Stark naked in Tesco

petelovespurple via viual hunt

Image courtesy  of petelovespurple via Visual Hunt.

Back in the good old days, I suppose I’d have been about three and sitting in a little metal chair on the back of Mum’s sit-up-and-beg Raleigh, shopping was quite a different experience. We went to the corner shop, the greengrocer, or the butcher for most of our daily requirements. Daily, because domestic refrigeration was unheard of. Potatoes were weighed out and poured into the bottom of our shopping bag. Next came root vegetables, then greens, and on top of those, the most squashable items, like fruit and salad. Perched on top of those were eggs in a paper bag, or maybe sausages in waxed paper. And when we got home the shopping was unloaded into a vegetable rack, or meat safe to keep off the flies, and a larder.

Bread, milk, and coal were delivered by horse and cart. Milk daily, bread two or three times a week, and coal, you could have best bright or nutty slack, about once a month, and you had to run out into the street if you wanted bread or coal. Not that that was a hardship to me as I loved the horses. Bobby was the milkman’s horse and Tommy the baker’s. Tommy was apt to bite so his piece of carrot had to be offered carefully on the flat of my small hand.

What, you are asking by now, has this got to do with being stark naked in Tesco? It’s packaging, especially plastic packaging. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need the stuff: vegetables come in their own packaging: it’s called skin or leaves. Okay, so sugar and flour need to be in bags, paper is usually sufficient, and liquids need containing, glass or waxed cardboard works well, but there’s a heck of a lot of stuff that doesn’t need to be fully clothed in frilly crinolines and bustles, with flowery hats, wigs and suitcases. And surely it’s possible for manufacturers of packaging to come up with an alternative to plastic bags. According to another TV programme, on as I write, there is an environmental sea-change coming in packaging which has to be good news.

Packaging, or the way it’s presently abused, also deceives the purchaser and that really, really annoys me. Try going around any supermarket and looking at the packaged cooked meat, for example. Do what I do and shake the packets to see what’s hidden behind the large stick-on label. Answer: nothing. Absolutely sod all – air in fact. I shake them, turn them upside down so people can see what they’re not buying, and walk on. Oh, I’m sure these supermarkets are perfectly legal in their packaging but legal isn’t necessarily morally or ecologically defensible. The law, after all, does often have long furry ears and bray a lot.

I once bought an apricot and champagne gateau, really scrummy, that boasted it served six to eight. From the packet size, I believed it. Well, we’ve all been conned. It was literally half the size of the packaging. Thank goodness I hadn’t relied on it to feed eight or four of us would have gone without.

But there’s a much more serious issue here than conning the public over value for money. According to a TV report tonight, 50,000 people a year in the UK die from pollution. I dread to think what it is in China. Let’s suppose for a moment that the packaging of my apricot gateau was reduced to what is really necessary. You could get twice as many on a lorry. Expand that to every commodity that is over-packaged and that would probably halve the number of lorry journeys. The saving in unsustainable, exhaustible resources and in pollution would be astronomical.

Of course there’s a down side, profit and jobs at the very least, but look what’s at stake. There is, apparently an island the size of Wales that is made entirely of plastic. Worse, if you need worse, the plastic that degrades ends up as micro-plastics, tiny grains that are ingested by fish and birds and are already making their way up the food chain and onto our supermarket shelves. This stuff is toxic and we’re feeding it to our children. Add to this the fact that modern farming methods, basically not using organic manure, are causing soil infertility and have reduced the nutritional value of some vegetable foods by as much as fifty percent and we run a real risk of suffering malnutrition in the future.

Just take a look next time you’re in a supermarket and see if you think taking a step back in packaging wouldn’t be a good thing to try. I wonder what the check-out person would say if you put your spuds, carrots, and tomatoes naked on the conveyor belt? Maybe, we should try going stark naked in Tesco.


WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

Great post, Eric.

Eric Lahti

I’ve been a proponent of space travel ever since I was young and discovered Star Trek. One on level, this was due to the excitement of travelling the galaxy and seeing new and exciting new things, reaching out to find civilizations, boldly going, and all that fun stuff. It wouldn’t be until I was older and Kirk’s many green-skinned dates started to look more interesting and when I was much older that I started to look at space exploration as a species survival mechanism.

Whoops. Wrong picture.

Ah, there we go.

Now, I’m not trying to be alarmist, but if our species stays in one place – namely this planet – we’re toast in the long run. If we don’t manage to destroy ourselves through war or flat-out wrecking the environment in the name of profit, something is going to get us eventually. Most people know about the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event…

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Entropy, gravity, perpetual motion, and patterns in the sand.


Morning Light, Newgale – Ruth Coulson

After storm Ophelia hit West Wales, I went for a walk on the beach. The council were out with their diggers putting the beach back on the beach instead of it being two feet thick across the road. Large pebbles still lay where they’d been flung across the car park, the grass banks were flattened by salt water, and seabirds swam happily across the campsite on the far side of the road. True to God’s holy ordinance, the parking-ticket machine still worked.

I pressed the green button for my free thirty minutes, which allows me to march down to a particular rock, play in some rock pools for five minutes, and march back again. I could spend a pound and have a relaxing hour, but that would mean putting my hand in my pocket and that only happens when I need a dog poo bag, a tissue, or to run my fingers over my worry stone, a smooth, dark green pebble with black bands that I picked up on this very beach some years ago and which never leaves my pocket.

When I say play in some rock pools, I mean sit on a rock while the dog plays in some rock pools, but she has enough fun for both of us so it amounts to the same thing. Anyway, Storm Ophelia had sculpted the beach in new and exciting ways. The wooden boards put down for wheelchair access had been rearranged to provide a new and puzzling way for the able and disabled to access the beach that resembled a disjointed roller-coaster. There were rock pools where I’ve never seen rock pools before, larger and deeper than usual, much to the delight of said pup, but the acres of smooth, flat, untrammelled sand and the bastions of ancient cliff were the same as ever, as if Ophelia had merely passed by unnoticed.

The patterns left by the receding tide as it ebbs and flows delight me. No sculptor with the finest tools could emulate the perfect symmetries and intricacies of nature’s designs, and the sea is an old master. The other day I saw three sandbanks that had been undercut by the tide and the stream that empties onto the beach. Each sandbank was finely and deeply perforated by perfectly round holes of varying sizes where pebbles had been tossed into the air by the surf and had come down, plonk, onto the soft sand. Needless to say, I had forgotten to take my camera. I would blame this on God too but in all conscience I can’t. I’m forgetful.

The storms of life may rearrange our personal sand sculptures, but natural entropy ensures life’s beaches remain the same: flat and flawlessly smooth. We struggle to be something more than we are, to take that perfect photograph, paint that jaw-dropping painting, write something of literary genius, or attain the highest merit in our particular field, but the extraordinary within us is hidden by the mediocrity of human flesh and eventually extinguished by that same entropy. Dust to dust.

What is the point of this rambling? I think it’s the indomitability of the human spirit. We are totally at the mercy of whatever nature, God, call it what you will, throws at us without conscious thought, gravity will always hold us down, and entropy will eventually grind us to the most infinitesimal particle, and yet we never stop striving. We are always out there after a storm shovelling away the beach from the road, attempting to defy gravity and entropy, and making our own ephemeral patterns in the sand. We are the perpetual motion that is life.

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