Monday, 31 December 2007

Monday 31st December 07

A quiet day... didn't do that much except spend a couple of hours shredding hedge down the garden, and preparing huge 'lumps' of hedge for shredding by chopping the twiggy bits away from the sticks, and the sticks from the stumps, so the sticks can be cut down to size for the stove and the twiggy bits fed into the shredder...

Earlier I did spend a short time at the lottie, putting 3 20kg sacks of compostable veg and fruit on top of the last layer of brambles and weeds. I had a chat with an old fella who saw 10 bunches of unsaleable spring onions and said 'you can plant those and they'll sprout and be perfectly edible' so I planted 3 bunches in 3 rows just to see what happens!

Helped Gill get the house ready for a few visitors tonight, by clearing up some of my mess.

Sunday 30th December 07

Woke with backache despite the firm mattress, but once had got up it went away as usual.
Good hard working morning managing the pile of stuff which answers for a compost pile... things just lobbed on, not managed at all! So I did some management! I'm good at compost pile wrangling.... dug it all out and put it onto a plastic sheet, put some layers of partially rotted leafmould into it plus some compost probably made from animal bedding, and chopped up some of the larger twigs and sticks, and forked it all back again, well mixed and aerated.

Lunch was soup and a sandwich, then showed Mummy my laptop as she's thinking of getting one, and then we were driven over to Norfolk Park to see Thomas and Katy and their kids again. As it was nice weather, I chopped logs (split them with a maul) and then stacked them when Tom came out to split the rest of the pile

Saturday 29th December 07

Up early to go to Sheffield, as we had been invited to visit my parents to see their new house. Got a taxi to the station as we missed the bus, and got the 9.30ish train which took just 50 minutes to get to Sheffield. Then a little walk through the interchange to go to the 'Walkley' bus stop... and was in Upperthorpe/Walkley/Birkendale by 11am. The house is sort-of between all of these areas, not in the middle of anywhere.

The kids were very excited to explore the house and garden, and I helped my Dad take a gate off its hinges and then cut the hinges off the gatepost as the screws were completely rusted into the oak. Daddy is going to reposition the hinges and gate so it opens right back so he can easily get his car in.

Then we had lunch and soon after that we were driven to Thomas and Kate's to have our evening meal, and all the children played together so well. Anna and Douglas came too, it was lovely to have all three of us kids there, the parents and their grandchildren... the whole lot. We had the meal there as the folks don't have a proper cooker at the moment, and of course Thomas's house is so cosy and homely with it's two woodstoves!

We left after 8pm and when we got back to the parents' house, the kids were shattered and were soon in bed. We grown ups had a relaxed evening and watched a silly 'news bloopers' programme on telly, and were in bed soon after midnight.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Friday 28th December 07

Nice peaceful day as had a cycle into town in the morning to go to put cheques in and pay a bill, for an advert in Primary Times which is with an article by me about green/ethical parties. I went into Barnitts to get a new garden fork, as I have broken the handle of the one I got when we moved here in 2001... my fault as I've often left it outside and the wooden handle has been 'got at'. The new one also has a wooden handle, FSC timber apparently, and I hope it will last longer than the previous one (which I may be able to repair anyway). Then visited Anita who is still in a lot of pain from her car accident; she enjoyed a back massage, but the relief would have been only temporary, but we had a good chat too.

Back via Morrissons to see if they had Guinness Marmite, which is available in a branch in West Yorkshire but not here, apparently. Then home via Martins Country Fresh for a sack of compostables and Rashda's for a couple of sacks of twiggy bits which I have decided to put on one of my lottie heaps, without being shredded.

Home to an empty house as Gill had taken the boys into town on the bus to spend their book vouchers in WHSmith, so I had a quick lunch and got going in the garden... more hedge removal with my wrecking bar. The hedge comes out quite easily and is going to result in a vast amount of material for composting and the stove.

The rest of the family came back and I went to the allotment to do some more rescue work... and found a row of potatoes which I had forgotten about, and brought these home as a suprise for Gill.

Tea was new potatoes (not home grown this time) and quiche with rice salad. Lovely!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Thursday 27th December 07

Not a bad day... spent some of it in the garden... had meant to go to the lottie but the garden beckoned and I did more clearing up and some hedge removal, shredding etc.

After lunch went with boys to Heslington to first see Melody and Simon for an hour. Gill arrived with the Bakewell Tart she's just made and we then went to visit our German friends who are moving to Leamington Spa in a few days. Our boys are friends with theirs, and Katrina and Ulrich are both 'Green', he works for HDRA/Garden Organic and she's a researcher currently looking at invasive plants. Several other people came to the afternoon's soiree, it was very jolly.

Left at about 6pm and zoomed home to light the stove and do a bit of tea for the boyos.

A quiet evening, good film 'The Queen' which was good, then a film/documentary about Greenpeace on C4+1.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Wednesday 26th December 07

A bit of a lie-in as went to bed very late last night after avidly enjoying a fab film about big wave surfing, really exciting... another exciting and dangerous activity Id love to have tried but probably never will now I'm 'middle aged'! Did very little in the morning... did mean to go to the lottie but didn't get around to it, so did some stuff in the garden, cutting back last year's growth, mainly blackberries, but did some weeding too.

After lunch did more garden work... reconfigured a compost heap by digging it out and taking up the pallets, tidying up around them and redoing them with wire to hold them together. Started filling the new container with chopped brambles.

My neighbour asked me if I'd like to remove a couple of lengths of hedge which he'll replace with fence, to give more space and light and better soil conditions near the edge of the garden. The hedge is about 3 feet thick and 6 feet high... the deal is that if I remove and 'dispose' of the hedge, he'll pay for and put up the new fence. Sounds fair. There's a lot of work removing the hedge, but it will give me loads of materials for composting and for the stove.

Tea was last night's nutloaf with a cheese sauce on top.

Then got myself ready to do a gig at the MS Respite Care Centre over the road, for the guests who all have Multiple Sclerosis and are staying there as their carers are having some time off. I've entertained there on several previous occasions... the first was really difficult as I couldn't work out how to translate my interactive kids show to one for adult wheelchair users, but managed by going through the show in the form of an advert or run-through of what I do, and they seemed to enjoy it, and I've been invited back so something is working well. This time there were about 15 guests, several of whom were quite vocal and one was well enough to balance a feather and have a go at juggling, which was fun for the others too! I did the circus and the balloons, and took nearly two hours including chat.

Got back here at 9.30 and enjoyed a bottle of perry and some silly telly and chat on Googletalk.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Tuesday 25th December 07 Christmas Day

Awoken rather early as at least one of our kids is still excited by Christmas and the presents that he recieves.... but went to sleep again and got up just before 9 to come downstairs to a happy post-breakfasted family. I had my usual branflakes and muesli, and the presents under the tree came out and were unwrapped. My favourite present was two packets of socks (yes really, I like useful presents!) or perhaps a rather cheeky present from Gill; a hardback book entitled 'The half-hour allotment' suggesting that it takes just half an hour's work each day of the week to manage an allotment, or an hour and a quarter on Saturday and Sunday. In the introduction it even mentions the letter I have recently recieved telling me to tidy up or get off!

Gill was very very happy with her tiny camera, and the boys immediately got into playing 'top trumps'.

However I had to get ready to go to work, so got the bike and loaded up the trailer with assorted Fiddlesticks stuff and my Father Christmas costume, wellies, and sandwiches for lunch. Only a short trip to the Novotel where I spent justabout 2 hours doing my circus and balloons to entertain the guests as they waited for their lunch. Then a half hour of sandwiches and getting into my St Nicholas persona, and then a short and sweet bomb round (sorry, slow walk round!) with a sack full of presents... all the same this time, so probably inappropriate for the older children (teenagers, embarrassed to get a visit from Santa!) and was finished at two pm.

Met several friends on the way home so didn't get in til nearly 3. I got unloaded and crashed out on the sofa.... and found myself watching Finding Nemo on TV... which I enjoyed considerably. Only one thing spoilt it for me.... the slight factual error of when the whale swallowed the fish and exhaled them out of the hole behind it's head.... but besides that it was a very enjoyable thing to slob out and watch...

Tea was delicious. Nutloaf made yesterday and baked in the oven tonight, roast potatoes and tiny carrots from Pocklington, sprouts also from East Yorkshire and gravy made on the woodstove...

Almost a traditional Christmas meal!

Had an evening of doing computery things and was DELIGHTED to get a sensible and kind comment from the anonymous Dr Evil. (see below) Happy Christmas to her and all of my readers.... if there are any other readers! Maybe I should install a counter....

Up late as watched a really good film about surfing called Riding Giants.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Monday 24th December 07

I got up quite early as I had agreed with Rashda that I would go and process her pile of trimmings... not the Christmas lunch type but the pile in her front garden!

So I took my 'quiet shredder' down in the trailer and by 9am was feeding sticks and pruned-off vegetation into the machine. I did about 2 hour's worth, and produced 5 sacks of shreddings, although didn't actually finish the job. I did all the bigger bits which are easy to poke into the shredder, but there was a lot of smaller bits which firstly dont go into the slot easily and secondly don't need shredding as much as the larger pieces. They will get bagged up and I'll put them onto one of the allotment compost heaps. The sacks of shredded stuff will help the fruit and veg I bring back rot down better, as they will help keep the wads of moist putrescibles apart...

I had a coffee and a chat with Rashda and then loaded up the trailer with as much as I could and came home. The boys were very excited... cannot think why.... and I think Gill was happy to get out and go to town and do some last-minute purchases. Actually she's taking something back which she decided wasn't right... a watch for our eldest, which looks a bit too military.

I did some housework and then went outside to build another logpile... the recent cold weather has meant we've been through a lot and so I built a large stack on the left of the front door (when looking out) whilst the kids helped (yes they actually helped me bring dry logs for me to stavk!!!) and cycled up and down the drive, they also used the 'flying turtle' thing we have.

Gill came back at 4ish and I zoomed off to see Richard at Martin's Country Fresh to collect the last of the compostables before they close for Xmas. I got several sacks worth plus a load of seconds bananas and slightly sprouting potatoes, not green but just starting to sprout, so still edible!

