Ecohack 5 – Reducing plastic use

Reducing my environmental impact

Is plastic use a problem for you too? I am trying hard to reduce my environmental impact. In a previous post, I quoted a research paper that showed a tiered approach to reducing your impact. From those activities that have a big impact, like ditching the car or having only one child, down to things that while helpful, have a fairly small individual impact. Having said that, if every individual on the planet did that small thing, like switching to a mostly plant-based diet, the impact would be huge!

Roasted Beetroot Salad
Eating a plant-based diet makes an impact!

 

High Impact Decisions

In my thirties, I made a high impact decision to have only one child based on environmental impacts. At the time, back in the 1990s, it was a bold decision that copped flack from my peers and my (ex)partner.  It came about when I did a subject as part of my teaching degree about the environment.  We went on an excursion to a property on the Georges River near Lugano in Sydney. The owner, an old fellow called Ted, had some ramshackle displays made from recycled bibs & bobs and warned us of the dangers of climate change. I was deeply affected and feared the world my child would inhabit.  He was definitely ahead of his time. Most of my classmates thought he was a looney. I don’t remember his last name and the interwebs are so far silent, on his activities. Nonetheless, the information changed my life.

Plastic is everywhere!

As to moderate and low impact actions, I am consuming less, wasting less and travelling less. [Although travelling less seems like cheating as there is no way to travel far at the moment!] I buy second hand whenever I can.

Despite all these good intentions, I am thwarted by plastic!  Plastic use is my big downfall,  an epic fail. On July 1 when I decided to give Plastic-free July a try, I came home from the shops with 4 bits of plastic wrapping my food! My garbage/recycling bin is still full of plastic stuff.

I don’t know the origin of this quote, but it sums things up pretty well

“It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.”

 

Epic Plastic Fails

Plastic Fail number 1: I wear contact lenses. I use daily disposable lenses because I had serious issues with adhesions from the longer-term ones. As a result, every day, I end binning the two little plastic wells and the foil lids.  I have tried to think of ways to recycle them or at least repurpose them but have yet to come up with an idea. It seems like I am not the only one worried about this waste. There are collect and return systems in the US but I don’t think they are in action in Australia. They could make little paint pots?

Solution: I could wear glasses, a money-saving option. I could get laser surgery on my eyes, an expensive option. Wearing contacts is pure vanity, although I did try multifocal lenses a few years back, they made me nauseous and dizzy. Perhaps it’s time to try again.

Plastic Fail number 2: Plastic containers. Everything comes wrapped or packaged in plastic! Milk, dishwashing liquid, shampoo, soap etc etc etc. On the food front; berries, cherry tomatoes, bread are a few examples. Nearly every damn thing is in plastic!

Solutions: I have switched to making as much of my own food as I can with the time I have available. This reduces some of the packaging. I buy my veggies loose, and use fabric produce and shopping bags. But you can’t buy some things without plastic. I guess the choice is not to buy them all.

IMG_5095 2
I am getting pretty good at making my own bread!

I could try solid shampoo bars and buy other liquid products from the bulk store and re-use the containers. That’s on the agenda as a new zero-waste bulk grocery store has opened up near my home. The Port Grocer advertises itself as “affordable”. Let’s hope so.

I recently tried to buy milk in glass bottles. I could only find one shop about 15 km away, and the milk was literally twice as much as the regular milk!

Processed with VSCO with fn16 preset
Glass bottles for milk would be great!

Sigh! Whatever happened to the milkman and the return of the empties at the end of the driveway? Whatever happened to home-delivered bread in wax paper wrapping which was then used to wrap the sandwiches?

Modern, fast, wasteful life! That’s what happened!

 

Grey hair? Embrace it!

Every four weeks, I go to my lovely hairdresser, Katrina, and get my grey hair cut and coloured. I walk away feeling a million dollars with super sleek and shiny tresses. The greying temples and roots are successfully hidden once again and for a week or so can be completely forgotten.  While thankfully, it does not cost me a million to feel like a million – it is still a hefty commitment of money and time. For me, hairdressing is an essential service and my monthly trips have survived the budget cuts imposed by my  Year of Zero.

I am not really sure what my natural colour is. Neither can I remember when I began dying my hair. It’s something I have been doing in the salon or at home for, it seems, forever. I think the first time I changed my hair colour was back in high school, perhaps in Year 9? At that time, we used a product called Magic Silver Rose[1] or Magic Silver White undiluted. My bestie, Annette and I used to dip our fringes straight into the bottle to make it bright pink or purple. These products were initially designed for older women (“the blue rinse set“) to cover up the grey.

