Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Falling Foul of Rule Britannia

Coming home should be easy right? Easier anyway. I had lived in Britain for 38 of my 39 years before we left. I knew the language, the customs, traditions etc. However, things change, things move on.

Two things which have been 'doing my head in' are recycling & health & safety.

We have been putting all our rubbish in one bin for the past 5 1/2 yrs abroad, & taking it to the roadside skip. Or if you are a very good citizen you burn it yourself, poisoning your neighbour with the fumes. If not, you dump it in the river, or throw it out of the car whilst driving along, leave it on the beach, wherever...

In fact before we left the UK, we were composting but there was no recycling collection. We took bags & cardboard & bottles to the bottle bank bins. That was it. Now we rinse, & separate our (soft) plastics, card & paper & glass. At least it all goes in one bin. But it reminds me once again just how law abiding & obedient Brits are, by & large. This would just never work in Albania.

But I have often wondered how it gets sorted & recycled. Or if it does even...My parents told me the story of how a friend in their village asked what happened to all the recycled stuff when he saw it being mashed up all together, in what looked like the regular rubbish lorry. The two Polish guys on the back of the truck said "Oh, it goes to landfill"

When this gentleman phoned the council they were, unsurprisingly, rather cagey about this, before admitting that once they had met their 'recycling quota' (for that month, year??) it all indeed went to landfill. So not only are we obedient, we are gullible & mugs too spending ages sorting stuff that is never recycled. The trouble is you don't know when it will be recycled & when it won't. I'm all for recycling, but only if it really is being recycled.

Now that we have a puppy, the recycling box is one more source of treasure & doggy delights & the cause of a few Mummy Meltdowns too as plastic chicken trays, milk bottles & cardboard get raided & strewn round the kitchen. That's not the council's fault of course, but mine for getting a dog.

Then there's Health & Safety. Where do I start? Let's just say it is a completely alien concept in either of the two overseas countries we have lived in, in recent years. So it has been a steep learning curve. I know about booster seats,, I am not sure about riding in the front seat & I definitely don't know at what age you can leave children alone in the house. But 2 health & safety rules recently took me completely by surprise.

1.) I went to fill the car up with fuel & my son got out of the car to watch & help (he had never seen self service!) Within seconds an authoritative & urgent voice came across the tannoy asking, "the woman at pump number six" to put her son back in the car immediately before any petrol defied gravity & splashed upwards into his wide eyes. Children, evidently, aren't allowed on the forecourt, I was informed. I dutifully obeyed, I was so dumbstruck (the art of public humiliation works well in Britain). My husband announced it was lucky for Tesco, he had not been there. He sees red at most Health & Safety rules in this country & can't stand any sniff of being 'nannyed'. I would love to know what he would have done! I presume though it's more an American import: the fear of litigation.

2.) I went to the tip to dump one of the many loads of abandoned tenant-detritus left in our house & my hapless son got out of the car again to help me. Within seconds a man, unmissable in his fluorescent jacket, marched over to me & told me to put my son back in the car as it was dangerous for him to be out amongst the hazardous skips of cardboard & garden waste. This was followed by "Can't you read the signs?" I had been looking right at all the skips trying to identify where a broken sandwich toaster might go, however, the signs bearing a 'crossed out child' were on the left hand side of the road, so no, I hadn't noticed.

Of course the thing I do now, which is infinitely more dangerous, is driving with a puppy in the car. Talk about distracting. She chews my hand as I change gear, tries to climb on my lap, so I have my largest handbag with me, barricading my lap. If I put her in the back she scrabbles through to the front. If I put her in the boot, the protesting howls & whines are very offputting, not to mention the sight of an off white ball of fluff pogo-ing in & out of my rear view mirror as she tries in vain to leap the back seat.

Now there should be a law about that. In fact I'm off to 'Petworld' or some such place tomorrow to find the canine equivalent of a strait jacket...
The picture is of the dog sitting on my boots (she misses me when I go out) poised above the recycling box, ready to find a delicious plastic milk container.


Iota said...

I've often wondered about recycling...

Yes, in America there is fear of litigation, but health and safety is nowhere near as dominating as in the UK. They tend to just get people to sign waivers at every imaginable point, and then carry on with a bit of common sense.

Inaie said...

I used to recicle in NewZealand. Every week we drove to the recicling bin to dispose off our plastics, papers, bottles.

Here in the Middle Esat we don't even think about it. :-(

About your puppy - there are seat belts you can buy for her.


PantsWithNames said...

It took a while for us to get into the recycling as well...

And as for health and safety. Actually I do know where the tip one comes from, a little boy was killed at one last year.

Can't help you with the puppy though, just as well the hounds are ever so sweet otherwise we'd never put up with their more disgusting habits!