Friday, 24 August 2007

Friday 24th August 07

A good day, although exhausted as a late night last night and an early start this morning.

Up early because I had a gig in Scarborough, got the 10.08 train, the non-stop, and sat next to a cricket and real-ale fan, who's hobby is visiting Wetherspoons pubs, as apparently they often convert old churches and other buildings, 'quite sensitively', according to my informant. Discussed Black Sheep Brewery, but as I'm not well versed in Cricket or beer, I ended up reading my NewScientist.

When got to Scar, my pick-up was late, but after a 10 min the 4x4 arrived and we went out to the venue, I got changed and was in full Professor Fiddlesticks regalia when the birthday boy arrived. There were over 30 young children, average age 5, so it was not particularly easy, but it went well and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves.

I had been asked to get myself back to the station, so I asked for my host to ring me a taxi, towards the end of the balloon show. Unfortunately, the traffic was really heavy, and the taxi was late arriving, and I missed my 2.47 train, had to wait an hour but had a good strong coffee and wrote some of my paid blog which I want to get in early.

More good chats on the train, a young couple with a 10 month old baby.

Visited Out Of This World to do my Friday pick up on the way through town, and got back after 5pm.

At about 8 went down to Martin's compost generator to pick up 2 boxes and a bag. Simon came along as he popped in to visit just as I was leaving, so we cycled along together chatting.

Busy evening preparing for holiday, our summer holiday!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Thursday 23rd August 07

Awoken far too early by an excited 10 year old, eager for his presents.

Sleepily watched him open them, finishing with his 'big' present, the walkie talkies. We told him that we wouldn't be able to do them immediately, as they are complicated and we'd need to read the instructions first.

They played with the lego present and read a book we'd got him 'The Alchemist' and I was able to read NewScientist and doze. Was re-awoken by the older one shouting, and Gill coming upstairs, to get me up to come downstairs to mediate. I came down to try to sort things out, but this seemed to inflame things, and the voices were raised higher, backchat got ruder and more insolent, and I sent the birthday boy to his room. The shouting made the younger one cry and Gill also.

Things calmed down a bit, and play soon resumed with no problems really.

So a bit later in the day, I carefully opened the packaging and I spent quite a long time reading the instructions. They worked well, even to the bottom of the garden, with me on one inside and the boys down the garden, 80 metres away, communicating clearly. However when my impatient 8 yr old was using the handset, without waiting for training, his handset stopped working, it just wouldn't turn on.

The mood changed again, with some more tears, more shouting and anger, just the worst kind of birthday, and everybody unhappy. I said I'd go down to town to sort it out, to see if it could be mended or replaced. When I did this, it seemed a simple job for E Roy to sort out, and it was working again. I visited Bike Rescue to drop off a smashed-up bike I found over a month ago, and as no-one had claimed it from the police, I gave it to the bike recyclers, and had a good chat to Andy Scaife, the Bike Rescue person.

Then on to drop off a picture of me as Prof Fiddlesticks at my agent's, who's run out of them, and back via Anneliese's, to install her new compost bin, for which she paid me £10.

Home to an empty house, they'd gone to the park, so I bottled my out of date and hard-boiled eggs, in vinegar, then did the washing up, then they arrived back, and I'd had an idea of getting some house ground rules sorted out, so I told the boys to write some ground rules for Gill and myself, this as a prelude to our developing some for them. Hope this helps.

The boys were happy the walkie talkies were working again, and we had a lovely tea, the birthday boy's favourite, and after tea, I went on a cycle ride with him to test out how far it would work between. We went to the York Maze and could just get a signal. But not from Heslington, as shrouded in trees and behind the University. Gill and our youngest were in the loft, so getting a good 'view' of the area.

Back in time for supper and their bedtime, hooray, and excellent behaviour.

My friend Philip arrived at 9pm, we had several ciders and good chats and a late night.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Thursday 22nd August 07

Didn't get a lie-in as at 9 we were expecting our friend to bring her son to spend the day with us as she's working. So we decided to go to the Yorkshire Museum's 'Wild Wednesdays' event in the Museum Gardens, which was a natural history event, with minibeast searches, and aquarium, moths caught last night, and more.

Gill went down on the bus and I cycled, as I had a pick-up to and something to find for my eldest's birthday tomorrow. Gill had got him a walkie talkie, and last night we tried it out and it was rubbish, it was supposed to be able to communicate 'up to 60 metres' but it didn't even do 6. We were not happy, and National Geographic, the sponsors of this kit, should be ashamed for such a waste of resources.

We met up in Museum Gardens, Gill handed over the kiddies to me and she went to get her money back for the next to useless walkie talkie, whilst we boys enthused about insects and minibeasts, including a bug hunt (Gill arrived back in time for this) and a visit to the observatory, where I learned about a chap called Goodricke who discovered a variable star, and I think worked out that it was two stars rotating around each other. There was also internet pictures of the Sun from the SOHO satellite, wonderful stuff. Boys mostly loved it.

