Sunday, 30 September 2007

Sunday 30th September 07

A lovely day as spent the most of it in the garden, although most of the morning doing my paid blog, where I attempted to address the ethical issues surrounding Burma, Zimbabwe and 'overseas' problems which we may think we cannot do anything about.

I watched the Great North Run whilst doing my writing. Then I watched a bit of the replayed Grand Prix, which was exciting as it was so wet. Now it might seem odd that I enjoy watching fast cars when I don't actually like cars very much. However the race goes ahead whether I watch it or not, and by occasionally watching it, I don't really feel that I'm encouraging it or willing it to continue. I would be the first person to say 'good' if it was deemed unsustainable and therefore was going to be banned, as there are other exciting and greener things to get excited about. I really enjoy watching cycle racing too, even though I know that they have loads of motorised back-up and no cycle race is carbon neutral.

Anyway, I didn't watch the whole thing as I needed to get outside and continue hand-cutting the huge lengths of hedge we have in this garden... which I then put through the electric shredder to help it compost quickly and evenly. My neighbour gave me a huge pile of pruned lilac trees, branches up to 8cm thick, so I processed them too, and ended up with a large pile of shredded material to co-compost the food waste I collect. I did visit Martin's greengrocer mid afternoon and picked up several bags

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Saturday 29th September 07

A good little lie-in... til after 9. Fairly soon after that my Sister rang, she'd come to York with her husband Douglas to experience the Food and Drink Festival, and meet some friends at lunchtime. We were warned last night that they wanted to see the boys, but weren't coming to our house... so we should meet them in town. We never go to town on a Saturday as it's always manic, however when we got the call, it was action stations as we had less than an hour to get to the Fountain in Parliament St. As Gill had failed to get the clothes required for our eldest son's trip away at Bewerley Park, she decided to come in on the bus with the boys and then go and do some shopping at Clifton Moor where she thought she'd get the clothes. I cycled in. I got my prescription and found an adapter plug for the battery recharger which comes with the digital camera my friend has got me.

Then I met my Anna and Douglas, and chatted for about 10 minutes before the rest of the family came. A + D bought us a crepe and we chatted for perhaps half an hour, before they went and Gill decided to go to 'Next' for the track-suit bottoms, rather than go to Clifton Moor. I got a couple of book tokens for my brother's children, who had their birthday last week (we forgot!) and cycled home via the greengrocers on Heslington Road.

I had lunch, and then took the opportunity to spend some time in the garden, and did a bit more hedge, shredding and layering the latest compost heap. When the others came in I also came in and did some housework, including blanching some grapes to make into raisins. If they're blanched before drying, any mould on them is killed and they dry cleanly... if dried without blanching they can go mouldy overnight, before they've lost enough moisture.

I did a lot of tidying in the conservatory, cutting down the old tomato plants which have stopped growing and started going mildewy and horrible. The crop this year has been very poor, partly due to my not adequately removing side shoots and partly because of bad weather and growing conditions. At least they were inside and didn't get blight! However whilst I was removing them I did find a good little pile of mixed tomatoes, some green but most ripe.

Gill incorporated lots of these into tea, which was delicious.

Friday 28th September 07

A very busy day... got downstairs at 9am, Gill had taken the boys to school so I lit the stove and did a big wash-up as I didn't last night as I was on the computer til late. I went to town via a guest house on Heslington Road, to book a room for my friend from the States who's coming to visit York on the 9th October, and then on to Cycle Heaven where I was shown my new bike, still being built. Then onto the station to get train tickets for my trip next week, and had a chat with a friendly chap at the British Transport Police about a notice which was put into my pannier about leaving it empty and open for inspection... I was advised to meet with the Station Manager. So I went to that office and was given his name to write to. Then onto Out Of This World to do my usual pick-up, and got my monthly honorarium, so took it to the Credit Union to put it in my savings. Said Hi to Kenny at CVS and had a humourous discussion about the room hire last week which failed as I didn't know to pick up the key. We also chatted about CVS's desire to recycle more, and a couple of ways in which they could deal with the food waste left over from conferences.

Then onto my building society to shuffle some cheques in and out, and back via Martin's to pick up a box and a bag of compostables and a handful of locally grown 'mucky carrots' which taste divine. Back for a late lunch and then went into the garden to deal with the stuff brought back for composting.

Gill went to school early as it was 'meet the teacher' but I've met them all and didn't feel the need to do it officially, so I spent some time emailing and then went back into the garden, and cut hedge, shredded, composted.

In the evening had a laugh with the boys who have been given a joke book from a charity shop (30 pence from Woodland's MS Respite Care Shop) and watched some gardening programmes.

In the evening I got an invite to attend a gig on the 10th of October, via Graham Martin in Facebook, so I accepted and updated my info, and uploaded a photo!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Thursday 27th September 07

I got a lie-in til 8.30, as the noise levels increased downstairs as Gill tried to get the boys ready for school, so I came down and chivvied them out of the house. It's amazing how much more quickly an 8 year-old boy will put their own shoe on when you offer to help them do it... they then have to prove that they don't need help and actually get on with it!

I was due to go to town and do various jobs before my little holiday next week, but I had a very leaky nose and felt grotty, then I looked at my diary and saw that Simon from Yellow Pages had booked to come and visit me regarding my advertising with them, so I lit the stove and got a coffee and did some washing up, Gill went out as she has more stuff to do in town. I did my emails to find out if my friend had landed, but there was no message, so I wondered what had happened.

The Yellow Pages rep recognised me from the telly programme last week, and we took some time to get onto the subject of advertising Professor Fiddlesticks. I didn't want to spend any more money with them, but was persuaded to have a listing with Yell (dot) Com and to afford this I am not having a one-line listing in the Leeds directory, which has not given me many returns. Apparently the Yell advert will give me a better coverage. But Simon did his job well and I'll be paying more next year than this!

I got an email from Community Care saying would it be possible to get my column in by this afternoon? I did some online research about Ethical Investment, which I don't know much about, and continued writing my 350 words.

Then I got an email from St Nicks saying that they would be sending someone over to pick up my apple press and crusher at 2pm, for use at Apple Day on the 6th of October. So I had to excavate that from the studio, all the time sneezing and snuffling and blowing my nose, and feeling rubbish.

I got my column typed in by 3pm and cycled down to school to pick up the boys. My youngest asked if he could visit one of his friends, so he went one way, and I came home with the eldest, who only noticed we didn't have his brother once we'd got home! On the way home I chatted with a friend of mine, who's a chemist and very well informed, and she's not convinced that the paint on top of the sleepers will stop the creosote coming through, and she said if she felt brave enough, she'd raise it at school at a meeting tonight.

Once I got home I felt so poorly I went to bed and fell asleep with New Scientist in my hand. I was woken by a phone call from my friend, who had sent me some emails since landing at Manchester Airport, but they'd not got through to me. I was pleased she was safe and sound.

I made my own tea, finishing up the weird-tasting mushroom soup and putting some pasta in, left over from Gill's tea, and heating that on the woodstove, plus making some eggy-bread the same way, using a discarded organic loaf with the crusts cut off. It was very filling and dirt cheap, a good thing considering that I'm about to spend a large amount on a new bicycle.

After tea, before it got dark, I did a bit of putting stuff on the newest compost heap, and cut a bit more hedge. Then came in and sorted out the stove, got enought hot water for my boy to have a bath. Then I refilled the pans as I want to have a bath later. Gill and I enjoyed watching Carol Vorderman on BBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?', about ancestry and family origins. We had a game of Scrabble and I won, again.

