Cycling and walking

Monday, January 15

Two people's plastic waste for one month

With all the news about plastic in the oceans and the news of possible attempts by the government to cut down on this waste, this blog post is quite timely. At the beginning of December I had decided that I would save all the plastic waste that our household of two people produced, in order to see just how much we ended up with. The piles in the photos below are the evidence. It was just starting to overflow the "bag for life" that I had kept it in.

During this time I didn't attempt to reduce the amount of plastic waste that we produce. I just bought what I normally do, although having said that, I have been attempting  to reduce the amount over the years by not, for instance, putting loose vegetables in Sainsbury's into the bags provided. When buying biscuits I had also started noting which ones were excessively packaged, i.e. a plastic tray, wrapped in film, inside another plastic wrapper, and chose ones instead which had less packaging. Have you noticed how it's the particularly yummy ones that come in lots of packaging.........

I also knew that black trays used for ready meals were virtually not recyclable as they could not be detected by the sorting machines, so for some weeks I had been trying to avoid buying these. (I know, I know, ready meals, appalling.......... but we only have them occasionally!). Instead if I can I get them from the Co-op where they do them in green trays. Why can't Sainsbury's and Waitrose then????? Also on that subject, we have tried an EXCELLENT lasagne from Aldi, which comes in a paper case in a wooden box, in a cardboard sleeve. We have a trip to Aldi now and then to buy certain other things too, like their snack bars which are like Nakd bars but even better and cheaper, and also British oilseed rape oil (in a glass bottle) which is about half the price that it is in Sainsbury's.

The only thing that I didn't save was our milk bottles. I'm not sure how much milk we get through in a month, but at a rough guess it must be at least 8 pints for Husband and 4 for me, per week, so that would work out at around 12 x 4 pint bottles for  the month. In fact it would have been more than that as we had our son and his wife staying for a few days. In the days before they were collected in the kerbside boxes, and when we lived in our old house with loads of outbuildings for stuff like this, the only place you could take them for recycling was Tesco's 13 miles away, so I used to store them up and take them when we were going that way anyway. Good job we had a VW van at the time. As we now only have a tiny car I'm glad we can now recycle them at the roadside.

The first photo is the complete contents of the bag -

Then I separated this pile into what is labelled as recyclable, what isn't labelled at all, and what is recyclable but only in shops themselves rather than at the roadside. Having said that, I am looking at the photos and thinking - I haven't been consistent here! Because I have got stuff that isn't labelled in more than one pile..... For instance Holland and Barrett bags in this pic which are not labelled -

and in this next picture - 

plain unlabelled plastic here too, with stuff that IS recyclable. I'm in a muddle myself now! I think my reasoning was that if it's completely plain I will assume (for some reason!) that it might be recyclable and therefore put it in the recycling bin. 

This lot is definitely the stuff that I have to take back to Sainsbury's.

There have long been complaints about how complicated and unclear plastic recycling is, and I think that is one of the issues the government is addressing, and about time too. It just doesn't make sense a lot of the time - I mean why are Sainsbury's frozen peas bags recyclable but Waitrose's are not???? 

From now on I will be attempting to cut down on the plastic we "consume", but to be honest that will be quite hard, partly as I think we probably already consume less plastic than many other people. So much is wrapped in plastic, often unnecessarily, and often only so that it can be hung neatly on stands in the shops. So much comes in multi packs rather than singly. 

I used to continue to buy Ribena in the glass bottles even when they were also doing it in plastic bottles, but they are all plastic now. You can still buy tomato ketchup in glass bottles (it's actually slightly cheaper surprisingly) but how long will it be before that too is only available in plastic ones? Amongst the pile of plastic we had were some tiny bits which I meant to keep separate but forgot, such as the plastic barbs that hold things like socks together. Multiply one lot of those tiny things by all the socks that get sold every year, and that's an awful lot of very tiny weeny bits of plastic probably getting lost in the rubbish or recycling and ending up in those oceans of plastic and inside the fish that swim in them.

