Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Wednesday 31st October 07

A better day! Had a fairly relaxed first few hours, then cycled down to town to have my teeth cleaned, via the post office where I sent the bank paperwork to CompostFlow plus a covering letter expressing my disappointment.

Came back via my friend Debs who needed to chat.

In the evening, both boys went out to do Hallowe'en activities, involved lots of cycling around and taking them places, collecting them afterwards.

This evening there was very interesting news, about cancer and lifestyle choices. The most important thing they've said is that being overweight increases the risk of cancer, and it says to stop eating all processed meat, including bacon and ham. Wow! This from a big study by the World Cancer Research Fund. Excellent news for greens, as meat is a very unsustainable foodstuff, so any information which reduces consumption is a good thing!

Tuesday 30th October 07

Not a brilliant day. Gill took the kids to school and then, as we were due to pay our TV licence today, so Gill went to the Co-op and interrogated the ATM (hole-in-the-wall-machine) only to find we had only £14 in the bank, and there should have been several hundred. This news made her very worried, we wondered if we'd been the victims of identity theft, been robbed...

However, a phone call to the bank told us what had happened. I had bought a new tumbler composter over the phone, a 'CompostFlow' 400, and they'd taken two lots of money not just one. I rang CompostFlow and they said, 'No, it can't be, one of them is the authorisation, the other is the money taken out'. So I rang the bank again and they confirmed two lots of money to the same company went out. So got back to the CompostFlow folks and asked if they'd replace the money. They said, send a statement to prove it. I asked them to look at their own bank details to prove it, but the chap insisted that I send something. I rang the bank again and asked if they could send a statement, they suggested my going to the York branch and getting a statement.

So I cycled down and went to my bank, got paperwork, went to the building society and got money out to pay the TV licence, and visited Out Of This World and Martin's for compostables.

I felt pretty low after this trip into town, but went to pick up the boys.

I had some time in the evening to reflect on a phone call which I had during the morning, from an old friend from teenage years, who's remained in touch with my sister, and has made contact with me again. It is amazing to be able to re-visit memories from so long ago, and to have a chance to put right some wrongs, well, not put right, but explain, apologise, and hopefully put a line under. Truly amazing, and all due to the computer and ability to reach out and communicate so easily.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Monday 29th October 07

Up fairly early as was due to help one of Gill's friends Beth with some gardening. She needed to take out some shrubs but doesn't feel strong enough to do that kind of work, and I offered the use of my 'wrecking bar', a metal bar which is brilliant at helping take out stumps.

Gill took the kiddies to school and I got to the garden with the shrubbery removal job soon after 9am. I worked til nearly lunchtime, and came home with a trailer-load of shrubbery and sticks.

During the afternoon I shredded all the stuff I brought home and then at 3 went to get the boys plus one of their friends from school. He came for tea and then at 5.15 I cycled with all three of them down to St Nicks for the Pumpkin event. This was organised by York Rotters as they distributed pumpkin seeds at the beginning of the season, as pumpkins can grow well in garden compost-enriched soil, or even on old compost heaps. The event was a pumpkin competition, for the biggest, the most interesting, and the best carved, adult and child categories.

So I had bought two pumpkins for the boys, as mine didn't grow well this year. The friend's mum and younger brother arrived, also with two bought pumpkins. My friend Jo arrived, with quite a few bought pumpkins. More than enough to go around.

The event was well attended, including my friend Jim and his girlfriend and her kids, and Jim's mum whom I'm fond of. After signing in, and saying I had responsibility for my sons with knives, they got going with the carving. I chatted to a florist who works nearby about composting, and the competition's judge, a lady named Sue who's a fundraiser for Marie Cure Cancer Care, who may also take up composting...

When 7pm came the judging took place. Jean had managed to grow a specimen about 12 cm across, and won the biggest pumpkin section, and got a Can O Worms, donated by Wiggly Wigglers, lucky her, I paid nearly £100 for mine! John from St Nicks had submitted a tichy pumpkin about 2cm diameter, it won the most interesting pumpkin. Not sure what he got for that. The florist won the adult carved pumpkin, with a wonderful image of a witch on her pumpkin-lantern. Finally, the kiddies section, and amazingly, my eldest son won! He was so happy! He won a wormery, one with a thin cross section so the tunnels could be seen easily.

We came home happy, with the two pumpkins and the prize, and they went to bed very tired.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Sunday 28th October 07

A good day as had a bit of a lie-in, perhaps helped by the clocks changing, and spent some of the day managing the collection of compost heaps.

