Saturday, 30 June 2007

Saturday 30th June 07

Woken by my children fighting. Blimy, being a parent isn't easy.

All too soon it was time for me to go to work, a party on Boroughbridge Road, in a church hall, 11am til 1.30pm. There were about 35 children, a party for two boys aged 5 and 8, I think. The party went well, as usual, lots of people participating in the various activities, and I finished at 1.25 with all the children having made their own balloon model, or having won one, or made one by me. The parents both complimented me on the show, I told them that all the children had been very good and well behaved, and lots of them had been talented. A brilliant way to earn a living.

Called in on my friend Y on the way back, had my sandwiches at her place and then got home for about 3pm having picked up a sack of juicy fruit n veg from the Hes Road shop, so went down the garden to deposit that in a dalek for composting. Rescued some tomatoes from this, which I added to tea.

I escaped from the yukky Dr Who and continued my Risk Assessment, as tomorrow I've got a long cycle ride and won't have much time or energy to do much 'paperwork' in the evening.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Friday 29th June 07

Another day which started early and with difficult children, both bolshy and shouting at me about my trying to get them to hurry up getting ready for school. Didn't need this, I was feeling grotty and a bit more short-tempered than usual but so were they, it's Friday and nearly the end of term.

Anyway, they got to school in time and I apologised for being short-tempered and for hurrying them when it wasn't entirely neccessary, and they went in a bit more reassured, I hope.

Got home and launched myself into my YGF Risk Assessment, and spent the next 3 hours doing this. It's looking good, but is tonight only half finished.

Our Dutch friend Maria came round for a pre-lunch chat, and had lunch. I went to town after and did my compost pick up and visited the Council offices to get a 'Fete' licence for York Green Festival, this allows us to have traders there. Came back via Heslington Rd greengrocers for more compostables.

Then straight to school, with a card for Wangie and Fu who are leaving to go and live in Reading, as Fu has got a Professorship (in telecommunications) at the University. We'll miss them and their lovely son who's good friends with ours.

Gill made tea for the boys, and after that I played rough and tumble with them, but got worn out and went for a sleep, being woken for my tea - pasta - at 7pm.

In the evening I was very pleased that my friend K in Georgia has decided to help form GA Carbon Rationing Action Group, the second CRAG in the US. This after I forwarded the news of the first one forming in Maryland, and their contact details. I'm so proud of her, and happy with my growing international influence! Feels good.

I joined a group called vskips, a 'virtual skip site' who want me to do a piece about my recycling activities for their website. It looks really interesting!

Didn't get much more RA done.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Thursday 28th June 07

Another early start and took the boys to school and got back and went to bed for a bit, but had to get on with various paperworky stuff, insurance for the Green Festival, very complicated, but managed to fill in the forms and get them sent back, and paid with my card, so we are insured and I've paid, as we still haven't got a bank account or any money. It's a bit worrying.

Wrote my column on ethical shopping and typed it in and sent it to Community Care. A difficult subject as such a lot to consider.

Got an email saying the risk assessment is due in by Monday, or the event will not happen ! More pressure, but I am experienced at RA's and will do a good one.

Got the kids at 3, and managed an hour doing my composting, turning a heap and planting yet more squashes.

As a cool evening, lit the stove and got a load of washing up water, also chopped up fruit for drying.

Did a lot of reading to prepare for writing the risk assessment.

Made my own tea, out of date soyaburger in a bap, with rescued onion and tomato and a salad of cabbage, apple from the school bin and raw onion, all lovely. After tea went out and picked a load of loganberries, wonderful.

Weds 27th June 07

As Gill still feeling stiff because of the fall on Sunday, I took the children to school again, and when I got back, went to see if my friend Debbie would do a Green Party leaflet delivery, as the newly elected councillors have done a leaflet thanking the voters of Fishergate ward, and it needs to be delivered. She was able to help out almost immediately, so we got started before 10am, and with the two of us it didn't take long.

Then we walked to St Nicks, I had to deliver a letter from St Paul's Primary School thanking me for my helping out with their healthy living week, and doing a York Rotters talk, and I wanted Catherine our project worker to have this.

Debbie hadn't seen around St Nicks so I gave her a tour, and she was impressed and even enquired about volunteering, and she might go on one of the 'eco-active' days.

She came back for a coffee afterwards and Gill and I had a nice chat with her.

After lunch I waited in for a chap from Yellow Tom dot Com, to talk about advertising, but he rang and said he was stuck in traffic, could he come at 4.30?

So I got on with YGF stuff and then went to get the kids. I shot down to town after, picked ut compostables and was back by 4.20. Max from Yellow Tom was very helpful and offered me a good deal, so I took him up on this.

Gill did tea and I spent most of the evening sorting out YGF stuff, and writing my next Community Care column.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Tuesday 26th June 07

An early start and I took the boys in to school, in the fine rain. I had to do lots of stuff inside, more York Green Festival stuff connected with insurance and licencing.

But as it was a lovely day, I did do some stuff outside, including a lot of hedge cutting, at the front ( I slipped off the logpile whilst standing on it, and bloodied my thumb, not badly though )

Also cut hedge at the back, and did some shredding, whilst Gill started to sort out my accounts from last financial year.

At midday I went to St Nicks and had lunch with Jo, who's had a holiday in the Channel Islands and enjoyed the break, but now back to the grindstone and working very hard. We had a good chat, not long enough really, as had an appointment at 1pm with a student who's moving house and wanted to have some info on moving her compost bin. The new occupants of the house may take it over, though.

Got the kids at 3.15, they bombed home on bikes and I had more time in the garden.

In the evening, I did my emails, chatted to my friend K in America on Googletalk, and blogged, and listened to Radio 4 about Glastonbury, all at the same time.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Monday 25th June 07

I took the children to school in the pouring rain, as Gill isn't feeling good after her fall yesterday, and when we arrived, the bike sheds were empty... everybody else had come 'not on bikes' (can I assume they came by car?) but as I was leaving, one other child arrived on his cycle, so we're not the only Greens in the village...

As Gill's nose was looking wonky, not just scraped, I told her to go to A and E to be checked out, so she called a taxi. I went back to bed as exhausted after weekend, but only dozed for an hour and then came down to do some emailing and washing up. Lit the stove to get hot water for said washing up, and to help dry the sodden clothes, as raining very hard this morning.

Gilly came in after 1pm, and had been to her opticians to sort out her mashed glasses... they twisted them back into a usable shape, but as she has an eye test next week, she'll wait til then to replace the scratched lenses.

I had a domestic afternoon, also thinking about what to write for my Community Care Blog, which should be in today.

Got the kids from school, and then went to town for my usual pick up of compostables, Gill made a lovely tea for us all, a veg stew with broad beans and a mashed potato topping...

I spent some more time in bed snoozing after tea, but at 7 got up and did some writing and then went into the garden to put stuff on heaps and pick some loganberries which are ripening and with this rain will go mouldy if not picked.

A late night as lots to do on the computer...