During the evening I had an hour's bed rest which felt like a luxury, then later made a large nutloaf using local chestnuts (Poppleton Road 2006), local carrots, a home-grown onion, cheap bread from Thomas's 'Yesterbake', 2 free range eggs, home-made sweet paprika and home-produced pumpkin seeds. Should be good!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Sunday 23rd December 07

A nice little lie-in and then went to deliver the SUMA stuff to one of the people who participates in Holgate, and then went into town to meet Gill and the kids at the fountain in Parliament St. I then took the kids to look for a little something for Gill and she went to find stuff for them.

We met just over an hour later, I then cycled home and she took the boys back on the bus.

I did a little bit of garden work and then went down to see Rashda who has offered me a large pile of garden prunings, some of which are woody and will do for fuel, the rest of which are green and twiggy and will do for shredding and will be good for balancing all the fruit and veg which is currently going in the Compostumbler. Rashda invited me in to see her house, which was very posh, and gave me a delicious Pakistani savoury pancake, which meant I didn't feel like having much tea as it was very filling, almost a meal in itself.

When I got home there'd been a phone call from Anita, one of the other SUMA participants, with an apology that she cannot drive round to pick up her pile of stuff, as she has been 'rear-ended' or 'involved in a shunt' and has suffered a back injury, also the car is out of action. I loaded up the trailer and cycled round to her, and had a good little chat too as well as giving her the order.

Got back home and had a small pile of bulgar wheat and veg with some pickled onions I made last year from waste onions and found in the back of a cupboard recently...

A relaxing evening then ensued. Stoves going, fruit drying, did the washing up and some more preparation of assorted veg and fruit.

Saturday 22nd December 07

Another gig today, in Leeds, so got down to the station by 11ish and got the 11.28, was met in Leeds by one of the dads and driven to the party venue in Lower Wortley. The two birthday girls, both just turned 6, arrived just after I got changed, and I had some fun and silliness with them about them 'being 12' and suchlike. The party went really well, about 35 children and 25 adults, it went perfectly, a real gem of a gig. Nice to have an easy one after the difficult one earlier in the week.

I got taken back to the station and was soon back in York, well it was after 4 so I zoomed back home via Martin's Country Fresh where they had just one sack of compostables for me, but also a whole tray of grapes which are not retail-worthy because some of them have developed white mould, but I'll happily sort through them and make raisins with them.

Home to a happy family who'd been to Pocklington on the bus for a trawl round the many charity shops and locally owned businesses there to find Christmas stuff. We all had tea together, mashed potato and broccoli/cauliflower/sprout cheese.

I went for a lie down after this and fell asleep til 10pm when Gill woke me up and asked if I wanted to come down to spend a bit of evening with her, so watched the last episode of 'Parkinson' with her, cuddling on the couch.

A good day, and last paid work til Xmas day itself.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Friday 21st December 07 Winter Solstice

Once again Gill was feeling grotty so I took the kids in, they are definitely needing some time off school and this the last day of term can't be over quickly enough!

I got permission to install the third compost bin next to the others, although I was asked not to do compost bin things whilst the children were in the playground as they crowd around wanting to know what's happening. So I went in after 11am after their morning playtime. I decided to donate one of mine, as the school compost bin is tiny, just about 200 litres and I have a 330 litre bin which I took off the top of a finished heap in the garden, cycled it down to school and cut out a circle of turf from the grass on the edge of the playground to partly bury the edge of the bin... stops it getting knocked over. I then put the stuff which has been collected and put in one of the two existing bins in the new one, with layers of sawdust to help, and then used the 'compost mate' tool to take out some nearly finished material from the other bin into the recently vacated one. This left a bin empty and ready for filling next term.... and starting with yesterday's and today's materials.

Good news from school, they have agreed to separate the blue paper towels from the toilets to compost them, and they are planning to have a gardening club... and I've been made 'vice chair'!
These two tidbits of info have made me happy.... the school now appears to be moving in the right direction. A long way to go before they're and 'ecoschool' but first steps are beginning to be taken towards being more sustainable.

I spent til after 12 doing the composting... well worth the time as already the school bins realise over 6kg/day of banana skins, orange peel, apple cores, pear, carrot etc, from the 'fruit4schools' scheme. The children aren't very efficient at eating the fruit, so much of the stuff which is put in the compost bin is good fruit only partly eaten, just a couple of bites nibbled out. It's a big waste and I would like to see the school give the children lessons in how to eat fruit. But one step at a time!

A lovely lunch and then helped Gill do some clearing up as we've got her sister and brother-in-law coming at 4pm to deliver and collect Chrismas stuff. They are far tidier and more conventional than us, and Gill feels the need to clean the house before they come. No bad thing really, but extra work.

I did some sorting out in the front garden which has developed a rash of plastic bags... mainly with bark which falls off some of the logs, and I collect it for shredding and composting or put it in paper sacks for using on the stove when dry, it's a good firelighter/kindling material.

I brought the little darlings home, after giving 4 of the teachers and the lovely crossing lady whom we're fond of a box of fair-trade chocolates from the Co-op as a thank you for being so good with our sons.

Our visitors came on time and we all got on well, they stayed for an hour and enjoyed the warmth of the stove and the boistrous behaviour from the boys.

For tea I had the remainders of the tomato and parsnip soup I made a couple of days ago on top of some pasta, very easy and filling. I tried to keep my head down during the evening as I am not coping very well with the noisy and rude behaviour, and telling them off just seems to amplify the noise and bad behaviour. I went to bed for an hour until woken up by them shouting, and just felt resigned to the role of a dad whom is ignored and disobeyed, which leaves me wondering how to instill good behaviour into them. Parenting is very difficult.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Friday 20th December 07

A good day, productive but tough. I took the kids to school because Gill wasn't feeling like it, and had a word with Annette about the very full compost bin and the one which needs turning/emptying and the one which needs installing, preferably next to the other two. She told me she'd have an answer by end of school today.

I came home and thought I'd have enough time to do my emails... but they still weren't working... I got just one message from Tiscali saying I'd put in my password incorrectly... however I hadn't put in any password and I then tried to sort out the problem by following various instructions, but this is something I find difficult and I couldn't get it sorted properly so I gave up... and got ready for work. Today is an unusual gig... a 'corporate' appointment in a call centre in York, to help thank the staff for their first year of working in this centre.

I found it, the Ryedale Building, 7th Floor, best view in York, apparently! The client was Guoman Thistle hotels, who were providing the thank you for one of their partners, Superbreak. I met the management... one dressed in a 'Superman' outfit (actually a 'Superbreak Man' outfit) and managed to get a plug in for sustainability and 'greening your business', in an appropriate way, I hope! Then I did a very short announcement to introduce the Guoman Thistle team, and Superbreak Man did the rest. I did some devilsticking and then lots of balloon modelling, doing most staff on the top floor and some on the floor below, did perhaps 80 or 90 models in all, finishing at 2pm, knackered but well paid.

Went to pay in cheques, visited Martin's on the way home and got back at 10 to 3, just time enough to make a sandwich and then go and get the kids, which I did in Fiddlesticks costume as I'd had no time to change, lunch being more important. I was told I could install the third compost bin next to the playground, hooray! But not tomorrow whilst the children were at school.... which is a bummer as I was going to do it in the morning.

Our youngest went home with a friend, I came back with the other one... and then back at 6pm to pick up the other... loads of cycling!

Managed to get my email problem sorted... for now anyway! Hooray!

I had an interesting and anonymous message from 'Dr Evil' which sheds light on her problem with me, well two problems perhaps. She doesn't like my allotment being untidy and considers me lazy. Which is fair enough, but she perhaps doesn't know or realise that it's been a bad year for growing my preferred lottie crops, pumpkins (they didn't do anything much) and this lack of cover allowed the weeds to grow. But more than that, was I took on organising the York Green Festival which took up far more of my time than I'd imagined, and the lottie, with it's brambles doing well in the rain and the pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn etc doing badly. Her second problem is that she thinks I have done sonething inappropriate to her, and for this perception I apologise. It would be better if she would say something to my face when/if something like that happens, rather than post comments anonymously on my blog. I want to add that one of her comments was particularly ignorant, as I feel it is inexcusable to criticise someone who may have a condition which they cannot help. ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome are both disabilities, and whichever one I've got (and I still haven't heard from the Maudsley with their final decision) I don't feel it's fair or acceptable to be rude about. An ethical person doesn't make comments about a wheelchair user not being able to use their legs, or a sight-impaired person being unable to see as well as someone with full vision. Someone with developmental behavioural differences shouldn't have to get anonymous negative comments about those behaviours. I also think that anonymous comments on blogs are cowardly and this is why I have chosen not to publish any of these. I would still like the chance to explain a couple of things to this person, and if she decides to reveal who she is to me, I will be as understanding and uncritical as I can, as an 'ethical man' should. After all, her anger and reaction to me might have been potentiated by something earlier in her life which wasn't her fault, and you cannot 'blame' anyone for having been damaged. So I extend a hand of friendship to this person, also forgiveness, and an apology for doing something, without realising it, which upset her. Good luck to her, maybe she will perhaps let the dust settle and decide not to post any more anonymous comments.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Wednesday 19th December 07

A good day, took the kids to school as Gill's doing the late shift, and then back to try to do a load of stuff for other people... tried to get in touch with one of the SUMA recipients, but couldn't. Loaded my trailer with sacks of logs to take to Pauline, and dried fruit for her and Richard at the fruit shop.

I went on the computer to try to do my emails and a message popped up asking me for my password. This has happened a couple of times before but then gone away again and I don't know my password.. so I couldn't get into my emails. I went on the tiscali website and asked them to reset my password.... it'll take 24 hours and for the first time I'm using a different email address to recieve this password. I hate computers sometimes!

So then went to town to see Pauline, who cannot wield an axe to split logs... and she has some logs which need splitting to fit on her small stove... which she got after seeing our big one a long time ago, when we were still in Emerald St. I quite often go to saw stuff or split stuff for her... and in return I get good coffee, excellent chat and time with someone else who is passionate about green issues and sustainability. This time she swapped me the sacks of logs for a bottle of Christmassy Port... yummy!

I left at 1 and slowly came back through town vie Martin's veg emporium and bought a load of stuff and was given more and found even more than that which had been thrown in the bin by the other member of staff who doesn't recycle. So came back with 3 sacks of compostables in the trailer, stuff in the panniers, stuff on the back rack and even a tray of waste grapefruit on the handlebars. I was accosted by a resident of Heslington Road who wants me to remove a large pile of hedge clippings and other garden waste, I said I'd try to make time to do it. Then I met my friend 'Y2' who is a private person and doesn't like being named on a public blog, and had a good little chat with them, and then called in briefly on Debbie who's had her first pay cheque from her new job and was extatic!