Gill took them back home on the bus, via a bakery for a spot of lunch. I cycled off to Out Of This World for a compostables pick up.

Then I went to 'E Roy' in the little street near the market place, and they had a very usable walkie talkie system , with a range of 'up to 5 km', he said it would work just fine for our needs, however it was £50, ie not a toy but a useful gadget. I bought it, I'm not sure my son deserves it, but it'll be useful to all of us, hopefully.

Called in on Anita on the way back and had our usual coffee and chat. Then onto Hes Road for another couple of boxes of stuff.

I made my own tea, rice and beans with some tomato stuff out of the freezer, to make room for fruit.

Long computer session in the evening, various searches on the net, good chats with K in America, as usual. Intense, but worthwhile.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Tuesday 21st August 07

A late start, which was good, following last night when I got to bed at 2am...

Went to town to pick up my 'Monday' pick up from Out Of This World, as didn't go yesterday. Went via Miller's Yard Healthy Living Centre, to collect two sacks of coffee grounds and halved juiced oranges, and picked up another two at OOTW. Went through Parliament St to go to the Nationwide to reactivate my passbook, but there was a queue and the door was stuck shut, with a notice saying sorry, it's broken and the engineer has been called. I didn't wait!

Home via Martin's, but they'd binned their compostables, so nothing there.

Lunch, and during the afternoon, Gill retired to bed as she was feeling poorly, with a headache and tiredness. I did more outside work, composting and sieving sawdust. Kept on checking the boys, they were happily playing inside. However during the afternoon, took them for a walk to the Co-op to get a Radio Times and a can of baked beans, as that is what they wanted with their home-grown potatoes, which I baked quickly in the micro. Gill got up and she had the rest of the potatoes and beans. I went down the garden and emptied the big 'compostumbler', putting the material in a 'dalek' to mature. Came in and made my tea, home-grown green beans, lightly fried onions... home grown, of course, a reject yellow pepper, all done on the woodstove, some potatoes from yesterday, and yesterday's reheated cheese sauce. A bit of a mish mash, but filling and tasty.

Watched ITV's 'Undercover Mum' with my eldest son, after we all watched Adam Hart Davis explaining cosmology, which was good.

Then a long session dealing with emails and some good chats with K in America, planning our time together.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Monday 20th August 07

An interesting and busy day, got up fairly early and decided to do an email reply to my parents over the 'car parking where the logpile lives' incident, following the concilliatory message I got from my mum. I think this followed a phone call with my brother, who told them to stop being silly and park on the verge, and couldn't they see I could be a far worse person than an environmentalist?

So I did a long reply to both emails, including apologies for upsetting Daddy with my attitude, and explaining that I hadn't meant to upset him, just be honest with him. I refuted that the house looks like a slum and that I was trying to 'make a point' by having logpiles in the front garden. But I didn't put anything which was potentially inflamitory, and ended with sending my love to them both.

I also did some letter writing, replies to Fiddlesticks bookings. Whilst this was happening, Gill was playing a game of Scrabble with the boys, and I occasionally came in to help our eldest one who is intensely competitive and moody... the youngest just stated he'd be happy to put down any word he spotted, and wasn't trying to get the highest score, whereas the older boyo was counting up points and taking ages trying to get the best word, and getting angry when the letters he picked weren't very good.. this is when I popped in to assist. He's very hard work at the moment, a high input child.

After this game finished, I took the needy boy on a cycle ride... against his will, predictably, although once on way, he was fine! Went to the bread shop, then on to St Nicks to deliver something, and back for lunch.

After lunch, Gill went to town to get some bits for our eldest's birthday later this week, and I did a lot of sorting out of our non-slummy but untidy and unusual front garden. Seived/riddled a load of sawdust, the sawdust destined for the compost toilet, bark for shredding and composting to balance the large volumes of fruit and veg, woody chunks for the drying pile. Then did some chainsawing, created more sawdust, bark and logs for splitting and stacking. So my parents still have a hold on me!

Whilst doing the logs, noticed that the traffic on Hull Rd was not moving, and vehicles were turning round, so looked down the road to see a van upside-down in the middle of the road. I called the boys and we went to look at the accident. It was two vehicles, one upside-down but not otherwise badly damaged, the other was hit in the side and had it's rear wheel pushed back at a rakish angle, probably a write-off. Apparently, the van driver had sneezed unexpectedly, lost control, hit the other car and turned his over, he wasn't badly hurt, but it was spectacular! I immediately thought of my comment to my parents about roads being dangerous, more dangerous than parking on the verge between the road and the pavement!

I cooked tea for the boys, as Gill was stuck in town with no buses getting through, and as it was put on the table she arrived, so she had hers immediately. I cooked for myself an hour later, then did a little bit more chainsawing and tidying up.

