In 2008 and 2009 I did quite a fair bit of travel for work. In 2008 I was away for probably about three months all up on biz. And on those trips I stayed in lots of hotels and brought back all the soap and other bathroom bits. I used to like to use them as hand soaps in the bathroom. The body wash and shampoo was great to take to the pool or away for the weekend. After a while I realised I had collected quite a bit of bathroom bits. Like A LOT of bathroom bits. They ended up all in an overnight bag and since 2008 mm and I have been rummaging the bag and not once have we had to buy soap, body wash or shampoo. Over two years.
That’s a bit bonkers isn’t it? I mean, I did a lot of travel, but should there be enough soap and other bits to provide ‘bathroom care’ for over two years? For two people and their guests? We are starting to reach the end of our bag of bathroom bits. The end of a bag of lots of small plastic bottles. The plastic bottles that maybe are tossed away as they are half empty when left in a shower, or a cake of soap tossed after one wash of the hands.
More hotels need to do what the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto does. They have small hand crafted cakes of soap, shampoo and body moisturiser. All of them are cakes, and they are sparingly wrapped in a simple paper strip.
So while this last two years have been great – no soap buying, no body wash, no shampoo (I guess I don’t wash my hair much but that’s for another post…) but I can’t help thinking that the whole little bottles of bathroom bits in hotels is just a bit bonkers. They go on and on about “saving water” and reusing your towels, but still fill their showers with millions and millions of tiny plastic bottles. Silly stuff indeed.
It’s not easy being green living in an apartment. You can do all the basic stuff, like change lightbulbs, have a water efficient shower head, turn off your appliances at the walls etc, but you often miss out on being able to do the “bigger stuff” that living in a house gives you. We live in an apartment building that has no grey water, no solar power, no water tanks etc. We thought we’d give a worm farm a go and MM acted as head worm farmer for about twelve months. He discovered though that worms are very fussy eaters so we were still throwing away any food waste that was acidic like tomatoes or citrus. At the time I was pregnant and was going through juicing oranges like no one’s business. It still felt like we were chucking out more waste than what we needed. You are also not supposed to feed the worms anything that may attract vermin, so bread and meat scraps were out as well. My mum also lives in an apartment, and was having the same dilemma as us. She was contemplating getting a worm farm until someone mentioned to me about this “Japanese under the sink composting thing” and Mum investigated and discovered the Bokashi.
The Bokashi is great – it sits under your sink or in the bottom of a pantry. You can put pretty much anything in it (except bones!) and it slowly ferments and breaks down your food waste. You then dig a hole and put it in a garden, or in someone’s compost. For a little while we had some issues finding a place to put our full Bokashi bucket waste, but MM has since made contact with the community gardeners at the Addison Road Centre and they happily take our stuff.
The key to the Bokashi is – funnily enough – the Bokashi itself – a substance that looks like sawdust; it’s actually sawdust and bran. You sprinkle it on your waste in the bucket and it helps break down the food matter, and keeps it stench-free. You can even drain off the water for the Bokashi Juice to dilute and water your garden with; in our case our pot plants.
So while we can’t do anything too massive in our apartment, the Bokashi is one way to help cut down on waste.
Around late October, early November I am having a baby. I have decided to go all public – no stuffing around with obstetricians and the like, just my GP and the midwives at the birthing centre are going to manage my care.
Mostly it’s all been easy, and to top it off, all free. But I have to book a bed at the hospital for after the baby is born. And for four days I’ve been trying in vain to get through to the RPA antenatal admissions line. It’s constantly engaged (baby boom anyone?), and when it does ring, no one answers.
Not sure what will happen if I can’t get through. Will I have my baby and then they’ll send me home? Because I don’t have a reservation?
Port Kembla steel works (State Records NSW)
I am a pretty optimistic person. Work is still busy. And the ultimate symbol of optimism, in about 5 months mm and I are having a baby.
The global financial crisis has dented a lot of people’s optimism – made us a little more cautious, feel a little more vulnerable, that kind of thing. Counter to this, there is also a lot of attitudes that oppose this – facing the crisis head on and saying “piss off”. Morgan Hotel group launched it’s “Fuck the recession” campaign late last year, Dirk Singer spoke of a hand written letter he received stating “We refuse to participate in the recession“. We even have the Sunrise show here with Reject the Recession – complete with a mobile phone ring tone. I admire this spirit (even as annoying someone like Koshie and his ilk can be). But a few weeks ago I watched a Four Corners episode focussing on the impact of the recession on the southern Illawarra region – not very far from where I grew up, and where I have some members of my family living.
It’s an area dominated by the industry of Port Kembla – a steel works, a copper smelter, and the once-busy harbour itself where steel and coal is shipped out, and overseas imports arrive. My grandfather worked at the copper plant and my uncle and aunt at the steel works. Wollongong had a “sister” steel city in Newcastle, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief when BHP chose to close the Newcastle plant over the Wollongong one. But lately steel production has been cut significantly, which then impacts on the amount of goods being shipped out of the port, which then ultimately impacts on the whole economy of the area. To top this off, Pacific Brands have shut down it’s factory there too.
