Friday, 30 November 2007

Friday 30th November 07

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

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

Then at 3 I went to get the boys.

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

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

I got the boys ready for bed.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Thursday 29th November 07

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 28th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 27th November 07

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

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

Monday, 26 November 2007

Monday 26th November 07

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

I got the boys back from school.

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

Sunday 25th November 07

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Saturday 24th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 23rd November 07

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Thursday 22nd November 07

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

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

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

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

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

Weds 21st November 07

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

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tuesday 20th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 19 November 2007

Monday 19th November 07

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

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

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

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Sunday 18th November 07

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Saturday 17th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 November 2007

Friday 16th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 15th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Wednesday 14th November 07 World Responsible Tourism Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tuesday 13th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 12 November 2007

Monday 12th November 07

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

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

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

I collected him at hometime.

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

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Sunday 11th November 07

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Saturday 10th November 07

Woke at 9 and rushed downstairs to have breakfast as I'd promised Frank at the allotment that I'd help him out at 9.30 with putting the roof on the new shed... shed is not really the right word, it's a substantial building for the shop and store. It has a flat roof which is designed to be 'living', ie have plants growing on it... so it needed some special preparation. There had been some rain during the night so the first thing was to sweep off as much water as possible... not easy as I only had a tiny broom, but did my best. Then a few bits of plastic sheeting to protect the butyl rubber sheet from splinters, then the very heavy butyl sheet, the sort of thing that's used to line ponds.

This had been cut to the right size and covered the roof perfectly with just a tiny overhang over every edge. On top of this went some felt geotextile and when that ran out, a volunteer went to get some more, but this was much thinner, althought still protected the butyl from the next layer, which was limestone chips, for drainage. This was mainly bucketed up (we did try using builders bags but they were too heavy with more than 3 buckets worth of stones in) using buckets and ropes. The stones were spread thinly, about 1cm thick on average, and on top of this was spread a good thick layer of a mix of loam, vermiculite, shredded softwood and the limestone chippings. Again, this was bucketed up with a team of perhaps 10 mixing, shovelling hauling up and spreading. I worked from 9.40 til 12.40, ended up knackered but having helped do the job. The roof will be planted up with sempervivums, or houseleeks, a lovely hardy rosetted succulent with good drought resistence, places for wildlife to hide, and super flower spikes which are a nectar source for bees etc. Should be lovely.

Got home to find Gill had made bread, so enjoyed sandwiches, then did emails and encouraged the boys to do their homework. My eldest finished his diagram of the water cycle so he was rewarded with coming down to town with me on the bikes, and we went to Cycle Heaven and I bought him a loud bike bell, which he's wanted for a bit since his last one fell to bits.

After this we went to Out Of This World, which is sadly closing today, and picked up some recyclables and then did a last shop there, for assorted stuff including the delicious vegan ice cream we all love. Met up with one of the directors and chatted with him, he's sad too as this business venture, started in 1995, has been put out of business by the main supermarkets, who can sell organic and fair trade goods more cheaply than the little co-operative with just a few shops.

A good cycle home, and the boys tea was nearly ready, but just enough time to have a game of picture consequences with the boys. All draw a head, leaving a neck available for the next person to continue, and fold the head back so the next person cannot see it, then pass it on. Each player gets a sheet with a neck to continue with a torso, leaving a pair of leag tops sticking out for the next player to do. Finally the drawer of the head gets their paper back and it can be unfolded to much hilarity.

I had my tea... some rather old nutloaf and two slightly out of date calzone pasties with leek and tomato sauce I made on the stove... filling and delicious.

A warm evening with the stove drying grapes into raisins!

Friday 9th November 07

I took the kiddies to school and then cycled on to Cycle Heaven as my new bike has a bit of a problem with the front light getting knocked when the front wheel turns right round and contacts the frame, which happens when the bike falls over. The light has got knocked several times and last night, it happened again and the fitting got broken.