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Sunday 24th June 07

A second day at the CTC Rally, I decided to go to the Minster and join the mass cycle from the Minster to the Racecourse, which left at 9.45 after the service for cyclists. There were loads, a throng of different cycles, all sorts, and coulouful too. I enjoyed the ride and when we got to the entrance to the Rally, I got to the front and stopped by the side of the road, and counted them in... there were 600 machines, perhaps 700 people as there were plenty of tandems and multis.
What a sight!

I very soon got going with my workshops and was busy with lots of children and adults wanting to learn the art of unicycling. By 12 I was tired and stopped for lunch, I ate in the cafe marquee and it tipped down. I did more work from about 12.45 til 3.30 when I was truly worn out, so I popped into the mobile police station as they wanted me to give a statement about the stolen unicycle yesterday.

I went to get paid and collected a large bag of coffee grounds from two coffee cars, as I'd asked them to collect it up for my composting. A good day, very social with dozens of people I know stopping by to say hi which was very nice.

On the way home I popped in to see Y but she wasn't in, so I came home via the Hes Rd Veg Emporium and brought back a box full of onion skins and yellowing broccoli...

When I got back, Gill looked like she'd had an argument with a bus... infact she had, when coming back from Pocklington, a lovely day out with the boys, she'd missed her step getting on to the bus and fallen on her nose, scraping all the skin off it and damaging her glasses. There was lots of blood, the boys were very upset but kept it together and when they got back, Gill went next door to our neighbour who is a nurse to have the big flap of skin which was hanging off snipped off. Her face is a mess, but it's only superficial and nothing's severely damaged.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Saturday 23rd June 07

Woken by torrential rain... and I'm working today at the Cyclist's Touring Club Cycle Rally on the Knavesmire this weekend, so I'm expecting to work in the undercover area with 'hard-standing', because what I do doesn't work on wet grass, so I've already decided where I'll be working.

I got to the site after 10am and set up in the covered dry area, after telling the organisers where I was. I had a busy day, lots of 'punters' to try out the four-wheel-unicycle (pedal-go) and the two-wheel-unicycle (fun wheels) and quite a few had a try at the genuine one wheeler. My brother in law Mike showed up, as he has been a keen cyclist, although hasn't done much over the past couple of years.

At lunchtime Gill and the boys turned up, so I closed the show, locked up my bike and bungeed on my unicycles on top of my trailer, which is how they are transported. Had a good wander around with the family and ate lunch. Enjoyed watching bicycle polo!

Got back to my pitch to find someone had unbungeed my unicycles and removed one of them, the largest of the 3 smaller ones, which is about the right size for large children or adults. I couldn't report this as stolen as I immediately had customers, so I just got on with my work. However a cycling policeman came past and I had a word with him, and he told me that there was a police station on site, and I should report it stolen there. I had a busy afternoon, but at 4pm I packed it in and went to report it to the police and the organisers.

What a bummer, I'm more annoyed that I won't be able to do my full range of workshops without it than the hassle of replacing it.

On the way home I popped into the rail station to get train tickets for my trip to the Big Green Gathering, and came home via the veg shop for a pick up of the usual biodegradables, 2 sacks worth.

Gill made tea, a good rice and veg dish, which was lovely. I did a stint in the garden afterwards, and planted some beans and yams, as well as loading up a dalek composter with 3 sacks worth.

Enjoyed Glastonbury on the telly...

Friday, 22 June 2007

Friday 22nd June 07

Took the boys to school, and when got home, Gill was leaving to go to the physio, I spent all of the morning dealing with emails and doing a quick blog entry for yesterday.

I spent much of the day inside, did a load of washing up, twice (not the same stuff, two loads!) and went to school at 3 to pick up just one child as the other was visiting a friend after tea. I bombed down to town then to fill in some forms for York Green Festival and picked up stuff from Out Of This World and the Hes Road greengrocers, and went to Sainsbury's too.

After tea I did a bit of 'planting medium mixing' and potted up peppers and tomatoes.

It was well after 10pm when I came in and did a stint on the computer and watched Glastonbury on the BBC.

Thursday 21st June 07 , Summer Solstice

A funny day, recovering from the BBC filming and doing various things to try to keep the York Green Festival organising from stalling.

However I started by taking the kids to school and then soon after that had my LETS friends Patric and Jo come to buy 2 big sacks of compost off me, for 20 Yorkys, and then Tom from Freecycle came and picked up a bag of mulch, the stuff which doesn't go through the riddle and has lots of sticks and lumps in it. He was nice and said he might visit again and buy some compost off me.

Then spent lots of time on the phone and some on the computer. In the afternoon I found my bike's right pedal had somehow come loose and I rang Cycle Heaven and they said just bring it in.

So after picking up the kids, I took it in, they couldln't believe it, how do I manage to wreck my bike so completely? They said it would need replacing and so I went to visit Pauline who lives close by, and chatted and when her grand-daughter came in, and needed feeding, I chopped a load of wood for her. Picked up the mended bike and got home after 6, not much time before going to the YGF meeting.

This went well, with two new people fron BTCV who want to have a stall and possibly have bird-box making, or a tree-dressing, or a tree-trail/quiz.... I told them that all those things would be fine and a good addition to the event.

Came home and at 10 went to St Nicks stone circle to meet up with any othe Solstice Celebrants, but there was only one, a student called Victoria, so I made up a small bonfire and we chatted for a couple of hours, got on very well, an interesting evening.

Got in after midnight and spent time with Gilly before retiring to the oh so welcome bed.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Wednesday 20th June 07

A second day filming with BBC Inside Out, they came at 10am and met me at the veg shop, to film me picking up compostables... unsold produce, for a penny per sack! We did this to differentiate between 'waste' (which it is from their point of view) and 'resources' which I believe it is. If it is waste, offences are being committed as they have a duty to dispose of it in an official way, and I don't have a waste carrier's licence... so I officially buy the materials!

Richard at Martin's Country Fresh was happy to have his two and a half seconds of fame and pass the two sacks over and accept my two pence! We filmed various bits there, several takes to make it possible to edit together a good bit of film.

The next bit was at home, sorting through the materials, and there were lots of carrots, slightly blemished, but pukka enough for soup. They filmed Gill peeling them and chopping them for the soup, whilst chatting about life with me and what she thought of our green lifestyle. Then we did a bit about my 100% illegal recycling waste deposited in the litter bin outside our house, but they didn't film me doing anything illegal! Phew!

They did a bit of me and Gill in the garden, and then we went to St Nicks to meet up with Louise, a lady who wants to start composting and didn't know how. So I assumed my Rotters persona and talked her through the basics. There was an interview with Gary Haq who works for the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, researching ecofootprints, developing carbon calculators and the like. He had introduced Louise to the film crew and that's why she was included in the film about 'being green'. Finally, came back home to meet the boys, film them on the trampoline and do a quick interview about Daddy's composting.

So a long day, busy and tiring.

