Friday 25 November 2011

How Much Do We Pay For Flipping Packaging?

Have you ever thought how much do we pay for that tin that our beer or beans come in?  What do you think about recycling?  How much energy do we use washing the can and removing the label even and driving to take it to the 'Recycle centre'?

I think the shops and manufacturers should display the price of the packaging on the product:  Even 'Organic' vegetables come wrapped in plastic.  What's good about wrapping something free of chemicals - in chemicals?  I think packaging should say:

"This can cost fifty pence for the can and 50p for the contents.

We would soon put stuff back if we knew how much we paid for the packaging wouldn't we?  I heard (dunno if its true) that some German shoppers took their packaging back to the supermarkets and told them to get rid of the packaging for them.

The sad thing about it all.  Is that we pay for the packaging and then we'pay' again to get rid of it.  Then they recycle some of it and we pay for it again.

I think its time that we went back to the old corner shop.  A place where everything is sold 'loose' and in good old fashioned brown-paper.  You can't even get your Fish and Chips (why is it not Chips and Fish) wrapped in newspaper any-more.  You used to be able to get 'proper' fish and chips cooked in animal fats (beef dripping) and you had something to read while you ate your meal!

What do you think readers?

Sunday 20 November 2011

Have you got a spare coat?

"Could you ever forgive my self-pity?
When you've got nothing and you're living on the streets of the city.
I couldn't live without my phone.
But you don't even have a home."

That's a verse from Mel C's: "If that were me".  Its a song about the homeless.  According to latest statistics (I found it on Google) I think there are over a million people homeless in the UK and 300000 people in the republic of Ireland.  These people are everywhere.  In the city, towns and countryside.

The weather is getting colder and its awful to think that there are human beings sleeping rough, on some one's couch, in a car or van or even sitting in a airport or a twenty four hours cafe like McDonald's.    We can all help a bit this week by donating our money to a charity like the Salvation Army, or even by just donating a coat.  ITV's Daybreak television is launching a 'Donate a Coat' appeal from the 21 - 25th of November.

They just want you to donate a coat to one of the 150 UK Salvation Army centres or put it in a Salvation Army  clothing bank at Asda.  These coats will be given to homeless people and people who are in need of them.  I know times are financially difficult.  But most of  us have a spare coat that will help keep somebody warm this Winter.  Go on folks.  Feel good and donate a coat and think you have helped somebody!

Thursday 17 November 2011

The Storms.

Hi there.  I live next to the sea in the middle of the countryside in West Cork, Southern Ireland.  We get some terrible storms from the Atlantic from November to March.  Today is no different and the wind is swirling round the house and the rain is lashing against the windows and I still haven't repaired that over flowing guttering.  To quote Archie Sparrow (the character from my funny book about baling string):

"I wouldn't put a milk bottle out in this weather."


"It's that cold, even the rats are wearing fur coats."

Yes folks.  Its that time of year when we smallholders have to house the farm animals and give them hay and think about all those poor people and animals suffering in the countryside.  There are lots of poor people living a rural existence.  I have seen people living in vans and tepees in the countryside.  The countryside is not just a place for rich farmers or 'weekender's' and 'holiday house's' with Aga ovens and plastic mud on the Chelsea tractors (Range Rovers).

Here's: WIND: Ted Hughes.

This house had been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door.  I dared once to look up-
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guy-rope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap:
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly.  The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it.  Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other.  We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the windows tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Can a Smallholder make a living writing from their little house?

I suppose I can call myself one of the lucky ones - I own my own smallholding.  Yes I have no mortgage and haven't got a lot of debt.  The old well dried up in July.  So I had to shave my head and go and see the Credit Union and do my Life Of Brian sketch:

"Shekel for an ex leper?"

It worked and the lads and lasses from ye oldie Credit Union gave me a loan for nearly five thousand.  It's nine percent interest and over five years.  That's a lot of pennies or Euro's to be paid back every month.  Isn't it eh dear readers?

So I would like to know if anybody knows how to make money working from the comfort of their own house or even cow shed?    Any successful writers?  What is a successful writer? Somebody who is published or somebody who makes lots of money?

What do you think?

Saturday 12 November 2011

Daft Arguments.

