Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Sand, sea, skulls and sleepless nights: Gran Canaria

We boarded the plane to Gran Canaria with 2 suitcases, a rucksack apiece, and a few loads of expectation swinging from our shoulders.  It was the first holiday abroad since Toby had started school, and Graham and I were hoping it would be worth the extra hassle and expense.  We were looking forward to seeing a different part of the world, but aware that family holidays are never quite the oasis of rest and relaxation that we still, somehow, found ourselves hoping for.  Meanwhile, the boys had learned the Spanish for ice cream, and were happily chanting, "Helado, helado por favor."

...and we're off!

Perhaps fittingly, the holiday lived up to those mixed feelings.  We had days where we were seriously considering booking an early flight home, and days where we were very glad we'd come.  And of course, we had plenty of helado!


The good bits

The sea

Well, we do like a bit of sea.  Graham went scuba diving, the boys paddled, and I swam and got splashed a lot.




One day we caught a boat to Puerto de Mogan, a few miles along the coast from where we were staying.  It was a lovely little port town, with colourful flowers swinging over our heads, and colourful fish almost swimming under our feet as we hung over the edge of the docks.  We climbed steps past higgledy-piggledy houses with singing canaries outside, and got a birds-eye view from the platform at the top.  At the other side of the valley was La CaƱada de los Gatos, an excavated cluster of indigenous houses dating back over a thousand years.

Puerto de Mogan

the steps

the archeological site

on the boat

The food

We may have relied rather heavily on cheese and salami for lunch, but on the whole, we ate pretty well.  As we sat outside in the warm evening air at El Guanche Grill, on the second night, it was the first time we felt like we really were relaxing and enjoying ourselves.  The tasty Mexican food helped, too.



There was a good bbq at the hotel one night, followed by a show by the Acrobattys, a couple of ladies who could do the most spectacular contortions.

waiting for the show to start

And Graham and I treated ourselves to an amazing platter of tapas in Puerto de Mogan - followed, of course, by ice cream.

look at all this!



Cocodrilo Park

Once we actually got there (see The bad bits) we really enjoyed Cocodrilo (Crocodile) Park.  The BIG zoo on the island is Palmitos Park, which was relentlessly marketed on every bus stop and road sign, but Cocodrilo Park is part zoo, part rescue centre for animals seized by the Spanish government.  It was nicely laid out, mercifully shady, and just about the right size.  We got to stroke a few of the animals and watch the crocodiles being fed.  If they weren't quick about grabbing the food, the feeder would bash them on the snout with a raw chicken leg to get their attention!




The remote-controlled car

As always on holiday, we seemed to spend a lot of time buying more food.  Outside the supermarket was a little stand where you could rent a Theo-sized car, with a Toby-controlled remote to drive it around.  Of course we had to splash out and let the boys have a go.  They loved it.



The skulls, surprisingly

You didn't expect that, did you?  We all enjoyed our visit to the Museo Canario in Vegueta, a town just south of Las Palmas.  It had a collection of pots and tools from the pre-Hispanic era, a reconstruction of an aboriginal house (with a virtual-reality viewer which fascinated Theo) and, bizarrely, a room full of skulls in glass cabinets.  With our limited Spanish, we never quite worked out where they had all come from, or whether their descendants had minded them being put on display.



Vegueta also contained the beautiful Catedral Santa Ana, and several squares where we ate lunch and fed pigeons.

pigeons in Plaza Santa Ana


in Catedral Santa Ana

cathedral columns


The bad bits

The sleepless nights

It turned out our hotel had entertainment almost every night until 11:30pm - right outside our apartment.  Very loudly.  The only way to attempt to sleep was to close all the windows, at which point the rooms became instantly hot and stuffy.   Trying to get an early night meant lying there listening to bad karaoke and wondering if you could even bear to have a sheet covering you.

Once we'd adapted to Spanish time, it wasn't quite so bad.  The boys were going to bed at 10:30 and waking up at 9 am, and I'd go for a late walk in the relatively cool air instead of pretending I could sleep.  But Graham is not letting me book a hotel again in a hurry!

this guy was the entertainer!


The bit where we missed the bus

Cocodrilo Park advertised a free bus on Mondays.  On Monday morning we got to the bus station in plenty of time.  And we waited.  And waited.  Finally we asked, only to be told that the bus went from the back of the bus station, and we'd missed it.