Anyway, the mega chilled and multi talented Ashley fixed it by putting the light onto a lower bracket, which means when the wheel turns right back, the light misses contacting the frame.

Came back via Martin's and collected a couple of sacks of biodegradables, and came home for 10am, Gill just leaving for her art class. I kept my sacks on the trailer and cycled to St Nicks for the York Rotters research session with the Open University and the New Economics Foundation, a project funded by DEFRA.

This meeting was very interesting, as the aim was to find out about the benefits of community composting groups, the environmental, social, health and other benefits, and how to measure these. At the meeting there were several volunteers, several 'managers' and one recipient of composting advice, my friend Debbie whom I got a compost bin and she's still using it.

The session lasted til nearly 3pm, used loads of post-it notes and was good for us Rotters as a planning session too, as it helped us look at what we were doing and see where we need to go now.

Home to an empty house, Gill had gone to pick up the boys, so I spent some time putting together the new compost bin from CompostFlow... this was not particularly easy, but I did it eventually.

Had the broccoli soup I made yesterday for tea... lovely. Then went out to the GreenSpeak meeting at Miller's Yard, which was on The Future of York, and was interesting and quite complex.

Got a phone call from Out Of This World, a phone call I had not been looking forward to, that they will be closing tomorrow. I was told last week by the staff that the whols company, the Creative Consumer Co-op, was in financial difficulty, and now all the stores are closing. Such a pity. Sadness.

Came home via a skip with wood offcuts in it which I had asked about earlier, filled the trailer and brought them home.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Thursday 8th November 07

Quite a good day, had a fairly chilled morning, various jobs around the house and then to town to transfer some money from savings to bank, so there's some money in there. I called in on Out Of This World but they had nothing since yesterday so came back via Martin's and then the lottie, where my compost pile got another good layer of veg and fruit. Jo came to chat, as she's off to Whitby over the weekend and wanted to talk before tomorrow's York Rotters event.

I dug out a finished heap and put it into several plastic sacks and a dustbin, ready for next spring. Then dug out a half-finished heap and put it into the newly vacated 'New Zealand Bin', and covered it with a sack for the winter. I will allow some rain to get to it, but not too much or the goodness will wash out.

Got back for a late lunch and tried to get on with preparing some nosh for the kids tea. Made broccoli soup on the woodstove. Gill had been making pizza dough. Gill went to see our little one's assembly, I collected our older one at 4.15 after Drama Club.

Gill and I had a game of Scrabble during the evening and she slaughtered me... I picked rubbish letters!

Wednesday 7th November 07

A reasonable day... first thing Gill went to see if the money that CompostFlow had taken out of our account had been put back in... it hadn't. So checked with our bank... and there was no sign of it coming in. So I phoned CompostFlow and informed them that I would be starting proceedings with the Trading Standards as they hadn't contacted me with an apology, or information, and they'd still got money of mine they shouldn't have. The very pleasent telephone operator said he's ask a manager to contact me, and then phoned back and said someone would ring at 1pm.

I had to go out to meet Frank at the allotment, to give him my seed order (seeds, spuds and onions) and then spent some time chopping back brambles and putting them on one of the 4 compost heaps on my lottie.

Gill stayed in, mended the flat tyre on our youngest's bike, and painted some cards for various relatives' birthdays. She did a lovely picture of an orchid and another of an arum lilly. The CompostFlow people didn't ring up, so when I got in I rand Trading Standards and they said get back in touch if the company hadn't responded for 2 weeks after recieving our letter!

I got the kids and there was a booksale on... ended up them both getting a book each, costing £12, then cycling home.

Enjoyed a programme on Silbury Hill on Freeview whilst shelling pumpkin seeds.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Tuesday 6th November 07

A busy day... our 8th Wedding anniversary and 14th since our first kiss. Gill took the boys to school, our youngest walking as his bike has developed a puncture.