Got home at 2pm, at the same time as Gill who'd been to town to do some shopping. She plaitted my hair whilst I had a late lunch and then I got ready for work, loading my bike trailer up and deciding on the route to Clifton Moor. I used the cycle track to get to Wigginton Road, and on the cycle track had an unusual experience.... a squirrel ran out and banged up into my moving wheel, and bounce out again, seemingly unhurt. A bike running over an animal is very unusual, and it took me back to my teens when on one of my 1000 mile cycle rides, I shredded a bird which flew into my spokes. But the squirrel was ok, I think. Just as I left the cycle track near the Rowntrees factory, sorry 'Nestle', I met an old chap just taking his dog onto the cycle track, and I said 'Hi' and he said something to me in a rather odd voice, which I thought about on my way up Wigginton Road. Then over the level crossing up to the pub which might still be called the Bumper Castle, and left into the horrible Clifton Moor which is really only designed for car drivers.

Got to my venue and set up, the kiddies arrived, over 50 of them, and they were extremely excited and noisy, with a handful of them wanting to 'be noticed' and intrude into the show in a way which caused difficulty. So it was a difficult gig, the venue was echo-ey as well so it meant quite a lot of me stopping and saying that they needed to quieten down before the show could continue. But we did the show, there were some talented youngsters too, as well as interfearing ones! Then inflating 60 balloons, by mouth/lungs as quicker than with my pump, and did the balloon show, equally noisy and disrupted by people shouting out and not being a reasonably quiet audience. However, several of them came up afterwards and said they'd enjoyed it and thanked me, which was lovely!

Finished for 6pm and changed, got paid and cycled back the way I came out. On the way onto the cycle track, I met the old chap with the unusual voice, in exactly the same spot that I'd met him before, he'd been walking his dog on the track all the time I'd been doing the party! I stopped to chat with him and wished him a happy Christmas, it was a very jovial meeting!

Zoomed home, tea was the last of the carrot soup and a sandwich. I did a big wash up whilst watching telly, enjoyed 'The Secret Millionaire' on C4, and made more soup... using rescued tomatoes, some parsnips and an onion.... it smells fantastic!

Didn't do emails as still barred! Chatted with K whilst writing blog.

Bed at 1am

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Tuesday 18th December 07

I took the boys into school as Gill is collecting them this afternoon, as I plan to be at the allotment then. Gill went into town once I'd got back, and I got out my logsplitter and split some of the huge rounds which came from the Woodlands treefelling. These slices of tree trunk, up to 60cm diameter, were extremely tough, this wood does not want to split lengthways as easily as some. A couple of the rounds just wouldn't split, even with the hydraulic machine. I tried to do one and it eventually split on the last attempt, and the huge circle of wood, perhaps 30+kg, toppled off the splitter and fell on my hip, which hurt a lot just for a few minutes. However managed to split quite a lot up.

At 11ish I came in for a rest and a cuppa, and downloaded emails. Whenever I put the computer on, I get a pop-up message from Googlemail inviting me to download the new version of Googletalk. I have done this on several occasions, and the message still keeps on popping up. I emailed Google about this and got a reply today, telling me what to do. So I spent some time playing with the computer, trying to sort stuff out, and ended up doing a complete scan which revealed some website tracking programs, which I deleted. I hope the jiggering around with assorted buttons might have sorted the problem. Time will tell.

I had lunch whilst the computer was doing it's thing, and Gill came back from her trip into town, and then the SUMA lorry came with our order... and the stuff for the three other people on our Food Co-op. I unloaded and Gill did the paperwork. Jolly banter with the lorry driver.

Then I went to the lottie... I've had a letter from the allotment management saying mine is untidy and needs to be tidied up or it will be taken away from me.... so I spent several hours cutting back brambles into tiny chunks 1cm to 10 cm long, for composting. Got three dustbins full of these small lengths of blackberry plant, and half a dustbin of dug-up dandylions or other rosetted long-rooted weed. A more putrescible layer between the woody layers of bramble stalk. Continued here til dark, then came back home where the boys were in a good mood and wanted to have a rough and tumble. Good fun, no tears.

Tea was delicious... carrot soup and Gill's fantastic quiche. Played with the boys, we did a 'picture consequences' and then a 'story consequences' which was excellent.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Monday 17th December 07

A lovely lazy morning following exertions yesterday, read lots of NewScientist and sent a letter to them for publication about particulate emissions from woodstoves, and how woodstoves can reduce someone's fossil carbon footprint.

The rest of the day was good too, put a couple of layers on a sit and wait compost heap, and dug out the 'Compostumbler' and put the contents into a 'dalek' to complete the process. Found the 'Belu' bottle, disintegrating quite well now, and put it back into the tumbler for another 'cooking'! Started to refill, including the roadkill from yesterday and woodchips from stumpgrinding ops over the road. Late lunch, started working on my book's questionnaire again, after several months away from the project. Collected the kids at 3.15 and then stayed in and made carrot and orange soup for our tea. Continued doing my questionnaire on the laptop. The next thing is to find a way of distributing it, may use 'SurveyMonkey'.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Sunday 16th December 07

A lazy start, kids quiet and stayed in bed til 10. Then breakfast, my usual 'brain flakes' and muesli, the home-made version.... organic SUMA muesli base and lots of dried fruit, done on the stove from thrown away fruit (mainly) and home produced pumpkin seeds and nuts from trees in Heslington, collected by Melody and Simon and swapped for something I had an excess of.

Then did a quick foray into the garden, put 2 sacks of cabbage stalks and rotten fruit on the latest hot heap, covered with a bucket of shredded hedge and bramble stems.

Then watched Countryfile whilst getting ready for work, which today is in Fangfoss, about 10 or so miles East of York. Should be a good cycle ride.

I left at 12.20 and swiftly went along the A1079 through Kexby and to Wilberfoss, got here at 1pm so soon after the Fangfoss turn stopped and had my sandwiches. Got to my party venue soon after, and put all the gear in their playroom and got changed ready to entertain at the Christmas party which started at 2pm. There were about 25 children, from toddlers in arms to 14 year olds plus a few grown ups. In the rest of the house there were about 50 adults. I performed my circus show then they had their food whilst I blew up balloons and then did the balloon workshop, finishing just after 4pm.

I then got changed again and cycled home. On the way back I picked up several items of roadkill which I'd noticed on the way out, so came back with a carrier bag full of animals killed by motor traffic which I'll recycle on the current hot compost heap. Home by 5.40 and had a lovely welcome from the boys, and Gill had made baked potato and nutloaf burger thingies done on the woodstove.

I was pretty knackered after the cycling and entertainment and collapsed for an hour after eating... but got myself together as I had to write and type in my paid blog (did it on a cruelty-free alternative Christmas meal recipe) and got my emails. Got another anonymous one commenting on this blog, so 'hello' to 'Dr Evil', obviously a regular reader, and I'd still like the chance to reply personally to her (probably a female going by some of the comments and language!) as this public diary blog cannot go into some of the issues in detail which she is interested in. However I would be prepared to explain via an email address. But she seems to be keen on remaining an anonymous comment maker, in which case none will get published on my blog. Only people sending meaningful or authored comments get published, sorry! I do, however, look forward to entering a dialogue with this person, if allowed.

Listened to 'The Westminster Hour' on R.4 as there was a geezer called David Cox going on about his desire to continue polluting the planet with his CO2 emissions, and hoping that future generations will be able to solve the global warming problem by putting small reflective particles into the atmosphere to reflect 1% of the sunlight. I think he's selfish and shortsighted. He seems to think that being green isn't fun, well I'd love to tell him some of the low carbon fun things I do, and get a lot of satisfaction doing.

Bed after 1am as usual.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Saturday 15th December 07

Woke feeling not too groggy although Gill told me I looked awful, so it may catch up with me sometime later today. Felt buoyed up by news from Bali that the World's leaders have managed to agree to set binding targets to reduce carbon emissions, and although the wonderful United States delegation was reluctant, the rest of the world kind of put them into an uncomfortable corner and eventually they agreed. This is good news.... the next round they'll have to ty to agree how much to reduce emissions and how these reductions are carved up. Bring on Contraction and Convergence, I say!

Celebrated (?) by spending most of the morning chopping back old brambles and stacking split logs. Enjoyed watching a heron perched in a nearby fir tree, it sat there for several hours, just looking one way and then another. Lovely!

Had a simple tea of potatoes and pastie and carrots, then for 8pm went to the Black Swan for a CRAG social. Ivana turned up and then Alex and Camilla, and then Robin, James, and finally Dave and Tracy, a good social. However it seemed to change into an AGM type meeting, and we made a decision that the R in our CRAG was to stand for REDUCTION not RATIONING. We made this decision because the concept of reduction is easy to understand, whereas the idea of rationing is a bit more convoluted and complicated. Also, once this was decided, the 'reins' as it were, were handed over from Alex and Camilla, who started the group, to James, who is happy to take control of the email list and website management. Ivana and I are to organise a meeting on Carbon Offsetting, the pros and cons, in Feb 08.

The meeting went on til nearly half eleven so I cycled home as fast as I could so I could go on Googletalk and chat with K who has just had her birthday...

Friday, 14 December 2007

Friday 14th December 07

A relaxing day... Gill did the morning shift and then came back to bed, we have both got blocked sinuses and are feeling grotty, so soon we were both asleep and slept til after midday!

Between us we finished putting together the SUMA order, the food co-op we run. This time there are just three other parties ordering stuff, but it's good to help these families get access to organic, fair trade and yummy wholefoods and other products at wholesale prices. It's also very convenient getting, for example, a 10kg sack of muesli base delivered rather than having to go and get a kilo at a time.

So Gill phoned that in and I popped into town to put money into our Co-op Bank account we have for the SUMA transactions, and got back just in time to cycle down to the school and get the kiddies.

On the way into town, I had noticed that the stumps left from the treefelling at Woodlands had been ground out, and there was a large pile of woodchips, so after school I went over to shovel a load into sacks as it's perfect compost heap material to balance all the fruit and veg that goes on.

Had a small tea as going out to several parties tonight and there'll probably be nosh at some of them.