Somehow that threw the whole day off.  We made some attempts to recover and enjoy the day, but even a splash in the hotel pool and a lizard-spotting walk along a coastal path didn't restore our mood.  Sometimes you just have to draw a line and hope the next day is better.  And, to be fair, it was.


And the in between

The sand dunes

So we got to Maspalomas on the bus about lunchtime, and we walked through the hot hot streets and across the hot hot sand dunes (admittedly worth seeing, but the Sahara has gone waaay down my list of places to visit).  But then we got to the sea, and walked barefoot through the cool shallow water with a breeze blowing all the way back along the coast, and we weren't too hot at all.  Although it was a nudist beach, so we got some ...interesting views along the way.

biiig sand dunes!


The mountains

The mountainous centre of Gran Canaria is spectacular.  I would definitely recommend going there.  Just not with complaining kids in the back seat, on a 40°C+ afternoon.

Caldera de los Marteles

We stopped to admire Caldera de los Marteles, a volcanic crater, then made our way up to Roque Nublo.  The walk to the rock from the car park was just over a kilometre, but the heat was seeping out from every rock and tired strand of grass.  The boys and I soon wilted and retreated to the shade, leaving Graham to go on by himself.  Some enterprising soul had set up an ice cream stand next to the car park, so we all had to have our second ice lolly of the day, to recover.



The way back took us down a terrifyingly bendy road which wound its way down the edge of a gorge.  It seemed to disappear as soon as we'd driven it - I kept looking back, trying to trace the route we'd taken, but I never could figure out how someone had put a road there at all.

the photo doesn't do it justice


The hotel

It wasn't really our kind of hotel, or our kind of town (Puerto Rico is built entirely for tourists).  But it was clean and convenient, and it was great to come back and splash in the pool after a hot day out.



And when the sky does this, almost anywhere looks beautiful. 

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Finding common ground

A recent report by the UK Methodist Church, entitled God in Love Unites Us, has generated a lot of debate about same-sex marriage in the church.  There are already dozens of articles putting forward the views from each side.  But in such a divisive issue, I felt like it was important to remember what we do agree on.

These are six things that I've heard from both sides of the debate.  We may doubt that others believe them.  We may disagree drastically on how to live them out.  But if we can at least assume that everyone believes them, then they may just give us a tiny piece of common ground to build on.


We want to be welcoming and loving

At their best, churches can be places where everyone feels welcome - where lonely people find a family, the unloved find love, and the outsiders find a community to belong to.

At their worst, churches are places where everyone who doesn't live up to our ideals is made to feel excluded, ashamed, and even hated by God.

We would all prefer our church to be more like the former, but we have to admit to ourselves that they often fall short.  The booklet Christian Role Models contains 20 moving and inspiring stories from LGBT Christians around the world; almost all of them experienced rejection from fellow Christians at some point.  Fortunately, many also found encouragement and support in their faith.

Whether or not we believe that our theology around same-sex marriage should change, we know that our theology includes a God who is love.  We know that having the right beliefs is useless, if our actions are not expressing this love to others.

And so we realise that making a choice about our marriage theology is just one step in a long walk.  It's possible to refuse to offer same-sex marriage and to be a church where LGBT people feel welcomed, accepted and included.  It's also possible to register a church for gay marriages but to have an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

Either way, we realise that LGBT people have felt rejected from our churches, and that our beliefs have been used to push them away from God.  We realise that our actions and words need to address the hurt and assure people that God loves them.

We all agree that our church should make everyone feel welcome.  Let's find common ground to make that a reality.

We value the Bible and try to be guided by it

I recently followed Humanists UK on Facebook, simply because I'd read some comments on the page ridiculing those who used an ancient manuscript to get instructions from some old man in the sky.  I felt like I might sometimes need a reminder that viewing the Bible as important in any way is rather unusual in itself.

It's easy to frame this debate as "I follow the Bible; you don't."  It's easy to think that if other people really valued the Bible, they wouldn't read it like that.  But if you step outside of church culture for a moment, you realise how much importance we all, within it, place on what the Bible says.

God in Love Unites Us says that "a report...identified seven different attitudes to biblical authority" (don't you love the Methodists - what other denomination would even count?).  So it's not surprising that we can read the same words and come away with different convictions.

