Plastic stupidity

I began writing this post before Coles and Woolworths got with the times and deleted plastic bags from free supply at their stores, so the first part is from a few months back. Now, being in France and seeing what they’re doing here to minimise their global footprint, I feel more of a sense of judgement now than ever. We’re not doing enough in Australia. We could do more. Will post about France’s efforts at a later date, but for now:

I often wonder if anyone else is as perplexed by the stupidity of the human race as I am. And, by absolutely no means am I out doing everything that I can to save the planet, however I do try to use the least amount of plastic I can, absolutely refusing to do the shopping with plastic bags. If I forget my reusables, I find a box or just use a trolley to transport to the car. Call me naïve, but I’ve come to believe this should be standard practise.

Recently, however, I’ve been unable to contain myself, erupting in a fountain of verbal vomit whilst in the supermarket line. Call me pedantic, but watching other grown adults doing absurd things like putting ONE BOX OF CHOCOLATES in an environmentally unfriendly non-biodegradable plastic bag gets to me in a didactic sort of way. When we’re running out of renewable resources, when the beautiful world we’ve been granted use of continues to be diminished by us Homo sapiens, and then I witness that sort of lunacy as part of the reason WHY all of this is even happening, it really gets me down. So, I have been brazenly confronting the handful of people I’ve seen do such things, in an attempt to get them thinking more profoundly about their actions. People always make comments about not being able to make changes as one single person (particularly when it comes to “reasons for eating a vegetarian diet” i.e “yeah, but as if one person among the millions of people in the world can actually affect change” is what they say, but hello, think about figures like Nelson Mandela, who started small. So many great people have started small and made positive changes! It IS possible!) however, I just hope that maybe some day, one upfront comment from a stranger in the queue might actually work.

Of course, since I started my rolling commentary of random people’s abuse of the environment happening in the shopping queue, some changes have actually occurred. Clap clap, Giant Cooperation! You made ONE SMALL CHANGE. And then. How horrible it was to witness the reaction of people that are older than me. I’m talking baby boomers and older. OUTRAGED, that free detrimental-for-the-earth plastic was no longer available. What the devil am I going to carry my shopping home in? HELLO!? Have the rest of us not already been using our own bags? Since when is this something new and disturbing and above all, NOT possible to do? I find this utterly perplexing.

Anyway, I was involved in a conversation a few weeks ago (just after the ban was employed) between myself and two middle aged women, which only perpetuated my antipathy. The general atmosphere of this chat was pierced with sentiment about the revolutionary idea that we should bring our own bags shopping. HAVE THESE PEOPLE BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK FOR THE LAST FIVE PLUS YEARS? No, because they’d be dead, from not having done the shopping.

From where has this notion come, that using our reusable bags is a radically new and innovative idea? These women’s sensibility was ever so politely rocked in a mostly upper middle class sort of way upon the realisation of this small change. One of the women even boasted about how economical she now is, saving paper bags that come with items like bread in them. She animatedly described the way she folds the bag and “pops it in a drawer to use at a later date.” I was bewildered, to say the least.

I also shudder with disgust when I see someone who has fallen victim to the homewares shops who now sell compartmentalising shopping bags; the ones which can be set neatly within the trolley. The last person I saw pushing a trolley containing these was literally strutting, her sense of pride beaming the pathway to her car.

Am I unnecessarily shocked? Maybe it’s my millennial attitude that’s causing such distaste. But it’s not a personal thing, I just want us all to do good for the earth. Banning the bags is a start, it’s a small change that will hopefully eventually lead to bigger ones. But let’s champion it, let’s make sure we’re part of the change we want to see in the world. And don’t be afraid to speak up about such things. It’s starts with you!

The end.

Aside

a rant on “growth” (more like a diary entry, read at your own risk)

Popular culture tells you that “change is good.” That the space in the midst of all the turbulence, is where “growth” is achieved. I’m here to say that something like that which Shane and I are doing looks peachy and idyllic on the outside, yet the legitimate truth of it is that it’s god darn hard. We had an inkling of this before we left Australia…friends and family naturally assumed we were excited and projected those feelings onto us. However we agreed in private that we both felt somewhat uneasy and not really excited to leave Perth, where our lives are well-balanced and sensible, where you can get to a yoga class at 6am, where you know you’ve got a comfortable night’s sleep ahead of you and you can read the ingredients on every packet in the supermarket. One solid discernment already; we are bloody lucky in Australia.

