World Carfree Day 2015

Tuesday, September 22nd

Ever mindful about using my car as little as possible, and how we treat our planet, I’m aware that World Carfree Day is approaching again.

This year it will be on a Tuesday and due to the nature of my work I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on that day – some work could crop up, or I may have the day off. If I have to work to do then cycling to said work is generally the norm, but sometimes I need to use my car (I could postpone such work until the next day if this happens). If I have the day off from work then I think I might spend the day on my bike – regardless of the rain, which, as I write this, is pitter-pattering against my window, and has already soaked me through on my little ride earlier – reminding me that rain doesn’t have to stop play.

To those that aren’t aware of such a day as Carfree Day, seeing me out on my bike will not make them any-the-wiser, so I’m considering getting a t-shirt printed or printing one myself – this I can use each year on this day.


I don’t want anything too… “Get out of your car… stop destroying our planet” in your face – just a gentle acknowledgement to perhaps inspire one or two other people and make them aware of what the day is.


Posted by on 22 August, 2015 in Cycling, Green Living, Health and Fitness


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The Fellow Jogger

This morning, like last weekend, I got myself out of bed and went for my short jog before breakfast. It’s my typical route, it’s only a couple of miles, but it’s comfortable – I can put in a brisk sprint towards the end, to make up for the lack of distance, and stagger into my house out of breath and feeling good about myself.

This has always been a lone pursuit, similar to my cycling. There are a few other people that run around here but the chances of having their run coincide with my own are pretty slim – slimmer because I don’t run that often, regularly, or particularly far. I’ve just looked back over the records that I keep for my cycling, jogging and walking, and I see that I have been running now for a few years, but I don’t run regularly enough to consider myself a runner – it’s just a bit of keep-fit. During the past few years I’ve never really encountered another runner on my path – sometimes I see one as they turn off, or maybe one running the other way.

This morning however, something strange happened!

As I approached the T-junction to guide my legs round to the left, another jogger was crossing my path. He made a casual wave with his hand I think, or perhaps that was just how his arms were moving. Anywho, I joined the road behind him and kept pace with him, positioned just a few steps off his heels. This would be similar to what I would do when cycling – maybe catch up with a fellow cyclist, and gauge their pace, and maybe be rude and overtake them, but this was running, and he looked like a runner, me, I was just in my casual shorts and t-shirt, no bum-bag, no bottle of water, no gadget to keep track of my efforts.

I kept pace with him, it was comfortable. He lengthened his stride somewhat as we descended a slight hill, I was still there and I felt calm. I now had a decision to make – do I just stay at his heels the whole way until the next junction, or do I jog up along side him and start a chat!? I became quite self-conscious of the sound of my shoes on the road behind him, he knew I was right there with him.

I had a strange situation when cycling recently that was somewhat similar, except I was the one ahead when I met another cyclist who joined me on same stretch of road – she came along side me after a while and we had a little chat. Actually, the situation was similar but the effect was different, because she was the one who caught up with me and instigated the chat. This situation threw me somewhat – I found it difficult to talk and ride, my legs and breath were all out of whack, it was windy too which didn’t help. After a short while I politely eased back as if a car was approaching on our single-track road (although there really was none) and I let her go ahead, I then kept pace with her – she looked more geared up to the job than me, in her cycling clothes while I was just wearing just casual shorts and t-shirt. The only down-side was that I now had her behind in my face – I hope she wasn’t self-conscious about that, but I wanted to keep up with her pace.

With the jogger though I was the one that was approaching him and it was up to me how to played this out. A little switch flipped in my head and I brought myself up along side him and said hi. I had never jogged with someone else before – could I even run and chat at the same time? Would I struggle to stick with his pace – would I get out of breath? Would I be intruding on his space and would there be awkwardness?

Actually we had a great little chat, of course about running, but it was one of those short little chats that are pretty insightful. We talked about our running, running in groups or on our own – how some of us need time to ourselves, particularly if we have a busy work or home life. He was out covering more miles than me, he had already done a lot, gearing himself up for a marathon – I was just out for a bit of keep-fit. I considered how, when running, cycling or exercising with others we can help each other, or unwittingly hinder the efforts of others. Some chatting can be good, surely, but the right pace needs to come with it. If I’m cycling and another vehicle passes me (another cyclist, a tractor, or even a slow car perhaps) and then it only maintains a pace that is marginally quicker than my own, then I feel motivated to keep up with it.