But let's try to avoid suggesting that we are the only ones who really understand God's word and live by it.  Let's do each other the honour of recognising that we both read and wrestle with the Bible, and that we are still learning from God in the process.  Let's shy away from describing one viewpoint as Biblical, with the implication that the other is not.

Let's find common ground in our value for the Bible - and if you need persuading of that, go and read a few humanist comments on the subject.


We want to pursue God's righteousness

I'm not the sort of person who often cries in a church service.  If I do, it's usually because something else in my life is causing me to be emotional.  This time, it was because a Bible verse landed in my mind with the force of a ton of bricks.  You load people with burdens hard to bear, and you do not lift a finger to help them.

Ouch.

That was Jesus speaking to the experts in Jewish law (Luke 11:46) - the ones who thought they had righteousness all sewn up.  Do this, don't do that, everyone respects you and God's happy too.  Simple.  And Jesus said, no, but the way you go about it heaps burdens on others while you get the easy life.

For me, the easy way isn't caving in to popular culture.  The easy way is to keep the status quo, where the people I know are middle-class Christian families who are basically a lot like me.  And however unwittingly, my easy way has been putting barriers in the way of others, which I personally don't have to face, and which I haven't lifted a finger to move.

The hard way, the God's righteousness way, is to find out what those barriers are, and what I can do to help.  It probably involves lifting lots of fingers.  I'm not even sure I can do it.  But I'm pretty sure that's what pursuing God's righteousness in this matter means for me.

For others, pursuing God's righteousness may mean standing up for their faith in the face of opposition.  It would be easier, they feel, to abandon their conscience and agree to change, but the hard way, the God's righteousness way, is to affirm traditional morals while finding new and radical ways to love and include those who live outside them.

Let's recognise that we may all be moved to tears by our failure to live up to God's righteousness.  And let's find common ground in supporting each other to hear God and follow him.


We care for the church

With all this talk of welcoming and including those who are outside the church, we sometimes forget that there are people inside the church who need caring for too.  It can be disorientating and frightening to have to re-examine beliefs that you have held for years - especially if you feel like you are being forced to change them whether you like it or not.

I vividly recall a time when I felt like I was desperately trying to dig down to the solid rock that I had been told my faith rested on, only to find that it all seemed to have turned to sand.  At such times you find yourself questioning your identity, your community and your entire worldview.  It is not a comfortable experience.

Most changes in our beliefs are considerably less drastic.  They occur gradually over time, as a result of meeting new people and doing new things.

The trouble comes when either a change, or a lack of change, is seen as harmful.  For some, changing to accommodate same-sex marriage in church is dangerous.  It calls into question the authority of the Bible, offends against God's holiness, and may even risk people's salvation.

For others, holding on to a traditional view of homosexual relationships is dangerous.  It has caused people to turn away from God, believing that they cannot be loved by him; it has contributed to marginalisation, violence and suicide; and it has led people to believe that Christians are bigoted and unloving.

Given such high stakes, it is no wonder that we feel like we either have to force others to agree with us, or split apart completely.  But underneath all of those fears of danger is a deep care and concern for Christ and his church.  Let's hold each other's fears as fiercely as we hold our own.  Let's find common ground in our care for the church.

We are aware that our Christian faith is affected by our culture

You know that something's become mainstream when Sainsbury's supermarket has a banner outside supporting it.  I'm afraid my reaction was slightly cynical: well, of course they support LGBT rights now, when they know it won't lose them any customers!

All of us within this debate are well aware that it wasn't even a conversation 50 years ago.  The culture has changed, and we have already changed with it.  Even supermarkets are taking a moral position.

But let's not equate one position with "keeping the faith" and one position with "uncritical acceptance of culture".  We both look at the world around us and see the good and the bad, and we incorporate that into our faith and our lives.

It's impossible to separate out our beliefs from our friendships, our experiences, and the culture around us.  All we can do is to try and ask ourselves the right kind of questions.  Do I think this because it's easier for me?  Does this make me more loving, or less?  Does this fit with what I know of Jesus?

Even then, it's easy to have a horrifyingly large blind spot - a log in our eye, as Jesus puts it.  Sometimes we need other people to ask us those questions.  And it takes time to ask them and answer them respectfully, carefully and prayerfully.

So let's not be quick to assume that other people are blindly following a party line.  Let's assume that our blind spots are at least as large as theirs, and let's find common ground as we gently and graciously try to reduce them to a speck.  Let's be aware that we are all affected by our culture.


