Saturday, 31 May 2008

Saturday 31st May 08

What a day! Woke early but the boys left us alone (are they getting the hang of a lie-in at the weekend?) and we eventually got up soon after 9. The boys and Gill headed off to Scarborough and I went down the garden to plant some courgettes and climbing beans.

So I had the whole day to myself... lots of sorting in the garden, and at about 11.30 came in to do emails and at 12 watched part 3 of the either rubbish or excellent (can't decide!) Kyle XY on BBC2 whilst having lunch and preparing a nutloaf for the family to have when they come home. Had to do it by hand as out liquidiser is broken. So it took an hour to grate bread into crumbs and hand cut nuts... however it was eventually ready for the microwave. I also did a lot of apples, making them into rings and laying them on racks on the stove, which I have lit to get plenty of hot water and heat for drying fruit, despite the warm weather.

So a very productive day... family came back at 7ish, ravenous and ready for nutloaf and cauliflower with tomato sauce. They loved it!

Watched Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on C4 whilst doing more emails and blog, getting ready to go out tonight.

Cycled down to City Screen to an event called the Fuzz Club, a psychedelic night with my favourite band playing, 'The Falling Spikes'. I met up with Dave T which was really good, we spent the whole night together chatting and enjoying the music. The support band was called 'Apply The Brakes', they were a bit American and a bit pretentious, and I was very glad when Spikes came on. They are loud and have a certain sound which they stick to... lots of stuff going on, a bank of guitars and my buddy Richard on drums. I really REALLY enjoyed them. They take me to amazing places, soundscapes, beautiful.

Came home after midnight and went to bed very soon after.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Friday 30th May 08

A quite late start after a busy day yesterday. However, needed to take the fraudulently-won wormery back to St Nicks where Catherine our Rotters manager will give it to the proper winners. I went via the bread shop and also took a load of compostables to put in the St Nicks demonstration compost bins.

Home for lunch, everyone getting on fine. Rang Cycle Heaven to see when they can sort out the bike I found at the beginning of April (I think) which as the Police haven't contacted me, is now mine. It needs new gears, but apart from that is OK, I reckon. They will do that next Friday.

Then went to Millers Yard via Sainsburys, picked up a large load of orange halves and coffee grounds and took them to the lottie. Picked up a sack from Country Fresh too, making my load extremely heavy.... up to 100kg. Anyway, it all went on the three working heaps. Then did some weeding, the recent rain has benefitted the weeds more than anything else.

Home to a stressed family, one child has beaten the other up and been restrained and then ran away. Gill was down the garden looking for him, and he eventually turned up in his bedroom... maybe he didn't run away, maybe he just pretended to.

I did a load of washing up so Gill could make tea, and washed some beet and spinach, before doing a bit of work in the garden. Came in for bulgar wheat and home-grown veg, then went out again to dig out the compostumbler.... when I'd done this I came in to watch Gardeners World but needed a shower to wash off the compost which had got on me...

And after GW, went outside again to pull up a huge lot of nettles and brambles from the pond area.... well the area the pond will be in!

A very late night... a chat with K on Skype around midnight and then washing up and at 1 something, watched the second part of Kyle XY on BBC3 I think which Gill and I watched last week and enjoyed.

Thursday 29th May 08, Day Out At MAGNA

We took the children to MAGNA today using public transport as usual! However, I had to go to town to get some money out as we had an expected £26 rail ticket cost plus buses and entry to the attraction. So I cycled in and Gill and the boys used a taxi as the bus service has recently been reduced and the only one which would have got them into the station in time was quite a bit too early to get, considering trying to get two little boys ready. But I got to the station before them and met them in the entrance.

We got an earlier train than expected to Doncaster and then a quick change to the Rotherham train. Then a short walk to the Bus Interchange where we waited for the number 69 towards Sheffield which stops outside MAGNA which is in a vast ex-steelworks building.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Wednesday 28th May 08

A day working... after breakfast I did my paid blog, on my favourite subject, composting. Tomorrow the Community Care magazine is publishing my latest column which is on gardening, and to go with that I have a brief why and how with home composting. It just took an hour to put together. After this I had a very brief shower and got my stuff together to go to Pocklington to the POP Club, an out of school club.

I had to walk to Thief Lane to get the bus, which was a service which went through Heslington, not up Hull Road. I had already contacted the bus company about taking my unicycle on the bus... there's apparently a rule which says 'no bicycles on the bus' and on at least one occasion I've been refused onto the bus because the driver has seen the unicycle and thought it was a bicycle. So this time I rang the bus company and asked about bringing the unicycle... and fortunately, I was allowed. So when the bus came to the stop opposite the Retreat, I was suprised to be handed a large black plastic bin bag and told to put the unicycle in that, and take the saddle off! Fortunately the bag was big enough to go around the 36 inch wheel and I didn't take the saddle off (it is really difficult to take off and on anyway) and the driver didn't make a fuss. I remained extremely polite, and when we got to Pocklington, I thanked him for his help.. he didn't want the bag back.