Enjoyed my bath at midnight.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Wednesday 26th September 07

Gill woke me at 8.10 and asked me if I could take the boys in to school as her shoulder ached, so I leapt to her rescue and got ready for our usual 8.30 lift off. They cycled well, I am always proud of their cycling abilities, and I got back before 9am and spent a bit of time with Gill before she went out, as our youngest has broken his cycle helmet (deliberately, we think) and I did various bits and bobs around the house, before going out to my friend who had borrowed my bowsaw to sort out her woodwormy floorboards. On the way there I called in to Cycle Heaven and found out that my new bike frame has been delivered and it will be assembled tomorrow... so possibly ready by the weekend! When I got to my Freecycling friend, I had a good little chat and loaded up the trailer with floorboards and some of her next-door-neighbour's apple tree which they've started to chop down. I came back via Out Of This World and collected their recyclables, and got home before 2...... Gill had developed a flat tyre and had gone in by bus.

I chatted to my friend on Googletalk, the last scheduled time before she flies over to the UK.

I got the children at 3, and was very pleased to meet up with my friends Marina and Alan, over from the Balkans as Alan has a bit more research to do at the University, so he's brought the family over, and it's lovely to see them. At school, there'd been a ceremony to open the Japanese Garden which IRA Bob has finished. The school investigated my complaint about creosoted sleepers being used, and the City Council expert came down to check it, and said that the sleepers had to be painted with something to reduce the possibility of the tar/creosote coming out, and that had been done. The Japanese garden looked good.... I'd have preferred an organic vegetable garden, but the children chose what they chose, and all in memory of a child who died of cancer, so a memorial garden. I told Bob that it looked good and I was pleased that the sleepers had been painted. He was quite polite!

Marina, Alan and their 9 year-old daughter came back with us and had a chat, hot drink infront of the stove and a quick walk down the garden. We might see them at the weekend, hopefully.

I decided to do some work in the garden, so I got the ladders and pruned the variagated sycamore tree, as it has a load of green-only shoots, and if these aren't pruned out they take over as they are more vigorous. So a half hour's work every year keeps the tree looking lovely and variagated. I shredded the pile of unwanted branches, and made a 'woody' layer in the latest heap. I put the fruit/veg stuff collected today on the top, another compost heap is beginning to grow!

I had a microwaved potato and stir-fried veg in mushroon soup for tea. The children (well one of them.. censored!) broke two things today. An expensive (at least £6) 'paddle' hairbrush and my lovely 'light up' cycle reflector band which goes around my body when out cycling at night. This made me pretty annoyed, as I hate waste and I wish the particular child would be more careful.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Tuesday 25th September 07

Woke to sounds of anger from downstairs and came down to see if I could assist Gill with getting the boys ready for school. A bucket of greywater (ex-washing up water) had been kicked over in the kitchen and there definitely seemed a need for a firm, stern person to come and ensure that they got ready for school, as walking today and that takes longer than cycling.

I had breakfast once they'd gone, and at 8.55 set out on my bike for school as we've a meeting with the head teacher, to give us re-assurance about how the boys are getting on. She was so nice, confirming that we are doing the right thing and that what we are going through is quite normal, and that boys do push the boundaries like they are doing, and that everything is actually OK. We were greatly resurred and went away after over an hour feeling better.

I had aranged to go and see James to help him prune a Eucalyptus tree, which was the other half of a trade I did, as he had given me a petrol chainsaw to pass on to Jules, and Jules had promised me logs for the chainsaw.... so this morning I completed the James/John part of the bargain, and I pruned his 10 - 12 metre tree down to about 4 - 6 metres, cutting off about 10 large branches which were up to 5 metres long, and then processing them into twiggy bits and good branches for chopping up, drying and loading the stove with. James was delighted with the work, and I met his social workers, who come every day to make sure he's OK and ensure he eats. I left him happy, with a pile of branches to process and knowing that he has a friend.

I got home for lunch and Gill came in from town having ordered some red glasses frames. I spent some time washing up and post lunch stuff, and went on the computer before chopping up some of the wood I'd brought back from James's. Gill got the boys and took them to the dentist on the bus, getting in shortly before 5pm. She was doing eggy bread for them but had no baked beans, so I popped to the Co-op to get some... and then went down the garden to manage some compost heaps and cut a hedge, did some shredding and loading of the latest heap to be emptied. No compost heap ever lies empty for long here!

Came in for tea at about 7, and had the mushroom soup I made yesterday, it tastes like what I remember oxtail soup did, and has the same brown colour. Glad I knew it was made from mushrooms!

Spent some time with family before the kids went to bed, and watched a very moving Bruce Parry programme 'Tribe' with him visiting the Penan people from Sarawak in Borneo, an amazing portrait of people suffering from the West's insatiable desire for wood and palm oil.

Spent some time chatting with my friend in America, who is flying over to Manchester tomorrow, arriving Thursday morning. I am looking forward to meeting up with her, and am trying not to feel too responsible or guilty about the carbon cost of the trip. I'm not the only person she's coming over to see, but I do want to share the responsibility of offsetting the carbon emissions, even if this is a flawed idea.

Got an email from my friend Jessica the photographer who has has been mugged.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Monday 24th Sept 07

A slow start to the morning for me, but this was good, didn't mind waking at 9am at all!

However, after this, Gill went to town and I spent most of the morning washing up, tidying the stove area, filling woodbaskets and did some emailing.

When Gill got back, having got various things for the children and mended her glasses which fell apart, I cycled in, to get wellies and a rucsack, put in a cheque and pick up my compostables, all of which I did very quickly and got back at 3pm.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Sunday 23rd September 07

Joy of joys, a lie-in, what a treat! And a very lazy morning followed, watched some Freeview 'Scrapheap Challenge' as eating breakfast... a weird time to put this programme on, but as I watched it, I expect others did too! Towards lunchtime the boys got up, and I had lunch and then went into the garden to do some compost heap management, which rendered me very pongy, so I came in and had a shower, as I was due to be at a party at 3pm.

I got ready, loaded my bike up and got changed into my entertainment gear as the party is quite local, at the Healthy Living Centre, Millers Yard, Gillygate. I popped in to Martins Country Fresh on the way down to town, to ask that any compostables are left outside tonight next to the bins, where I'll pick them up later. Arrived at Millers Yard at 2.55, and was immediately surrounded by hoards of little very enthusiastic children, all keen on seeing 'The Funny Man'.

I said 'Hello' to the Dad who'd booked me and was ushered into the room where the party performance was to take place. The party was not really to celebrate a birthday, but to forge friendships between the newly arrived family, fresh from Australia, and the local children. So the youngster's birthday had been several months previously, but he was having a party today to help make friends here.

As they were very young, I had agreed to do a short performance of circus skills, which went well, they laughed a lot, as I obviously am a funny man, as I was wearing a silly hat, have daft shoes and do weird things with juggling balls and sticks. So had a 15 minute mini-show and then moved on to modelling balloons, blowing a load up as various little ones came out to try to blow up a balloon, which is more or less impossible for most people, including the Dad, and this gave me time to inflate 20 or so, with my lungs, as I am able to do!

So then made a small number of demonstration models, a dog, rabbit, bird, a 'watchdog' with one of the grownup's watches inside the dog, and finally, an elephant, to remind the audience the basics of balloon modelling. Then I invited youngsters to work together with a grownup to do a balloon animal, or if they preferred, sit in an area where I then made them an animal of their choice. I was delighted to see several good models being made by child/adult combos, and the children enjoyed the different models I made. Finally I organised the competitions for the models I made to be given to the youngsters, as I don't want to take them back home. I finished at exactly 4pm, as requested.