After about a mile as we were approaching the next junction I asked him which way he was heading – I had hoped he wasn’t going the same way as me so I had an excuse to perhaps stick with him on his route and get more miles in than I had planned, but it wasn’t to be. We were both going the same way and I would soon be home.

I didn’t feel like I had really been running – for that mile my mind had been focussed more on the chatting. Being detracted from my efforts when running makes me forget about feeling out of breath or tired, or instead I have to search inside myself for some effort. I can go through phases on a longer run where one moment I’m conscious of my effort and it feels like a struggle and I’m somewhat out of breath, and then my mind wanders and I forget about my present ordeal… and then when I become self-aware again I’m magically calm and not out of breath, while still jogging at the same pace – it’s a peculiar thing.

As the fellow jogger and I were now on my last stretch of road I knew at this rate I would arrive back at my house not feeling particularly out of breath – almost like I hadn’t been for a run – which is not what I like – I like to put in enough effort so that when I arrive back indoors I’m out of breath and feeling good – this is a buzz I don’t often get from cycling. Sometimes I might quicken my running pace some distance away, lengthen my stride, or sometimes put in a last sprint to the door – it depends on my mood on the day. Running out of time and road I bid my farewell to the fellow jogger, I told him what I was going to do, and I scuttled off – legging it off up the road, putting to good use that positive energy I had amassed during our chat.

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Posted by on 22 August, 2015 in Cycling, Health and Fitness


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Door-to-door Sales

When I lived with my parents our house was somewhat hidden away, so we rarely had random visitors – if we did get any, then we assumed they were lost.

Things changed a little for me when I moved into my own place though. Not only was I in a more exposed location (although still rural), I had my very own front door to answer, and with this comes responsibilities.

The sales guy

I think the first random caller I answered my door to was a guy selling aerial photographs of houses. I guess he waits for new people to move in, flies over in his small private aircraft with camera in hand, and then tries to sell the resulting photograph. And this is what he came round with – it was a picture of my house, from the sky, in better clarity than Google Maps/Earth, and it captured an image of my house as it was when I moved in, my palace! My initial reaction was “I like that”, the next was “I don’t want to part with any money with someone that has just turned up on my doorstep.” We compromised, he sold me just the picture without a frame because I didn’t like the particular frame, and off he went. It was brief.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses

Next up, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now it might be considered a bit unfair, but this group of ‘cold-callers’ are seen as a little bit of a joke, I can’t find the words to explain why though. Years ago we’d see them arrive in our little housing estate and go round door-to-door, I assumed they were trying to convert people to their way of thinking – I was a child or a teenager and joked about “If I had answered the door I would have invited them in for tea and biscuits!” But it wasn’t my door and I wasn’t the first to answer it. Some Jehovah’s Witnesses even found their way to my hidden parent’s house, but one of my parents went out to see then, assuming they were lost, and they went on their way – again, I might have wanted to invite them in! Then in my own house I get a knock on the door – a Jehovah’s Witness… here’s my chance, you think? To put the kettle on and put out a spread of hobnobs and custard creams? No. He politely hands me a leaflet and continues on his way. Really, I had not long moved in to my home and I still had no furniture in my living room, so inviting them in wouldn’t have been an option, but I have said a couple of times “Sorry, I would invite you in, but my house is a building site…” Actually, the leaflet was quite informative, well presented, and it had their website address on (which is also clear and well laid out), so perhaps they’ve changed their tack and strayed away from the doorstep “sales pitch”, which must surely receive them some abuse.

The recycling team

Next up, a visit from two women from the local recycling team. This was really a good one, I was very impressed. I had written a letter to the recycling team posing some queries to them about what happens to the plastic that we throw away – some plastics can be recycled here but I was keen to recycle as much as possible and avoid sending stuff to landfill. My letter was quite lengthy and detailed, and I hoped I would receive a written reply to each of my points, but thought perhaps I was asking a little too much and my letter would be binned to save someone the trouble. What I wasn’t expecting was two people to turn up at my doorstep and actually tell me the answers to each of my points! First up I had to apologise for not inviting them in, but I had no furniture, but it was a nice day and we stood outside my front door and talked through everything – it was quite a lengthy chat – it was fun – they had a very positive and supportive attitude, not only did they appreciate the efforts I was already taking but they acknowledged how the system can be improved. If theirs was a sales pitch for the services they provide, they carried it out very well, they weren’t a faceless part of government, we were all on the same team. They had assumed a letter of reply had been sent prior to their visit, but I hadn’t received it – I never did, but their responses were good enough and they gave me a brochure with further information.

