thesticks

"Come on, if we don't go now we'll never go."

"I'm still tired."

"The fresh air will wake you up. I know you, you'll be grouchy if you don't get some exercise and it'll be my fault."

"Yeah yeah, I know, I'm coming. Where shall we go?"

"Just something short," suggested the Webmaster. "If we stay on the roads we can avoid the mud. I don't want the dogs getting wet and dirty."

 We set off, heading down the lane. It is 11:30. The air is damp and the mist is thick, obscuring any view. Maybe it is low cloud.

"It's a lot warmer today, but can't see much."

"When I was out earlier I could hear a car on the top road, but I couldn't see it. From the sound it went straight past at the top. I didn't think the fog was so thick, I could see the road." 

"But not the car?"

"No. Not the car. I wonder if it was a grey or silverish colour and it blended in with the mist and didn't have its lights on."

"Sounds a bit dangerous but it doesn't look that bad. We should be able to see traffic coming."

We round the bend at the bottom of the lane and continue to follow the road as it climbs back along the side of Marshes Hill. We fall silent for a while. The dogs amble along, stopping here and there to sniff. 

"When do you think the Student will get her bag delivered?" asks the Webmaster, referring to the fact that her bag had missed the connecting flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and she had been forced to travel on to San Luis Obispo without it.

"Shouldn't be more than a day or two. Apparently the American Airlines woman said it was on the next flight and would be in LA within a few hours. How long can it take to deliver it from there. Maybe tomorrow if they don't work on Sundays."

"Let's hope it isn't lost. What's in it?"

"Laptop, Garmin running watch, Gopro and its bits and pieces, her polaroid camera, that bluetooth speaker she had for Christmas, newish pair of running shoes, other Christmas presents and all her clothes and running kit."

"Like I said, let's hope it isn't lost. Where did she last see it?"

"Philadelphia at the transit baggage drop. She collected it and went through customs and then took it to the transit bag drop."

We are at the highest point on the road before it begins to drop down into the village. "Shall we go along the Rocks and make it a bit longer?"

"If you like," offered the Webmaster. "The sun is trying to shine through now."

"Maybe we should stick to direct flights. She did well to make it, even without the bag, given all the delays and the hassle at security. I hope the gravy was worth it. They stopped her in customs at Philadelphia and challenged her. It could have caused her to miss the connection given the short time she had. Anyway I'm not impressed with American Airlines."

"They were pretty disorganised at Manchester. Why did we have to queue for an hour to hand in the bag and then get sent somewhere else, where there was no queue, because it was a soft bag. Why couldn't the people at the machines printing the luggage labels have told us that?"

"No idea. But that woman who spoke to us at the soft bag drop said it was always the same, chaotic, slow and late and she does the journey frequently."

"They need someone like you to sort them out."

"Haha, so you admit I'm a genius."

"No, I meant someone who knows how to do process analysis. All that bollocks you've learned at work. Six sigma processes. Lean and slim or whatever you call it."

"Yeah, but one of the problems was we seemed to be there when the shifts changed and half the staff went off."

"And why did they keep trying to send people to the machine that was broken?"

"Good question."

We pass the church it is quiet. 

"I would have thought there would be a service on now."

"It's a bit late. It will have finished an hour or so ago and everyone is either in the pub or home for lunch now."

"Yeah. I forgot we are late today."

We walk through the village and turn along the Rocks. We pass one or two people walking their dogs. 

"So, American Airlines, the Student was very upset by the woman in LA dealing with the missing bags. Apparently she was rude and didn't listen and tried to tell her that she had to wait for the bag to arrive, but eventually agreed it could be delivered."

"Let's see. I've got a funny feeling about all this."

"You always expect the worst."

"Well that way I'm never disappointed."

"No but you waist a lot of time and energy worrying about things that never happen. Anyway, it's lucky she didn't spend any longer trying to sort out the bag or she might have missed the next flight 'cus she was stopped at security. They felt through all her hand luggage and then said their hand swaps were positive for explosives."

"What does that mean?"

"No idea but I think they must have tipped everything out and sorted through it because afterwards she said she'd got it all back but was worried that in her rush she may have dropped something."

"Well, let's hope she hasn't lost her phone or passport."

"She was using the phone to tell me. And fortunately she made the flight."

"Oh yeah."

