Monday, September 24, 2007

Hole-in-one ... shoe

This happened a few weeks ago but I never got round to blog this.

I discovered a hole in a shoe. It's not really a shoe, but a 'mule', I suppose you could call it that.

It's Marks/Sparks Footglove.

I showed my son the shoe, "Guess how long Mum has had this pair of shoes."

"Hmm. Seven years?"

"No, had these much longer than you've been around."

"Longer than you've been married?"


"Ten years?"

"At least."

More like eleven, I think.

I remember using those when I was doing my PhD fieldwork in a city "up north". I remember my 90-something neighbour (then only 80-something) saying how comfortable she found those shoes. She had a similar pair in black. Mine were an adventurous beige.

I remember spilling tea on my nearly-new mules and tried very hard to rid them of the stains. No luck.

Ah, well. No one's going to notice.

These shoes/mules/whatever stayed with me, tramped all over Singapore and the UK, put away in the winter and brought out when the weather warmed up. Thought there were about one and a half inch heels on those, they were the most comfortable shoes to run around town in.

Any way, it's history now. I put them in the bin. They were so worn, it couldn't even be given away. Somehow, in this throwaway age it seems so strange to have actually worn something to death.

Have I bought new ones to replace those?

Not ... yet.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Slow Boat from Canada

I've run out of some of my Hankettes supplies.

I placed my last order back in May. I know sometimes there was a lead time of a four to six weeks, so I always worked with plenty of time buffered in.

They didn't have the flannel to do the hankies. There was delay.

Then the machine needed repairs.

They bought a second machine to keep up with the orders.

Then finally I got the message that said the order was filled and it would be shipped.

When the order did not arrive in a few days I asked for when it was shipped.

Then I got a message that said it was shipped by a different method than they usually did.

I waited, and waited, and waited. When still no box arrived I emailed, "Where is my order?"

Then a message came to clarify that when they said "International" they meant "International via sea freight". Instead of the 10 to 16 days I expected -- which was instead of the normal three to five days -- it was now going to take four to six WEEKS!


I would have fallen off my chair, if not for the fact that I was standing.

The person who usually did the despatch was busy and someone else took the box to the post office and opted for the wrong service.

I felt a little queasy in the stomach. I cannot afford for the goods not to arrive. There are customers who want to buy hankies and they are not getting them. This is bad customer service.

On one hand I am really pleased for Hankettes that they are doing so well that orders are taking weeks instead of days to fill. That means, after pioneering a product for more than ten years, people are finally getting the idea about using reusable organic cotton hankies instead of single-use tissue paper usually made from virgin pulp.

On the other I feel terrible that I have to disappoint customers.

Ironically I had previously enquired about using sea freight instead of air freight thinking of the air miles. This would require more careful logistical planning, but if we could save on "hankie miles", then why not?

But I was told they preferred to send things out to me by air. It's like that with us smaller retailers. Unless we can fill a container load with goods, the suppliers, the forwarding agents and everyone else in between prefer to deal with air instead of sea cargo.

Looking on the bright side, this would give us a better idea of the implications of shipping rather than flying and we can add to our green credentials by opting for the former if we can work out the issues with payment (that's another story).

Still, we can only learn from our mistakes.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Age is Old Age

As the writer of Ecclesiates says, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Years ago as a full-time Christian worker with university students I had to read up on "New Age". I could not, for a long time, understand why it was called "New Age". What is so new about this "New Age", I kept asking myself. So much of it sounds like old hat to me.

Then it tweaked. I'd been living the New Age for as long as I could remember: New Age was "Old Age" as far as the oriental person is concerned.

"New Age" is new only to the person who has to learn a new non-western philosophy as the basis of his worldview. Having grown up Chinese, there was nothing very new in it for me. Sorted.

Second week back at school and I still find myself sewing name labels. It has not been easy trying to procure organic cotton trousers for my son. Finally they arrived this morning at seven-thirty on a Saturday morning. Typical.

Because son suffers from eczema, I didn't want his legs to be plastered in teflon-coated trousers all day long. He's been wearing shorts in junior school. Now that he's in "Middle School" (in his particular school naming convention) he wears long trousers.

I remember starting school and Mum had to organize a neighbour to sew the uniforms for me. One couldn't go to the shop to buy over-the-counter uniforms. So as we grew out of the uniforms, these were carefully stored away for the next sibling.

I was the youngest and with three sisters before the two brothers immediately older than me I suspect that all the uniforms were a bit worn. When it came my turn to start school, the baby of the family needed a new set of uniforms.