The charity guy

Finally, my most recent cold-caller. The charity guy. I answers the door in my shorts and t-shirt and he casually commented how I must have been enjoying a nice day in the garden. He told me which charity he was working for, he handed me a couple of laminate sheets that I glanced over while the casual chat continued. He asked my name and age, and what I do for a living. All very polite and friendly, he shook my hand. The problem was, I fell into the trap of the friendly sales pitch somewhat, and he assumed he was onto a winner. He was trying to “drum up business”, it was a “particularly hard time for the people that his charity helps…” but if he had simply explained this, and perhaps then handed me a leaflet explaining how I could make a donation if I so chose, then all would have been well, but he proceeded to produce forms to fill in, and I was like “OK, hold up…” I took a step back and came clean – I told him that I appreciated what efforts he was making but I didn’t want to part with any money or details about myself. The cheerfulness of his character immediately switched, I was no longer his friend, his eyes turned downwards as he shuffled his paperwork back into his bag, my reaction was to shake his hand, and then he trundled off to my neighbour’s house to begin his process again. In hind sight, my point about not wanting to share my details was belated – part of his “sales pitch” had been to talk about other notable names in the neighbourhood: “Do you know so and so?” trying to paint a picture of all these people he’d gotten to know, who had perhaps agreed to donate, and now he had my name and was going off to other houses with this in mind, to tell people he’d just spoken to me. I felt a little betrayed, betrayed by his friendliness, partly, but betrayed by my own tongue! Perhaps if I’d read the material he’d handed me… but we were too busy chatting – there could have been anything printed on those things, like: “Anything you say to this guy will be used as we see fit… by continuing this conversation you are agreeing to the following terms…”

Door-to-door vs. telephone sales

I’m still learning when it comes to door-to-door sales, just like I’m still honing my replies when it comes to nuisance telephone calls (for which I receive a lot more). These people have a job to do, and particularly with the telephone sales they seem to be the types of jobs I don’t agree with: call centres full of people trying to miss-sell things, people who sadly can’t find themselves a more meaningful and better (and honest) job. Even the charity guy, I assume he was employed – trained in the art of selling, and the psychology behind it, the dark arts – what tactics work, how to lead people down the path in order that they part with their money, which is, all these sales people want, no matter how friendly they are and manage to become your friend within those first few minutes of standing on your doorstep. I want to be polite to all of these people, they’re fellow human beings, we should be compassionate and understanding to all, but in doing this I want to invite them in for tea and biscuits, I want to understand more about them, their ideas, and what they do, but perhaps that would be just wasting their time, and leading them on. First I need some furniture.


Posted by on 19 August, 2015 in Psychology, Religion


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Self-service checkouts

I despise self-service checkouts.

The first time I was badgered into using one while “all” the manned checkouts were manned. I was herded towards the beast by a member of staff who showed me how to operate it (I kept quiet about being a computer technician by trade)… she scanned all my shopping through for me, and fed my money into it – it wasn’t really self-service after all. I’m glad I was giving her some work to do – I felt sorry for her position, and the job she had been given, to direct shoppers away from the fellow paid staff in order to threaten her own job and that of all other checkout assistants.

On the second occasion at another supermarket it was some random late evening shopping and there were no manned checkouts open, so there was no choice but to use the self-service thingy – what a faff – and this constant nagging about an “Unidentified Object in the Bagging Area” that I didn’t realise at first was directed at me as it just sounded like the other background noises going on as other people clattered and beeped their way through their own shopping. The machine, it turned out, was objecting to me putting my rucksack down on it to get my wallet out.

Never again.

1) I would actually prefer to queue to be served by a person.
2) I will do my best to avoid walking into a shop staffed by machines – if the staff have all gone home to bed then the store shouldn’t be open.

