Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Wednesday 30th April 08

Quite a serene start to the day, I took the boys in as Gill wasn't feeling up to it and then went on to visit Anna's pile of vegetation... I cut a load of sticks out of it and came home with them, and will do a load of shreddable materials next... possibly taking them to the James St depot for the green waste skip...

Home in time to fill in our feedback form about the 'Strengthening Families' programme, which is being assessed by Warwick University. Then off to the Heworth Family Centre for the final meeting of the parenting course, where we gave feedback to Richard from Icarus, who will do a report about the various families and parenting courses which have been trialled in York over the past year and a bit, and then City of York Council will know which approaches work and which give value for money...

Then at midday we all headed over to Meltons Too on Walmgate for a meal. I went via the Council offices on St Leonards Place to give in the planning application responses from last night, and still got to the restaurant before any of the car-borne people...

Lovely meal, I had leek and potato soup, a little on the salty side, with bread, which was also salty (perhaps it's because we don't add salt to anything?) and then a baked mushrooms with cheese sauce and breadcrumbs dish, and tiramasu... what a treat, very filling and delicious!
We had certificates presented and a card given, it was good to chat away and exchange stories.

Raced home well after 2 to go to the veg shop and get back so I could pick up the kids!

I got soaked on the way to school and came home with three little chaps, two of them eager to go to Martial Arts.... Gill took them there but it had been cancelled, at least no-one else had turned up so they came back and I phoned our friend Maria to say not to pick up her son and ours from there but to come straight here.... and when she came, we had a good chat whilst I peeled pears to dry them... school had thrown away about 15 small pears (no idea why!) so I am making use of them and doing a pile of pear halves.

After tea... not a huge lot as I was still full from lunch... I did a load of emailing and got two messages on this blog in my inbox on 27th and 28th Feb 07 asking me about where Clearview Stoves can be purchased/installed from... So, a message to Alan the Lumberjack and Lindsay, who know Pauline, you should contact 'The Stove Gallery' (also known as Pete the Sweep) which is at:
41-43 High Street,
Starbeck near Harrogate,
tel 01423 887799
They have quite a few stoves on show, including the wonderful Clearview range, and provide friendly and professional installation, servicing and advice. They recommended getting our chimneys lined with insulated concrete, and we used 'Chimneycrete': and are very happy with the performance of both flues.

Despite recommending Clearview Stoves and The Stove Gallery to literally dozens of people, I have never been offered a discount and I could never say that they are cheap.... but I trust their knowledge and ability so continue to use them. And Clearview Stoves are widely recognised as being the best smokefree stoves available:
We have two Clearviews, a Vision 500 flat-top which gives up to 8kw of heat, and a Pioneer 400 flat-top which gives up to 5kw. These give us enough heating and cooking to make our other fuel bills tiny... an annual gas bill of about £50 and our annual electricity bill is about £230, paid to Good Energy Ltd who supply 100% renewable electricity.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tuesday 29th April 08

Woken by shouting, what a pity. However, I plodded down and quietly and sleepily went to sit down between the warring parties which did the trick... I didn't have to say anything or do anything connected to the previous behaviour, just a 'good morning darlings' and the aggression subsided and Gill was able to take them into school. I got ready to go and meet Pippa down the road to give her a tour of York.

When I got to the BnB Pips showed me some pictures of her trip to Morocco, on a so-called 'eco tourism' visit. It did look pleasant, but of course she flew there and back, and I've come to regard this kind of thing as a bit indulgent, whether it is 'eco-tourism' or otherwise. However, I don't judge my friends on their behaviour, as I like them for more than their lifestyle choices. I was glad to walk with her to the station with her suitcase in my trailer where she put the suitcase in storage for the day.

We walked into town and I parked my bike in St Helen's Square and locked it up. We then walked down to the Spurriergate Centre where she'd bought a card yesterday but then found it had a religious text in, and they were good enough to allow her to exchange it for a secular one.

Then a wander up to Barley Hall through the little alleyways, and had a look around that which was good in the daylight as I mainly see it at night when I've been working there as 'Jester Jigglesticks'. When we were walking down Stonegate, met Jenny my AVP friend, with one of her friends who was also receiving a personalised tour of York. Jenny suggested that we ought to go to Marks and Spencer on Parliament St, and go to the top floor 'Menswear Department' as there was a fantastic view over the roofs to the Minster. So true, one of the best views in York I think!

From there to The Shambles, Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, the charity shop where my friends Debbie and Rosalind work, Barnitts (Pippa likes shopping so I thought she ought to see Barnitts!) and then up Petergate to Bootham Bar and onto Gillygate to go and see Dylan at Millers Yard Positive Living Centre (more than a Healthy Living Centre!) and then a quick pop into the Minster and Shared Earth, and then sat down to eat a pastie for lunch. Finally, a visit to the Guildhall where there was a door open I hadn't seen before, and it led to a tunnel under the Guildhall to the River Ouse... a bit of a treat for me too as I hadn't been down there before.

Then we said our goodbyes and I cycled home as I had a date with the pre-schoolers who were about to have a session with worms!

I collected several different types of worms from the garden, plus some other beasties including slugs, centipedes, millipedes and beetle larvae. I took these into the school and had a fascinated and captive audience for 45 minutes, including putting together a Wiggly Wigglers wormery which lets the children see how worms mix up layers of soil. Very satisfying to enthuse 4 and 5 year olds in the most important subject there is, viz respecting the Planet and all life on it.

I brought the boys home and we had a very quiet evening. Later in the evening I was on the computer and a friend from my teen years contacted me and told me how important I'd been in her rather troubled life, it was lovely to catch up and to hear how my friendship had been so important.. very moving.

Monday 28th April 08

A reasonable start to the morning and I took the boys into school, as Gill had an appointment and left the house at the same time as us. When I got in I wrote my Community Care blog, with a chat about plastic bags... different types of plastic, biodegradable and degradable, alternatives to plaggy bags, also a bit on some potentially problematic additives...