Zoomed home and arrived as our guests arrived in their hire car. Wendy and Brian are from New Zealand, and Wendy is the mother of my second cousins, Amanda and Chris. Wendy's first husband, Tony, my Dad's cousin, died as he was a heavy drinker, and Wendy has remarried a lovely gentle man, and they seem like a really good couple. They are writing a blog about their travels through, which is W and B in UK ( So they were treated to a brief Fiddlesticks demo before I got changed and put my stuff away, and they gave us some gifts from Kiwiland... the boys were given a New Zealand hat each, and a tiki, I think, and Gill received a kiwi tea-towel and a pau-shell necklace. I was happy with a New Zealand woolly hat.

I took them on a tour of the garden... they visited about 5 years ago, and it has grown since then, as have the boys, who were about 2 and 4 then. They stayed the night that time, but today, just for a meal. Gill had made a quiche with home-grown broccoli and onion, home-grown potato and green beans and baby tomatoes. They brought a bottle of New Zealand wine, delicious! When in the garden, Brian picked a plant from the edge of the lawn and asked me what it was, so I brought it inside and looked it up, as it is a weed in New Zealand and takes over the lawn. It turned out to be 'Self Heal' and has a pretty purple flower.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Saturday 22nd September 07

Saturday started in a lovely way, with my youngest child coming into the bedroom at about 7.30am and waking me up with a 'I love you Dad' and getting into bed with me and giving me a little back rub. I rolled over and gave him a big backrub, a perfect if a little early start to the day. So came down and had my bowl of cereal, home-made muesli on top of bran flakes, and then did the washing up from last night with the pan of still-warm water from last night's stove.

At about 8.40 I set off on the bike to go and visit Y, one of my Freecycle friends, who has asked for some help sorting out some woodwormy floorboards, and needs brawny people to move furniture and rip out floorboards. I got 5 minutes away and remembered that I was supposed to bring my bowsaw to lend her, so retraced my route and picked it up. I enjoyed meeting her lodgers, including a young woman from Malaysia who is working for Norwich Union, whom I taught to use the bowsaw to cut floorboards to length. New ones are being refitted to fill holes before the whole lot is replaced in a few months time.

I left after an hour or so, and went via Cycle Heaven to get a replacement dynamo wheel for Gill and then went to Bootham to go to Liz's garage sale. I found a scented candle, some Beano comics, two jigsaw puzzles, two little spades in wood and metal for digging on the beach and some fruit teas for 10 Yorkys, and a 'Freeview' set-top box for just £1, bargain of the week, I should say.

When I got home with the various gifts, I was very well liked, everybody happy, especially with the Freeview box, which enables us to get Discovery Channel, BBC3, various kids' TV channels, and probably more. Excellent!

I had lunch and then ran a bath.... using gas and the combi boiler for very hot water and a 5 gal can of warm water from last night's stove, making a good bath, not completely sustainable, but good enough. I washed my hair and got clean for this afternoon's gig and came down and packed my juggle kit for a workshop. I left at about 2.30, the party is in Escrick at 3.45, but I sped along the A59 so fast I was at the venue for 3.05. The dad and younger daughter came at 3.30, as arranged, to open the village hall and let me get changed and get the kit ready. At 3.45 the small group of 13 year-old girls arrived and I did a short show and explanation, followed by a 'freeplay workshop' til 5pm, when they were invited to do a little show to their friends. I really enjoy working with this age-group, as they are so able, and there was a good degree of success with this lot too, very satisfying. Got home for just after 6pm, tired and happy that Gill ad made a pile of bulgar wheat and garden veg. I ate this watching a programme on Capuchin Monkeys.

I recieved an email from the moderator of the CRAG website, copied to me, and sent to the perpertrator of the false 'Professor Fiddlesticks' posting last night, telling him not to use that username unless he could prove that he was the 'real' Professor Fiddlesticks! I felt really glad that the moderator is 'on the case' and had hidden the offending posts, and my replies, from public view. Hopefully the 'offender' will choose a different username! Unless, of course, he IS the real Professor Fiddlesticks!

Had another game of Scrabble and beat Gill by 50 or so points this time. Watched some Freeview stuff!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Friday 21st September 07

As Gill was feeling poorly, I took the kids to school. As it was raining, they went straight in, no standing in line this morning, and I got home before 9am. Lit the stove to dry off my clothes and went back to bed for an hour.

Then got up and got busy with some paperwork, some Fiddlesticks stuff and the usual emailing and blogging.

A quiet day really, and 3pm came oh so quickly and I went to pick up the boys.

As soon as I got back, I cycled down to town to go to pay my phone bill which took ages as the Co-op Bank computer system was down, then went to Out Of This World to give them some posters and pick up compostables, then came back via Martin's, where a present was waiting for me, two CDs of The Falling Spikes, the band which Richard drums for, and my favourite band in York, if not the UK at the moment. When I got home I played the 'commercial' one and I love it. I look forward to making time to play the rough cuts one!

At 5.15, my new friend Sarah came round, after meeting her on Critical Mass and at last night's CRAG meeting, she came to see the compost demonstration garden, and it was lovely to show her around.

During the early evening, when the boys were upstairs, Gill and I had a game of Scrabble, the first we've played for ages, since I've been blogging in the evening, and chatting on Googletalk, we just haven't had time for Scrabble, and we used to play almost every night, so it was lovely to have another game.. should do it more often. I won, but only just, by 4 points!

Later, whilst online, I got a message from the CRAG website, purporting to be from someone using the name 'Professor Fiddlesticks', which is my 'stage' name, and is protected by Equity, the performers' Union (actually protected from being used by other entertainers who try to join Equity). The message was complimentary to me, about the work I'm doing to promote sustainability, but I was upset that someone was using that name. I posted a reply, thanking the individual for their comments, and asking them to not use that username. They posted a reply, saying that they were the 'real' Professor Fiddlesticks, so I replied, suggesting they call themselves PF2, or perhaps use their real name like I do on the CRAG website. There was no answer to this.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Thursday 20th September 07

Quite a good day, Gill took the boys to school and I got up at a reasonable time and did a load of stuff on the computer, with a lot of chat with my friend in America who's been working all night, and was still working at 4am.

I then went to the allotment to dig up the rest of the onions and deliver some wool carpet which has been donated to me for use as a weed suppressant. I dug onions, removed weeds, chopped back brambles intent on a takeover and built another good layer on the compost heap. This included a layer of halved oranges and coffee grounds from Millers Yard, which I visited yesterday. Cam home with about 30 onions.

Late lunch, then a quick cycle down to St Nicks where I had a good chat with Jo and a bit of a telling off from John, one of the other York Rotters managers. Apparently I have overstepped the remit of York Rotters by talking on telly about stuff which is not strictly home composting WHILST wearing one of my York Rotters tee-shirts! I might have brought the group into disrepute by mentioning the composting of human bodies with the tee shirt on. Apparently some of the councillors might not like it, and we need to ask for more funding, so I've got to be careful and appropriate, and appropriate can be difficult for me.

At 3, went to school and picked up the boys. I stayed in the house as they were meant to be doing homework, so I made a nutloaf for us all, and we tried to get them to do some work, quite a battle. Lots of shouting, it really winds me up, I have to work hard not to shout back and I feel like giving them a punishment for such atrocious behaviour. But I kept my calm, just.

I certainly do not want to spend any time with them tonight. I feel awful even thinking this.

However we all ate together very soon after this posting and the meal was enjoyed, foodwise, and we had an interesting discussion about etiquette, how to hold the knife and fork (if got both) and the fork (if on it's own) and we all agreed that they are not based on logic, but probably history and that they have something to do with different cultures and people in groups all behaving in the same way, creating a sort of solidarity, connectivity between individuals. Quite a deep conversation to have over nutloaf, sweetcorn and peas with boiled potato!