"For some reason it made me think of the Birmingham Six and the false positive for explosives. Playing cards, not washing hands properly. She's used that bag a lot and there were all sorts of things in it. Who knows, but she didn't have any explosives, that's for sure. And if she did it would be a scandal for the other two security searches she'd been through on the same journey with the same bag."

"Tests should have improved since then. But Bloody Hell. What a journey. Smuggling gravy granules and carrying explosives!"

A woman and her dog approach. She looks at us as though we shouldn't be on her road. We pull our dogs to one side and she passes. We continue to the end of the Rocks in silence, turn left and almost immediately right and down through the end of the Vale.

"We could go the other way and across the path where my sister lived, " I say. 

"We could but we won't."

"Why not?"

"I don't like paths that go through gardens."

"Grrr. They're public footpaths. And it doesn't go through the garden, just the fields. You don't mind walking on the other footpaths through farmers' fields."

"They don't live there."

The lane is narrow and a large four by four vehicle tries to pass. We move into a gateway to give it room. At the end of the lane we turn right and head up the hill.

We are half way up. A woman with a small black dog is walking down on the opposite side. The dog begins to pull and bark and make a real fuss. She struggles to get it under control, trapping it between her legs and on a very short lead but it continues to bark loudly. The dog does not seem to be dangerous or any threat, just noisy and excitable but she apologises for it. We sympathise and continue upwards.

"Wait," calls the Webmaster. I stop and turn. He is clearing up after one of the dogs. I hate this aspect of walking dogs, but we are on the edge of the village here and lots of people walk this way. "Where is the nearest bin?"

"Don't know. Might be one near the bus stop at the top, otherwise in the car park."

The Webmaster catches me up and we continue in single file along the edge of the road.

"I was thinking," said the Webmaster, "about big data and how it is used in some areas for waste collection and recycling."

"How?"

"How what?"

"How do they use big data for waste collections?"

"Apparently they put sensors in rubbish bins to measure how much you recycle and then fine you if they think you aren't recycling the right amount for your type of house and household."

"How does that work then? What if you go to a local recycle place with bottles or newspapers or you make your own compost."

"Exactly!" agreed the Webmaster.

"And I agree with Peter, you know the guy I used to work with. He wrote a good blog on the cost of recycling when his council insisted on everything been clean and sorted. He wanted to know why he had to waste energy heating water to wash his rubbish, cans and bottles."

"Good point. I wonder where the balance is?"

"It's one thing to ask people to try to recycle and sort the rubbish into broad categories, like glass, paper, metal, green waste, but for some plastics you need a degree in chemistry to know if it is degradable or recyclable."

"A lot have symbols, but sometimes different bits of the same pack have different recycling status."

"So what do you do? Do you have to break up a container into bits and put each bit in a different bin? I don't do that with bottles. You know if there is a metal collar on it. I put it with the glass. How are you supposed to get it off without breaking the bottle or getting metal snips. I can't break it with my fingers."

"Some councils are trying to find people if they put things in the wrong bin."

"Well good luck with that then. Why should someone trying to do their best to recycle be made to pay a fine if they just make a mistake? I think I'd go to court. Which law would you be breaking, putting the rubbish in the wrong bin? Surely not a criminal law."

"If you can afford it. And I don't know, probably local by-law with fixed penalty. Just seen things on Facebook linking to local news items. Like leaving your bin out for too long. Doing the rubbish is skilled work these days."

"Sounds like desperate local authorities trying to get money on any pretext."

"Well they have to provide services and they don't get much from the central government. If they lose money selling recycled rubbish because someone has put plastic in with the paper, they have to get it from somewhere else."

"I suppose so, but they need to be careful they don't antagonise the community by making ridiculous demands, or make people redundant and then ask people to provide the services for free."

"Happens."

We are at the junction and turn towards the pub. A car comes round the corner at speed. It is doubtful the driver saw us.

"Good job we were close to the edge."

"and not trying to cross or go straight on."

There are two cars in the car park and we see a few people walking along the paths on the hill.

"The sun is almost through now."

"Still hazy in the distance, but turning into a reasonably nice day."

The dogs take there time along the footpath over the hill. There must be a lot of new smells for them to sniff, but we are in no hurry. We let them set the pace and wander slowly back towards home.

"So the Student won't be back until middle of the Summer."

"No, but she'll still think it's cold."