Got that done just in time and shot down to the station to meet Pippa off the 11.28 train. Was lovely to see her as haven't seen her for ages.... We walked to the Spurriergate centre for lunch and had a bowl of fennel soup which was suprisingly delicious. Had a long talk and then wandered to the B+B which I had booked for her and she dumped her suitcase and we went to see St. Nicks, and on to home where we had a cuppa and a good chat with Gill. I collected the boys from school and they cycled home looking forward to seeing Pips who is a bit like a grandma to them... they were very pleased to see her and remembered the postcards she sends mostly. Last time she popped in it was during school time, and we only see her here every couple of years.

She had got a few presents, which they really liked... some Scrabble score-calculator things, a set of 'pick-up-sticks' and some other bits. We had a walk down the garden, tea, the boys went to bed, we had several games of Boggle (word game) and at 10.30 I walked her down to the BnB.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sunday 27th April 08

What a day! Woke at a reasonable time after a very late night and had a fairly lazy morning playing with M who is adorable! A cutie 5 year-old with a lot of energy and silliness! Soon after 11 we went out to the Peckham Farmers' Market (actually just 2 veg stalls, a plant stall, bread stall and a chap selling honey!). Anna bought some veggies including a butternut squash which I'd been raving on about yesterday, and we went on to look at an allotment site which has installed a compost toilet which allegedly cost £18000... and I wanted to see the design as my lottie site is maybe going to install a compost toilet.

Loo info here...

Home to A's flat for lunch which was wild rice and 'tame' rice(!) with a bit of carrot and broccoli with microwaved butternut slices, and a weird slice of breaded quorn thing.... quite nice but not something I've ever had before!

Finished this just in time to go to the wildlife gardening centre ( )
where A's daughter M is having her party. I got changed there and chatted to the organisers about master composters before doing my usual routine of circus and balloons which went down well (some even popped hahahahaha) and all who attended seemed to enjoy the experience!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Saturday 26th April 08

A lovely start to the day. When I did eventually get up I lit the stove to get bathwater and did some important emails which I should have done yesterday, re York Green Festival planning...

Lovely bath and hairwash, had lunch and got my bags together for my trip to London where I have a gig tomorrow with CRAGger Anna from Peckham's daughter... so going down tonight to meet CRAGger Zaria and possibly see the allotment with a £18000 compost toilet!!!

Got the 2pm train down to King's Cross and did emails and deleted stuff, also chatted with K. on Googletalk which was a bonus!

Brilliant evening meeting Zaria.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Friday 25th April 08

I took the children to school and when I came home spent quite a bit of time in the back garden riddling a load of compost and clearing up my messy shredding area.

During the afternoon I visited my friend Anna who has agreed a lease of a passageway next to her house so she can put a trampoline there... so she's had to remove a lot of saplings, brambles and other vegetation, and has invited me to take away the sticks for my stove and the other bits for composting. I was impressed to see some books of poetry she's 'self published' using a service called 'lulu' which I may investigate for publishing my book...

Gill got the boys home from school and I did some compost heap turning as one huge heap is a bit pongy and it needs more air...

A pleasent evening

Thursday 24th April 08

A really good day, starting off with our son saying that he wanted to talk about his behaviour yesterday. We agreed to have a family meeting after lunch. So a good morning, even though it was raining, we enjoyed the fact that the school was closed because of the NUT strike and had some fun times.

So after lunch we all four of us sat down but one child got either bored or upset by the content of the conversation, and the other had an anger outburst as he didn't like what he was hearing back from the grown-ups. He did calm down again though, and I introduced him to the 'talking stick' concept, where in a group situation, whoever holds the stick can talk, and others do not interupt. He loved this as we practised 'active listening' and he didn't interupt us either when the time came for us to air our feelings. We ended up by briefly looking through the parenting class manual so he could see some of the work we'd been having to do. We didn't do any more than that, although we want to try setting some family rules again (we did try but it didn't get very far!) Right at the end, the other child came back in and we had a 'proper' family meeting and all was well.

So, happy family members today. The boys had several visitors during the afternoon as school was closed.

I went for a Green Festival meeting in the evening but as Baz and Rob couldn't make it, I didn't go into Space 109 but waited outside and fielded all-comers and we went to the Spread Eagle for a chat/meeting/drink. Good to do this and it was a productive meeting.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Weds 23rd April 08

Not a brilliant start to the day... not sure why but there was a huge outburst and disobedient behaviour, and my son hit me on the nose. I had to hold him down because he threatened to break things and harm me further. I cycled to school with them.

Went to the parenting class, definitely need it, I feel pretty helpless in the situation of having a child who loses it. It's so difficult, I love him so much but cannot cope with his some of his challenging behaviour as it pushes my buttons. The parenting class had a section on smacking. I was regularly beaten as a child (spanked) and I have vowed never to spank them, although they have had smacks on their hands sometimes, and when there is an outburst and threats of violence or damage, it can get pretty physical. But if every evening were like this evening, things would be absolutely fine. It must be difficult for parents with easy children to understand what it's like, and even more difficult for non-parents to comprehend how difficult it can be from time to time. Our child is not the worst, though, going by some of the stories we've heard at the parenting class, so in that respect, we're lucky!

I picked them up from school, all was peaceful and he apologised and we had a really lovely evening! I spent some time watching one of them on their train simulator thing on the computer and he built a special layout for me with some crazy stuff!

More of the squash and mushroom soup for tea for me, boyos had something nicer!

Tuesday 22nd April 08

A bit of a hectic morning as Gill took the boys to school and got waylaid by several other mums, came back quite late and whilst was getting on just doing what she normally does, remembered that she had a dental appointment at 10! So she rang for a taxi, I rang her dentist apologising for her probably being late, and she went. Amazingly, she was only 3 mins late and as they were running later still, it didn't matter.

I did things in the house, blanched grapes, washed up. Put grapes in non-stick tin to dry them, chopped up about 15 waste apples and put those to dry on a cake rack.

Had the soup for tea.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Monday 21st April 08

Up early, not sure why, but got down before the children and I took them to school and when I got back felt like going back to bed but didn't, went outside to tidy up where a logpile was until yesterday, swept up assorted leaves and litter and bits of pecked-out insulation from next-doors roof (I told my next door neighbour when I saw the sparrows doing that and he fixed some chicken wire up to prevent them nesting there...) and I put this material in the dustbin, which is the first time for years that I have places biodegradable stuff in the landfill bin. But I couldn't be bothered to spend an hour taking out tiny bits of white plastic...