The first party was the YorkLETS Christmas Social at Belinda's house in Fulford. I got there at 7.15 and was one of the first there but it soon filled up, and I was happy to meet up with about 20 people I knew and just a few I didn't. At about 8pm I did a little balloon modelling show and workshop for the 8 or 10 kids there, which was appreciated by some of them but a few declined to participate, which was a surprise. I was particularly pleased to meet Maureen who has just got funding to do a project connected with advocacy for people with learning difficulties and other 'Neuro Diverse' ways of being. I'm looking forward to learning more in the new year, and possibly helping her. Also very good to see Rowena, Will, Ann, David, Liz and others.

Soon after 9pm, I cycled off to St Nicks for their party at the Environment Centre... and this was in full swing and I met up with some more of my more eco-conscious friends. I had my second bottle of perry here, and a small slice of Christmas cake, and good chats to Carol, Pat, Catherine , Chris and other Rotters and volunteers at the centre.

Left soon after 10 and cycled back to Fulford through the University to arrive at the Green Party party at Candy and Eugene's, and was pleased to meet Charles, Andy D our Councillor and Denise his wife, Tracy, Will, Andy C and several others... there was some food left which I had a plateful of, leaving after midnight.

Came back through the Uni again, and loaded up with a trailer full of logs and got home safely just before 1am. Watched snowboarding and skiing with Gill to wind down, whilst catching up with blog.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Thursday 13th December 07

A really good day apart from a runny nose. I had been invited into school to do a lesson for year 4, my youngest son's class. So I signed in and arrived at the lines in the playground just before they went in. My 'lesson' started with an introduction as my lad's dad and told them I preferred to be known as John, not Mr Cossham, and that I was also called Professor Fiddlesticks when I was out earning my living.

I started with devilsticks, I love it when they all gasp with amazement when the stick goes up and it looks like it's done with magnets! I showed them how it worked with the centre line being a balance point and then how if it is balanced off-centre, it begins to fall down and it can be caught with the other stick, and it then starts to fall in the other direction. I then did the trick where I balance the stick on my nose (cries of 'awsome' and 'beautiful'!) and explained how this works, moving the base in the same direction that the top is starting to fall in. Then got a third of the class out to balance a peacock feather on their hand or finger for a few minutes, followed by the second third and then the final group.

Then moved from this easy skill to a more difficult one, juggling three balls. The children had been given homework before the weekend to make 3 balls from a filler (rice or other seeds) and three balloons per ball. I showed them my basic juggling skills and how the curved throw worked with the three forces (how much it is thrown vertically up, how hard it is thrown horizionally and how much gravity pulls it down. I then explained how they could learn, starting with one ball being thrown up with one hand and caught in the same hand, then to try that with the other hand. Then onto the 'rainbow shape' throw from one hand to the other, making sure that the catch was in a hand in front of their tummy or chest, and not reaching up to grab the ball or clutch it to their chest. The next stage is to spot the top (used the word 'apex') of the curve which shows the juggler when to throw the second ball, in the same 'rainbow' shape. I showed them the juggling pattern I didn't want them to do, which I call the 'schoolgirl pattern', which is a throw up with the same hand each time and a pass from the other hand into the throwing hand, a roughly circular shape. I knew quite a few of them would get stuck on this, and that relatively few would get to the 3 ball flash and the 3 ball cascade. I was delighted that one child did get the 3-ball flash, and others had seemingly got the idea at least. Th eteacher showed us his juggling prowess, slightly better than me. Then I finished off with a diabolo demonstration with my pet diabolo 'Derek'.

Then I went onto the next classroom, year 3, and they got a shorter demo, with devilstick, hands-on feather-balancing and the diabolo show. Finished at 11am, and was invited up to the staffroom. I had a conversation with a volunteer who is also a mum with children in our children's classes, and she was really happy and impressed with what Id just done. I don't think she'd seen my skills before. We also strayed into the subject of my recent diagnosis, and she said that she now felt she understood me a bit more now I was 'out' as having Aspergers Syndrome with Hyperactivity. She was really lovely and I felt warmed by her comments.

Gill was out in town when I got back, I went on the computer to do emails and after lunch did a stint if splitting logs with my hydraulic/electric splitter, as I have been unable to do these rounds from Woodlands with my axe, the wood is too tough. Some logs split really easily, these don't.

I brought the children home, my eldest was too tired to go to cubs. I, amazingly, fell asleep after tea... this is a rare event! Only for 30 minutes though, and woke to make the kids their supper and put them to bed.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Wednesday 12th December 07

A lovely start to the day, Gill and I were able to spend some time together.

I finished my column on how to bring up kids in a low carbon manner... not easy to fit this into 550 words.

I got an email from the Alley Cats saying it was not them who had posted silly comments to my blog. I apologised for blaming them, and explained about my show being an hour and only being given 45 mins, which caused one of the problems of my over-running and them starting before I'd finished.

I hope that this calms things down. I have checked the wording of my post for Sunday to ensure it doesn't 'libel' them!

I got a very nice message back, accepting my apologies and explanation, which felt good as I don't enjoy conflict and don't want anybody to have un-necessary bad feelings about me or my lifestyle.

During the afternoon I got a visit from Friedmann who was returning the Humanure Handbook, and the evening's highlights were having Gill's home-made pizza, with a tomato/onion topping I made, and enjoying Pink Floyd on telly.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Tuesday 11th December 07

Gill took the boys to school, first the younger one and came back for the older one who had not got ready in time. He was late in therefore.

I went to a meeting with my favoutite agent John Liley at the Novotel, where we met the Catering Manager to discuss the Christmas entertainment I'm booked in to do. The Novotel has had a refit and it was useful to see the new layout before the gig. The manager was very positive about my contribution to the Christmas celebrations and it was good that John was there to hear this.

I got home just before Gill left for Scarborough to go to her Uncle Tom's thanksgiving for his life ceremony in his residential home, and the scattering of his ashes.

I tried to write my column and it came slowly, but got some done before going to school to get the boys plus one, they came home very well behaved and I cooked tea whilst they were playing on the computer upstairs. Their friend's mum came to pick him up and went, boys ate tea and Gill came back having had a good day.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Monday 10th December 07

A slow start after my busy weekend, but had quite a good day as did some writing and some woodchopping and after I got the children home, had a visitor called Friedemann, who's German and I met him at the Greenspeak last week, and he wanted to see the composting and woodstoves. A nice chap, sorry he's leaving to go back to Germany at the end of the week.

Then wrote my paid blog, and my experiences yesterday provided the subject. I thought I coped well with some difficult circumstances, and behaved professionally in the face of unprofessional behaviour. And of course it was lovely to be able to help out the youngsters.

When I downloaded my emails I had two childish comments regarding yesterdays post about my day in Beverley, they were anonymous which was a pity as I'd have loved to reply. They were so puerile that I decided not to publish them, but they were probably from members of or followers of the band who used my spot to set up in. I don't know why they're upset as I described their music positively and their egotistical behaviour honestly. I do not feel that I was in competition with them, and was just a fellow performer. Anyway, the good people at Beverley will be getting a letter thanking them for the well paid day's work and asking that if they do book me again, that I am not put near the Alley Cats, who are obviously no better behaved than... err... alley cats!

After tea (reheat rice and veg, very simple) I went to an anniversary meeting of some York Credit Union diehards who were with me 10 years ago when I started the ball rolling with a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House. Some of us spent 8 years getting the Union launched and now it is going from strength to strength, membership is going up and they are helping loads of York people out of poverty. A success story, and now North Yorkshire County Council is spending some money exploring the idea of extending the Credit Union into the Selby and Scarborough areas, it could end up being the biggest Credit Union in the country, area-wise. I'd be very proud of that if it did happen.

Got home after 10 and spent some more time writing as I have a deadline of the 13th to get a column in for a Community Care 'Green Issue'. Another silly comment left on my blog, what a pity the comment writer doesn't want a dialogue but just wants to say uninformed stuff in a cowardly anonymous way. Give us your email address and I'll enter into a conversation which could benefit us both, instead of ridiculous point-scoring!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Sunday 9th December 07 'Beverley's Festival of Christmas'

Woke with the buzzer of the alarm clock at 7.30 and slowly got up and got down to breakfast for 8am... had cereals and a resonably nice plate of beans, fried eggs, musrooms and tinned tomatoes... not a very good attempt at a vegetarian 'full breakfast' but actually plenty for me!

Then met my hostess for the day who showed me the two sites I was due to entertain at and where the procession was to leave from at 10. Then I went back to my hotel and got changed into my Fiddlesticks gear.. I decided on the usual shorts, tee shirt and waistcoat, not my 'very cold weather costume of dungarees and fleece.

I took all my stuff up to where the procession was due to go from and left most of it at Boyes, which had a safe place for my stuff. I did the Santa Claus procession with my whirling devilstick and enjoyed it lots.

Then back to the Boyes stash and took my circus and balloons kit to the spot where I'd been told to perform at, and there was a band setting up. I told the woman that I'd been told to perform there and she was quite haughty and said 'We always go here and we need to set up now' even though I had a 45 minute slot there first. So I found a nearby spot, not as good or prominant, but didn't feel like complaining to the organisers as they have enought to do 'on the day' but thought about mentioning it later in the day. The 'Alley Cats' woman had the audacity to tell me that when they came on I must stop doing what I'm doing. Which I did, standing around in the cold, when I'd have preferred to keep going to keep warm and keep the entertainment going... Then later, at the end of my second show, they started playing before I had completely finished... I'd indicated I'd be just another couple of minutes but they rudely started. Cheeky and unprofessional, although their music was good.

However all my shows were well recieved and had good audience participation, including two teenagers who had met up with me during a previous Beverley gig, and 'crashed the show' with unicycles, much to my joy... and theirs as I got them a hatfull of cash for the show. But this time the two 15 year olds did a short demo of staff, or pole spinning, and some good athletic unicycling.

When I moved to my third show area, away from the Alley Cats, I did a load of balloons which was good, and taught some teens to do the 'dogs dinner' model. I met John, the dad of one of the boys, who had invited me back to their place after my work to talk to the boys about 'how to be an entertainer', some of the tricks of the trade... such as info about Equity, insurance, advertising, how to ask for a fee, agents, getting stuff at wholesale prices, etc. I had some nosh with them and slowly warmed up, they were perfect hosts and very kind. Cathy, their mum, gave me a thank you card for spending the time with them and giving them so much useful info, with £20 in it, which was most unexpected and lovely.