After tea it was time to do homework, which wasn't done beforehand. One had a small number of spellings to copy, the other had quite a lot of maths. Neither of them wanted to do the work and the noise and aggro was too much for me. I tried to intervene and it just exacerbated the situation, with both of them yelling at me. I consider such behaviour punishable and gave them several warnings. Gill got upset, but I didn't want to just leave it, they had their homework to do, I feel it is my responsibility to ensure they do it. Gill disagreed, as if they don't do it, it is the boys themselves. She sent the boys up to their rooms to do their work at their own desks, and we agreed that this is what we'll do in the future, not have them do homework downstairs.

I went outside and continued stacking some split logs and then got ready to go out to the CRAG meeting. Got to Priory St, where the meeting was due to take place, and found the room locked. My friend Mary turned up, and I told her that the door was locked, and she explained that room bookers had to get the key before 4pm. I had no idea about this, and of course, could do nothing about it now. The problem might have been me not reading the small-print, or perhaps CVS not giving me the info, I don't know. We made a decision to go to a pub... decided to use the Brigantes Bar, on Micklegate, as they have an upstairs room we've used before.

A notice was put on the door to let latecomers know, and we all trouped along to the Brigantes. The meeting was well attended, 21 people including our 2 speakers, Anna and Jonathan, both transport experts. We put the chairs in a circle and when all settled Alex did a little introduction and then Anna spoke about cutting car use, her speciality. She gave us some very interesting facts, including the link between car use and ill health, the pollution that car users are exposed to within the car, which is three times that people cycling on the side of the road are exposed to, and the costs of car use. The average UK family spends 18% of their income on their car use, more than on housing or on food! She also spoke on the injuries and deaths caused... there are 26,000 people hospitalised or killed by cars in the UK every year. She compared the UK experience with that in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where, for instance, when there is a collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle, the motorist has to prove they were driving carefully, whereas here the cyclist has to prove that they weren't cycling dangerously. Also, when a motorist kills someone, they very rarely get prosecuted for it, despite it often being their fault. This developed into a discussion, which had to be forestalled as we had a second speaker, Jonathan. He is an expert in public transport, and informed us about several rail issues, some stuff about freight which we didn't know, and comparisons between planes, trains, buses and cars. Then there was more discussion, comments, questions, all in all a very interesting meeting.

I popped in to Out Of This World to pick up any recycling and came home, lit the stove and did some emailing, blogging and googletalking. I was delighted to recieve a comment from this blog, following my woes about having to censor my blog to be more ethical towards my children. The comment was from Peter, who writes a brilliant blog called Earthquake Cove, which has been voted as one of the top 100 green blogs. ( I had a trundle through this blog, and feel I could learn a lot about how to make a blog more interesting and user friendly. I'll ask Peter for some tips!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Wednesday 19th September 07

Gill got the boys off to school, and soon after she came back we both went into town, I went to check on the progress of my new bike, collect compostables and put a cheque in, the City of York Council one which didn't manage to get to me via BACS. Got home in time for lunch, and then did a load of emailing.

The afternoon slipped by quickly and 3pm arrived, I cycled to school and picked up 3 boys, including a friend's child who had a ride home on my crossbar as his mum was in a job interview, and was due to collect him at 7pm. At 5pm I bombed down to Martin's veg emporium and collected a couple of sacks and a box of unsold produce, and cycled on to school to attend a meeting about my son's upcoming visit to Bewerley Park. It's his first time away from home without parents or family (he did have a few days with his grandparents a year or more ago) and he's very excited. The meeting lasted over an hour, and we had a presentation from Kate, who works at Bewerley Park, and saw photos of the activities.

Got back to the house for about 7, and put some stuff on the heap, and saw my friends, parents of our young guest this evening. I had tea and spent time on the computer.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Tuesday 18th September 07

Woke still with a runny nose and thick head, still feeling low about having to censor my blog.

Had bad-tempered morning, as one child was at home as he'd had a bad night and I resented his noise. I feel justified to mention 'a child' rather than saying which one, as it does give some degree of anonymity, and enables me to say why I was feeling grumpy.

I went into the garden to escape and Gill took him into school at lunchtime, so I came in and did some housework, including preparing a load of red peppers for drying to make sweet paprika.

I picked them up from school, and after a family conference (censored) I did some wood stacking. I had tea at 6pm, eggy bread using some out-of-date loaf collected on Sunday evening.

Did more work outside during the evening. Still not in a very good mood.

I did my blog and started going through old posts and asking Gill whether I should take stuff out, or leave it in. It was difficult for her to decide, so she suggested just leaving what is already written and being more careful phrasing stuff in the future. I feel better about this.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Monday 17th September 07

Most of the morning I was with Catherine the York Rotters manager, helping her with some questions for 'Compost Bingo', a game we'll play with some existing Rotters when we have a get-together later in the year.

Home for lunch, and got a phone call from our friend Jenny, whom I know through AVP, the conflict resolution workshop organisers. She had noted that we were having some parenting issues and as she's been a special needs teacher, and is very experienced in helping families, she offered to come over and have a chat... so we said, yes, this afternoon would be great. It was lovely to see her, and she is very caring, non judgemental and a good listener, asking very thought-provoking questions. One of the issues which did come up was this blog. As I am a very open person, I am happy that other people can read about my life, and I put many aspects of my life into my blog. However, my children, whom I don't name on my blog, to give them some privacy, are not so public, and one of them in particular does not want to be mentioned on the blog, especially in negative connotations. So I agreed that I would not talk about personal stuff, to respect their wishes, and would review what I've already written and remove negative mentions of them. I am not particularly happy about this, but I'll try to do it.

I collected them from school and then did some work in the garden. I felt really low, as I enjoy my blogging and feel that mentioning 'family difficulties' is ok, as it shows that my life is very similar to other parents, and gives 'reality' to my blog. However I will try to behave ethically, or more ethically than I have done.

I had a sneezy evening, nose streaming, sinusses aching, but did my column for Community Care, about the University of Central Lancashire and the student services they have.

Sunday 16th September 07

I spent some of the night thinking about a conversation which I had with Hugh the accordionist about why the University of Central Lancashire puts on this weekend's entertainments and celebrations, and some of the other things which are in place to help the students in their new home and new round of education. I decided that I would find out some more and do my paid blog on the care that UCLAN takes of its students. i feel that they care more than the average university, not sure where I get this idea, but there are certainly more services than when I was a student. (

Stephen and Meg drove me into Preston with all my gear, as after the day's work I'm going straight on to the station and am heading home.

This meant I was early and could chat to Zana from the TV licening people, and some of the Student Liason Officers who talked me through some of the things which are in place to improve the student experience at UCLAN.

When time to work came, I was placed in a courtyard surrounded by the accommodation blocks, with about 400 new students arriving with their families, carrying in all their posessions, being serenaded by the Jazz Band and entertained by the likes of The Wonderful Stevie and myself.

A buzzy day, lots of fun and interaction, taught several people to juggle and enjoyed myself immensely.

I worked solidly through to about 3pm, when it started to rain. I had just 10 mins for lunch, and at 3 went inside the Harrington Building to continue with balloon modelling, but went to the station half an hour later as it had got quite quiet, with the majority of the students having arrived and got their keys and already settled in. I walked to the station, to find that the next direct train was at 5.38, so I had a pint of cider and a baguette and read some more of 'Energy Flash' before going for the train. It was super-crowded, I had to stand for 2 hours until 7.30 when we arrived in Leeds... then had a 30 min sit-down until York.

Picked up some compostables from Out Of This World on the way home, balancing them on my unicycles on the trailer. Was very glad to see Gill who'd had an excellent weekend, with the children being very well behaved. They went to Scarborough today to see the QE2 go past.

