Thursday, 16 April 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser: A right royal tale

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" I muttered, as I struggled to get my bike out of the garage.

I felt like the white rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, hurrying and scurrying around whilst fiddling with my two-wheeled contraption that had been hidden away for most of the Winter.

But why the rush?

I was off to see the Queen. Or rather, off to see if I could see the Queen. Not Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts I should add, but Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, on a rare visit to Bury St Edmunds. I've only ever seen her on TV, so I was curious to see her in the flesh.

I had only 10 minutes to cycle into town. I was most definitely running late.

But it was downhill all the way.... which meant descending a very steep slope, the kind that makes you want to shout "wheeeee" - all childlike, with my legs stretched out in a manner suited to balancing at high speed.

It was good to feel 10 again.

But I bet a 10 year old wouldn't have had a red face when they reached the bottom of the hill, like a big juicy raspberry on legs, huffing and puffing as the incline gave way to a a more level street, lined with people perfectly positioned for their first view of the royal party.

There was no traffic in front or behind. Just me, peddling past all the locals, the policemen and the men in dressed in black - the security professionals that had the whole town under scrutiny.

I wondered whether my reusable bags-for-life all scrunched up in my shopping basket would be met with an air of suspicion. I hoped not. I would have crumpled if I'd been stopped by a man in black and too scared of the consequences, despite my innocent nature. It was a curious experience indeed.

It was also a miracle that I made it into town just in time to see Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh passing through. The people clapped, cheered and waved flags. The crowd then followed the royal car towards the cathedral, while I made my way to the lounge of the historic Angel Hotel, where I often hide away with my laptop, regularly witnessing the appearance of the glass recycling bin being wheeled to the back door and bemusing the staff with my interest in such an activity.

So while Her Majesty distributed the Maundy Money and then wined and dined with the guests, I worked away like a busy little bee, tapping at the laptop to get as much done as I could possibly achieve before the arrival of the Easter bank holiday

But disturbed by a sudden noise, I looked over towards the lobby as the gentle humdrum of the lounge gave way to heavy footsteps marching up the stairs.

Blimmin' 'eck I couldn't believe my eyes - there were Beefeaters climbing the apples and pears. A whole army of them, or whatever the collective term may be for the traditional warders of The Tower of London. There were so many, I hoped the crown jewels were still in safe hands.

There they were, all the way up from London, looking fabulous in their costumes of red and gold. So distinguished and so British and so rare a sight in Suffolk.

Before the experience rendered itself into a figment of my overactive imagination. I rang my friend Ruby, who has a passion for historic events but who was unfortunately otherwise engaged and unable to make it into town that day.

"Guess what I've just seen," I chuckled and told her the tale of the Queen's Beefeaters."

She listened intently as I related my right royal story.

"Well guess what I've just seen," she said with a more serious tone.

"Waitrose's right royal parody of a veg box".

Now that's something special I thought. Waitrose selling veg boxes with a royal warrant by appointment.

But what she described was certainly no veg box, more of a recession-beating bargain of a veg bag, all prepacked with assorted vegetables for just a fiver. Now that was cheap, but with such a low price tag, surely it had to come at a cost! And it did because each group of vegetables were all carefully wrapped in their own plastic bags before being placed in the larger plastic bag, all for extending shelf life of course. How my jaw dropped. There's more plastic in there than one can shake a stick at, if you beg my royal pardon.

My day of flirting with glimpses of royalty might have been a curious adventure, but for me Ruby's tale of the assorted veg bags was the most curious event of them all, especially when retailers are busy trying to reduce the amount of packaging on their shelves, suddenly we were witnessing an example of a reversal in trend.

Where I'd glided down that hill in delight, I groaned all the way back up, not at the steepness of the incline, but at the thought of all those bags and whether other supermarkets are doing the same. I was certainly more red-faced by the time I'd reached the top. And as I arrived home, I felt more like a raspberry jelly balancing on a pair of wobbly legs.

I've since written to Waitrose, this evening in fact, after I'd managed to see the veg bags for myself in their plastic glory as Ruby had described.

I wonder if the royal household has bought any yet because of course Waitrose holds a Royal Warrant with Her Majesty The Queen.

Maybe I should ring and ask, but then again, maybe I'll mind my own business and stick to the local market, where I can get a whole lot more for a fiver, contained in just one reusable bag.