We managed to spend a bit of time together but both had quite a lot to do, so we both got on with jobs around the house.... just the usual housework including washing up, sorting beans which I've harvested, and I had some time in the garden preparing a space for the new composter to sit in. Also rang the Maudsley Hospital in London to check if I really needed to take 'informants' down with me at the end of the month for my diagnosis, and then had a conversation with my Dad, and later, my Mum. Also today got a call from Catherine from York Rotters asking if I could bring a person along who had recieved advice from a trained Rotter and was still composting. I called on Debbie over the road, checked her composter and invited her to come to the Open University research day on Friday. She was delighted to be asked.

Soon after 2pm I cycled down to school to pick up our year 6 child, who has to decide which secondary school to go to next September. So he came out of school early and cycled down to Fulford School, as he missed the main open evening a couple of weeks age due to illness, and we had a guided tour of the buildings. Didn't see in many classrooms as they were still being used, but did get a feel of the school, and it will be the second choice after Archbishop Holgate... Fulford's a lot further away and it's a much bigger school.

We came back via the Co-op which is quite near that, and I found what I think is a beefsteak fungus on an oak tree on the way home.

I popped down to Out Of This World for my 'beginning of the week' pick up, and back via Martin's, where I got 7 pineapples as well as a tray of more readily compostable materials. The only thing wrong with the pineapples is that their leaf rosettes are a bit manky... the fruit is fine, and I spent an hour preparing 3 of them for drying on the stove.

Gill went out to a theatre thing with our friend who is the crossing lady at Lord Deramores. Iput the kids to bed... as a pre bedtime treat we had a game of 'consequences' where each player starts a story and writes a few lines, leaving a half line for the next player to continue, and folding back the finished lines so the next player cannot see what the story is about. The sheets get passed around and when the sheets are full, they are read out, usually with much hilarity.
The boys went to bed with good behaviour and got some reading time as a reward.

I had a short Googlechat with K over in the US of A and finished the 3rd pineapple, peeled and sliced some windfall pears, and whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on Freeview, shelled a load of pumpkin seeds, which is easy and not too tedious.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Monday 5th November 07

Quite a good day, as woke to a quiet house.... the boys had a peaceful morning before school and so I wasn't woken by shouting. Gill took them to school and I went back to bed, she joined me when she got back. So good to have a lazy morning!

Spent some time building a new logpile and draining a watwerbutt which has developed a leak... I think the tap on the base has been bumped and the seal damaged. Then my new composter arrived..... a 400 litre CompostFlow, made by SunMar who also make compost toilets. I started soring out a place to put it, which meant emptying a 'dalek' into another larger 'sit n wait' container.

I got the kiddies, coming home with another load of leaves.

I had a YorkLETS meeting in the evening at the Seahorse on the Fishergate Gyratory, it was a quick and businesslike meeting, finishing at about 8.30, and the 5 of us who turned up all went back to our homes. A quiet evening. Did a load of paperwork, invoices, forms, cheques to send.

Sunday 4th November 07

I got started fairly early this morning as I had an enormous pile of not-waste from the veg shop, I'd say at least 200kg. I finished unloading the 600 litre 'compostumbler' and immediately started refilling, with alternating layers of woodchips and shredded hedge with dead lettuces, courgettes, carrots, hundreds of apples and pears, and other veg and fruit, all chopped to help them rot quicker. I managed to completely fill the compostumbler in one go, it should go like a bomb! Well, like a hot compost heap actually...

I took a break for an hour to watch Countryfile and have an early lunch, but didn't come back in to listen to Gardeners' Question Time, I think Gill recorded it. I can always listen to it on the web, the 'listen again' service is very good.

I spent all of the afternoon in the garden, and dug out a finished sit n wait heap too, turning it into a neighbouring bay made with pallets. This first turn after a long 'sit n wait' is enough to finish the process, the next time I visit this material, it will be rotted down enough to riddle and use. I remember making this heap, it was at Easter as I recognise some of the bones, from three Xmas turkeys which had been in a shop freezer until then, and given to me for recycling as they were out of date. I've never composted turkeys before, only smaller roadkill birds like ducks, crows and songbirds. But they rotted well in the hot heap conditions, leaving only the larger bones until now, which will be mostly gone by next spring when I'll have the compost ready for use.

