1 EAGLETON NOTES: February 2018



Wednesday 21 February 2018


I’m not the world’s greatest analytical  thinker. In fact I’m probably not the best in my own household which is amazing given that I live alone. So the following comments are simply musings.

There can be few people who have seen Blue Planet 2 who are not to some extent now anti-plastic.

I have for years been wondering about the use of plastic in supermarkets. I think it began ten years ago in a small town in France called Civray at a chain supermarket called Intermarché . It was the first time that I had seen every single orange wrapped in plastic. Since then it has become a challenge to get into almost any food without removing layers of plastic.

This is a huge subject but I shall just make a few observations.

Plastics help keep food fresh and without them we in the UK (and presumably much of Europe) would be denied many all-year-round foods. Indeed we would be denied many foods that we now take for granted. It was very obvious when I lived in Napier (the same may not be true of the more cosmopolitan cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) that, generally speaking, fresh food was seasonal. There were exceptions: oranges always seemed to be from the USA for example and were available all the time. They don’t need plastic to stay edible! Apples - one of New Zealand’s big crops - were held in inert gas in massive storehouses so were also always available. In fact I don’t remember anywhere near as much plastic being used for packaging as is used in the UK.

One of my greatest joys in New Zealand was to stop at the roadside in The Handbag and buy a punnet or paper bag of cherries right off the tree that morning. I would then drive home and arrive having devoured the lot with not a bit of plastic involved. (Don’t tell anyone but, given that The Handbag was open topped, I used to curl my tongue and expel the stone).

I digressed.

Just about every food that is transported across the world (at great air mile environmental cost) is wrapped in plastic and probably could not be transported without it.

I’m not advocating no action. Indeed there are many things we could and should do and we should do them quickly.

However we should also think before we commit to alternatives.

Bioplastic much beloved by the vegan food industry takes 1.7 sq metres of arable land to provide each kilo. I think I read that Europe consumes about 60 million tonnes of plastic wrapping a year. If all this were grown in fields then it would take 40,000 sq miles (one tenths of Europe’s arable land).  It also tends to compost to methane very quickly which has 20 times the potency of CO₂.

Lots of ‘plastic’ things are being made of bamboo derivatives. That sounds good to me but, apparently, the bamboo crops of the world (it’s not the fastest growing plant) are being decimated fairly rapidly.

I have no idea what the answers are but there are great analytical  thinkers out there and perhaps the politicians should employ some to solve the problem before it becomes unsolvable as the world sinks in a plastic mire.

As an aside I think the hardest problem to solve is going to be secure bottle tops. You can’t press the side of metal caps in to release them from a medicine bottle.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Spelling Bee

Rainbow today over Bayble Bay, Isle of Lewis

I can spell 'rainbow'. In fact I can spell lots of words pretty well. I should be able to too. Words were my stock in trade. However, I have always had some bêtes noir. Diphthong, diarrhoea and, oddly, muesli spring immediately to mind. I also went for much of my life convinced that 'across' was spelt 'accross'.

At primary school spelling bees were a common way of testing and improving our spelling ability. They were also supposed to be enjoyable and, to be frank, I did enjoy them. So did Joan Rigby. Joan was the brightest person in the school by far (teachers included I rather think). On one occasion she and I were captaining two spelling bee teams. The teams were level pegging until she and I had to face each other. I cannot recall what I was asked to spell but I spelt it correctly. Really at my wits end, and definitely in awe of Joan, I asked her to spell 'bee' as in 'spelling bee'. Much to everyone's astonishment she either couldn't or she miss-spelt it and my team won.

I don't expect YP to have any such problems but I'd love to know what bêtes noir the rest of my readers have: if any.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Washing Machine Detergent

How sexy and grabbing is that for a blog post title?

So much has been said about plastics recently that I was drafting my tuppence-worth when I read the label on a bottle of washing machine detergent (it is called so many things these days). I actually wanted to see what the number was in the re-cycling triangle on the base. I was astonished. I've obviously never read one before and I was completely taken by surprise. 

How many of us have read the labels despite a message hidden amongst all that small print exhorting us to do so? How many of us knew that it is severely deleterious to eyes? All that and much more is in the small print on the back of the bottle. On the front in very large letters it is emphasised as being suitable for sensitive skin: so much friendlier.

By the way do you have any idea what the red diamond sign means? Well so far as I can gather it means corrosive substance to materials and flesh. That doesn't sound very good for sensitive skin (or any skin) so far as I can make out.

Friday 2 February 2018


If there is a way of making someone homesick it is sending them lots of food and goodies that are unique to 'home'.  I recall my Uncle who had emigrated to Canada in the '50s saying the same. 

'Home', though, is a very strange concept in my mind. I was born in Liverpool and have a certain nostalgia for that great city which once rivalled New York for the size of its international trade and had docks larger than those of London. However the day I moved away was the last day I felt that it was 'home'. 

I came to Lewis for two years in the '70s and never left. Wherever I am now, Lewis is 'home'. I think that it always will be.

However I'm a Hebridean Kiwi at heart having lived a half-life there for a decade. Every time I flew into Lewis or flew into New Zealand or every time I left either, my heart would give a jump and my eyes would well up with tears of emotion.

So when The Family in New Zealand sent me a goody-box for Christmas I was overwhelmed. I'm still opening packets and eating memories.