I got the 6.34 bus back to York, very tired, and Gill fed me some re-fried rice and assorted veg... lovely and most welcome, despite the early tea with John and Cathy at 4pm.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Saturday 8th December 07

A very cold and wet day working.

Gill and the boys left at 9am in a taxi to drop our eldest off at the Scout Hut in South Bank, so that he can get a lift in the minibus up to Snowball Plantation where he's got a 26 hour 'do', which should be fun despite the weather.

I had a bath in stovewater and was ready by 10am with bike loaded to got to the station and off up to Malton. When I got to the station, Gill was there and ready to plait my hair which was a nice suprise. Got the 10.38 and was in Malton by shortly after 11. Taxi up to Castle Howard with a friendly and talkative Nigerian, and was ready to entertain, ignoring the dreadful weather, by midday. I worked solidly til 3, nipping from cafe to shop to ticket-queuea nd back again, just doing balloon models and about three little bursts of devilsticking.

Got changed again at 3 and the taxi came at 3.30 to get me back to the station in good time for the 4.10 train back. Chatted to a pair of young ladies who'd got the train to Malton by mistake, having meant to go to Darlington.

Cold and wet cycle home where Gill fed me and I sorted out assorted stuff ready for tonight's trip to Beverley and a days entertainment tomorrow.

Got the 8.08 bus which came up the Hull Rd at about 8.20 and I got out in Beverley at 9 10 ish... and made my way to the Cross Keys where a room had been reserved for me. Took a pint to my room and collapsed.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Friday 7th December 07

The day started well with a lie-in, Gill woke me at 9.30 as she was off out to her art class and wondered about leaving me asleep but decided to wake me up so I didn't wonder where she was.

I got going and did my emails but there were lots needing replies and I got a bit waylaid and became annoyed and grumpy. I had lots of housework to do and other stuff but the morning just disappeared and I didn't get stuff done that I wanted to. Never mind.

The afternoon was better, got some stuff done but all too soon the 3pm deadline came and I had to go to school to pick up my two with one more. It took an age for them to all get ready... and then when they were, they all disappeared and I had to yell to get them out of the playground and on the way home.

But we got home after 4 and I then did a little bit of logging and more washing up with the resultant hot water.

I didn't get out in time for the Critical Mass Cycle Ride, which was a disappointment, but did get to Greenspeak at Millers Yard which I was glad of. The speakers were Laura who's very clued up about many aspects of food and sustainability issues, and Margi who's keen on Fairtrade. I learned a lot.

I picked up a sack of oranges and coffee grounds from Dylan and came home via Heslington Road where there are about 10 bags of turf and soil waiting for me to pick up, from a householder who's remodelled her garden and didn't want to bin the spare turf.

Home in time for a bit of BBC News and Jonathan Ross and then good music with Jools Holland.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Thursday 6th December 07

A slow start but then got busy and did some piling stuff up on my latest heap and did a load of organising for my busy working weekend, a day in Castle Howard and then a day in Beverley... lots of travelling!

I also sorted out my future 'telephony provider' as I'm currently on dialup using BT but route all my other calls through The Phone Co-op as they have a hand gadget which allows me to divide up my outgoing calls into Professor Fiddlesticks, LETS, AVP, Green Party, personal, etc by using 'cost centre coding' and this splits up my bill so I can clain my Fiddlesticks expenses and, if I wanted, claim expenses from the various organisations I do phoning for. So I'm going to have The Phone Co-op for my line provider and get broadband.

I got our youngest at 3.15 and cycled down again for 4.15 for the older one, then off to Cubs with him, in the pouring rain, at 6pm. Had a pint with Pete whilst Cubs was on and then went back to see Jo with him before getting back to Cubs and collecting my larger cub and cycling home.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Wednesday 5th December 07 Uncle Tom's Funeral

Today was Gill's Uncle Tom's Funeral in Scalby, Scarborough.

We all went, I cycled down to the station as I knew I was doing a pick-up after... the others went by bus. I arrived much earlier than them, and had trouble with my D lock, the key got jammed and I couldn't pull it out, so walked the bike to the entrance and waited for the family... but kept fiddling with the lock and suddenly it came free, so I went to lock the bike up. But in doing this I got oil on one of my hands from the bike next to mine, so I had to go to the loo to wash it off with soap and tissue. What a palaver!

Got to the entrance again and eventually the others arrived. Gill got the tickets with the family railcard and we were still a few minutes early. When we got on the train, we were expecting to meet Z who is the daughter of a pair of foreign students that Tom and Beryl looked after, as this was what they did as they didn't have their own children. So Z's parents are living in Kuwait and she's at a British University and grew up calling Tom 'Grandad', so she attended the funeral on behalf of her family. So she came down the train and it was lovely to see the reunion between Gill and her as Gill hadn't seen her for perhaps 15 years!

So we had a really interesting conversation, she's an expert debater and holds some interesting views, some of which are very different to mine... so some interesting chats! The journey went quickly because of this, and we got a taxi from Scar Station to St Lawrences in Scalby all together.

We had a short wait in a cafe and then went to the church and the service was soon underway... Gill did the first reading from the Bible and her sister Jane then did an appraisal of Tom's life, which was very moving. There were a smattering of prayers and hymns and then we went in a convoy to the Crematorium and we all went in and saw the coffin go behind the curtains.

We will all miss him such a lot, but we're glad he had a long and fulfilled life.

Then onto a hotel where we all had a sherry and a chat, met up with people we didn't know (well me anyway) and had some lunch which was delicious. Gill had prepared a montage of photos of Tom which was put on display, along with his Scouting book and some wartime stuff.

Took the train back at around 4pm with Z and another relative, S. The boys were extremely well behaved all day, we were so pleased with them. It was their first funeral.

I cycled home via Millers Yard and Martin's Country Fresh.

I made my own tea of rice and onions, basically!

Later in the evening I collected 3 lots of logs from Woodlands.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Tuesday 4th December 07

Quite a good day, a slow start as had a late night and then a disturbed night with our youngest, who woke me up in the night with 'hot eyeballs' and a fever. He didn't go to school today because of this.

Gill took in a letter to his class teacher who's asked me to bring my circus skills into his class and do a little demo plus a juggling lesson. When I picked up our older one at 3.15, I found out that this will be next week.

I heard chainsaws and a chipping machine nearby... so went to investigate. It was a team of treesurgeons at Woodlands MS Respite Care Home, which is just 2 mins walk from here, and I have a good relationship with them. I have done several Professor Fiddlesticks gigs there for the guests for a very low fee, it's not the easiest gig for a childrens' entertainer, but I didn't want to say 'no' the first time they asked me, so I rose to the challenge. In return, I have first option on the assorted trees which are regularly pruned or removed. They had an extension last year and they took out at least 3 cherries, which I brought back on the bike trailer and have just finished chopping and splitting.

The guys with the chainsaws had been told to cut the tree into rounds, and I checked with Bob from Woodlands if they were for me... and yes, lucky me, another tonne of logs! In return, I will take my little fee and then give it back to them with the tax back thing which gives them a bit extra. A good deal I'd say. I'm doing my gig for them on Boxing Day.

I picked up our eldest and his friend and cycled back home and went to pick up more of the Woodlands logs, there's perhaps 20 0r 30 trips worth.

Enjoyed the BBC programme on Planet Earth about ice.

Had a really good googletalk chat with K, we seemed to get a lot of stuff sorted and understood.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Monday 3rd December 07

Quite a good day but didn't get as much done as I wanted. I got the children to school, as Gill's feeling poorly. I took a long time to write my paid blog, did it on the recent experience of recieving a chain email with some incorrect information, which I then researched and found out the truth and then sent this information out to the other recipients of the chain, and back up the chain towards the originators.

I got a reply from one of the people up the chain with a bit of a reaction, so I replied and the answer I got made me very happy,as he said that he'd check the validity of the info if he was in a similar position again, rather than just relying on knowing the sender.

So I wrote about this and also the forthcoming climate march on Saturday which I cannot go to as I'm working at Castle Howard.

So I did write this piece, but then Gill reminded me that I had to deliver a sack of compost to someone in Heworth so I rang and did that, then found a skip with a load of apple branches in it which I filled my trailer with, then went to Morrisons (as a shopper today!) to get some goats cheese for Gill, and on the way home got waylaid by my friend ol' John, who told me all the gory details about his recent operation on his kidney... using local anaesthetic and the natural opening... not a very comfortable thing to hear about. But glad he's still with us!

Late lunch and did a little bit of outside stuff before getting the kids and then continued outside until dark. Then I fairly quickly typed in my blog into Community Care and had tea with Gill, then went to my LETS meeting. This was good, amongst friends who value my skills.... I was asked to chair the meeting, and there was a new member there and her partner, who were interested in how the system worked.

As an AOB I told them all about my experience last week at the Maudsley, and my friend A (I've learnt to keep some people's identity private if I don't know if they're happy to appear in my blog!) said she knew I wasn't ADHD the day she met me, and told me that when she first met me, I behaved inappropriately and she thought 'I never want to meet this man again' but then thought 'maybe he's got Aspergers' and gave me a chance... she also said that in her opinion, I'd got a lot better and was losing the condition/syndrome. I suggested that I had actually done a lot of learning about how to read others' expressions and body language and how to behave appropriately, and she agreed that that would have the same effect of lessening my negative impact on other people. I was happy to hear this and share the info.

Home via Ben and Gill who gave me some spare hot chocolate which they have found is surplus to requirements, and a fair swap for the yoghurts I gave them last month.

Watched a bit of TV with Gill on flooding and climate change, on C4+1.

Blogged and chatted with K who seems to be having computer problems and has gone offline mysteriously.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Sunday 2nd December 07

A very wet and cold day outside, so made it warm and dry inside.
A relaxing morning, slept til after 9 and then went back to bed after breakfast and started reading but felt sleepy and drifted off until nearly 11. Watched Countryfile.

A bit of time outside during the afternoon, but not much.

At 5pm, went to Morrisons new supermarket to perform a kids party entertainment for children of the staff. I did my usual circus and balloons routines... all went well as usual and everybody enjoyed themselves... and I met my old friend Santa Claus for the first time this year!

Home-made pizza for tea, yummy!

Wrote letters during the rest of the evening, thinking about what to write for paid blog tomorrow morning...