I remember when plastic carrier bags first came in. It must have been the early seventies I think, as I was still at school and remember it being rather cool to carry your books to school in one of them rather than one's leather satchel, which had become decidedly uncool....... now look where we are......

Oh and one last thing. I was horrified to learn that there is even plastic in tea bags!!! Actually, for your information, I have been a lifelong user of loose leaf tea, but when Yorkshire Tea stopped doing their hard water tea in the loose leaf version I started buying it in tea bags and then cut them open and emptied out the tea into my tea caddy (which is actually a jam jar). One tea bag's worth of tea does at least two tea pots for me. (Tea making - a post for another day perhaps!!) I put the bags into the compost. Never again. I have now found a suitable alternative loose leaf  tea anyway.

So, that's my plastic confession! What's yours????

Monday, December 11

Darning, more darning, and hooks and eyes

I have a regular customer for whom I have done a lot of mending. When she comes to collect one job she usually brings another, and last time she brought another cardigan of her husband's (cashmere) for me to darn a hole in the sleeve. I will show you my darn, and then another darn, which is SO good that I hadn't even realized it was there!

This is the front of the hole -

This is the back - 

This is my darn - 

According to my book on mending - 

- my darn is a stocking darn. Basically it's probably the sort of darn most people would think of, where you just weave over the hole. It is the best I can do at the moment although I'd like to improve, so if you have any woollies I can darn, send them my way!

Then, when I was looking for my darn to photograph it, I found this superb one in the same sleeve.
Here's the front - 

and the back - 

It is amazing! Not surprising I missed it! When my customer collects the cardigan I shall ask her who did it - I hope she can remember. She has always been happy with my work so I don't think she will mind that my darn is nothing like as invisible as this other one.

I have looked at the different types of darn in my book but haven't managed to work out what type it is. 

Hooks and eyes

The same customer asked me to replace the hook and eye on a skirt, which is probably wool (no label inside to tell me) and certainly not mass market, although I've looked up the name and can't find anything about it.

This is the waistband after I'd removed the old hook, which was bent, probably because it was the wrong size and not strong enough, and what looked as if it was meant to be a handmade bar, but wasn't really doing anything.... As you can see, the two sides of the waistband are not level. The zip has also been sewn so high that to then pull the sides closer together to do up a hook and eye is very difficult. 

I was also surprised that the pattern matching at the back was not done properly! It matches horizontally but not vertically. You'd have been marked down in "O" - Level needlework (my only qualification!) for that! Not to mention the Great British Sewing Bee! (I wonder if that's coming back?)

Then I went off at a tangent on the subject of hooks and eyes, and hooks and bars, and hooks and hand sewn bars, and which you use where, but I rather like going off at a tangent as I always learn something new. My tangent got me looking at the collection of hooks and eyes etc that I have in an old ice cream box in my sewing room. I have collected this lot over the years - some of it was probably inherited from my mum and grandma, and some has come with sewing machines I have bought. In my lifetime of sewing I hadn't really taken in the fact that there are such a variety of sizes of hooks and eyes. These below are size 1 and 2, in black and silver. There are "eyes" with most of the hooks, and "bars" on the left. Incidentally, I love the old Newey's artwork in the card at the bottom. I must not go off at a tangent trying to date them.....

Or go off at another tangent and look up "japanning" - it's some sort of finish but what exactly I don't know. "Extra japanned" must be even better! More japanning anyone? Three different styles of Newey's art work here - 

As far as I can remember I have always made my own hand sewn bar, but I have learnt that you should use a metal eye or bar when there is likely to be more pull on it. That makes sense.You use a bar with an overlapped zip, and an eye where one side butts up against the other. The eye should very slightly overlap the edge so that the hook can hook into it. So now I know.

It was hard to do a good job on the skirt because of the zip being sewn too high and the two sides not lining up. I had to sew part of the eye to the zip itself rather than to the skirt. I sewed on a black hook and then thought - ah, I haven't got a black eye in the right size to go with it, silly me! But the silver eye is not that noticeable on the other side. The zip cannot come right up to the top now but I had to do it like that in order to sew the hook and eye on in the right position. Here it is anyway, not perfect but it will do the job for some time to come -  

Believe me it was impossible to do it any better!