Let's just say it's no fun wearing those highly starched cotton uniforms. The inside seams were not neatened and the little loose threads that have been starched (the uniform could stand upright by itself) pricked.

Ironing these uniforms was hard work. That was my mother's task, and she hated ironing most amongst the myriad chores she did around the house.

She refused to use an ironing board (because she didn't know how) and did the ironing on the floor, on a stack of heavy-duty remnant bits of fabric and old towels and an old jute sack she had salvaged from somewhere years ago.

The iron was kept in an old biscuit tin and the cord was wound around it when not in use.

Because this ironing set-up was flat it was not easy ironing our pinafores which had three box pleats at the front and three at the back. The side that was ironed first would get creased up by the time you did the second.

Imagine what joy Mum felt when they introduced, yes, polyester uniforms. Or as we used to say "wash and wear" clothes.

No more ironing -- or much less, any way. Still these uniforms were not cheap.

I remember when I got to secondary school, the -- ahem! -- elite girls' school in Singapore, on the basis of a national examination, the cost of uniforms was a concern.

My mum took me to a shopping centre in High Street (I think it's Peninsular) or was it People's Park, to a shop called Yang Tze-Kiang. She bought me two sets of unforms. They were far too long and too broad for me.

So the hem was taken up and let down bit by bit over the years. By the end of my fourth year, there was a tiniest hem left on it. The cloth was worn very, very thin. Still I wore the same uniforms because we couldn't afford to buy new ones.

Between then and now, polyester uniforms have become the '"bog-standard", de rigeur. So it has been nearly impossible to find cotton uniforms, let alone organic cotton uniforms.

I think of the ironing that will need to be done. Will my son get a "red point" for wearing a crumpled shirt? It is difficult to keep these shirts in pristine condition.

We'll wait and see. If the school is picky about his not-so-white, not so crisp cotton shirt and punishes him for that, it is clearly discrimination against a child who has a skin sensitivity.

But, as I started to say: there is nothing new under the sun. What was a "godsend" to my mum in the guise of polyester uniform has outlived its usefulness. Now the cry is for chemical-free, pesticide-free and sweatshop-free uniforms that let our children's skins breathe properly again.

As for irons and such-like, has anyone seen that TV commercial where a toaster is being sold at £5.00?

That is less than the minimum wage! How could that be produced and shipped here and then shipped to the shops for under £5.00?

Someone somewhere is not getting a fair deal either in raw materials costs or in wages.

Think about that.

Also I am now left with a stack of polyester, Teflon-coated shorts and shirts. I tried giving them away, but nobody wanted them. As another mum helping to run the Uniform Shop noted, these things are so cheap people wouldn't buy them second-hand.

I'll take these to the school further down the road instead. Surely the school could sell these on for 50 pence each or something, or give them away to the pupils who need them most?? Why let them go into a landfill?

Back to Organic-Ally.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

TV programme gave me pain in the neck

It came on after University Challenge, so we just sat there and watched.

It was a certain Nigella telling us how to cook 'express meals' after a long hard day at work.

I have seen a certain impressionist making fun of Nigella and this was the first time I've ever watch the real McCoy myself. And boy! Did it give me a pain in the neck.

The rate at which she -- how do you describe it? -- flick her hair (head?) back at the neck was so -- how does one describe it? -- annoying after the first few minutes.

She went on and on about her "busy work day".

And many hard-pushed stay-at-home mothers and working mothers who come home to work a second shift want to shout: HELLO! Why do you bother to work when you are married to a very rich man?

We don't grudge her marrying a very rich man. But the point is she COULD choose not to work at all. The fact that she does -- whatever 'work' she actually does -- means another person (probably a woman) who needs a job does not have one (or one that pays as well). I found the whole idea just a tat too patronizing.

Why does she not spend the time doing some 'good work' for the community without the TV cameras being there? Like spend time to help children in inner-city schools read, serve as a dinner lady, or sumfink like that? Be a female Jamie Oliver revolutionizing school dinners on the quiet?

But she has chosen to 'work', to maintain her financial independence, I suppose.

Sure, it is her right to work, but to make it look like, PRETEND, she's like most of the rest of female humanity (or "womanity"?), either having to struggle with bringing up children with totally inadequate support from an absent father, or who has to work to make the mortgage payments is, frankly, making capital (or worse, fun) of us. It's an insult, really.

She's being paid lots of money to show us what we should be doing -- be a bit like her.

But how many women you know are a bit like her: daughters of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and married to a multi-millionaire?

I understand the men love her.

Back to Organic-Ally.