We had a visit from our friend Alison who has recently come back from a visit to Zanzibar, where she has a friend. She had an interesting time, as it's one of the first times she's travelled abroad, so the culture shock was quite tangible. However she has had more of a shock since coming home, as she became friendly with a little girl who was living in her friend's house, this little girl had lost her parents somehow and was distantly connected with her host family. She treated this girl equally to the friend's offspring, infact this girl was easier to be with than the friend's children who were quite difficult to be with, their behavoiur was 'challenging'. So she connected with the little girl, and when she left, gave all of the children a present. Since coming back, her friend has been quite distant and offhand, and Alison thinks it may be because she showed friendship to the girl who was not really part of the family. This situation has made her very unhappy, it has coloured her memories of her trip.

In the evening I researched white poppies for my paid blog, as I have often worn one at this time of year to make my opposition to war known. They are made and sold by the Peace Pledge Union, and have a long and interesting history. I wrote and submitted my blog.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Saturday 27th October 07

A day trip to Durham to meet up with some interesting folks who have unusual lifestyles, so went up to meet them and compare notes.

On the way from the train I met a chatty woman called Heidi, and it turned out that she is going out with our old friend Jim N from the York Arts Centre, so we swapped email addresses and we'll invite them round sometime, as we were both fond of Jim, and I liked Heidi a lot.

We met near the Cathedral in a cafe and chatted for a couple of hours, then went to the Cathedral which was having it's annual 'Open Belfry' day, so some of us paid to go up the tower and had bell ringing explained and demonstrated. Memorable.

When I got home to York I did a pick up from Out Of This World and came home to a happy family who'd had a pleasant day. I had a quick tea, a pasta and parsnip minestrone stew concoction with home-made cheese scones. Then I suggested that the family might want to go down to the Minster as there's some interactive art there, a light sculpture projected onto the West side of the Minster which reacts to sound. I cycled with my 10 year old and Gill went on the bus with the 8 year old who hasn't got lights on his bike. We arrived at the same time and we all enjoyed making lots of noise, along with dozens of other people. It was a most unholy racket, not that appropriate for a religious building, but fun! The light show was fantastic, one of the best I've ever seen.

Spent quite a long time there, til after 8pm, and the cyclist contingent got home much quicker than the bus riders.

Friday 26th October 07

The boys declared that they didn't want to go anywhere or do anything today. So they played and I spent some time building a logpile on the right of the door (looking out) and spent a bit of time doing some work with the new 'compost mate' tool which is really good at mixing the compost heaps. My neighbour had spotted a rat so I did a lot of mixing of some sit and wait heaps, which makes them less hospitable to rats. I saw no evidence of rats though, none ran out. There are rats in the area, and I think that the neighbours are blaming my composting activities for them as a way of getting at me, because I'm different.

For lunch I went to St Nicks and said hello to Catherine the head Rotter, who asked me to help out at a green market next weekend on the Rotters stall. I met up with Jo and had a sandwich whilst hearing about her week at work, and told her about my weekend away.

During the afternoon I did a bit of emailing and a bit of cycling around, visited Martin's Country Fresh for fruit/veg and compostables, and enjoyed tea of parsnips in baked beans with the last of Gill's quiche from yesterday.

In the evening our friends Simon and Jonathan came round, Si has been helping Jonathan with his computer and when they were finished they came and chatted as Gill and I continued to play Scrabble. The conversation became very frank, as it often does with both S and J, and my odd behaviour was analysed, with reference to my forthcoming trip to the Maudsley Hospital to see if I have ADHD. My 'compulsive' composting activities are giving Gill some problems, as the neighbours find me rather odd and Gill feels she has to defend me, although she wishes I didn't do so much of it on such an 'industrial' scale. She finds herself in a difficult position as she loves me and supports my desire to prevent stuff being landfilled, but she doesn't think it is appropriate that I do so much in the garden.

Anyway, I was happy to have such an honest exchange, I didn't feel attacked, I just feel as if I'm actually quite a 'vulnerable' person in some ways, for instance, my willingness to take recyclables for certain businesses means they get the stuff recycled (not possible commercially) and for free or cheap. I have a lot of processing to do about this, and hope Gill can come down to London next month with me to voice her observations about my extreme lifestyle.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Thursday 25th October 07

A better day than yesterday, although still feeling full of cold, with a runny nose and blocked sinuses. However just got on with the neccessary jobs around the house and in the garden. One of the jobs was to open the feather mattress thing from yesterday and put a layer of feathers on the current hot heap, quite a messy job. They will compost down very well though. I put a load of chopped potatoes on top to stop them blowing around, except there's no wind to blow them around, it's a fairly still day.

