White paper is usually paper, but not always. And brown paper is sometimes the same as bananas and grass. Some things which are clearly plastics are apparently not. And, with some packaging, some plastic bits are recyclable as plastic and some are not. Last week, even trusty Marks & Spencer confused matters.

Marks & Spencer’s brown symbol on brown bread

Marks & Spencer’s brown Green Dot on right of packaging

Their plastic bread wrapper had a symbol on it that said it was not recyclable but also had a symbol that said it was.

Or so we thought.

I Googled the brown recycling symbol on the M&S plastic and found out it was called The Green Dot.

Yes, the brown symbol is called The Green Dot.

And it means that “the manufacturer of the product contributes to the cost of recovery and recycling” but it does not mean that you can necessarily recycle what the dot is printed on.

Bear this confusion in mind, dear reader, when we come to what happened on a train on the outskirts of London yesterday afternoon.

My jury service trundles ever onwards. I was supposed to finish today. But it looks like the trial will finish on Monday and then we have to consider our verdict. This is the second trial of my jury service. At the end of the first trial, we took 9 hours 23 minutes to decide on a verdict.

So yesterday, on my way back home by train, sitting at the other side of the carriage from me were a thin English woman and a fat Irish woman.

They were talking about recycling in Swansea.

On a whim, I turned on my iPhone’s audio recorder. I am slightly afraid this may become a habit.

“When I used to go to get on the ferry at Swansea to Ireland,” the fat Irish woman was saying, “I used to pass these great big stockpiles of broken glass, piled up high – green glass, clear glass – and a bit later in the papers I read that a lot of this stuff was not being recycled. It was just being dumped in the sea.”

“In thousands of years time...” she said

“In thousands of years time…” she said, “we’ll have jewellery”

“In thousands of years time,” said the thin English woman, “we’ll have pieces of jewellery that came from a certain area because that’s where the green glass was dumped.”

“In just 20 years time,” said the Irish woman, “we won’t have to have factories making anything new, because we’ll be recycling everything like mad – everything.”

“In the War,” said the English woman, “everyone did recycle their bits and buttons and they made knickers out of parachutes and coats out of blankets.”

“And lampshades out of skin,” added the Irish woman.

The English woman screwed up her face and continued: “So why is it, if we’re trying to save the world and re-cycle everything, why is it when I go to the supermarket and buy anything, they offer me a free chicken? I don’t want a free chicken. Why should I have to have a free chicken? I always have an argument with the girl at the cash desk when they offer me a free chicken.”

A chicken (deceased)

A chicken (deceased)

“It’s terrible when you go shopping,” said the Irish woman, sympathetically, “and you want to buy something of one thing and it’s a 2-for-1 and you’re forced to buy two and then you have to eat these two things.”

“I know,” agreed the English woman, “you could leave one behind, but you’re not brought up to be… You’re supposed to be careful with whatever, but you didn’t really want two in a row and it turns into a nightmare. No wonder everyone’s getting fat.”

“A few years ago,” said the Irish woman, “they were trying to get rid of their chickens in Ireland. It was something to do with Europe. When I was a kid at home, chicken was a special meal. You had a bit of beef, a bit of lamb and that was it. A chicken? Whoaa! That was something special. And now… In Ireland they’re very, very cheap but, in England, they give them away.”

The fat Irish woman started making clucking noises and wiggling her elbows. After an initial flurry of clucks, she looked over at me and smiled.

“Poor chickens,” she said to me. “Poor little chickens. They’re all going to be slaughtered. And what with that Oyster card for travelling on the tube where you’re supposed to clock in and out.”

I smiled back at her and pretended to be engrossed in my copy of Metro.

Barry’s Tea - Ireland runs on it

Barry’s Tea – Ireland lives on it (woman not included in packs)

“In Ireland,” the fat Irish woman was by now telling the thin English woman, “we get sent vouchers through the post for a place called SuperValu. If you go there, you have vouchers and you can get things for, say, one Euro less. So, if you’re eating cheese, tea is something quite good. And washing powder. But the thing is – and this is the snag – you’ve got to read the small print, because it’s a certain size. Barry’s Tea. Ireland lives on Barry’s Tea. You’ve got to have Barry’s Tea which has 600 bags in it and they say Oh, we don’t have any of those.”