Both of us have found ourselves in moments of quiet, (aka reflective stress when driving, lost, through long country backroads) wondering why we made a decision to take our beautiful, extremely easy lives – where the garbage truck always comes on a Friday, where fruit and vegetables are always cheap and where you can communicate with everybody, everywhere you go – and mess them up? So that we can grow, apparently. “The Obstacle is the Way,” as published by Ryan Holiday, seems poignant now; at a time when we feel like mostly everything is a hurdle. The title of that book has become a mantra to me over the last week, growing in strength like a heart filled with adrenaline. Though, if I’m honest, adrenaline is the last hormone I sense coursing through my body right now. What do I feel, is exhausted. And this is why.

I speak some French, yes. But this means that once a French person realises this, they zoom off speaking at 150km an hour, assuming you can understand everything that’s flying out of their mouth. It is brain-draining work, trying to keep up, and then translating what I have understood to Shane and potentially re-translating any further questions back to the French person – what a mission. Official translators must need 10+ hours of sleep after each day of work! I always leave these such exchanges on a high; feeling more positive about my language comprehension than when I went in – definitely a plus, and what I’m here for, after all. This week we have spent hours traipsing around the streets of the city, going into real estate after real estate to try and convey our situation and obtain some help. Anyway that seems to be an ongoing operation that probably requires its own blog post. Needless to say, it can’t be done facilement. It’s weird. The French have some really strict rules about certain things, and they are too relaxed about others. For example, we were in a boulangerie (you’re surprised?!) a couple of days ago and there was a door to the WC in the main seating area. In this tiny toilet with one of those miniature hand washing sinks, a young lady was doing dishes from the kitchen. Yesterday we went into a little office to ask some questions and use their bathroom (we were stranded, having sprinted through the city, late, to a real estate agent waiting at the gate of an apartment that wasn’t even on the street that it was addressed as) ANYWAY their TOILET was in their KITCHEN. I know it was their kitchen because all their used coffee cups were in the sink, cutlery and other kitchen-esk supplies. I wouldn’t consider myself fancy, but I deem that practise pretty gross. Flushing the toilet with an open lid (another class of people – if you’re one of these, change your habits immediately unless you want to fill your breathing space with particles of faeces and other germs) with all your eating and drinking utensils right there!!!!! Yuck!

Moving on. What I have learnt about myself over the last couple of weeks.

1. I am perhaps not as adaptable as I once thought, and I shamelessly and lovingly blame this on having a little tiny person to look out for. I have had some insight as to the reason that many people decide “not to travel” when they have children. “Do it before you settle down” is generally the advice. I now know why. Because it’s HARD. If becoming a parent did anything for me, it made me more organised. I consistently look for the easiest, most convenient and most time efficient way of doing things. (Is this what parenting is?) And when you’re travelling, ALARM BELL – this is actually not the idea! It’s all about exploring, enjoying the surrounds and basking in the various activities that enticed you to that spot in the first place. I touched on this in the Paris post – how my dreams of romantically enjoying a glass of wine in the alfresco dining whilst watching people go about their lives has been shattered by my reality, but also EVERYBODY SMOKES HERE so the alfresco is actually not ideal for me, being a passionate smoking-hater. So can you just take a moment to picture me, in active wear, which by the way, NOBODY WEARS HERE on a casual basis, but I have to, so that I can integrate exercise into looking after my child, which also means chasing him down busy streets and briskly but gently seizing him before he steps in front of a motorbike, all of which cannot possibly be done in jeans.

2. I need nature, chocolate and wine. Cobbled streets are beautiful and antique and very bumpy underneath a stroller, and little boutique fromagerie, epicerie, chocolaterie and clothing stores are gorgeous, but they aren’t the right place for a child. So I suppose what I really mean by “I need nature” is actually “children need nature” and with my primary obligation being the safety, and healthy growth and development of Arlo, we’re always looking for patches of green to expose him to. I do believe that even us adults need nature. Getting grounded is real; that amazing feeling you get when you swim in the ocean or walk barefoot on soft grass…we all need the earth’s anti-inflammatory, healing powers. Unfortunately in a place thats coated in concrete, no matter the loveliness of a building or the pattern embedded in the marble, it’s not terra firma and you just don’t get it.