My host was waiting for me to take me to the school where the POP Club was, and all the kiddies were very excited about my visit. I got changed and did my one-hour show, then two half-hour workshops, then the balloon show, finishing on the dot of 5pm. The bus back was at 5.45ish and the driver didn't comment at all about my unusually shaped luggage.

Home nice and quickly, Gill had made tea... stew and dumplings, and I had a quiet evening including a good chat with K and enjoyable 'Ideal', just as surreal as ever.

Tuesday 27th May 08

Quite a relaxed day, didn't have to hurry to get up as the first appointment was at midday.

So cycled into town to get to Parliament St for about 11.55 and met up with Tash who's organising the Big Freeze, and quite a few other people arrived too, at least 20 which was good. We had a talk through and a bit of a practice of the 10 second delay after Tash blew her whistle, which is how we all know when to freeze. Then when the cameras were ready, we all wandered over to the fountain and Tash did a really quiet whistle and no-one knew whether it was the real thing or just a practice... so I suggested she blow it really hard so we all knew. I froze pushing my bike... near me was Kenny doing up his shoelace and a couple of other people just walking... well, frozen in mid walk. We counted to 180 (3 minutes) and resumed walking... my counting was pretty accurate because I got up to 175 when the others started. One person had frozen looking at his watch so he was the person who started at moving again at 3 minutes, and we all used him as a cue. The reactions of passers by were interesting but I couldn't see many of them as I was facing in the wrong direction... but I look forward to the film being available on YouTube. I was interviewed afterwards about why I had got involved etc.

I came home via the Mail Box Etc shop where I get photocopies, and got a photocopy of my Equity Card which a client wants to see as proof of my insurance as Professor Fiddlesticks. Then to Country Fresh to pick up 2 sacks and a box, bought a cauliflower and some broccoli too.

Home for lunch, and after I went to the lottie to put the compostable materials on my latest heap. After this went on to my agent's house to deliver the photocopy, and doubled back to Anna's to pick up yet another load of cut vegetation to take to Hazel Court. This time no-one stopped me or accosted me... I was able to dump the compostables in the green waste skip without any hassle, which is how it should be. There was a fellow unloading conifer prunings as well, then he opened his boot and revealed a pile of holly logs, which I asked if I could have... so returned home with these!

Home by 5ish, and did a bit of woodpile building followed by tea followed by cutting the front hedge which has become rather shaggy. Some passer-by had pulled a chunk of it and although I tried to push this back before cutting it, when I did cut it, this area became a hole in the hedge which is annoying. It looks as if I'm an incompetent hedge cutter!

I collected all the cuttings on a sheet and shredded them all and was finished by 9.15.

Spent quite a bit of evening dealing with emails and reading the US Composting Council quarterly newsletter which I found very interesting.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Monday 26th May 08

A lovely relaxing late morning! Boys completely engrossed in their computer games etc and so we grown-ups just chatted, had breakfast together and lounged around.

A late lunch, about 2pm, and soon it was time to get ready to go... we walked down through town with Ulrich and his boys, and got to the station with plenty of time. The train was a bit late but we sat in the waiting room, Ulrich taking photos.

Our train came and the people sitting in our booked seats moved without any bother, and we all sat together around the table and had a relatively pleasant journey home. There was only a little grumpiness and boredom but Gill and I dealt with it well, played 'I spy' and passed the time happily. Got a taxi back home and got in at 8.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Sunday 25th May 08

A very relaxed start to the day. It was raining so we didn't need to get up and get going anywhere... and the boys were completely engrossed in their computer game anyway.

After lunch everybody else walked to the Ten-Pin bowling place but I wasn't at all interested so I used their modem and a lead to download emails, do my blog, go on Facebook and chat to Ali and K on Skype. The families came back at about 5 having had a good time.

It was decided that we should have a take-away for tea, and Gill and I offered to pay for it. Ulrich suggested using a local pizza parlour which delivers... and the leaflet had an 'offer' of a pizza for 8 called 'The Beast' plus bottles of coke, garlic bread and a puddings, for £36. Ulrich rang it in and stated a vegetarian Beast, but then asked for extra cheese and pepperoni, thinking that pepperoni was pepper (the vegetable) rather than a meat sausage which he knows as salami ot wurst! So our huge pizza arrived, with slices of peperoni dotted all over, which was a shock, but then Ulrich realised what he had said. The solution was to cut the pizza into slices with the meat, and slices without the meat... and everyone was happy!

