Thursday, October 29, 2015

Spine-tingling tales from Scotland

The old Alloway church
Scotland delights in its tales of misery, mystery, and misfortune. Some tales are historical, like the 15th century "Black Dinner" which inspired Games of Thrones' famous "Red Wedding." Some are mythical, such as the elusive Loch Ness Monster or the dangerous kelpies. Others are fictional, like the Gruffalo.

And some are ghostly and macabre. Trickster faeries. Cutty Sark and the hellish legions. Damn near any Scottish castle worthy of its name has at least one ghost. You might spot the Pink Lady of Stirling, the harpist of Inverary, the handless ghost of Cawdor, a pacing William Wallace at Ardrossan, or perhaps Moaning Myrtle of Hogwarts.

Last year, I collected a few of my favorite stories. As Halloween approaches this year, here are some Scottish tales to get your spine tingling:

 Old Man of Storr and the faerie king 
    Old Man of Storr and the faerie king

 Tam o' Shanter and the Brig o' Doon  
         Tam o' Shanter and the Brig o' Doon

 The ghost piper of Edinburgh Castle 
    The ghost piper of Edinburgh Castle

 The devil plays cards at Glamis Castle 
         The devil plays cards at Glamis Castle

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Scotland's plastic bag charge, one year later

Yesterday marked Scotland's first anniversary of requiring retailers to charge customers five pence (5p) for plastic bags. And generally speaking, the news is outstanding.

Over the past year, the number of plastic bags handed out by retailers in has plummeted by approximately 80%. These statistics come from the main supermarket stores, such as Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, and so on, though many other retailers have also slashed their plastic bag use. At present, no good figures are available from retailers other than the grocery chains.

plastic bag / carrier bag / single-use bag
This 80% reduction indicates a tremendous drop, and it's a huge victory against pollution and carbon emissions. Eliminating roughly 650 million bags per year is amazing, quite frankly. (Actually, once you calculate the amount of plastic in reusable bags and so-called "bags for life," the reduction in plastic is actually closer to 500 million. Still, that's fantastic.) Scotland has followed the lead of Northern Ireland and Wales, which both showed a similar drop in plastic bag usage. England, for its part, began its own 5p charge earlier this month, and we can assume it'll have similar statistics.

While it's an accomplishment to be cheered, not everything is perfect. As I noted last year, the retailers saw an 80% drop within the first month of the new charge. After folks adjusted in the first month, however, no further percentage reduction has been achieved. Now, to be reasonable, we all might occasionally forget our reusable bags and need a plastic bag or two in a pinch. But that doesn't account for anywhere near the 150 million plastic bags given out by the grocery stores this past year.

In other words, there remains a portion of the population undeterred by the 5p charge and who see no reason to change. These are hardcore users of the bags, and changing their behavior will be the key to future reductions.

So, while the 80% reduction is terrific, there's room to improve.

With England at last on board, the U.K. finally has started to catch up with the rest of Europe.

reusable shopping bags from Waitrose
Reusable shopping bags from Waitrose, a major British grocery chain.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

New scribbler joining our team

Recently, posting has been kinda . . . sparse . . . here at Coloring Without Borders.

{Ed.'s note: That's a bit of an understatement, huh?}

Partly, that's due to our fanatical traveling. We haven't been out of the country, as was our original plan. But we have ventured all over Scotland these past couple of months, squeezing eking milking our late summer and early fall for every drop of Scottish wonder we haven't yet experienced. And, for good measure, we threw in a long jaunt to southern England.

Nearly every weekend has been a day trip, overnight trip, or three-day weekend. And that's not counting a horde of midweek trips while the kid is in nursery. Ye olde family car has seen several thousand miles of the U.K. in just the last couple of months. And with British petrol prices, oh my.

So much travel goodness to share in the months ahead!

But the travel, remarkably, has been the least of our preoccupations. Several other items on the agenda recently bellied up to the top. Not least, this one:

ultrasound of the new lil' scribbler
The new lil' scribbler.
He's scheduled to join us on 29 February 2016. A pretty rare start date, I think. Unfortunately, he gets some flexibility regarding his arrival, though not if it were up to me.

And yes, he is a he. Damn it.

Woe is me. All I wanted was to have girls.

Our news doesn't end with just the new bébé. More updates to come. Soon(ish).