Amazon is listening

After my blogging complaint a couple of months ago (January 25th) about wasteful packaging of a knife rack for The Larches, I’m glad to report the US manager overseeing the global packaging initiative at Amazon has written back to say that the UK team has taken up the complaint and looked at the processes involved with the supplier of the knife. She commented:

“They shared the blog with Kitchencraft and Kitchencraft is going to repackage their products for us using minimalistic cardboard box shippable without overboxing. Thx for the feedback!”

So for the future Kitchencraft will mend its ways and provide smaller packs for small items, reducing therefore the paper packing needed. This is good news for the environment.

But the package in question came with the usual Amazon badged box and packaging, so I had assumed that it had come directly from Amazon and from one of its own warehouses.

Amazon’s response shows I was wrong and implies that some and maybe a lot of Amazon’s inventory is sent to customers by suppliers not directly controlled by Amazon. What happens with these other suppliers?

It’s clear that Amazon is concerned enough about the issue of wasteful or poor packaging to have a policy and international initiative on the issue.

As a massive online retailer they should be, particularly since they receive a lot of complaints, like this broader one on an Amazon forum earlier this month “What’s Up with Amazon’s Poor Packaging Lately?“.

But it’s obviously not a simple matter. I’ve complained about wasteful packaging. Others complain about damage from too little packaging!

As a result of my complaint are we going to see a change in packaging policy across all Amazon’s sales, regardless of supplier or country or will this case be a ‘one off’ for the UK with one kitchen equipment supplier?

Ultimately it all depends on the control Amazon has over fulfilment policy and the training of staff across the whole of its operations including both those in Amazon warehouses and those in partner companies who supply goods.

One worry must be that a focus on getting the right packaging for the particular job will lead to slower delivery times across the board. Green policies do not necessarily lead to a faster service. With Amazon expanding its reach into more areas – like specialist sports equipment for instance – these issues may get harder to fix!

Keswick’s culture scene

It comes as a surprise to many that Keswick has such a varied programme of cultural, sports, arts and music events on offer all through the year.

There’s always a good film screened by the Keswick Film Club on Sundays at the Alhambra Cinema through the winter months; and the good news now is that this 98 year old cinema – which itself has an excellent programme – has a more certain future since Tom Rennie, the manager for 20 years, has taken on the lease in order to keep the cinema open. Source: BBC news 3 Jan 2012. An interesting new feature will be Wednesdays, when more experimental, minority and foreign films will be screened.

The Words by the Water festival has just finished and as always has had a line up of fascinating talks, which can match what’s on offer at most other literary events.

This last Wednesday though I was in for a real treat at the Music Society’s choice for their March session. Dutch jazz and classics trained violinist, Tim Kliphuis was at the Theatre by the Lake with colleagues Roy Percy (bass) and Nigel Clark (guitar) to give a stunning performance of mesmerising string playing, which had the audience clapping for more.

Kliphuis was new to me but is clearly a highly talented virtuoso performer. The group is popular in Scotland, Holland and Germany and is performing in the summer in the US at the June Django Festival. They’ve been recently too on BBC 3.

Described as taking over the role of Stephen Grappelli, who worked with guitarist Django Reinhardt in the 1930s, Kliphuis’ verve and note-sure technique on an instrument that ruthlessly exposes any weakness, marks him out.

Watch out for the name and make sure you get to any concert of the Kliphuis Trio that’s on in your area! They’ve several CD’s available too.

Visitors from China

Wondering what the picture opposite is there for? Out of context, it may look rather insignificant. But some of our visitors may recognize this blown up fuzzy image of Causey Pike as the February page of the Larches 2012 Desk calendar, which we give to visitors and guests when they come here.

The full picture at the bottom left of the page shows the calendar in fact occupies a key position beside the computer of our Christmas visitor from Beijing last December. Heather was delighted to receive it and we have been equally pleased to receive from her a photo of the calendar in her hutong in central Beijing, where she lives.

The blurriness of the photo reminds me though of another visitor from China, who spent in the 1930s a few weeks in the Lake District. Exactly 75 years ago his experience was published in a slim 67 page volume, entitled The Silent Traveller: a Chinese Artist in Lakeland.

Chiang Yee, painter, poet and teacher had come to the area in the summer. He describes the results of his comparing ‘the different customs of various countries’ in words, poems and a deft series of delicate drawings, often a little blurred like this one below of people going to church in the Wasdale rain.

The Silent Traveller was an instant success and had been reprinted three times by 1944; and since then has been re-published many times. It was to provide too a successful format for his further Silent Traveller books, covering Paris, London. Edinburgh, Oxford, New York, San Francisco and Boston. An early version of the Lonely Planet series!

A taste of Yee’s writing can be seen in this unusual comparison he gives of Wastwater and Derwentwater after he had walked over in the rain via Taylor Gill Force to Borrowdale and jumped onto the lake steamer:

Wastwater “was somewhat like a beautiful woman bathing without much clothing on her body; and sometimes she dived into the great white mass of cloudy Nature, which made her invisible or left only a vague image. Though she was mysterious, yet she had great dignity … But Derwentwater was like a fully dressed lady in green-and-blue gown with all sorts of jewels and ornaments, who sometimes sat behind a gauze curtain which, though it might cover her face and obscure it a little, left her charm still visible.”