A good evening emailing and chatting on Googletalk with my friend in America, we're looking forward to seeing each other in a few weeks.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Sunday 19th August 07

Another lazy morning, this feels like a real summer holiday!

Spent some time in bed after breakfast, Gill listened to The Archers and I read NewScientist, then I watched Countryfile and did some writing. Also did some 'blog management' to make my blog more interesting and usable.

Left the house at midday to go to help at a York Rotters stall at 'York Pride', the annual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender event in Rowntree Park. When I got there, it was still being set up, a bit late as the gates had been opened late, but it didn't take long. It was a tiny event compared to the Green Festival, and all placed up in the bandstand area. However it was a fun and goodnatured event, and I met quite a few people I knew, and our Rotters stall was well-visited and we gave out lots of advice and leaflets.

I met the partner of a friend who's involved in the Yorkshire Terriers, Yorkshire's Gay and Lesbian Football Club. Had a good chat with him and the issues surrounding sexuality in football. Apparently there are no 'out' footballers in the main football clubs and therefore there are several 'gay-friendly' clubs over the UK. The Yorkshire Terriers are working with mainstream clubs to try to get gay footballers accepted in the same way that black footballers have been more accepted since the 'kick racism out of football' campaign started. Interesting subject, I've not had such a long conversation about football for ages!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Saturday 18th August 07

Another lie-in, til 9, then got up as today have to go to the allotment to speak to Frank about a compost toilet at the lottie, he's looking for a design.

Our 13 pots of jam have not set, which means that we cannot give any away, although it tastes lovely, it needs to be spooned out.

However, didn't do much til after lunch when I went via Martin's compost collection, and when I got to the lottie, Frank wasn't there, he'd already gone... this is the second time I've missed him.

However, did some bramble pruning and nettle pulling, a good layer for the compost heap, and put the fruit and veg on top of this. Then planted 9 rows of tiny leek seedlings, where the spuds came out of last week. Then cut more bramble, the stuff which is encroaching the allotment, and pulled nettles which are encroaching the path, and put this on top of the chopped fruit and veg layer. Picked a tray of blackberries for making blackberry and apple leather. This is a guaranteed way of preserving the harvest.

When I got back I made some flagolet bean and red pepper spread, the beans were out of date from Out Of This World, and I soaked the whole packet and cooked them over a couple of days on top of the stove. Whizzed them with the hand-held blender with a waste pepper and home-grown onions. Added some flavours, herbs, soy sauce, bouillon powder and home made paprika from last year, makes a beautiful spread, four pots worth, will freeze them.

Home to have an unusual tea, a Tesco's veg pie which was given to us, not sure why, but they were taking up space in the freezer, so they went in the oven and we had home grown potatoes and broccoli, plus the soup from yesterday which I whizzed so it was less of a stew and more of a soup. Lovely tea. Watched telly all together whilst eating, then the boys went to bed early as we've got a visitor at 8.30, for a game of Scrabble.

Will came at the appointed time, and we soon had a game of superscrabble underway. Will is not a particularly competitive player, infact he introduced us to co-operative scrabble, where the aim of the game is to make the highest combined score, the individual scores are not important. However tonight we didn't play co-operatively, as we are used to playing to win. We didn't finish the game, we stopped at 11.15pm and Gill had got the highest score. The main thing is that we all enjoyed the game and each others company. Will is good at conversation and has a creative mind, he's always entertaining and interesting. It was Will who suggested that I should write a blog... his is at . I don't understand all that Will writes about, or nessessarily agree, but one doesn't have to agree with everything someone says to like them or even love them.

An excellent evening, also made some blackberry and apple leather.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Friday 17th August 07

Felt like a real holiday day today! Lie-in til 9, kids quiet, all had breakfast together and then they went to play in the loft, with the model railway, so we were able to slip back to bed...

Got up an hour later and very soon there was a huge rumpus upstairs, our eldest had broken the 'Virgin' passenger carriage which his brother had bought with his birthday money. This behaviour and noise completely spoilt the good levels of endorphins we had been experiencing beforehand. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT CENSORED. I asked the younger one to wait upstairs and eventually got up there and mended his carriage, which fortunately wasn't broken, just popped apart.

When all was settled, I went to the Co-op to get some groceries, and came back via a ripe skip which yielded a pasting table, a wine rack and an unopened box of polyfiller compound, as well as some burnable wood and reusable wood.

After lunch I did some emailing and booked a cottage in Wales for the first week of October, which is a little holiday I'm having with my friend from America. Makes it more real, she's already got her ticket, and I'm already feeling guilty about contributing to a plane journey. However, the next thing I'll do is to look at offsetting (whether it's worthwhile or not) as it will reduce my off-green conscience. I do have such a low carbon footprint, that the carbon cost of half the plane trip won't make my annual footprint as high as the average in the UK (which is apparently 11 tonnes, mine's part of the household footprint of 1.4 tonnes, ie about 0.7 tonnes). But still feel bad about it, but will enjoy seeing my friend again.

