Category Archives: tavistock

Waste Collection or Hot Air

West Devon has introduced a new waste collection regime.

They started by leafleting us some time ago.  Fine.  The leaflet promised more information nearer the time, so I didn’t pay too much attention except to note the date: second half of October.  They also promised a recycling box and a food waste box.  The recycling box duly arrived, but no sign of the food waste one.

Last night I was due to take the rubbish out.  A fortnight’s worth: I don’t take it out every week.  Since I have no food waste box, it includes food waste.

I check the recycling box.  In it is a leaflet, longer than the original one.  But it’s illegible!  Or rather, it’s stuck together and won’t open: slicing it delicately with a swiss army knife shows traces of print on the corner of the inner pages, but it’s irretrievable.  But visible on the back page is a collection calendar, which shows there’s no general waste collection this week.  Damn!  We’ve always had weekly collections in the past.

OK, I can live with that.  Awkward when one is away on a Monday night and misses the opportunity for a fortnightly collection, but so be it.  Just so long as I know and can plan around it.  At least I can fill the recycling box this week!

So I went to the West Devon website, to check the full information, any further guidance on what goes in the recycling box, and those leaflets.  This is where it gets surreal: I found myself going round and round in circles on the site, but not finding any substantial information.  The first link claiming to be PDF turns out to be a page about PDF (and acrobat), and I curse my way through several more links to it before I find an actual PDF leaflet.  That then turns out to be a useless one-pager, not the ones I’m looking for.  Some annoying rummaging at home finds the old leaflet in its glossy printed form, but nothing I can reference without the hassle of paper.

Now truly p***ed off at this vacuous website, I try sending them a complaint:

Your leaflet on kerbside recycling and refuse collection describes an “outside food bin” and “kitchen caddy”, and implies we should be provided with them before the new service starts.  The new service has started, and none have been seen here.

OK, not a big deal: I can presumably contact you to ask for them.

However, having only a vague memory of the leaflet, I naturally came to your website to look for the information.  I was also looking for the leaflet that came in the big green boxes, but is illegible due to inadequate production quality.


Is this nothing but hot air?

Now it gets all the more surreal.  It refuses my submission, telling me something on the form is incomplete.  I go through the normal fields again looking for the little red star, iterate several times.  WTF???

Finally, a break and a cup of tea later, I find it.  The last entry in the form is a big textbox captioned:

If there is anything which makes it difficult to use our service, for example if English is not your first language or you have a disability, please use the space below to tell us how we could help you.*:

It’s refusing form submission because I’ve left that box empty.  This is vintage irony: their misguided attempts at accessibility have made the thing inaccessible!  I entered in that box:

How about enabling submission with this box blank?  For those of us who are sufficiently able-bodied and english-speaking to fill your form, but whose eyesight isn’t quite sharp enough to spot a tiny red star above this box?

(Pardon the grammar, but it was past 2 a.m. and I’d been struggling for far too long with it to care.  Not an excuse, but a plea for mitigation).

For any techie readers, this mess of a site proclaims WCAG AA accessibility, at which I can only shake the head.  A look at the source reveals heavy div-soup that is void of any HTML semantics.  An automated analysis reveals markup that is surprisingly close to AA conformance in box-ticking terms.  While not as bad as many 1997-style monstrosities, it shows all the hallmarks of following rules with no insight into their meaning.

I guess the whole website is a box-ticking exercise, just as waste collection is a box-filling one.  Maybe B for effort, C- for outcome.  I could forgive the missing receptacles and the web design if only they’d provided those simple leaflets!  Grrrr ….


Marke’t Econom’y

Went into town today to buy some salad for lunch (already had bread, cheese, and soup in the kitchen).

Our local greengrocer looks different.  Bare, empty.  With a much-reduced range on display.  There are notices apologising for the reduced range, but explaining they’re in administration.  Oops!

Apparently if all goes smoothly they have a buyer lined up, and it’s another greengrocer, so the difference to consumers should be minimal.  It’s a foreign company – a wholesaler – taking over, but from only just across the border in Kernow.  Our Cornish neighbours grow some excellent fruit&veg, so here’s hoping for some good local supply lines, though perhaps not so much in the coming wintertime as in the season of plenty.

If all goes well, can we infer the market economy is coming back to life again locally?  The weak going out with minimal fuss, and giving way smoothly to the strong.  Our food shopping has seen some improvements recently with on the one hand the coming of Lidl as an alternative to the muzak-ridden supermarkets, and on the other hand the rise of great specialist shops!

House hunting again

I’ve just viewed another two houses.  Between them, they seem to sum up a whole lot of what’s wrong in mid-market UK property.

House 1: 1930s (I think) 3 bed semi.  Has potential to be a nice house: decent amount of space, small front garden and larger, very nice back garden, big round bay window in sitting room and front bedroom.  Clearly hadn’t been decorated for some time, with walls quite marked, but the carpets (and glossed-up wood in the sitting room) were in good nick.  But horribly let down by the kitchen and, to a lesser extent, bathroom.  The kitchen was a showstopper: far too small, greasy, smelly, and with a floorboard quite rotted away in the recess where a washing machine should stand.  OK if I were buying and could replace the whole thing, but not to rent.

House 2: modern.  A development called Heritage Park, built around an old foundry which is a beautiful building.  But the greed of the developer glares through this house, which is not part of the old building.  In the pursuit of profits it’s been positioned just a patio’s width from a high wall, and the back rooms on all three floors were very dark (on a bright sunny and amazingly warm day).  No outdoor space in front (just the dark patio behind), and the indoor space is cramped, without even the hallway space for a bike.  Note to developers – if you want to build at that kind of density, build flats not oppressively-cramped houses!  The kitchen and two bathrooms are nice – all that was missing in the other place – but they don’t make up the defects, nor the cheap and tacky feel common to most UK houses built since 1945, or the clouds of flies that emerged when I opened a window.

There are houses that look altogether better than either of those.  They just have a nasty tendency to be in places where broadband connectivity is at best uncertain.  Ho hum.

Three in a row!

Our cheese shop has long been one of the best things in town.  It’s one of the small shops in the area immediately outside the market: a shopping and services area that’s pedestrianised during shop hours.

This week it’s been joined by two more great food shops.  Firstly the wholefood stall from the market has gone up in the world and moved into a real shop.  On the other side, the olive stall has done the same.  Both the new shops are taking advantage of their improved premises to expand their ranges a little, though it’ll be another day or two before the olive seller looks like a working shop!

That’s my three favourite specialist/luxury food shops all in a little row!  Yum!

Oh, and any foodies might like to make a pilgrimage to Tavistock for the last weekend of this month, when the cheese shop hires the town hall for its annual cheese fair.  A fantastic opportunity for the cheese-loving public (that’s me 🙂 ) to meet the producers, learn about their craft, and of course sample a huge range of cheeses, accompanied by supplements from local wine to pickle, and whatever new attractions they can bring us this year.  In common with other locals, I use this annual event to expand the range of cheeses I’ll regularly buy over the following year.

The perpetual roadworks

After upwards of three months of works outside, I thought they were over.  Repeatedly.

With a bit of luck, they are indeed over.  So instead, the identical stretch of road has just been dug up by contractors for the water board, who are now doing something with subterranean pipes and valves.


Tavistock at war!!

There seems to be a lot going on this evening.

First a band starts up.  That is, an outdoor-style band.  I thought a brass band, but later heard something more like the drone of bagpipes played without a discernible tune.  Whatever else may have been there was overwhelmed by the relentless pounding of a big drum.  Ouch!

Next up, the tinny sound of something like an ice cream van on steroids, playing the most inane of tunes: “oh I do like to be beside the seaside” and “we’re all going on a summer holiday”.  When I say on steroids, I mean no ice cream van I’ve encountered could’ve been quite so loud.  It was playing concurrently with the pounding drum: indeed, the two seem to be in competition.

There were a couple of lesser contenders, but I can’t even bring them to mind any more (at this moment, there’s something including competing tannoys with shouting voices and other crap).  Probably just as well the mind has swept some of it away!  I think if I head up the road away from town, I may be able to escape it.  But the usual yobs club is due to start up at nine, too, so darkness won’t end the crap.



I thought we had some peace and quiet during the daytime, and my productivity had begun to rise.  Now the works are back, with a range of powertools, and the wall+road acting as a sounding-board to send it all straight up at me. 😦

Seems someone’s got a big works budget.  It’s not just the perpetual wall-works, but also the roads all around are getting some kind of resurface.  Well, all except the stretch of Mount Tavy road that could really do with resurfacing.  A lot of the roads now have loose surfaces, leaving one at risk of a skid, or of a stone thrown up into the eye from someone’s wheel.  The scariest stretch I’ve done is coming down Pork Hill: it’s normally steep and fast (and the surface was perfectly good), but now with the half-arsed new surface it proclaims a 15mph speed limit – about 40 below what one would naturally do by just letting go and freewheeling.

Oh, and I can confirm observationally that dartmoor ponies are rather brighter than people in town centres.  That is to say, when one of them was standing blocking a small bridge, she reacted a d*** site faster to a polite ‘scuse me please than humans blocking a narrow way are capable of.

Peace and quiet

After two days of works became more than three months (with notice given half-way through), we finally seem to have some peace and quiet.  The wall opposite is looking complete(!), and the workmen haven’t returned this week (though I thought they were back this morning, when a lorry stopped outside to load/unload, but it turns out that was just someone moving).  On the other hand, part of the building site is still fenced off, so maybe there’s more to do.

Most intriguing: how are they going to remove the scaffolding from the far side of the wall?  Normally you’d take scaffolding down starting at the top, and load it onto a vehicle at the bottom.  But there’s no access to the bottom of this wall.  They erected the scaffolding by lowering it from above, and I guess they’re going to need to bring a big crane to take it down.  That’ll be … erm … interesting, in our narrow little road.

In other local news, summer has reached the point where I’m hotter than comfortable while working.  The river is warmer than I recollect from recent summers, and also lower: after about four weeks of summer weather with very little rain, I was unable to swim on-the-spot against the current for exercise, as I have done many times in the past.

Late notice

Notice of works: No parking for two days (March 4th-5th)Once upon a time a notice went up, warning motorists not to park on a short stretch of road because works were to be done.  That was for March 4th for two days.  It’s still there, and the works have gone through a number of phases chronicled in part here, here and here.

Following my last post here – the one where they’d outright poisoned my home for two days – I went and had a word with the local paper.  I had already complained to environmental health, but their response came only on the third day as the offending engine was being removed.  The story I thought might interest the paper is the contrast: how they’d gone to the trouble to protect those overhead wires but hadn’t even bothered to tell the residents what we were to be subjected to.

The reporter called the council, and (probably) as a consequence of that they’ve finally notified us of what’s going on, with apologies for “late notice”.  A result of sorts, though it’s to be a minimum of another three weeks, and with no detail of how much more nuisance to expect.

April 27th: Notice was finally sent to us!

April 27th: Notice was finally sent to us!

It gets worse

I’ve complained before about noise from the works outside the window.  Now they’re filling my flat with diesel fumes:

An exhaust pointing upwards is presumably designed to protect the workers from being poisoned by the thick clouds of diesel.  But it doesn’t help when you’re looking down from two floors up (and yes, believe it or not, that’s not steam in that plume – just diesel fumes).  Perhaps we should require the exhaust to point downwards, so that the workers’ interests (health and safety) are aligned with the neighbours.

I suspect that’s also why the wires on the far side of the road have got that orange cladding on to protect them (it was put up last week).  The powers that be don’t want to risk the infrastructure, but I guess their responsibility ends at the door or window to private property.  Hmmm, no, that still doesn’t explain why the owner of the wires was warned while we weren’t.

The machine is noisy too, though not quite as bad as some of what they’ve had.  I suppose I should be grateful none of them are inflicting a ghetto-blaster on us.