Enjoyed the update edition of It's Not Easy Being Green, with the Strawbridges helping various people green up.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Tuesday 19th June 07

A very enjoyable day as the team from BBC Inside Out came and I spent the day in the garden doing what I really enjoy, managing my many compost heaps and telling an interested person about them. They were interested in the composting, building a heap, riddling, the compost loo, the roadkill, food growing ect etc.

The filming took 2 hrs in the morning and longer in the afternoon. They also filmed Gill picking raspberries. They will film in the shop tomorrow morning, and then film the sorting out of the materials, and then my other recycling activities from the litter bin in front of the house, which is actually illegal, according to the Council person I've been corresponding with. Then after lunch we'll go to St Nicks to meet a novice composter, so I can do my York Rotters bit and explain how and why. After this they'll film the kids playing in the garden after school, then we'll be finished. It'll go out in September.

The only other things which happened today were bike related.... Cycle Heaven phoned me first thing and we discussed what happened last night with my wheel coming loose, and the shop sent a mobile mechanic out, who showed me how to sort out my bike... I'm not used to quick release wheels. Then after school, Gill went to visit another mum who has a bike for sale, suitable for our youngest. She bought it for just £10!

Monday 18th June 07

Got up just before the boys left for school, and when Gill got in she was in tears as our eldest child was horrible and very badly behaved and is just about impossible to be with right now. I'll take them tomorrow as he doesn't mess me around.

Spent some time chatting and doing a little bit of housework before Catherine the new York Rotters worker came for a visit. We had a tour of the garden and then a cuppa, taking an hour before she left again.

I then bombed into town to take my bike to Cycle Heaven who are giving it a service, and on their Filibus bike, went to the bank and building society to do phone bill, cheque for phone book advert and pay in a couple of cheques from recent gigs.

Back for a late lunch, Gill had done a big clean-up and tidy, ready for the TV tomorrow. I did some tidying outside, and at 3 went to get the boys. They were very well behaved on the way home. I continued sorting stuff out in the front, as it's got very untidy with all the other things going on in my life.

At 5.30 I went to Cycle Heaven on the Filibus and picked up my old bike, suppsedly now roadworthy. I often do 'round trips' as this is more Permaculture than doing special journeys, and so I went on with my journey to my friend Y's house... she's fed up with her fly strewn compost bin and has given it to me. I was halfway there when the back wheel came loose and the wheel started to rub against the frame when I pedalled. I could push it, and scoot, but not cycle. I picked up the compost bin and sack of contents, and planted a cucumber plant in it's place.

I then walked and scooted home, via Out Of This World for a small pick up, and walked back home, getting in at 7pm, feeling pretty upset. I need my bike for tomorrow's filming and the shop doesn't open til 10.30 tomorrow or Weds, so I don't know when I'll get my bike fixed, it's infuriating.

I made my own tea, and did more work outside til 9.45, came in and showered as was smelly, and collapsed for a bit before doing emails, blog and chat.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Sunday 17th June 07

A busy day with two Professor Fiddlesticks parties/appearences, both of which went well.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Saturday 16th June 07, Heeley City Farm, Sheffield

Today had a fairly early start as had a train to catch to Sheffield. However before I went, two pieces of post came through the door... a huge phone bill for £200, much bigger than normal (this is the new normal!) caused by over indulgence in dialup blogging and chat... and a cheque from Community Care for the two columns already published and the 8 blogs I've submitted religiously every weekend or soon after. This made up for the phone bill!

Cycled with all my gear in easily transportable form to the station, bought a ticket and got the 09.44 which would arrive in plenty of time to get to Heeley City Farm. There were slight delays as the floods had damaged the signals, but we were only 10 mins late into Sheffers. Met a very pleasent woman (Kate) on the train who was going to a wedding in Derby, and finishing off her home-made wedding card, and she knows Jeremy Clines in York, whom I know as he's a St John's College Chaplain with a keen interest in social justice and sustainability. Apparently he's getting married next week and she'll be going to that on Sat and to the Cyclist's Touring Club rally on the Sunday, where she might very well meet me as I'm working at it! Small World!

I got the 53 bus to Heeley within 2 mins of arriving at the bus interchange, and was soon off at the right stop (helpful locals) and was soon at Heeley City Farm. Jo the Education Officer met me and showed me where I could work, and gave me a quick tour, including the nearby Heeley Festival activities.

My job was to do a half hour of unicycle-about, advertising my circus show and balloon giveaway. My brother Thomas and his wife Kate, with their three little charges were there, as was my Sis Anna and hubby Douglas and his mum, which was really nice. Also delighted to meet again with Lorna, whom I met at the National Railway Museum at a Fiddlesticks gig, and we connected really well then. I told her via email that I'd be here today and she came up from near Burton on Trent in her Mini to see me and have the Heeley City Farm experience!

The gig went well, everything as expected, lots of people liked it, some came by after and said they loved it. Hooray! How satisfying. As the family members had gone home I put all the kit into Lorna's Mini and she took me out into the countryside nearby, and we spent an hour sitting on a recycled plastic bench near Unstone, overlooking a good view and chatting. As Chesterfield was on her way home, she took me there rather than back into Sheffield, and I got a single Chesterfield to Sheffield and a train came within half an hour, got into York shortly before 8pm.

Picked up from Out Of This World before getting home, and had a quiet evening.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Friday 15th June 07

A bit of a later start than usual, due to a late night, but had breakfast and wrote an email to my passionate and intense friend in America about our friendship, and how we should conduct ourselves to prolong the friendship. Much discussion with Gill about this and then we went to bed.

A bit later, infact after lunch, I went on a long circular ride to deliver YGF stall application forms and pick up various compostables, got back after 4.

Had a pastie for tea, and in the evening had a game of Scrabble for the first time in ages.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Thursday 14th June 07

Woke at 7 and had my cereal before the boys came down, and did my blog to finish what I started yesterday. Gill took the boys to school and our eldest fell off his bike and screamed the place down, and was rescued by a stranger who helped pick him up.

Went back to bed for a bit and we got up at 11.30... where did the morning go?

I did several bits of York Green Festival work and also pinched out sideshoots on the tomato plants and even ventured out into the rain-sodden garden, and then , all too soon, 2.30 came and I had to pack up and get ready for going to school for our youngest's class assembly. The assembly was disjointed but had some good bits.

After this I went to the University where Jo had modified the York Green Festival Stall applicating form and it is now ready for distribution, a relief for me. Many thanks to Jo for being willing to sort me out! Over the past couple of weeks I have wondered about my decision not to print, or to have a printer attached to this laptop. However now with friends with computer knowhow it doesn't matter so much. Spent 45 minutes chatting about various subjects, and felt much helped and encouraged.

Came back and made a bit of tea, tried to fry some cubed silken tofu which was a bit silly... as it's meant for making into smoothies and soups, etc. With this I had some slices of one of last years pumpkins, pasta and some very ripe blue cheese sauce... tasty! All done on the woodstove.

Soon it was time to go to my CRAG meeting, at the Golden Fleece on Pavement, and there were just six of us there. However it was quality not quantity which mattered and we had a very successful meeting. We agreed about which sorts of targets we'd use, and chose three.

