Lol cats: Friends

My friend is here today! We iz having fun!

 

May we all have a friend for when we are in our “little box of sadness”

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Complaining about plastic…

I didn’t hear back from M&S, after their anodyne answer (and my response to it!) Can anyone in the UK tell me if they know whether this promotion from M&S has been stopped/ has been successful? I would be interested to know.

On the subject of useless plastic, I bought a jar of instant coffee recently.

I took it off the shelf not really looking at it very closely. Until I got home: note the way the label goes right up to the top of the jar: it’s a plastic covering, which encases the entire jar in plastic. Encouraged by Kezzie, who is trying to persuade us all to think about our plastic use,  and taking on board her encouragement to think about the eight Rs for the environnment (one of her additions was: Research:  Not happy with something to do with waste?  Research a way to solve it! )

Well, I wrote to Carte Noir with the following:

Je m’excuse mon français, mais j’ai une question: en ces jours où nous essayons de réduire l’utilisation inutile de plastique POURQUOI Carte Noir Bio est-elle enveloppée dans une seule couche de plastique, qui ne peut pas être recyclée et est immédiatement jetée? C’est ironique que c’est bio café – essayer de consommer des choses qui sont bonnes pour notre santé tout en ajoutant à la montagne de plastique. Je suis desolé, mais je vais arreter d’acheter Carte Noir, jusqu’au vous arrêtez d’envelopper vos pots de café dans cet emballage en plastique inutile.

TR: I apologize for my French, but I have a question: in these days when we are trying to reduce the unnecessary use of plastic WHY is Carte Noir Bio  wrapped in a single layer of plastic, which cannot be recycled and is immediately discarded? It’s ironic that it’s organic coffee – trying to consume things that are good for our health while adding to the plastic mountain. I’m sorry, but I’m going to stop buying Carte Noir, until you stop wrapping your coffee pots in this useless plastic packaging.

I quickly received the stock answer:
C’est avec attention que nous prenons connaissance de votre message et nous vous remercions de votre intérêt pour la marque Carte Noire.
Nous prenons compte de votre insatisfaction et la  faisons  remontée auprès des services concernés.

TR: We have carefully read your message and we thank you for your interest in the Carte Noire brand. We will take your complaint to the relevant department.

Who knows what will happen. But at least I made a noise about it.

Is Carte Noir coffee in the UK wrapped in this single use plastic too? If so, could you write to the Customer Services dept to complain? It certainly doesn’t need to be wrapped up like this – it’s still got its foil seal at the top of the jar, so it isn’t to keep the coffee fresh!

Thank you Kezzie…Part III

Kezzie  has provided the inspiration for the last two posts, and finally for this one too! Answering 60 questions about oneself. Here’s the last 20

41. Cooking or baking? Hard to choose as I enjoy both (although the everyday cooking gets a bit boring!) (Hence the reason for my answer 40) If I had to choose, I suppose it would be cooking, as one cannot live on cakes alone.Baking is more pleasurable however; I don’t “do” yeast though. It rather disturbs me.

42. Favourite Baked goods? Oh, how to choose?! I think flapjacks – so easy to make but so delicious!! Note that is UK Flapjacks not US flapjacks (which are pancakes. What’s that about?) Recipe here, should you wish to try it! If you can’t get golden syrup, then honey or Agave syrup can be substituted, but the quantities & cooking time may need adjusting.

43. What is something you wish you could be good at? Gosh, there are so many! A not-particularly-useful thing is singing. I’ve got a loud and serviceable singing voice, but I wish it was better. A more-useful thing would be being organised, or as Kezzie said, not worrying about stuff. There’s an envelope saying “Important Information Included” waiting to be opened. I worry about what’s inside it, so I don’t open it. Stupidstupidstupid.

44.  Skiing or surfing? Like Kezzie, neither. I never took to skiing, and surfing seems just as difficult with the added “bonus” of getting seawater up every orifice. I have wobbly ankles and no balance.