I started to rebuild the logpile and Gill went out to the Doctor and I had a visitor. An 'alternative' looking chap drew up in his car and came to chat to me, quite apologetic but he'd seen my logpiles several times and as I was outside he thought he'd stop and ask me about woodworking.... if I knew anything about it. His name was Jae and we got on well.... I invited him in for a cuppa and we chatted for half an hour and I hope we meet again. I wasn't able to help him much re the woodworking, but told him that there might be a searchable group such as the Ryedale Green Woodworkers (my friend Angela who made me a pole-lathed devilstick is in this group) and after he went I googled and found her phone number, so I phoned him and told him.

I made some soup out of some rejected oyster mushrooms and a butternut squash and cooked that up on the stove, making the room very warm, and when Gill came in at lunchtime she had to strip off it was unbearably hot for her. After lunch I went on the computer and then at 3 to school to pick up our boyos. The eldest was invited round to one of his friends' house and so I went to the allotment and planted 3 types of onion sets, as well as digging up yet more dandelions and other highly successful weeds and piling them high on the latest compost heap. Just before I left, a lottie nearby had some people come onto it and it was Gill's friend Carol from many years ago at the York Arts Centre, who has taken on the task of having an allotment, helped (?) by her 11 year-old son.

I collected my son and we came home and Gill had made a lentil and veg pie with a scone topping, with baked onions and butternut squash. Delicious!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Sunday 20th April 08

A lazy start to the day, no wonder after a busy day yesterday, working and partying!

But all is tranquill in the Cossham household, boys having been taken to the Leeds 'National Armouries Museum' yesterday by Gilly, which they enjoyed some of but not all.

Got a phone call from my folks saying they might pop in later after visiting the Bolton Percy open gardens day. Just hope they aren't wanting to put the car in the front garden as it has reverted to a woodyard fuel-depot.....

The day progressed peacefully enough. I went to Country Fresh and when I got back my folks had arrived and they stayed for an hour, had a hot drink and went. No hassles, thank goodness! They had parked in a nearby side road, very sensible.

A quiet evening and no appreciable bad behaviour incidents, which is absolutely fantastic!

Saturday 19th April 08

A cracking day... up none too early after a reasonably comfortable night on Dawn's living-room floor, and read for an hour or so before making a public appearance in the kitchen where I chatted with Dawn and had breakfast. A quite lazy morning... the only strenuous activity was rebuilding a bit of dry-stone wall that had collapsed in Dawn's garden, which was my first experience of dry sone walling, albeit not a 'proper' dry stone wall, but a dry stone facade wall against a retaining brick wall... just cosmetic really, but looks good.

Sam went to see his Uncle and I had some good chats with Dawny over lunch, then the phone call came from my employer Ali who picked me up in her car. Her five year-old daughter was happy to see me again, she's been 'Professor Fiddlesticks' mad since meeting me at the Sheffield Green Fair last summer. We got to Totley Junior School where the party was to be held and I was introduced to Ali's carers and and her teenage son and friend, and I got changed and got ready to party on.

About 25 children and probably the same number of adults came to the little girl's party, the idea was to help her form some friendships in a new school, help her mum meet some other parents, celebrate her 5th birthday and for everybody to have lots of fun. Which we did do, as usual, the circus show took a full hour with lots of participation, and tea was a traditional spread (apart from what Ali had made for me, which was salad and homity pie, yum!) and then we did the balloon activities, again, loads of fun and silliness. It all finished, as expected, at 6pm and one of the carers drove us all down to the station so I could get my 6.54 train back to York, very satisfied and with payment in my pocket.

I decided to go to Baz's party and was really glad I did. I took a large bottle of perry and some smaller bottles of 'pear cider' (silly name as it is infact perry!) and parked my bike/trailer in the back yard. The party was half Baz's birthday and half Liz's housewarming, so two lots of people got to meet each other and I enjoyed myself immensely, lots of new faces and interesting people, the best social event I've been to for a trememdously long time. Good to have Rob Renegade on decks playing some cool tunes, and lots of folks in fancy dress. I made a dozen balloon models over the evening and they were well received!

Home at 2am! Did blog before going to bed! Needed to sit and wind down slightly....

Friday, 18 April 2008

Friday 18th April 08

A busy morning trying to get organised for the weekend working. Shot down to town to get train tickets for tonight and next week. Picked up compostables from Country Fresh.

Got the children from school and then got ready for my work tomorrow, shave and bath, cleaned compost engrained fingernails.... I had a small tea before I went.

Got a train to Sheffield, then walked to the Peace Gardens where I got a bus to Dore and another short walk to Dawn's house. Was really good to see Sam again who has changed into a man... he's only 14 but is tall and manly, huge 'Adam's apple' and long hair.

After a chat, Dawn and I walked a mile down the road to a shop to get milk and bread and some pasta for Sam's tea and had a really good talk, it is so long since I've seen her!

I watched a film after they had gone to bed called 'It's all gone Pete Tong' about a DJ who goes deaf but eventually learns to cope.... an excellent and enjoyable film!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Thursday 17th April 08

A reasonable day... A slow start but at 10ish I got up as at 10.30 was expecting a visit from someone from The Stove Gallery/Pete The Sweep to fit a replacement 'Turbobaffle' which is the part of the stove which makes it smokefree. It sits in the top of the firebox and takes air from an inlet beneath the stove and the air is channeled through a long labyrinth within the baffle which heats the air up. The air then enters the firebox through lots of tiny holes, giving jets of fresh hot air, causing much turbulence and complete combustion, high thermal efficiency and 'smokefree' status. But an expensive bit of kit. The old one had somehow become overheated and had become mis-shapen and wasn't functioning at full whack. Will have to treat it with more respect. I will have to tell Gill NOT to leave the bottom-air open as this makes the stove too hot and can damage the turbobaffle. She often forgets to close it down after opening it up to ignite fresh fuel, and I come in to find it open and her getting on with whatever, having forgotten to close the spinner at the bottom....