So we ate our pizza and garlic bread and I had a perry rather than coke, and had no room for any pudding! Then sat and watched 'The 11th Hour' on Channel 4, with Leonado DiCaprio narrating and a whole pile of folks whom I've either seen before or have heard of but haven't seen, like Paul Stamets, who's big in the world of fungi and has written an excellent book which I've read most of... infact he's written several books and is involved in mycology in quite a number of ways. Some of the mushroom cultures I've used are originally Stametsian strains.. A very moving film, putting the subject over very well.

I went for a short walk after tea to visit nearby allotments, which was pleasent.

Bed before midnight, slept well.

Saturday 24th May 08

An early start but the taxi arrived at 9 and we were ready...just! We got the 9.44 train to Leamington Spa... the Bournemouth train, and it was quite busy. We were in the quiet carriage but it was far from quiet... a chap near us was talking very loudly to the ticket person (are they still called conductors?) and we could hear that he wanted to go to Sheffield, but our train was going via Leeds, Wakefield and then Chesterfield, by-passing Sheffield. The chap seemed agitated, and before Leeds loudly announced that he was completely deaf and wanted to go to Sheffield. Everyone else had heard that to go to Sheffield, people should change at Leeds. So Gill found a sheet of A4 paper and a felt-tip pen (we carry these to give the boys something to do if they announce 'I'm bored') and wrote on it "You need to change at Leeds" and I took it to the chap who then shouted 'B****r Off' at me! So I sat down, and another chap got up and approached him and signed something... and he got similar treatment. There was quite a bit of a stir in the carriage because of this! The chap didn't get off at Leeds but we think disappeared at Chesterfield and presumably travelled back North again to Sheffers.

At Chesterfield though, a group of perhaps 6 young women got on and it was obvious that they'd been out the night before 'on the lash' and were either hung-over or still drunk and very loud and girly, and off to a festival or some type of camping trip. It took til Derby for them to notice that it was the quiet this time my rather intolerant child was getting ready to say something to them. I was reminded of my festivaling days, and was a bit distracted by their short skirts and long legs. Fortunately I didn't spot something that Gill told me about afterwards, that one of them was flashing her see-through knickers! That would have made it an even more interesting journey! They got off at Birmingham New Street and a quiet chap got on near us... I had a chat with him; he was just finishing his degree on Sustainable Architecture, his dissertation was on sustainable interior design. We had a good conversation and a bit of a laugh about various things.

Then we were in Leamington and Katharina and her two boys met us at the barriers and we walked to her house through the town, passing through a lovely park with a bandstand which I remember from years ago when I performed at the Leamington Peace Festival. There was a Farmers' Market and I bought 4 little bottles of perry, locally produced. Katharina's house was another 15 minutes walk through the town, on the Kenilworth Road in a very large house, now split into several smaller residences.

My boys were very happy to see their old friends, and Katharina was pleased to show us her new house which they've had re-vamped, with new flooring (following removal of dry-rotted wood) and a wonderful new woodstove, apparently partly inspired by seeing ours. Katharina and Ulrich have liked the idea of a woodburner for a long time, as in Germany they are more common, but they've lived in rented property since living over here. So they have bought a HWAM 'Beethoven' with Soapstone surrounds, which slowly heat up and keep the heat really well! It is a very stylish, having a curved glass door and it's a lovely grey colour. It's a smoke-free model.... Ulrich had been wanting the version which heats water, but it's not legal to have it in a smoke control zone.

I felt very tired and very relaxed, and as the boys all sat on one of the futons playing with a computer game, I went to sleep on the other! Just for a few minutes though, nothing too antisocial. I heard Ulrich come home and soon roused myself and was more sociable. However it is lovely being 'on holiday' and with people whom I feel very relaxed with.

We had a simple tea, pretty late, and a game of Scrabble with everybody else doubling up in teams, and me by myself... but their partnerships obviously hampered them and I won! Gill and I slept on a futon in front of the stove, which was wonderful!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Friday 23rd May 08

Gill wasn't feeling brilliant so I took the boys into school, told one of the teaching assistants whom I'm friendly with and trust about last night's incident and she couldn't believe it, with a 'what is the world coming to' and gave me a hug. It was good to offload it, and I immediately felt a whole lot better.

