Is there a solution to plastic pollution or is it too late to close the gate?


In 1956, as a young schoolboy, I hung out to dry on the clothesline, 3 plastic bags that had been used that day for wrapping lunches for my sisters and myself. They were far better than the paper bags used earlier. A rubber band held the plastic bags together – no zip locks or seal easy’s – keeping the sandwiches within, soft and fresh. The bags were washed and reused many times.

My toys were all wooden or metal. My mechano set, (Lego is the new substitute), was all metal with nuts and bolts as the fasteners. Food packaging was in glass, paper or cardboard. Regular milk and bread deliveries were to our gate. Milk was poured, by the milkman, into a metal “billy” with a tight-fitting lid. The billy was washed and re-used time and again for, probably, 10 years. The milk was full cream, unpasteurised and tasty – no choices of lactose-free, low fat, calcium-enriched;  just good old-fashioned milk. Over the period of the use of the billy, our family would have purchased and disposed of, around 1,300 plastic bottles, had they been available then.

But in a mere 60 years, all hell has broken loose on our planet. We are drowning in plastic – more so in third world countries where the infrastructure is not in place to deal with waste. But the oceans too are awash with the stuff. Henderson Island in the eastern South Pacific and a part of the Pitcairn Group is covered by 18 tonnes of plastic, washed up on its tiny beaches. The island is a World Heritage listed site, uninhabited and attracting a constant bombardment of plastic, much of which is being covered with sand from wave action, with fresh spoilage arriving on top daily.

An estimated 10% to 12% of the global population relies on fishing and aquaculture for their livelihood. Demand for seafood is increasing at a time when more and more plastic is entering the oceans. At the base of the food-chain are phytoplankton whose energy is from photosynthesis, just like plants. Zooplankton feed on phytoplankton  but also consume  microplastics – the latter being a by-product of larger plastic waste broken down under UV exposure. Zooplankton are eaten by larger zooplankton, fish and larger fish, and on down the chain. The greatest risk to humans is from eating shellfish and small fish which are eaten whole – microplastics and all!   Fish, mammals and seabirds are dying in agony with stomachs full of all manner of plastic bits and pieces. Dolphins, turtles and whales are trapped in nets cast adrift from fishing vessels or caught up in ropes and lines that do not degrade. Some beaches are knee-deep in plastic waste. Our  land- fills will remain clogged with non-degradable cast-offs for centuries.  What sort of a world have we made for our children and their children? The film “Plastic Ocean” is a must-see.

We are all to blame. We embrace the madness – buying single corn cobs wrapped in plastic, tomatoes, bags of fruit, in fact almost anything we buy will have a plastic content. Our children’s toys are all plastic and often broken and discarded within a very short time after purchase. The current furore over plastic supermarket bags is to be applauded – but it is only a very small part of the problem. Manufacturers, retailers; in fact, any businesses producing and selling products are only concerned with image,  presentation, consumer appeal,  growing turnover and profit. In most instances, shiny plastic packaging is seen as  adding to the product attraction. The cycle needs to be broken so that producers look for alternatives.

I am aware of one excellent example of a company making a difference. Ethique in Christchurch, New Zealand, make an excellent range of solid shampoo and beauty bars all packaged in biodegradable wrappers that can be added to the compost bin. So far, in their short history, they claim to have prevented more than 150,000 plastic bottles from being made and disposed of.

My grandchildren seem to be well informed on the growing plastic waste problems. I applaud the efforts the education system is making to enlighten students on this, and global warming. They will be living in this world beset with many serious issues a great deal longer than I will now. I am confident that their generation will seriously address and make the necessary changes; and I can only hope it will not be too late.

There are some future events that will make the task for the next generation even more difficult. A growing number of countries and some car manufacturers are setting dates for an end to the use and production of petrol and diesel vehicles. Replacements are expected to be electric transportation in its various forms of pure electric or hybrid. The decline in oil use will be dramatic. So what will happen to all the oil still undersea, in the deserts, shale extracted by fracking, oil sands and arctic oil?  It is still debatable whether we have reached Peak Oil (maximum production possible). Some experts predict there is no imminent peak,  despite daily world production of around 96M barrels of oil and liquid fuel. The petrochemical industry has a high degree of flexibility in the feedstock it consumes. Natural gas consumption is rising rapidly  and hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL)  are a by-product.   The olefins in HGL contain ethylene and butylene which can be used as a direct input into plastics manufacturing so it may follow that the reduced oil useage for transport in developed countries will result in increased production of input chemicals for plastic. This may mean even cheaper plastic raw materials and lead to a further incentive for widespread plastic use.

