Monday, 27 February 2012

Our beach. The way we want it.

I have good news for you, especially if you are among those who took pictures of Nivea bottles on the beach recently and sent them to Nivea. I had an email from Nivea this morning stating that they would be making 'a lump sum donation to the Marine Conservation Society' as well as continuing to monitor how their bottles are washing ashore. It was agreed that the job of picking up each and every one of their bottles from the shores of the UK would be impossible, which is why they have agreed to the donation (on my suggestion). This is a good outcome and whilst it doesn't actually remove the bottles from the shore, it will help to fund work that The Marine Conservation Society does to keep our beaches clean. In case you didn't know, the MCS monitor the amount of litter on our beaches as well as clear it up. They use the data about the rubbish they pick up to fight for legislation to safeguard the future cleanliness of our beaches. So this donation - however big or small it will be - will go some way to help keep our beaches clean. In addition to this, Nivea have also said that they will take direct action if the situation demands it. We hope it doesn't.
I also hope that this will serve as an example to other companies that they MUST act to reduce their impact on the marine environment, espcially when it comes to cleaning up spills from container ships, rather than simply rely on their insurance companies to cover their losses. If their name is on the product then they must do all they can to make sure it never gets to where it will cause harm.

It is also important that you know that what you do makes a difference. Your camera phone and 3G connection is vital in all of this because, without it, companies like Nivea simply sit in their landlocked offices oblivious to the mess that's washing up. But the evidence - pictures from Jersey, Westward Ho! Constantine, Bude and beyond - is irrefutable. It adds weight to the message that "your stuff is out there and we think you should help us clean it up."

Nivea have said they will. Now it's time to make sure everyone else does too.

So thank you for helping to keep our beaches the way we want them.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Devil be gone. It's pancake day!

It's Shrove Tuesday today. AKA pancake day, the last day before Lent. This is your chance to indulge before it’s all over for 40 days and 40 nights. You feast then you fast and have a little think whilst you do it - at least that's the idea.
But what about tossing? What's that all about? Well, as well as being the traditional time for penitence and reflection, for going to church to confess your sins, Shrove Tuesday is also a time for using up all your rich and fatty foods (eggs, milk, sugar). And that can only mean one thing: pancakes! The tossing part of the story tells of a lady from Olney in Buckinghamshire who lost track of time whilst cooking her pancakes in 1445, heard the church bells and dashed out of her house with her frying pan still in her hand, running all the way to the service. And so a tradition was created. It also explains why men wishing to take part in pancake races are usually asked to don an apron and headscarf. It’s a housewife thing.
Shrove Tuesday has other curious traditions besides tossing pancakes. In many places, villages played massive inter-community football matches to celebrate ‘fat Tuesday’. A few, like at Haxley, continue today. Shrove Tuesday is also known all over the world as Mardi Gras, the last day of carnival season.

Closer to home, at Clovelly in Devon, there is a little known ritual that would have died out if it were not for the persistence of the people who live there. Clovelly is a village that is owned wholly by an estate. Most of the houses in the village are rented by local people which means that the village - unlike so many which have been blighted by unnaturally high second home ownership - still has a beating heart. That, I would argue, is a rare and precious thing.
The ritual is called Lansherd and it involves all the children of the village racing through the cobbled streets trailing tin cans on lengths of string. The noise is meant to drive the devil out of the houses, down the steep cobbled streets and into the sea. Apparently it was a big deal at one time, with biscuit tins, kettles and cans – and even an old tin bath – being used to scare the devil himself out and away where he can do no harm. Basically it's a noisy procession through the streets that finishes when the children get to the harbour and throw their cans into the sea (don’t worry, they get them in the morning).
Lansherd is a lovely thing to see, and it’s even better to know, as the kids rattle off down the narrow car-free streets, that one of our weird and wonderful British seaside traditions is being kept alive.
Sounds fun? Meet me by the fountain at five fifteen and I’ll show you. Bring string and an old tin bath.
After that, of course, it's home in time for tea. Or, more specifically, pancakes.

From 'The Camper Van Coast: Cooking, Eating, Living the Life'. Due to be published on April 12th 2012.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A message in a bottle.

This is a picture of a Nivea bottle I found on my local beach a few weeks ago. I found a few of them at the same time so decided to get in touch with Nivea to find out what it's all about. They asked me to send them some samples so I went looking for more. I found them at Speke's Mill Mouth, Welcombe Beach and Peppercombe Beach in North Devon and at Constantine in North Cornwall.

Niva tell me that they lost a container from a ship in the Atlantic about a year ago but they don't know how many of these were lost. Well I can safely say it was at least 50 because that's how many I've found. I suspect it's a lot more. It could be thousands, or hundreds of thousands.

Nivea have been really good about communicating with me and I applaud them that. They also say that they have been in touch with Cornwall CC and the National Trust about cleaning up the beaches I mentioned to them. They said "if this escalates to larger numbers, that require an organized clean up operation, we are happy to work with local people to deal with the problem." My response to this was that it's easy to do this if there is a spill, but many pieces over a wider area makes it harder to sort out.

Again to their credit, Nivea responded with this: "The council have been told that we are prepared to pay if they need to send out a team of rangers to clean up NIVEA products." And then they added: "This is a very unusual case that we have not experienced before. This highlights the importance of your help to monitor this."

So I say, let's find their lost products for them. And perhaps remove them from the marine environment at the same time. If we let them remain there they will only do harm.

Will you help me?

Please, please. please. If you go to the beach this weekend and see one of these, take a picture with your phone (or gather them up and take a picture if there are many) and email it to the customer services people at Nivea on stating where and when you found the items.Tweet it to me at @campervanliving too, if you have the time. That way we will be able to understand the impact that just one container of someone's products can have on our beaches.

Finally, a word about Nivea. They have been really good to respond and have admitted their responsibility so this is not a witch hunt. If we can prove to Nivea that their spill is significant enough to warrant paying for clean ups then maybe others will follow suit and help us to keep our beaches the way we like them.



I'm not a pheasant plucker...

...which is why I simply cut the breasts from the brace of pheasants I was presented with this week. They were given to me by my friend Neil who is one of the beaters for the Clovelly shoot. Very grateful I was too, as the pheasant shooting season came to an end on 1st February. Gifts like this are one of the benefits of living in the country. Just not if you are squeamish.
These are the birds that didn't get away. They are the unlucky ones, pan fried with a red wine, orange and ginger sauce (simply chuck it in after you've taken the breasts out and let it simmer whilst the breasts rest a while), served with fried portobello mushrooms (pan fried first with thyme in the same pan to save washing up) and a few heads of young broccoli. Took about 15 minutes, needed just two pans (one if you forego the greens) and tasted delicious. Something for the van perhaps? Keep your eyes peeled when you are out and about next on those country lanes. You know, just in case you couldn't swerve quickly enough. Nobody wants to see a perfectly good pheasant going to waste.

Also, note the Westcountry garnish: a bit of orange and some green stuff. That's flash round these parts.

What do you call yours? #mycampervaniscalled LOVE!

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