I went to the allotment to plant the remaining potatoes... and defoliated an area of ground by hand, then dug it over, removing buttercup and dandelion roots... but didn't get the potatoes planted and I sensed it was getting towards lunch, so I cycled round to Anna's to pick up another load of her vegetation she's cropped to make space for a trampoline, and took it to the Hazel Court/James St civic amenety site for recycling. On the way in I was shouted at by an operative who told me I wasn't allowed in on my bicycle, so I told her I was ignoring the sign saying no pedestrians/cyclists as I had no option wanting to put my recycling in the skips up at the top. I was told this many weeks ago and wrote to the paper about the nonsense of 'no pedestrians' as when the car drivers go to the skips, they get out of their cars and become.... pedestrians..... walking around from one recepticle to another... and I don't have a car to bring my drinks cartons to the site for collection, but use my bike and trailer for this. And as I pay my Council Tax and wish to recycle my wastes, I will continue doing this. But being shouted at doesn't make me feel good, so I am going to write to Yorwaste and the Council and complain. The sign should read 'Cyclists and pedestrians enter at your own risk, please be aware of vehicle movements' or somesuch. The civic amenety site is less dangerous than many of the roads I cycle on, so it makes no sense to ban cyclists on safety grounds.

I came home via St Nicks and arrived home just before 1pm. After lunch did some computery stuff and at 3, went to pick up the boys. Gave in a couple of 'Big Recycle Day' posters to display at school. When we got home I went to the lottie and put in the potatoes.... finished, hooray!

Home before 6pm, last of the soup for tea and then went down to the Priory St Centre for a Greenspeak meeting, on congestion charging. This was very interesting, might make a good paid blog topic. Caroline was there and she gave me some broccoli seedlings, a pepper plant in a bucket and a stunted tomato.... I'll give her some compost next week, in part-exchange. I'm very pleased with the broccoli.

Home via Country Fresh... two sacks and a box.

Had a bath to remove allotment from my legs.

Up late, watched an entertaining but daft TV prog called Kyle XY... Gill enjoyed it too.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Thursday 22nd May 08

A busy day, up before 8, asked by Gill to get one of the children downstairs and get him dressed. I managed to do this and then distracted both of them (whilst they ate breakfast) by reading them a book which arrived in the post yesterday, sent to me by CRAGger Anna in Peckham, who knows my enthusiasm for composting. It's an American book called 'The Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad, A Book About Decomposition' (published by Scholastic Inc, ISBN 0-590-40023-1, 1995) It is a childrens' book, aimed perhaps at 4-7 year olds, so a bit young for my 8 and 10 year olds, but it was funny and appreciated. More than this, it helped them forget that they weren't wanting to go to school and they went on autopilot, I took them in without any problems whatsoever.

Home and to work.... got three carrier bags of potting material together, one of loam, one leafmold and one compost, and put these with the rotaseive ready for Green Thumbs this afternoon, where we are potting on seedlings from their seed compost in tiny pots into richer compost in bigger pots. Then I got six carrier bags of riddled compost to take to the veg shop and then on to the lottie to prepare three trenches to plant more potatoes, which went in soon after. Got home at 1.45, more than ready for lunch.

Did a bit of computery stuff after lunch and so soon it was 3 o clock and time to go to school to help out with the Green Thumbs Gang... my job was to show the children how to riddle the various materials and then use the resultant mix to pot up the seedlings.

As the children were getting ready to leave, I had a brief word with the mother of L----- who attends the gardening club and is wildly enthusiastic and talkative. A couple of days ago L had picked several horse chestnut leaves off a tree and was using them in various poses as costume/playthings and she came to show off to me. I asked her whether she should have picked them... in retrospect this was a little bit too much of a 'killjoy' and perhaps a bit strict and authoritarian. However, I was brought up to not pick stuff off plants as some are toxic (ivy, laburnum), others irritate skin (hogweed) and others cause photosensitisation. Also, picking wild flowers is illegal and picking something from someone elses property could get someone into trouble. Also, leaves are there to help the plant grow... all these things are reasonable rerasons not to pick plants willy nilly. But I accept that it was inappropriate to ask L the question. Her mother, however, told me not to speak to her child as I wasn't her teacher and I had no right to speak to her 'like that'. I apologised immediately but wanted to say why I'd asked her if she should have picked the leaves, so I'd written a note to L's mther and tried to give it to her after the gardening club.

Her reaction was quite extreme... she said if I didn't leave her alone she'd call the police, and then said "I'm sure they have your details already" which was most unkind and it made me think that she thinks I'm some sort of criminal! It upset me but I remained polite. Her words went round my mind all evening. I did speak to Julia, the Green Thumbs chair, and she was shocked and suggested I let the school know about the situation. There's nothing that can be 'done' about this, but incase she makes any allegations in the future or kicks off with someone else, I decided to tell someone at school.

An evening worth forgetting after this. Didn't feel very happy.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Wednesday 21st May 08

Gill took the boys to school and then went on a school visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with our eldest.