So our main target, the one we'll make public and invite new CRAG members to try to work to, is a 'Matching Individual Target' of 4500kg CO2/year, which is 10% below the UK national average of 5000kg per person from home heating and transport. This excludes food and other less easily measurable emissions.

The second target is a Shared Group Target, where all our measured emissions are pooled and averaged, and again we are aiming for a group average of less than 4500kg/year. This will make it feel better for the higher emitters as their emissions will be balanced by the number of keen CRAGgers who have tiny personal carbon footprints (ie our household of four has a measured footprint using the calculator York CRAG is using, of less than a tonne, 1000kg. This is divided by four for individual emissions.)

Our third target are for people like me who have small footprints, and we can voluntarily choose 'Varied Individual Targets' which could be 10% below last year's measured emissions.

We then discussed our plans for the next few months and we decided to do some publicity at the Green Festival, a 'launch' in August and a public meeting in September about transport, a member's social/planning meeting in October, a public meeting in November on home heating and a members social in December, and probably a public meeting on carbon offset in Jan when people are booking holidays.

When I got back I tried to do some writing up on the computer but got a bit waylaid by my lovely but intense friend in America, on Googletalk. As this is not such an easy medium to communicate, she invited me to ring her at about midnight our time, and I spent an hour chatting but felt a bit of the Spanish inquisition about it, and when Gill woke up she was disturbed by hearing my side of the conversation, as I was being defensive and having to explain myself, which she hasn't heard me have to do ever before. Gill and I spent another hour talking but didn't have a fall out as such, the problem is that I spend too much time on Googletalk and this has somewhat replaced our previous evening pattern of Scrabble in front of the stove. I promised my wife that I would do my best to spend more time with her and less on the computer.

Bed late.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Wednesday 13th June 07

Well such a busy day... I had expected to go to Clifton and sign a cheque for LETS, and pick up my compostables and get back in time for a lunch date with Jo.

So I took the boys to school but when I got back I got a phone call continuing yesterday's chats with St Nicks about a school wanting a composting talk. This time the school had rung up and said they DID want the session, 1 til 3. As I didn't want to muck up my lunch too much, I offered 1.30 to 2.30, to do both classes together. Then another phone call, saying yes they wanted the talk/demo, but not at St Nicks, but at their school! Fortunately this was in Holgate, and easy to get to, so I agreed to do it, even at such short notice. I then rang the school and confirmed the times, the address and what they wanted. The talk was part of a healthy living, healthy planet week! Great!

So I cycled along to Clifton via Millers Yard where I picked up 2 sacks of orange halves and coffee grounds, and at Liz's I signed a couple of cheques using our new Coop Bank account. Glad to be shot of Abbey, bunch of losers!

Then to Out Of This World where there was some stuff, not a vast amount, and then to Nationwide to get a cheque for the Polish roofer Artur for fixing the studio roof, and to the Coop Bank to pay our quarterly gas bill, just £10!

Then onto the Hes Road veg shop where Richard had 3 boxes of gear for me so got home nearly at 12 with a heavy load of compostables and some only just out of date tofu...

Gill had made my sandwiches so I was able to go to the University quite quickly, with various things like a carrier bag of unriddled mature compost, a few examples of manky fruit and veg and a riddle. I met with Jo and we cycled to St Nicks and had lunch together, good chats but not enough time really. At 1pm I picked up some handouts for the children and got off to Holgate and arrived at the school with 5 mins to spare.

The talk went well... like this:
Started by asking if they'd done anything about recycling this week, and what they'd learnt.
When someone mentioned composting I told them that's what I'd come to tell them about.
I asked who had a compost heap or compost bin in their garden, and over half put up their hands. So I said that as most of them knew all about composting, should I continue? I answered myself by saying that some people didn't have a compost heap, so they had to hear all about them.
I explained that composting was a natural process which happened all over the World, in grasslands and woods, at the bottom of hedges and in gardens, anywhere where plants and animals dropped leaves, branches, fruit, poos and dead bodies. I mentioned fungi (mushrooms and moulds) and bacteria, insects and worms, millipedes and woodlice, slugs and snails, and the words decaying, rotting, biodegradable and spoilt.
Then I went through what could and cannot be composted and explained thet everything which came from living things (justabout!) could be composted, but that minerals, rocks, metals and synthetic things, generally could not, and gave examples of these. I didn't mention the problems I've had trying to compost coconut shells and seashells!
Then came the practical demo, where I riddled some lumpy compost and found a few worms, rove beetles, woodlice but not much else creey crawly, and some uncompostable things like glue strips from cardboard boxes and a twist tie, and a pile of nice-looking fine-grained compost.
I then said how it could be used... mixed in with some soil as a planting medium for pots of tomatoes or other veg and flowers, or as a top-dressing or mulch.
Then I told them why it is good, by asking them what they think happens to stuff which is thrown away and not recycled... and we got to landfill. I explained about anaerobic decomposition in landfills and methane and leachate, and the problems these pose. Also the fact that landfilled stuff has to be collected and driven to the tip, whereas stuff composted at home doesn't need taking anywhere in a motor vehicle. Ant that landfill is running out and in some areas the landfill is becoming landform, and hills are being made or rubbish.
If things are composted, some of the carbon which may have left the landfill as methane (20 times as powerful a global-warming gas as carbon dioxide) gets trapped within the soil where it improves soil structure and helps hold on to moisture. Soils with compost have healthier plants as compost has nutrients which feed plants and there are other benefits to plants too, such as increased disease resistance. Also home composting helps people learn about environmental issues and helps them take personal responsibility for their waste.
Finally I told them about York Rotters and the 3 free compost bins which the school could have, and the cheap bins that householders can get.
Then I asked for questions... I had dealt with questions during the talk and demonstration, but there were lots of other questions, may of them about composting poo and my compost toilet. One lad asked if compost heaps could go wrong and another asked about unwanted beasties, both excellent questions.
So that was my hour, after which I gave out the handouts and had a brief look at their 'rolypig composter' in their school yard, and then collected my stuff and cycled briskly home, and went to collect the kids.

After tea, which was a nutloaf Gill made earlier and a from-the garden-spinach and free-tomato stirfry, plus a blue cheese sauce for me, I watched a great programme about cleanliness in hospitals, and a 'non-violent-direct-action' where volunteer cleaners went in to 10 hospitals. Then at 8 I loaded the trailer and, in the rain, went to the allotment to plant pumpkins/squash, a cucumber and several beans. Very satisfying!

Got back shortly before 10 and went onto the computer to chat to my friend in Atlanta and process my emails and start my blog... what a day!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Tuesday 12th June 07

Up early, and as eating breakfast wrote my blog for yesterday, and then got ready for Catherine visiting, the new York Rotters project manager. But then got a phone call from her saying that the BBC were filming St Nicks this morning and John had to be out with them, so she had to stay in the office, so she'll come next week.

I did a bit of garden and then did a load of computer stuff until lunch when Gill came back from the Physio, with her legs in lots of pain.

A quiet post lunch time, washing up and some paperwork, phone calls, and then went to school and picked up the boys. Gill did tea for the boys and I then did ours, which was fried tofu cubes, carefully done on all 6 sides, then added chopped onion and some oyster mushrooms which have appeared on a new log, they're pearl oyster, really white, and home-made sweet pepper paprika, olives and cherry toms. This on some boiled rice and green beans. was delicious.

After tea I gathered together my remaining sweetcorn plants, about 20 of them, and went to the lottie where I have got a space for them, and a lot of finished, mature compost to put into the planting holes to help them on their way. I planted them and did some weeding and compost management, and got home just before 10pm, Gill making scones.

Monday 11th June 07 CAB Money Savig Day

I took the boys to school as I can't pick them up later because I'm volunteering for the Citizen's Advice Bureau Money Saving Day at the Guildhall.

However I had to try and find the paperwork, info sheets and joining packs for YorkLETS, the organisation I'm promoting today as a way to not use as much money. I did track them down to Stephen, who fortunately lives quite close so I popped round and picked them up.

I got to the Guildhall shortly before 11am and laid out our simple stall, between Freecycle and St Nicks/York Rotters. Local Exchange Trading Systems enable their members to swap goods and services without using money, as we have a local imaginary currency called the Yorky and a directory of goods and services that members offer and want. There was lots of interest and for this event only, free membership for those really keen to join up.

I did several Rotters enquiries (making your own compost means you can grow your own food and not have to buy commercial growing media, and reduced costs on your council tax as fewer materials are collected. I got seven or eight new members joining LETS, and I consider this quite successful.

Finished at 3pm, went to Out Of This World and did a pick-up, home at the same time as my family were coming home from school, 4ish, and I started work on my paid-for blog, which this week is about the World Naked Bike Ride and my cycling dilemma. Had a small tea as had eaten a pasty and sandwhiches for lunch, and got a bit of time in the garden, chopping down some of the more over-exuberant flower spikes of spinach and chard, which are beginning to obsucre the path, and will set huge volumes of seed which I don't want that much.

At 10, logged on to chat to my friend in Atlanta, as requested, and dealt with a few emails. When our chat finished I was able to finish writing my blog and then after midnight key it in to my 'John's Weird World' blog on Community Care's website.

Bed before 2am.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Sunday 10th June 07

Sunday, and a fairly leisurely morning with breakfast in bed, time with Gill and time in the garden where I planted some beans in the relatively unused circle bed at the bottom, plus another layer of compostables on one of the sit n waits. Then at about lunchtime I had a bath to prepare for today's gig, leaving on the 1.33 train to Doncaster where I'll change trains and get the Bridlington train to Cottingham.

But it didn't work out like that. Once I'd locked my bike up and unloaded my unicycle and bag o bits n bobs and got tickets, I saw the train I was due to get was running 10 mins late and I only have 10 mins turnaround time in Doncaster, meaning that it will be a bit tight. I asked about this at the info stall and they said that nowadays trains wouldn't wait for connecting services. They were curious about the unicycle and how I got on it, and I showed them. Anyway, got the train and whilst on this asked which platform the Bridlington train left from so I wouldn't have to stop and ask or look at info boards. So when got to Doncaster, ran to platform 8 only to see the Brid train leaving. I swore and ran to the station entrance where there was a taxi waiting... and asked the driver how much it would cost to go to Cottingham. He radioed in to his base and came back to me with a quote of £65 so I said go for it. This would mean that I would do the gig but not make much profit, but this would be far better than giving up and going home and letting them down. Whilst heading out of Doncaster, discussed with the driver whether to go to Hull, or to Cottingham, and I used his phone to try to contact my client but her phone was just taking messages. So, because of the 90mph driving and the ability of my driver, I got to Cottingham station 5 mins before the train arrived, with a cost on the clock of £68.80... I gave him £70 and thanked him profusely.

The birthday girl's Dad picked me up and was glad that I'd made it.

The party went as expected, a short circus demo with a go with feather balancing and then a full session of balloon modelling, which we all enjoyed, and then when I was taken back to the station I was given a cheque which was a bit more than I'd expected, which helped cover the train fare. My train came on time and I had a pleasent ride back to Doncaster, and then managed to get an earlier connection than expected and got to York soon after 7pm.

Popped into Out Of Date World and brought a sack of potatoes home, which were sprouting and therefore unsaleable. Also some tofu/veg sticks which had the box damaged but ok apart from that... had them for tea.

After watching Big Brother for a short relaxational while, I went to Martin's Country Fresh (this at about 10pm) and picked up two bags of veg bits, and took then to the lottie for composting there as I'm running out of space at home! On the way to the lottie, met my friend Y2 as I will call her to protect her identity, and we had a very frank talk, as usual, about our life experiences and what worried us and what we did with our lives. I suggested that some voluntary work at St Nicks might help her to sort herself out and help her self esteem, as doing something like that can help you feel as if you are doing something positive and helpful. We walked to the lottie and she watched me do the layer of veg on the current heap, and we walked back to Hes Rd and spent at least 30 mins chatting there...

Back home later than planned but no probs.

Saturday 9th June 07

A suprise phone call first thing, at about 9am. It was my friend in America, who'd expected to be able to 'Googletalk' last night, and for some reason I didn't manage to make contact with her and she waited for ages for me to come on line. She was a bit mad with me, as we have chatted justabout every night for I don't know how long, and when unexpectedly we didn't it was a disappointment, especially when she had wanted to hear about how the cycle ride had gone on, and I'd said to her that I was looking forward to chatting with her. Oh dear I hate upsetting people and when I make a mistake it sometimes comes back to get me. I attempted to apologise, explain and make excuses but in the end I am just a flawed and fallible human.

Anyway spent some good time with the family after this, then went to buy bread and cereal and did a bit of stuff in the garden and spent a bit of time before lunch on the computer.

At about 2.30 I was ready with stuff for Mark and Jennifer's leaving party and the LETS Freecycle event soon afterwards. I cycled with the boys and Gill followed soon afterwards.

We are sorry that M + J are moving, they're off to Hebden Bridge and although we don't see them very often, we are fond of each other and their son is the same age as our eldest and they get on well, so they'll be missed. We got there on the stroke of 3 and played with the kids and played frisbee, Gill arrived and I had to go to St Nicks for 4 for the start of the LETS Freecycle. (did you notice three fours/fors in a row there?)

This was under-attended with between 20 and 30 people there in total, although I met some new folks and enjoyed myself. Steven from LETS did a puppet show, which impressed me... it was a simple batman and joker thing in a Punch and Judy type stall and the kids loved it. Then he did an excellent ventriloquist act with a Kermit type frog, I was very impressed... I'll ask him if he wants to do something at the York Green Festival.

The balloon modelling with kiddies was ok, kids always like balloons, and the BBQ got started up and then Ben and I did the quiz, which was really good as there were five teams and just five prizes... which meant that the winning team (Steven and his wife Alison) got the first choice, the second team, second choice and every team got something which was good.