So as I watched this episode of Four Corners that told the story of a worker at the port who was classified as “under-employed” but not unemployed – he gets one shift a fortnight, and a woman who lost her job at Pacific Brands, I thought, sure, I can say “Fuck the recession” – no fucking problem. My mortgage has just dropped and I have an extra few hundred bucks each month, and I get good rent from it to help out with this as well. Everything I’ve needed to buy over the last few months I’ve managed to be able to buy on sale. I earn a good salary. I have a roof over my head. I’m going to get some paid maternity leave, and have some holiday pay saved up so I can afford to take a year off work. But after watching that episode, and seeing a region sort of dying, it felt a little bit narrow-minded and naive to do so. Sure, we can say “I refuse to take part”, but we need to acknowledge there are a growing group of people who have no choice – they are wrapped up in this issue completely. So we can keep spending, and give the R-word the finger, but what happens to this group who are under-educated and under-skilled? A longer term solution needs to be found so some of us don’t all get left behind.
to; email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
subject: regarding “Green ideas must take blame for deaths” (12th February)
Sir / Madam
After your publication of Miranda Devine’s opinion piece “Green ideas must take blame for deaths” (12th February) I will not be visiting your website, nor buying a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald ever again.
While I understand this was an “opinion” piece I feel it was very poor judgment by the Sydney Morning Herald Editors to publish a piece so clearly designed to stir up and promote hatred, set against such a tragic and horrible event. People are already confused, angry and saddened by what has happened. It was irresponsible and insensitive to lay claim to an such a simplistic answer on who is to blame now, and in the manner that Devine did.
“It is not arsonists who should be hanging from lamp-posts but greenies.” I cannot believe any paper would publish this at any time, let alone less than a week after what your own journalists have described as one of our country’s greatest tragedies. Devine has conveniently left out the environmental factors contributing to that day (extremely high temperatures and strong winds) and lay blame at the foot of environmentalists without any real facts to back up her argument.
While Ms Devine remains in your employment, and you still allow her to write such inflammatory and insensitive “opinion pieces” I no longer wish to have anything to do with your publication, or indeed anything to do with any of Fairfax Limited’s associated entities.
Last night I managed to upload a few more pictures to flickr from our holiday in September. These were “regular” Versailles – without the kooky Koons touches.
I walked around Versailles with my mouth open. mm wasn’t as impressed. He liked the gardens though and we had a great afternoon riding around the Grand Lake and into the Trianon. But he thought the main Chateau was a little bit “over the top”. This made me think about my art history “training” – aesthetically don’t judge, but place in context. For me Versailles was an amazing lightening rod for France – a physical embodiment of all that was great in French arts, architecture, fashion, applied arts. It put Paris and its tradesmen and women on the map. People had to ave what was in Versialle. But its physical disconnection from Paris meant it also bred an odd “other worldliness” about itself, which led a king to believe he was absolute, and a court that was about as far removed from real life as possible.
What was amazing was the “reality” that the Queen created in The Hamlet and Le Petit Trianon. The Hamlet is like an eighteenth century Disney Land. A hyper-real farm, with bucolic dales and towers and dairys. It was left in ruin until a recent interest in the life of Marie Antoinette and the cash came flowing in (I have heard especially from wealthy Americans). This cash has also led to the restoration of the Petit Trianon – a small chateu and other surrounding buildings, including a small, perfect theatre where she performed little plays to friends and family. It’s quite amazing to see this little world that apes reality, but is so removed it’s a strange simulation instead.
On the weekend we were listening to ABC News radio and an interview with Ron Suskind. He was recounting talking to one of Bush’s aids who was critical of Suskinds “reality-based community” based on facts and analysis, and that Bush and his government had created an Empire that people like Suskind would be left to study. Bush it appeared like to use his “gut instinct” a lot. I’ve also been watching the Howard Years on ABC and Howard used his “gut” as well (about Tampa, about Iraq and WMDs, and I cannot wait to hear what he says about the AWB and wheat deal with Iraq). These worlds eventually crumble. If they are not based in the thrust and movement of reality they have to fall as they’re cemented on nothing but the gut. And while your gut will get you so far, sometimes that “feeling” in your stomach is just what you’ve had for lunch.
I work with a guy who has just had his application for permanent residency rejected by the Department of Immigration. He was previously on a 457 working Visa. His partner is allowed temporary residency as well on this visa.
His application has been rejected because they are in a same sex relationship.
This is crazy on SO MANY LEVELS! Now they have 28 days to sort something out, or leave the country.
Only yesterday we heard that a German family have been granted residency, after their initial application was refused as their son has Down Syndrome. Dr Moeller was working as a doctor in rural Australia, but the Immigration department felt his son may be a drain on the medical system. This decision was overturned yesterday by the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans.
Under the Howard government we witnessed such appalling attitudes to immigration. But the underlying law forming our Immigration policies are still discriminatory.
My friend could have got residency if …
a) his partner was Australian (even if same sex)
b) he lied in his application that he was single (as he qualified on all other respects)
So it’s OK for the Government to let in a same sex couple into Australia under a 457 Visa scheme – as long as they leave at the end of the day.
I am contacting The Department of immigration to find out how I can lodge a complaint, and contacting the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans.