Plogging along.

The last Sunday in October has been a  standing date in my diary for the last decade or so. This is the day the Seven Bridges Walk (SWB) is normally held. The Seven Bridges Walk is a 30-ish km walk around the foreshores of Sydney. (You can see the route in the Alltrails app) It is organised each year by the Cancer Council as a fundraiser. Well, every year except the last two, when it’s been interrupted by Covid. 

I have participated in this fundraising event at least 12 times (maybe more!?). Sometimes alone, but usually with 2 or 3 friends. It’s a fun day out and apart from what you may spend on donations/registration fees you could make it a very cheap day’s entertainment. There are “villages” set up along the way to buy food and drinks, but you could bring your own. The whole route is accessible by public transport, which on Sunday has an $8:15 cap

At the end of the walk, my friends and I always reward ourselves with a beer and some potato wedges at a pub at our endpoint. After that, we haul our tired bodies out of the chairs and head home. 

This one from 2017, with my buddy Michele.

Stanwell Park to Wollongong

Last year, since the “real” walk, was cancelled two of my buddies and I decided to do a local walk from Stanwell Park to Wollongong. This as it happens, is also a 30 km walk. 

The scenery is amazing and heading south, it is all downhill! There are shops, parks, water fountains and public toilets at convenient intervals so you don’t have to carry much if you don’t want to. In contrast to the Seven Bridges Walk, we lost count at twenty bridges of one kind or another, but here is one spectacular bridge – The Seacliff Bridge which makes the walk worthwhile in itself.

The deck of the Seacliff Bridge.

Cancelled again!

This year the SBW was cancelled again due to the uncertainties of Covid. The organisers were encouraging people to do it on their own or in small groups,  without the usual support crews, villages and checkpoints. While many restrictions have been lifted since Freedom Day (11 October), large crowds are still not a great idea and LOTS of people usually join the walk. In fact, due to overcrowding, the walk has been capped at 15,000 participants.

Once again the idea of going into the city when things were still a bit sketchy in terms of safety was unpalatable, so we decided to do the Stanwell Park to Wollongong walk again. This year we changed it up by adding plogging. That is, we walked and picked up rubbish as we went. Plogging is a Swedish term that has become a worldwide movement. According to the plogging.org website the first organised plog happened in 2016 in Stockholm. 

Grabbers and garbage bags at the ready!

Plogga (or plogging) is the basis of a collective name where we want to change the setting and get everyone to become “Proud litter pickers”.

plogging.org

Although it took us longer to walk the 30 km than usual, the beer at the end was still a goal to aim for. We picked up rubbish for the first 25 km but decided we better hurry as it was getting later and we really needed to be getting home. We walked the last 5km at a cracking pace which made the beer even sweeter!

Add plogging to your eco-warrior repertoire

Plogging is an easy thing to add to your eco-warrior quiver. The ocean is downhill from everywhere and it’s sad to think all those bits of plastic wrapper will eventually end up there. Some will fly down and sea creatures will eat them thinking it’s food, or if the plastic hangs around in the sun long enough it will degrade and the microplastic will contaminate the soil. 

Apart from plogging, alternative solutions to littering include taking better care of our own rubbish or even better still avoiding stuff that makes rubbish. If you want ice cream, get one in a cone without the packaging. Easy!

Even though I think plogging is a great idea and it’s fun and easy to do when you’re with your buddies, I’m working up the courage to do it solo. I haven’t seen anyone in my area do it yet. Maybe I can be a plogging trail blazer! 

ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

PS: The previously promised Part 2 of Eco-friendly painting will appear soon!

Furious Fiction 24 – October 2021

Here is my entry for October’s Furious Fiction Competition. Furious Fiction is a short story competition brought to you by the Australian Writers Centre. 500 words, 55 hours and a $500 Prize.

This month’s prompts

Each month there is a different set of prompts that must be incorporated into the story. The prompts are published at 5:00 PM Friday and the competition closes at midnight on Sunday. This month 1 AM on Monday morning to allow for daylight savings time. Sometimes you have to use the exact word, sometimes you can use a different tense or variant. This month:

  • The scene had to be a court of some kind
  • one of the characters had to measure something
  • the story must use the words umbrella, rock and balloon (or variations of)

Story Stats: This month the entry is 497 words. I started at 6:30 PM on Friday and worked on it for about 2 hours. I tidied it up on Saturday morning and sent it to my editorial team for review. (Thanks mum!) It was submitted at 9:15 AM, Sunday morning after some final tweaks. For the pedants, I know that there is some poetic license here. A compensation case would not be heard by a magistrate in a court. It would take a long time before it was heard so the “client” would probably not still be injured. It’s my story and I’ll control the action!

Any Reasonable Person

Jones rifled through the papers on the bench gathering his thoughts in response to the magistrate’s question. 

 “Technically, your Honour, he was acting under the instructions of an umbrella company.” 

The magistrate sniffed with derision.

“An umbrella company you say. You mean your client was a stooge for another fellow that was trying to sell tickets to a rock concert in a paddock. In the middle of nowhere. In the middle of a pandemic?” 

“If by stooge your Honour you mean ‘subcontractor’, then yes you could characterise it that way.”

“And what, exactly, was your client’s job?”

“As your Honour has quite rightly pointed out, we are in the middle of a pandemic. My client was engaged to determine the size of the paddock so that the promoter could calculate how many tickets he could sell. Your Honour is familiar with the 1.5 metre and 4 per square metre rules?”