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Sunday 1st December 07

Good day. I spent nearly all of the day doing garden stuff, cutting back brambles mostly. The current year's fruiting stems need to be removed, and the main stalk is best shredded, the side stems are cut off and put on a compost heap as a fibre-rich layer, between fruit and veg bits which will rot fast and help the blackberry rot down. I also shredded some bark from the recently split logs, and added this too, under a layer of veg 'resources' which have been sitting in a potato sack for several days.

The boys had a visitor during the afternoon which kept things happy, and we all had a lovely day.

Gill made a nutloaf for tea and we had sweet potatoes, UK potatoes and York carrots alongside it. Gill also made a very good microwave ginger cake pudding thing. Only takes a couple of minutes! Same length of time to eat it too!

Friday, 30 November 2007

Friday 30th November 07

Up at an early-enough time to say bye to the boys and go outside and continue to do some wooding, before 'Don' was due to come and dump some unwanted Cedar chunks on me at 10am. He came at 10.15 and the pile of Cedar chunks turned out to be smaller than expected... however something's better than nothing, and a day's worth of free fuel is not to be refused just because it would only last for one day... I enjoyed showing Don around the garden and I think he was impressed with the compost heap selection! I gave him some dried fruit as a sweetener (!) for next time (I think he's a gardener/tree worker) and as soon as he had gone, I bombed into town and beyond to have a meeting with a friend and then put in a couple of cheques, then come home via Martin's Country Compostables and do a pick-up, just two sacks today.

The minute I got in I got a phone call, so didn't settle down to my lunch til after 2pm.

Then at 3 I went to get the boys.

Gill had gone to Art in the morning and then on to Scarborough to sort out some of Uncle Tom's affairs, and didn't get back til 5.30, by which time there was a John-style rice and stir-fry on plates for all to eat. Cooked totally on the woodstove, of course!

Gill went out soon after that to go to help at the theatre where she's painting scenary.

I got the boys ready for bed.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Thursday 29th November 07

Managed a bit of a lie-in, til 8.15 anyway! Would have liked more as was up late last night wrestling with attempting to copy and paste yesterday's blog post from notepad into the blog create page.

However, opened it this morning and tried to publish and it did! Why is it temperamental, I wonder? Anyway, crisis over.

I spent most of the day with my logpiles, did some splitting/initial stacking, then a big load of chainsawing.

I picked up our youngest at 3.15, and then our eldest at 4.15 after his Drama Club... then a fairly hasty tea of pasta and broccoli, then at 6 took him to Cubs. Whilst he was here I popped in to see Jo and her husband and son, who live nearby where Cubs meet up. Good coffee and chats.

Wednesday 28th November 07

A really interesting day. I woke at 8 and had a fairly normal breakfast which was nice. I checked Anna's cycle map and memorised how to get from her house to Denmark Hill, and left at about 8.40. I was quite amazed to see a small mistletoe plant growing out of a street tree in London, not the usual place to see mistletoe, surely?

I got to the Maudsley Hospital at 9.10, some time before my appointment, and was seen by a psychologist to undertake a battery of personality and psychological assessments. Some were pretty straightforward, simple questions about my behaviour, others were more obtuse, stuff like timing how long it took to define a word (what is a bird? what is enthusiasm? what is a niche?) and a similar test, to see if I could say how two things were similar, such as a bus and a plane. I also had to do the different coloured words test, first saying the word (they were the colours red, blue, green and tan) and then to say the actual colour the word was printed, which was mostly different from he colour of the word's meaning.. this was recorded for accuracy and speed. Also a test with plastic blocks which if arranged in different positions would make various patterns, and I had to make patterns which was displayed in a book, again, timed.

We finished at about midday and I phoned a student researcher who was doing some work on empathy and ADHD basically to say that I didn't think I'd be able to do the research after the day at the as I was meeting someone at 6pm at Kings Cross. However the message I left with her department was that I'd collect any message from her from the main info desk at the Out Patients Department. I went to have lunch and chatted to some people running the 'Bedlam Gift Shop' (I decided not to buy a mug.) and when I got to the Out Patients at 1pm, the researcher was there waiting for me, saying we should be able to get the study done in an hour if I wanted to do it. So went with her and after filling in another sheaf of forms, she got me sitting comfortably with electrodes on my fingers, and I had to watch a screen with faces flashed up on it and then click on the mood correlating to the expression. These were: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and neutral. I then had to do the same type of thing but this time identifying an animal: cow, goat, bison, bear and horse. I did well with the animal ones, I think all correct, but the emotions/expressions I found really difficult. I found sitting so still for so long the most difficult. I look forward to seeing how well I did on that task.

At just after 2pm, I got back to the reception area and was immediately ushered into a tiny room with a female doctor who asked me a lot of medical history questions, stuff about early childhood, experiences at school, problem behaviour then and now and a lot of very interesting and personal stuff, about anything which might inform their diagnosis. At 4.30 I was given a break and at 5, I was asked back to see the senior doctor, who had a few more questions, things which weren't completely covered in the previous sessions, and he offered me his initial thoughts on my diagnosis. Apparently my concentration span is too good to be a 'typical ADHD' and I have some traits seen in Autistic Spectrum Disorder. So, although the diagnosis will be a few weeks away, after the psychology tests have been scored and analysed, he thinks that I have a mixture of Autism and Hyperactivity. Wow. My Mum was right, she thought that I might be slightly 'Aspergers'. I await my final diagnosis, and if I am on the Autistic Spectrum, they'll suggest another set of tests, specifically to look at Autism, either in York or back at the Maudsley.

I was released at 5.50, and found a train to King's Cross fairly easily. Finding Mary from DANDA at King's Cross was less easy. She'd said the pub on Platform 1, but there was no pub on Platform 1, it was on 8. She'd described herself as very very short and fat, and when I did find her she was just ordinarily petite and nicely rounded, not fat. Peoples' self images can be quite odd. We had a cider each and chatted about Neuro-Diversity and her desire to set up a branch of in the Yorkshire area. I said I'd assist but not be the main person. She left at 8 and I found a filling pastie and baguette, and waited for my 9pm train.

Spent most of the journey back writing up this blog on wordpad, which I hope I'll be able to copy and paste into my blogspot page. I was able to copy and paste but then not publish, getting an 'Error' message about post labels or some such rubbish.

Tuesday 27th November 07

Spent some of the day travelling down to London on the train, getting into King's Cross at 145, and then got a tube (bought a £10 Oyster Card) to Leicester Square, where I met Ruth. I have known Ruth since I was 18, when we formed a close friendship at Nene College. We became regular companions but not as close as boy/girlfriend, and have remained fond of each other ever since. She arrived at Leicester Square and we walked over the Hungerford Bridge and had a coffee before going to the Tate Modern. We spent a couple of hours there and then crossed the river on the non-wobbling Millennium Bridge to St Pauls, and had another coffee on or near Fleet Street, and I bought a bottle of Mosel wine for tonight.

Ruth left me at a tube station on the North side of the river and I crossed Hungerford Bridge again and walked South West past the London Eye and down to Vauxhall Bridge, where I found my way past Vauxhall Station and along to where my friend Anna lives. We have a mutual friend and it was very good to finally meet her and her partner.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Monday 26th November 07

Woke feeling grotty and snotty, cold in full flow. Gill too. She got the boys up and off to school, I came down to assist but went back to bed and she joined me. I had to go to the bread shop and Co-op.

I got the boys back from school.

Gill got a phone call saying her lovely Uncle Tom (Carless), from Scarborough, had died, aged 86. Gill's sister and brother in law had been with him, and Gill was very upset as she had wanted to go and see him, but couldn't as she's not been well. So a tearful afternoon and evening.

Sunday 25th November 07

A slow start to the morning, and went to the veg shop for about 10.45, to buy some provisions, but had to wait as it didn't open til 11am. I had a quick chat with Richard, thanked him for performing a brilliant gig on Friday night, with The Falling Spikes at Fibbers.

Back to see some of Countryfile and get my Fiddlesticks stuff together as I've a gig today in Thorpe Willoughby, west of Selby. I set off soon after midday and went through Naburn, Stillingfleet and Cawood, stopping at Cawood for lunch. Got to Thorpe Willoughby at about 2.20, plenty of time to wind down and get changed ready for a 3pm start. Performed my circus show followed by my Balloon activities for the birthday of two eight year old girls, who had a lovely time. I left soon after 5pm and went into Selby, then North through Barlby and Riccall, where I stopped at the south end of the cross country cycle path which used to be a railway track. I had about 20 mins stop to have 2 small bottles of beer which the parents of one of the girls plied me with before I went. So, feeling relaxed and satisfied, I turned my dynamo off and cycled in the dark all the way to Naburn.. no problem as I know the route extremely well, this could be the 20th or 30th time I've cycled it. Felt at one with my machine and the planet below and the clouds scudding overhead. I have had a brilliant weekend, but am developing a cold.

Home at 7.30, Gill had been keeping a pasta and cauliflower cheese warm for some time and it was very soft but I was glad to eat it.

A quiet evening, wrote my paid blog about woodstoves versus open fires.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Saturday 24th November 07

Oh how good, a lie-in! Not suprising after last night, up til after 2am, so was woken at 11am.

Had breakfast and went outside to complete yesterday's logging, finished building the by-the-door logpile and completed some splitting. Also did a bit of bramble cutting back and compost layering.

Came in to help prepare a nutloaf, which the children say is better if made by me, cheeky monsters! Was a good nutloaf though.

In the evening I went to my old friend Edwin's 40th birthday (OK, he's younger than me...) which was at 1331 Grape Lane off Petergate in York. He'd called the event 'Edstock' as he was previously a 'bit of a hippy' and still plays bass guitar in a number of bands, even though he's had his hair cut...

It was a good do. I met loads of people from the past, people I'd met at gigs such as 'Ramblin' Johnny Stomachpump and the Village Idiots' and 'The Suicidal Flowers'. I lived around the corner from some of the band members, including Fez the drummer, who was there tonight and fronted his band 'The Surf Sluts'. Ed played in a couple of sets, including a stormin' one from a Talking Heads tribute band called 'Slippery People'. It was a very good-natured event, met up with Mark, a very smiley chap I have hazy memories of from gigs, and Will, whom I met last night and told about this birthday do... he brought along his lovely wife Jacqueline, who's from Singapore, is of Indian parentage and dances very well. Oh and loads of others, most of whom I don't know well, not names, but they are sometimes to be passed in the street and there's always a smile of recognition.

I left reasonably early and called in on the woodland which is being pruned, and collected a load of logs, got in before midnight.

