Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a giant plastic polar bear on the bar?

Rugby club kitchen duty is compulsory if you want your kids to play rugby.
As a new member, and one of the last to sign up, I am allocated a ‘match’ day as all the easy slots have gone. It's a heavy duty catering job. Bacon butties, coffee’s and squash until lunchtime, then a meal for each of the players.

By midday it’s manic. Tray loads of dirty plates, cups and cutlery arriving by the minute. I throw them into soapy water along with the plastic pint glasses the players have used for squash to quench their thirst after brutal matches.

“Are you washing those? Oh. I’m just putting them straight into the bin,” one of the other helpers says to me, chucking a pile of the plastic glasses into a black binbag. I take a quick look inside it and among the leftovers lie dozens of the see-through pint glasses. But as they’re covered in bits of stew and old teabags, Im not inclined to pluck them out.

As each team finishes their match, they pile in to the clubhouse, muddy hungry, cold and tired. The demand for meals quickens, and I abandon washing up the plastic glasses when I see that all the other kitchen volunteers are chucking them in the bin as well.

We finish serving, mop up and haul a giant plastic bin bag full of rubbish into the yard. I’ve just served two hundred people without having breakfast or lunch myself, and I feel slightly sick. All that waste, much of which I’ve just helped send to landfill. I should have kept on washing the plastic cups.

When I return home, Carbonlite and the kids are watching a David Attenbourgh programme on the i-player. “Come and watch, it’s about polar bears.” says Carbonlite. I am tired and hungry, and frankly not interested in polar bears. But sitting on the sofa is the easiest option. And watching a polar bear try and last out the winter on the ice makes me realise I’m not all that tired or hungry after all. Starving after months without any calories the creature makes it’s way back on to the newly formed ice pack in spring to catch its prey once more, and try and replenish its energy. It's a cycle that has repeated itself for thousands of years. But this year for the first time, the ice is too thin. I hug my son as we watch the bear crash into the icy waters and try without success to haul its giant body back onto ice that continues to crack and break under its weight. It’s pitiful. Even the carbontoddler is now silent. The programme ends and we continue to sit in silence. The empty feeling in my stomach isn’t just down to lack of food.

“I’ve just melted more of that ice,” I say. Everyone looks at me, so I elaborate, “I tossed a load of Ribena cups away today and now another polar bear is going to fall in.” I tell Carbonlite the tale, and confess my part in it.
“We all do it," he says, trying to cheer me up. "...we forget the big picture. That what we do in our own little village can have consequences on the other side of the planet.
"I know people say who gives a stuff about polar bears, I’ve said it myself, but how can you watch that and not care?” I reply.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” asks Carbonlite?
“Ask the rugby club to use glasses from the bar instead?”
“Think bigger,” he says.
“Make a giant plastic polar bear out of milk cartons and bubble wrap and sit it on the bar every Sunday to remind people that every one of those cups they chuck away is helping melt each new millimetre of ice?”
“Now you’re thinking,”says my mentor.
“I've got an idea,” shouts the eldest Carboncopy, and he runs upstairs. He returns moments later with the dung beetle costume he has made for his school show assembly on Egypt.
“Rugby players know nothing about polar bears. But they do know about Dung don’t they Mum? Sit this on the bar next to the plastic glasses. No one will be interested in Ribena any more."

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