There is something very inhuman about living our lives like this, at the mercy of machines, with no human/social contact. I live on my own and I go shopping on my own. That brief 1-2-1 interraction with a fellow human being, even if it’s just to be asked if I need a carrier bag (which I never do) and to tell me how much I am to pay for my goods, I’m sure is quite important to me, and certainly to those with even less social interraction in their life. When I hand my money over it needs to be to a fellow human being – I need to see where my money (in the form of cash) is going, I need to see it going into someone elses hands, even if they don’t get to keep it all for themselves.


Posted by on 15 August, 2015 in Food & Drink


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Annoying Plastic

As I glanced around the fruit and veg section of the supermarket, looking for the reduced-priced items that would help to dictate the contents of my fridge and the meals for the week, I saw a reduced-priced cauliflower.

Much of what is in the fruit and veg section is wrapped/supplied in some form of plastic. Lots is in a nasty “plastic film” that is “not currently recycled”, some (like grapes or tomatoes) is in clear plastic trays (to protect them I assume) that can be recycled (hopefully being type 2/HDPE), but then also wrapped in plastic film, and some is in a plastic bag of a type that can be recycled with carrier bags. And some stuff is sold loose but then has a plastic sticker on (which one can only assume cannot be recycled).

Ideally I’d buy everything loose – I take my own bags with me for this, but reduced stuff is not loose and the supermarkets have this idea that consumers prefer stuff to be pre-packaged (I think this consumer preference should be irrelevant). There is also a difference in price for loose stuff which is not easy to calculate – I worked out that six loose apples were 25p less than their pre-packaged counterparts, but three loose peppers are twice the price and while they look a little bigger I don’t think they are twice the size.

I don’t mind plastic packaging, providing it is the type that can be easily recycled (my weekly recycling pick-up scheme provided by the council will connect type 1 and 2). I treat plastic like glass and paper when it can be recycled, although I wonder how much energy is consumed in producing and recycling each type.

The labelling is usually pretty good on a plastic bag or plastic film so that you can see from a glance which it is and if it can be recycled, you also learn to recognise what’s in what, and which is which. But the cauliflower, upon glancing at it was in a loose plastic bag, the same as some lettuces or cabbages, and I assumed it was the recyclable type as they had been, but as I stepped closer a “Plastic Film – Not currently recycled” label stared out at me. I was confused, and left it alone.

Next up was the reduced meat section and I happened upon a pair of burgers. They were packaged in a black plastic tray and wrapped over with plastic film – no worries, pretty typical, at least the black plastic tray could be recycled, or so I thought.

Back at home, as I was preparing the burgers I noticed that the label on the burger packaging was one of these double-sided things where the description and the bar-code are on the front, but other details are on the reverse – this is sometimes the case with veg and you have to rummage through the foliage to see the reverse of the label (or wait until you unpack it). The thing with this particular label was that the recycling symbols were on the reverse of it, so even if I hadn’t assumed the tray was recyclable, I wouldn’t have been able to see it whilst in the shop anyway. To my horror there were two “Plastic – Not currently recycled” symbols, one for the film (as expected) but also one for the plastic tray (actually, even more strangely it’s actually classed as a mixed material). Gutted. How could such a substantial plastic tray not be of the type 1 or 2 as I had expected? Did they not think how many centuries this would take to biodegrade?


Returning to the cauliflower conundrum, the one I didn’t buy because it was labelled as being in a plastic film, not a plastic carrier bag type plastic that could be recycled as such, I discovered the same discrepancy between a lettuce and a cabbage I already had in my fridge. Both were in this “same type” of plastic (going by look and feel) yet one was labelled as plastic that could be recycled with carrier bags, and one was labelled as film that couldn’t be recycled. What’s going on? Are they really two different types of plastic that I can’t differentiate, or is the labelling wrong?


I’ve also discovered that the mushrooms I bought, which were in a plastic tray and wrapped over in clingfilm, are in a tray that is both labelled as “plastic – check local recycling” and the plastic is “stamped” as type 5 (PP) – previous purchases were in a type 2 that could be recycled with my weekly collection. I’ll have to hold on to this and take it to the recycling centre (how many people will bother?). The recycling symbols were again on the reverse of the label so I wouldn’t have known in the store anyway. I prefer to buy loose mushrooms (taking my own bag) but these were reduced – again, gutted that the tray type had changed.


Either way, all my “Plastic Film” goes into a sack and I take it to the recycling centre when full, rather than putting it in my general waste bin and sending it to landfill myself. I don’t know if this makes any difference – I can only hope they do something worthwhile with it, or at least begin to see how much of this stuff there is – if everyone did what I do then I think it would have a greater impact and make the recycling centre recognise just how much of this stuff needs dealing with.

