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19 May 2004

Todayís happy shopping experience: my local supermarket is selling two duck breasts for £5.59. From the very shelf below, you can buy the whole duck for £4.99; and yes, this does indeed include two breasts, as well as two legs and a couple of wings and the carcass with all its lovely stocky soupy Marx Bros goodness. This means, evidently, that you pay the company extra money and give them back all the best bits of the bird, in exchange for some minimum-wage slaveís spending ten seconds slicing off the breasts and dropping them into a polystyrene tray for your convenience. Go, as they say, figure.

Last weekís much happier shopping experience: I am now the proud possessor of an Aerating Stick, of whose ownership I had never dreamed, whose existence, to be frank, I had never imagined...

The story goes like this. Last year, my local council announced that in its oh-so-vigorous quest for green credentials, it would sell compost bins to residents for £5 (usual price £30+), so that we could turn our kitchen and garden waste into lovely wormy earthy compost instead of letting it rot down into methane gas and slime on the nearest landfill site. So of course I phoned the Compost Hotline and got an answering machine, and left a message. And heard nothing, so I phoned again. And again. My messages got ruder, their silence grew more deafening; in the end I gave up and drilled some airholes in a plastic dustbin, to make my own compost bin.

That is now full, but after a year of virtue I canít revert to old bad ways and throw out what is eminently compostable; so I needed another bin. The council is again advertising its Compost Hotline, so I tried again; and mirabile dictu, this year it works. At least, the answering machine gives another number. So I called that, and a nice woman asked me what size of bin I wanted. Thankfully, I had the wit to ask for the smallest available (despite the temptations of the super-deluxe £15 model). She took my fiver and told me to expect a delay of weeks and weeks before delivery, because they were very busy. Okay; I worried a little what to do with my coffee-grounds in the meantime, but I have buckets.

Two days later there was a thump outside, and something came through my letter-flap; I went to check, and there was a leaflet about composting. How sensible, I thought, sending the instructions in advance of the object, let me learn the theory before I advance to the practical...

An hour or so after that I was on my way out, I opened my front door, I found the compost bin on my doorstep. Itís the size of a small Dalek, four times the size of my dustbin edition, and I am already obsessed. I have whole conversations about composting; Iím thinking of buying a book on the subject (I know there is one, I saw it a couple of years back, and how can I resist..?). But also, joy of joys, inside the bin was an Aerating Stick. It looks - Jean says, after I drew it for her this morning, words having failed me entirely - something like a harpoon. Sheís right, it does. Its use is obvious, it is to agitate the matter; it may be very good at its task, I donít know, I havenít tried to use it yet. I think Iím a little scared, to be honest. When itís not looking, Iíll try to sneak a photo, post it up here. The horror, the horror...

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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.