I had a quiet day inside, although the weather was lovely out, I had to get my paid blog done (didn't do it at the weekend) and had a chat with Ali and Lorna and then just before I came off the computer at lunchtime, with K... so a busy and communicative morning. Also had several Fiddlesticks enquiries After lunch I did housework, washing up, made tomato soup, and finally getting out to the front garden to build a logpile just as the troops came home. I took just one boy (not my own!) to Martial Arts and went to collect stuff from Country Fresh, taking it to the lottie.

Home to have soup and pasta at 6, spent most of the evening dealing with a vast number of apples which were too good to compost and are perfect for drying. Loaded 4 racks with dozens and dozens of slices, plus one with melon slices. A warm evening with the stove, watching Ideal on BBC3 and Newsnight. Gill was exhausted from all the walking, plus the warmth of the stove made her sleep all evening.

Tuesday 20th May 08

A relaxing day, woke before the children went to school. one wasn't wanting to go but he begrudgingly allowed me to help him get dressed, and Gill took them in. Once in school, he was happy and told his mum that he was glad to be there... fickle or what?

I needed to go to the Civic Amenity site to get rid of several bags of drinks cartons which can be collected for recycling there, and I took the old wheelbarrow which has been rusting in the garden since we moved here in 2001, and put it in the metal skip for recycling... really glad that cyclists are now allowed into the site without any hassle. Then on to Country Fresh but Jamie's promised load wasn't in yet, so came home via the lottie where I prepared the compost heaps for the coming onslaught, ie layered them with cow-parsley stems and docks and nettles. Had a friendly chat with my neighbour Jackie, who's nearly been thrown off her plot due to it being left to get too weedy. My plot is looking untidy but it is being used... onions, leeks, potatoes, asparagus, artechokes, 4 compost heaps....

Home on the dot of 1pm, lunch and chats with Gill who had been to town, and got money back on some trousers she'd got for me and didn't fit.... I'm a bit fatter than she thinks I am!

I then had a VERY satisfying time planting up a lot of seeds... better late than not at all! So loads of curcubits, sweetcorn and beans. Hooray!

I went to school but came home with no-one as my eldest went to a friend's house and my youngest was doing yoga. Home to go to the veg shop to collect a large pile of stuff from the wholesaler... and was only just strong enough to get this to the lottie, and it took quite a time to get it piled up and layered on the three heaps that are currently being used. Home in time for a quick shower before bombing down to the Bishopthorpe Road to 'Lal Quila' where the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel were having an unusual meeting. We were ushered upstairs, but then we got a message that Carolyn had arrived and she couldn't get up the stairs, so we came down and had our beers, poppadoms and onion bhajis plus the one planning application we needed to look at. It was a very enjoyable meeting, so thank you to Abul, one of our members, who suggested the change of venue and was our host for the evening.

I cycled down to the council offices to put the reply to the planning application in their letterbox, and came back via Jamie's van where I picked up another load and took it to the allotment.

Home by 9.30 pm, lit the stove so I could wash up and dry some apples not saleable but washable, peelable, core-able, slice-able and dryable.... and also ditto to a melon.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Monday 19th May 08

Oh bliss, I slept through the early morning stuff, Gill took the lads to school without any problems at all, and then came back to bed, waking me up in the process, which was just the best way to be woken up!

Got up at 10 and breakfasted and disappeared into the garden, coming back in for lunch.

A quiet afternoon, doing jobs around the house and in ther conservatory, seedlings needing management etc.

I went to the lottie just before going to school and picked some leeks for tea, and then picked the boys up.

Had tired nutloaf for tea with a leek sauce, then zoomed into town for a meeting with the organisers of the York Freeze which is happening next Tuesday, May 27th, in Parliament Street. Several groups of people, and individuals, will be randomly near the fountain at middayish, and will all at the same time become still for 3 minutes.... a sort of art installation thingy. It is to raise awareness of volunteering. We watched the youtube vid of the New York Feeeze in a railway station, very effective, and then the much smaller Bristol Freeze, filmed partly by my friend Chevvy. We discussed tactics and how we would know when to freeze and to unfreeze, got this all worked out.

This meeting lasted an hour, and I then came home via Anna's where there are still twigs and stuff to pick up, so brought a load home and put them through the shredder when I got back.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Sunday 18th May 08

An excellent day, children on good form, and a really good gig near Hull.

I was getting ready to go when my parents arrived on their way to a garden open, but I had to go and get the midday train. I wrote my column for Community Care on the train between York and Brough... just took 40 minutes and when I counted my words, it came to 347... my limit is 350!

