Tuesday, 23 December 2008

While shepherds washed their socks by night

Here we are, back in the USSR.... er, no, back in Midlothian for the season to be jolly. Arrived on Sunday after a stopover in York at Uncle D's and Auntie S's. Really enjoyed seeing them. It was also great to be able to break the journey and also to be able to drive all the way in daylight. Especially at this time of year. And when your car is the wrong way round.

Lovely to be home. Missed seeing the Cambuslang crowd, and they are now being shipped to Cairo by KLM. Will see them for New Year though. While I'm on the subject of the Cambuslang crowd, I have a prayer request (or good vibes or pagan moon dances or whatever): for Claire and for the full removal of a malignant tumour and the all clear after her surgery.

Meanwhile, on an altogether happier subject we are pretty much primed for Christmas here. Turkey: in fridge; presents: wrapped; food: also in fridge; tree: er, standing out the back at the moment because we need to sort the sitting room out first! Can I just say how cheap groceries are here. We bought a trolley full of fruit, veg, mince pies, oatcakes, double cream and lots of other things today at Sainsbury's and it all cost... 70 British pounds. The same stuff would easily have cost over 100 French euros from Auchan. And Sainsbury's is hardly the cheapest supermarket. I feel very ripped off living in France at the moment. Best I don't think about it because it winds me up.

So what else is there to report? Not a lot folks. Have been hermit-like since arriving and not seen anyone. But am looking forward to seeing Willie, M&M, Macleod, Jane, Annie, Em...

Aside: there is a creepy man on telly who is actually touching moths. Eugh!!

And talking of the telly... I will tell you this boy, I will tell you this, Rab C. is back! For one night only and that night is tonight. BBC 2, 9pm. And even you lucky folks in England are being treated to his pondering. You might get subtitles if you're lucky ;)

Well I clearly have nothing useful or insightful to say to I'll be off. Tidings of Joy to you all!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Re posting: Why cork wine stoppers are best

I'm re-posting this post from last May, which is suddenly a bit topical following a BBC Natural World documentary broadcast last night on the subject of the Iberian cork forests. This unique habitat is home to many rare birds as well as the critically endangered Iberian lynx. If you live in the UK, watch it now on iPlayer. But hurry because you have 6 days and counting.

If you care even a tiny bit, please also join this Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45636837750

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Anyone who knows me will already know that I tend to turn my wine snob's nose up at bottles with plastic corks or screw-cap closures. This distaste is has two sources.

1/ As any wine lover will tell you, wine breathes, ages and evolves better in a cork closed bottle. Why is this so? Well, for a wine to continue to mature once it's been bottled, there must be a continuing exchange between the wine in the bottle and the air surrounding the bottle (if you're lucky, this will be the cool and relatively humidity-stable air of a good cave). Plastic corks and screw-caps hermetically seal the wine meaning it cannot age. This is fine if the wine is intended for consumption within... max 2 years after bottling, but it is equivalent to suffocating a Saint Estèphe or a Vosne Romanée.

2/ Environmental issues. A plastic cork is just downright bad for the environment. It's made from petro-chemicals. It doesn't biodegrade and probably most plastic corks end up in the household rubbish bin with no hope of being recycled.
A traditional cork, however, is good from beginning to end. Natural cork is harvested from cork oaks (Quercus suber), with the largest production areas to be found in Spain and Portugal. The cork oak forests are ancient mixed-farming areas, combining forest and grazing pasture. Because the harvesting of the bark is done using traditional methods and involves no mechanical techniques, the habitat is preserved. Animals such as the endangered Iberian lynx and Spanish eagle rely on these forests and suffer from their conversion to intensively-farmed agricultural land.

To help preserve these essential habitats, and ensure a future for cork oak farmers in Europe and elsewhere around the Mediterranean, you can make a difference by choosing to buy wine with a natural cork stopper and steering clear of plastic and screw-caps. Some UK retailers are now indicating the type of closure used on their wines either in their online catalogues or in store. But they are also applying pressure to their wholesalers and suppliers to provide wine with plastic or screw-cap closures. You can help by just not buying these wines, writing to the supermarkets and retailers, and writing directly to suppliers to give your views. Consumer pressure does make a difference.

And the biggest thing you can do to help is boycott all wine from Morrison's. Or better still, boycott their stores altogether. This is because Liz Robertson, former head of wine for Safeway (now Morrison's), is stupid. She said "We think that plastic stoppers are good for the environment because they relieve pressure on the cork groves and prevent over-harvesting.” Clearly, she has NO IDEA at all. Cork oak farming is probably the only form of farming in Europe today that doesn't involve over-harvesting. And yes, something made from hydrocarbons and that doesn't bio-degrade and isn't recycled is obviously good for the environment. Of course.

Some links to find out more:
Newsmonster article
RSPB articles
Independent.co.uk article
Real Cork campaign
Environmental news service article
WWF Mediterranean Cork Oak conservation project

Monday, 1 December 2008

Possibly the worst postal service in the world

Let me tell you a story. Last weekend I ordered a whole pile of Christmas gifts. I ordered them all on off the interweb, feeling smug as I went. All items but one were purchased from UK-based sites and have all since been delivered to my parents' address.

One item was ordered from fnac.com. Logically, I had it sent here to our house. I received confirmation of despatch on Monday. So today, a week later, I thought I'd have a wee look on the parcel tracking to find out what was what. And to my indignant disgust (but, tellingly, not to my surprise), I find that the useless f**king incompetent wasters at La Poste seem to think they knocked on our door on Thursday. They say we weren't in and they left a wee note to say we had a parcel. I say they are lying f**king wasters. They also claim that the parcel is now awaiting collection in "Bureau de Poste - Villeneuve d'Ascq" and that I have been advised of its presence there. I say again that they are no-good f**king shitfaces. I never received the wee note advising of a parcel. And there are 4 (count 'em) post offices in Villeneuve d'Ascq. You'd think that La Poste would know that. But clearly we are dealing with a crowd of utter morons who cannot tell their collective arse from their collective elbow, so we can't expect too much now can we?

I shall be visiting my wrath upon La Poste tomorrow. I shall visit my wrath upon them by telephone first, in the vain hope that if I give their complaints department (I hope they have plenty staff, probably very busy in this department) the tracking number, they'll be able to identify which bureau de poste has my parcel.

Maybe this is what has happened to the other 3 parcels we've been waiting for since the beginning of November? The brainless shitbags probably buggered up delivering them also.

And what pisses me off even more is that, while the lobotomised dimwits have been fannying around with *my* stuff, they somehow managed to get their collective finger out and safely deliver a massive parcel to Hubby. I see, national preference is it?

I'm sick of living in a third world country. Harrumph.