These dangers highlight the need for drastic action. Capitalist societies dominate the world today and I include China who, despite state control, are able to manufacture, package and export vast quantities of goods at prices few can compete with. Plastics are diverse and their use in all its forms, will continue unchecked until legislation is introduced to limit, restrict or outlaw its non-recyclable cousins. Is this, though, enough? How do we stop a discarded soft drink bottle from washing down the drain during a downpour and out to sea? Can we ever outlaw plastic production?

That skinny little schoolboy pegging out the sandwich bags on the clothesline 62 years ago had no idea, at that time, what was in store in the years ahead.

My next blog will address some myths about electric cars.




Te Reo. Te English. But the T is dead. Long live the T.

My apologies to our PM Jacinda. I now realise she is just one of a majority of Kiwis that have decided the T is dead and is replaced by the D. The New Zealand alphabet now officially comprises only 25 letters. It is patently obvious that we seem unable to make the effort to bring our tongues forward just a little bit to form the letter T. So we have the following (sorry Jacinda):

Da Governmend have formed a daxashun commiddee do look indo da possibilidy of removing GSD on all liddel boddles of domado sauce and framed and unframed pichers and cheese and budder and elecdric car badderies.

Despite our declining grasp of the basics of our first language, there is some pressure being brought to bear to ramp up the use and teaching of Te Reo. The Maori language should never be left to fade into the past. I am sympathetic to its retention and “limited” teaching. We do, after all, live in a country where the early settlers gave names to places, rivers and mountains and those names are still used today. We owe it to ourselves, and to Maori, to pronounce these words correctly and have a basic understanding. Surely, though, our schools should teach pupils to speak, spell and write English in the proper manner and this be given absolute priority. Some are speaking up about it, including yours truly, and others that do too, are feeling the brunt of much adverse criticism. Don Brash took some flack recently for daring to say that he shouldn’t be forced to listen to words he didn’t understand namely the use of Te Reo on Radio New Zealand which is  primarily an English language broadcast.

A Maori language school Te Wananga O Aotearoa Te Kuratini O Nga Waka has just signed a long-term lease for a building in Christchurch to be used to teach the unemployed Te Reo Maori. What a great aid for the pupils to secure future employment – eh! This Trust receives annual Government funding of $135 million.




Le meilleur endroit pour vivre en Novelle Zealande

I do believe Akaroa is the best place to live in New Zealand. It was on a visit here in 1956 with my parents that I expressed the desire to own a property in this delightful French-themed village. 60 years later, it happened. Just prior to, and shortly after retiring from 9 to 5 work, Nicky and I considered a move north for greater warmth and a respite from the Christchurch winters. Absence from family and friends and the familiarity of the place of our birth, eventually ruled this out. For two years we viewed property after property in Akaroa most of which were just baches and unsuitable for full-time or near full-time occupation. Agents endeavoured to sell us leaky homes, many others were in urgent need of major maintenance, but finally, our patience was rewarded and our Lighthouse Road property now ticks most boxes. It is sheltered, warm, has great views and no lawns to cut. The garden is small but productive. We have 8 citrus trees, a peach and a feijoa plus a few vegetables. Bellbirds sing all day and at this time of the year, we hear the Shining Cuckoo calling after his flight all the way from Australia.

It is hard to believe the amount of work we have achieved on the property in just one year. A new retaining wall has been constructed, most of the interior painted white over light-absorbing grey walls, lights replaced, a new hot water cylinder installed and the garden extensively revamped. A very wet winter has morphed into a record-breaking hot and dry November and December. Water temperature in the harbour has been up to 21degrees. As a result, we have been swimming regularly at the Glen; sometimes twice in a day. Not since I was a teenager have I ventured in to the sea in November. The warmer seas around New Zealand are destined to cause stronger winds and possibly heavy rain to parts of the country. No doubt, the West Coast of the South Island will receive more with the east likely to remain dry and windy.

