Festival Fever

Glasto

The Glastonbury Festival, at Pilton in Somerset, south west England, is the mother of all music festivals-the largest in the world.

I went to it once, in the nineties. Bjork was headlining and Elvis Costello was near the top of the bill. From where I stood, Bjork appeared as a miniature doll in a pink dress about half a mile away, beyond a sea of surging festival-goers. And while I liked much of Bjork’s avant-garde material she was not best suited to the venue. Elvis Costello and the Attractions were thrilling, though, ‘Pump it Up’ throbbing out across the crowd in a stirring morass of sound.

We watch snippets of Glastonbury on TV each year, although more and more of it elicits incomprehension or snorting derision as current tastes in music diverge further from our own. This is a time-honoured process and guaranteed to both irritate and delight the young; the ‘things ain’t what they used to be’ tradition.

But they aren’t what they used to be. The festivals and outdoor music gigs of my youth were attended by the young. I could go and watch the most popular and biggest-selling bands on my Saturday job pay. I got to see Fairport Convention, 10cc, Chicken Shack, Led Zeppelin, John Heisman’s Coliseum, Pink Floyd and very many more iconic musicians and could afford it all [including transport, food and drink] on my meagre toy shop salary of twenty five shillings per Saturday.

The crowds flocking into Glastonbury and all the other festivals of the summer are twenty and thirty somethings or older, middle class and often with their children in tow. The festivals have changed, become more corporate, more mainstream, more media-led. They are gargantuan circuses of food, entertainment and marketing. Am I alone in feeling nostalgia for the crude outdoor setups of my teenage years?

Glastonbury is still a phenomenon, a treasure of the English summer-this year’s event mercifully mud-free. And for 2019, supposedly ‘plastic-free’ too; except that it wasn’t. Photographic images of the mountains of refuse left from the event are testament to the failure of this lofty ambition. Yes-there were water stations [so woefully stretched that campers were unable to use the showers], saving a few plastic water bottles, but the burger vans and bars were clearly not on board with the plan. There is also an issue with tents being left-in a condition rendering them un-recyclable. One cunning Dutch entrepeneur has invented a ‘cardboard’ tent, which may be a solution in the future, although it seems doubtful.

This weekend sees the staging of our town’s own, homegrown, humble music festival, free to attend this year and hopefully funded from stalls and sponsorship. Most of the musicians are local, as are the stalls, the volunteers and the attendees. The weather [which can make or break the event] is set to be fine. The women’s football final does not include our home team [the football having destroyed last year’s attendance]. What can go wrong?

 

 

Advertisements

Consumer Conundrums

P1070560

It all started so well. When the parcel containing my new, cotton and linen mesh produce bags arrived I was thrilled with them; a set of six assorted sizes with drawstrings, that I would be able to use for loose vegetables and/or fruit in the supermarket. The bags even came in their own, cute and beautiful bag!

Armed with these and my usual eclectic mix of shopping bags-for-life from an assortment of supermarkets in various countries I set off to Tesco, which serves our grocery needs on a weekly basis.

Taking my usual route through the store I come to vegetables first. I ignore the pre-wrapped, bagged and boxed veg to head for the loose items. I can select broccoli, leeks, onions, courgettes, carrots, peppers and potatoes. Very good. I choose broccoli, carrots and potatoes, although the loose new potatoes, partially concealed behind a mountain of slickly and thickly bagged ‘Charlotte’ ones are somewhat beaten up and greenish. I do my best. Then I move on to the remainder of the shopping.

This is an eye-opener. We are hosting a BBQ and I want burgers, sausages, mushrooms, salad, tomato sauce and desert, besides the usual household stuff such as cleaning materials. It transpires that not one single item is plastic-free. The cucumber and the lettuce are vacuum wrapped, the burgers and sausages are in black plastic trays with plastic over the top, the sauce in a plastic bottle, the desert in a cardboard box [good] with a plastic window [bad]. The mushrooms are also plastic boxed, as is the sweet corn.

I wend my way to the checkout, where I explain to the kindly, smiling woman behind the counter that I have my vegetable bags and I hope this is ok. She continues to smile as she proceeds to empty the vegetables out of their bags for weighing and I beg her to stop! The bags weigh next to nothing and are mesh, for the contents to be visible. She is still smiling. ‘You’ve saved six bags’ she says, and I tell her that all I’ve learned is that everything is encased in plastic and we, the customers are impotent to solve the problem.

The interest of a young man working at the next-door checkout is aroused and I explain that a plastic-free shop is impossible here. ‘It’s the suppliers’ he tells me.

As I wheel my plastic filled trolley out to the car park I’m thinking this problem is bigger than all of us. Maybe you have a lovely, shiny ‘eco-shop’ in your neighbourhood where you can take your bags and containers and buy your [undoubtedly very expensive] groceries. We don’t. Our nearest refill, plastic-free store is in Dorchester, 34.2 miles away. We have supermarkets. Not everyone has access to fill-your-own shops. And not everyone can afford to shop in one.

In time, perhaps supermarket Waitrose, a five minute walk away will roll out their refill project in all their stores. Until then I can only do my best to reduce our plastic-wrapped purchases.

So I saved six bags.

Plastic Angst

I am ancient enough to remember Bakelite. It had been around for a while before the 50s but by the time I’d emerged it had become commonplace around the house, used for radios, toys and homeware.
A little later there was Melamine and its spin-off ‘Melaware’. My father took to these products with enthusiasm because at the time, light, unbreakable Melaware was a marvellous replacement for many of the metal and enamel items he packed into our modest, family car to go camping. Plastic was a wonder material. Homeware, toys, implements, storage boxes [‘Tupperware’], games and upholstery and much more besides were all reproduced in plastic. But back then we still had recyclable containers. We used glass milk bottles, glass soda bottles [which we children could capitalise on by returning them], glass jars, tins. We bought fish and chips wrapped in paper [newspaper on the outside], food items in waxed paper or paper bags.
Fifty years on and plastic has become the devil; the demon we must eradicate from our lives. To be precise it is single use plastic we must reject. Having been in love with the wonder product plastic for over a hundred years we are now faced with a monster of our own making. Plastic is overrunning the world, forming gigantic, unwanted islands in our oceans and lying suspended in our seas ready to ensnare fish and mammals; or clogging up our beaches, rivers and countryside, filtering itself into systems by breaking down into minute particles that can be detected even in the expensive water that people are foolish enough to buy in our supermarkets [packaged in single-use plastic bottles].
Faced with all this, plus the fact that China no longer wishes to accept our garbage, what are we to do? We are willing to change, yes. We would like to reduce our single-use plastic waste. But how can we do it? Plastic packaging abounds in the supermarkets. Unlike trendy London liberal-land we don’t have innovative green stores flogging organic turnips wrapped in jute. There are no entrepreneurial milkmen trundling round at five o’clock in the morning. As far as I can see the supermarket does not stock milk in glass bottles either.
And even if all these anti-plastic alternatives were available here in the provinces everyone would need a six-figure salary to avail themselves of their facilities. Going plastic-free does not come cheap. Some years ago a forward-thinking initiative opened stores called ‘Weigh and Save’, selling dry goods loose for customers to fill their own containers but they closed, perhaps due to public distaste for contamination from grubby fingers. It can’t, however be beyond the wit of designers to prevent direct access to dispensing machines.
We do our best. On the rare occasions when we buy a ‘takeaway’ meal we re-use the containers. We don’t buy take away coffees, preferring to sit down in a coffee shop with a china cup. We dutifully sort our waste, recycle, re-use. But expecting us to go single-use plastic free really is beyond us [for now].