There is no point crying over spilt milk. A saying, that until last week I would have wholeheartedly agreed, with only one exception: breastmilk. In my experience there are often several very good reasons to cry if you spill breastmilk. The first being the misery of having spent an hour pumping to get a measly 100ml of milk, only to knock this on the floor. The second being that you then have no breastmilk to pass onto someone else so that they can try to feed your baby whilst you get a long shower and an hour or two of sleep.
Anyway, this is a blog about waste, not breastfeeding. So what happened last week that made me feel like crying over spilt cows milk? It wasn’t the leaky, unopened 4 pinter that happened to spill all over my fridge, or learning about the gallons of milk that get tipped down the sink each night at Stirling Community Food because they’re past their ‘best before’, but an incident involving a cat, a plug and an inch or two of bedtime leftovers.
You could say this particular spilt milk story started on the 19th December when we picked up Hank, an eight month old working cocker spaniel puppy from my friend Fiona, whose dog Casey had a pre Christmas litter of six. As it was my idea to get the pup I had been feeling particularly guilty about our cats retreating to the upstairs of our house. Elvis (the oldest cat) is very good at letting Hank know who is boss and spends about the same amount of time downstairs as he ever did, but Schnitzel (my younger cat) is less convinced and now tends to only come down for food. In order to make up for bringing Hank from Hell into the house, I now give the milk that Noah doesn’t finish at bedtime to Schnitzel (a zero waste story to be sure!) by popping the cup just outside Noah’s bedroom door once he is asleep.
Now life with a 4 year old, two cats, a puppy and a job keeps me nicely busy so I felt particularly proud of myself one night when I managed to hoover the stairs and landing in a free 5 minutes before doing Noah’s bath. I was so pleased with myself (or distracted by bath time) that I forgot to put the hoover away, but I did manage to unplug it. The next morning my husband came downstairs and exclaimed “Why is the hoover plug drenched with milk?!” I explained that I had no idea, other than that I leave a cup of milk on the landing for Schnitzel and that perhaps it had been knocked over somehow and wet the plug. However, I was sure that I had picked the cup up this morning and that it hadn’t been knocked over. (Was Schnitzel so annoyed at the arrival of Hank that he dipped his paw in the milk and flicked it repeatedly at the plug in the night?) I suggested leaving the plug to dry out but my husband thought the fat in the milk residue might cause a fire hazard if we were to plug it in again. I then said that I could take the hoover somewhere and have a new plug put on, but apparently this would invalidate the warranty.
My first thought was that the warranty probably wasn’t going to cover us for a milk drenched plug, but the more I pondered this, the more frustrated I got. Should changing a plug invalidate a warranty? Why is repairing broken things so difficult? I mean, trying to get into our last hoover to clean it and replace a worn part was practically impossible, hence the arrival of our new, almost silent hoover.
Isn’t it odd that it feels cheaper or easier, or both, to just buy something new when something breaks, and feel ok about doing this because we throw our discarded electrical items in the right skip at the tip?
I started to think about how to resolve my spilt milk/plug issue and then remembered The Share and Repair project in Stirling (I know what you’re thinking, just YouTube it right? However, if I were to change a plug without it being checked by another human who knew what they were doing I would run the risk of giving the warranty people cause for their invalidation policies). I came across the Share and Repair shop whilst working with Stirling Community Food on the Data Commons Scotland project and set forth for my computer to book a repair slot!
P.S. The timing of the spilt milk incident in this case was made worse by an ill-timed bout of head lice! Tediously treating and combing our hair (turns out 4 year olds are very offended by a spikey nit comb!), washing all of the bedding and then not being able to hoover made for a very unsatisfying eradication effort!