in which we shop till we drop and buy almost nothing

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If I could say only one word about shopping in Bangkok it would have to be JJ (Chattachuk) market.  The Volunteer has waxed lyrical about Monday markets, floating markets and night markets. But the one that comes up time and time again is JJ Market.   It is the largest market in Thailand and covers over 27 acres. Believe me that is one heck of a market.

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It sells everything, and I do mean everything.  It has its dark side and on the advice of the volunteer we did not go into the pet section.  Even walking past the apparently mild outside my heart and stomach were sick to see huge fish in tiny bags and turtles and mice piled high in boxes.

There were also some seriously scary mannequins.

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However, the rest of the market was fascinating.  It is divided into sections so in theory you can find what you want.  But over 27 acres of “sections” still makes it extremely easy to get lost, several times!  With the help of the volunteer and a couple of online language apps I have learned some basic Thai and “mai ao kaa” is a polite and handy way to ensure you don’t get hassled (literally “I don’t take”)

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The Boss and I had foot and shoulder massage.  Now I like a hard and brutal massage, I can’t be doing with namby pamby gentle wafting of the hands.  I have had some deep and hard massages in my time, but boy did this little Thai lady get deep and strong on my poor western muscles.  Great but not for the fainthearted or those with low pain thresholds.

My favourite section, was the food one!  We had some sumptuous spring rolls from the stall that the Volunteer recommended.

But every stall was piled high.

There is little you cannot buy and the Volunteer arrived with a shopping list, memory bank, charging cable, t-shirts and flip flops.  But whether you wanted a new teak sofa, a beach dress,  more craft items than Hobbycraft has even dreamed of, or a working antique telephone I found them all at JJ.

It’s easy to get to by BTS (Mo Chit and follow the crowds) or metro (Chattachuk Park).  I don’t recommend taxi or tuk tuk.  The traffic makes rush hour in Naples look like a country lane.  Go early whilst it is relatively (and I use the term carefully!) quiet but more importantly not so hot.  Midday at JJ is crowded and very hot.  There are plenty of places to sit and eat snacks and lots of “refreshment stations” but precious few where you can sit down and just have a drink.  There is one lovely exception.  Head to section 7 (the 7 sign at the end of the long street closest to the stations)  facing the 7 sign turn left and you will see a little rest area just at the entrance to the home decor and art section.  We left my husband there whilst we went for a wander and came back an hour or so later to find him deep in conversations with his new friend Saul from Singapore whose wife was also shopping.  This was his third visit during this trip!

 

Enjoy!

Love Gillie  x

 

Plastic detox

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I have been following Plastic Free July for several years now and have learned a lot and managed to cut our use of plastic considerably.  However, it’s not just about refusing plastic bags and using glass or stainless steel for food storage.  The real problem is the hidden plastic.  The plastic you can’t see and don’t expect.

When you buy food at the deli counter in the supermarket you may have noticed that some shops (eg. Sainsburys) no longer wrap your ham in a plastic bag but a paper one.  You duly put said bag in the recycling bin.  But is it paper?  No it’s not, it is “mixed  materials not currently recyclable”  The inside will be single use (i.e. non-recyclable plastic).

What about those teabags that you confidently put in the compost? If you buy organic teabags the chances are that they are 100% paper and are safe to put in your compost.  However most teabags contain polypropylene which is not biodegradable.  Which Magazine contacted major teabag producers to ask the polypropylene content of their bags.  These are some of the results:

Twinings: 0% polypropylene YIPPEE
Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast tea (Fairtrade):  1% Not bad
Morrisons: English Breakfast tea has 10% Could do better
PG Tips tea bags have 20%: YUK!
Yorkshire tea bags have 25%: YIKES!

If you are stuck on bags rather than loose tea then try to use those with the lowest polyproylene content and tear them before adding to the compost.

Most of us know that microbeads are not good.  They are clogging up the oceans and killing wildlife.  There are plenty of alternatives for scrubs.  Homemade using salt/sugar and oil, or scrubs from reputable organic companies such as Dr Organic from Holland and Barratt.  But what about the hidden plastics in cosemetics you didn’t know about?

