Monthly Archives:

October 2022


LSB can’t believe it’s not butter

There’s always the worry, isn’t there, when one is as vocal as me the topic of recycling, that one will be caught out and held to account.

The very thing happened to me yesterday, when LSB remarked that he and the girls play a fun game of a morning, while I am upstairs, otherwise engaged doing my toilette. The game they rejoices in the name of ‘Is this butter?’, so called because of the number of times they open a tub of Lurpak, only to find concealed within some forlorn sausages (mouldy), a small pile of fusilli (mouldy) or this week’s treat, elderly baked beans, and you’ve guessed it, not only mouldy, but potentially growing another life form.*

It pains me to admit it, but I’m a wishful user-upper, a wannabe zero-waster, and perhaps just an aspirational arse. I’m forever scraping out whatever’s caked to the bottom of the pot and telling myself earnestly that it will form the basis of tomorrow’s lunch, then forgetting all about it. It really isn’t good enough, especially since I was on with Frank on Thursday morning, chatting animatedly on ways to eke out** dinners such chicken tikka-masala and spaghetti bolognese in these fiscally fraught times. And do you know what he had the cheek to tell me, live on air?

‘Helen,’ he says, interrupting my spiel, ‘you’re obviously very accomplished in the kitchen, whipping up these fancy meals of an evening!’ I swiftly disabused him of this notion, telling him that my culinary skills have dwindled to nothing of late, since time, lack of imagination and fussy eaters have leached away any enthusiasm I once had. ‘I rely heavily on bought sauces,’ I told him frostily, ‘and jazz them up a bit with a few herbs and extra garlic and ginger.’ Well, some listeners took umbrage with that too, when I said I chopped up the aromatics and fired them in the freezer for easy access of an evening, (about what exactly their issue was, I am still unsure.) I started on the ‘chop, bag and freeze’ after finding too many knobs of ginger lurking at the back of the fridge like some wizened appendages, and one can’t be having that if one is apparently opposed to waste.

But do you know what pisses me off no end? So much of household recycling falls to the woman of the house; it’s we who are micro-managing the clothing, the laundering, the shopping and subsequent sorting of the by-products. It’s the fridge blindness and overall vagueness of my husband when it comes food in general that shreds my nerves.

Case in point, say I were to lovingly prepare him a bowl of strawberries and sliced pear for a late afternoon snack while he’s writing away at his code, or whatever the f**k he does at the computer. ‘Oh, lovely!’ he’ll say, horsing it into him. But it would NEVER cross his mind to source such a snack for himself. Same with the lunch items. He’ll take the most cursory glance at the front of the fridge, then leg it down to the Super Spar on Sunnyside Street to buy sausages and chips. I falls upon me to yell, ‘THERE’S CHILLI CHICKEN CHUNKS BESIDE THE YOGURTS IN THE FRIDGE,’ as I race out to work. In his defence, he says that he’s so melted ushering me out the door making sure I have my phone, keys, wallet, laptop-bag and my coffee, (hot in my little flask); THEN switching his attentions to the children and the dog, that he’s almost passed himself by lunch time.

Anyway, what I started off to say was this: sometimes I’m rubbish at the whole shebang. It’s damn near impossible to be zero-waste in this world, but one reason I do try to recycle so much is to assuage my guilt for how un-green I am in other departments. You can’t do it all, and sometimes I don’t manage any of it. Cleaning, tidying and decluttering are my absolute nemesis. But I can still persevere. Any ideas welcome!

*The Mothership was on the blower and suggests placing leftovers in jam jars so one can clearly see the contents. Bon Maman jars are particularly good for this since they are wider and also aesthetically pleasing. One day I will strive towards this level of organisation.


**Can I have a big drum roll please for LENTILS? I routinely throw half a cup of red lentils into Bolognese and curry. They thicken up the sauce nicely and with the addition of extra veg means I can reduce the amount of meat without it being too obvious. In my pre-lentil days, anytime we made curry there was often wastage in the form of a gloopy sauce with a few sad bits of onions floating about in it. Now what we are left with is of a more dahl like consistency and its super tasty.




SWB goes back to bins

Can you imagine, what with all the awful stuff happening in the world right now, the added horror of not having your bin collected? I’d be pure raging. That’s precisely the situation facing many residents in the Lisburn City and Castlereagh Council Area. I hope the tossers at the top start prioritising what’s important and rewarding the workers who help us manage our waste, before the situation becomes truly disgusting, with bins lying for weeks without being emptied. One would imagine, what with the proposal for a twelve and half percent hike in rates, that council workers on the bottom rungs might see a share of this. Yesterday I was chatting to John Daly, who was standing in for Frank on the U105 Phone-In, about how to manage our rubbish and our recycling in the home, so that we don’t consign mountains of waste to landfill.

Here are a few of the points I made:

I saw a request on Facebook for bedding donations for Almost Home Animal Shelter. I had an old duvet, a couple of pillows and some elderly towels, so I thought, now there’s the very place! The Mothership doesn’t like to think of animals being chilly, so she had a root about the hot press and gave me some items of which she was looking rid. The Small Child also contributed her old dressing gown. A delightful volunteer arrived at my door and was delighted with the rake of stuff we had. She sent me a photo of a cosy bed yesterday, made up for a little dog called Bella, complete with colourful dressing gown. This is a brilliant way to recycle bulky items which would otherwise end up being turfed into landfill. It’s a win-win for wee creatures everywhere.

