Saturday, September 21

Blue bins, bags and bonfires

We now have blue and grey bins to go with the black and the green. Now the blue is a very pleasant blue, admittedly, especially when compared to the slightly over-cooked pea colour of the green bins and the grey slate of the other that always looks dirty and isn't something you want to leave outside the house for any longer than necessary. The new blue bin also takes almost all of what I throw away which before had to be carefully distributed between small green and dark grey boxes. I always had trouble with envelopes because we weren't permitted to put the window part in the same box as the paper part. And I never figured out where phone directories went.

So all seemed comparatively sweetness and light. I have nothing for the green bin at all and my waste should split simply between the blue bin and the small light grey caddy. The caddy is for food waste and is the big brother of a slightly smaller one we can keep indoors. So far, so good. I started using these exciting new places to dump stuff this week and hit the first hurdle a few minutes in. The bags, and I use that term loosely as a bag is usually something that retains its content, for the little caddy that were supplied are made of some natural floppy, rubbery, gooey-feeling stuff that I believe has something to do with corn. You put one in the little caddy and it looks reasonable enough until you go to lift it and whatever it should contain. It droops unnervingly and starts to stretch if you happen to have anything heavier than meringue in it.

If you are lucky you can make it outside to the bigger version before the thing breaks and splatters the food waste all over the floor or driveway. You may even make the bigger caddy but it cracks on entry and that is going to smell pretty foul after a few days so requires gouging out and cleaning and you begin to wonder why you used the bag in the first place.

Before, I had a supermarket plastic bag in a waste bin and that did the trick nicely. Every so often grab it and chuck it in the bin. Job done, no mess, not even when I had the old oil to deal with. But we're not allowed to use those bags. They don't deteriorate quickly enough. Boy, the corn ones certainly do, though!

The other problem is that the old plastic bag would take stuff like cartons where there was food still stuck inside, trays with chunks of burned food round the edges if I'd not kept an eye on the time and a range of combinations of the edible and inedible which were not at all easy to separate. Now it requires a great deal of scraping and negotiation to get the right bits into the new caddy and I have to admit that I am beginning to wonder whether all this effort is really going to make much difference to the planet.

Speaking to neighbours who have vast quantities of waste that make my little bagfuls look pathetic, it would seem that I am not alone in beginning already to avoid the little grey caddy and dump most stuff in plastic bags destined for the big black bin. Chunks of bread, the odd banana skin and things that don't mess it up still make it to the right place but not a great deal more. Having to pay for a new roll of the instantly degradable bags once the free roll runs out will also further the resurgence of black bin content.

The only rubbish that anyone collected from my parents' home was one medium sized metal dustbin. I'm not so sure an occasional bonfire really was that much worse than all the packaging and waste service energy use that we have now.

Friday, September 13

Moon rise or something.

For some reason I woke up at 2 in the morning and noticed that there was a quite bright band of lighter colour in the sky. It was like dawn or sunset but at 2am neither seemed quite right!

This rather hazy photo (looking vaguely East) was the best I could do to capture it through my window. It just looked strange. I am familiar with the glow of town lights but I haven't noticed them here before. Perhaps it's a 2am thing for a particularly reflective cloud formation. Or even a moon rise?
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Monday, September 9

A few days away.

Photos from trips from a village some 600 miles away! For some reason I decided a few days earlier that the roads on the Scottish Western Islands looked great fun and couldn't resist the temptation to go for a drive around some.

School for Bryony, Kyran and Matthew didn't start until Friday 6 September so we had almost a week which seemed about long enough to get there and back. Just.

We left Milton Keynes at about 8:30am and parked outside the cottage I'd rented on the Isle of Skye at 7pm. I think we stopped a couple of times on the way but only for my large cup of coffee, petrol and the loo. The scenery had started to get fabulous on the A9 to Perth and it just got better and better as we drove on.

Porthnalong is a tiny place on the South West side of the island. I had chosen it pretty randomly really as there were not exactly many available at a few days' notice! It had a great view across a bay and, although a bit far from anywhere, it was a good place to stay and the cottage itself was brilliant, really modern and tidy and with room for everyone.

That evening we ate at a pub which called itself a hotel which was just a few hundred yards along the lane. I guess they cannot have had a licence to serve food there or some VAT thing meant that it came wrapped up as a 'takeaway' but they were quite happy for us to eat it there! Weird. Fish and chips or similar tasted fine, much the same as Towcester's best to be honest. It was expensive too, the first indication that food was going to be pricey.

Sunday was a pretty lazy day. We explored Glen Brittle which was more or less where we were. That was brilliant, with rock pools, tiny streams everywhere and a nice bay at the end too. We found a supermarket in the main town, Portree, and stocked up for the next day.

Monday. Still like living in a cloud with mist everywhere and even if it wasn't actually raining we got jolly wet! This time we went North and found some crazy examples of nature's architecture along some small roads in a valley between Uig and Staffin. This was th Fairie Glen, as it is called, #2 on Trip Advisor. The most popular attraction  according to TripAdvisor was Quiraing, high up in the clouds, black rock mountains and great views so we passed that too on the way.

Staffin had a beach which we explored too on the way back, calling in at Portree where we found a great bakery and restaurant for late lunch. Kilt Rock is a massively high and impressive waterfall on the road between Staffin and Portree where I took the best photo of the holiday and shuddered as the children hung over the edge of a huge drop to clear blue-green sea below. Dinner at Sligachan was OK. Really expensive again, though. Just a simple bar meal - some interesting pie and chips but over £40 for the four of us and we had no desserts, starters or anything special at all. I did look at the hotel next door to the bar but that was even crazier, courses starting at £20 each.

Tuesday. Still wet so off we set in the car again and headed West. The most westerly point is Neist Point where there is a lighthouse and, according to some reviews, a good chance to see sharks. We got there - amazing roads again with some really scary twists and turns - but had to park and then set off on a long walk to get down to the bay where the sharks might be. On a decent day that would have been no big deal but the weather was appalling and I gave up half-way with a path that stretched out before us looking totally drenched as the rain lashed across it. I just about managed the climb back up loads of steps to the top again but it did take me several minutes to get my breath back which, bearing in mind I gave up smoking some months ago now, was disappointing. I hated giving up but there were no signs of the sharks anyway.

Wednesday. We got soaked just walking across a car park to the Talisker Distillery from where I had hoped to get some miniature bottles as gifts. I found a nice half bottle for Richard who had been driving me around recently so that was one good thing but for others we needed to go to Portree again. First we took a few more tiny tracks and explored some more crazy places with names we couldn't easily pronounce but which also appeared to have Wee Tea Rooms vaguely nearby.

It was raining hard now in Portree but Bryony and I managed to hoof it round the small town and visit a few shops, getting some Skye Ale and various items for those they needed to take something back for. Then some good food at the Granary Restaurant and stocking up for the journey home.

Thursday. Back home again. Of course, the sun now shone on Skye! Damn. We just drove and drove and drove and eventually finished up home again in time for the boys to get a bit of sleep before school the next day.

A great trip, despite the weather. Expensive food, though. That would need planning next time. I am sure reasonable places with great food exist but we just weren't where they were at the right times, I guess.