The band arrived, it was two members of 'Low Ground' with guests from 'Funkate' and they played a short set but there were so few people there that it was not worth going on and on.

So we packed up and as it was only 10pmish I went back to Jen and Mark's and stayed there til midnight, good to see my friend Andy and met several other interesting people.

Home to Gill who'd stayed at the party til after 9pm and the boys had had a brilliant time.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Friday 8th June 07

As Gill's legs still hurt following the physio, I took the boys to school.

The morning was mainly concerned with creating a placard for Santa to carry whilst unicycling on the World Naked Cycle Ride. Gill and I finished the poem, which was started with help from our eldest son:

How will I cope
With not enough snow?
It won't be as nice
With much less ice.

Ho, HO, HO,
A solution I like
Abandon your car
And get on your bike
Take the train or bus
Or travel my way...
Unicycle or reindeer sleigh!

This was carefully written on a large piece of cardboard and the backs of posters found outside the Lloyds TSB, put for landfill!

Also did various bits of housework and garden jobs. Early on our Polish roofer Artur arrived to repair the tarry sheets on the studio roof, which had perished. Some of the wooden batons underneath have perished and will need replacing, but he reckons that it will be ok for another 10 years.

Next door are having scaffolding erected to replace soffit boards, finish their loft conversion and do some repointing. Good banter with Lee the scaffolder, who has a stove for sale. Contact TB scaffolding for this!

During the middle of the day Ken our neighbour popped round to tell us we had a swarm of bees in our garden... infact it is 8m up a conifer in the other next door's garden, overhanging our garden. Barry, friend of Ken, suggested putting a box with honey smeared inside, and a hole or two in, which might attract the bees so they could be taken away and rehoused, but by nightfall they had not found this and were a tight ball in the tree.

At 2, a lady who advertised in the back of the Press came and had brought round her son's 2 yr old bike, suitable for a 10 yr old. Our eldest who has wrecked his bike needs a new one so we bought this for £30.

I took it down to the school (pushing it whilst riding mine) and he was delighted and promised to look after it. Came home with D and J, friends of our boys, as their mum is unable to pick them up until 5pm, which she did.

I left shortly after this and took my unicycle on my trailer, plus costume and placard, and parked in the Out Of This World car park, and unicycled to the Memorial Gardens to get dressed up as Santa Claus. Lots of seminaked and bodypainted folks, and minutes from leaving lots of people went totally naked for this local expression of a global protest/celebration. The route was fairly gruelling for a unicyclist in a Santa outfit, quite a sauna.

Afterwards went for a pint at the King's Arms, which was lovely and refreshing.

Home and I created a quick tea of onions, vegetarian black pudding and goat's cheese, with rems of quiche from yesterday. Ate this at 10pm, collapsed after and watched a bit of TV, then did a quick email and blog, and watched Joolz Holland with Paul McCartney and Bjork.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Thursday 7th June 07

I took the boys to school as my eldest has damaged his bike in two angry outbursts and it is unrideable. We found out yesterday that at one shop at least, it would cost over £80 to get it repaired. So he is walking, and when he walks with Gill he demands a ride on her saddle whilst she pushes. I won't allow this and he has to walk. I walked with him and we discussed snails (I saw a thrush using the pavement as an anvil to smash snails out of their shells, and we discussed a slogan that I need for being on the World Naked Cycle Ride tomorrow. He came up with something brilliant, see tomorrow's blog for what I eventually put on the placard.

Soon after coming home I started work on the Community Care column which needs to be in tomorrow. This one will be about transport choices.

Then at 11am I got myself ready to go to work, doing my penultimate gig at Manor School, where I did a balloon modelling lunchtime workshop. On the way I stopped off at Cycle Heaven where I booked my bike for a session of TLC and asked if they'd got a quote yet for building me a bespoke bike to replace this one which won't last for much longer, certainly I ought to replace it within the year.

The gig went very well, some of the youngsters were very attentive and followed instructions well, and were creative and prolific, making about 8 models in 40 minutes. Others struggled and couldn't really get the hang of it, but we all had a good time.

Came home via Out Of This World where there was stuff awaiting collection so I did, and brought it back to add to my extremely hot tumbler-full.

Then it was time to pick up the kids, I also picked up P and we all came home quickly, with my eldest on my crossbar. The three boys played in the garden whilst I did some compost management.

P was collected by his Mum at 5ish and we all had tea, Gill had made a quiche which I had with the remains of yesterday's cottage pie.

After all had quietened down I wrote my column and counted the words... I'm always amazed I can write it to almost the exact length I need. The column is supposed to be 350 words, I did it in 357. Then typed it in and sent it off, hooray!

Wedsnesday 6th June 07

A very full and busy day, including a good session of volunteering at St Nicks, a cycle to town to pick up recyclables and a productive York Green Festival meeting followed by a late night recording it.

The St Nicks stint followed taking the boys to school, I had to be at the Environment Centre by about 10 for a school group, and I took 3 groups and did a composting talk/question and answer session in about 15 mins each. Then they did a game/exercise with John and I was the scribe, writing things down as fast as possible.

Met up with Jo for lunch and we ate at the stone circle and enjoyed the John Lally Wood which is beginning to be a proper wood, with a canopy and a space beneath the trees.

Came home with a bit of time to spare before fetching the kids. Then zoomed down to town and picked up a load of recycling and came home and ate some of it.

After tea, went off to the Blue Bell to pick up the keys for space 109 and spotted something outside Lloyds TSB which I couldn't help but to go back and investigate... a pile of large flat cardboard sheets with large posters in amongst them... perfect for making a placard for the bike ride on Friday! They went in my trailer... reuse!

Then to Space 109 and tiptoed past the community meeting to the back room, where met up with several York Green Festivalers and we had a good meeting... but that's in another blog!

Up til 1.30 on the computer...

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Tuesday 5th June 07

Today Gill had a physiotherapy session at the hospital, as her leg is still hurting after being bitten by a dog a long time ago. I spent all of the morning working at the computer, mostly York Green Festival stuff, an invoice to the Co-op for their sponsorship money, a booking letter to Bo Clown and various other bits and bobs. Then at midday I did some garden work... nothing in particular, just to get some fresh air and exercise.

Gill came back for lunch and then soon it was time for me to pick up the boys, but I took down the fork, some climbing french beans desperate to get planted, and some sticks for them to climb up. I used three sacks of compost made at school to prepare the soil and when I mixed this in, I removed uncomposted stuff for putting into the base of the now empty dalek for this term's fruit for schools waste, and uncompostable rubbish for the bin. Then planted the sticks and the beans and cucumber, then collected the boys and took them home.

I spent a bit more time in the back garden before going on a Freecycle cycle trip, to pick up some tomato plants... and was given a tray of sweetcorn plantlets as well. This is fantastic as my sweetcorn has not grown well, the majority has rotted off. Then through town to another Freecycler who has asked me to put ny York Rotters hat on and help sort out her compost bin. I removed it and dug a groove in the soil and resettled it, told her she was doing fine and not to worry about the flies, as they are spider food and blue tit food...