Anyone fancy a spot of can crushing? You know all about my foibles when it comes to bin-hoking and can-collecting, but this week LSB took a boot load of cans up to Bryson House in Mallusk and got £20 for his trouble. This is an excellent fund-raising idea for any sports or youth clubs. All they need are fizzy drink enthusiasts, somewhere to store the cans so they don’t get all wet and dirty, and a van to transport them up to Mallusk. Check here for details.

Many’s a time I’ve mentioned this before, but I save crisp and sweet wrappers, toothpaste tubes and coffee bags for Terracycle, through Kicks Count NI. I drop off my bags at the Conservation Volunteers on the Ravenhill Road when I’m down that way (I don’t be going down one errand, no siree!) Click on the link above to find hints, tips and local hubs for collection. It may sound overwhelming at first, but by siphoning off just a few difficult to recycle items, you will see a significant drop in your black bin waste.

You may also want to consider the following:

Trot to the Co-op with soft plastic wrapping that you can’t recycle at home. Rosetta has a wee box you can fire these into, and I save up all packaging in a bread bag. (I’m talking plastic wrappers for pasta/rice and the film off punnets of fruit and vegetables.)

Drop excess plastic bags and packaging off to charity shops; they always seem grateful to receive them.

Eliminate waste at source by bringing your Keep Cup to coffee shops or sitting in while you sip.

Give the Refill Quarter shops a blast, and try the Body Shop in town which now has a facility to bring your own containers and fill them up in the shop. I’ve taken takeaway boxes the butchers in Forestside in the past and they’ve been happy to fill them with mince for me, so I haven’t needed to take plastic bags.

Switch to reusable period wear like WUKA pants, or try a moon cup if you can stomach it. Personally this was a no-go for me after I kept getting them stuck and was almost taking myself to A&E one a couple of occasions to have the f**king thing extracted.

It’s still a source of huge irritation to me, but here in Northern Ireland we don’t have the same system for recycling everywhere, and the advice given is often confusing and misleading. For a comprehensive list of what can go in to which bins, we can access the Binovation app. This is certainly applicable to Belfast, Bangor and Ards, but I’m not sure about the rest of the six counties. My friend Mary who works for Belfast City Council, tells me that if we wash out our containers at home and provide a higher quality of material, then we will see more products made from our recycling created here in Northern Ireland. This sounds like it has the potential to boost businesses here, so maybe we could get in on some of the growth that the Tories have been banging on about at the party conference all week. ‘Green Growth’- now that doesn’t sound like rubbish to me.


SWB Looks Up…

‘I always feel that autumn officially begins on the first of October,’ opined the Older Child this morning, (and again at tea-time) and I agreed that she was probably right. She’s a nice wee thing, now almost eleven and facing the horrors of transfer test, but she’s coping well with the ordeal and just takes issue with the profanities I utter when I see the papers. This week’s clanger was when I exploded, ‘A Bird Came Down the BLOODY Walk?’ when I saw that some clampet had chosen an Emily Dickinson poem that’s used to be featured on the CCEA GCSE syllabus for a comprehension. For ten and eleven year olds.


Anyway, I won’t dwell on the matter, aside from to say that it’s very stressful and I’m not the sort of the individual who can thole stress easily. This, I demonstrated, when I had booked a massage for my banjaxed shoulder at 3pm on Friday, at which time I was standing in Wyse Byse on the Cregagh Road weighing sweets from the Pick n’Mix with the children as a treat. That’s right, I completely forgot about my OWN treat, and there I was, blithely discussing the merits of Gummy Bears over Midget Gems when I was supposed to be on the table having a go going-over so I was fit to run this weekend.


Appointment missed, I thought feck it, and instead fired a hot water bottle onto my shoulder when I came home. Happily, I was fit to do my parkrun on Saturday, and I have to admit, it was MARVELLOUS. I have not been feeling good about myself of late. I’m still carrying weight gained in lockdown, which is going nowhere fast given my penchant for a Nico’s Pizza (Spinachi, is my current favourite). This delight is further improved when one dips the crusts in mayonnaise. The size ten clothes in the wardrobe may well be consigned to an ‘aspirational box’ to be stored under the eaves until I catch myself on.


But the thing about parkrun, is that weight doesn’t matter. It’s just about getting yourself, (and your lardy ass) around the course, and chatting as you go. The girls do it too now and fly on ahead. Yesterday The Small Child said she’d had enough after two km, but on went the Older one, and sailed through to come in three minutes in front of her wheezing mother. I’ve tried never to be an annoyingly smug parent, but I couldn’t help pointing and announcing to fellow runners, ‘That’s my daughter!’ as she flew by.


The autumn term is long and can clean knock the stuffing out of you. The dark nights always catch me unawares and my endorphins don’t just dwindle, they seem to plummet. The Guardian featured a lovely article last week on ‘How to Feel Awesome’ and I was like, ‘Yeah right,’ but some of the advice was sound. It mentioned how joy can be found in unlikely places, and I felt a little bit of awe as I ran through copper leaves this morning, and equally thrilled when I picked up a red and pink scarf and knee length boots in Concern on the Ormeau too. The boots were displayed aloft and spotted by a fellow charity shop enthusiast who kindly passed them my way. ‘You must always look up!’ she told me. How very true, and one of the points Anne Lamott makes in her Ted Talk. So keep looking up and the world may look brighter when you look down again. I hope so anyway!

More on charity shops here.