After this, Cycled to town and popped in on Cycle Heaven to check on the progress of my new bike, then to CVS to book the room in September for our CRAG meeting on transport, and the one in November on insulation and home heating. Then to collect recyclables from Out Of This World, and posted some letters before popping in to my building society. There was a problem here, as my two books had been sitting next to each other in my bum-bag, and thir numbers had got mixed up when the computer scanned them. Weird, and it took a long time to get it sorted out.

Home via another 2 boxes of compostables from Martin's Urban Perishables.

Put them on the current heap, picked the first of the Bramley apples for making blackberry jam, and windfall James Grieves apples for drying on the stove. Made mixed veg soup, mostly on the stove... carrots, pumpkin, onion, celery... the only thing which was paid-for was the celery.

A warm evening making jam and drying assorted fruit.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Thursday 16th August 07

An early start as two gigs today, the first in Starbeck near Harrogate. But over breakfast, had a game of chess with my nearly-10 year old, I beat him, as usual, but he took it well and it was a good start to the day.

Got to the station in good time to get the 9.10 to Harrogate and was met in Starbeck by one of the playscheme workers and was soon at Fairfax Community Centre for several hours of fun fun fun!

I was warned that the playscheme had three lads with autism spectrum disorder, one of whom would be disruptive and quite a handful. I told them I was ok with this and had got lots of experience of 'difference'!

So then the kids started arriving and the most lively 'lad' came in and came straight for me, in my colourful costume and silly hat, and sort of 'bounced' off me, without touching me, but it was if he'd been repelled by a magnetic repulsion or elastic or something, quite spectacular. I didn't notice the others come in, as they were much less of a 'personality'. The first 'lad' was a handful, he was noisy and zoomed around and interfered with the equipment and his carer, who's been with him for 4 years, was very good and kept him occupied as well as he could. The second boy with autism was quiet and gentle, his minder had an easier job, but the child needed to be restrained quite often from fiddling with stuff and doing inappropriate things, the other one needed almost no 'care' at all, as he just went aroung doing his own thing, not interacting with anyone or anything much, sometimes having a little play with the feathers or taking an interest in the diabolos the others were playing with.

So I did a one hour show and workshop, then a workshop, then lunch, then workshop whilst I prepared for the balloon show, which was from 1.15 ish to 1.50, when I shoved everything into the car and was driven back to the station and I got the 2.06 train back to York, a fast cycle back home, change of tee-shirt and off again to Dalton Terrace for a 6 year-old's party, arrived just in time, did my one hour show then whilst they ate tea, I blew up balloons and then we did the balloon workshop, loads of fun! Finished soon after 6pm and came home feeling brilliant!

I had the remains of the nutloaf for tea, plus an out of date 'organic pot rice' thingy, which was destined for composting, but thought I'd try it out. I've never had a pot noodle or any similar thing, so this was a first. It was ok. Fresh-cooked rice is better.

Then I did a bit of compost management in the dusk, came in for 9 and had a bottle of Kopparberg pear cider, yum.

Got an email from Community Care inviting me to submit another column which could be put in instead of my already written one on 'sustainable communities', they'd like me to write about the Heathrow protestors, the Camp for Climate Action. To be published on 30th of August... I might be able to, will need to think about it overnight.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Wednesday 15th August 07

Quite a relaxed day, infact slept til 9am, a lie-in!

Spent some of the morning with the children, got them dressed and took them to the shops to get groceries. Now the Co-ops have merged, I thought my Co-operative membership card would allow me to register my purchases, but it wasn't able to be scanned. I hope the new Co-operative group sends out new cards soon.

Gill went to town to get some stuff for our eldest's birthday in a couple of weeks time, and some other bits and bobs. When she came back at 2.30, I zoomed in on the bike and went to Out Of This World for a recycling collection, the Credit Union to pay in my July composting money, the building society to pay in Fiddlesticks cheques and my Community Care column cheque then to the Monk Bar Model Shop to get more rail connectors which are the solution to the poor electrical connectivity we experienced. Then to Sainsbury's for marge, sugar and vinegar, and then Martin's Country Fresh to pick up a couple of boxes of compostables plus 4 dozen slightly out of date eggs, which when I get these, I hard-boil and put in pickling vinegar, for pickled eggs yummy! Good in sandwiches, and although I'm not extremely fond of eggs, I'd rather use them than see them thrown away or composted. So the pickled eggs I eat over the next months will replace stuff I would have had to purchase, like cheese, peanut butter, hommous etc so its a good thing, keeps my cost of living down and reduces waste. However I'm the only person in the house who eats pickled eggs, so they're all mine... unless I have a visitor who comes for lunch and fancies a sliced pickled egg sandwich...

Got a phone call from Lucy at BBC Inside Out, the programme I'm going to be in is to be broadcast on 3rd October.

