Wednesday, January 18, 2006


No, I am not talking about New Year's resolutions (although I have cut back to shed the extra holiday pounds, it's true). I'm talking about resources, or at least I think I am.

You see, although you can find many of the same products here that are available in the States, most are a little(bit) different. This difference often manifests itself in substance, that is, things are flimsier, or thinner. Take plastic wrap(cling film), for example. It's incredibly thin stuff, and not only that, but their box packages don't come with a metal blade to cut segments, oh no. Instead, the flimsy cardboard box has a corrugated edge, which may actually work for the first few tears since the wrap is so thin, but by the time you get to the end of the roll (which isn't very long - I mean the roll, not the time), it's completely useless. Likewise for aluminum(aluminium) foil - very thin, with a serrated cardboard edge to tear on. It works slightly better for the foil, because the foil tears more easily since it doesn't stretch. But the problem is that the foil tears more easily. So many times I'll be wrapping something up to seal it in the foil, and -rip!- I have to use twice as much to make sure the item is completely covered.

Scotch tape(cello tape) is the same. In fact, it seems to be true cellophane unlike what one normally finds in the US. I haven't even seen the "disappearing" matte finish Scotch tape which is such a mainstay back there. And believe me, I've looked. Why, one may ask, have you spent so much time looking? My answer may surprise you, it certainly surprised me - packaging. Things like cello tape, cling film, plastic bags of all sizes, are more frequently sold in plain rolls. Not in boxes and plastic dispensers, no, just as is. This appeals to my sense of environmental friendliness, and I'll write more on that later. But I need dispensers to keep from ripping my hair out. I find myself avoiding using the cling film just so I don't have to wrestle with it. When I do take the plunge, I rip off far more than I need because it's impossible to get a precise measure (scissors do not work with cling film, nor with foil). Cello tape comes in big rolls, the size of duct tape or masking tape in diameter, although a reasonable width (like a wide Scotch tape). Not only do you have to find a pair of scissors every time you want a piece of tape, you have to find the @#$%^&!! end of the tape. Grrrrrr (and by the way I have bought 2 pairs of sharp scissors to keep wherever I might need them, since mum-in-law's never seem to be very sharp). So I looked all over for cello tape in a dispenser. I finally found it in a stationery store, for 79p (including a small roll of tape). Just the other day I saw a dispenser that holds the large diameter rools of cello tape in What! (like a dollar store on steroids), and I nearly bought it. In fact, I think I may go back and get it. On that same trip, we bought a combination foil, cling film, and paper towel(kitchen towel) dispenser, only it's supposed to hang on the wall and there is literally no place to put it in the kitchen unless we like it as a wall decoration.

Back to the environmental friendliness aspect of this blog: I suspect the reason for all this thinness, this flimsiness, is the lack of natural resources and the cost of fuel. It keeps costs down on these items since there is less to them. The minimal packaging must be due to the same reason. And maybe all other households in England besides mum-in-law's have dispensers for everything (I know I saw one at a friend's house here), which also makes perfect sense.

So why, I ask myself and anyone else who's listening, is every single greeting card, from the most elaborate handmade 3D piece of art to the nastiest, tackiest piece of mush I wouldn't send to, well, anybody, why is each and every one individually enclosed in its own little plastic bag??? I'll venture a guess: these folks are greeting card crazy(mad). I personally have observed over several Xmases that it is not unusual for a household to receive over 100 Xmas cards. This year in our household, we received about 120. People sent a card to my mum-in-law, and a separate card to me and Richard and Lauren. In a couple of cases, a third card was sent to Lauren. Even though we're all living together in the same house. I marvel at this. Cards themselves are elaborate. It's all the rage to have a sort of shadowbox style card, with a separate cutout stuck on the front using a piece of foam double stick to make the cutout stand away from the base card. One card we received had felt Xmas stockings attached to a gold line by miniature working clothespins(clothespegs) - I saved it to use as an Xmas ornament. Tesco, a UK-wide giant supermarket chain, offered Xmas card recycling. The enormous bin, larger than 1 cubic meter, was bursting at the seams the day I took our cards. Goodness knows what they do with them.

Getting back to the thinner aspect, though, in many cases, things are smaller. There is less land, therefore houses are smaller, therefore kitchens are smaller, therefore ovens are smaller. This means that you think very seriously about the size of turkey you plan to roast. For some reason, we couldn't find a roasting pan that fit the dimensions of the oven (in InStore, a slightly more upscale version of What!) so we bought one with a large rim and Richard bent the rims up. Hey, it worked. Even so, 14 lbs. is really too much for 3 adults and one small child. Leftover turkey jambalaya anyone?