We trust in Jesus

Ultimately, our faith doesn't depend on our Biblical interpretation skills, our ability to adapt to popular culture, or even our personal morality.  It depends only on our trust in Jesus - and fortunately, he is in heaven interceding for us.  Let's pray for each other and for our church, that we may rely more and more on Jesus and his all-encompassing, death-defying, terrifyingly wonderful love.  Let's find common ground in him.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Easter celebrations

The rest of my eco-Lent flopped badly, I'm afraid.  Life has an annoying way of not stopping so that you can concentrate; in fact, it usually gets busier!  However, saving the environment was always going to take more than 40 days, so at least there is more incentive now to carry on.

But for all our failures, and our fears for the future, we still need hope; and for that, there is Easter.

And we did manage to do Easter!

Here's our decorated mantelpiece: crafts by the boys, banner by me, flowers from the Co-Op and foliage from the garden.


I made a Simnel cake (11 marzipan balls for the disciples, omitting Judas), and some 'empty tomb' bread rolls (a marshmallow inside melts in the oven, leaving an empty hole - ta-daa!)



On Good Friday we did one of the Cadbury/National Trust Easter egg hunts at Calke Abbey.  It focused on looking for signs of spring rather than following clues, which disappointed Toby ("an egg hunt ought to have proper answers!") but we found some beetles, admired the waterlilies, and saw a frog in the lake, which was properly exciting.  And yes, there was chocolate at the end.



Saturday was the local Messy Church.  Toby and Theo enjoyed colouring in a sign and hammering it on to a stake (several bent nails; fortunately no bent thumbs).  They also did a 'proper' Easter egg hunt, with, yes, more chocolate at the end.



On Easter Sunday we went to church in the morning, then to the park for a picnic, and came home for a proper Sunday roast.

I should tell you that Toby was very proud to have won his school eggmobile competition.  They had to build a vehicle which could carry an egg, and go the furthest when rolled down a ramp.  Of course this was right up his street.  His prize was - you guessed it - another chocolate egg.  He said, half-jokingly, that he'd like to fill it with ice cream and put mini eggs on top, and I said, "Actually, that's not a bad idea for dessert..." so we did it!


And to work off all that chocolate, ice cream and Simnel cake, we went for a good long walk on Easter Monday, on a ridge of hills called the Roaches.  It's been a beautiful weekend in all sorts of ways.



Monday, 25 March 2019

House: Water, Energy and Stuff

I wasn't really thinking about water this week until I heard a news report on the radio which suggested that people should reduce their water usage from 140 litres per day to 100 litres.  Well, I had no idea how much water I used per day, but as it happened, we had just received our water bill.  I did a quick calculation, looked at the figure, and thought, "That can't possibly be right!"  I checked my conversion, checked my arithmetic, and finally looked up 'average household water usage'.  Of course.  The 140-litre figure I had in my head was per person; we were pretty close to the average household figure, at around 350 litres per day.

Image credit: Pixabay


But... 350 litres?  Every day?  That's 35 buckets full!  Imagine if I had to carry all that from a well! 

I really was staggered to find out just how much water we get through.  This fascinating document  from the Energy Saving Trust goes into a lot more detail about what we use it for.  Didn't you always want to know how many people actually shower every day?  Or how often we boil the kettle?  (24 times a week, apparently.)

That short news report has made me a lot more aware of how much water I'm using.  I don't feel like I've done much to change that yet, but it's certainly something to think about.

So, on to the daily breakdown:

Day 11

Install a bamboo toilet seat.
 

Actually I did this last week, but it fits this week's topic, so I'm co-opting it!  Ideally, of course, we buy as little as possible (see tomorrow), but I think this is an example of buying a Good Thing.  The old seat was broken and disgusting.  It was well overdue for replacement.  This looks so much better, will hopefully last many years, and is made of bamboo, which is meant to be more sustainable than wood.

Day 12

Watch The Story of Stuff.  It's a pretty simple animation (sometimes simplistic), but it's a useful reminder of how geared up our society is to keep buying more and more stuff.  And so much of it goes through our lives and into the dump in an alarmingly short period of time.

Day 13

Clean with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.


Plenty of websites will tell you that these two chemicals are amazing for cleaning ANYTHING.  From my chemist's viewpoint, they're a mild alkali and a mild acid, which is fine but not necessarily amazing. 