Then onto another Freecycler who has offered some pepper plants, which I was happy to pick up and I offered them some climbing beans if they're passing here in the next week or so.

Home at 8pm, Gill had made some salad and I finished off eating what the boys didn't eat.

I then planted the sweetcorn, over 30 plants, brilliant! In at 10 and watched telly with Gill for an hour before doing emails, blog and chat.

Monday 4th June 07

As the kids had a lot to take to school this morning I took them with the stuff in the trailer. I asked at the office if the school would like some climbing french beans as I have some spare.

Home and had some phone calls to deal with, re York Green Festival publicity and several Fiddlesticks calls. Went back to bed for a while which was lovely, but I had a paid-for blog to do, so I did some research on the net about organ donation etc and typed in a good-un. Then a late lunch and just a few mins in the garden before I went to collect the boys again. Where does the day go?

I zoomed into town and picked up two sacks of halved oranges at Millers Yard, good to meet Jo the Pilates teacher and then picked up at Out Of This World and Hes Rd veg shop, a full load.

Home and unloaded, Gill had made a good tea with tofu and noodles and then it was nearly time for the LETS AGM at 7.30. However my eldest son had an anger fit and I had to calm him and talk to him about civilised behaviour, so I was late and flustered to the meeting.

David chaired and it was a good meeting, just 9 of us and we'd organised a buffet for 10 so there was loads of food. When I got home I had to undo my trousers I felt so fat and full, not comfortable. Watched some TV with Gill and when she watched ER I came to do my emails and blog, and my friend in the US asked if she could send some piccys, which were most welcome and lovely. This time saved all of them!

Bed at 1ish.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Sunday 3rd June 07

A pretty relaxed day today, but productive as I spent much of it sorting out the conservatory and mixing together differend composts to pot up tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, a couple of courgettes, some beans and yams... a good mix of conservatory plants which will give us fresh food fairly soon, as the tomatoes are flowering and the courgettes are forming.

The planting medium I'm using is a mix of loam (seived soil from turves taken out of skips and stacked for a couple of years), seived leafmould and various composted materials, including garden compost made of garden wastes and fruit and veg, also 'humanure' compost made in 2002/03 with my own poo and sawdust, and some commercial planting media made of composted bark and green waste. About half or 2/3 of the weight of the planting medium is composted stuff, rich and nutritious, and the rest is a mix of leafmould which is similar to peat, holds water, and loam which is heavy and has minerals and nutrients.

Before teatime went to the veg shop with some more finished compost which is greatly appreciated by some of the customers, who don't buy it, just make a voluntary donation.

Gill made tea for all of us, nutloaf patties and potatoes and salad. I finished off in the conservatory and came in to relax.

Saturday 2nd June 07

Woke at 5.30ish and lay listening to my wife breathing, and then we got up at 7, the boys still asleep so we had breakfast and I lit the stove from the embers from last night, to reheat my bathwater for later. When the boys awoke and were rowdy I went back to bed and slept for an hour, then took the bathwater up and washed my hair so I'm clean for my gig today.

We were expecting the BBC Inside Out team to come at 12ish as they're filming me at St Nicks today, but they rang and said could I meet them at St Nicks and they'd film me arriving at 12.45, as the event starts at 1pm.

So an early lunch and got into costume and was on time at Bull Lane, to meet Lucy the producer and Phil the Film. Phil took a couple of takes from different angles of me cycling towards the Environment Centre, and one of me entering the compound. The event was called The Big Recycle Day, or 'Junk Swap'. The idea is that people bring unwanted goods and items to the tables, and then can take stuff they want back with them... simple and very effective for keeping things out of landfill and getting them reused.

My role was to firstly do some 'junk juggling' to entertain the kids, I challenged them to find objects which I could juggle and they found it hilarious when I dropped them! I was 'miked up' before this, so the BBC could 'catch' what I was saying and use the footage in their film about my 'green' lifestyle. I was lucky to find a youngster who started off as a non-juggler, and learned the pattern of three throws quickly but because of his small hands had problems catching them, but he persevered and was well on the way to being a good juggler when I finished that part of the event. Next was the 'Compost Bin Drumming', samba rhythms bashed out on 'daleks' and caddies, again filmed by the Beeb. Then I did a composting talk for children, and then an hour or so of my full Circus Skills Show, with juggling, devilsticks, balancing, 'Derek the Diabolo' and unicycle, lots of participation and fun. I was glad to finish as it was hot, and I then had a look through the junk tables and found a video of Grace Jones, hope it's OK.

The junk swap finished at 4, and then Kate the Columnist held her food tasting which will provide some information for her book on Green Living. She had purchased a range of food, both organic and the same type of food in non-organic. She had labelled these A and B, and made forms for the tasters to make comments about which they preferred. We weren't trying to work out which was organic or not, just our preferences and why. I tried and compared carrot and red pepper, bread and hommous, crisp-breads, cheese, crisps and shortbread, plus some wine and orange juice. An interesting exercise. During this, I was delighted to overhear Kate talking to some of her neighbours whom she'd invited, telling them that they could bring their kitchen scraps round to put in her compost bin. I told her that I was very proud of her, as she's gone from being a non-composter, through the York Rotters training, to being a compost guru herself, just fantastic! I'll write to the Press about that!

Came home and Gill had made tea... more food! So I had a small baked potato and salad, then put together a birthday present for my friend Ste, who is having a 40th birthday party tonight in Barley Hall. I'd asked his wife Helen if some home-made dried fruit would be an acceptable present, so I did a jar of interesting mixed dried fruit.

At 7 I set off for Ste's party with just my balloon modelling stuff and a change of clothes so when I'd done my balloons I could get changed. Ste was around when I arrived and in a medieval costume, and was delighted with the dried fruit. I locked the bike and set up inside Barley Hall where there were already some children with their families, and started doing a selection of balloons and giving people a go doing their own. I suppose this bit lasted an hour, then Ste made a speech thanking people for coming and telling us a bit about Barley Hall and that the food was waiting upstairs. We sang 'Happy Birthday' and went to find the food. As most people were dressed up, I didn't feel the need to change out of my glad rags and stayed colourful and silly all evening. Enjoyed meeting my old friend Deborah, who about 15 years ago made it clear to me that my skills as an entertainer could make me some money. Also Thea and John, and a nice chap Dave who lives just round the corner from us, who is going to install a 'ground source heat pump' in his house and garden to replace his 1960's central heating. I learned from him a little bit more how these work, and I look forward to perhaps seeing this being installed and working. Also Rachel, whom I chatted to and she wants to come and see the composting in the garden.

A lovely social time. At 11, when it was due to close, I gathered together most of the empty bottles and cans and filled my cycle trailer to get them recycled. Helen and Ste were so pleased with my help during the evening they gave me a bottle of Mead that somone had brought along... one of my favourite drinks!

Got back and enjoyed watching a bit of 'Sgt. Pepper revisited' on TV with Gill. Didn't do my blog as too tired and tipsy.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Friday 1st June 07

An extrordinary day, such a lot happened.