Did a load of compost heap building. Gill made a nutloaf and I came in with courgettes and climbing beans, which made a good side dish. Lit the stove even though it's not cold, as need boiling water for eggs, bathwater and hot surfaces so I can dry a load of grapes which I've pulled out of the compostables... make good raisins, for my muesli.

So a busy evening in the kitchen.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Tuesday 14th August 07

Another working day, today a train journey to Hull, then picked up by car and driven to Swanland to do a day's Fiddlesticking at Swanland Kids Club.

In the evening I went to the Black Swan on Peaseholme Green for the monthly CRAG meeting. The meeting was a bit sparsely attended, but we got a lot done, planning the September meeting and the other public meetings in November and January. Very good-natured banter and chat, had a couple of pints of cider and a very pleasent night.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Monday 13th August 07

An early start as had a gig in Bishopthorpe, a playscheme, so loaded up, gathered costume together and got sandwiches packed, and headed off before 10am.

A good gig, as usual, with a show first, then a workshop for half an hour and then lunch, which I had chatting to the children and playleaders. Then another few minutes of circus workship whilst I inflated balloons for the balloon modelling show/workshop, which again went well.

Away by 2.30 and met Dr Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who lives in Bishopthorpe, and we've met a number of times, so I thanked him for offering to be the patron of York Credit Union, which he was asked to be very soon after he gained his office. He's a lovely friendly chap, I almost regard him as a friend!

Popped in on Jo on the way back since it's ages since we've had a chat, and we spent an hour together chatting, which was good. Back by 4.30, straight into playing with kids.

I made tea for myself and Gill whilst the boys were eating theirs, mostly stuff from the garden, yum.

Telly evening, relaxing with a bottle of Swedish pear cider Kopparberg, which is fantastic and perfumed and sweet, my favourite perry to date!

Sunday 12th August 07

A very physical day, chopping wood, interspersed with writing my paid blog on Human Rights in China, and starting with a visit to the allotment quite early which was next to futile, because Frank, whom I'd gone to visit, re compost toilets, wasn't there. However chatted to Eddie, and someone else dropped off a load of self-seeded leek-lets for transplanting, so I took some of those.

Composed a letter to my parents explaining the importance I place on burning wood and having wood piled up in the front garden so I can chop it and stack it easily.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Saturday 11th August 07

A good day, mainly, as at 11am we had a treat, going to St Nicks to experience a performance of Buzzing, which I've seen before but the family missed it as they couldn't find the venue (it was in York as part of the Residents First Weekend perhaps a year ago)

In the evening, spent some time reorganising the page layout on my blog, have added a 'Links' section, as suggested by my friend Peter Sanderson, who has an interesting blog called and researching my paid blog to be typed tomorrow, which I've decided is to be on Human Rights abuses in China.

Friday 10th August 07

My little boy's birthday, I got a lie-in and woke when he came in to open his presents which he was very happy with. I had to go to town before lunch as my chain broke on the way back from the model shop yesterday ( I accelerated too hard and a link streched and nearly broke, then the chain kept jumping, so I knew I'd done something silly). So off to Cycle Heaven, then a pick-up of compostables and visit to the building society.

Played with the kids during the afternoon, and planned the weekend. Decided the train times weren't conducive to go to the Northern Green Gathering, sad but there you go. But we are going to go to 'Buzzing' tomorrow at St Nicks, a poetry and pictures performance about insects, by my friend Anneliese Emmans Dean, see

Put up the tent in the garden as the boys wanted to have a mini festival here. Also set up a 'single log bonfire' which is a very dry log split lengthways and set upright in a hole in the lawn. The splits are filled with resinous wood and twigs, paper, candle-ends, and lit. It needs some management but burns well, and if the top is level, can even be used as a place to cook with a pan set on top. Gill made pizza dough and a birthday cake whilst I was doing this, and we all ate together at 6pm, with fresh blackberries with the cake.

At teatime, my little 'birthday boy' spoke to my parents on the phone, but his small voice was difficult for my Dad to hear or understand and the old man couldn't tell who it was until I took the phone off the little one and spoke to my dad and explained who it was. After they'd chatted successfully, I had a chat and my Dad told me that he was exploring getting an electric car called a G Whizz, he's already got a Toyota Prius, a hybrid petrol/electric. Then he asked me if I could clear my front garden of logs so when they next visit, they could park their car there. All other visitors put their car on the verge between the road and the pavement, or on the shared driveway, or round the corner on Lilac Avenue. So I said no, I couldn't remove my logs, which is how this house is heated and how we cook and get bathwater, as I wouldn't know where to put them and it would take ages. He put the phone down on me! A few minutes later, my ma phoned and told me that I'd been very rude to Daddy, 'after all they'd done for me' and that I'd be the loser. Then she slammed the phone down on me. This was so upsetting, as I've been getting on a lot better with them recently, and I didn't consider my response rude, just honest. I wonder if they'd want to park their car on the front garden if it were a veg patch? Why do they not respect my logging area? And why all this shit over a bloody car? Parking on the verge isn't such a problem is it? Never mind, our relationship has never been that good, and I don't care if they don't want to see me again. What I do care about is the Grandparent / Grandchild relationship, I hope that isn't damaged by our problems.