Friday 23rd November 07

A busy day, did a lot of log splitting and then chainsawing after taking the boys into school, and going to the library and bread shop. Gill went to art class. and I eventually got on with working in the front garden, splitting and chopping. Two of my favourite activities.

I let G pick up our youngest and the other one went to play with a friend, and I picked him up at 6.30. Home-made tomato soup for tea.

Then a bit of a treat for me, a night out. Went down to Fibbers and was first in (I arrived at 7.30, doors opened at 7.45) and got a cheaper ticket by presenting a flier which meant a £5 entry rather than £8. The first band were Ishtar, quite good, liked them. Then, for me, the highlight of the night, The Falling Spikes. My greengrocer friend Richard is the drummer and their sound is very psychedelic and guitar driven, soaring multi layered wonderfulness, big noise and good projections too! They were worth the entrance money alone... but the headline band was The Warlocks, who were ok, good n psychedelic, very loud and a bit grungy for me, and not as good as The Falling Spikes. I really enjoyed the evening, felt quite in tune with the feel of the music, and was glad that my friend Will (from Arts Centre days over 10 years ago, and the John Bull pub, now demolished) was there and we were able to share the experience a bit!

Cycled home via the wood where the tree surgeons had left some logs for me, and got back at about 11.30, in time for Jools Holland's music-on-the-telly show.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Thursday 22nd November 07

An early start as Gill was feeling sore and achey after her fall yesterday, so I took the kiddies to school. However before that, whilst eating breakfast, I played the CD that my friend Simon has found for me, a fantastic album called 'If 60s were 90s' by Beautiful People... a remix of Jimi Hendrix set to a dance-tempo... one of my top 10 albums. I had a poor quality taped version years ago, and I loved it. Simon has found this copy for me, I played it and it gave my shivvers up and down my spine, and made me cry. Wow, music hasn't had this effect on me for quite a while. Thank you Simon, I am very happy.

Did a clean up of the living room as having a visitor this afternoon, and I popped into town to put in a couple of cheques and got back at lunchtime and our visitor came and stayed an hour or so, then I did some work on the computer and Gill got our youngest who brought a friend home, whils the eldest went to drama club. I went to get him at 4.15 and we bombed back home so we could have tea and go to Cubs for the first time.

We cycled down to cubs on Bishopthorpe Road via Cycle Heaven where my lad chose some fingerless gloves, his own choice... I always like full gloves, but he prefers finger-free ones... I also got him a mudguard and reflector which is also needed for these dark, wet evenings.

Then onto Cubs, which he seemed to enjoy and got involved in all of the activities. I sat upstairs and plugged in my laptop and deleted loads of old emails, and put others into folders for safe storage... A good 90 mins

Then a cycle back but the long way, 'off road' and through the stray, getting back at 8.40.

Weds 21st November 07

A really good day as went to Sheffield to see my parents' new house.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tuesday 20th November 07

A productive morning, sorting out the conservatory which has produced its last tomato for the year, and the assorted containers the toms were growing in need tipping out onto some raised beds in the garden, the old plant stems composted, and the wholre place swept.

Got stuck at one compost heap though, needed to take the last lot of finished stuff out to make room for the new...

Enjoyed lunch, had some more of Gill's loaf... and continued doing the conservatory and some jobs in the garden, including logsplitting and bramble removal.

I didn't get the boys, as one was walking home with a friend, so Gill went down on her bike and walked back with them.

Went to visit Debbie at 6 as she's got a job interview tomorrow and wanted me to go over and give her some confidence. She also wanted me to explain why I burn wood... and I found out she didn't really understand about the greenhouse effect, or CO2, fossil fuels vs renewables etc etc, so had to explain. She seemed grateful that I had!

At 7 Gill was picked up to go and paint scenery for the theatre group she's helping, and i spent some time on the computer after putting the kids to bed.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Monday 19th November 07

A good day as had a relaxing morning.. well once the kids had gone to school, although we had the usual Monday morning shennanigans preparing to go. I spent some time writing an article for Primary Times, on Ethical and Green Children's Parties, and doing this gets me a discounted advert. So got that finished and sent before lunch. Gill spent the morning making bread, a pie and a cake. As it was cold, stove going so the bread was put to rise on top of one of the big cans of hot water we use for bathwater.

I got my latest copy of 'Resource' magazine, an issue devoted to composting, which is good, I can't wait to have some time to read it.

In the evening spent a lot of time on the computer and did my very first copy and paste function, putting my reply to Annabel the blog comment person onto the bottom of the comments last week! I am highly delighted that I can now do this function, might use it to do my blogs now, instead of doing it online all the time, on dialup!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Sunday 18th November 07

A pretty relaxing day, on the whole. Got up relatively late and had a slow morning and did some writing for Primary Times Magazine. Then at about 11am, some 'green' visitors came, Caroline and Alex, and their 3 year old daughter. It was because of their daughter they visited, as they are using biodegradable nappies and I had offered to find out how biodegradable they were, in my hot tumbler!

So they had a tour around the garden in the rain and then came in for a cuppa and discussion about stoves and other aspects of green living. They went and we had lunch... as it was a wet day we didn't go out or do very much, although I did spend a half hour putting some fresh stuff with the nappies to allow the tumbler to heat up more.

Did more writing in the evening, did a paid blog on World Responsible Tourism Day, and a column on a Green Christmas.

I got an email from the comment writer from a few days ago, when she asked me what my formal qualifications were to write a blog on environmental and ethical issues. She today gave me a contact email address and I was able to send her the original reply. I might try to put this reply on the blog too, someone says I can 'copy and paste', and this technique is new to me... but will try! Annabel's email address indicates she considers herself an eco-warrior, so I like the sound of her, hope she replies!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Saturday 17th November 07

A fairly early start as had to be at St William's College next to the Minster by 10am. Cycled down, in costume, with the unicycle on the trailer, and met Gill from Zentist, the shop on Gillygate which is having the Christmas Fayre today. There's lots of stalls and talks on assorted esoteric subjects including 'the power of angels', and stalls with Tarot, Crystals and massage.

But whatever my personal beliefs about some of the subjects at the event, I was happy to be their unicycling advertiser, with a large placard on a stick which Sue had made into a good poster advert. So from 10am I unicycled around York and people read the placard, some asked where the event was, so the advertising worked.

At 12 I met with Gill and the boys for lunch... they first had a look around the Fayre but they weren't much interested, apart for meeting up with our friend Will and his girlfriend Alison. We went to the St Williams College Restaurant and had one of our first meals out together, which was really good. The nosh was what I'd call 'haute cuisine' as it was presented in an arty way, with squiggles of reduced balsamic vinegar and a swirl of lemony oil stuff. I could never do haute cuisine, I am more into having a reasonable quantity and having a good balance of different foodstuffs. The restaurant manager, Ed, introduced himself, as we met many years ago at a LETS event, he's friends with my friend Carole's son.... York is SO small!

So then I got back on my uni and wobbled off to wander round the streets of York doing my advertising. Met my friend Neil, who trades as Leo the Caricaturist, and quite a few other people who know me, which was nice.

Towards the end of my day unicycling I was going down Colliergate and wasn't concentrating as I should have been and my wheel met up with a dip in the road which matched it perfectly, so it stopped and I continued forward and downward and landed on both knees, which suffered abraisions and bruising and blood. A chap came to my aid and said he'd been thinking how good I was! I ignored the pain and got straight back on the unicycle and did a last half hour.

When I got back to St Williams they were all offering things like rescue remedy, aura readings etc, but I told them my immune system was quite strong and my body repaired itself reasonably quickly without much help. I was paid and I cycled home, tired, cold and achey, but satisfied I'd done a good job... I've been invited back for next year!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I had a cooked lunch, I had half a reject avocado and some sandwiches for tea.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Friday 16th November 07

Quite a good day, not too early a start as Gill took the boys to school. I got ready to go to town to put a cheque in, go to the post office to pick up a letter which has not got enough postage paid on it, and meet 'Vishka' the telephone enquiry last night.

Gill went to her art class and I cycled to town, did my financial chores and waited for Vishka, who suprise suprise didn't show up. I reckon I've been had.

Home via friends from school, Mona and Phil, who have a tree which they want taking down. Mona described it as '30 feet high' which is something I could perhaps do... however it looked at least 60 feet high... something completely beyond me! I suggested Tony Castle, who in my opinion is a very good and reliable tree surgeon... he's also my friend and he sometimes gives me logs!

When I got back, Gill was just getting in with her friend Beth, who was coming for lunch and for a look around the garden.

I got the children, after splitting and stacking a few logs.

I made my own tea... some of yesterday's pasta with freshly cut broccoli from the garden, and a cheese sauce, and a packet of out of date crisps, yum!

A treat this evening as went out to a gig 'Eat Your Greens' at City Screen, a Green Party benefit gig with 3 performances. First was Emmy Jarvey, on Mandole (one octave lower than mandolin, sometimes known as a bazouki) and her husband James, I think, then a funky four piece called Mr Parker, followed by an excellent band The Summits who had a very powerful voiced female singer. Good to talk to Peter Sanderson, a new-to-the-Green-Party womand called Red, and a few others, but not a very social evening. Good music. Got very excited by the possibility of seeing a rare film on Sunday called Zabriskie Point, with music by Pink Floyd, and others.

Thursday 15th November 07

A good day as at least two, possibly three things happened, interesting things! Firstly, at 10, as booked, a chap from the Cooperative Insurance came, Mark his name was. We were rung up last week and told he'd like to tell us about some new products.... this was the first time we'd ever been visited by someone from the Co-op, and Gill was convinced that he was coming to snoop round the house and check our smoke alarms were working, etc, and was embarrassed by the untidiness. However he was lovely. He had come to tell us about the new insurance policy and we also discussed savings and ISAs... I don't think about money much so it was interesting to have some stuff explained. He was lovely and Gill's fears were unfounded. My new bike is now insured.

I had aranged to have lunch on the allotment with Jo... whilst we chatted I dug out a working compost heap and transferred it to another New Zealand box (pallets!) and then restarted the original one with chopped up brambles. We had a good chat, she had an interesting weekend in Whitby and had a lot to tell me. Whilst there Jessica came with her wonderful digital camera and of course asked where mine was! She wants me to get some images downloaded onto my computer and onto RedBubble or perhaps even my blog... that would be good! Then Phil popped by... he's preparing for a court case as he's refusing to pay his council tax as he blames the council for the problems he's experiencing with vandals attacking his home, and he's had to board up his windows and the council have told him to unboard them. Interesting!