Akaroa is a vibrant place to live. The community are active and currently there is a focus on raising sufficient funds to build a new Health Hub, sorely needed to replace the old hospital. For some years, the local medical rooms were a couple of huts on the hospital site. A further temporary move has been made to a pleasant house on Rue Jolie close to the Gaiety Theatre while tenders have been called for construction of the new Health Hub. It is hoped building will commence soon.

With the holiday season in full swing, our little town is bursting at the seams made worse by the regular cruise ship visits – sometimes two large vessels per day – disgorging up to 5,000 visitors on to the local wharf. Many take a bus to Christchurch and beyond. Some take a local tour while others are content to wander the streets and cram into the little craft shops that appear to be doing very well from the influx. And, I must add, the local shops are stocked with good, well-priced products, only the odd one with tacky souvenirs that prompted the local Press newspaper to label Akaroa as “Tackaroa”. Personally, Nicky and I have purchased quite a number of Christmas and birthday presents locally. While on the subject of visitors, the growing number flowing into the town is causing some problems. Toilet facilities are inadequate, rubbish bins overflow and camper vans clog the narrow main street. The wharf is in need of repairs that have been costed well in excess of the levy charged to the cruise ship travel companies. Surely a reasonable charge per head could be made to the travel agencies to assist this small village, part of the cruise itinerary that has been voted Australasia’s favourite destination. Christchurch City ratepayers need some relief from the burden of providing for the costs of maintaining order for the tourists.

Our family from Edinburgh – son Jamie, his wife Samantha and daughter Ava (12months), are still with us soaking up the sun and gradually turning from a 1000 thread-count bedsheet white to a delicate pink that may morph to a light brown before departing for the bone-chilling cold of Scotland again mid January. Grandchild number 10 is a delight. Both grandparents will miss her smiles and zest for life.

A very happy and prosperous New Year to all.




800 Words but bedda

Australia has voted in favour of gay marriage. Over 60% of Australians have agreed that legalising gay marriage should be approved by the Federal Government and thus follow New Zealand’s lead. We will now have wives and wives and husbands and husbands on both sides of the Tasman.  Can’t get my head around a guy talking about his husband or a girls about her wife. Also, many will have children by adoption, use surrogates, and soon, no doubt; designer babies. These kids will have either two mothers or two fathers which, I believe is unsatisfactory. It is so important for the well being  of a child to give him or her a proper balance in life only achieved with caring parents of both sex.

Today, I was rear-ended by a local chef. Not a pleasant experience. The Bombay Blue bottle took a big hit when I arrived home in Akaroa. While in our town house in Christchurch I had just cleaned our near-new Corolla to remove streaks of cow manure along the lower doors and baked-on lakeflys on the bonnet and grill that pepper the car whilst travelling alongside Lake Forsyth. Nicky was remaining in town for the night, organising baby equipment for the imminent arrival of our Scottish granddaughter Ava   with son Jamie and daughter in law Samantha, while I  travelled back to Akaroa to catch up on some accounting and tax work. Cruise ship number 5 of 77 for the season was anchored in Akaroa Harbour opposite Wainui. The Golden Princess with 2624 passengers and 1100 crew had arrived in the early hours of Monday 20th November and the usual convoy of buses were returning from Christchurch with full loads of cruise ship passengers on a road entirely unsuitable for twenty-plus buses per visit to travel on a very regular basis. Little wonder, one, so far, has left the road on the downhill leg from the Hilltop.

I was driving sedately behind a silver Nissan, itself being behind a white Ritchies bus following a red Suzuki being driven at grossly erratic speeds. Behind me was an immaculate blue 1995 Ford Falcon EF. On the long straight road to the top of the hill out of Takamatua through the olive groves, the Suzuki stopped for no reason. The bus stopped. The Nissan stopped. I stopped and glanced in my rear vision mirror. To my horror the blue Ford completely filled the mirror a split second before a bone-jarring crash in my rear end. This was my first road accident in  59 years of driving.  Ironically, the damage to his car, which he was bringing back to Akaroa from the panel beater after a German tourist in a campervan had backed into it whist parked in Rue Lavaud,  was far greater than to the Toyota. The chef was distraught. The car was his baby and the prospect of returning to Christchurch for more body work filled him with despair. I was not offered a free meal at his restaurant, nor would I have accepted. I suspect the food may well not be up to a good standard for a while until he calms down.