During the evening wrote my next column for Community Care, on food. Wrote it on paper (reused of course!) and then counted the words, as I'm supposed to do 350. I'd got it to 353, so I typed it in and sent it to them, asking them to do their wonderful editing stuff. They always come up with something good, they never massacre my work. Finished typing it in at 2am, my usual bedtime.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Wednesday 24th October 07

Woke feeling very grotty and snotty, wondered if the flu jab yesterday had given me something? Or is it just a coincidence? So had a relatively quiet day with just one appointment at 3, a couple, Angela and Ralph, who'd contacted York Rotters with a query about recycling a feather bed. Angela knew that feathers could be composted, but this duvet/mattress thing was so big that she didn't have the capacity. So her details were passed to me, I rang up and said that I liked a challenge and would take in the huge duvet and get it's contents composted. So they had a tour and I gave them some Jack Edwards Pea Beans and a couple of carrier bags of finished compost as a thank you for the feathers.

At 3.45 there was a 'Street Sports' thing at school which I cycled my eldest lad to, as he enjoys cycling up and down ramps, and he took his skateboard too. The street sports activity is provided by City of York Council every fortnight in the school playground, but as it's half term no-one else turned up. I left him to play and went to do my Martin's pick up of compostables, and then went immediately back down to school, this time having persuaded my youngest son to come with me. So he had an hour of cycling around, and we all came back for 6pm, to enjoy pizza which Gill had been making all afternoon, the dough proving next to the stove.

Tried to do some writing during the evening, as I've another paid blog to do this week, but didn't get much done as was feeling so grotty. But I did reply to a letter in the York Pres by Mike Usherwood (loves planes, hates bikes) suggesting I might be a hipocrite by pointing out the irony of a local airport (Elvington) installing food waste composting. I had written in praising the company for this innovation (Compost Doctor scheme) but just to stir it a bit had mentioned the green and non-green aspects sitting side by side. I am looking forward to seeing my latest letter published as it could help to prolong the debate and inform people about the huge impact that flying has on the atmosphere.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Tuesday 23rd October 07

A very good day as I spent the morning in the house doing some paperwork and housework, Gill went out for an appointment and the boys played inside the house. I also did a bit of compost heap management for half an hour.

Gill came back and we lunched, I then used Gill's bus ticket (an all day adult rover thingy) to get to town and participate in a Green Party/York Residents Against Incineration demonstration protesting about the Lib Dem Councillors voting to spend loads of money on a waste treatment plant but they don't yet know what it is going to be. I do not think that an incinerator is a good idea as it wastes materials which should be recycled. They are very expensive and can give out polluting dioxins, as well as loads of CO2 which is 'fossil' CO2 from plastics, made from oil. I would like more investment in recycling, and also think that anaerobic digestion of food waste and manures is a good idea, as it captures some of the energy which is normally lost in composting, but cleanly in the form of methane which can be efficiently used as a fuel for heating or generating energy, or even put in a fuel cell to make electricity and heat.

We had our photo taken on the steps of the Mansion House and then I walked along to Cycle Heaven to purchase my new bike. I got a set of panniers too. I had asked for 'tri-bars' to be put on the handlebars, but the shop said that the ones they would get would be another £80, so I asked them to transfer my old ones over. So the whole set up is new, apart from the tri-bars which allow me to drop down if there's a headwind or if I'm going fast. I'm glad the frame was made locally, it's steel and quite heavy, but very strong! I enjoyed cycling back with it, and got my trailer fixed up to it as soon as I got back.

Soon it was time for me to cycle along for a doctor's appointment, for a flu jab (I'm asthmatic and have taken daily medication since childhood, when it was much less prevalent) and to wave a weird patch of flaky skin on my knee at him. When I got back home, I went to the Co-op shop for some essentials and then to the allotment.

I love my bike!

Monday 22nd October 07

Early start with a taxi ride to Hebden Bridge and a train to Manchester, change to Salford Crescent, change again to Manchester Airport where I said goodbye to K who is flying back to America.
I had a non-eventful train journey back to York. Picked up my compostables and visited Cycle Heaven who have completed constructing my new bike... and have a bill for me which I'll get for them tomorrow when I'll get my bike home.... Exciting!
Home to find a happy family.

During the evening, researched my paid blog and wrote it, on The Energy Saving Trust and their activities.

Sunday 21 October 07

A day up on the tops, a lovely day, great views, a wonderful experience, not too much walking.

In the evening went down into the valley, a wooded dell, beautiful.