I'm ashamed to admit that our kettle never actually has been descaled, so I gave vinegar a go as a descaling agent.  It definitely helped a bit, but it didn't take all the scale off; maybe I'll give it another try.

I also read that you can scrub a kitchen sink with bicarb.  Presumably it's being a mild abrasive in this case, as much as anything else.  The sink looked better afterwards, but it seemed like I used quite a lot of bicarb, and it's not particularly cheap.  I'd be tempted to save the bicarb for baking, and use plain water and a scrubbing pad if I was trying to avoid cleaning products.

Day 14

Measure my shower.

About 8 litres of water

The magic numbers for showers appear to be: a flow rate of 8 litres per minute or less, and a shower length of 4 minutes or less.  I'm pleased to say that mine was bang on target in both respects.  That doesn't leave me much to improve on, but it was encouraging, anyway.  I also discovered that our local water supplier will send you free gadgets to reduce the shower flow or time your shower, so if I'd needed either of those I could have got them from Severn Trent.

Day 15

Help with Waste Week show and tell.




Look!  I got to draw a pie chart!  The boys' school was doing Waste Week this week.  Not only did I send some of our recycling off to them to use for junk modelling, I was also able to do slightly better for Theo's Show and Tell than last week (when I shoved a toy spider into his hand as he was walking out of the door).  I have no idea what he actually said about it, but at least it looked pretty.

Day 16

Look up green energy providers. 

We already have solar panels on our roof, so changing our energy supplier hadn't been a top priority for me.  A quick poke around, though, suggests that green energy tariffs are now comparable to the standard ones.  Our current fixed-rate deal runs out in a few months, so I'll have another look then and see if we can move towards renewable energy.  This is a fairly recent article listing the main suppliers.

This week seems to have been more about information than actual changes made.  In some ways that makes me feel like I'm not achieving much, but on the other hand I'm finding out a lot that I didn't know.  And I thought I was reasonably well-informed!  I'm appreciating the way that this Lent challenge is forcing me to keep thinking about environmental issues - and it's sparked some conversations, too.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Food: Reduce! Reduce!

This title reminds me of a story about the conductor of a choir.  While they were rehearsing a piece, the sopranos persisted in singing too loudly.  Finally he turned to them in despair and implored, "Please, ladies!  Reduce!"

For this first week of Lent I wasn't trying to reduce either my singing volume or my waistline.  Just my meat consumption and kitchen plastic waste.

Day 5


The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution is big on the idea that, while it's all fine saving our own little bits of the planet, what we really need is changes in the big picture - the governments and companies that control how we make energy and what we do with it.  This means making some noise to push them in the right direction.  So I started the week with a little bit of lobbying.

I wrote to our local council to say that I was glad they use locally sourced meat and MSC fish for their school meals, and to encourage them to use their buying power to support better farming practices.   I also wrote to the supermarket I usually go to, to ask if they could stock a wider range of Fair Trade products.  They said they would look into it.

Day 6





Ordered a wooden dish brush, a loofah sponge, and coconut fibre scourers from Boobalou.  I usually use a cotton dish cloth, but we also have a dish sponge, a green scourer and a plastic dish brush living near our sink, so when they die they can be replaced by these non-plastic alternatives.


Day 7

Vegan Day.

I tried to keep the whole week fairly vegetarian (we sneaked in a bit of smoked mackerel one day), but I wanted to try a vegan day too.  Graham and I started the day with apple and chia seed bircher muesli (recipe here).  Effectively it's cold porridge; it was nice enough, but we agreed that the hot version is better at this time of year!


For lunch I had some leftover dhal and rice, and for dinner we had Quorn bbq sliders, adapted from this Budget Bytes recipe.  This is pretty easy, and I knew everyone liked it!  I mixed some cabbage and carrot with bottled French dressing to make a vegan coleslaw, too.  Dessert was canned peaches with vanilla soy yoghurt.

I have to say, having a fridge stocked with almond milk and soy yoghurt feels almost painfully trendy.  It's great that so many people are reducing their meat consumption, but it's an awkward balance sometimes between doing good and jumping on a middle-class bandwagon.  So many people in the world simply can't afford meat, and they don't get designer-label desserts to replace it with, either.  With that in mind...

Day 8

Donated to some ladies from my church who are going a step further than being vegan!  They're just eating beans and rice for five days, to raise money for Tearfund.  Find their JustGiving page here, if you'd like to find out more.