The bright hair trend is being repeated now. I giggle when I see young people with their hair dyed brilliant blue, green and pink thinking they are all original and rebellious. We did that – back in the ’70s.

I take my hat off to those women, like Helen Mirren, who wear their grey locks with style and elegance. Of course, being a celebrity and having a stylist on hand helps a little too! Some of my friends also have spectacular white or grey hair that looks very funky and they wear it with class. Perhaps it’s time for me to embrace the grey and stop dying my hair.

The question is, how do you go cold turkey on the dyeing front? Nothing says tacky quite like regrowth!

Step number one would be to move to a deserted island and come back in a year when your hair has grown enough so you can just cut it off in a cute little pixie style.

I chatted with Katrina about how to go about it. It is a long process, and once you start, you need to be committed. It combines cutting and colouring. Cutting off the previously dyed hair and re-colouring the new growth to match the grey coming through. After a year or so, voila – you have stunning grey hair that requires less maintenance. Or so the story goes.

And so far we a have only been speaking about head hair! (here’s a fun look at dyeing pubic hair!)

STOP! STOP! This is where you need to be able to insert sound effects in the written word.

Play the sound of a needle being scratched across a record as it is suddenly stopped.

SCREEEEETCHHHHHHHHHH……

This is not what my blog is about! This is not a representation of my values! Martha Stewart-like advice on how to change your hair colour! I feel like a fraud. Once again, I am drawn into this murky world of ageism and sexism. Where youth is queen, and older women become irrelevant and invisible. Where grey hair is synonymous with undesirable or unf@#kable.

Why is grey hair such an issue in the first place? I am reluctant to take the plunge and my own discourse around the whole grey issue is contradictory. I don’t think I should feel bad about being grey from a sociological standpoint, but I still have to live in this world!

We call men with greying temples distinguished. We call them silver foxes. Women are declared “brave” for letting their hair grey. Brave being code for “I wouldn’t do it”.

Why don’t women wear it as a badge of courage?

I got here! I survived! I didn’t do anything too stupid! I raised children!

The reasons are, of course, all tied up with marketing, consumerism and money. The hair dye industry is a multi-billion dollar industry globally. Seventy-five per cent of women colour their hair at some stage in their life. The number of men dying their hair is increasing.

Let’s not even get into a discussion about whether hair dye is toxic or harmful in any way to ourselves or to the environment. That’s a whole other ball game!

There is no way that sort of consumerist pressure is going to let us feel good about going grey. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

Let’s start chipping away at this ageism. One strand at a time!

 

Year of Zero Quarterly Review

Edited to Add 22/3/20: I wrote this post in early-February when things were a little less dire than they are now.  Australia was yet to be placed in lock-down due to the Corona Virus. Last night our Government announced Stage 1 of the process, with most public venues being closed down. I feel like an oracle or at least the start of a conspiracy theory. Here I was thinking I was doing something novel when a novel virus comes along and means EVERYONE is having a Year of Zero forced upon them. Hope you are all OK.

Stay safe, stay away and wash your hands! 


At the end of last year, I announced my big project for 2020, The Year of Zero. My aim is to spend as little as possible, save up plenty of zero’s and try to live a less wasteful lifestyle.

Three months are up and here is my first-quarter report.

1. No Overseas Travel

Tick! Nope, no international travel! I have been nowhere!

Score: 10/10

View in a car's rear view mirroe
No road trips this year! Or plane rides.

2. No extended travel within Australia

The only places I have been to were not at my expense and were part of my volunteer response to the devastating bushfires in NSW in January 2020. So tick, done!

Score: 10/10

3. No new stuff

I bought a handbag. It satisfied the rules for purchases as it was replacing a worn-out item and was second hand. It’s a stylish leather backpack that fits my zero waste kit in it (more on that later). I did get a few NEW new things for my grandson including two train sets.  I  bought some glass jars to make kombucha kits. I am hoping to sell these on.

A major expense in this quarter has been getting my dining chairs reupholstered as the crappy vinyl was peeling off and shedding everywhere. Kudos needed though! I repaired rather than replaced even though it was cheaper to buy new!

Score: 7/10

 

4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries.