Firstly, the first copy of CommunityCare magazine popped through our letterbox, it has my second column in it which is about household appliances and energy saving, and also an excerpt from my weekly blog... this made me very happy as it is the first time I have seen it in print. Wow! I now feel like a published author... slight delusions of grandeur but I do have a right to feel pleased with myself, not everybody has a column and a blog in a national magazine!

see for my blog, as for the column I'm not sure if it's available on the net, it might only be in the printed mag. I'll find out.

Soon after that arrived I got a phone call from Lucy from the BBC, Inside Out, who are filming at tomorrow's St Nicholas Fields' Junk Swap, sorry, Big Recycle Day! I am performing as Professor Fiddlesticks AND John the Composter, and will be miked up all day. I then popped round to St Nicks to give them my confirmation letter about tomorrow and pick up a NewScientist I left for them to photocopy an article. I took a load of cardboard tubes which i had taken out of a skip a few days ago, as I know somone will use them for an art project or something.

After lunch I did a bit in the garden and then at 1.30 set off for the centre of town with the boys as we all had an eyesight test booked. I have one every year as I have family members with glaucoma and it's heritable, and the boys both had their first sight test. We left our bikes in the Out Of This World carpark and walked round to the opticians. The tests were fun and interesting, and all our sight is OK.

Then picked up a couple of bits from OOTW to take back for recycling, and I was given my monthly honourarium, a small payment to thank me for volunteering to do their recycling for them. As well as compostables, I also take a few glass bottles and steel and aluminium cans home. All but the aluminium cans go in the household recycling kerbside box, but I keep the aluminium as it's valuable and every now and then visit a scrap metal dealer and get a few quid for every sack. When on a low income, every pound counts!

Bought some vegan ice cream for Gill and carefully cycled home. I am so proud of my little boys, cycling on the road and developing good road manners and sense.

Then, within an hour or so of getting back, I set off for the Minster to meet up with folks participating in this month's Critical Mass cycle ride, and whilst I waited I chatted to a woman visiting York from Glasgow, and helped somone who had lost their watch by suggesting going to the De Grey Rooms Tourist Information Centre, as they'd be the nearest help place to perhaps leave a message for the police, incase it was handed in. Then the Critical Mass set off, only about 20 of us but with music playing and bike bells tringing we slowed the traffic down momentarily (ie no more than 5 mins at any time) and pulled over to let buses through. Critical Mass is relatively small in York but very effective in London and bigger cities. Lots of people gave us thumbs up and positive comments, and as always some folks vent their anger and call us names. We always keep smiling and upbeat, it's based on having fun. We ended up going up Huntington Rd, down Haxby Rd and Gillygate, Bootham and Clifton Bridge, through Leeman Road and then down to the Millenium Bridge and up New Walk, a good hour's cycle ride.

I peeled off and came home up the Heslington Road, and as I came onto the Hull Road and got ready to turn right into my house, witnessed a car crash... probably known in the trade as a 'shunt'. What happened was a car driver who had apparently been driving very very cautiously saw me coming down in the opposite direction with my hand out to turn, and perhaps assumed that I was going to suicidally turn in front of them, so they braked sharply. The car behind them braked to avoid a collision with the cautious driver, and the driver behind her, who was far too close, couldn't stop or just didn't, and rammed hard into the bigger tougher car. The driver at fault completely smashed the front of her car... she was young and inexperienced, but the more careful driver just had the bumper taken off. The driver that stopped unneccessarily just drove on and dissappeared, and they were ultimately responsible for poor driving in the first place.

I stopped and said to the driver who had been driven into that I would be a witness, and I then helped the very shocked driver-at-fault by giving her some support and offering her access to the phone in the house. My neighbour's son Graham and I pushed the smashed car onto the pavement and I swept up plastic and glass shards. The front driver was able to drive away but the younger one was offered a lift by Graham back to her house in Fishergate. Much as though I don't like cars (and accidents like this are just one reason!) I would not wish this experience on anyone and felt very sorry for both shocked women. Not a nice thing to happen at all, but no injuries to speak of.

So came in, now 8pm, and made a quick burger from an out of date tofu thingy and some granary bread. My youngest child needed some goats milk as we'd run out (he has this as he's less phlegmy at night using goats' milk) so I went to the shop. The young lady in the queue in front of me tried to pay with a card but it wouldn't work, so I offered to pay for her groceries and said she could pay me back. She and the staff were astonished, but she gratefully accepted so she was able to go home with her £15.40 worth of groceries, plus my business card which has my name and address on. She came round within half an hour saying that she could not draw any money out and couldn't pay me now, very apologetic. I told her not to wory and to pay me back when she could, and we chatted for a few minutes about composting... potentially another convert!

So an amazing day, and late on in the evening a good and friendly chat with my friend in America, and then watched telly with Gill.

Thursday 31 May 07

A frustrating day as I had intended to do such a lot but actually got relatively little done. The rest of the family went to visit family in West Yorks so they went at 9 on the bus to get on the 9.44 train to Leeds.

I decided to do my emails and had 25 start to come into my inbox. They seemed to take a long time and then after 30 mins (I'm on dialup) one came through, my friend in the US of A had decided to send me some photos of her weekend in the country, some family snaps and landscape expanses of forests. Unfortunately she sent duplicates and I spent over 3 and a half hours downloading stuff I didnt ask for or want all of. There was only one photo I kept and that was of her and her two children. Several of the photos wouldn't even open, the programme said they were corrupted. So I was pretty unhappy, even though i spent some of the time deleting old stuff and also popped out to buy bread and milk.

Later in the day I had an exchange with her on Googletalk and we fell out briefly, but made up as soon as I admitted that I knew she hadn't done it deliberately and she apologised. I hate my life being ruled by the computer, even though I enjoy doing my blog and communicating by email.

So this download lasted til lunchtime so I had lunch and went to meet my friend Jo for a chat, before going to the lottie and doing some more prep for this year's crops. Dug out a compost heap, turned it and restocked the original pallet bin with weeds and unwanted brambles. Pulled out lots of nettles and thistles where pumpkins will be planted soon.

Came home and prepared tea for the family, did a nutloaf and new potatoes and broccoli. They got in and I fed them. Then I went into the garden and planted some beans and a courgette.

In the evening I went to the Golden Ball to a LETS social, and this was lovely. Met with David the LETS Newsletter writer, and Will who suggested I do this blog and told me about blogspot, his is . Then Chrissie came and then Barry, whom I've not chatted with before and he was very pleasent, and then Ann and four Canadians who are staying with her came in, a really good group and I cheered up considerably.

After a pint and a half I went to the ethical supermarket to pick up my 'Wednesday' compostables, even though it was 10pm (I have the code to get into the carpark at the back) and there, amazingly, was one of the Out Of This World employees whom I'm very fond of, Lorenza. I spent at least half an hour with her and this really picked me up, and I cycled back and arrived in at 11pm.

Fired up with this social stuff, I decided to compose a long email to someone who may be able to help with my book (the one I can't tell anyone about yet) and I was up till 2am.