“Yes, Jones. I am familiar. We are all painfully familiar with the rules after three years in and out of lockdown.”

The magistrate adjusted his mask and removed his glasses. “Bloody things keep fogging up!”

“Have you tried spitting on them, your Honour?”

“Spitting on them, you say Jones?”

“Yes, it works for divers’ goggles.”

“Spit on them during an air-borne pandemic? Grand idea, Jones! I can tell you thought about that as hard as your client thought about the sense of selling tickets to a concert during a pandemic. Aside from that Jones you should be familiar with the current laws that make public spitting an offence.”  

The magistrate returned his glasses to his nose. “It doesn’t matter how big the paddock was Jones, they shouldn’t have been planning a bloody concert in the first place!”

“Ah yes, but my client was led to believe that the concert was to be held after the public health orders had been lifted.” 

“Just a moment, Jones. Why did they need to measure the paddock then? It doesn’t make any sense. It wouldn’t matter how big the paddock was.”

“Good point, your Honour! But I remind you he was a subcontractor, he wasn’t organising the concert, just measuring the paddock.”

“Hrrrrmmpphh!  There is also the issue of your client being well outside his LGA without a permit or an allowable exemption.”

“Yes, yes all true your Honour. Irrespective of these facts, there remains a legitimate claim for compensation for his work-related injuries.”

The magistrate looked at the man next to Jones. A sorry sight. Both legs and his right arm in full casts; his bruised eyes peeking out from behind heavy bandaging.  

“That may be so, Jones. However, given that he was trespassing, without the appropriate permit and that he was involved in the planning of an illegal activity; I am not inclined to grant it. Apart from that, he should have bloody looked up. Any reasonable person could have avoided being under a hot air balloon as it landed.  After all, it was a bloody big paddock!” 

I’m in the basket. This image taken by the balloon crew.

Other stories

I have submitted stories for Furious Fiction lots of time (at least 24!) Never a winner, only long listed once but I look forward to it every month. My favourites so far have been the Frankie series. You can find the first in the Frankie Series here.

Eco-friendly Painting? Part 1

Painting and the flow state.

During the last NSW school holidays and while Greater Sydney was into its fourth month of COVID Lockdown 2.0, I painted the interior walls of my home. Coupled with some good podcasts it was a marvellous way to pass a week in home-bound productive mess-making!

Some of you may find painting a chore, but I like it! It requires my attention, but not too much. While it’s within my skill set, I need to concentrate on the tricky bits like cutting in the edges around windows, door frames and cornices. I can do it all day and lose track of time. Some days, I get a sudden pang of hunger only to realise I haven’t had lunch and it’s nearly dinner time.  I know what I have to do and how long it will take so it’s an activity with a clear goal. The new paint job looks fresh and bright and my home is looking good.  You may recognise that these parameters offer a wonderful opportunity to enter a state of flow

The idea of flow is not a new one and the concept was developed by psychology professor and happiness researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the mid-1970s. If you are not familiar with flow, this TED Talk will get you up to speed. (And help you pronounce his name! Chick-sent-me-high!) 

Preparing the walls

My steps to Eco-friendly painting

Finding flow is a bit like finding the Holy Grail for happiness seekers like me but is not really what this post is meant to be about! My goal was to write about eco-friendly painting.

Before I started, I considered the best way to reduce the impact my painting would have on the environment. Even so, I seemed to be using an awful lot of plastic!! The steps I took included:

  • wrapping my brushes and rollers in plastic bags at the end of each session rather than washing them out to save water and save all that paint going down the drain. 
  • using the same plastic wrappers each time to reduce plastic use.
  • using plastic roller tray liners rather than washing the trays out each time,  again to stop water contamination. Mind you I stood in the aisle in the hardware store for a long while debating this point with myself! 
  • using more expensive paper-backed plastic drop sheets that I could re-use next time I paint rather than single-use ones. 
  • Buying wooden-handled brushes (win!) but they had synthetic bristles (lose!). A win-lose rather than a win-win
  • Using old cloth rags to wipe my hands and drips rather than “new wipes” although I still did use a whole roll of paper towel because I am not a very neat painter.

On the whole, I thought I was doing ok! High five to me!

It’s a bit smelly in here! 

With the painting finished and the mess cleared away it struck me (a little late in the piece)  that I had missed an eco-warrior opportunity.  After all, I had essentially just coated my walls with a thin film of plastic, the very thing I was trying to avoid. 

And then there was the smell!   It took the next three days, even with all the windows and doors open, to vent the fumes that lingered. Thankfully the weather was perfect; a light breeze swished through the house to chase that painty odour away. 

Although I deliberately bought a low fume, water-based paint, it still stank! I mulled over a barrage of questions. Were those fumes bad for me? Was there a more environmentally friendly non-plastic paint? Would a non-plastic based paint also be smelly?  Would it work as well? Would it be in the colour I wanted? Would I have been able to buy it in my area? Would I be able to afford it? So many questions!

Google was invented for questions such as these!

After a few hours down the painted internet rabbit hole, I came away with some answers and even more questions. The answers to the seven questions in the paragraph above are: yes, yes, yes, maybe, perhaps, no and probably not! 

The desk was too heavy for me to move, so I painted around it!

So what did I find out? Stay tuned for the answers in Part 2 in two weeks time!