After a small tea I popped out to Martin's Country Fresh to pick up 2 sacks of compostables, I'd cycled past them earlier and had no space to pick them up.

Saturday 15th September 07

I slept well and was woken by a shout from Meg as I'd asked, at 8am, and had a pleasent breakfast. Meg was helping with a Farmers Market at her church, St Michaels, which is just 2 minutes walk from their house. The bus stop is right next to the church and the bus came very soon, dropping me off near Adelphi Street, which is where the University of Central Lancashire centres around.

I easily found the Harrington Building and waited for the person who was our named contact. Various other entertainers rolled in, including my friend Robin Ellwood, who does 'Visitation Productions', playing various characters including today, Madge the Cleaning Lady. Robin is a very big guy, perhaps 6 foot 6 tall, and almost as wide (I jest!) so he makes quite an impact in drag and being very OTT. He also does a robot character but I didn't see him do this during this weekend. My friend Hugh Barwell the accordion player came, he's got a new digital accordion and it does an impressive array of different sounds, including trombone and trumpet, Scottish accordion, saxaphone and double bass. It is truly a lovely instrument, and Hugh is so good at it, he has a vast repetoir and a good style. ( Then 'The Wonderful Stevie' arrived, who does contact juggling and some other circussy stuff, and a pair I didn't know so well, Muttonchops and Mark Wazzjazz, who play drunken strolling players with a wide knowledge of tunes on a banjo and tiny saxophone. They started the day with a can of lager each! There were some other entertainers too, but I didn't see them until I had started working.

I was placed outside the Harrington Building and so was Hugh, which was excellent as I had some lovely music to twiddle my devilstick to, and it was fairly quiet, audience-wise, certainly for participation. However I did engage with a group of six chinese students, one of whom displayed quite a talent with the devilsticks, so I suggested that I taught them to juggle. This particular young woman learned the 3-ball cascade in about 5 minutes, and was well pleased with herself. I was also extremely pleased, as it kind of justified my being there and having a generally quiet day.

At about 4pm I gathered myself up and strolled into town and caught the No 25 bus, back to Ashton, and as I was still in costume, some of the bus passengers had a giggle, which was good.

And as I was still in costume when I got back to Meg's, I did a mini show for her neighbours, then we walked the 10 minutes along to her son John's house, as he had never seen my skills, and she thought he would be intrigued. He was pleased to see me and remembered that I'd sent him a letter following his Countdown success. I demonstrated the various tricks I do outside his terraced house, and some neighbour's children came to watch. I finished by making them some balloon models, it was good to have an appreciative audience. The taxi-driver was right, it is lovely to bring fun and colour into peoples' lives, I feel very lucky to be someone who can do that.
When we got back to Meg's, I picked some apples for her, using a step-ladder, and she got a stew together for when Stephen was due in after 8pm. We then settled down with a drink each and watched some overacted 'Casualty' until Stephen arrived home. I was very happy to see him again, and we had the aubergine-based stew together before retiring to bed.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Friday 14th September 07

I spent most of today helping my friend Andy and his partner Maria move house. I took a train up to Northallerton, getting there at 10am, and Andy picked me up in the van he'd hired, and took me to his house in Northallerton, and I helped him load up and fill the van. He'd got a sack-trolley to move the fridge and washing machine, but they needed disconnecting from the wall, and their screwdrivers had been packed, so my Swiss Army knife came in useful to unscrew the electrical connections from the wall. We then motored down to York, they've got a mid-terrace in South Bank, and I helped unload as quickly as possible as I wanted to get back home.

They went back to Northallerton for a second, smaller, load, and dropped me off at the station to pick up my bike and get home, back by 2.15.

I picked up the boys, and A friend's son also came back with us as she is working I think, and when we all got back, we all went to play in the garden, ending up being silly on the trampoline.

He went quite soon and I had tea with the boys as I'm getting a train to Preston soon after 6pm.

I got to the station for a third time today and got my ticket to Preston and got the train with lots of time to spare. I was very dozy between York and Leeds, but at Leeds a chap got on and we started chatting, and I woke up as he was interesting and interested in me. He was Keith, a film lecturer working at Leeds Metropolitan University. We covered so many subjects, not just film, and only got onto composting shortly before Preston! One really good thing we talked about was a mystery film which Gill saw in New Zealand, and she was very moved by it, and she's been wanting to find out what it was called. I described what Gill has told me about it and Keith knew what it was! I may be able to find it and suprise her with it!

I got a taxi from Preston station and was soon in Ashton where my parents' friends Stephen and Meg live. The Asian taxi-driver was very positive about my being an entertainer as he said life was hard and not always good, and entertainers take people out of their everyday reality and bring some joy and happiness into their lives. As the fare wasn't much, I gave him a reasonable tip as I felt he was talking from experience.

It was lovely to see Meg, the last time I saw her was at our wedding in 1999. Stephen was away overnight, so we had a really good chat, and she showed me the videos she recorded of her son John becoming a Champion of Champions on Countdown. She is obviously very proud of him, as anyone would be with a genius son!

I had a couple of glasses of wine, Meg's into Whisky, and we chatted til after midnight.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Thursday 13th September 07

A difficult start to the day, I got up early so I could help our little one with his homework, which is a 10 minute exercise attempting to fill in a 10x10 grid with the 'times tables' on. He doesn't yet know his times tables, apart from 2's, 4's and 5's. Gill said that he shouldn't be made to do it this morning, so instead I told him that I was going to spend just 5 minutes (I first asked him if he thought 5 minutes was a long time, he said 'no') helping him with one of his times tables. When he was dressed, at 8.15, I said, lets do the 5 mins now, before we set off for school at 8.30. He kicked up such a fuss, he kicked me and shouted. It's really really difficult to be a parent, there seems no way to get it right. I am depressed.

Took them to school, they were fine, good cyclists, and when they got to school and put their lunch bags in the right place and collected their book bags from me, both of them kissed me and the youngest one said sorry.

I had taken the garden fork down to school to excavate a compost bin ready for the ongoing 5 or so kg/day additions, but when I went round the back of the school to dig out the smaller bin and put the compost on the raised bed which has been weeded, it had been moved, emptied and the sacks of finished compost removed. I spoke to the headteacher in the playground after she had welcomed new parents, and she knew nothing about where it had gone. She does know, however that there's me on ITV tonight, and I'm a bit worried as in the filming, I came to school (with the school's permission) and they filmed me going in the playground bins to take out fruit for composting, and I complained that there wasn't a system in place to prevent children just throwing stuff away, and that the school wasn't interested in sustainability.

Anyway, the criticism is justified, and it may be that it gets something to change.

I spent 45 minutes digging out one bin, putting the partly composted materials in the next-door one, leaving the original empty to recieve more stuff. Then emptied the playground bins, by hand, and put over 30 kg of fruit skins, cores etc in the ready to use composter.

Came home for 10am and tried to get on with paperwork, but did some blog too, to get it off my chest, aaah!

Had a low day, not feeling good. Headache.

However got on with stuff, Gill and I did a lot of clearing out the kitchen cupboards (mainly Gill actually) and we now have more space, threw a bit of stuff away which was past using, composted lots.

I did a quick trip to town, paying in a Community Care cheque, picking up stuff from Out Of This World and Martin's.

