Viva Column: Not-So-Fantastic Plastic

If you’d told teenage me that by my mid-thirties I’d get cheap thrills from accepting disposable coffee cups at the supermarket I’d have said, “don’t be stupid” through a cloud of Camel smoke. Yet, here I am, my takeaway beverage having reached new experiential heights.

It’s unnecessary. It’s antisocial. It feels as though I’m clutching on to a tiny bit of that wonderful pre-Blue Planet devil-may-care consumer satisfaction.

A local campaign group called Plastic Free Lewes is gaining momentum. They have meetings, posters, ideas. As I write there’s an online discussion about whether to build or borrow a recycling machine that functions like an apple press for Waitrose ready meal cartons. The group formed in January, after a rallying cry screening of Plastic Ocean at the Depot. The initial thought was to target something specific but, Lewes being Lewes, it soon became clear we wanted a multi-pronged attack. There are now eight sub-groups looking at ways to tackle plastic waste from different perspectives: from schools and supermarkets to drinking water and waste disposal.

Whatever they’re doing, it’s catching. On the school run, I see parents stand around Hannah’s Van holding neon bamboo cups from Popsicle. I’m just about keeping myself suitably charged from my Bodum cafetiere to ensure that four-month-old doesn’t sleep for more than two hours at a time. Except she has tonight, so I’m writing this with my head next to her cot to make sure she’s still breathing. She had her vaccinations today and unhelpfully she slept through what should be her second dose of Calpol. I inspect the sticky single-use syringe and wonder what the future may hold. 

By 2025, will Boots stock giant vats of Calpol that desperate parents can help themselves to from a tap? It will be like Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory care of big pharma. Our bathrooms will look pretty. We can store our analgesics in bevelled-edge recycled glassware from Flint.

The long and short of this is how helpless one feels when confronted by such a huge systemic problem as waste plastic. A carrier bag is easy to substitute, but it’s hard to find data measuring the impact of the plastic handles in the jute bag you replaced them with. 

A poster for Plastic Free Lewes says we’ve produced more plastic in the last ten years than we did in the previous century. The more you inspect the objects around your home, the more overwhelming becomes the thought of going without. Is Zero-Waste living something like bivouacking in consumer society? Dependent on insider knowledge, hacks and tricks to circumvent or replace the products like Calpol? I find Facebook groups abuzz with questions from eager converts exclaiming things like, “I love reading, but it feels like such a waste of paper”.

Still, over weeks, I find this nagging guilt is subtly altering my behaviours. I rebooted my veg box; bought lentils in a paper bag; rediscovered Ebay and ponced my auntie’s Soda Stream. One thing I realise, however; it’s not enough to buy cloth nappies, you need to use them too.

Published in Viva Lewes, April ‘18

Viva Column: I Found My Bujo Mojo

It’s late and small person is getting ready for bed, which, in this instance, means standing in a doorway licking the snot from one’s nostrils for 40 minutes. This is no exaggeration. I have been watching the minutes pass by excruciatingly as I lie immobilised by the giant infant on my chest.

They say time is flexible, and it’s true that moments like these are pretty much the only ones in my new-found crystalline adulthood for which the clock slows. The rest of the time, I am hurtling through hours and days like a slug from a blunderbuss. This is why the discovery of a new form of diary-keeping is changing my life.

A friend mentioned the word ‘Bullet Journal’ to me quietly in the school playground this January. My interest peaked immediately. What has always been lacking with previous diaries is a reference to violence – surely a Bullet Journal will keep me in line?

A Bullet Journal, it turns out, is first of all a notebook. A rather expensive, luxurious notebook with a hard cover available in every colour of the rainbow. It’s a German design, the Leuchtterm1917, with bevelled, off-white pages; corner numbering; a front index and dots. The ‘bullet’ refers to these dotted pages that make it easy to draw grids and charts to suit your planning needs, which is the other point of interest – its brand new notetaking system.

Everyone I have raved to about this has looked deeply perplexed as I have tried to explain how the system works. In spite of holding two communications/colouring in degrees, it seems I am incapable of making a mind-bogglingly difficult method seem simple. Sorry, I meant to say I am capable of making a simple method seem mind-bogglingly difficult. Note to self: normal people tend to switch off on hearing the words ‘hierarchical lists’.

I found the best way to learn was to spend a weekend watching YouTube ‘walk-throughs’ by self-styled heroes of time-management and Instagram-friendly calligraphic script handwriting.

If you can see past reams of washi tape and not be deterred by the evidence that millennials have such a luxurious abundance of time they spend hours decorating charts detailing their daily water consumption, you will find some handy tips. In any case, you should certainly watch the summary by Bullet Journal inventor Ryder Caroll at

I’ve found my Bullet Journal such a boon because my brain simply doesn’t retain typed information as well as that which I have written down. We all know the best way to stretch time is to make better use of it, and now I can manage more efficiently my to-do lists; diary and everything I once filed in my overtired brain, an A6 diary, various notebooks, my iPhone and on scraps of paper.

In short, it has never been so easy to see how many small tasks and major life goals I am falling behind on every God-given minute of the day. I couldn’t be more pleased!

Published in Viva Lewes 138, March 2018

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