Mr Fixit has just returned from ten days in France with his oldest friend, a lovely person who for these purposes we will call Charlie. The purpose of the trip was to replace the old, softwood shutters rotting on the outside of Charlie’s house with sustainable hardwood ones, lovingly made by Charlie, Mr Fixit and the world’s most lavish selection of high end machine tools: the original Odd Couple in hardware heaven (to give you an insight, their last Christmas present to each other was welding classes). So far so good.
However, it was inevitably hungry and thirsty work, and Mr Fixit being under strict instructions not to let Charlie drink, the only solution was to eat a lot instead.
Tragically, it appears that in France there is no such thing as a plant-based diet. At least, not in that particular corner of France. It took about five minutes for Mr Fixit to latch on to this as the perfect way to torment me. Several times a day, just when I was settling in to a little light darning or composting, a text message – often illustrated – would pop up. ‘Just went out to local routier truck stop for lunch. Ham salad, steak and cheese. Fifteen euros! A bargain!’ The next day, up pops another chirpy bulletin. ‘Supper! Duck, sausage, flamed in cream. More cheese. Had to eat it up as we’d bought too much.’
Once the shutters were finished and fitted (perfectly, of course), he had time for more frequent updates on the return trip. ‘Filling up the car (again).’ It turns out that massive hybrid 4x4s, being hybrid, don’t expect to have a big appetite for petrol. Sadly, they are wrong.
‘Charlie eating snack’ (from a disposable plate and cup). Trying to be helpful and positive I texted back:
‘Maybe I should give him some reusable cups?’ ‘Oh, he has them: they’re in the car’. ‘I want to die.’ I think he thought I was joking.
Finally they were home, tired but happy, bringing gifts of leftover cake. In a plastic box.
Plastic, There’s a thing, Or is it? First it was a thing, when David Attenborough said so. Then it wasn’t, and it was just a distraction from the real issues. Now it seems it is again enough of a thing for our lovely government to have announced, with reassuring consistency, that we can’t export it any longer, and local councils have to dispose of it themselves, (and by the way, there’s no more money to help with any needed investment). As per.
In Sweden, they burn it, which emits some gas, but not, they assert with low Scandinavian logic, as much as the gas that comes up from landfill. Meanwhile, my own experience of the plastic-banning passions of the younger generation was not encouraging. Having been asked by a local school to help them make a film about its evils, I suggested it might be nice to end it with a series of individual pledges of things they might give up. Any ideas?
For the first time that afternoon, the room was silent. ‘Biscuits packed in plastic?’ ‘But – that’s all biscuits!’ Er – yes. ‘Well, how about making your own lunch and bringing it in as reusable box?’ ‘That’s heavy to carry! And bare long!’ With my finely honed teen-translate skills, I understood this to mean a waste of precious time they could be devoting to researching new Instagram filters.
I returned home, fretting as ever about things that come packed in plastic: candles, flowers, the organic duck from the farmers’ market – to my own UnChildren, who both now work and thus eat their lunch out as well. Our supper conversation went roughly like this: (Me to them) ‘How was your day?’ ‘Fine.’ (1 to 2): ‘I had that salmon pasta salad from Sainsbury’s today’.(2 to 1) ‘That’s so nice isn’t it? I had sushi, And a fruit pot. And some orange juice.’
They contrive to discuss all of this without noticing – or possibly deliberately fail to notice – the agony of their mother contemplating all this single use plastic, wilfully consumed on a daily basis once they’re safely out of my sight.
‘Cheer up!’ This is Mr Fixit’s catch phrase, and more than one person has remarked how convenient it is that he chose a spouse on whom he can exercise it several times a day.
‘At least you’ve brought them up to be their own persons. Let nobody accuse Mrs Normal of brainwashing.’