Gill and the boys slept in the tent, leaving me a long time to write and chat to my lovely friend in the US of A, who's planning to visit me in October, it's very exciting as we haven't spent much time together since I was a teenager... we have had an 18 year gap in our relationship, but she's been in my thoughts nearly every day all that time. Gill understands that K is very special to me, and doesn't mind my chatting so much, as she can see that it makes me happy... unless we have a misunderstanding, which is unfortunately easy on Googletalk, as there's only words no facial expressions or voice. Should get Skype really, but would need to upgrade to broadband for that, probably.

Bath late, first one since BGG!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Thursday 9th August 07

A fairly relaxing day, although did bomb into town to sort out my youngest child's present, it's his birthday tomorrow.

Several years ago we got a second hand OO guage train set on the LETSystem and we decided that he's now old enough to use it and enjoy it, so we tried it out yesterday night and found that the engine didn't work very well, so went to the Monk Bar Model Shop where they repair model engines, so left it with them and bought a small engine so he has motive power tomorrow, not just trucks and track!

So not much to report, until the evening when I researched 'ethical death' and 'green funerals' and found a reference to 'promession' in one of Justin Rowlatt's blogs so Googled it and found out lots!

Basically promession is a kind of composting of dead bodies invented by Susanne Wiigh Masak, a Swedish biologist who's into composting and recycling in a big way. The corpse is frozen with liquid nitrogen, broken up into tiny pieces by a vibrating belt or table and the water extracted in a vaccuum chamber, freeze drying. Any metals are removed (fillings, hip replacements) and the dry dust is then placed in the top layers of soil, where oxygen and soil organisms can get to it, and within a year it has gone, 'back to nature'! I like the sound of this, apart from the liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying, as this is probably quite energy intensive. I found out that Crewe and Nantwich local authority is offering the method, and there's lots of interest in the UK, and laws don't have to be changed to do this. I'm waiting for various email replies to take my interest further.

So because of this, didn't get my column written, nor my blog, but hey, it was an interesting hour or so!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Wednesday 8th August 07

A relaxed day, apart from having to go to the podiatrists for 9.45 to get replacement insoles as one of my arches needs more support than the other.

Spent quite a lot of time with the boys, cooked a nutloaf, made spaghetti squash soup, went to the allotment to harvest potatoes and onions.

Had a distressed Googletalk message from my friend in USA who wants complete honesty from me, and I didn't tell her I was travelling to the Gathering with Lorna, which upset her. Had a good phone call with her though, and hopefully we understand each other a bit better. It is difficult to manage all my friends who all have different needs and expectations from me.

More email sorting and blogging.

Tuesday 7th August 07

No lie-in as the boys were up early, but lovely to see them and had some cuddles. They were tired after their exciting trip away and so was I so we didn't do that much. However I had some cheques to put in from previous Fiddlesticks gigs, and I did a pick-up at Out Of This World and the Heslington Rd Greengrocers. Did some tomato plant management and lots of emails and blogging.

In the evening had a good chat with my friend in USA, but didn't tell her much about the Green Gathering, as she had lots to tell me about what she was doing and the rather stressful time she's been having. I knew she'd be able to read my blog anyway which would tell her more details.

Late to bed.

Monday 6th August 07

Today the festival was finished and beginning to be dismantled. I got up quite early as I had the chance to go with 'Fluffy Chris' the site driver, with the first skip of food waste and paper plates/cups, to 'Eco-Composting' near Bournemouth in Dorset. This is 69 miles away from our site, but the material is able to be 'in vessel' composted which complies to the Animal By-Product Regulations, which prevent us composting on site which I did in the previous two years on this site, and at the Warminster site three times.

I mapread and got us successfully to the Eco-Sustaainable Ltd site, which accepts waste wood and green waste, food waste, soil and stone, and produces woodchip, topsoil, composts and turf.

Our batch weighed 2.6 tonnes, and we tipped it in the 'in vessel' shed, where it would be mixed with shredded wood and waste meat pies from a local factory, put through a 12mm screen, put in a 'clamp' with forced aeration and allowed to attain 70 celcius for at least an hour, steamed to ensure all the material is heat-treated, and then left to mature for several weeks before screening again, and put through a machine which removes plastics and non-composted materials. The resultant compost is spread on fields and seeded with grass seed, the turf sold all over Southern Britain.

We went the same way back and got back on site by 1.30pm. Lorna had taken her tent down and I did the same before having lunch at 2. Then we went, fully loaded, to see if the bus was heading to Weston Super Mare, but it apparently had a long time to wait before it was full, so Lorna rang my folks from the top of the bus (the only place on site with mobile reception) and we accepted their offer of a ride back to WSM. We started walking towards Burrington Coombe and within the hour my parents' Prius purred up, turned round and we went back to Weston.