A research paper published by the UN last year found a worrying level of hidden plastic in a huge range of cosmetic products  (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015)

“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish. Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”

You can download an app created by Beat the Microbead to check the microplastic content of a product before you purchase and look for the Look for Zero logo below to show that the product is 100% plastic free.

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I mentioned the cardboard take away coffee cups yesterday.  Have you ever tried to pour hot water into a cardboard box!  There has to be something on the inside of the those cups to ensure that you don’t end up with a hot soggy pile of cardboard in your hands as you walk through the park.  Most of the time it’s polyethylene and renders the cups unrecyclable.

Likewise those cardboard juice containers, many tinned foods, some cigarette filters, till receipts, labels on everything from groceries to clothes.  All contain plastic.

When I first started using my own shopping bags and refusing to put loose fruit and veg in a plastic bag but brought my own reused paper bags I got a lot of very funny looks.  Now refusing a plastic bag is second nature.  The way we win the war against plastic is to refuse it.  Not just the plastic you can see, but educate  yourself about that which  you can’t.

Love Gillie x

 

it just gets better

I love Onya I have had their bag in a bag and their backpack in a bag for years long before anything similar appeared in the supermarkets.  There are far superior to the ones you find on the high street they were originally made of parachute silk (and felt lovely too!)  now they use recycled PET bottles (still lovely but not quite as lovely as the parachute silk!) and are amazingly strong, hold a decent amount (two bottles of milk, two bottles of vinegar, a large loaf, a magazine and two packs of tennis balls just this morning) and squash down to nothing.  Environmentally friendly, very useful and pretty colours.  They are also brilliant on holiday.  I keep two in my handbag at all times

Then today this arrived.  The Onya Weigh.  So far looks just like the regular onya bag in its pouch.

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But inside are these little lovelies.

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Five ultra light transparent tulle bags for veg shopping.  I avoid prepacked veg and the plastic bags for the loose veg.  My onions do not need to go in a plastic bag.  But sometimes I have no choice, runner beans, brussell sprouts,  I can’t really avoid a bag.  But now no more plastic.  They can go in these.

I don’t need to go and buy and veg… boo hoo, I want to take them out for a ride!

Love Gillie

other people’s clutter

I was intrigued by the comments from people who said they wouldn’t dare declutter somebody else’s belongings.  In this family when it comes to household stuff everyone pitches in.  But the Boss really can’t be bothered with sorting out clothes.  To be honest he can’t be bothered with putting them away either.  He knows full well that a sort out is in order (just how many pairs of chinos does a man need?) but he is never going to do it himself.  Enter Super Sorter.  That would be me.

I make two piles.  Pile one is allowed back into the drawer.  Pile two is left on the floor for sorting and approval.  This he can manage.  Socks and boxers were dealt with last month (hurrah I can shut his sock drawer at last).  Yesterday it was the turn of belts,  sporrans (yes they are plural), sock garters (very plural) ties and shirts.

The most shocking were the garters and shirts.  This is the pile of  belts and garters that have not yet made it back into the drawer.  Bearing in mind they are only worn when he is wearing his kilt (plural of them too) and that is only worn occasionally, the need to own some 40 pairs of garters many of which are the same colour is quite baffling to me.

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That white packet on the right contains an unopened packet of 5 pairs of ….. garters.

The shirts were another huge problem.  This is his shirt cupboard.  I have gone through every shirt and removed those with worn cuffs or collars, stained etc.

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This is the contents of the drawer that held the as yet unworn shirts.  With a few ties on the side.

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You see my problem.  Not one single one of these shirts is worn, some of them are brand new.  Does he need all of these.  I think even the most generous of you would say no.  Part of the problem is, to be fair, of my own making.  I have let him buy shirts he doesn’t need.  He is a classic example of somebody who has so much that he can’t find what he wants so it is easier to buy a new one.  I haven’t even started on the suits, jackets and trousers yet.

So what now?  Today we will work through the piles together.  He has already acknowledged that he has far too much so step number one has been achieved, but whether the canny Scot in him will let him let go of perfectly good clothes that he doesn’t need is another question altogether.

do not declutter this book!

 

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Yup, you read it right.  I am going to actively encourage you to make a purchase and to keep it!  My book.  It’s got nothing to do with decluttering and isn’t actively aimed at your age group (I am assuming I do not have a huge under 16 readership).  But I think it is a pretty darn good read, and believe me I have read it hundreds of times.  If you do find a mistake please let me know quietly…..