So got to Brough near Hull and was picked up by the dad and the two children and we went to South Cave to the family centre next to the church. Their Granddad was blowing up 'rocket balloons' and letting the children let them go, something I sometimes do in my balloon show, so I knew that would be something I couldn't do... but it set the scene for lots of fun, and both my shows went down a storm, so much so that they gave me an extra fee on top of my agreed fee.

There was quite a wait before my train home so had a pint at the pub near the station, and a good chat with a couple of locals.

So a satisfying day, and Gill and the boys had had some fun too.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Saturday 17th May 08

A lovely morning... I had a bit of a lie-in til 9 and then a happy family time downstairs, including silly jokes, some bundling (play-wrestling) and NO TEARS! Most enjoyable. I extracted myself from the rough and tumble before it got too rough and went to have a bath, as I've got a gig this afternoon.

Good bath, came out clean enough for a cycle ride out to Sutton on Derwent and a wedding, where I'd been booked to just do the balloon models... and all went very smoothly and easily, including meeting a lovely friendly child who'd met me twice before and was obviously a fan, which was nice. So the session went quickly and I got paid and I cycled off back home, getting in at about 6.

I made tea... a pile of Basmati rice with tumeric and dried red pepper... the stuff which didn't go through the seive when making sweet paprika, and a stir fry of onion, celery, olives, mushrooms and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and red wine, served with a blob of tomato and basil relish given to us by Debbie, who didn't like it.

After tea I had a short time in the garden and before going to the party I'd been invited to, went to do my emails and ended up going on Facebook to answer a couple of composting queries on the group called 'Organic Gardening 101', where I host a topic called 'Any Composting Questions Answered', which I really enjoy doing.

Then to the party... I thought it was Rich's birthday but it wasn't, it was Jenny's housewarming, and there were loads of folks ther that I knew and loads I didn't but got to know. I took my balloons and several people had a go at making models... it added quite a bit of fun to the party.

I had a really good time but left at about half past midnight as I have work on Sunday....

Friday, 16 May 2008

Friday 16th May 08

A quite early start, woken by loud child noises, but Gill took them to school which was a treat for me to not have to do that. She found two dead baby moles on the school field and noticed that there were some empty plastic containers of what looked like chemicals had been (possibly) thrown into the Japanese Garden and she wondered if there was any connection. So she went into the office and asked about the plastic containers... and was told that the council had taken over the job, implying that the person who had been doing it, IRA Bob, who had been very aggressive with me (September 07) was not doing the work any more..... I wonder if the creosoted sleepers have anything to do with it? My research at the time indicated that creosoted sleepers were not allowed in school play areas and after I'd informed the school, Bob was asked to paint them... but since then, the paint looks like it has either come off or been absorbed, and the sleepers just look like creosoted sleepers. I want to find out more! I wonder if my original suggestion, that creosoted sleepers should NOT be used in this position, may have been the right thing to do? Gill and I even offered to buy one untreated sleeper.

Got home to a phone call from Jo saying that the York Rotters social had been cancelled tonight as too few people had said they were attending, so it's postponed. Jo and I met in town and went for a coffee at the Spurriergate Centre, I got my sandals repaired (the sole and upper had come apart) and I went to Barnitts to look at goblet blenders as ours has expired. I need to check with Gill about what type to get, how much to spend etc. The one which has gone phut was quite cheap.. perhaps about £30 and the motor hasn't lasted very long at all, about 3 years.

Collected a lot of stuff from Country Fresh and came home for lunch, Gill had been to say hello to her art-class friends and had then gone on to town to do the charity shops, and also visited Barnitts, to get another rat trap as one of our neighbours keeps mentioning that he's seen a rat. Next time he does, I'll ask him if he's set any traps or put down poison... not every rat in the vicinity is my responsibility or living in our garden! Just some of them......!

Did some work in the garden (set the traps!) and dug out a compost heap and got more planting media together, and all too soon it was time for me to go and pick up the kids. As I arrived, one of my offspring rushed out and headed for the gate... he'd been bullied or teased and had struck out at his tormentor, and was feeling guilty about his reaction. I went inside with him and the lovely headteacher listened to him and he calmed down very quickly. We had a good vigorous cycle home.

I did some more compost riddling and took some down to Country Fresh, where it is taken by customers 'for a donation'.

Gilly made a pizza dough and we all had individualised pizzas for tea.

Watched some good telly together, a lovely programme on trees and then Gardener's World, sadly without our favourite Monty Don. Hope he's ok!

I had been given a load of raspberries from Country not-so-Fresh and I sorted out the non-mouldy ones, stewed them on the stove and then immersed a load of dried apple rings in the stewed raspberries, let them soak up the juice and redried them... scrummy raspapple rings!!!