The boys spent quite a bit of the day in their pyjamas doing their homework... my 10 year old doing 2 A4 sheets on gases, including a piece on farts! My 8 year old had to prepare a book review so he justabout read a whole book in one day, I think it was 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' or something like that. So because of good behaviour, I made up a 'one log bonfire' for them, on the lawn (well, in the lawn, as you cut out and remove a chunk of turf to put the split log into). We had this after 6pm, whilst neighbours were letting off their fireworks. We had 2 packets of sparklers, one log and two thin-wood fruit trays as tinder for our frugal but wonderful mini outdoor fire. Much better than a big wasteful bonfire! Less smoke too, as the shape of the split log helps it burn cleanly.

During the evening a baby hedgehog visited us and was snuffling round in the undergrowth, very cute. Didn't seem to mind the fire, it came within a couple of metres of it.

A late night doing my paid blog, a second on white poppies, as there was a comment about them from last week's offering.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Saturday 3rd November 07

A good day, as I spent a lot of it with the boys... and did quite a lot of housework in the morning, made some mushroom soup for the evening meal.

I had a visitor fairly early on, Sarah the Critical Masser came with some biodegradables which she didn't want to throw away, wanted to recycle and compost, so I invited her to use my heap.

After this I cycled round to the bread shop and the library with both boys, they had ordered some books so we went to get these. On the way back went to the Co-op, then came home for lunch.

After lunch I went to town to the Big Green Market, as I wanted to go on the York Rotters stall again, as I'd enjoyed it so much yesterday.

Spent a couple of hours there, working alongside Jo and Candy, chatting to many enquirers, including Bob Breen, who runs ADDept, a York-based ADD/ADHD support group, and is a friend of mine.

Came home via Martins, who had a massive pile of veg offcuts for me. Home for tea, mushroom soup and a slice of a quiche Gill had created. As usual this home cooking was lovely.

My eldest son was keen on seeing the last night of the wonderfu interactive light show at the Minster (Evoke by Usman Haque) so we cycled down to the centre of York and joined the crowds at the Minster. The light show was good, and was then improved by a percussion duo called Bangon ( who did a superb performance. Following that there was a fire performance by 'FireSwingers' from Sheffield ( They were very good, and used some fire props I hadn't seen before, including fire whip and fire skipping rope. My son loved it, and when we got home, he thanked me for taking him down. Good to be thanked without hinting!

During the evening watched Four Weddings and a Funeral on Channel 4, Gill's favourite film.

Also did some emailing and Googlechatting, but the latter didn't go well as my friend whom I chat with didn't appreciate that Gill asked what we were talking about and I gave her some brief details, then told my dear friend that I'd done this... oh dear, my open-ness and honesty has again got me into deep water. People just don't understand how I am, that I don't understand what is appropriate.

I wish I was a quicker learner!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Friday 2nd November 07

Wow what a busy and upbeat day.

I took the kids to school as Gill wasn't feeling up to it, and I collected more leaves.

I took them down the garden and did a bit more compost management before getting ready to go to the Big Green Market which has a York Rotters stall alongside a St Nicks and a City Council Recycling stall. I went via Out Of This World and did a little pick up, then on to Millers Yard where Dylan had four sacks of oranges from his orange juice maker for me.

I parked my bike and trailer near the Big Green Market and spent 2 and a half hours advising members of the public about home composting, lots of enquiries, perhaps 50 or so. Very satisfying, how many people want to know how to compost... there was a queue much of the time!