Trying to avoid non-recyclable plastic is tricky, and it bemuses me that one food can be in one type and yet another similar food in another, such as porridge oats which are in a recyclable plastic bag, but muesli isn’t, or even the same foods in different types, like lettuces – some are shrink-wrapped while others are in a loose bag (this appears to be because of the different types of lettuce), or the supermarket’s own bread being in a recyclable bag, whereas branded stuff not. The system needs to wake up and become streamlined and recyclable materials need to be the preferred choice for produce suppliers.

I have not specifically named the supermarket I used on this particular occasion because I recognise this is an issue for each of the different supermarkets I use which seem to have similar ranges of produce/packaging – I shall be sending some letters so watch this space ;)

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Posted by on 14 August, 2015 in Food & Drink, Green Living, Recycling


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‘Like’ Buttons


When someone writes a not so happy post on their blog, or they reveal some depressing news on their Facebook page, the ‘Like’ button just seems so wrong! I have a compulsion to click that thing anyway, just to show my support, like a pat on the shoulder, or to just show that I’m someone who read what they published, without having something verbal to share in the Comments section. But I feel, just so you know!

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Posted by on 13 August, 2015 in Blogging, Internet


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Exercise and Illness

So I began last week with a bit of a cold, the worst part being the sore throat I had to endure for at least 24 hours – I really despise those things, they make me feel rough right through. Lucky for me it was a quiet work week, although when I did get called out to one client, for which I was still perfectly capable of cycling to see, I still managed to overtake a car on my way down the hill (the roadworks at the bottom being what thwarted me).

When illness strikes it makes me appreciate more how my regular cycling keeps me fit and healthy. I actually feel unwell, both physically and mentally, if I don’t get out of the house for a few days. Cycling all year round, in all weathers, seems to do wonders for my immune system, and going out in cold or warm weather helps me to tolerate cooler and warmer indoor temperatures I’m sure – this is a healthier way to live than relying on heating or air-conditioning. Cycling throughout the year also helps me to combat the hayfever I get for 2-3 months – I’m sure my body gets used to the pollen, rather than me hiding away from it and then suffering more when I do have to go out.

During the week I had to help my brother with some work on his car – doing battle with nuts and bolt’s isn’t something I find particularly fun on the best of days, and with a constantly running nose I wasn’t a pretty sight – I was also concerned he’d end up with my cold. He started to get a cough part the way through, but lucky for him nothing more. I also had to then visit my mum and help move furniture – again I was concerned for anyone around me!

Usually when I have a sore throat I like to drink hot orange squash with a dollop of honey in… but I didn’t have any orange squash, only blackcurrant, and I didn’t fancy that with honey in. It just so happened that I had finished my last can of soup the day before the sore throat hit – in future I’ll keep a spare can in the cupboard for such emergencies! I find it interested how cravings change when illness hit – I can be used to drinking tea and coffee each day, but then go completely off one or the other when I have a cold. On this occasion I really didn’t feel like drinking tea, but I needed to keep my fluids up, and drinking plenty of water felt bad on my throat. I sometimes have honey in tea, so as a substitute I tried just honey in a mug of hot water, and was pleasantly surprised.

By the weekend things were turning round and I had a new found energy and enthusiasm – I began Saturday with a jog, then some cycling, and later some more cycling too. My July’s cycling efforts had been pretty relaxed so this day alone was quite a turn-around. I quite liked how the cold had first brought me down, then allowing me to enjoy the feeling of recovery – I may have been cursing whoever gave me the sore throat in the first place (I usually pick up one of these a year from my nieces, but on this occasion it wasn’t obvious who I’d got it from), but now I was enjoying the buzz.

I think being able to cycle my way through such an illness helps it to pass too – at the height of it if I stay indoors my nose doesn’t seem to stop running, but if I get outdoors and do some brisk exercise it’s like my nose gives up while my body focusses on the ordeal I choose to put it through. Being outside surely helps too.

Obviously some illnesses aren’t your simple cold, but for lots of things cycling and regular exercise is not only good for prevention but also helps with recovery.

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Posted by on 12 August, 2015 in Cycling, Health and Fitness, Psychology


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