“I was in Sainsbury’s,” agreed the English woman, “and they had yellow tea on special offer. You could get 80 bags for £2 or you could get 160 bags on special offer at £5.70. They said the 160 bag packet was on special offer… and I suppose it was in a way.”

“I was in a flower shop last week,” said the fat Irish woman, “and they had Sell By dates on the cactuses and I said That’s ridiculous and the man in the shop said Yes, the European ruling is you can’t have more than two years on it. I asked him: What do you do when it reaches its Sell By date? and he told me We put a sticker on it with a new date. Apparently there’s a European rule that says you have to have a Sell By date on everything including cacti.”

“And black trousers,” said the thin English woman.

“You can get them cheaper if they’re a year behind,” said the fat Irish woman.

“Yes,” agreed the thin English woman.

At this point, I had to get off the train, both because it was my station and to save the few remnants of my sanity.

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Mad inventor John Ward, creator of comedy awards + friend of hungry birds

John Ward’s sonic attack bottle

On my way back down from Scotland to London, I stopped off in Lincolnshire to see mad inventor John Ward, who designed and made the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards for me. We went into his back garden and there were two long bamboo canes sticking out of the grass, with large, upside-down plastic bottles on them.

“What on earth are the bottles for?” I asked.

“Moles,” he said starkly. “We had three moles digging up our lawn earlier this week. If you put a stick or a cane with an empty plastic pop bottle in the grass where the mole’s dug, then the wind rattles the bottle. Moles are blind, but their hearing is phenomenally sensitive, so it buggers up their ears. We had three moles earlier this week. I put those two bottles up the other night and we haven’t seen them again.

“You can buy expensive, sophisticated sonic devices to deter moles, but an empty plastic Coca Cola bottle stuck upside down on a garden cane is cheaper and just the same.”

We were really in John’s back garden, though, to see his new bird table, a large metal structure with holes in it.

“What’s it made from?” I asked.

John Ward’s bird table has radar and a Dalek sink plunger

“It’s the interior of a central heating oil tank,” John told me. “We couldn’t put oil in it any more because it had cracks and splits. It was going to be dumped, but I was in my re-cycling mode, so I looked at it and thought it would make a bird table.

“We’ve had schoolkids come along and sketch it for their art class because – well – it’s something different, I suppose. Drawing farmhouses, rivers and trees must pale after a while. And we had a couple come through on a tandem: I say, the man said, do you mind if we come through and take a photograph of your bird table? Then the Daily Mail came along to take a picture of it and then there was Rory, the man from the Discovery Channel.

“The first version I built was smaller scale and when the wind hit it, over it went. So this one has large holes in and instead of acting as a wind break it becomes, in effect, a sieve. The wind zaps through the holes and stabilises it.”

John used to call himself a “junkist” – because he makes things from junk.

“When people talk about re-cycling,” he explains, “they usually think of something ornamental – something you re-paint and stick in an art exhibition. I like to think of more practical things.”

Bird table with cat-scaring holes and interior restaurant area

“Do the birds like your bird table?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied, “we’ve had 18 birds in it pecking away at same time and, when that happened, there were about 7 or 8 others on top waiting to get inside.”

“And your cat?” I asked. “What does your cat think of the bird table?”

“Can’t get up to it,” he said. “It has smooth legs.”

“The cat?”

“The bird table. Nothing to grip on to. Our cat leaps up in the air but can’t get in. And, normally, in a rural area like this, rats would go up and in and help themselves to the food too. But, with this thing, underneath, it’s perfectly smooth and flat, so they have nothing to grip on to.”

“Why doesn’t the cat just leap in the air and jump onto the platform?” I asked.

“The holes put it off,” John told me. “The cat jumps up, its paw stretches out, but the birds fly off or just sit and look, laughing at the cat. It’s like Sylvester and Tweety. And the cat’s getting a bit old plus it’s heavier than what it was. It jumps up and plops down with a frustrated, slightly angry look on its face. You’ve not seen my World War Two landing strip, have you?”

John Ward’s World War Two bird landing strip (with bath)

“Not that I remember,” I said, “and I would probably have remembered if I had.”

“I’ll get the key and show you,” he said. “It’s in the shed.”

“I like cats,” I said.

“The cat’s not in the shed,” John said.

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Filed under Birds, Creativity, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Inventions, Lateral thinking