45. First celebrity crush? As far as I can remember it was Ben Murphy, from “Alias Smith & Jones” I had photos of him stuck onto the lid of my desk at school.

 

Then…and now (I actually prefer the “now”!)

46. Most recent celebrity crush? Alan Rickman, always Alan Rickman. But actually Ben Murphy has just surprised me!!

47. What colour was your prom dress? Proms didn’t exist when I left school. We had a Leavers’ Meal and Disco, somewhere in Liverpool city centre – very grown up! I have no idea what I wore!! I do remember that for my 21st birthday party, held at college (university equivalent) – which I shared with friends Diane and Lynne – I wore a cream knee-length dress.

48. How do you manage stress? I don’t! As a result of my hormonetherapy, I get stupidly over anxious.

49. What do you do to relax? Blog, read blogs, art “journalling”, zentangling, reading.

50. Shoes or bags? If the question is asking what do you have more of, then I guess it’s shoes. I’m always on a quest to find comfortable shoes, that are also elegant. I haven’t found them yet. Especially as I can’t walk in heels of any height. I like bags, but don’t buy a lot of them (handbags, that is. I have myriad tote bags, but I’ve not bought many of them. They’re mostly gifts) I am very frugal buying handbags though – the ones I like are usually far too expensive to buy!

51. How do you know if you’re in love? Crikey! How to answer? I like Kezzie’s answer (more borrowing!) Worrying about that person, wanting to make things better for them, still loving them even when they are mean to you or drive you mad.  Not sure really.

52. Who do you turn to when you’re sad? Usually I turn in on myself. I’m not very good at sharing sadness. Mr FD only wants to try to “fix” it, or rationalise it, and that doesn’t really help.

53. What are you most enchanted by? The night sky.

54. What is your biggest strength? No idea. If we ask what am I good at – teaching, preaching, Some have said I’m a good listener, and am empathetic. I don’t know if that’s so. I like to think I’m usually kind, but I can also be very ungenerous.

55. What is your biggest weakness? I’m very lazy. And disorganised. And a worrier/panicker. Mr FD says I panic first and ask questions later, and that’s becoming more and more my default position. I don’t think I’d be very good in a crisis.

56. What are 3 words to describe living in your city? I live in a small town/big village. Quiet…humdrum…pleasant…

57. Cutest thing on planet Earth? Probably something with baby animals, especially kittens

58. Favourite colour? I honestly don’t have one! It rather depends on my mood.

59. Favourite time of day? The moment of silence when I turn off the car ignition outside my house after a long day’s work. Especially if I know Mr FD has cooked dinner!

60. Favourite band? I don’t have one – but here are a few that I really like: Elbow, Rend Collective, Big,big Train, The Divine Comedy.

Stealing from Kezzie…

…or maybe, being inspired by Kezzie!

Not sure what to blog about (now I’ve finished the epic My Holidays posts) I thought I’d borrow/steal Kezzie‘s recent posts, which she borrowed/stole from Bev, which she borrowed/stole from… and so on!!

So here we go: 60 questions Part 1

1. What’s the best thing that happened to you this month? This has to be my holiday, I think. Though a friend offering to pay for a cleaner to come in to clean the house comes a close second!! (And, yes, I’m taking her up on the offer!)

2. What’s your favourite game? I don’t play many games, to be honest. I like Cribbage – we took the crib board away with us, but didn’t play – and I’m currently playing a lot of Simon’s Cat “Pop Time” on the phone, but I’m not much of a game-player.

3.  When are you most inspired? Not often….I suppose nature quite often “does it” for me, or sometimes a few words from a Bible verse or poem.

4.  If you could teach one subject at school, what would it be? I wouldn’t want to teach any one subject, as that implies we’re teaching in secondary school, which I certainly don’t want to do!! If I was teaching motivated, well behaved people then maybe it would be back to Religious Studies, which is what I specialised in at University. Or drama…but I don’t think I’m good enough to teach it.