I collected the boys, they'd had a good day, but later in the afternoon/evening there was shouting and anger, tears and when they eventually went to bed, we both flopped down and let out a big sigh, and watched 'Who Do You Think You Are?' about John Hurt's ancestry. I got a tape ready to record ITV Yorkshire's 'Wood You Believe It?'. I saw the first programme last night and it's a bit tongue in cheek, slightly piss-take, slightly tabloid, sensationalism. Part of me is not looking forward to seeing how they portray my lifestyle. However there's nothing I can do about it now!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Weds 12th September 07

A slow start to the day, but got up and doing stuff by 10.30. I did some paperwork, sending off a postal order and doing some sorting. I found a letter from the City of York Council telling me about a payment for work I did with the Gifted and Talented Summer School, but no evidence of a cheque, which I'd asked for on the invoice.

So I rang the Financial Services department, and they told me it had been paid by BACS. I was annoyed, as several times before I've had problems with BACS and never want to use it again. I feel comfortable with cash or a cheque, and I always request one of these methods in my confirmation letters and invoices. But the Council still had my account details, and tried to pay me via BACS, so I rang my Building Society, and had to wait for two runs through an automated menu before someone answered my call, and they said they had no record of a payment. They said that it might have 'bounced' in which case they would have no record of it. So I rang the Finance Office again, and they had no record of it being bounced. I rang the Building Society again, and got put in a queue as my account was a type which couldn't be dealt with by the first person I spoke to this time (it was ok before!) and after 15 mins in a queue, I spoke to a person in Sheffield who needed 3 tries to get my account number correct, she then said she couldn't deal with it as my account was deemed to be a business account, and put me through to someone I knew in the York Office, after another 10 mins wait. What a bind!

It turns out that the BACS thing was made payable to a slightly different version of my name, and it should bounce back to the Council, and they should make out a cheque and put it in the post! What a palaver. I asked the Council to remove my account details so they cannot try the BACS trick again!

This took til lunchtime. After lunch I did more 'paperwork', on the computer, actually, paperless work, happily! Wrote a piece for the LETS newsletter about the Freecycle/LETS social in June, and had a good chat with my friend over the pond on Googletalk.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Tuesday 11th September 07

A good day, quite a slow start, but went into town before lunch to do my 'Monday' pick-up from Out Of This World, got a couple of cheques out, and a postal order to pay back the B and B chap in Norwich, who has returned our youngest son's bag containing books and toys. Also got a large tin of fair-trade coffee, some string for my diabolo sticks, and checked out 'point and click' digital cameras, which I'm investigating and planning to purchase. I used to be a keen photographer, but gave up over a decade ago as I was unhappy with the 'ecofootprint' of traditional film, which uses many chemicals and is wasteful, as any duff shots still have to be printed. With Digital, I would have batteries to recharge, and some initial hardware, but after that there should be few ongoing costs/carbon footprints.

Got home in time for lunch and soon after that had a visit from a reporter from Minster FM (radio station) who are doing a piece on my forthcoming appearance on ITV on Thursday. Chatted to her for a while, all with a microphone under my nose. Will be broadcast tomorrow afternoon.

Then got on with some compost heap sorting. Loaded more onto one of them, and riddled more stuff, very relaxing! Gill got the boys, and I cut some hedge and did some shredding, next door was pruning the lilacs and gave me all the branches, so they got processed too, into bigger diameter stuff for logging and twiggy bits which I shredded.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Monday September 10th 07

I took the boys into school, our youngest ran down the garden just before we were due to cycle off, and Gill had to take him off the trampoline, put his shoes back on and he was bundled back up the garden and onto his bicycle. Once at school, he's OK, but getting him there is becoming a problem. But, when they leave me at school, they both give me a kiss, which re-assures me that they aren't that unhappy!

Gill and I took a rest on the sofa and watched some telly and drank coffee. We're enjoying the 'Helicopter Heroes' Yorkshire Air Ambulance programme, it's gripping. Then we went to bed, glad to have some space after a busy weekend. I got up a bit later as I had a lot of compostables to put on a heap, but Gilly slept til miday, she's exhausted.

At 1pm Liz from LETS came, for me to sign some cheques and have a chat, cuppa, and she picked some blackberries.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Sunday 9th September 07

Oh a lovely lie-in, Gill awoke me at 9.50am! This is the longest lie in I'd had for absolutely ages. However I had to get up quite quickly as I had to get some samples of compost for today's talk in Leeds before getting the train shortly after midday.

I got samples of mature unriddled and riddled 'ready to use', also some 'in the process of composting' stuff. Also a bag of very mature humanure compost, unriddled leafmould and riddled 'ready to use' leafmould.

Then cycled down to the station and got the 12.15, meeting a very pleasent couple on the train who shared some of my green and sociaaly just beliefs, so this journey went really quickly.

I got a 51 bus from Lower Briggate and asked to be put out at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm. When I got off the bus I met with a friendly lady, Nina, who was going to the Organic Fortnight event too. We walked up to the Farm, and took some time finding it as we missed the roadsign, we were chatting so much. However we weren't late and I soon found Giles, who's involved in the Co-operative Group and was main organiser of the day.

I learned about the format of the meeting, a couple of speakers before me, then I do my 'home composting' talk... what it is, why it's good, what to compost, how to compost, a bit about rats and how to reduce the possibilities of them using the heap, and a bit about humanure composting, and a bit about York Rotters.

The first speaker was Robert, the Education Officer from Meanwood Valley Urban Farm who explained about its history and what happens there. It produces organic fruit and vegetables, sold in the shop and cafe, has some rare breeds of farm animal which they breed in conjunction with other UK breeders. There are white-clawed crayfish in the beck running through the site. The building we were in, the 'epicentre', is built from 2 trees from Harewood House, and was built over 4 years by local people. It houses the education centre and water-free urinals and compost toilets.

Fiona from The Mill Race Restaurant was next, she uses organic, local/regional and in-season produce. It has seating for 50, a bar, lounge area and a courtyard, and is easily reached from Headingley Station.

After I did my bit, we had a break for organic teas/coffees/cakes/scones, we heard from Wai Yii from Org Organics in Leeds. It sounds like a fantastic place, selling all sorts of stuff, not just fruit and veg, but groceries, alcohol, magazines and books, and offering a veg box delivery, juice /coffee bar and treatment room. It is Soil Association certified. I liked the sound of this place, on Great George St.

I got a lift back into Leeds with Pat, who dropped me off at the station.

I did my Community Care blog on organics, and what I'd discovered today.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Saturday 8th September 07

Good to have a lie-in, finished last week's NewScientist, really enjoyed an interesting article on language and thought. When I got up, went into the garden and unloaded my bike from last night, still piled high with compostables needing to be bunged on a heap or possibly the tumbler, so did some of that. Also did some riddling, just for a change, as I haven't done any for a while, and there's umpteen sacks of finished material needing putting through the riddle, which will give me some good 'stick-heavy' topping material for the heap I turned yesterday, and needs to sit and do it's stuff, best under a layer of already composted stuff, and I use the chunky bits which don't go through the riddle, mulch quality.

However I had to come in and get tidied up as soon after lunch I needed to go to a gig in Copmanthorpe, so I had a bath and shave and hairwash so wouldn't be so furry and frightening for the 6 yr olds I'll be entertaining. Also my knees and forearms were composty, not a good image for a professional entertainer.

Went through Bishopthorpe and Acaster Malbis as didn't really want to go the A64 route, so it was quite a lot longer but much quieter and perhaps safer.

Excellent party, a lively lot, noisy and needed reminding several times about watching and listening and not talking during the show... so they didn't miss the opportunities to come up and have a go with stuff. The feather balancing went well, most audience members participated in this. Did the balloon show after tea, they were suprisingly good at it considering most of them were 5 or 6 years old. Anyway, I enjoyed it, so did they, and the mum also said it was a lovely party as she paid me, so I cycled home happy. I called in to Martin's veg on the way back, Richard had put 3 sacks of stuff for me to take, so I loaded them on to the trailer too.