What I think is the shame is that the zip and the waistband weren't done properly in the first place on what was probably an expensive skirt. Not to mention the bad pattern matching. But never mind! One wouldn't want to discard the skirt for these reasons.

There was a lot more to these two jobs than I thought when I was given them!

Sunday, November 19

To the Thames again, for the last Coffeeneuring trip, #7

It wasn't until the morning of the day of this trip that my plans for it were finalised. But that was OK -  plans are useful but you don't have to stick to them!

Going along with my watery theme, I had thought about cycling to the Thames at Abingdon, but knew that the scenic route I would take would make it just a tad on the long side for these short days, so I looked at the map and decided instead to aim for Culham Lock, a few miles south of Abingdon. The route was to be through West Hanney and Steventon - but as I wasn't taking a flask this time - where would I get coffee? Problem! So I hatched a better plan on the morning of the day itself, and decided to change the route entirely, meaning I could have coffee with Daughter No 2, and Granddaughter No 1, at The Grocer Chef, Ardington's village shop and cafe, en route.

The forecast was for cold but sunny, and it certainly was both! I wore the same multitude of layers that I did for the previous chilly ride, but this time wore my warmest gloves - Pearl Izumi Elite. At 9.15 a.m. when I left it was 2 degrees C, and I must admit that even with these good gloves on, the ends of my fingers were chilly for those first seven miles or so to the cafe.

So here we are at Ardington -

I had an Americano (9/10 on my coffee grading scale - would have been 10 but the mug could have been a bit fuller!!). Granddaughter was offered a colouring book and box of pens and crayons, which she loved! I drew a few cats.....

Official Coffeeneuring patch from last year

After this D and GD went to the playground, and I pedalled off, but I went in the wrong direction, and on cycling back GD saw me and called out "Mandma!" (rhymes with Grandma) so I stopped and walked with them for a bit. As I said in my last post, I always get in a muddle round this area east of Wantage, but eventually my navigational skills improved and got me onto NCN Route 5. Near East Hendred I explored a bridleway that I had often noticed from the car, meaning that I only had to cross the busy A417 instead of travelling on it. I love finding these little safer shortcuts.

I knew that this ride wasn't going to be the most scenic of routes, but I wanted to explore some of the shared cycle/pedestrian paths that connect to Didcot, perhaps thinking of one day taking my bike on the train from there. I have previously cycled to Didcot using Route 5 all the way, but I thought it must be possible to shorten the distance by using these other shared use paths from the Milton interchange. I wasn't intending to cycle right into Didcot today, but was aiming to go across the Milton interchange north to Milton itself, and then on to Sutton Courtenay and Culham Lock. 

My next stop was for lunch here, at the newly built Great Western Park in Didcot, with the power station in the background, and the noise of heavy traffic just near that fence -

However, like the plonker I am, I'd already gone wrong...... I'd missed wherever the crossing was to  the Milton road. But hey ho, I'll find it another day! That meant that I did have to cycle on nearly into Didcot to find the path, but it also meant that I discovered that cycling against the traffic - fast cars and heavy lorries - albeit on a good and wide shared use path, is not at all pleasant, and I could see why people might not want to do it. In fact, come to think of it, when travelling this way by car, we don't see that many cyclists on this path, going in either direction.

Another advantage of having missed my crossing to the Milton road was that I did cycle past this highly salubrious watery place! -

Didcot Sewage Treatment Works

Route 5 (horribly littered here, sadly) takes you past here, and you can certainly smell it before you see it! Recently Husband and I had walked past, and a party of schoolchildren were just going in, no doubt for an educational tour, and I actually wished I could go with them! I think we should all know what happens to our, you know, pooh..... just like we should all know what happens to the rubbish we put in our bins. That's another thing I'd like to do - have a trip round a waste collection/recycling site.