5.  Favourite beverage: red wine. Or maybe single malt whisky. No, I think red wine.

6. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? I honestly don’t know. The one I remember (though not word for word) was one from a parent at the end of a difficult school year with her son. He had been extremely tricky to work with, but we’d persevered, and for the first time ever he’d received his green certificate (they went green-blue-gold) for merit points. She wrote me a poem to say Thank You.

7. What is your favourite birthday cake? Any birthday cake I’ve not had to make for myself!

8. What is one thing you still have from childhood? I still have Pooh Bear – he wasn’t actually my bear, but I rather took him over. And I still have the blanket my grandmother crocheted for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the blanket, and Pooh Bear. If you’re wondering about the strange blue hat, this was my (failed) attempt at crochet! Instead of being flat and square, it came out round and hat shaped. So Pooh and Shaun are modelling it. And Shaun is sitting on the blanket crocheted by Nana.

9. What is your favourite film? Either “The Princess Bride” or “Truly, Madly, Deeply” Both fabulous in their different ways.

10. What is something you can’t do? Crochet (as demonstrated above) Or roll my tongue.

11.  Window or aisle seat? It depends if there’s anyone sitting next to me. But usually aisle, as I need to stretch my legs out after a bit, as my knees start hurting if they’re bent for too long.

12.  What is something that makes you laugh no matter what? Not sure, really. There must be something, but I can’t think what.

13.  What are your favourite lyrics of all time? As Kezzie said: Not a clue!! There are lots of lovely lyrics by talented writers. I couldn’t pick just one.

14.What is your favourite holiday? Presumably this means “public holiday”…both Easter and Christmas, for their religious significance. Christmas for the rest of the “trappings”. I like presents!

15. What’s heavily played on your music play list right now? I don’t have a “playlist” as such, but I’ve recently listened to a lot of Big,Big Train and Hafdis Hult.

16. If you could raid one woman’s closet, who would it be? Aargh. No idea! If I was the right shape, maybe it would be Hazel, over at World of Joy who always looks so well put together. But she and I are different shapes!!

17. Must have purse item? Keys…purse…phone…painkillers. If I’ve got them with me I feel OK.

18. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were 12? An archaeologist. This was my dream until I was told I couldn’t be one as I’d not learned Latin at school. Which is a load of rubbish, but as it was the Careers Officer at school who told mer this, I believed her.

19. What is something you will not be doing in ten years? Working? I’ll be 69 by then, but who knows what the pension age will be! Maybe I’ll have to work!

20. What is an important life lesson for someone to learn? I think I agree with Kezzie who said: That you do not have to follow what everyone else is doing? You can do something you feel very strongly is morally right, even if it makes you unpopular. If you do it, others will start to get it eventually. But, to try and be kind when doing it. Also to trust in what you believe.

I think this is important. But, put simply, maybe those words from Micah are a good lesson to learn…that one should Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our Lord.

 

This is not just tat…

…it’s M&S tat.

I’m not joining in with no-plastic July, although I am starting to try to introduce small changes into our shopping habits, such as reusing plastic bags for fruit & veg, or using other plastic bags (like bread bags) or – when I remember them! – using muslin bags. But when I do have plastic I try to

1) recognise that it’s necessary

2) try to reuse in some way. (Though it was depressing when I asked the café to remove the straw from my drink – and they did. And put it straight in the bin! I hadn’t realised they would give me a straw (in a glass of iced water) so I didn’t think to say “No straw, thank you”)

When I read Ang’s blog post about Marks & Spencer introducing a promotion called “Little Shop”, I was more than a bit ticked off. Ang’s post explains it better than I can.

So I went onto their website, and after trying to find a comment form (they don’t make it very easy!) I finally found where I could email them. So I did:

Dear M&S
I would like to join in the chorus of voices that condemn your promotion “Little Shop…” In the midst of No-plastic July (when it is proving difficult to find things that don’t involve plastic in its packaging!) you start a promotion that introduces yet more unwanted and unnecessary plastic into the environment!