So I waited for the stove person and got a phone call saying he'd be late. I split logs and cut sticks. Then the chap came, he was really nice and wrestled with the stove for a long time, eventually putting the turbobaffle in, replaced the rope-seal on the door and was interested to read my latest column, published today in Community Care, on 'Healthy Hobbies'.

Lunch and all too soon it was time to go to school. Gill got the boys, I attended the first AGM of the Green Thumb Gang and we agreed a constitution, all over in half an hour. I whizzed along to St Nicks to attend a sustainability surgery and give composting advice. This was followed by the Hull Road Ward Committee Meeting which was very quick.

Home for tea.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Wednesday 16th April 08

A good day... Gill was having problems motivating the children to go to school, so she got me up and asked me to take them in. So we got to school on time and I got a hug from them both. Lovely.

I cycled on to the 'public logpile' which is nearby and loaded up and struggled home with a heavy load.

Gill was getting ready to go to parenting class but I had an appointment with my dentist so I got ready for that. We listened to Radio 4 Woman's Hour and it was about cults, following the horrible goings on in Texas where there's been an abusive situation within a sect or cult. My Dad grew up in the Exclusive Plymouth Bretheren and he's very interested in the subject, as he was kicked out when a teenager and has been damaged by the experience. He is always interested to hear of others' experiences and he and Mummy may be able to do a 'listen again' type of thing on the 'net.

I then cycled down to town and saw my dentist and she told me that I have improved my cleaning routine in the area which she was concerned about last time... but I am missing the good cleaning in another area so I promised to try to do better. I want to make her a happy woman!

I then got a couple of cheques out, one for the stove work last week and one to pay half the annual council tax. Then popped into Millers Yard to pick up a bag of lovely orange halves and coffee grounds, then on to see Anita for a coffee and a good chat.

Eventually got home towards 2pm and had lunch... then at 3 I went back to school to bring the boys back, and then Gill took them to Martial Arts up at Archbishop Holgates school, and I got the motorised riddle out to prepare a load more compost toilet cover material... basically partly composted sawdust which needs to be de-lumped and made into a a friable homogenous material.

For tea I had reheat pasta and sauce.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Tuesday 15th April 08

A good day as the kids were ready to walk to school this morning as they are going on the bus this afternoon straight from school to the Dentist in town.... so having bikes at school would be daft. They enjoyed walking with me, I pushed my bike with their bags in the trailer.

At 9 I had a meeting with Julia to decide on where the gardening club is to do its thing now the original plot is not available, as it may be built on. We are going to use some existing borders and ask for planters/containers to be donated. Julia is happy for me to supply the matured compost to mix with soil off the plot. I'll give her a blank invoice and see what donation she can come up with. I'm really glad that I'll be able to have some of my compost used for the school project.... a very good use!

When I got in I decided to respond to a request by my friend James to go and help him with a small gardening task. When I arrived he was in the middle of a visit from his friend Lynne whom I have met but didn't know. We all had a coffee and a chat, although James was a bit difficult to understand as he'd been on the vodka. His carers came, checked him and made him a sandwich, and went. I did a bit in his garden and went. I may be helping Lynne with her composting soon!

I popped into the Post Office on the way home to pick up a Presentation Pack of the 'Insect' set of stamps. I don't get every set of stamps but when I was younger I got lots of First Day Covers and Presentation Packs, and I still get occasional ones.

Lunch was lovely and afterwards Gill and I spent some time together and at 2.45 she went to school to pick up the boys, and I spent some time in the garden. I dug out two builders bags of mature compost and filled one other with this material... I'll riddle this cubic metre of compost and take it to school. Will this be enough I wonder?

For tea I had pasta and a hunk of cauliflower cooked on the stove, covered by a sauce made from yesterday's leek soup (basically a roux wit some cheese added then most of the soup stirred in) which was really good. We are very lucky with our food.... whilst watching TV with food shortages in many other parts of the world, and today this country putting biofuels in our petrol tanks, much of which is made from food. The only sensible solution is to drive less, consume less fuel, and to eat less meat which is so incredibly wasteful on finite resources. But how we arrive at this more sensible way of living I do not know....

A peaceful evening, with the woodstove ticking away and drying off my plum leather.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Monday 14th April 08

A tough start to the day as neither child wanted to go to school, but as Gill had a meeting first thing (she's on a disability working group, working on a School Disability Equality Scheme) she wanted to take them in. However I got up incase they refused and she had to go in by herself or with just one of them. But with a softly softly and gentle approach, we managed to get them both on their bikes and going with Gill towards school, only 5 minutes later than we usually like to set off.

So I got on with some paperwork... sent a cheque to Positive News ( ) for my next two-year subscription, to Kitchen Garden for a one-year sub, a cheque to Cozmic Balloons for the £70 worth of modelling balloons they sent me, and a £100 cheque to Artur of Art Roofing for mending the garage roof.

I lit the stove as last night I made some leek soup using thrown-away leek tops, a carrot with some carrot root fly damage (easy to cut this out, but leaves the carrot looking less than carrot-shaped, but fine for soup!) and a free onion (again, some slight damage on 10% means that it is unsaleable, but the rest is fine!) and some bought celery. So that was chopped up all together, fried gently and then water added to simmer for a while, before either having like that, a stew, or whizzing up and making into a smooth soup.

A day of housework mostly. I did go to the skip site (Hazel Court) on James Street with a load of drinks cartons which are now able to be put in a collection skip, although they are not collected in our doorstep recycling box. I also put about 50 batteries I've collected over the past few years in the battery recycling container. I was delighted that there is now no attempt to prevent bicycles going into the civic amenity site and offloading trailer-loads of recyclables or skippable items. Common sense prevails!

The boys LOVED the soup, hurrah!

During the evening, I chopped up a huge load of waste plums (lovely mild-tasting yellow ones, thrown as some of them have a dark area near the stone and it looks like it's going bad, but it tastes fine!) and whizzed them up and patiently pushed as much of it through a fine sieve to make a puree. This was poured into two non-stick trays, made even non-stickier by a wipe of olive oil, and put on the big pans of water on the stove to dry off. It'll make an excellent fruit leather!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sunday 13th April 08

A bit of a frustrating day as the wet weather prevented me from getting out and planting onions... so I stayed in and watched the London Marathon whilst sorting out grapes for making into raisins, washing up and dodging boys, also behaving in a cooped up manner. Not a very relaxing morning.