Saturday 20th October 07

Bus down to Hebden, good wander along the canal, visited the Alternative Technology Centre and then had a quick lunch before getting back to Pecket Well.
Long walk out to Lumb Hole Waterfall, then up into the moors, loads of walking.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Friday 19th October 07

Went to Manchester today, to an Equity 'Childrens Entertainers' meeting.
After this, met with K at Manchester Piccadilly, got a tram to Victoria and then a train to Hebden Bridge. I'd found us a BnB in Pecket Well, through a website, but when we got there we found it wasn't really suitable.. it was a private house and the room was actually the daughter's bedroom, so we decamped to the Robin Hood Inn, which was a bit more expensive but much better for our needs.
A lovely walk in the evening, enjoyed the night sky and stars.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Thursday 18th October 07

An odd day as when I came downstairs Gill was having problems getting the boys ready and because of their behaviour they did not go to school this morning, and missed a fun morning with a fair-trade event and school play, plus a birds of prey demonstration. We had a visitor in the morning and the boys did their spellings and actually behaved really well whilst this was happening. They went to school in the afternoon.

During the afternoon Gill went to town and I cycled in to get out a cheque to rejoin Garden Organic and pick up compostables, and I got back in time to pick up the boys.

I did some piling of stuff on the current hot heap, and used my 'Compost Mate' screw-thread tool, it's fantastic! Works really well to stir up and aerate the heap. What a pity they're made in Australia not somewhere more local.

Wednesday 17th October 07

Was supposed to be a relaxing day but one of the boys was off school with a cough so it wasn't.

I didn't do my usual Wednesday compostables pick up and didn't go to the CRAG meeting in the evening.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Tuesday 16th October 07, Master Composter Seminar

An early start, went for a walk before breakfast and found a lovely orchard with rows of unpicked apple trees. Nearby found loads of mistletoe in, I think, willow or poplar. My first close-up viewing of Mistletoe.

A good breakfast and was picked up at 9am by Catherine, and we drove towards Stourport to take part in the Master Composter Seminar organised by Garden Organic. It was held at the Bishops Wood Environment Centre, a lovely building demonstrating sustainable construction methods and materials, sited within an extensive patch of land which we had a short tour of at lunchtime.

The Master Composter model started in America, I recently found out, and was first demonstrated by Cambridgeshire County Council working with the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA), now rebranded as 'Garden Organic'. The basic idea is to train up a load of volunteers in the art of home composting and let them loose in their community, to promote home composting as a great way to reduce waste and create fertility in the garden.

I read about this project in the HDRA magazine and immediately thought, what a brilliant idea, and took the concept to St Nicholas Fields Environment Centre, and York Rotters was born. Our project got DEFRA funding for a year of employing a part-time worker, and then we got funding from City of York Council, and we're on the second year of that, and our second worker, Catherine.

So today's 10am til 4.30pm 'do' was to review the current situation of UK Master Composter Schemes, to provide new schemes with information and encouragement, to explore 'tools' to widen their impact and to find ways to measure that impact. There were over 30 people present, representing X Master Composter schemes.

The first presentation was a short one from WRAP chap Carl Nichols. WRAP is in it's 4th year of supporting Master Composter schemes, which are nearly all run by local councils, or are in partnership with them.

Monday 15th October 07 'Blog Action Day'

I only discovered it was 'blog action day' today several days later....

But I did do some practical sustainability action, I went to town and got my compostables from Out Of This World and piled them onto one of my heaps before being picked up by Catherine from York Rotters in her car, and we set off for Worcester, to attend a 'Garden Organic' event the following day, the Master Composter Seminar, which was being held at Bishops Wood Environment Centre near Stourport on Severn.

Catherine stayed with her Aunt and I stayed at Chirkenhill Farm at Leigh Sinton. What a lovely place, near Malvern. Had a pleasent evening, visited the Royal Oak in the village and had a Chinese take away... my second take away this year!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sunday 14th October 07

Lovely day! Had a slow start and then did things around the house, Gill took the kids out, to the shops, to feed the ducks, to play in Hull Road Park.

I had lunch and when they got back Pauling rang and asked if I was coming round, as I'd said that I'd come and do a bit of woodchopping for her, so at about 1.45 I cycled round, with bowsaw and chainsaw, collecting a large log from Baille Hill for her, and did half an hour for her, as she's also got a smokefree woodstove, but finds chopping wood a bit difficult, so I go and do it now and again for her.

She rewards me with coffee and chat, often giving me good advice as she is very sensible and pretty wise. I always enjoy being with her.

I came home via Martin's and picked up 3 sacks of compostables; there's another few to pick up later. I arrived home and took my eldest son off to The Outgang, Heslington Park, where we played with the frisbee, had a kick around with a football left there, and played on the various equipment. We had a good time, and then came back via the Science Park.