It doesn’t matter if this is proving to be a popular poromotion in-store – at some point, these plastic items will be thrown away. You say that they can be returned to be recycled – that’s something, but, realistically, how many people will bother to do this? When children have finished playing with these bits of plastic, they will – for the most part – just get dumped into landfill.

It doesn’t matter that those toys that are returned will get recycled into benches – it’s still plastic. Plastic that doesn’t decompose for hundreds of years. The plastic bench will, eventually, get thrown away, and won’t decompose…Just because it’s recycled plastic doesn’t mean that it magically decomposes when finished with!
This is an UNNECESSARY promotion – it does nothing (despite your claims) that those parents who care about such things can’t do already. It won’t encourage other parents to teach their children about sustainibility; it will just teach children to want more unnecessary tat.

I fear that, despite your claims about sustainibility and care for the environment, you are just doing your bit to add to the problem of the human race using and discarding our natural resources as if they were never-ending. I, for one, will not be buying from M&S until this horrid, unnecessary promotion is finished. And even then, I will be reconsidering whether M&S values are my values, and whether I wish to continue supporting your company.

They needn’t know that, as I live in France, I don’t shop in M&S very often anyway, and won’t be buying anything there before the promotion is finished! But even oif I did live in the UK, I would be thinking hard about supporting them.

How do you feel about this promotion? If you think it’s a poor idea I encourage you to contact M&S head office. When I get a reply I’ll update this post.

 

UPDATE: I received an email from M&S yesterday (Tuesday). Disappointingly bland, it must be said:

Hi Alison

I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed with the way we are branching the Little Shop Promotion. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention, thank you for letting us know.

We want as many of our customers as possible to collect all 25 Little Shop collectables and we’ll be running additional promotions and events to help them along the way. For example, we’re hosting over 70 swap events at our M&S Cafés across the country for customers who have duplicates or certain collectables missing.

At M&S, we’re committed to reducing our use of plastic packaging and reusing or recycling any we do use. Our Little Shop collectables have all been designed to last and we’ve worked hard to ensure around a quarter of them are made from FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified card where possible. We’ve also ensured all single-use packaging is made from paper instead of plastic.

Little Shop is a free promotion for every £20 spent on food and drink in our stores. It’s designed to create excitement for families during the summer and helps children to learn a little bit more about food and where it comes from. However, there is no obligation for customers to collect Little Shop or take their redeemed collectable if they don’t wish to do so.

We really do monitor any feedback we receive very closely with the aim of improving, so thank you for sharing this with us.

Kind Regards

A. C.

Retail Customer Services

Quite frankly this response does not answer my questions, but what I dislike more is that it was so obviously a cut-and-paste job, with the first part (shown in italics) in a completely different font to the rest of the email! I don’t want to have more promotional bumpf thrown at me about swaps and so on. I don’t believe their promise that they moniotor all feedback, and I don’t like the construction of the first sentence. “to branch” is not a verb, and so M&S can’t be branching the promotion. Grrr.

 

Summing up 40 Acts

While I don’t want to say “Hey! Aren’t I great?!” I thought I wanted to do a summing up of 40 Acts and what I did. It’s more to encourage myself, I think AND to remind myself that there are things I still need to do, as well as to see that there were lots of small actions which made a difference. There are one or two other actions I diid which haven’t really fitted in to the chart, and there are two blank days when I didn’t do anything…

Some of the remaining actions are on-going things, and others are one-offs which need to be fulfilled…

 

  ACT WHAT I DID

 