At 2.30 I left as I had told Gill that I'd pick up the kids at 3. I just had time to unload my heavy trailer full and get down to school, but when I got there I discovered my back wheel was loose, so loose that when I lifted up the frame it came out of it's moorings. However, the design of the frame means that it can be ridden even with a totally loose wheel, so I was able to tentatively cycle back home with the kids. I rang Cycle Heaven when I got in, and they were happy to see me at 5.30 to repair the fault.

So had a brief sandwich tea and at 5 went down to town and Ash at Cycle Heaven did something magical and revamped the back wheel. I bought another bell, I now have 3 on my bike! I then made my way to the Minster for the gathering of the Critical Mass people, and we watched the beginning of the light sculpture on the Minster before we left.

There wer 13 bikes on the Critical Mass Cycle Ride, including two recumbents and one with a trike-trailer with two children pedalling away. A very enjoyable ride, almost no aggro.

Ended up back at the Minster at 7, and a few of us went for a drink at the Gillygate on Gillygate. A very enjoyable drink it was too. At 8.30 we all left, I came home via Martins where there was an immense pile of stuff for me to transport home, I'd estimate 100 kg in one trip. Even put a 20 kg sack on my handlebars!

Had a game of Scrabble as soon as I got in, and was winning handsomely until Gill dropped her tiles as she fell asleep and we called it a day, so I watched Joolz Holland whilst writing blog and Googlechatting with K over in America.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Thursday 1st November 07

A good day for me, took the kids to school and met the headteacher in the playground after the kids went in... she went to the kitchens and got a plastic dustbin she'd got some time ago as a collection receptacle for playground compostables, and I said I'd provide some words for a notice to put on the side of it, and some for the other playground bins, one of which should be for 'dry recyclables' such as tetrapacks/drinks cartons, plastic bottles, cans etc. I hope this is a new system!

Came home and spent some time managing my leafmould container, this is just a chicken wire enclosure about 1.5 metres square and about a metre high. Last year's leafmould was in the bottom, in a layer about 20 or 30 cm deep. I scraped this about with a garden fork and shovelled the nearly finished leafmould into plastic sacks, removing sticks for recomposting, contaminants (litter from the roads where I got the leafmould) for the bin and ground elder and nettle roots for the hot compost pile, where they will not be able to grow away like they could in a cold pile.

I collect freshly fallen autumn leaves in a curious way. They collect in gutters at the side of the road, Windmill Lane is a good example as it has loads of trees along one side, and it's on a slight slope. This helps with my collection method! I cycle quite fast and then put one foot down, usually with a wellington boot on it, and scrape it along the gutter, pushing several metres of leaves into a pile. I then get off the bike and shovel them into my trailer or into a plastic sack. Simple really, but a good method. These leaves then simply get piled up for a year to rot down, and they turn into something a bit like peat, low nutrient value, fibrous, good to handle, holds water well, and good to mix with nutrient rich garden compost and loam (from turves stacked up and left for at least a year) to make a potting medium for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers etc etc.

So I had a good day in the garden, and collected the children at 3... well I got one and waited for the other but he didn't appear. Then the other child told me he was in the school hall standing in a circle, so I went to look and eventually he came to tell me he was doing drama club, til 4.15. I didn't know about this, so went home with one child and then cycled back to pick the second up... lots of cycling and lots of opportunities to scrape up leaves for my newly emptied leafmould enclosure...

During the evening I did my usual email download, and one was rather interesting as it was a response to my blog on Community Care last Sunday, where I discussed wearing a white poppy instead of a red one. A person calling themself 'Walter Wall' posted a comment saying my stand was disgraceful.. and that both his grandfathers were badly injured during the war and that they fought so that I could lead the life I lead. He said that I might not agree with the fighting of wars but that they are fought and servicemen and women do their duty and many do not survive. He finishes with his view that wearing a white poppy is an insult to their memory. I decided to publish this comment as it shows the strength of opinion on this issue. I guess that Walter Wall represents many and as it's an ethical dilemma, well issue at least, I am happy to publish criticism.