Had a long phone call with my dear friend Lucy whom I've known since my teens, and then had a game of Scrabble with Gill. We both put down two seven-letter words but I won. A good game, whilst listening to Jools Holland's musical guests.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thursday 15th May 08

A good morning as I was able to come down and assist in helping to put one of my boy's socks on... he hates socks and often removes them angrily once they are on... not sure why this is, but hay, we're all different! So Gill was able to take them to school and I then got a phone call from Jo saying she was in the area and was in a motor vehicle and could collect some compost if I had any spare. Do I have spare compost? Hahahahahahaha what a silly question!

So I quickly got dressed and had a quick bowl of cereal and then Jo came, and we had a cuppa, and Gilly joined us for a good chat prior to us going to get some sacks of compost, which Jo drove away by about 10am

Gill and I then went to do some work in the garden... Gill sowed carrots and sweetcorn whilst I weeded and loaded up a compost bin with Alkanet and Ground Elder... thugs of plants!

Came in for 1pm lunch and watched the news, dreadful scenes of the aftermath of the Chinese earthquake, and then did some emailing etc. Some people at school want to see if they can break the world record for the longest daisy chain, so I googled it but couldn't find any details... although did start to register with the Guinness World Records website until Gill talked me out of it... suggesting a better idea was to have a sponsored daisy chain or a 'pay 20p to join in the daisy chain making' type of thing... it has to be a fun/fundraiser for Green Thumbs gang, so when I go to school I'll relay the info to Julia and see what she says!

Had a phone call from Environmental Health about the foreign object in the bread roll (27th March) saying a full investigation had been done but no trace of any metal missing on machinery, and all the systems within the factories were found to be acceptable, so it remains a mystery.

Green Thumbs went well. My group planted modules of spinach, lettuce and spring onions in big tubs. Some other children made labels and planted pumpkin seeds and various other stuff. A successful hour...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Wednesday 14th May 08

I took the children to school, and Gill went to town to look for footwear for several family members. I dealt with loads of emails, including from The Phone Co-op, my broadband provider. They tell me that I have overshot my gigabyte allowance last month and nearly this month already. Apparently, after some discussion, this is due to my regular skype sessions... which are very heavy on the cost of my broadband.

A quiet lunch, Gill came back bearing new sandals for me, which are lovely and comfortable.

Tuesday 13th May 08

An excellent day... took the kiddies to school and then went to the station to get a train to Sheffield.

Ali met me at Sheffield Station at 10.20 and we went on the tram back to her house where we spent most of the day. Lots of talk about eco/ethical issues... we met at the Green Fair last year and then I entertained at her daughter's birthday last month. A good friendship has ensued.

We went to her daughter's school to pick her up and I had tea there before getting a 6pm train back to York, sso I could attend the CRAG meeting.

I went to the Black Swan and eventually several other CRAGgers arrived and I facilitated the meeting.

Back home at 11pm and was very tired, so didn't do any emailing or anything on the computer... just flopped and chatted to Gilly.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Monday 12th May 08

I got up at 8 to take the children to school, it is SATs for my eldest and he's quite stressed, although the grumpy behaviour this morning was mainly from the other one! But they both got to school on time and I got back to a relieved Gill.

Got a phone call from CVS who are putting on a conference about building ( and I've been asked to present a 20 minute chunk on energy performance certificates, carbon audits and environmental standards. This will require quite a bit of research, but it will be good for me as it's not my specialism but of course, it is very interesting.

Gill went out to town and I spent quite a bit of time at the computer... but also lit the stove, much to Gill's annoyance when she got back... but I had a load of grapes to get dried and if they sit there moist, they'll go mouldy. I also had a load of washing up to do so I needed the hot water. Enjoyed lunch and then prepared to go to Brunswick Organic Nursery in Bishopthorpe to spend my £10 reward which I got for doing such a lot of voluntary work for one of the organisations I help out. I rang them up to find out if they had vegetable plants, and their opening times. So I cycled through to them, passing the place where Ruby was knocked off her bike and killed... there were lots of flowers and a 'graffiti board' with messages. Very sad. I got to BON and found several greenhouses with various plants, rows of perennials, and quite a few veg plants.. so I got some assorted squash, courgette, cucumber, tomato and broccoli plants, worth £16.50, but I only had to pay cash for some of it, thanks to my voucher.

(Hey, did you see what I did in this paragraph, for I think the first time in this blog? I highlighted Brunswick and made it into a link.... something I've learned about through my paid blog. On their website, the icon looks a little bit like a paperclip, and I'm guessing that on Blogger too, the icon is to look like a paperclip... it doesn't much!)