We got another lift to the station for 5.30 pm and the train left for Bristol soon after that. A quick change over in Temple Meads, and Lorna left the train at Derby at 8 ish, I got back to York at 11pm, and got a taxi home.

Gill had gone to Robin Hood's Bay on Sunday with the boys to keep then occupied, and got a B and B and then come back on Monday via Whitby, Grosmont, the North Yorks Moors Railway to Pickering and a bus to York, arriving back in York today at teatime.

Really good to see her, glad she had the sense to do something to keep the kids from imploding.

Sunday 5th August 07 Big Green Gathering

Another early start, breakfast at 8 and start shift at 9, on the second skip, which we justabout completely filled by midday. Today good too on the finds... got a £6 mealticket for a meal at Roots Cafe (which I used later for lunch!) and then, amazingly, between a couple of paper plates, a £10 note and a £5 note!!!

So definitely worth working on the rubbish today, and satisfying to get so much biodegradable stuff into the skip for recycling, and ensuring it was good quality with relatively few contaminants.

At 1pm, went to the Last Chance Saloon again for my second Home Composting workshop, but the only people to come to this one were some folks trying to get out of the hot sunshine... blame it on the weather again! However they were interested and asked inteligent questions, so maybe they'll be better composters from now on.

After this, and the free lunch, happened upon the 'Question Time for BGG Directors' which was very interesting. Lots of debate, and anger even, about the fact that the 'Lost Vagueness' marquee had a generator, although powered by 100% biodiesel, the BGG strapline is 'Powered by the Sun, the Wind and the People' and there is a policy of no generators (ie fossil-fuel) on site. It was explained how/why it was there and we learned that there were other generators there, such as the tractors which suck out the non-composting toilets every day, and a back-up generator used by the outside security firm.

More frisbee in the evening. Late on, we had a wander up the fantastic canyon which is so spectacular, and had been adorned with candles and nightlights and had a lovely harpist in one place, we stopped and sat and loved it! Then later still, found the venue for a production of 'The Vagina Monologues' which was really excellent. Good on 'The Women of Avalon', thank you for sharing!

Saturday 4th August 07 Big Green Gathering

We did two work shifts today, as there was loads and loads of stuff being brought to us, so 9 til 12.45, then 5 til 6.45. But was worth it as I found two pairs of scissors, a really good stainless steel knife and 30 pence in coins.

After lunch we went to the Green Forum marquee as Justin Rowlatt from Newsnight was meant to be speaking about his year as 'Ethical Man', but he didn't turn up, was very disappointed about this. However enjoyed watching the compere filling in and asking for poets to get up and do a turn, one did a Hilaire Belloc piece called 'Jim', about a naughty boy who left his nanny and got eaten by a lion, this brought back memories as my Dad regularly spouted this one, and other Belloc poems.

After our second shift, and tea, we had a session of juggling and devilsticks, then some frisbee until it got too dark. Then we found ourselves in the Quantum Leap tent with lots of people dancing to Green Angels, a lovely folk band with 'English Border Bagpipes' and some percussion done on scallop shells. The dancers were doing square dances and a kind of snaking around dance. I didn't join in as I'm not good at following instructions or copying others, but enjoyed watching the various dancing styles.

Friday 3rd August 07 Big Green Gathering

Another day of working in the first skip, did a morning shift 9 til 12 and then showered and lunched and spent the rest of the day wandering around and experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of the festival.

At 5pm, went to the main info place to see if anybody else was there for the naked ramble... and to our suprise there were quite a few. So no backing out now! At 5 past, we went for it and got naked and for the first few minutes it felt a bit weird, but then it just felt nice. Lots of people laughed or clapped and cheered. One guy was very keen to get infront of us and take photos, and was walking along with his digi camera pointing backwards 'discretely' at waist height, so I remonstrated with him, saying I thought his actions were dishonest and underhand, cheeky and wrong. He didn't reply and disappeared into the crowds, but I suppose if you take clothes off in public, one has to accept that some people might react in that way. Several people did ask if they could take photos, and some people in the group said 'only if you take your clothes off too' which one lady did! Several people joined us whilst we were walking around, and there was only one 'complaint' from someone on a horse and cart when we got to the horse-drawn field, saying 'no, not in here, there's too many kids around', but as we were being followed by a group of kids, asking us questions and laughing and making comments, we weren't too worried about the effect on children and we kept on walking. It was 99% well recieved with positivity and humour, and it didn't feel cold, even though the sky was overcast and it was towards the end of the day, it was a lovely feeling to have the breeze on your skin. I'd be happy to do it again, in the right circumstances such as the BGG offered.