Gill had created a bulgar wheat tea which I had soon after coming in at 7.30. A relaxing evening, enjoyed David Gilmour on telly.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Friday 7th September 07

A good day! Gill walked the boys to school and I got a bit of a lie-in... however went downstairs at 8.25 and they'd gone already, so I did the washing up with some warm water from last night, made up my muesli with Suma Muesli Base and lots of home-made dried fruit and pumpkin seeds rescued from unwanted pumpkins. Then we watched the Yorkshire Air Ambulence programme again, cuddling on the sofa.

Gill spent some of the day sorting out our youngest son's room, tidying and vacuuming, and re-aranging his bed. I did more in the garden, digging out a compost heap and putting it all back.

Gill brought the boys back from school as well, which gave me space and time I really wanted/needed.

In the evening, I went to the Critical Mass Cycle Ride, which meets at the Minster at 5.30, leaving at 6pm. I was pleased to meet Dave, who used to run a cycle repair place on Terry Avenue where Bikerescue is now situated. He is brother of my friend Debbie who lives over the road, so interesting to meet up with him. Also there was a social work student called Sarah and a lady called Kay who is involved in quite a lot of things in York... about 20 on this Critical Mass. We set off and headed up Gillygate, as a 'peloton', or group, which is traditional Critical Mass behaviour. Then to Wigginton Road and Kingsway North. Whilst we were going towards Clifton Green, a car which had been slowed by our peloton overtook, mounting the pavement of the opposite side of the road, and coming back onto the left side of the road at the traffic lights, with the front half of his car in the cycle box. Cyclists caught up, and surrounded the car, I slipped in front of him in the cycle box. One of our number had a word with the driver about his driving, and the driver was rude, threw something at the cyclist and said that if any cyclist got in his way, he'd run them over. Another cyclist berated him for being in the cycle box, which must have wound him up more. When the lights went green, I moved off and the car came up behind me and pushed against my trailer, which overturned as it was pushed aside by the idiot driver. I got his registration and immediately after getting my trailer off the road, wrote it down. As I was doing this, a local resident who'd witnessed the whole thing came out of his house and offered me his name and phone number as a witness. I wasn't hurt, or much shaken, and in truth, I don't blame the car driver 100% as our actions must have aggrivated him. However I do think he shouldn't have contacted the trailer and crashed into it, and he should have stopped as he'd been involved in an accident. I decided to report the incident to the police when I next had time. The rest of the ride went off without incident and was pleasent and good humoured... lots of people waving at us, and some car drivers hooting to support us, with thumbs up signals. We have a habit of moving aside for public transport to get through, as we are pro-public transport and our 'issues' are with drivers of private cars, some of whom behave as if they rule the road. They don't, of course, as car drivers need a licence to use the road.

We all met up at the Ackhorne pub off Micklegate afterwards, and had a wide-ranging discussion and some good natured conversations.

A good evening, and I felt I had learned a lesson, viz not pissing off car drivers over much and not to inflame the tempers of drivers of 2 tonnes of metal. Our lives and machines are too precious to lose in order to make a point. I'll be more careful in the future!

Home before 10pm and had a good evening. Gill had recorded a programme on C4 called The Great Green Debate, so watched that whilst blogging and answering emails.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Thursday 6th September 07

I took the kids to school again, and went straight on to see Jo which was good, lovely to see her and share some of my holiday highs and lows with her. Then onto Cycle Heaven, who have not got my new bike frame in yet, I am trying not to be impatient! Then onto the Credit Union to bank my August composting money, and then onto Out Of This World for a pick-up of compostables and 'dry recyclables', as I now collect bottles and cans for them. Then on to my Building Society to make a cheque out for Julian at 'CarbonFootprintSolutions', a chap I met at the Big Green Gathering, who will list me on his website as a low-carbon entertainer!

Home to lunch and a phone call from my friend James, who would like me to return a book he lent me. He was drunk when I got there, and not in a good way really. He wanted some help constructing a seat he'd got for the garden, so I put it together for him, he was very grateful.

I had offered to prune a tree for him in exchange for the chainsaw he had to get rid of much earlier in the year, so I'll do that next week for him.

I got home just in time to go to school and pick up the boys. On the way home, cycling along the Hull Road, our 10 year old saw a car in front of him, parked in the bus-stop with the door open and sticking out into the road, I saw him take a good glance behind him before overtaking, I was really pleased. So when we got back, I called him into the living room and asked him to sit down... he thought he was going to get told off! I explained what I'd witnessed and congratulated him on his careful cycling, he was so suprised and happy! This positivity did not last long, and the usual issues surfaced.

Gill is trying to be tougher with them, and I think we're beginning to deal with them in the same way, which is desirable.

Lots of emailing, blogging, googletalking...

Wednesday 5th September 07

The first day back at school for our boys. I took them in, they weren't keen, but with both of us persuading them, we got them on their way. I cycled back home and Gill and I took a big sigh of relief that we had some time together after a very tough summer holiday. We had a coffee and sat on the sofa and cuddled and watched the programme on 'Helicopter Heroes', the chaps who rescue people in tricky situations, people who've been injured.

Spent most of the day with Gill and did some stuff in the garden too, catching up with my compost heaps! Spent some time dealing with crops, overgrown hedges, etc.

I got the children at home time.

I can't remember what happened during the evening really.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Tuesday 4th September 07

A day like many others, did some housework and managing kids in the morning, at midday had lunch, and then set off to Holgate to go to an AVP meeting at Celia's house. The newly reorganised Alternatives to Violence Project North East and East Midlands (AVP NEEM) is still finding it's feet and working our who does what and how we run the group, so we had a two and a half hour meeting.

Popped in on Out Of This World to pick up their recyclables, then stopped off at Martins compost heaven and picked up a couple of sacks/boxes from them, arriving back home at 5.30pm.

Monday 3rd September 07


Sunday 2nd September 07

Homeward bound

Saturday 1st September 07

Last day of our holiday in Wells Next The Sea,
Norwich Aunty Linda's 60th
Edmar Lodge

Friday 31st August 07


Thursday 30th August 07

more hols

Wednesday 29th August 07


Tuesday 28th August 07

Another fairly late lie-in til 9, a lazy morning including TV and some 'bundling', our name for child/father wrestling or play-fighting. However the bundling got a bit intense and our 10 yr old got angry and ran away after he had cut one of my fingers with his toe-nail, by accident. He returned and was persuaded to have his toe-nails cut, which I did as usual with my Swiss Army Knife scissors.

Had lunch in the caravan and then went on the little train to Wells to do some shopping, starting with worming tablets, then food and posting cards. Went to look for books for Linda's birthday present, she would like a book of plants showing good images as she's got a commission to draw some pictures of dye plants for a forthcoming book. So Gill found her a small book with good drawings in a cheap bookshop. But later, in another shop (owned by the same people, apparently) she found two large volumes of 'botanically correct' photos and descriptions of many species, with photos by Roger Phillips, one of my favourite photographers. Originally £50 each, these 'seconds' were just £15 each, a bargain, so I suggested she get them both for Linda. I found a couple of Roger Phillips books, one called Herbs (with Nicky Foy) and another called Trees in Britain, Europe and North America. I also found something fun, Energy Flash by Simon Reynolds, about 'Rave Music and Dance Culture', which I've been on the edge of since it's inception, although never been really involved with, and I've never taken 'E' so cannot really know what it's all about. But I have really good memories of brilliant raves in the 1990's, mainly in Leeds whilst I was an Environmental Health student. The children got some books too, we spent well over £50 on books today!