WHAT I STILL HAVE TO DO
1 PLEDGE Continued to blog about 40 Acts & to encourage others as they blogged  
2 PEOPLE WATCH   Purposely look for opportunities to be generous
3 PERIOD POVERTY Gave sanitary protection to the Food Bank collection at church  
4 CASH STASH   Keep an extra 5€ back a month to give to charity
5 BLESS THE BOSS  Gave a card to Melissa & Thomas, and flowers & card to Claire.  
6 CHOCOLATE TUESDAY Bought chocolates for students at Bonjour World  
7 JOYFUL, JOYFUL!   The joy of the Lord is my strength… to remind me not to get grumpy!
8 BRING LIFE Encouraged others to give blood by posting on FB.  
9 BE PRESENT Went to see Charlotte & made time to go to Monique’s too.  
10 DROP EVERYTHING Gave shawl to Charlotte and (later) cross to Angel  
11 HIDDEN HEROES  A couple of boxes of biscuits to the PO people. A chance to talk about 40 Acts  
12 PRAYER CIRCLE  Helped a young Serbian woman by buying nappies etc for her.  
13 NEEDS MUST Washed up for Bonjour World and have continued to do so.  
14 GREEN   Buy – and use – beeswax covers rather than clingfilm.
15 LEG UP Gave my pay for 1 lesson to PC4R and offered to do a zentangle Highland Cow zentangle
16 DIRTY HANDS   Not look the other way when the cat trays need changing!!
17 MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Cards & gifts for Lunch Bunch helpers  
18 BROTHERS & SISTERS Cards and letters sent to persecuted Christians in Cuba  
19 NEXT DOOR Cup cakes made for Roland & Marion & the children.  
20 CLOSE TO HOME    
21 FROM YOUR SEAT Some encouraging/ Thankful messages sent  
22 OPEN INVITE e-card sent to friends to say I was thinking about them.  
23 GRIN Bought croissants etc for students/staff at Bonjour World  
24 LOST SIGNAL   Write letters!!!

 

25 ROADWORK AHEAD Prayed for my Wednesday students

 

 
26 WITHOUT BORDERS Told people about PC4R and set weekly reminder for the Friday Conga  
27 DISAPPEARING ACT Placed some Ninja notes around Paris. Ninja Parking meter!

 

28 CLEAR THE DIARY Gave time to prepare canapés; gave extra time at our table in the Cathedral.  
29 ANYTHING ELSE?   Write to hospital to offer services/ cards for English speaking chemo patients.
30 YIKES!    
31 HOPE FOR THE HOMELESS Nothing too overwhelming – gave a bit more than usual to a beggar.  
32 BETTER THREADS   Try to be a bit more thoughtful about my clothes buying. Do I NEED it?
33 BIG DEAL Giving time – made cookies for Raphaelle’s family  
34 ADOPT Plan to give cross to Angel and to have coffee with Rabab  
35 I-SPY   Have a conversation with people you don’t know – engage more!
36 COMPASSION Continue to pray for those close to me who are suffering – COMMITMENT! Continue to pray for those close to me who are suffering – COMMITMENT!
37 SEEK OUT   I know & God knows. Enough said.

 

38 BEHIND BARS Wrote cards & letters to three Christians imprisoned for their faith.  
39 70 x 7   Living with constant forgiveness of others. Bonhoeffer quotation.
40 THE NOW & NOT YET Coffee and talk with Rabab.  

All in all, I found this year’s 40 Acts to be encouraging and inspiring. It was a honour to have been asked to write a reflection for them, which seemed to be well-received. I enjoyed “meeting” other bloggers, and also catching up with others from past 40 Acts blogging. I felt that perhaps there were a few too many monetary based challenges, but – of course! – there is nothing stopping us 40 Act-ers going “off piste” and finding another time/talent based act to do!

There is something written by Baptist minister and Civil Rights campaigner Howard Thurman which speaks about after Christmas:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Equally I think we could say:

When the chocolate has been eaten,

when we have gone back to work,

when the wonder of the stone rolled away has faded,

the work of Easter begins:

To proclaim resurrection life,

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

And so, let us begin.