All these extra miles meant I was beginning to think I might not have time to actually get to Culham Lock, but fortunately it wasn't much further. Route 5 takes you round the back of the power station and is actually a very pleasant path to ride, and a good surface too.  It takes you into Sutton Courtenay, and from there it was only a mile or so to the lock at Culham. Once I got there I wished I had time to just sit on one of the benches by the river and watch it go by, but time was getting on and although I had lights, I did want to get back home before it got properly dark.

Looking east along Culham Cut

But I did have time to laugh at this, in the garden of what I assume is the lock keeper's house. I wish the photo was better, but I think you'll get the gist when you hear my confession about other people's washing lines -

I am slightly obsessed with how people hang their washing out. I do it very tidily and logically (I like to think!) and I am always looking at how other people do it. I mean, look at the way those pants and socks are hung up so neatly! Personally I always hang pants up sideways as I think the billow factor is increased by doing that, but maybe this washing hanger-upper (the lock-keeper perhaps?) likes the more symetrical look of hanging them up this way. Regarding the socks - peg up by the toes or the tops? My mum used to peg them up by the tops, on the line between the apple trees in our garden, until one day I put some socks on and felt something wriggling around my toes; it was an earwig, which had dropped into the sock from the trees...... I'm sure I remain psychologically damaged by that experience.  I think she did it by the toes after that. I did, too, for years, but then decided I like the toes to flap around, so I usually hang them up by the tops, and as our line is not between trees, I don't have earwigs dropping in to worry about. Just hundreds of sparrows pooping on my sheets!!!!

For some reason that reminds me of a line from "Under Milk Wood", where one of the characters, not wanting to have a lodger if I remember rightly, screams (imagine Welsh accent here please) -

"He'll sleep in my sheets!!!!"

I also like looking at what people have actually got on their lines, not in a perverted way - !! - but more in a "Ooh I like that!" sort of way. Not long ago I walked along a local canal path, past the back of somebody's garden, and looked at the washing hanging on the line, and admired the Little Person's lovely clothes hanging neatly on it. I have often thought that I'd love to go round the world, on a bike of course, taking photos of nothing but washing on lines, and write a book about it. But I would need something better than Husband's old smartphone.....

Anyway, I digress.

I did then pootle off towards Culham itself, but decided it would be wiser to just turn round and go home now, but on stopping to turn round I was stopped in my tracks by this -

It's a Little Free Library. Apparently they are all over the world - little boxes of books that you can borrow, or I think, take away and replace with another. I had heard of these a long time ago but I had never seen one, and was stopped in my tracks because someone in the US had mentioned one recently in a Coffeeneuring post, which made me feel very connected to a fellow Coffeeneur! I have also seen a telephone box full of books to borrow - what good ideas!

A little more digression, on the subject of tea. When I am at home, the best cup of tea is my breakfast one. I also have one in the afternoon, and possibly one in the evening, but they never taste as good as that first one of the day. One of the best cups of tea I've ever had was after the birth of child number three (Daughter in pics above), having been "off" tea all through the pregnancy. Once she had popped out it seemed as if magically all those hormones that had been saying "Tea is horrible!"" were now shouting "Tea is the best drink on earth!!!". And that's how it always is in the afternoon of a bike ride - I crave TEA TEA TEA. But the only place I might have got one was shut, so I just had to put my head down and keep going for the next 13 miles or so, with only the thought of a cup of tea at home to keep me going.

The extra miles earlier in the day were beginning to tell, and the ride home was a bit of a slog, as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I had intended the ride to be perhaps 30 or so miles but it was 1/2 mile short of 40 in the end. I found myself thinking -

"Three miles or so to the main road, over there, two or three miles to the next village, then a mile to the main road, then up there, turn left, then a nearly two mile slog, then only one more (slight) hill and I'm home......Put your head down and keep pedalling."

And I did.

And so ends the very enjoyable Coffeeneuring challenge for another year. But there is an "Errandonneuring" one next year I believe.....