And maybe, just maybe, an alternative recession-busting solution can be found for Waitrose's assorted bag of plastic wrapped veg.



Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Glad you made it in time to see the Queen Mrs A. I was almost with you racing down that hill! Fancy you seeing all those beefeaters too - how marvellous.

Can imagine your disappointment at the "plastic" news though and hope Waitrose will attempt to become greener. A x

Fi said...

I too saw this ersatz 'veg box' and was actually pretty horrified, why - when all the veg has been washed to within an inch of its life anyway - does it all need a plastic bag each?. While round the corner in the chicken section they were boasting of new 'waste reducing' 'dome packaging' for thier birds.

I often sigh a lot in supermarkets you know.

I'm looking forward to hearing their response to you!

John Costigane said...

Mrs A, the Courtauld's Agreement means thinner plastic bags though I do not know it that applies to all plastic packs, equally.

Twinings teabags took a step back from waste reduction by increasing the packaging for teabags. It seems they are all standing fast in their plastic use.

As usual, consumers can make the correct choices. In the end this is what counts.

Your local Royal connection is certainly newsworthy.

Karin said...

My son brought home a veg bag from Sainsbury's last year, I think. It was going cheap. It wasn't particularly impressive, but I don't recollect that everything was wrapped inside the main bag.

I'm afraid I'm a bit blase about the Queen after visiting her back garden, although I've never had my hand shaken by her or been spoken to, unlike hubby. I think you should suggest she grows her own veg as she has a big garden, which is mostly laid to lawn. You'd think her eldest son might have suggested it already. However, the lawn didn't look too luscious, so at least she wasn't wasting precious water on it.

Karin said...

I think I'm just going to write a brief blog post to highlight this from George Monbiot - link here for those who don't visit my blogs

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Anne, it was a truly fun day, but I won't tell you how long it took to get back up that blimmin' hill. No wonder I've been knocked off my feet for a week. I must promise to get more fit. :-D

Hi Fi, I know what you mean. Truly bizarre. No doubt it will have something to do with protecting veggies from other vegetables' ethanol. Haven't heard from Waitrose yet, but will let you know what they say :-D

Hi John - not sure if that's the case for packaging either. As for Twinings, the packs I use have now got compostable internal packaging...only useful if you've got a composter though! Oh...hum! as you say, it's down to consumer choice and there is still a lot of choice out there. :-D

Hi Karin, LOL most veg packs from our array of supermarkets aren't that memorable are they - unless they come in so much plastic of course ;-D

And you're quite right about the Queen's back yard. It could do with a Dig for Victory makeover, just like the introduction of the allotment patch in St James Park that I spotted last time I was in London. Thanks for the link about George Monbiot's blogpost. It was interesting wasn't it and a good response to the previous blogpost. I'm glad I got my bike out of the garage just in time. I look forward to reading your blogpost :-D

Almost Mrs Average said...

So the latest news is, Waitrose customer service has sent my query to the Buying this space.......!

Layla said...

WOW, what a day!! :)

What a thrilling tale of your bike ride, & quite a bit metaphoric too, innit?
(I was waiting fot the part where you teach the Queen to shop with reusable bags!;))

Well, maybe next time..
Did you here Mrs Obama has her own veg garden now?! With bees!!
I was so stunned!!
Surely the Queen could have one too, if nothing else not to fall behind such international royalty!!

Karin said...

I heard about that, Layla. I think there was some kind of campaign to get a veg garden in the Whitehouse. Perhaps we should start a petition here on the RDB to get one in Buckhouse.

Almost Mrs Average said...

LOL Layla - how I would love the'am would you like my bag for life (hehe).

Laya/Karin - wouldn't it be great if they had their big veg patch at Buckingham Palace. They're already doing other stuff. Check here to see what they do with their green waste and as for their land at Sandringham at least that's held over to farming.
But yes, veg garden at Buckingham Palace, I'm fully behind that! :-D

Almost Mrs Average said...

Oh dear...over a week later, I'm still waiting for a response from the buying department but it didn't go unnoticed that Waitrose didn't have any of the veg bags when I last popped in, last week. A coincidence? Or has someone actually decided against them? Keep watching this space........ :-D

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