But the rest of the day was better!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Saturday 12th April 08

Not a good start to the day as was woken by boys fighting (or, one irritating the other, the irritated one over-reacting and causing such a din as to be irresistable to the irritating one) and then later there was a huge paddy as the irritating and angry one tried to put on a belt and fed it through his trousers the wrong way. As parents, we offered to assist or tell him how to solve the problem, and he kicked off. There was so much yelling and slamming of doors, we feel really sorry for our neighbours. Gill says we need to move to a detached house where our activities (both my logging/composting AND the extremely noisy child) won't affect anybody else.

I got ready to go to my AVP management meeting with a 'heavy heart' feeling depressed that I am unable to solve conflict in my own household when I'm going out to help run a group which aims to help other people solve their conflicts.

I cycled up to New Earswick to the Hartrigg Oaks 'older persons' housing and care development, where three of the AVP volunteers live. The development also has a central building which has meeting rooms, which is where we met for today's meeting. The group of nine of us are 'AVP NEEM'... Alternatives to Violence Project North East and East Midlands, a member of AVP Britain ( We put on workshops and courses on conflict resolution, some people come for anger management help. We work in prisons and in the community. One project works in conjunction with MIND and a local NHS Mental Health service, putting on a workshop every other month. The workshops are quite long and 'deep', the ones we put on start on Friday night, take most of Saturday and Sunday until teatime. We can provide somewhere for participants to stay if they don't live locally. All the facilitators AND participants are volunteers, and the process really works. It helped me and I've heard very few negative comments, more than 9/10 coments are 'All Very Positive'!

So this meeting was one of our twice-yearly management meetings and it went well. Afterwards I popped in to see our old Treasurer Harry, who in his old-age has gone blind but is receiving good care from the Hartrigg Oaks team.

I cycled back and whilst collecting some logs and positioning them in my trailer, my buddy Philip cycled past, coming home from his gardening job, so we cycled together back to Tang Hall chatting, and when I got back to Hull Road, Gill told me that all had gone smoothly and peacefully since I left. Thank goodness!

Gill had created a lovely tea and we all ate together.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Friday 11th April 08

A more relaxed day than yesterday's rather busy one...

I took the children into school and just before I was intending to leave the playground, the Headteacher came over to me and asked me if I'd time to have a meeting with her... she asked me to go to the office where she'd meet me in a few minutes. Whenever she asks me into her office I have strong memories of when I was a schoolboy, when my disruptive and naughty behaviour meant that I was often standing outside the Head's office, and I've had more talking to's in Senior Teachers' offices than I care to remember. I even got the cane once for some misdemeanour.

However, this time I wasn't being a telling off, it was a meeting with Julia to discuss the Green Thumbs Gardening Project and the slight change of direction we are going to have to accommodate this summer, due to the possible demolition and rebuilding of two mobile classrooms, which are near the plot we have started to prepare. The new classroom may be built on the plot. So we have to do our gardening in other parts of the school premises, in existing borders and possibly in containers. We discussed the numbers of children to be involved in the club, when it will take place, the meeting last night about child protection policy and other issues.

So got back home at nearly 10am, Gill worried that I'd got into some scrape or involved in an accident. But the rest of the morning went well... mainly housework, and then I had an early lunch and went to the veg shop to pick up a couple of sacks of material... and some very good news. Ever since I started helping the shop recycle their organic wastes, sorry, not waste, resources, only one of the employees has been absolutely behind me with the separation of the biodegradable materials. The boss is also happy with the arrangement, but the other employee just wasn't bothered with the recycling, and until yesterday, just put all the rubbish in one sack and binned it. I would sometimes tip out her bag and separate out the compostables, and leave the plastic etc in the bin. But, amazingly, my mate Richard, who is very appreciative of my recycling operations, had a little word with her and she has now switched to putting the fruit and veg materials in one sack and the landfillables in another bin... absolutely fantastic! I am so pleased! If only other shops did something similar!

There is one (I will leave it anonymous though!) which has a rota of composters who collect the daily resources and take them for their gardens or allotments. But there's another greengrocers in York which throws away loads of unsold fruit and veg, I used to collect but the grotty owner thought I was getting something for nothing, or scrounging, and forbade his staff to give me anything. They were quite upset, as they liked me doing the recycling, and think that their boss is a dinosaur. I do too! He's a grumpy and small-minded.

Anyway, I took the two sacks of green potatoes, cauliflower stalks, leek tops, mouldy oranges and rotten onions and went to the allotment and did about 30 minutes of compost heap management. It started to rain but I had to stay as I had some hoeing to do before putting in my onion sets. However, the rain meant that I couldn't plant the onions so I just did the weeding and building up the compost heaps with more brambles, dandelions, nettles etc. I really want to keep on top of it this year, after last year's not-so-good results!

At 3 went to school and picked up the children... infact just one of them as the other had been invited to a friends, so when I got home I did a bit of wooding and then at 6 went to collect him via a large area of chopped logs, where maybe 20 trees have been taken out, for thinning I think, and just left logged, scattered all over the place. There must be several tonnes of fuel just waiting to be rescued... so I came home with a trailer full, and one on my rack too. Oh, I did stop at our friends' house, had a beer and a chat, collected my son and came home.

Gill had made her favourite meal, stir fry veg with noodles, which was lovely. Then watched Gardeners World on telly, which was really good as it gave me inspiration to do better on my lottie and they visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in mid-Wales, and it was lovely to see that again. I'm a life member! What they do is so important, and it was good to see the composting and wormeries there.

Had a brief Googletalk conversation with K, about CRAGs and carbon footprints and how to reduce them, for a leaflet she's going to produce to advertise her CRAG. She has asked for some help drafting it... so I asked her to email me a list of questions which I will answer, so she can put together a brief intro on her leaflet.

Had a game of Scrabble with Gill, we both got a 7-letter word down (mine was the weird 'nooning') and Gill won by one point! Very satisfying!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Thursday 10th April 08

A good day, Gill went out and I got a lot done on the computer ... did a lot of deleting from my inbox of over 1000 messages whilst offline and then, when online, dealt with some more composting enquiries through Facebook and looked at the first results for my questionnaire... so far just 12 answers, but some good quality answers with some really interesting info. I feel very pleased with the way the results are presented.