Day 9


On my list was watching the documentary Meat the Truth, but it hasn't quite happened yet.  Hopefully I'll fit that in next week.

Day 10


Remember that we started collecting all our plastic on day 4?  Today was the day that we tipped it all out to see where it came from and what we could do about it.  The boys and I divided it into categories and weighed it. 


Our total recyclable plastic was 560g, with most of that coming from plastic bottles (267g, plus another 94g of milk bottles).  We get through quite a lot of squash - if anyone's got any tips on how to train your kids to drink water, let me know!  I've completely failed on that.

Our total non-recyclable plastic was 257g - mostly plastic wrappers of various sorts.  Cereal bags, bread bags, vegetable and fruit wrappers.  I've cut down on a lot of vegetable packaging by getting a vegetable box for the last few months, but this is full of the kind of stuff that the boys don't like - cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts - so I still buy a few extra bits, including frozen veg.  It's difficult to see how to reduce this much, unless we stop eating cereal and bread!

It was quite alarming how much plastic we got rid of in one week.  Those plastic bags and bottles don't weigh very much, but we had over 800g of them!  Still, the boys are doing "Waste Week" at school, and are supposed to be making something out of old plastic bottles.  They dived into the pile with enthusiasm and much sellotape, and are gradually constructing a castle and a rocket.

In summary, reducing our meat consumption is a lot easier than reducing our plastic waste!  We've been cutting down on meat for a while so usually only have it once or twice a week anyway.  Perhaps if I adopt the same tactic for plastic, it will have the same effect.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Lent Guide to Climate Revolution

Is it me, or is Lent a very stealthy season of the year?  I always think I have weeks to work out what I'm going to do, and then it sneaks up on me and bam! there I am cooking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and wondering if I actually am going to give anything up, and if so, what, when, how and why.

This year, I felt like something to help the environment would be appropriate.  The Tenants of the King Bible study that I'd done back in the autumn had increased my conviction that this was important, but there were a lot of things that I knew I could do and hadn't quite got around to yet.

I'd seen a link to Living Lent, which suggested six challenges.  All of them sounded slightly unachievable.  I didn't want to commit to something that I didn't actually think I could do.

Then, right on Ash Wednesday, The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution thumped onto my doormat.  A plan started to form.  With some of the ideas from this book, plus some of the things I'd been meaning to do for a while, I would find 40 ways to help make our family more environmentally friendly.  And, of course, blog about it.

The first step was to read the book.

Day 1 and 2

Get and read (quite a lot of) The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker.  This book definitely met my expectations.  The author clearly cares deeply about what kind of world her kids are inheriting, and has devoted her own and her family's life to making it a better one.  But she also manages to keep a sense of humour and fun, not to mention a fair dose of common sense.  The result is a mix of some obvious ways to make your family green (Plant Trees, Used is Cool) combined with ways to inspire your children (Bring On the Awe, Amplify Kids' Voices) and some things which you wouldn't think were related to climate at all (Bury Your Neighbor's Chicken, and my favourite: Chainsaw the Fence).  On this last one: yes, real saw; yes, real fence; and yes, we are not the only people in the world to make a hole in the fence so that our kids can share their trampoline!




Also Day 2

Make a cape for Theo's World Book Day costume out of an old T-shirt.  In the interests of full disclosure, I did go shopping for yellow material, but couldn't find any.  So Graham kindly let me cut up an old yellow T-shirt, and I got to score at least some brownie points for homemade upcycling.  It's dead easy; there are instructions here, for example.



Day 3

Sign and share a Greenpeace petition to encourage the UK government to pass a strong Environment Bill.  There are always loads of these petitions floating around, and whether the government pays much attention to them, I don't know.  But it takes about 20 seconds, and it might help.  Probably a direct letter helps more, but that's also on my list for another day.

Adjust the heating programme.  It's not super-warm out there any more, but it is generally milder, and I knew we probably didn't need the heating on quite so much.  Just hadn't done anything about it yet.  So this was a good prompt to do it, and save some gas.



Day 4

Start a plastic audit.  I've recruited the rest of the family for this one.  We're putting all of the plastic that we'd normally throw away in a separate bin this week.  Next weekend, we'll look through and see where most of our plastic waste comes from, and whether we can reduce it.