When my author friend Lucienne Boyce read the original manuscript for my first collection of short stories, Quick Change, she gently pointed out that she thought it odd I’d mentioned recycling bins in four of the 20 stories. I changed one bin into a bonfire, which made for a much better story. However, my column for the September 2023 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News reveals that recycling is still very much in my thoughts…
Recently I spotted an advertisement seeking volunteers for a council study of household recycling habits. When it popped up on my computer, it reminded me of a market research programme I took part in as a child. My best friend’s mum corralled a dozen of my classmates into the local church hall to taste-test various brightly coloured drinks. We went home clutching clanking carrier bags filled with glass bottles of lurid liquids, and instructions to report back on which flavour ran out first.
I didn’t much like any of the drinks, preferring Treetop orange squash, but the parties were fun, and the free samples made me feel special. My fond memories of the process were enough to make me volunteer for the recycling research.
The survey required me to keep a diary of everything I recycled over three days, snapping photographs on my phone. I thought I was good at avoiding waste, buying as much fresh, loose food as possible, but my diary was a wake-up call. So much packaging!
- Have you ever been on a diet that required you to write down everything you ate or drank?
- Have you tried to save money by recording every item of expenditure?
In both cases, it can be easier to abstain than to add to your list.
If we had to make a note of everything we recycled every day, I reckon we’d soon find ways to reduce and re-use instead – so much better for the environment.
I’m astonished to recall that when I first moved to the village in 1991 there was no recycling service. We just chucked everything in the black bin – a bigger one than we have now, emptied weekly rather than fortnightly, and thanks to our throwaway culture, it was often full.
A century ago, there would have been no council refuse collection of any kind, but nor was there much need, as there was much less waste. People bought food loose or wrapped in paper and carried it home in wicker shopping baskets. They returned empty jars and bottles for deposits. Old tins provided useful storage – no Tupperware in those days. Rag rugs gave new purpose to worn-out clothes.
Everything else the householder had to dispose of on his property, burning it in the hearth or garden bonfires, or burying it in the garden. Even now, bits of old china, glass and metal buried decades ago frequently rise to the surface in my flowerbeds.
As a crime writer, I can’t help wondering what lies beneath my lawn…
Not all rubbish could be burned or buried. Rag-and-bone men used to collect cumbersome items and sell them on as scrap. Even as late as the Sixties, a rag-and-bone man occasionally drove a van or a horse and cart slowly down our street in suburban London, calling “any old lumber?” A popular sitcom during my childhood was Steptoe and Son, revolving around a scrapyard. Could Yate’s Sort-It Centre make a great setting for a modern comedy series? I like to think so.
I’m pleased to say I found taking part in the council’s recycling research just as interesting as the squash parties of my childhood.
I’m just glad that this time I didn’t have to taste-test samples.
THIS WEEK’S NEWS
DRIVEN TO MURDER (Sophie Sayers #9)
On Monday I submitted the manuscript for my ninth Sophie Sayers cosy mystery, Driven to Murder, to my editor at Boldwood Books, and this morning I was delighted to receive an enthusiastic email with her proposed (very light) edits.
“What a tonic!” she said, going on to describe it as “a rich experience for returning fans” as well as “accessible to new readers”.
Now it’s down to me to make a few minor revisions in line with her comments, and then it goes to a copy editor, then a proofreader. Meanwhile, she will brief the cover designer, and I can’t wait to see what the designer comes up with!
The official launch date is 28th January 2024, but if you’d like to kept up to date by my publisher about progress, and any special offers on my other Boldwood Books, you might like to sign up for their Debbie Young mailing list here.
GUEST POST AT IHEARTMURDER BOOK BLOG
Karen Louise Hollis, author of Starting Again at Silver Sands Bay, kindly invited me to be a guest on her book blog, interviewing me about my books and my writing life.
If you’d like to read the interview, hop over to https://iheartbooks.blog/2023/09/13/author-interview-debbie-young/ where you’ll also find information about Karen’s own books.
STROUD BOOK FESTIVAL TALK BOOKINGS NOW OPEN (Sunday 12th November)
If you’d like to come to hear me in conversation with Kat Ailes, debut author of The Expectant Detectives (great title!), bookings are now open for our Stroud Book Festival event at The Subscription Rooms at 4pm on Sunday 12th November. Click here for more details and to book your tickets now.
COUNTDOWN TO NEXT HULF TALK (Saturday 30th September)
This time, the theme is “Research and Inspiration: The Stories Behind the Stories“, and eight authors of novels across different genres will be in conversation about where they get their ideas, how they undertake their research, and how they weave facts seamlessly into fiction to create compelling, convincing stories.
Come and join me and Ali Bacon, Jean Burnett, Heather Child, Mari Howard, Justin Newland, and HJ Reed, from 2pm until 5pm in the Bethesda Chapel, Park Street, Hawkesbury Upton GL9 1BA. The ticket price of £5 includes tea and cake, plus a £2 discount voucher to spend on the book of your choice by one of the guest authors.
There just 50 seats in our venue, a light and airy Victorian chapel, so book now to be sure of a place, using this Eventbrite link.
For more information about Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, visit www.hulitfest.com.