I decided to cut my fortnightly budget by  40%. I thought I would struggle.  For the last three months I have been:

  1. Carefully planning meals and batch cooking after checking what’s in season and cheap.
  2. Following a frugal flexitarian diet  – Plenty of lentils and no fresh salmon fillets!
  3. Shopping from my cupboard – and it’s still not empty!
  4. Making use of the chest freezer that has been sitting empty in my garage for the last 6 years.
  5. Buying in bulk.
  6. Not shopping at Woolworths.
  7. Tracking my expenditure using an app.

These strategies have meant that most fortnights I actually have money left over even after the 40% cut. I have an inkling that a large proportion of the saved money would have previously been spent on booze as “booze-drunk-at-home” came out of the grocery allocation.

I am no longer buying the treats I used to buy, only having meat if I eat out and I’m making nearly everything from scratch.  Comment: Pasta is not worth making at home. Preserved lemons, on the other hand, are totally worth it! (A post about that soon)

Score: 10/10

5. Side hustle happenings

This is coming along slowly. I launched a photography business – OCE Photography – but have no bookings yet. I ran a couple of courses at the local community college and I sold all my 2020 calendars!! That’s good news because last year, I had 20 left over and lost money.  I have listed some greeting cards on my Etsy site

The most exciting news though is that I have had my first freelance article for money accepted.

I’m heading in the right direction but not about to replace the day job just yet!

Score: 5/10

6. Only sign up for Free Courses

In 2019, I spent a lot of money on courses and I have vowed to do only free courses in 2020. I have discovered Future Learn which has great courses.  It has a paid option as well, but the free version is working for me. I don’t want a certificate. So far, I have completed a course on Upcycling and Humanism. There are enough courses to keep me busy forever!

Score: 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

With the double aim of getting rid of clutter and making money, I plan to hold another garage sale. This has not happened yet.

Score:  0/10

8. Concentrate on free activities

Not sure what to report here. I didn’t spend much in the most recent school holiday period as I was assisting with fires. I generally go out with a group of friends once a week to trivia and since I’m not drinking, it’s a very cheap night out.

Score: N/A

9. Rewrite my 60 for 60

My revised 60 for 60 plan includes many expensive activities, mainly travel-related, which are now in conflict with my new goals. I have not rewritten them yet. I have completed 22 of the items on the original list.

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste eco-warrior.

I have been doing lots of reading and signed up to some blogs, newsletters and podcasts. However, I am still struggling with getting rid of plastic packaging. My worm farm is already at maximum capacity in terms of dealing with my food scraps. I need to get a compost bin too.

Wins on this front are much less food waste and creating a zero-waste kit which I am carrying around in the “new” backpack. This consists of a reusable coffee mug, cutlery kit, reusable bags and metal water bottle.

I feel I can do much better in the eco-warrior princess department.

Score: 5/10

11. Year of Zero Booze

Although not declared as an aim at the Year of Zero launch, I decided to stop drinking alcohol as a way of saving money and looking after my health. So far no booze since December 29th, 2019. I am aiming to do the full 12 months.

Score: 10/10

three bottles of kombucha
Brewing my own Kombucha saves a packet!

My overall score on a very arbitrary scale is 67%.

I’ll report back at the end of June for the half-yearly review.


Let’s hope the curve is flattened by then! And I think pasta has now become worth making at home!

 

 

 

The Sunday Post.

Looking for my regular Sunday Post? Last week I announced that sadly, I was abandoning my Mini-doc of the Week project. It has defeated me. During school terms, I don’t have the time to get out and make new content, let alone the time it takes to edit it.

This has caused me some anxiety. I was brought up with the mantra “if you start something finish it”.  I started a yearly challenge of one mini-doc a week, and now after only eight weeks, I’m walking away from it very unfinished. You may have noticed that I am very goal orientated.

You can see the evidence in my 60 for 60 project, the Year of Zero. Etc etc. I have immense respect for Matt Jonowsky, who completed a 52 Week video challenge a few years ago! He made 52 simple, short movies that are inspiring.

What will I post on Sundays instead? I have had a few ideas.

  1. Review of the week – a review of another blog, website, podcast, book etc
  2. Recipe of the week – a healthy gut-friendly remix of old favourites. This also gives me the opportunity to tune up my food photography.
  3. Photo of the week continued?
  4. A news story of the week
  5. Eco Tip of the week
  6. The short story of the week (might land me in the same trouble as the mini-doc!)
  7. Occasional mini-doc of the week.
  8. The crafternoon project of the week.
  9. App of the week?
  10. Money-saving tip of the week

The list could go on and on. And I have to get cracking on my A-Z of Wollongong posts too!! Oh dear, so many ideas so little time! By next week I’ll have Sundays sorted!