Later in the evening we watched a film, in Spanish with subtitles, on the problems that Spanish organic maize growers are having with pollen pollution from transgenic maize nearby, and then onto another screen which was from 'bicycology' and watched a film about critical mass bike rides.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Thursday 2nd August 07 Big Green Gathering

Woke to heavy rain trying to get into the tent.

I was booked in to the 'Last Chance Saloon' (run by the Climate Camp folks, soon to be protesting at Heathrow) at 11am to talk about home composting, and half a dozen people turned up, probably relatively few as the bad weather. Did a good talk though, and took a few of the people who stayed til the end to see the 05 and 06 heaps.

Decided to organise a 'naked ramble' or 'nude walkabout' on Friday evening, as last year there was one but I missed it, and would have liked to do it! I was egged on by Lorna who's quite keen on naturism, as I am, even with my very limited experience of it. We checked with the Gathering organisers, and they were OK and suggested how to publicise it.

After lunch, provided by the lovely volunteers at the Brixton Tea Party tent, Lorna and I got togged up to load the first skip up with catering slops, and I had a shovel so I could sort through the stuff and remove plastic bottles, bottle tops, non-biodegradable platic bags, glass bottles, cartons/tetrapacks, etc. It's amazing what some people put in the compostables collection!

So spent most of the afternoon in the skip sorting through whilst Lorna tipped stuff in bag by bag, and had regular deliveries from two vehicles servicing the site.

Had a solar heated shower before tea. After tea, put up some more Naked Ramble info.

Wednesday 1st August 07 BIG GREEN GATHERING

Our bus from Weston left at 12 so had the morning with Lucy and children, so went to the nearby park and played and chatted, then via a co-op to get a few supplies and a box of chocolates for Lucy, before walking back to the station where the Festival bus was leaving from.

We exchanged our tickets for wristbands and got on the top deck of the bus, for a pretty ride through the countryside, up Burrington Coombe to the top of the Mendips where the Big Green Gathering takes place on Fernhill Farm, an organic meat farm, with pigs, sheep and I think some cattle. The bus dropped us into the festival so no need to wait in a queue, and went straight to the info place to ask where 'Glitterland' was this year, the litter pickers camping area, and the Brixton Tea Party marquee where litter crew get fed.

We put up our tents next to each other and went to explore the site. We have no work yet, as the compostables skips haven't arrived yet, and our job is 'quality control' and loading biodegradables into the skips. We'll start tomorrow.

Tuesday 31st July 07

Leaving for the Big Green Gathering today, so up early to pack and get to the station in good time to get the Virgin York to Bristol 10.30 train I booked a cheap ticket with ages ago, a ticket only valid on this service.

So got a bus to the station and waited for 45 minutes, but although the train arrived on time, it didn't leave on time as just outside York there was a breakdown which delayed our leaving. Because of this, we didn't go via Doncaster but via Pontefract to Sheffield.

At Derby, my friend Lorna got on, as arranged, and we chatted all the way down to Bristol Temple Meads. As we had 50 mins to wait for the Weston Super Mare train, we went to the nearby 'Empire' exhibition, but didn't pay to go in as it was expensive and we only had half an hour, so we wandered round the shop area and chatted, looking at the assorted objects on sale. Lorna was born in Zambia and has lived in Kenya and South Africa, so she has an interesting take on 'Empire'.

The WSM train left on time and was quick getting to it's destination. When decanted, I rang my friend and tonight's host Lucy to see if she was in yet, and as she wasn't, left a message to say we'd walk to the seafront and slowly wander along to her house which is nearby.

However, as we started to walk to the sea, my Mother cycled up, having had a message from Lucy saying that she'd be in later, so we went back to my parents' house. My Dad wasn't in, as he'd had an operation on his eye to relieve the hightened pressure caused by glaucoma, which is strongly heritable in our family. We had a cold drink and a tour around the house and garden, which is lovely. My folks are moving soon to Sheffield, to be nearer the rest of the family, so this may be one of the last times I see the house.

Mummy drove us to Lucy's in the Toyota Prius which they got a couple of years ago, probably as I kept on mentioning carbon emissions and car travel. My parents are car addicts and won't ever reduce their driving habits, so getting a 'hybrid' car with a petrol/battery engine, and a 60+ miles per gallon 'footprint' is better than having a normal petrol car (much lower mpg), or a diesel with it's particulate emissions. However if they had a diesel they could switch to veg oil or biodiesel....

It was lovely to see Lucy again. I went to Trinidad and Tobago in 1984 with her, on a scientific expedition (Leicestershire Youth Exploration Group) and have kept in touch ever since. She has two small children and a loving and supportive husband Colin, who came in from work a bit later. We ate all together and then went for a walk through a park to the sea, where some of us paddled and I had a good session devilsticking on the beach. Good chats during the evening following the children going to bed, and we went to bed quite early as Colin gets up to go to work in Swindon very early, and the kids get Lucy up early too. Slept well, comfy futon and sleeping bags.