Many moons ago I used to live in a little house in England.  One morning we arose and cooked ourselves a hearty breakfast; bacon, egg, beans, tomatoes, black pudding, white pudding (I'm getting hungry), fried bread, toast, coffee, tea, orange juice, cuddly toy, conveyor

The aromas must of wafted and oozed their way through the walls or even windows of my next door neighbours residence.  I think the sun was 'cracking the flags' for a change (must of been December?) and everybody had decided to leave their windows open and let the blue bottles in.  

All of a sudden the early morning peace was shattered by my neighbours having a domestic:

"Why do we never get any effing bacon?"  

What's the daftest argument you have overheard?

Wednesday 9 November 2011

A Northern England Chip Shop Tale: Dan- dock Lemonade.

When I was knee high to a dolly tub or even a pigeon.  My mother and father used to own a grocery shop.  Every Monday morning the 'pop' man would deliver minerals every week.  He used to deliver Dan-dock (Dandelion and Burdock) and Cola and Cream Soda and Lemonade and Orange...  I think he was a frustrated comedian because he was always laughing and joking:

"Here lad.  Which nineteen fifties pop group is still going to day?"


"Ben Shaw's".  

One merry morn the pop man kept giggling and laughing while he unloaded his wares.  My mother asked him why he kept laughing?

"I've just been to this Chinese chippy and they gave me this order".

He puts on a Chinese accent:

"Me want Dan-dock (Dandelion and Burdock) lemonade, Dan-dock Orange, Dan-dock Coca Cola, Dan-dock Cream Soda..."

They thought that Dan-dock (the Lancashire name for Dandelion and Burdock) was the name of the company that made it!

Well it made me laugh any way!

Monday 7 November 2011

Anybody recycling their baling string?

I have lived on my smallholding for nearly ten and half years.  Before that I had four vegetable allotments in England.  Allotments are great and you meet lots of like minded people.  Especially the one who 'talks' a good allotment.  They will tell you everything that you should be doing and everything that you are doing is WRONG!    Then one day you decide to take a look at their plot and it's full of WEEDS!

Smallholding farming teaches you self reliance skills and how to recycle everything  - especially baling string!  Yes I am the author of a baling string book.  Its called: Archie Sparrows book of Useful tips to Beat the Recession with..............Baling String.   Its on Amazon books and it will make a brilliant Christmas present for somebody.  I think you should rush out and order ten copies each.

Thanks for reading this!

Friday 4 November 2011

A Great War Poet.

Today is the 4th of November.  It is also the day that Wilfred Owen was killed shepherding his company across the Sambre canal in First World War France.  He died just a week from the Armistice.  Next week will be a special day.  It will be the 11.11.11.

I once stood outside Wilfred Owen's old house: Plas Wilmot in Oswestry.  Here's one of his poems:


What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing - down of blinds.

Thursday 3 November 2011

The Black Dog Bites Again

Winston Churchill used to call his depression "the Black Dog".  A lot of writers say that they suffer from depression from time to time.  I have suffered from depression for most of my life - especially 'writers' depression.  Have you?

"I talk to God but the sky is empty".  Sylvia Plath.

You think everything is going great and then all of a sudden the 'Black Dog' appears  and bites you.  The isolation of the countryside  (I am a smallholder) and hours and hours in solitary confinement (sat in my study tapping the computer keys) all help to make the black dog manifest.  

Depression and creativity are said to be very closely linked.  I personally think its the lack of control that makes the writer so frustrated and depressed.  We're always waiting for that email, letter, blog comment,  Amazon book rating...?  The one that says:

 "We like your work".  

The one that brings home the bacon and you feel that you have provided.

There's only one way to cure the 'Black Dog blues'.

Write through it!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday 1 November 2011


Hows it going al-right?

I thought I would have a rant today about 'new authors' (I'm nearly 48) not getting a fair crack of the whip in the posh newspapers (any newspapers), or even on the Book-show on Sky Arts?  Come on Marie-la Frostrup,  give us an email!  I will bring  the programme down a level or ten for you .

Do the the 'big' publishers have journalist contacts or do they spend tons on adverts?  Or is it the old case of:

"Its not what you know - its who you know!"

The papers and book charts seem to be full of television and sports celebrities at the moment.  Famous faces seem to sell books.

Do you think any one would interview a smallholder author who writes books about baling string and moans about the weather and spends too much writing and shouting on his computer gizmo Internet apparatus?

One day I will win the Booker prize.  Won't I?  Eh readers?

Anybody there?

Seriously.  What do you think?

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