Friday, 30 September 2011

Speed

The final thing that caught my attention before I feel asleep (I always fall asleep when the news is on) was a proposal to raise the speed limit on the motorways to 80mph.
Hurrah!  About time too!
Dont' don't get me wrong, I'm not a petrol head by any means.  Driving is a chore that I do because I have to.  I have no problems with adhering to speed limits, they are there for a purpose.  I have no problem with speed cameras.  They were not invented to make money but to catch people who speed.  If you don't speed you won't have to pay anything.  For too long people ignored speed limits simply because it was not possible to catch the culprits who drove too fast.  I would rather have a camera than a speed hump any day!  I only have a little car and it hates speed humps.
But motorways are roads designed for free flowing, relatively fast moving traffic (except the M25).  Despite the fact that the impression is that all our motorways are clogged up from dawn to dusk with too much traffic, the truth is most of them are relatively free of congestion.  Lots of traffic, yes, but not congestion.  The traffic is moving freely and a huge majority of it is going faster than the current 70 mph limit.
I don't think there will be a sudden rush of people driving at 90 (no pun intended) if the limit is raised to 80.
People will drive at the speed they are comfortable with.
Will people to safe at 80?  I think so.  One prediction was that deaths would rise to something like 130 per year if the speed limit was increased.  Not wishing to sound heartless, but this is nothing when you consider the death-rate from smoking  and other life-style related diseases is in the tens of thousands every year.
What is needed to keep people safe on the motorway is some intensive training for drivers.  We have 3 lane motorways but how often do you see the nearside lane completely empty while drivers tootle along in the middle lane, forcing others to use the outside lane to overtake?
New drivers are allowed on a motorway without any training.  This should be changed.  Training on motorways should be made compulsory with a test to be included on the driving licence.  Until that happens there should be regular TV commercials telling people how to drive on motorways.  These have been shown before but I can't remember the last time I saw one.
Cars today are set up to go from 0-60 in seconds.  The speedometers on most cars show 100 mph plus so why restrict them to 70 on our fastest roads?
  

Carrier Bags

The second item on the news today that made my ears prick up was the fact that shops in Wales are going to start charging for carrier bags.  Well done.
I confess I am guilty of using easily available carrier bags at the supermarket check-out in the past.  But I have reformed my ways and have been using reusable shopping bags for ages.
I can always remember my mum having shopping holdalls which she took out to the shops with her.  And a shopping trolley when she wanted to get lots of things.  In those days we didn't go shopping in the car, we never had a car - we didn't need a car.
I now carry three or four shopping bags with me in my car, maybe more sometimes if I know I am going to get lots of shopping.  Very occasionally I might not take enough and have to use a carrier bag, but not often.
I was quite amused by the news broadcast.  The charge for bags is going to be 5p.  One person being interviewed thought this was far too high, the bags surely didn't cost that much to make.  I wanted to tell him - that's the point.  It's not about making money out of them, it's about pricing them to the extent people will not want to use them!  Hopefully the shops will also offer reusable bags at 10p which people might be prepared to buy and REUSE.
It's not just the fact that the world is groaning under the pressure of plastic bags, but they also use up valuable resources.  Is there anything else we so willingly make and then simply throw away?  Many supermarkets have managed to reduce their use of carrier bags by encouraging customers to reuse their own bags.  It would be interesting to know how much this has saved in running costs over the last few years.  Even if a bag only costs a penny to produce, or even a fraction of a penny, when hundreds of thousands are used every year, that soon adds up to a lot of pennies.

Rubbish!!

Well, there was a lot on the news tonight that had my blogging fingers twitching.
First up, Rubbish, or the disposal of it.
The trouble is, in this country, maybe the world, we create too much waste.  Many local authorities have now gone to fortnightly rubbish collections.  When these are first introduced the local residents throw up their hands in despair sure that they will be over-run with rats and heaven knows what.  
The truth of the matter is that with one week collecting rubbish and the second week collecting recyclable stuff we do have weekly collections.
Once people get used to the new system they find that the rubbish bin is half empty even when it is only emptied fortnightly.  Larger families may have more difficulty, but in most places larger families can get larger wheelie bins.
So what are the complaints?  Usually that in the summer we will be plagued by flies and bad smells.  Do we need to give people lessons in disposing of their rubbish?  It is easy to prevent flies.  Flies come from maggots, maggots come from eggs that are lain by flies in any available flesh.  Make sure all rubbish is well wrapped before it is put in the bin so that the flies cannot get to it and then they can't lay eggs which will turn into maggots.  Is that so difficult?  It will also reduce smells.
The other big problem is disposable nappies.  These have become so easy to use that even people who try to use modern washable nappies sometimes revert to the quick and easy disposable nappy.  The trouble with these is that they are throw away, but they also last for ever.  However, for the sake of this blog discussion, it is the throwing away part that is the topic, not the fact that before much longer all our reclaimed land will be made up of disposable nappies.  The same thing applies as to other rubbish.  Wrap it well and securely and there will be no interest from flies and little smell.  Better still, get your child toilet trained and save yourself some money.
Toddlers seem to be in nappies much longer these days than they ever used to be.  They are so dry and comfortable, the babies hardly know they have done anything in them, which is wrong.  They need to feel the moisture when they pee, that way they are easier to train to go at set times and in set places.  Again, this is another argument which I won't get into here.  Of course, the nappy producers want to see 2 year olds running about and playing in nappies and disposable pants.  It makes them more money.  My child was clean and dry by the time she was 18 months old.  
Another complaint is the number of bins households are expected to use.  One for rubbish, one for garden waste and one for recyclables.  These bins are sturdy and all have lids.  They are relatively easy for most people to move.  What is the problem with sorting plastic bottles from kitchen scraps?  I admit that in some older areas there may be a problem with storing all these bins but they are far better than plastic bags left at the kerbside!
We all need to realize that the space for dumping our rubbish is running out.  We need to cut down on the amount we produce and we need to recycle as much as we can.  We can all do something about this.  When shopping, avoid things that are overly packaged, and if you cannot avoid buying something in a plastic box or cardboard carton, make sure you recycle or re-use the packaging.  It is not a simple life-style choice that can be ignored, it is an essential to maintaining the world around us.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Why Do They Do It?