3. I have realised that I’m not as exotic as (I) once perceived. It turns out that I like the routine I’ve establish at home over the last two years. I like knowing what to expect each day, what is manageable and achievable within a particular time frame and I like to know where I’m going. Again on the parenting – everything is done in sections based around the sleep of my child, which at home, is predictable and user friendly. I don’t actually like being caught out with a screaming, tired toddler, too far from home and with no croissants in sight, but having had to go to lengths to get him to the nearest park. Have I lost my ability to remain organised? Hmmm.

I’ve learnt that I like the predictability and comfort that comes with routine. But, what I’m also realising, (in part as I write this piece over a three day period) is that maybe the reason we (humans) do things like this is because we innately know when things are too easy. Maybe it is so that we don’t grow old and grouchy, and become “set in our ways.” At this time in my life, I’m still malleable, and I’m seeing that movement to shift perspective is what might maintain that sense of youth, and to help me to become more grateful for what I already have.  If we hadn’t taken on this journey, I’ve no doubt that we would both still be “growing” in other ways, but that’s because of the type of people we are. Perhaps it would just be at a slower pace.

As things start to settle, I begin to breathe normally again. Each day Arlo sleeps and eats a bit more consistently, and other little routines are re-established, which help to stabilise a somewhat unstable way of living. There seems to be a pattern; the start of a sojourn in one location is always tumultuous, but come day 6 or 7 the storm eases and things don’t seem that bad. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, it’s just that our lives are SO different now to what they were a few weeks ago and this adjustment period has been more difficult than anticipated.

Although it doesn’t sound like it at this moment, I am content with being well and truly out of the zone where I feel most comfortable. Despite moments of utter (first world) despair, outbreaks of quiet tears and a wanting to just go home and resettle, secure and free from decision making and real responsibility, it’s becoming obvious that this trip was the right thing for me, personally. It’s thrown me the F out of my comfort zone and into GROWTH…which apparently, is not a bad thing after all.

(I’m pretty sure I’ve done a complete 180 from start to end of this piece of writing)

“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.”  -David Brinkley-

Aside

Realisations about Paris.

Many stereotypes that typify Paris are not actually far from the truth. For example, there aren’t a whole load of smiles or greetings being shared; this perhaps being the reason a lot of people say that Paris is not a very friendly city. In the very touristy areas there are even fewer – I suppose the people working in these areas face the constant throng of foreigners, could that be why? In the streets people seem to generally be in a hurry – except on a Sunday. What bliss! Sunday truly must be the day of rest for Parisians. Most shops are closed and les gens move at a more leisurely pace, if they make it out of their apartment. Mid morning you’ve got young guys sitting on scooters in the street, tiny espresso cup in hand, helmet still on. Greetings are more willingly shared; it’s not a work day and there seems to be time for this small yet meaningful gesture. Come mid afternoon the small restaurants are filled with extended families sat at long tables, wine glasses bottomless and discussions heated. Back on the sixth floor you can actually hear that other people live in the building with you; conversation is fluid and unsuspended, eliciting the passion The French are famous for. Perhaps you pass another body in the stairwell – maybe even a greeting or a “bon dimanche.”

A couple of things I’ve learnt after a week in Paris.

We would find it extremely difficult living in an apartment, and I don’t know how parents with toddlers or more than one child do it. You simply can’t have days at home; you must go outside and allow your offspring fresh air and space; of which there is not exactly an abundance. Of course there are windows in the apartment, but of course they function with very little safety in mind and certainly no such thing as a fly screen, not least to keep the children in rather than the flies out. One must always be sure to be within arms reach if a window is open and a toddler is present, especially but not limited to, living on the sixth floor.

There are definitely parks and open spaces around; the council have allowed for city living not to entirely be made of concrete. Walking distance and you’ll find water fountains with petits canards, gravel areas and grass and of course playgrounds. Mind the walk though; a child who is not used to being restrained on a footpath will not enjoy this new restriction on his freedom. Constantly hearing “please hold my hand” or “please hold the pram” or “you must get in the pram” certainly has its negatives, both on the parent and the child. I quite dislike being perpetually worried that my child is going to be taken out by a Vespa or frowned upon by a passerby for “getting in the way.”

At two of the playgrounds we have visited, Arlo has been confronted three times – twice by another boy and once by a duck. The first time a bigger boy shook his finger in Arlo’s face at the same time as saying “no no no” as Arlo had harmlessly counted the little cars said boy had flung down the slide. The encounter actually frightened mon pauvre petit and he wanted to be picked up and held whilst he pointed out the boy to Shane. The second time involved physical contact; the other garçon poked Arlo in the clavicle and pushed him whilst also discouraging him to follow him and his peers up the ladder. Arlo, being a quick learner, simply pushed him back and then gave him a tiny little kick. I don’t condone violence by any means, but my son held his ground and I was pleased with that. This was followed by Arlo finding my eyes with his and having a giggle, and the other boy continuing to play.

The third encounter was as we sat on a bench seat and Arlo finished his croissant. A medium sized duck made a beeline for us from about 15 metres away, no doubt having seen the delicate golden flakes of pastry dropping to the floor. He wasn’t interested in crumbs, however. He came and stood directly in front of Arlo and eyed him suspiciously, neck craning upwards toward his single point of focus. All too quickly and all at once, Arlo offered(?) his croissant out to the predator, I foisted my hand between the two as with expert speed, duck lunged forward to grab the goods. This whole scene took about 2 seconds and in another 1.5, Arlo was standing up, climbing onto me and crying, in shock of course, by what had happened. Duck did not give up, though, and had to be “chou! chou!’d” away. This gave me a good opportunity to saddle my child into his pram and speedwalk back to the apartment, so no harm was done on any account. Be wary of Parisian ducks!

In Paris, there truly are brasseries, boulangeries/patisseries, fromageries and boucheries on every second corner. In the brasseries you’ll find patrons at any time of the day, smoking cigarettes, talking animatedly and drinking coffee. I’ve had visions of becoming one of those patrons, minus the smokes and probably with a glass of wine, maybe gazing at La Tour Eiffel as the springtime sun gently kisses my hands and face. Well, I’ve got news for me. That sort of romantic idea can’t be realised unless my toddler is asleep in his pram or subdued in some other way – so I’ve accepted that I’ll just look at other people doing that as I chase my child down the street in exploration mode. I’m okay with this, because I chose to become a parent and a child is nothing short of a gift. 😀

So there’s a little update on life in Paris for us, over the last week. We’ve spent an obtuse amount of time in our little apartment, being the sleep-police that Shane and I are, with a little boy who has travelled halfway across the world in 24 hours from warmth to cold, and is fighting a nasty cough. It isn’t bad though; it gives us a chance to reset each day. We go out in the morning to a park or playground or a tourist destination, then go home and eat some lunch, do some exercise, meditation or some journalling. We then have the afternoon at our mercy to get out and about again. The pram has been a blessing; I would highly recommend it for travellers with babies or toddlers. Note though, that it doesn’t fit through le métro barricades, and there are no lifts. So along with the six flights of stairs whenever we leave and return home, the metro stairs with pram and child overhead allow for the daily eating of fresh baguettes and croissants. AND, holy moly. The bread. In short, France gives a new meaning to “bread.” It even feels a bit disrespectful calling it that word. Du pain, rather. That, I shall talk about on my next update.

Bonne journée à tous!

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on Greed. 

At our recent group adventure to Groovin The Moo Bunbury where our ears were glossed with the magical sounds of many an artist, something unique was going down. It was in the form of an environmental initiative, where festival punters were being encouraged to clean up after themselves and others. This is a really good and fabulous thing to do for our environment, especially with the amount of rubbish having thousands of people crammed inside a fence for ten to twelve hours would accumulate.

Although I very enthusiastically (too enthusiastically?) played a role in this cleanup, I went about it with a heavy heart. You see, there was a catch. Punters were able to exchange one whole dollar for every can or bottle collected, with a limit of five per transaction. An excellent way to get people to clean up after themselves…prey on their greed. I was disappointed to see people cleaning their own rubbish up for the sole purpose of being paid for it. Not because it was actually their rubbish, but to earn a buck. This event, and the success of the whole scheme, thwarted my belief in the goodness of people, and challenged the ideals even I possess, about why people do the things they do.

And I can’t bathe in the glow of self righteousness and glory here, because although I am not (never have and never will be) a litterbug, I wouldn’t be going around picking up other people’s garbage for the sheer joy of it. “Oh look, another piece of dirty chewed gum stuck to a food wrapper. How exciting! I’ll pop that in the bin.” That doesn’t happen. Unfortunately for my ego, I can be counted in amongst the masses here – only trying to minimise harm to the environment because the possibility of earning back the money I spent on the day would increase significantly; the more I collected.

I thought a lot about this on the day and since then too, and was reminded this morning when I saw my bathroom tap running. A slim yet steady stream of water was tumbling through the grate; clean, unused, fresh, cold water. All I could do was let out a sigh as I closed the tap a little tighter.