Gill was creating tea, a veg stew with a suet crust top, using the out-of-date lower-fat vegetable suet from Out Of This World. This with new potatoes from the garden and peas from frozen, not home-grown. I did half an hour loading the compost heap.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Sat 13th October 07

No work, so spent lots of time with the family.
In the morning went to the bread shop with one protesting child, as they were fighting and needed separating. Once on his bike, my son was fine, and we went to the bakers and the Co-op, then down to St Nicks Fields where we spent nearly an hour playing in the play area, on the climbing equipment, mucking around, really nice.

During the afternoon I had a short nap and then piled up a compost heap, cut hedge, shredded hedge and cut back brambles which have fruited and need to be removed before next season.

Friday 12th October 07

A good day
During the evening went to 'Greenspeak' at Millers Yard Healthy Living Centre on Gillygate, which was on energy, specifically electricity, wind power and nuclear. Very educational and stimulating!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Thursday 11th October 07

A good day, no particular stress or things to do. Gill took the one of the boys to school, the other wasn't very well and stayed at home. I did a range of home-based things, washing up and sorting out fruit, and some garden-based things, including rebuilding a logpile outside the front door. I went to the bread shop and the Co-op and then to St Nicks to give them a 'Compost Mate' which Wiggly Wigglers has sent me to replace one they sent last week, which has some of the paint covering missing. This tool is a big screw-threaded thing which is screwed into the compost heap and can lift out and aerate... and I don't need two.

After lunch, went to the Friends Meeting House to help move a filing cabinet for AVP, and to my building society to pay in a cheque, and back via Martin's Country Fresh to pick up a sack of cabbage leaves and onoin skins.

Enjoyed some more outside stuff, hedge cutting, shredding, compost-heap layering.

Wrote to the Press during the evening about the plan to introduce recycling litter bins in the city of York.

Wednesday 10th October 07

K in York

Tuesday 9th October 07

K in York

Monday 8th October 07

Community Composting Seminar

Sunday 7th October 07

Beverley Food Festival

Saturday 6th October 07

Apple Day at St Nicks

Friday 5th October 07


Thursday 4th October 07

We got up early and walked accross the bridge to Llandidno Junction railway station, and saw our 7.40 train departing. Not early enough! However there was a bus to Betws-y-Coed so we got that, and apart from a brief interlude with loads of noisy schoolchildren, had a good journey and were dropped off at Betws-y-Coed station. We got a sandwich made up and then walked up the road towards Swallow Falls

Wednesday 3rd October 07

Due to our disturbed night, we didn't wake in time to get the 7.40 train from Llandidno Junction, and as the weather was wet and cloudy, we decided not to go to Snowdon today. We took the opportunity to talk about our behaviour last night, sort out what had happened and clear the air.

Had a good walk in the afternoon into the countryside near Conwy, and this was lovely.

Louise and Guy came over from Denbigh in the evening, for a meal. I know Louise from my first college in 1984, Nene College, Northampton, where I did one year of a B.Ed degree. Lou was in the same hall of residence, Dryden Hall, and the following year, once I'd been chucked out, she and I were neighbours on Cambridge St in Semilong, Northampton, and we were quite friendly. We've kept in occasional contact, so it was really lovely to see her and her husband. We had a couple of glasses of wine and then went to Alfredos in Conwy, where we had a selection of Italian food. Excellent chats.

Tuesday 2nd October 07

We explored Conwy again, retracing our steps from last night and getting a bit of extra veg. I made a nutloaf, something K remembers from yonks ago. We planned a trip for tomorrow to Betswy Coed and Snowdon.

Had quite a few drinks this evening and due to this had some differences of opinion and a bit of a troubled evening. We are both passionate and opinionated people and it was inevitable we'd have some heated discussions.

Didn't get much sleep. Did a lot of talking, trying to communicate stuff. Intense times.

Monday 1st October 07

My eldest son has an activity week at Bewerley Park this week, so we were up early and he was excited. Gill took them to school, as I had also arranged to spend some time away.

I took a train to Manchester Piccadilly and met up with K who has come over to the UK. We got a train to Chester and then on to Conwy, where we are going to spend a bit of time catching up... we haven't really seen each other for over 20 years, so it promises to be quite a reunion. It was lovely to see her again, especially after so much emailing and Googletalking over the past year.

We easily found the cottage in Conwy, and once we'd dumped our stuff we went to do a bit of shopping for provisions for the next few days. Later we went for an after-dark wander around, the castle well lit up and it's a picturesque place.