Reaction to my column featuring Australian reader Sarah Tyson’s suggestion of composting dog waste was almost universally one of revulsion. There were expressions of fear about salmonella and e-coli being present in the compost, concerns about lingering unpleasant odours and a general aversion to handling something that has come from a dog’s back end.

Despite these worries, Sarah assures us there is no smell once it decomposes (don’t forget is is mixed with 50% vegetable scraps), and that it quickly breaks down into an environmentally friendly natural compost. But it is recommended that the site is positioned well away from from your regular compost heap. Another reader (also called Sarah) advises that it would be fine to put over flowers and other garden plants but that it shouldn’t be used on edibles destined for the table. She adds: “I can't say it appeals to me, but apparently if it's broken down properly it doesn't smell. I won't be experimenting though.”

There are plenty of people out there who do it, and lots of help can be found online. It is not recommended that you use waste from dogs who are ill, take medication, or that are fed on a raw meat diet. Although the compost should not be used on edible plants, it is very good as a mulch and also can improve the quality of nutrient-deficient soil. I would recommend reading up on it before giving it a go.

Let’s move on from dog waste to a more pleasant topic suggested by regular reader Clare Powell, that of wedding rings.

“Why do we wear them?” she asks, “Where does the tradition come from? Some feminists refuse to wear them because it's seen as a chain. When did men start wearing them? Some men won't wear them, they think it threatens their masculinity, or are they keeping their options open? I have girlfriends who don't always have theirs on or swap them around. I happen to have four rings on that finger, but that's because I love bling!”

The tradition of wedding rings can be traced back 5,000 years to the ancient Egyptians, where both men and women wore twisted rings of braided reeds or hemp on their fingers to symbolise the romantic commitment to one another. The 2nd century Greek historian Appian of Alexandria is supposed to have described a vein that ran down the finger directly to the heart called the ‘vena amoris’ or ‘vein of love’. Wearing a ring on that finger meant that a couple’s love for one another was bound by the never-ending circle.

Having done some research, it’s unclear whether Appian actually did mention that vein, but there is no doubt that Henry Swinburne, a 17th century York-born ecclesiastical lawyer, did.

In his work ‘A Treatise of Spousals, or Matrimonial Contracts’ published in 1686 he wrote: “The finger on which the wedding ring is to be worn is the fourth finger of the left hand, next unto the little finger, because by the received opinion of the learned in ripping up and anatomising men’s bodies, there is a vein of blood, called vena amoris, which passeth from that finger to the heart.”

Unfortunately, despite how fitting and romantic it all sounds (apart from the ‘ripping up and anatomising’ bit), Swinburne was talking utter claptrap. There is no such vein, and all the veins in our hands are pretty much the same, with no unique heart-bound one.

What is interesting though, is that he says the ring should be worn on the left hand. Swinburne was a staunch Anglican, and in 1593 began to work for the Dean of York Minster. This was a mere 50 years or so after the Reformation where Anglicism became the state religion and Catholics were persecuted. The Church of England established its ‘Book of Common Prayer’ in which it stated that a wedding ring had to be worn on the left hand. Up until then, in most other religions throughout Europe including Catholicism, wedding bands were worn on the right hand. In England, if you were caught with your ring on the right, you would be identified as a Catholic, accused of treason and possibly executed.

I was married to a Dutchman for 20 years and had always wondered why in the Netherlands they wore wedding rings on the right and not left hand.

And now I know!

Do you have opinions, memories or ideas to share with me? Contact me via my webpage at, or email