Reader Survey 2020

Personal Blog - personal photos

Hello! Is there anybody out there?

In 2019, I asked for your input through a reader survey. It’s time to do it again. I want to find out what is or isn’t working with this blog.

Since the first survey, I have been working on improving my SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and employed a copy editor who is fixing my typos and spelling errors. (Thanks Mum!) I have continued to write a long format post every week, and I included an additional weekly Photo of the Week post.

In 2020 I am going to

  • Continue with my promotion of my home town with the Snapshots from Wollongong series.
  • Have a focus on environmental issues, upcycling and how we can do better while using fewer resources.
  • Replace the Photo of the Week challenge with a mini-documentary of the week. This could be really challenging!!
  • Give quarterly updates on my Year of Zero (mainly to keep me accountable rather than entertain you!).
  • Continue to champion the life and times of older women.

According to my stats, I have more than 468 followers, an increase of 34 since the last survey. Despite this, I rarely get more than 30 views on each of my posts. Does this mean no-one out there is reading or are you reading via the WordPress Reader page? Perhaps you are reading in your email rather than on the browser? Apparently, you only get “views” counted in your stats if readers read your post on your actual webpage. (In which case, I’d appreciate you opening the posts in your browser so I know you’re there.)

I’d like to get an idea of who is out there and why you’re reading (or not reading as the case may be)

Can you help me out by filling in this survey? Thanks! 😀

Old Chook Enterprises Reader Survey 2020.

Please don’t add your name or other identifying information. It’s better if it’s anonymous and please play nice!

PS: I will collect responses and turn the survey off on March 6th 2020.

 

 

 

How to reduce your reliance on fossil fuel.

People Power, not Petrol Power!

An off-schedule post today to add to the theme of reducing your reliance on fossil fuel. It might become a regular feature; it might not! I am very mindful of being that annoying blogger who is always pushing things into your inbox. It might just morph into my regular Friday posts, but I felt the need to share this today.


A few months ago, I found a video from Liziqi Art of Cooking in my Facebook feed.  After five minutes of being mesmerised by the process of making silk by hand, I hit that follow button. Today another came into my feed about making cotton doonas.

Amazing!

It’s worth watching for the hand-driven technology. This is the way we need to go to save the planet. Use people power, not petrol power. Except for the fact it has been videoed and subsequently uploaded to social media, not one bit of fossil fuel can be seen in use.  Of course, there is a lot of wood-burning happening. Perhaps you could replace that with solar or wind-generated electricity?

Her cooking videos are amazing. Her life hacks and kitchen tips are great too.

I could, unfortunately, watch for hours and hours! I’d love to spend a couple of weeks living like this! Without a radical change to my existing life, it would be impossible for me to replicate, but it is absorbing. I can dream about such a simple life filled with hard and satisfying manual labour. I bet Liziqi doesn’t have to worry about counting calories and scheduling gym sessions!

The mix of excellent camera work, social media presence and traditional lifestyle show that these people are not living in the past, but savvy entrepreneurs. She has an online shop and fashion brand as well.

She has a huge following, and I am sure many of you know of her already. Even if it is only 50% “real” and 50% marketing it’s still a delight!

If you have an hour to spare dive in!

 

See my other posts about planet-saving!

My Scottish Road Trip comes to an end.

I began this post while I was sitting at Heathrow Airport, waiting to fly back to Australia. I have been home for a few days now, but have only just managed to get time to put something together for Friday’s deadline. I am planning on publishing some more considered posts about my vacation in Scotland over the next few weeks. I had a fabulous time and have so much to share!

–ooo–

The joys(?) of long haul flights

Edinburgh – 09:30

The prospect of being awake and upright for the two days is not a happy one. My Scottish vacation has come to an end, and today is the day to head back to Australia. The journey starts waiting for the (delayed) LNER (London and NorthEast Rail) 10:00 AM Edinburgh-London Express.

Kings Cross Station – 15:30

Five hours later I transferred on foot to the Piccadilly Line for the 55 minute trip to Terminal 4. The carriage is airless and hot, with only an occasional breeze fluttering my hair when the doors open. The number of passengers dwindles as we get closer to the airport and I can feel less guilty about my big suitcase blocking the aisle and my backpack taking up a seat.

