Monday, August 18, 2008

Juggling ironmongery like Crackerjack cabbages

I RECENTLY acquired a whippet puppy to keep the rescue lurcher company. On Tuesday night I took him outside for a pee in the driving rain. He lifted his leg, and was promptly blown over by the gale-force wind.

When I’d finished laughing and rescued him from the ditch, my mood was darkened by the thought that this was an August evening at the height of the English summer. And yet the supposedly gentle breeze is sufficient to blow a whippet over. It’s outrageous.

At this point the glib columnist writes something like: “Whatever happened to global warming? I nearly started building an ark …” And to be honest, you can’t really blame them.

The Met Office might be insisting that there is nothing abnormal about this summer’s weather (even though three weeks worth of rain fell in just 24 hours on Tuesday) and that our expectations have been raised by the scorcher of 2006, but on rolls the global warming bandwagon, manifesting itself in hundreds of ways, all of which seem to cost us money.

It’s plastic carrier bags that have been winding me up of late – or rather, the lack of them.

In B&Q last week I was queuing at the checkout behind a bloke who had dozens of small packets – nails, screws, hinges, drill bits and so on. He asked for a bag and was abruptly told that they didn’t do them anymore. He was left to juggle his way across the car park shedding ironmongery like a cabbage-laden Crackerjack contestant. (Kids, ask your parents.)

The National Trust this week proudly announced that sales of bags were down 95 per cent in the first 100 days since they started charging five pence for them. Whoopee! What a cause for celebration, but who is the winner in this situation? Certainly not the customer, who has to stagger back out into the force nine summer gales clutching two jars of pickle, seven postcards, a tea cosy, a large tin of butterscotch travel sweets and an Emily Bronte tea towel.

And then there’s Marks and Spencer, now charging 5p for a bag that might cost … ooh … 0.1p. How altruistic is that? Not only are they saving untold hundreds of thousands on having to provide free bags but they’re now also making an obscene profit on those they do sell.

If they sorted out their unnecessary plastic packaging first, I might be more impressed. (Let us not forget, this was the store that recently offered up individually plastic-wrapped apples to lunchtime snackers.)

Since we’ve been under the jackboot heel of a council obsessed with recycling, it’s the amount of packaging we assemble that has surprised me: a bag full of cardboard, a bag full of tin cans, a huge amount of unrecyclable plastic in various forms. Most of this stuff is unnecessary; why, for instance, do vegetables that have to be washed and peeled need a plastic coating?

Am I such an idiot that I have to be force fed a ready-packed kilo of carrots when I could just as easily pick up the three loose ones I need? No, but then I’d only pay for the three and not for the kilo. As ever, profit comes before good practice.

I do believe that the Women’s Institute are campaigning along the same lines. I may have to join.

IT’S OFFICIAL – according to a right-wing think tank, northern cities like Liverpool, Bradford and Sunderland are “beyond revival” and should be abandoned to the benefits-claiming scrotes while inhabitants seeking a normal life should head south to places like Oxford and Cambridge.

(I’m not sure what the current residents of those host cities must be thinking about this plan. If thousands of Scousers are going to be heading for Oxford, the council might be wise to resurrect Inspector Morse as a matter of urgency.)

The reason those three cities have been singled out (can you single out three?) is because they’re ‘piggy-backing’ neighbouring, bigger conurbations and, by leeching off investment and grants, are holding them back. It’s an extreme argument, but one with more than a kernel of sense about it.

What could Manchester do with the millions of pounds being poured down the drain in the so-called City of Culture down the East Lancs Road? What could Leeds build with the millions wasted on silly schemes in Bradford? How many more bridges could Newcastle erect if Sunderland wasn’t a drain on the regional economy?

And it’s not as if it’s not already happened on a smaller scale. Let’s face it, The Beatles, Cilla Black, Jimmy Tarbuck and Anne Robinson didn’t hang around their hometown for long once they’d made a few bob, did they?

CONSUMER GROUPS have identified a trend of manufacturers reducing food and drink products in size while still charging the same for them. Strongbow cider now comes in cases of 15 cans, not 18. Cadbury’s chocolate bars are down from 250g to 230g and Waitrose mince is now sold in 500g packs instead of the previous 550g. And, in perhaps the unkindest cut of all, there are now only 10 Rolos in a packet, not 11. Would you give anyone your last Rolo? Not any more, pal.

This isn’t new. Wagon Wheels have been shrinking for years. The ones I used to buy along with my cup of scalding hot Bovril at the football were the size of manhole covers. Nowadays they’re little bigger than a digestive biscuit. And size matters …


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you know that it's now climate change, global warming had to be abandoned when they realised it wasn't and people were asking why they were having to wear cardies in the summer!

3:00 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

We re-use the plastic carrier bags we get from the shops as bin-liners etc. We don't just discard them once we have unpacked our shopping. The net effect of this carrier bag facism is that we now have to buy plastic bags for these uses. So, we use the same number of plastic bags (so no environmental saving) but the shops are now making even more money out of me. Ah, I see it now, it all makes sense...

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

As you say, Baz, if the shops really wanted to cut down on uncessary waste they would reduce the packaging on the products. When they have done that a clamp-down on carrier bag use would be more credible. As usual "the environment" is just a magic password for scamming more money out of Joe Public.

It used to be "I'm doing it for charity". Alexi Sayle said once that you could get away with anything in the name of charity; he said that when Hitler invaded Poland he only had to say he was doing it for charity and everyone would have supported him and even phoned in to make donations. Nowadays you can come up with any warped-logic scam and as long as you can argue a tenuous environmental link, nobody dare argue againt you for fear of being labelled ignorant or a polar bear murderer.

3:42 AM  
Anonymous arescee said...

I'm no scientist, never have been, do not profess to be, and never will be.
But can anyone (Preferably not a government paid "scientist"), tell me truthfully.
Exactly what is the impact on the environment if you take a hundred billion plastic bags (presumably of no use to anyone!)and stuff them into just one of many goverment closed coal mines?(presumably of no use to anyone!)?
And exactly how much of an advantage would it be if we firstly stuffed in the politicians (That ARE of no use to anyone!)?

8:33 AM  
Anonymous grahams-xwing said...

Ah, but the dodgy thing about buy your 3 carrots loose is that you have NO IDEA how much packaging is still required to get them 'safely' to the shop. Whilst a packaged item may have (and I do say MAY) been packaged just a couple of times, ironicaly the loose ones have layers of packaging that simply don't make it onto the shop floor, so we don't see it.
It's the same with 'local produce'. Just 'cos your tatties come from around the corner, doesn't mean that they have a small carbon footprint, the likleyhood is that those potatoes have done a serious amount of miles before they hit your shelves. Working on averages and cargo capacities of cargoe planes/ships over a uk lorry, it's possible that produce imported from say... South Africa has a smaller carbon footprint. Conclusion, the supermarkets are simply looking green, they aren't...

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Expat in Oregon said...

Ahh, Wagon the ad used to say "so big you've got to grin to get it in". Probably can't say that either these days.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Personally, I blame those blister-packs myself... and who was the bright spark who thought about wrapping water inside plastic? A very rich wanker about now... twat.

Therefore, the whole plastic bag issue is a rather garish red herring - but a particular herring which no-one in business is quite ready to tackle quite yet.

11:29 AM  

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