Timesmudger, a tale of murder, time-travel and friendship.  Go on you know you want to.  And I have a a family to feed so think of it as an act charity if you must.

In the manner of an Oscar winner I do have a few thank yous.  First to my family for putting up with me whilst I wrote and nagging me to keep going when I felt like giving up and to the wonderfully talented Lauren Kudo from Cozy Up Designs who is responsible for the stunning cover.

You can buy it in Kindle or paperback version on Amazon so it’s only a click away (I can’t believe I just wrote that… )

zero waste vs zero food miles

Once upon a time all our needs were met locally.  We collected wood for a fire, grew and raised our own food, made our own clothes us using whatever fabric was local to us from hemp to cotton to wool.  There are some people who, admirably, manage to do this today, but for most of us it is essential to engage in transactions with third parties to feed and clothe and entertain ourselves and our families.

I have long been involved in both the Slow Food and Local Food movements.  I was a founder member of The Durham Local Food Network and believe passionately in supporting local producers, not just of food but of as many other consumables as possible.  However how can I reconcile that with a zero waste lifestyle.  You would have thought it would be easy, surely the two go together.  But they don’t.

Bea Johnson, who genuinely does live the closest to a zero waste lifestyle as anyone I have come across in this journey purchases almost all her food from Whole Foods.  This is because she is able to take her own containers (thus no unnecessary plastic or even paper bags for anything from bread to meat) and she can purchase loose goods from pasta to biscuits from the bulk bins.  Well therein lies the first problem.  However, lovely Whole Foods is, it is essentially an upmarket supermarket (and has prices to match).  There is little local about purchasing my oats at Whole Foods even if I could get to one.

So the other option?  Durham Food Co-op buys in bulk from a large range of local producers and the balance from Infinity Foods (a co-operative wholesaler of organic and non-organic foods); Durham Farmers’ Market  has an excellent selection of local produce; I have access to a good local greengrocer, butcher, fishmonger and cheese merchant.  The problem?  Most of the food I buy will come prepackaged.  I don’t have the option, other than for the vegetables, to use my own containers.

Last year I read about Plastic Free July, unfortunately I heard about it rather late so when I attempted to go plastic free for a week I didn’t have the ongoing tips and support and fell quickly by the wayside.  I have signed up for Plastic Free July for this year and am giving myself three months to prepare.  I am going to need it.  Plastic free is very hard to achieve.  The easiest way to go plastic free is to start making as much as possible from scratch.  I make my own soft cheese, yoghurt, dog food and dog treats, granola, jams, jellies, wine and cider vinegars, pickles etc.  I have asked for a canner for Mothering Sunday with a view to canning our own home grown vegetables.  But there is only so much I can do myself and I don’t work full time so I have the time to do all this.

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So do I go package (and predominantly plastic) free or do I go local?  I know in my heart I will go local.  But that will mean compromise.  What is more important to you.  Zero waste or zero food miles?

people who care

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The trip is drawing to a close.  Only ten days to go.  Am seriously considering how to emigrate, on my own if necessary.

Things I love about Australia:

  • The weather
  • The weather
  • The weather….

Everyone is so friendly.  I have no idea how Londoners (and I can say that as I was born and brought up in Notting Hill Gate) survive when they first arrive.  How do they cope when somebody makes eye contact and worse, asks them how they are?

Life is laid back.  I know I am on holiday so it’s different for me, but the Boss has been working, and at times quite hard.  Even he can feel the difference.

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The culture and attitude.  This is what really gets to me.  People here care.  There is almost no litter and I haven’t seen any graffiti.  Being ecologically sound isn’t considered a bit weird, for most people it is a way of life.

I know I have several Antipodean readers and I would love your feedback.  Why are you so far ahead of us?  Is it because you are so much more isolated so have had to use your resources more carefully?  Or is it perhaps partly to do with the weather, you spend so much more time outside that you are more in tune with the environment?  Or are you just better people than the rest of us 🙂

Oh and the other thing I love about Australia – the markets. The markets are just the best I’ve been to and believe me I am a market fiend, I have been to a lot.