 

An action figure in a plush red train seat
Iain rides the train to London

Wednesday: 17:00 GMT – Landside

I had completed a web check-in, but the fellow at the KAL counter (quite rightly) decided that my backpack was too big and bulky to be considered cabin luggage so I need to check it in. On top of that, my rolling suitcase is overweight. I joined the clusters of people scrambling on the floor to publically reorganise my luggage, switching 3 kg from one bag to the other. To be fair, I knew the backpack was too big, and I had planned to try and bluff it. When I left Sydney, I had all the compartments zipped up and strapped down, but with all the bits and pieces I had bought, it was now fully expanded!

Wednesday 17:30 – Landside

Wheeling the luggage-laden trolley into the accessible toilet cubicle, I get changed into warmer clothes and heavier boots. I am desperate to wash my feet after wearing sneakers on the unexpectedly hot Tube ride. I baulk at the notices over the bathroom basins indicating there is a foot wash in the multifaith prayer room next to Gate 9. Many others besides me must have considered washing their feet in these sinks.  I decided to give it a miss. It would have to wait until I had a shower in Seoul. The halfway home point. Until then, I’d have to keep my shoes and socks on!

A second turn at checking-in is successful, and with both the big bags off my hands, I can head to security.

Wednesday 18:15 – Airside

With the frantic flurry of repacking, check-in and security clearance over, I have settled in for the wait, and I’m quietly enjoying a very large glass of Pinot Grigio. I fiddle with my phone and add up the time ahead of me. Another ninety minutes till I can board, twelve hours from London to Seoul, another 11 to Sydney after a four-hour layover in between. Sigh! At least I can have that shower in the Prestige Lounge at Incheon Airport courtesy of my FF points! Perhaps, if there are any vacant lounges in the “relaxation room”, even a blissful lie-down

Next time I travel long haul I am going to consider booking Prestige seriously. Really seriously! Even if only for the final leg home. That last 10 hours; when you are so weary, you will commit a crime for a lie down – that bit.

 

IMG_0229

The last tedious bit: perhaps its Thursday?

I am now one flight down and boarding a smaller plane. The Korean crew welcome me most warmly, and I make my way to my seat. After “the chicken” or “the beef” decision, the lights are dimmed, and people drop off to sleep while I curse the fact that during my frantic luggage re-sort, I left my antihistamines in the other bag and can not rely on them to make me drowsy. A few hours later, I give up trying to sleep and watch five more episodes of the police drama I downloaded to my iPad.

The map on the back of the chair shows a familiar outline of the SE coast of Northern Queensland, and while breakfast is served, we head over the Great Barrier Reef. I’m over Australia, but it’s still 2 hours 55 minutes till we land. Soon the lights of Sydney are blinking in the sunrise, and I’ve got 10 minutes to watch in the final episode! Can’t you go around one more time? Give me ten more minutes till I get to the ‘who-dun-it”? The flight attendant insists I pack it away.

 

a photo of aSydney taken from a plane window at dawn
Sydney comes into view

Another queue to pass through immigration and quarantine. I join the “something to declare” line since I ‘ve been hiking in agricultural areas, but I’m waved through after an explanation of where I’ve been. Yet another wait for the Airport Shuttle and a 90 minute drive to my front door. Thursday has vanished somewhere, lost in changing time zones.

Friday 10:00 AEST

I finally open my front door and sigh with relief that all is as I left it. It’s been 47 hours since I left the Airbnb. My goal now is to stay awake until it’s dark to help combat jet lag.

That’s another seven hours away.

Fill up the kettle, start making the coffee and wish me luck, it’s gonna be at least a 6-cup day!

 

 

Daydreaming

The other day I was listening to a podcast and letting my mind wander. The podcast was Radio National’s All in the Mind and the topic up for discussion was daydreaming and dementia.

Do you daydream? I hope you do!

Daydreaming has a bad rap, but as it turns out, we should not be so hard on ourselves when we wander off. Daydreaming is a very healthy brain activity and while it may get you into trouble if you are zoned out when someone (like your boss) is trying to get your attention, the fact that you CAN daydream, especially if you are older, is an indication of a healthier brain.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have found that

“people living with frontotemporal dementia ­– a form of younger-onset dementia – lose the ability to daydream. ”

We let our minds wander a lot! Up to 50% of waking time. Daydreaming allows us to explore the unknown, practice conversations and confrontations, escape from reality, plan and problem solve. I know I write my best stories when I am out running! Pity I don’t remember them when I get back! 🙂

People with frontotemporal dementia lose this ability and remain rooted in the present and stimulus bound.