Jacinda Ardern , our new PM continues to get under the skin of the Australians, persisting with her desire to bring in a bunch of refugees from Manus Island. How short-sighted. She risks still further restrictions being imposed on Kiwis travelling, living and investing in Australia. The Australians have a poor record in the treatment of their indigenous residents and are now striving to make amends. At the same time keeping a lid on immigration is paramount for them with millions hovering on their doorstep, just a relatively short boat-trip away. The radical Muslim element within the country too, is taking up a tremendous amount of police time and costing millions of dollars for the surveillance of these idiots. It is no wonder the refugee issue is so sensitive. A back-door entry to Australia from New Zealand is the last thing they want for more of the same. And with the One Nation Party set to hold the balance of power in Queensland, with either Annastacia Palaszczuk or Tim Nicholls,  tightening up of the borders may well be on the cards. One senses a deterioration in our special relationship with our neighbour since the change of government here.

Jacinda also raises the ire of the average educated Kiwi who has taken the trouble to learn and pronounce the Queen’s English with her use of words like “somethink” and “gonna” and “bedda” (better). And she is a member of the Labour “Pardy”.  It may be an orthodontic problem causing her careless speech! Perhaps she should take to tweeting like our infamous American President and perfect the art of waving her arms with forefinger and thumb emphasis to draw attention away from those molars. Trump’s arm-waving works well as a distraction from the wig that is always wong.

I promised a recipe; this one for salad dressing but not for a lettuce salad. Lettuce, in my opinion is bland and disgusting – unable to be digested by me so is avoided like the plague. It should be fed only to rabbits or Vegans to wrap their lentils in. My salads, eaten each day, comprise most, but not all (in the same salad), of the following:  grated carrot, cucumber, tomatoe, chopped apple, raisins, avocado, chopped celery, walnuts, feta cheese. Nicky had unforgivably retained her salad dressing in Christchurch so I made up my own with soy sauce, olive oil, seed mustard, red wine, balsamic vinegar , a little water and finely chopped herbs from the garden. Don’t ask me the quantities of each, I will never be able to repeat the same taste but it did the job well.

With luck, I may find time for more words of wisdom before Christmas but if not, I do wish you and your loved ones a very happy and enjoyable celebration on that very special day.




First blog post

This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

GENESIS – In the beginning

At the ripe old age of (nearly) 75, I have decided to set up a blog site and share with family and friends, insights, ideas, news and views, some philosophical thoughts, the odd short story and perhaps even a recipe (but not for disaster).

One of the great blessings of old age is that one is able to see the world in a wider perspective. I say this because with the benefit of many years of experience, and a lifetime of observation of world and local events, the awareness of days before rapidly-evolving and emerging technology, the mad-cap pace of life now compared with say, 60 years ago, and, I believe, the degradation of our quality of life over that period; has given those of us who are still able to express ourselves clearly and sensibly, a unique place in the world to pass on some of our  long-gathered knowledge to the younger generations.

To some degree, I have imparted those thoughts in my autobiography “Sunrise Over Scarborough”  but a small book like that was not quite the vehicle for any sort of extensive philosophy. This blog site may suit admirably to enunciate my ideas. I plan to keep it interesting, controversial and conversational.

Meantime, I continue with my first novel which is now close to its 18 month anniversary if there is such a thing. Writing such a large tome is hard and lonely work. I am currently up to 48,000 words which is just short of novella size. Another 10,000 words  approximately, will see it at a reasonable level for publishing which, I hope will not be too far distant. I plan to print a limited edition and gift copies to family and friends. If it proves to merit some further output to the wider community, so be it – I may oblige!

How strange it is, that when I left high school some 57 years ago, my thoughts were to study journalism. That did not happen and I struggled with accountancy for so long without the desire to write, until retirement age. The working years of ones life are, looking back, one mad race of bringing up children, paying down a huge mortgage, dealing with people – some pleasant – some downright unpleasant or dishonest or obnoxious and somehow getting through that period with a dollar or two in the bank to cater for the needs of life in the “last lane”. My accountancy background steers me towards giving advice to those who have not yet retired to ensure they have a plan to set up a retirement fund early for those latter years that arrive far more quickly than we think. A business should always work to a business plan, otherwise it just drifts along at the whims of the owners and the economy. Likewise, so should we individuals set up a plan as early as possible in life. The economy will wax and wane over the years – it always has. Getting in early will even out those blips in the graph and with a diverse range of investments and constant monetary top-ups, retirement will be comfortable and fun.

Keep in touch.