I got a phone call from my friend Pippa whom I've known for well over a decade but only get to see every two years on average... and she's coming up to visit us, which will be really good. She'll stay in a B+B for a night towards the end of the month.

I had lunch and then Gill came in and she had hers, we chatted and it was 2pm very soon... I had planned to go and plant some onion sets but there wasn't time as I also had to do some more digging at the Green Thumbs plot at school. As I arrived, the head-teacher came out and asked me into her room as she had something to tell me. The news is that the plot we have prepared may not be where the garden ends up, as the two mobile classrooms nearby are due to be demolished, and the new classroom may be built where the garden now is! So there's to be no more work on the plot until the surveyors tell the school where the classrooms are to be. Therefore she asked me to dig over an area next to the playground, where we might plant some stuff. I cut away some dead twiggy bits and removed lots of litter which had accumulated, mainly the dreaded assorted plastic. That didn't take long so I did some compost management of the school compost bins.

Then the children came out and Gill came down from home to pick up our boys and a friend's son... and I gathered the children who are part of the Gardening Club and took them to see the plot, along with Nigel who has offered to survey the area and make a computer-aided-plan of it. At about 4pm Kate from CVS who I'd invited to give us advice on making a Child Protection Policy arrived and three of us met with her and she talked us through what we should do, our obligations, the training we can get etc etc. But I had to rush off as soon as she was done, as I had my second meeting to get to.

I had a brief tea and went into the garden to collect samples of various types of compost, leafmould etc for my third meeting later, plus the rotaseive which I'll need.

I cycled down to Fulford Road where a Rotters enquiry has come from. A couple who moved in over a year ago and have a single dalek bin in their garden, which had been well used by the prevoius occupants and was full and pretty solid at the base. They'd watered it and added more stuff at the top, but hadn't managed to get it to go down at all. This I found was because it was almost full of mature compost... so I used my Compost Mate corkscrew thing to extract a huge amount of really good compost, the whole of the base of the heap, whilst they watched and picked out contraries (bits of plastic!) from the mature and fibrous mass. I think I must have pulled out about 100 litres of compost... they were well pleased, and will top-dress their borders with it. They were even more pleased when the bin contents settled down and I broke up the rest of it so there was plenty of space to add more stuff. That all took about 40 minutes and I then shot off to my third meeting, at the Scout Hut on Lorne St in Southbank.

My friend Jo was there, getting the two big old compost bins ready for the 'Panthers' (A type of cub/scout person) to have an 'activity' with. She'd brought her wormery and I'd brought a selection of composts and leafmould, also some very well rotted humanure/sawdust compost. I took half of the group and did a short talk on composting, then got them to have a go with the riddles (Jo had got her rotaseive too) but the job was difficult as firstly the heaps were mainly grass mowings and some layers were not rotted down at all, they were anaerobic and smelly and looked like sileage, and the rotted stuff was a little too moist to riddle well. The groups swapped over and I did it all again. That all came to a stop just before 8, I got packed up and shot off into town for my fourth meeting.

Which was at the Black Swan where I met my friend Chinky, propping up the bar and being jovial, as usual. The meeting was a group of five other earnest chaps, members of York Eco Action, three were from the student group 'People and Planet'. We had an agenda writing session and then spent a couple of hours going through, discussing various things including climate camp, the Fairtrade movement, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Kingsnorth Power Station, Heathrow, the Northern Green Gathering and quite a few more things. A good meeting, always lovely to be with Graham and Richard, and I think I've made another friend from P+P.

But glad when it finished as I was whacked! Knackeronied! Virtually shagged even... and when I got back I wanted to relax and watch Johnny Vegas in 'Ideal', my favourite current TV series, but also had got a Skype chat booked with K, who likes to be regular, every other day, to keep up with what's happening. I only just lasted the hour we have negotiated we have... and fell into bed so willingly afterwards!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Wednesday 9th April 08

A good day! I went to the parenting class but Gill didn't as she wanted to do some cooking for this afternoon's activities... one of our boys is in the tag-rugby team and Gill wants to make a quiche for him to have a slice of as a picnic.

I got a certain amount out of the class, it's not revolutionary or particularly life-changing, but it is useful.

I got back at about 2.30 and Gill was getting ready to walk down to school, as she was getting a taxi to the rugby pitch, in Huntington, 3 or 4 miles North of us. I cycled down to the school just after 3 to pick up our other son, came back with him, did some stuff in the garden and came in to heat up tea..... enjoyed a 'bundle' with him, a sort of play-wrestle cum acrobalance session! His request!

I did some shredding in the garden and rebuilt a logpile which had been demolished by our angry child in a fit of rage.

In the evening, our friends Ben and Jill came round for a cuppa and a chat. Always good to spend time with them.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Tuesday 8th April 08

I took the children into school, after inflating their tyres and oiling chains.
When I got back we both went to bed... so good to have some child-free time after a relatively tough Easter Holiday. But then I had to get on with my work... a post on the Community Care Blog which should have been in on Sunday or Monday. But there is flexibility, fortunately!

So did that and all too soon it was lunch time and after that I had to go to town to get some cheques out and attend a meeting I'd been invited to. This was the York Environment Forum, a 'replacement' to Local Agenda 21 and part of the wider Local Development Framework process, which in York is labelled 'Without Walls'. It was quite a lively discussion, and I was invited to join the group. It felt like old times, being up in Committee Room 3 in the Guildhall...

That ran from 4 til 6... and I sprinted home, trailer rattling and bouncing all over the place in order to get to the next meeting on time, the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, at 6.30 in Archbishop Holgate School. I'm the acting Clerk so I have to be there, and I'm being sent all the paperwork so if I don't turn up, it doesn't happen. However, Colin was the only other person to turn up... maybe next time I'll send round an email reminder!

That only took 30 minutes so that enabled me to have a bite to eat before my third meeting, a York CRAG core-group, just four of us with some very intense discussions about how we run the group, membership issues and several other subjects. That ran from 8.15 til pub closing time... if one of the people there hadn't been quite so argumentative we'd have been away at 10pm. Never mind, I do like the argumentative-one's approach, it's not unlike mine except I've mellowed with age and have realised that things run more smoothly if nits are left unpicked sometimes....

