17 December 2009
Trafalgar Square: No free lunch, but free bike parking
For once, you could park your bike in Trafalgar Square yesterday. The Feeding the Five Thousand event had commandeered the square with skiploads of edible fruit and veg which, like one third of all stuff grown in the UK, would normally be thrown away for cosmetic reasons.
They were turning all this into a free lunch for anyone who turned up, to draw attention to the amount of food wasted in the rich world, which just by itself contributes something like 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Either the recession is biting harder than we thought, or Londoners just can't resist a freebie, because the queues were of post-office proportions, winding round more than two sides of the square.
Unfortunately I didn't have the time to invest just to get a biodegradable paper plate of veg curry, wodge of bread, and complimentary banana, apple and handful of loose grapes.
Anyway, I had some leftovers waiting for me in the fridge, and it didn't seem right to throw that away in order to stop food waste.
Clustered round the square's great Christmas Tree was a tent village of rather damp climate change protesters. You have to be pretty determined to draw attention to global warming when it's freezing cold.
On the central stage was an entertaining demonstration of how a simple adjustment to your bike can turn it into a pedal-powered blender, suitable for turning fruit into a smoothie.
You just put a glassful of water and three pieces of fruit into the blender, pedal furiously for two minutes, and hey presto! A glassful of water with thirty pieces of fruit in it. And a lot of froth.
There were two blender-bikes in the square, and you could have a go yourself. I did manage to score a freebie biodegradable disposable plant-based plastic glass of someone else's legwork. So no such thing as a free lunch for me, but there was such a thing as a free smoothie.
And, to be fair, it was rather tasty, though my idea of a bike-generated smoothie machine would still involve cycling to Argos.
And, as the pleasant young steward handed me my gratis goblet, he smiled and said, Thanks for coming by bike, and it all felt worthwhile. Even if you can't park your bike there the other 364 days a year. Maybe they should leave up that sign that says 'This is rubbish'.