“They become increasingly focused on what is immediately in front of them, such as watching TV, listening to a piece of music, or eating food.”

They lose the ability to create their own internal world.

I have a particular interest in dementia and have done lots of reading on the topic and even an online course through the University of Tasmania.  I am concerned about developing dementia (and arthritis!). Being an old chook (a female over 55), I am getting dangerously close to dementia being a real thing in my life. While I can’t change the genetic road map I have been given or do much about getting older, I can do my best to look after the modifiable factors that influence dementia risk.

A woman sitting on a park bench. The photo is blacka nd white excpet for the woman's red jumper and dress. It is a dark and desolate scene with the sea in the backgrond.
Let your mind wander!

It turns out that the sorts of things we have been told to do to maintain heart health will also look after the brain and the joints because they reduce inflammation.   Inflammation is a big contributor to both these conditions. We need to ensure that we keep our blood pressure at a healthy level, stay active and keep moving, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet which is based mainly in plants, never smoke and drink alcohol cautiously.  Easy!

While there are some promising studies that may lead to a cure for dementia, it’s not likely to be in my lifetime. So just excuse me while I go and stare out the window and think up some new dreams!

 

Just by the by, if you are interested in things to do with the brain and psychology, the All in the Mind podcast is fabulous. I must say I have a bit of girl-crush on Lynne Malcolm, the show’s presenter!

(As this is published I’ll be in an aeroplane somewhere returning home after my epic Scottish adventure)

 

Scottish Road Trip – Stage 1 comes to an end.

It’s been 21 days since I flew out of Sydney. I am now in Aberdeen on Scotland’s east coast, listening to the calls of the giant seagulls which  have followed me for the last 2 weeks as I hugged the coast. I covered 1572 miles or 2530 km. I didn’t think Scotland had that many kilometres to do! Criss-crossing along the single track roads has added up.

I have stayed in 11 different AirBnBs, 2 guest houses and one youth hostel. I did 5 ferry crossings, one chartered boat voyage, one overnight train, 3 buses and 1 taxi ride. I  witnessed and gave first aid at one serious road crash. I have lost track of the number of castles and castle ruins I have seen and I have been to 5 museums. I have walked 285 kilometres. I lost one travel mascot and found another.

I am not going to add up how much I have spent, but it’s been a lot!! Things here priced the same “number” but cost twice as much. I mean it might cost $4 in Australia and £4 here, so in effect $8AUD.

I have met some wonderful people and become Facebook friends with one. (AMcL – that’s you!)

My overall impressions of Scotland have been very positive. I have felt comfortable going into pubs on my own and chatting with the locals. I have promised a postcard from Wollongong to Willy at the Culloden Moor Inn. He wants to show it to his mate who has been to Australia at least six times but wasn’t there on the night.

The main topic of conversation revolves around me traveling alone.  

One fellow at the  Red Lion at Forres declaring that it took some balls to travel solo and even he would be too scared to travel in another country alone.

I don’t feel brave. I have said before in another post that I don’t take stupid chances. I am usually tucked up in my room well before dark and don’t lurk in places that seem a bit dodgy. Although, that is sometimes a bit hard in cities you don’t know and you accidentally witness drug deals and prostitute haunts.

I did feel very brave staying in a youth hostel though. A first for me, and I must say I was a bit worried about a number of things:

1. Not being a youth,

2. Sharing a room with four women I didn’t know

3. Bed bugs and

4. The prospect of people throwing their shoes at me because I snore!

It turned out fine. I only chatted with the French lady who was about 10 years younger than me – the three others came in later after I was already in bed and no-one threw shoes at me! I had no red welts in the morning, so it seems my worries may have been unfounded. I sat in the community lounge after dinner editing the day’s photos and watched some other “mature” youths (average age 40) doing a whisky and chocolate taste testing  party and teasing each other unmercifully, after a wreck diving expedition. They invited me to join in. I tested the chocolate but not the whisky!

Given that the youth hostel was less than ½ the price of everywhere else I have stayed it makes good sense to try them out more often. The French lady says she really likes travelling on her own but stays at youth hostels because she can find someone to talk to in the evenings so it was a nice compromise for her.

The next phase of my adventure is with a small group walking tour in the Orkney Islands.

Let’s see how that goes!