So got in after 11 and had a few minutes chat with Gill before going on the computer to hook up with K on Skype as pre-arranged and we had a good chat and the cameras worked this time!

Monday 7th April 08

The last day of the Easter Holidays for the children, another attempt to get them to finish their homework. This resulted in both of them shouting, rebelling and being very unhappy, which resulted in both of us being unhappy. The levels of homework given to little children these days has a lot to answer for!

I spent most of the morning being a 'good example' and doing my own homework... replying to about 6 Fiddlesticks booking letters and several other bits of paperwork.

I went out to post these and give in a booking form to Archbishop Holgate School for tomorrow's Planning Panel meeting. I did some emailing and did another couple of compost queries on Facebook.

In the evening I attended a YorkLETS meeting at the Seahorse Hotel which was a really good meeting. Came home feeling buoyed up.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Sunday 6th April 08

A good day as it started slowly and gently, I had a bath before lunch and popped down to Country Fresh before getting loaded up to go and work.

I cycled off to the MonkBar Hotel via Foss Islands Road, and blocking my way on the cycle path was an overly large 4x4 Range Rover.. so large that the driver couldn't place the damn thing on the lane she was supposed to be in, but spread all over the cycle lane. So I came to a halt behind the thing and gave it a couple of good hefty bangs with my gloved palm to alert the idiot driver to where she was on the road, and the fact that she was blocking me. I then carefully pulled my trailer (with one wheel on the pavement) alongside the car and she wound down her window and started to abuse me. I'm afraid I swore back at her, at which she threatened to call the police! I told her to go ahead and do that, as I knew I'd done nothing wrong, well nothing illegal anyway!

A little later, she was in another traffic jam near the MonkBar Hotel and she saw me go into the carpark. I did not communicate with her here. I got unloaded and got ready to do my balloon show first. During my balloon show, one of the naming ceremony organisers said that there were a couple of police officers waiting in the hotel lobby to see me. So I finished my show and went to speak to them... all they wanted was my name and address and telephone number, so that if the monster car driver wanted to prosecute me, they'd come and get a statement. I briefly told them what had happened and they said that they were both cyclists and agreed that some car drivers were really bad, didn't think that cyclists should be on the road, and were generally sympathetic with my situation.

I then had something to eat, and did my circus show which was difficult as there were only 15 kids and over 100 adults, but I ploughed through it and it was well received.

When I came out, after a cider which was offered to me, it was snowing. I got wet and cold on the way home, but as there were no Range Rover drivers to block cycle paths, all was well!

Spent 2 hours answering composting questions on the CRAG website and on Facebook, a group called Organic Gardening 101.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Saturday 5th April 08

A funny mix of a day... up early as boys noise, but then went back to bed after breakfast and read NewScientist for an hour. The boys have homework to do and this is causing them stress, so there were tears and tantrums, but not too bad. Nothing we haven't experienced in bucketloads already.

Before lunch I spent an hour or more in the garden, turning a heap and sorting out plastic bags, harvesting worms from them and innocculating a tumbler to help speed things up. Came up the garden with an enormous sack of waste plastic and bits and bobs. Gill was impressed!

Late lunch, Gill went to town and I lit the stove so I could wash up. Had to ban my youngest from the computer in the loft as he had repeatedly ignored warnings to stop playing on the train simulator and get on with his homework. He's banned from using it for a week... not my rule, but Gill's, although I had to tell him, as Gill had escaped.

It was a relatively quiet day and when Gill came back some of the homework had been done.

During the evening I finally got my questionnaire sorted out, for my book.

If you want to fill in my questionnaire, please go to
thank you! It is for people who have given up using Cannabis and those who still use but have tried to give up.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Friday 4th April 08

Up at a civilised time and got dressed pretty sharpish as we had booked Pete The Sweep who's based near Harrogate. We use them as they fitted our Clearview stoves and they do replacement parts... which it turned out we needed. The back firebrick had almost completely worn through in our biggest stove, the one we use every day. When it was taken out it fell apart. The 'turbobaffle' is also shot after more than 10 years almost continuous use and will also need replacing, but the shop doesn't have them in stock so that will be installed within a couple of weeks. And when they swept the chimneys, one of the wire 'anti-bird' cowl thingies came off so they offered to replace them with ones which are tied firmly on and can cope with a sweep's brush coming up.

The good news is that there was hardly any soot in the chimneys, as the stoves do burn really cleanly, and this small volume of deposit is evidence of that. So they went back to Starbeck to get replacement firebricks as they don't have them in the van, so it has turned out to be an expensive morning, both financially and in terms of van-miles, but as there's a cold-weather warning for the coming weekend, we really have to be able to use the back room stove, and it's not usable without the firebricks.... so they used their lunchhour to go and get what was needed.

So they returned and finished servicing our heating system, and will bill us through the post. An expensive day... but not expensive compared to the cost of most peoples' fuel bills. I still keep on thinking of our winter gas bill of £12!!! And this because we don't use any central heating and cook mainly on the woodstove.

A quiet afternoon, boys occupied and happy enough, I did some work outside and also made a nutloaf.

At 5.30 I went into town to attend the monthly Critical Mass Cycle Celebration, which was good, several new faces and friendly chats. Not a lot of aggro from other road users this time which was good.

Had nutloaf when I came in, and when the kids were in bed, had a game of Scrabble with Gilly and beat her soundly... a difficult board and she did get lousy letters. I got most of the high scorers and it showed in the final tally. A good evening.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Thursday 3rd April 08

A good morning as the family went out and I got on the computer to continue collating my York Rotters activities over the past year, by reading the blog entries. I tried to add to a document which I had started and it got saved in a trial version of some software which I downloaded in order to see Powerpoint. But I was unable to edit this document as the trial version wouldn't let me do anything to it unless I purchased the full version... what sort of trial is that?

So I uninstalled this Microsoft nonsense and went back to good ol' Wordpad which is reliable. I was able to look through my blog and pick out all my composting activities other than creating heaps and turning or riddling my own heaps, just stuff outside my own garden or lottie. I got as far as August.