Then went to the grocers, and found an outlet for 'The Norfolk Cider Co' which was good, as cider is my favourite drink, so got two bottles. With all this stuff, got the train back to the caravan site.

I made a nutloaf from some dead bread, couscous, peanut butter, onion, carrot, etc, and prepared some samphire I found yesterday, steamed with broccoli. Gill made a chocolate sponge in the microwave, and we had a lovely meal.

However the boys started getting boisterous and hitting each other, so when they didn't respond to my asking them to stop, then telling them to stop, I sat between them. This made the elder sibling very angry and he ran out of the caravan. The younger one followed him, ignoring my telling him to come back. I didn't follow or chase them, as they would only play hide and seek around the caravans. When the 8 yr old came back, he got a single smack on the hand for disobeying me. When the older one came in I told him off for running away and he started shouting at me at the top of his voice, stuff like 'I'm going to kill you', so I told him that it wasn't acceptable to say that sort of thing. He tried to attack me, so I held his arms to stop him, and told him I'd hold him like that until he stopped behaving in the unacceptable way. We had a difficult half hour... I told him I was going to let go of his wrists on several occasions but when I let go, he started hitting me again, so I held him again. But finally he realised I wasn't going to give up, so he calmed down and I was able to let go. His wrists were red, I felt really bad.

A few minutes after this, he came to me and told me he was very sorry, told me he loved me and Mum, and them Gill read to them both before they went to sleep. An eventul day!

Monday 27th August 07, Bank Holiday

Holiday! And a really good sleep, much more comfortable than the sofa! A slow start to the day, included a visit to the site shop, to find tonight's tea, pasta with a tin of sweetcorn and peas, made sandwiches and rang Linda as she'd left some dog-related stuff.

We had a family meeting, to agree what we were going to do today. I'd heard that there was a 'naturist' beach towards Holkham, or past it... so my aim was to get there as I really enjoy swimming naked. The rest of the family agreed to walk in that direction, although the children didn't want to go to the nudee beach and Gill doesn't 'do' naked in public, so if we did get to it, it would be just me taking advantage of the situation. Anyway, we set off, starting with an ice cream, and walked fairly slowly for over an hour, where we found a lovely empty patch of beach, so we stopped there. Put up the little tent-type thing... just a sunshade really, and had lunch.

We started to build a sandcastle, near the high tide mark, but within the reach of where the sea got up to. We decided to build a massive cone of a castle, surrounded by a moat, and with a channel leading from the moat towards the sea. I worked with a bucket and worked very hard piling it high, the boys helped with child-sized spades and we ended up with a pile about 5 feet high and 5 feet in diameter at the base. Gill constructed a 'marble-run' to make use of a plastic ball I found, perhaps a ball from a deodorant bottle. She made a spiral from the top, which went twice around the cone, and smoothed the channel out with a half tennis ball we found, so the small plastic ball rolled all the way around and down the castle. We then decorated it with razor shells, oyster shells, seaweed, sponges and dead crabs, a large stick out the top, draped with assorted detritus, making it a 4 hour work of art, with all of us involved. It was a really lovely time, but the sea eventually got to it and the ineviable happened, it got destroyed, but not before someone took some photos.... not us as we didn't have a camera.

We trouped home, hungry, and I sped off once we'd nearly got home to put some water on for pasta. We all ate together, and enjoyed it a lot... food is so much nicer when you've been out in the fresh air all day, and are quite hungry. The boys went to bed quickly and willingly.

Gill and I enjoyed watching 'Boys From The Brown Stuff', a programme about London's sewers... fascinating! An early night for us too.

Sunday 26th August 07

First full day at the Pinewoods Holiday Park. I woke not too early and lolled around, not having to 'do' anything really... holiday! Enjoyed breakfast, as we'd got a posh commercial muesli called Dorset Cereals Berries and Cherries, wonderful! Then watched a BBC TV show called Heaven and Earth, as there was due to be a discussion about the Climate Campers at Heathrow, and the Greenbelt Festival, which I once went to to do litter picking and recycling, and it was an interesting experience for a non-Christian to go to, since it's a Christial festival.

I was delighted to see an interview with Climate Camper Graham Martin, a Christian from York whom I'm friendly with, and then I'm pretty sure I saw my friend Sue Wallace presiding over a service at Greenbelt, and as she's been ordained (I think this is the word for it) I'm sure it was her... hey, two people I know on telly, quite made my day!

So after 11am we all set off to the beach and then came back for lunch. For no reason my eldest threw a HUGE paddy and ran away from me, disobeying my instruction to come to me. He gets in more trouble disobeying me than he would for the original transgression. Linda gave him a good talking to, for which I was grateful, and then she left to drive home again. She dropped Gill off in town, and I went to the beach with them. We played nicely, making sandcastles, and they were perfectly behaved, it was a pleasure to be with them.

Got back at 5ish, Gill had enjoyed her non-boy time! She'd bought presents for the boys and a small beach tent, to give some shelter.

I made tea of bulgar wheat and veg, and at 8 we all went for a walk on the beach, watching the tide go out, and getting back at about 9pm.

Gill and I watched some telly with Gryff Rhys Jones up Snowdon, then a bit of a film with Martin Clunes in New Zealand.

Slept in the double bed, much more comfy!

Saturday 25th August 07

Away on holiday today!

Up at 7am and I took down the tent in the garden and loaded the compostumbler with last night's collection. Got all the luggage together and got into the taxi we'd ordered, and we caught the 10.08 train to Peterborough, we had seats booked. A quick change and onto the Norwich train, which was hot and crowded, although we had seats on this too. Gill's sister Linda met us at Norwich, as she'd offered to take us to the campsite near Wells Next The Sea by car. She had her little dog Oliver with her, and was due to stay a night with us in the caravan.

The car journey was about an hour and a half, going past Fakenham, through Wells NTS and down to Wells beach where the Pinewoods Holiday Park is, behind the dunes and pine trees.

Got the key, we're in a privately owned caravan which is cheaper than renting one owned by the holiday park, but we had to show a little handwritten note to the park people for the key to be handed over. The caravan was easy to find, right next to the laundry! As soon as we'd unloaded and had a cuppa, we all walked down to the beach, over the sand dunes which are covered in big pine trees and gorse, and have wooden steps up and down them to make access easy and reduce erosion. The kids played and we 3 grownups chatted whilst leaning against a groyne, in the shade, as it was hot and sunny.

Linda had brought pizzas so when we got back to the caravan, we put those in, and had those followed by cake and flapjack. After a rest, we all trouped into Wells, along the harbour wall/sea defences, alongside the minature railway which goes a mile between the town and the Pinewoods Holiday Park. We had a brief wander and bought food supplies, and came back on the railway, which is a pound per adult and 80 pence per child.

It was now after dark and the children were tired, and due to this and our eldest's current behaviour patterns, he had a fit of anger and started hitting me. Gill tried to intervene, trying to get me to stop holding him, which was preventing him hitting me, but Linda, who used to be a schoolteacher and has brought up a handful of children, said that she should let me hold his wrists and Gill should back me up, as I was being firm, fair and measured. I was so glad to have Linda's support! When the child misbehaves, and ignores a warning or two, and a command to stop behaving in such a way as to endanger himself or others, the child does need controlling and letting know who is in charge. My worry is that if his behaviour is allowed to continue like this, he'll think its ok to do this kinda thing, and end up in trouble with the authorities.

The situation calmed down, but then our youngest complained of an itchy bum and I found a threadworm, oh no, not again! and there will be no chance to get us all medicated until after the bank holiday! What a holiday this is turning out to be!

Linda slept in the double bed, and Gill and I tried to get the bed out from the sofas but couldn't work it out, so we slept on a sofa each, not that confortable!