So got back from the lottie at 2.45 and Gill was preparing to go to school, so I did some emailing and got a comment from Annabel on yesterdays blog post, about how I am qualified to write about environmental and ethical issues. I spent quite a long time replying and explaining, but when I sent the reply, it came back as not able to be delivered to Annabel, so I hope she either sends a contact email and I'll send her the original reply, or I could explain on this blog... not sure what to do.

I went to get our eldest at 4.15 after his drama club, and one of his friends came back too which was good as it means good behaviour. Before teatime, I got a phone call from someone with an Eastern European accent, possibly Russian, allegedly called Vishka. He said he wanted to join my circus! I explained that I wasn't actually a full circus, but did circus tricks at events as an entertainer... but if he wanted to meet me or learn some skills, or find out how I organised myself as an entertainer, he could meet me. I agreed to meet him at 10.30 tomorrow at City Screen.... he said he'd be wearing a trilby! I was suspicious whether he was spoofing me, so I explained that sometimes pranksters did ring me up and try to have me on, and he assured me he was genuine. We'll see!

Gill made tea, pasta parcels and veg with garlic bread, and soon after I went to the CRAG meeting. This was really good, I learned quite a lot. Denise was from the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre in York, which is one of 46 nationally set up by the Energy Saving Trust in 1992 as a response to the Rio 'Earth Summit' which urged us all to act to combat climate change. She started with an observation about when she was young, 40 years ago, she had just 4 electrical items in the house, an iron, the telly, lightbulbs and a 'town gas' cooker (presumably electrical ignition?) Nowadays, we have several TV's, all sorts of gadgets like breadmakers, mobile phones, gameboys, ipods.... a huge list of electrical items. We got lots of facts:
UK homes responsible for 29% of our CO2 emissions,
20% of energy in the house is wasted,
UK committed to reducing domestic C emissions by 12.5% by 2010 from 1990 levels, and we are on target for this. We have made a voluntary comittment to go for a 20% reduction but we're not approaching this, mainly because of the rise of gadget use which increases electricity consumption.
She explained how the Energy EfficiencyAdvice Centres worked and why it was important, the benefits of saving energy, (not just reducing climate change but releasing money currently wasted, increasing health, effecting behaviour change, etc) and their campaign to 'Save your 20%'.
She had examples of low energy lightbulbs and a catalogue from 'Megaman' bulbs, and how much money could be saved by fitting just one low energy lightbulb (£9).
There was a diagram of where energy is lost in an uninsulated house (roof, 26%; walls, 33%; single glazed windows, 18%; floors, 15%; draughts, 11%) and lots of info on insulation.
There was one section which really interested me.... on how to insulate solid walls, as our 1930's house doesn't have cavity walls, it has solid walls, and there are 4 ways of insulating them to reduce that 33% loss of heat. There are 3 ways of internally insulating ('dry lining', using thermal board and something called perhaps 'sempatap'... I'll look it up!) and the more efficient way of externally insulating, which is what I'd like to do with out big wall on the coldest side of the house, away from the woodstoves. She even had the name of a company who fit external insulation (Wall Transform)!
Then we got onto renewable energy. tbc

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Wednesday 14th November 07 World Responsible Tourism Day

Today I went to Leeds to take part in the first 'World Responsible Tourism Day', which was happening in Leeds Metropolitan University, School of Tourism, Hospitality and Events. I had been invited by them as I had previously presented talks on the downside of tourism with first-year tourism students visiting York on a day's fieldtrip. Students often hear the good things about tourism, so I was invited to talk about pollution from planes, the transmission of disease organisms, the overuse of finite resources in developing countries by rich tourists, and other issues.

I cycled to the station and got a train soon after 10am, and then got a taxi from Leeds station to the Civic Quarter Campus. After getting changed into Professor Fiddlesticks costume, my first job was to look at the posters that had been made by some primary school children about responsible tourism. I chatted to the children about the posters and some of the issues they raised. I decided which were my favourite, as I was one of the judging panel of 3. They were one about Bridlington, which mentioned that it was easy o get to by bus and train and didn't need a plane to get there, one about tourism in Britain, and one on wildlife! Then we went for lunch, and soon after that the other two judges came with me to view the posters and decide which were the three winners. We all had different ones, so I suggested we had one which promoted local tourism, one which was a really good poster and one which said something about an issue. The winners were The Yorkshire Dales, a beautifully designed poster of Jamaica, and one about recycling litter, which I really liked too.

I then did my show, a shortened version condensed into 30 minutes, not easy but got most of the skills in. Then was the prize giving ceremony. The children had made mortar-board hats and underwent a sort of 'graduation', followed by the 3 winners. Ronnie the Rhino came, the mascot of the Leeds Rhinos Rugby team, and there were lots of photos taken.

I got changed again and walked down to the station, getting back to York at 3pm. Cycled home via Martin's Country Fresh and got in before the children and Gill got back from school.

A fairly quiet evening, tried to ignore the loud behaviour from the boys and not get involved.

Researched responsible tourism on the web, found an interesting 'irresponsible tourism' site, and will write a paid blog over the weekend about this subject.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tuesday 13th November 07

A very full and busy day as had been booked to go to Prince Henry's Grammar School in Otley to present 6 45 minute sessions about 'green' issues. So got up before 7am and breakfasted, made sandwiches and got my bike out ready to cycle to the station. As I was going to a school, I put on some very tidy clothes, including my black velvet jacket I got married in.

I got the 7.55 Coastliner bus to Tadcaster where I was met at the bus station by Suzi, a teacher from the school, and she drove me there. Good chats, she's a very friendly science teacher and we had some interesting conversations. I was given a brief tour of the school before meeting Amy, the teacher who had booked me, and who's classroom I was using for all my sessions.

There was a short time for registration, and then my first class arrived. I used the same format for each session. I had the chairs arranged in a circle, to make us all equal, and make it a bit different. I introduced myself by explaining I'd been invited because of the Green Day, ans that one of the teachers knew a local Green Party member called Elizabeth, who knew that I was a childrens entertainer and lived a green lifestyle. And that I was interested in finding out how much they knew about green issues by asking them some questions. I asked them to give answers, make comments etc, by raising a hand, and that when someone was speaking, everybody should listen, as we would all learn from them.

Then I asked them that if I said the word 'green' or the words 'environmentally friendly', what did they think of? I did get a few duff answers, like 'grass', but most people said stuff like 'recycling', 'climate change' etc. So I then asked if anybody could connect those two things, and a good discussion ensued. The subjects we covered were resource use, waste and recycling, energy and carbon dioxide, the greenhouse effect, methane and cows farting and burping, transport, food choices especially meat, and my compost toilet. Very free flowing conversations, a couple of groups got on to nuclear power and space rockets , one got on to cancer and health. I ended each session with a bit about personal responsibility, and how the planet was theirs not mine or the teacher's, as we were geting old and would soon be dead. I asked them to see if they could help educate some of their family members, as it was likely that they knew more about green issues than their parents.

All in all, they were very enjoyable, buzzy sessions. There were 4 before lunch and 2 after... and the day went quickly.... and was soon being taken back to Tadcaster, where I got the next bus back to York station, where my bike was awaiting.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Monday 12th November 07

A busy day, starting with a trip down the garden to put a load of materials collected last night into my new compost tumbler, the 400 litre CompostFlow. Our youngest son was suffering from a cough all night so he stayed at home, so Gill popped out to the bread shop and I did chores in the kitchen.

When she came in again, I cycled down to town to go to Out Of This World, to pick up some of the stuff following the shop's closure, and also went to Cycle Heaven to get some cycling gloves for me and the boys, who were complaining of cold hands recently, and won't use ordinary gloves as they cannot grip properly, apparently.

After lunch, I took the gloves to the school as our eldest is taking part in some cycle training, but he wasn't at all thankful about my bringing some gloves for him.

I collected him at hometime.

During the evening, my friend Sue came to give me a booking letter for this coming Saturday, when I'm doing some advertising for a 'Zentist' alternative health practitioners' fair in St William's College. It was lovely to catch up, as she's known me for a long time.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Sunday 11th November 07

A very pleasant day, as had a reasonably good lie-in, and the children just got on with their thing and didn't disturb or pester. Can't remember what I did in the morning, but it was out in the garden, came in for 11.30 to watch Countryfile and have lunch. However I do remember I did wash and blanch a lot of grapes, and set them to dry on top of the big stove to make raisins. I also popped round to Ben and Jill as they had offered me some wood for the stove, so I came home with that and chopped it up in less than 5 mins.

Sometime after lunch, our friend Alison rang and said that she'd like to donate a chair to us, she doesn't want it anymore, and her ex-boyfriend Jonathan was coming to pick up either one of us to go and decide if we wanted this armchair. Gill opted to stay in, and sent me, which was good as I was able to have a rare conversation with Jonathan, one of my best friends, and when we got to Alison's, and I'd said an enthusiastic YES to the armchair, I helped her sort out her compost bin (which I installed last year) by carefully scraping out the bottom layer from under all the younger stuff, removing the few twigs for recomposting, removing the few non-compostables for the bin, and fluffing up the good composted stuff for overwintering in a couple of black plastic bin bags, which I had brought with me as I knew they were doing some hedge trimming as well. Once I had done with the compost bin, I helped with the hedge trimming, firstly by gathering up the long woody twigs, some over 1 metre long, and bagging them up so they'll go through my shredder, and then wielding the electric hedgetrimmer as both Jonathan and Alison had done quite a bit. We did 3 hedges, two privet and one leylandii. I only brought the privet home with me, as leylandii composts too slowly and is a bit of a nuisance, so that was stuffed in the council green bin for them to process. Jonathan then drove me home with the armchair and 5 sacks of privet cuttings. Gill was delighted with the chair, it will replace a very old falling-to-bits one which I now have to remove and dispose of. Later this week, I expect.

It was dark when I got in, so did some washing up and ate the tea which Gill had invented, a cottage pie using a load of sweet potatoes from Out Of This World yesterday and the tomato and leek sauce I made yesterday. Plus assorted vegetables.

Lit the small stove in the front room as it is a very cold day, it's only the second time this Autumn I've done this.

I watched a good drama with Gill, about learner drivers, and I shelled loads of pumpkin seeds at the same time, then went online and did blog and emails.