Sunday, June 01, 2008

A package holiday?

“We ought to take a package holiday sometime,” says Carbonlite as we cycle down to the farmers market in Milnthorpe. The hedgerows are flush with wild garlic and the breeze pushes pink blossom under our wheels as our feet spin in the sunshine. On this glorious day I don’t feel the need for a holiday and I’m curious Carbonlite should put forward the suggestion. “A package deal? You mean a fortnight in a Spanish hotel with all our drinks included?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Not that type of package holiday. More of a ‘packaging’ holiday really. No cardboard, plastic or glass coming into or out of the house. For a week.”

Once I’ve got over the disappointment of no free booze, I begin to mull over his idea. A week’s ‘package holiday’ would cut down the endless trips to the tip to recycle plastic and cardboard, which I always end up having to do. And it might force me to shop more healthily and locally. But why wait for the peak of summer to liberate myself from the burden of cereal boxes and tetrapacks? Why not start straight away? And where better to start than a farmers market? I don’t mention anything to Carbonlite; my transformation into package holidaymaker will be a surprise for him at dinnertime.

My first purchase is easy. A loaf of wholewheat bread. I’m slightly concerned it’s been driven in from Liverpool that morning, but reckon the package-lessness of the product will cancel out the road miles. Joyfully, I ask the scouser bread man to drop it straight into my pannier next to the tool kit and the bicycle lock.

I then pop over to the olive stall and drool over green and black delicacies in their big curved yellow bowls. Simple and delicious. But where to put them? Olive man can’t just tip them into my pannier like bread man did. After cursing myself for not bringing a range of Tupperware tubs on my cycle ride, I decide to give olives a miss. But now olive man is all fired up to make a sale. He starts pushing an assortment of olives my way on cocktail sticks. And when he gets no interest he moves onto the pickled garlic. To stop him charging at me with any more sharp sticks I grab one of the large plastic containers stacked up next to the bowls and fill it up. “Climate death by olives and feta cheese,” I mutter to myself, “and the first failure on the Carbon family package holiday front.”

As a penance I move on to the vegetable counter and ask the assistant to tip the carrots and onions straight into my bag. Then I stroll to the opposite stall. I need a new quilt cover as ours is beyond repair. But all the quilts are wrapped in cardboard and plastic. As a compromise I unwrap the quilt, pay for it, then hand over the packaging to the sympathetic saleswoman. “So good to see a young person caring for the environment,” she trills as I shove the quilt deep into the pannier around the vegetables and olives.

Finally it’s over to fish man. Now this stall is good. Freshly caught fish and seafood, all laid out on ice filled platters. No polystyrene, no cardboard. Just a thin plastic bag that I can recycle, if I can get the smell of smoked haddock out of it. I slap it into the pannier, heave it closed and return to the bike.

“Have I got a treat for you,” I tell Carbonlite. I reach for the black pannier. Inside is a warm fish with a split bag and a brand new bleach white quilt now tie dyed with fish juice. As I pull it out of the bag to assess the damage, a Greek salad of olives, pickled garlic and feta tumble onto the kitchen floor. Meanwhile the bread is a funny shape and has a distinct whiff of onions. “You’ll notice I’ve started our package holiday already,” I say. “But I’m not very good at it yet. I think I’ll need a bit of practice. ” “Take an extra suitcase next time perhaps?” Carbonlite suggests with a grin. “Perhaps two. One for the fish and another for the duty free.” I reply, grinning back and plonking a bottle of wine from the local Spar down onto the table. Planning my next market trip in finer detail, I pour a glass of Chardonnay and pick flakes of smoked haddock from the buttonholes of the new addition to the bedroom.