I know that title can raise its own question. Why does who do what? In this case it is Why do young people start to smoke?
I was driving through my village one evening during the week and I spotted a lad I sort of know standing with a cigarette in his mouth.  I say 'sort of know' because I know his name, can probably guess his age but I don't know him personally well enough to call him anything but 'a lad from the village.'  It's not the first time I've spotted him smoking; would love to be brave enough to go up to him and tell him to stop, but I'm not.
So why do children start to smoke?  Are they totally unaware of the health risks involved?  The message 'Smoking Kills' on every cigarette packet obviously means nothing to them.  A couple of words put there which everyone ignores.  It's there too often, just like the name of the brand.  Familiarity breeding contempt.
I was lucky enough to grow up in the era when the dangers of smoking were first being broadcast; too young to have started, old enough to take in what was being said.  The buckets of diseased lungs in a research lab were enough to make me vow never to smoke and I never have
My parents both smoked but their smoking did more to put me off than encourage me.  I spent years as a passive smoker and watched everything in the living room take on a yellow tinge, from the ceiling which had to be distempered every couple of years (do people still do that?) to the photo frames on the mantelpiece.
I was also too mean to smoke.  I had limited pocket money being too idle to get a Saturday job and I was certainly not going to sit and burn my money.
None of my friends smoked so I didn't have any peer pressure to start and when I met the lad who was to become my husband, he didn't smoke either, although most of his friends did at the time.  So I was very lucky in that I managed to avoid the pressures to conform.
Would I have succumbed in different circumstances?  I don't think so.  Although a shy child I was always my own child.  I made up my own mind and by the time I had reached the age where others might have tempted me to smoke I already knew : smoking makes you smell, both your breath and your clothes; smoking makes everything around you look dirty; smoking costs you money you could spend on other things (and in those days there weren't many 'other things' from which to choose); smoking turns your teeth a horrible colour; and then - smoking gives you cancer.
At that time researchers were only concerned about lung cancer.  Now it is medically proven that smoking is related to many other cancers and other life threatening medical conditions.
I once asked a neighbour, mother of two young children, who was about ten years older than me and a smoker, was she concerned about smoking? "You've just as likely to get run over by a bus," was her answer.
I'm sorry but NO.  If as many people were killed by buses or any other vehicle on the road, there would be a serious outcry.  Deaths on the roads are barely in the thousands and look at all the traffic calming measures we have to endure; road humps, speed cameras, chicanes on straight roads.  Not long after telling me this I was involved in a serious road traffic accident when a lorry ran over me while I was riding my bike.  I am still here, many years later.  My former neighbour, sadly, isn't.  She suffered breathing problems and couldn't walk very far, heart problems and finally died of a heart attack when she was barely in her sixties and before she had the chance to see her first grandchild.
Of course, when you are young these things are not at the front of your mind.  When you are fourteen, twenty seems old, thirty ancient and anything over that, unbelievable.  But kids, you will live that long.  And what you do when you are young may well affect the rest of your life.
Giving up smoking is, apparently, one of the hardest things to do.  Yet many adults struggle through the process every year.  Those that fail often suffer ill health as a result.  Not every smoker  suffers, there will always be the eighty year old who smoked all his/her life and is as fit as a fiddle.  There will always be the non-smoker who develops lung cancer or heart problems.  But these are the exceptions to the rule.
So why aren't these messages getting through to the kids of today? Do they have so much pocket money they don't have to consider the cost of a packet of cigarettes against the cost of a meal?
I certainly would not have had the freedom of sitting at home to look after the house and family if my husband and I had been smokers.  Sometimes I wish I did smoke so that I could give up and save all the money I spent on cigarettes - but then again, I would have to go out to work to earn that money instead of sitting here writing blogs!
As a non-smoker I don't understand the sensations these little white sticks provide.  As a non-smoker I have never needed them.  As a non-smoke I have lived a comfortable life.  As a non-smoker I take no tablets for high blood pressure and have no breathing problems.  As a non-smoker my skin is not sallow and my teeth are not yellow.  As a non-smoker my mouth doesn't taste like an ashtray and my clothes don't smell.
Maybe every Year 11 child should be taken round the cancer ward of a hospital to meet people who are suffering from smoking.  Maybe every child should be introduced to someone who is dying.  Sounds harsh.  Many children experience this in their own families but far more do not.  Statistics can give a picture of what is happening but if you aren't involved in that 1 in whatever, it means nothing to you.
At one time every bank holiday the news bulletin would announce how many people had died on the roads that day in an attempt to make people drive more carefully.
Maybe we should have a campaign for a month or so that announced how many people had died from smoking related illnesses that day, broken down into age groups.  Maybe then the children would think twice about smoking that first cigarette.