I did this til midday and then lit the stove in the other room to make some hot water for washing up, and had a bit of lunch and did a pile of washing up.

Then got ready to go to town, had a couple of cheques to pay in, a cheque to get out and a tiny bill to pay... a winter gas bill for £12!

Came back via Country Fresh, and when I got back I filled the current dalek bin up to the top, it's currently working at 45 degrees celcius and is sitting down every day, making space for more layers. I dug out another bin, one with pallets as sides and the base, turning it into the neighbouring one. Thousands of worms! This will make space for turning the other neighbouring pile into the now empty space, releasing the space for a new sit n wait pile.

I came in at about 6pm, and cooked some rice on the woodstove. I fried an onion and a leek and at the last minute popped some tiny cherry tomatoes into this, then the rice on top. I made a garnish using some 'stove-dried' tomatoes which I then put in olive oil... a 'John equivalent' of sun-dried tomatoes. This was a delicious meal, and as I was finishing, Gill and the boys came in from their day in Leeds. They'd had a brilliant day in Roundhay Park, and visiting Tropical World.

I went out to get some money out of the hole in the wall, to pay the chimney sweep tomorrow, and met Sarah who was buying cider and invited me in for a glass... which was really nice as we always get deep into interesting chat.

Enjoyed 'Ideal' on BBC 2 again, even though this was quite a gruesome one. Also had a good chat on Skype with K in America, although she needs to sort out her camera as it freezes and all I get is a 'still'! But a refreshing talk though.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Wednesday 2nd April 08

Up early as had a long day at school, marking out the plot for the Green Thumbs Gang Garden, taking turf off it and digging the soil to remove roots of the trees and hedges.

I got there at 9, with spade and fork, loppers and secateurs, string and sandwiches. Julia was already there with her children, but she'd lost her purse the previous night and had to go and look for it, so she went and we got to work, marking out the plot and starting the turf stripping.

Other people arrived, notably Geoff with his Granddaughter, and then others. There was a lot of work clearing the area next to the dug plot, to free it of scrub and litter and stuff.

People worked really hard. I worked really hard... took 20 mins off for lunch and then worked through til 5pm.


Tea was lovely, pitta bread and salad, then went to do a final barrow-load of compost riddling with the motorised riddle before putting it away.

Tried to have an early night.

Tuesday 1st April 08

A good day as much less was happening than yesterday...

I finished my blog for Community Care, I wrote about today being 'Fossil Fools Day' in some peoples' diaries, and more ways to cut your carbon footprint by using public transport other than flying. I mentioned about the latest recruit to the carbon reduction cause, British Airways, who have cancelled yet more flights from Terminal 5 at Heathrow, due to their incompetence in handling baggage. (only 19000 cases need to be reunited with their owners!)

Then a York Rotters management meeting at the EcoDepot at 11am, with the Rotters team and the Council team agreeing on the wording of our partnership agreement, our first written agreement! We did discuss a few other items, but the meeting only took an hour.

Popped into Morrissons for a loaf and came home, there was a house full of boys as our friends Katarina and Ulrich had come up from their new home in Leamington Spa and left their two boys with ours, whilst they went to work. Ulrich inspects organic farms and Katarina researches invasive plants.

I got my motorised riddle out and riddled a whole compost heap, something like about 500 litres worth (half a cubic metre) making 3 sacks of coarse material and 6 smaller sacks of fine compost. When Ulrich camme back from his farm inspection, he asked if he could have some of the riddled compost, and I was delighted to let him have some!

Had a lovely bowl of leek and potato soup/stew with crusty bread for tea, and later, at the appointed time, had a much more relaxed Skype conversation with K.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Monday 31st March 08

A work day.... First I had an appointment at St Nicks with a group of 50 French 17 year olds, who are on a week's study tour of Yorkshire, and arrived in Hull this morning. I had got myself ready for the rest of the day when Ivana rang up and said the coach had arrived slightly early and could I come in... My role was to talk to half the group about Local Agenda 21 and some more recent sustainability groups (Rotters and CRAG), whilst the other half went to the Council EcoDepot for a tour there. Then they swapped over and Ivana and I had the second lot and did it all over again. It seemed like a successful day, and I left swiftly afterwards to go for the station to go to a Fiddlesticks gig near Harrogate.

Somehow I arrived early and was able to sit and write my diary (I don't get time to write this much now, and this blog has sort of replaced it to some extent) but time zoomed by and eventually my hostess arrived with her very talkative little boy in the back of the car, a 7yr old with Downs Syndrome. He was having a birthday party, and had invited quite a crowd, a mixed age group, several other Downs kiddies and his little sister and the baby, and other family members and adult friends. The perfect party... went perfectly! Did both my shows, managed to engineer it that the birthday boy had a go on the 'four wheel unicycle' at the end, and his Mum commented that she hadn't seen him so engrossed in the activities ever before, and she hadn't expected him to sit still(ish!) for that long. But I have heard this so often, I know that the show is just as exciting as a computer game or telly programme... and it's a bit more interactive too!

It was over all too soon and I was driven back to the station for the 6pm train. I didn't have time to get changed nor did I bother when on the train. This meant that when I got to York, my bike lock keys were in my rucksack in my trouser pocket, and as I was unpacking everything to find them, I was greeted by an old friend, who I recognised immediately even though we haven't met for over 5 years. I asked how he was and his story wasn't good to hear.

He and his wife had adopted some children and had put a huge amount of effort into bringing them up, and seemed delighted to have a family. Not being able to have children and then going through the adoption procedure is quite a journey, as I am friends with another couple who have done this too. However, last Autumn, she suffered several strokes which left her unable to cope and in a vulnerable state, and her domineering sisters who had volunteered to look after her and the children, had 'got to' her whilst away from him and, without warning, he recieved a letter petitioning for divorce. His world crumbled around him and he was unable to do anything to prevent this state of affairs continuing. I only heard his side of the story, and it might very well be more complex, but it was very moving and upsetting to hear this. I got his phone number and will contact him soon and hope to give him some support.

Got home and was very tired, too tired to finish off my paid blog that I was unable to finish last night.