I met a pleasant woman at Brunswick, called Anna, who was waiting for her husband to come back from a job interview with Dr. Sentamu, as her hubby is a minister and is hoping to work for Dr. John. We had a chat about soil firstly, then composting, then credit unions, then autism... she was very chatty and nice.

Careful cycle ride back, not as fast as I usually go, as had the trailer full of delicate plants, so got to school just on time to pick up the kiddies.

When I came home I did a load more riddling, this time some pretty dry compost, very mature from a dalek which I'd topped with turf, and used the flat chicken-wire riddle where I rub the lumps through by hand... resulting in a large pile of ready to use potting compost, a mix of compost and loam, lovely!

A late tea. Watched a programme on a dinosaur being excavated and examined, as it had been preserved with skin and some tissue still in place, kind of mummified prior to fossilisation.

Enjoyed a very frank exchange with K on Skype, well over an hour of chat, very deep and satisfying conversation.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Sunday 11th May 08

A good day, we all had lots of time in the garden... the boys had a friend round, I riddled/mixed some compost, loam and leafmould and planted 3 tubs of potatoes.

I watched Countryfile and listened to Gardeners Question Time... a very relaxing day indeed.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Saturday 10th May 08

A very happy family day, we all got on with various jobs/activities in the garden and it was really lovely.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Friday 9th May 08

A noisy start to the day as out children don't like school, they are both facing tests, SATS etc. However, with some cajoling, they went with Gill and I had my breakfast and removed over 100 emails from my inbox.... it can be a very difficult job for me to know whether to delete or put in a folder. Loads get deleted but I'm not good at throwing things away and like to save stuff, and this goes for emails too. I wonder if I have a touch of kleptomania re emails???

Gill came home and told me that our friend Melody's daughter, who's in her late teens, heard last night that one of her friends had been killed whilst out cycling. We didn't know the person but we both cried. Although we don't yet know the facts of what happened, this just makes us even more angry about the car culture, speeding motorists, inconsiderate behaviour on the roads, etc etc. We'll have to wait and see what's in the news in the Press or on the BBC to hear some detail. But whatever happened, it's a tragic loss to all her friends and family. What a waste.

The lunchtime news gave a little more information... she wasn't actually on a road, but on the cycle track where it is crossed by a service road to the Racecourse... and she collided with a lorry which was delivering portaloos to the racecourse for next week's meeting. Tragic.

A sad day, close to tears for much of it. Tried to get some help for my friend from last night.

I collected the boys, we had a quiet evening.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Thursday 8th May 08

I took the children to school and then spent over 2 hours finishing preparing the compost I took in on Monday (going through it by hand and removing plastic etc for the bin, and uncomposted sticks etc for reinclusion into a current heap) and then shovelling a large pile of soil onto the sheet next to it, mixing them up and shovelling it into 5 large plastic pots that Julia bought so we can plant up our veggies.

Home at 11.35 and there was a message from BBC Radio Northampton asking me to participate in a phone-in regarding the huge amount of food waste which is thrown in bins every day (there's a report out from WRAP which analysed 2000 bins and they have extrapolated those results to suggest daily figures for things like unopened yoghurts and whole chickens just thrown away, see and 'Love Food Hate Waste so they're ringing me at 1.15 to go on the radio, live, re composting.

But it wasn't food waste composting which they were interested in,it was my compost toilet! Daft buggers, always looking for the weird and wacky... Never mind, it's part of the cycle....

So a funny afternoon thinking about the media's preoccupation with the unusual, rather than asking me about food waste composting, which would have been much more useful to their listeners. At 2.50, David came with some LETS paperwork which I was meant to get photocopied and get delivered, and he left his wallet on the table. I went to school to do the Green Thumbs Gang and the pots were still in the after school club area, which is supposed to be for their sole use from 3 til 6, so a Dad went to get one of them, and I helped him get another, and we suffered some abuse from the people running the after school club, very unprofessional and over the top. I was quite upset as they used this language in the presence of children and I think they were being bad role models. I may very well write a letter of complaint... a polite one, but stating that this aggression and use of language was inappropriate.

Anyway, we got 3 of the huge pots of soil into position and the children planted one up with Cara maincrop potatoes and one with Marco garlic. We had a chat about beans and I gave them each a bean to plant, my favourite 'Jack Edwards Climbing Pea Bean' which I grow every year. They planted the beans and some flower seeds, then we went to look at the little greenhouse and last week's seeds... the broccoli and spinach was through, but not the parsnips or spring onions...

Home and soon off to town to go to Mail Boxes Etc where I get my photocopying done. Whilst in there someone came in and overheard me mentioning the Radio interview, and asked me several composting questions.... another excellent opportunity to spread the word... and then my friend Catherine H came in, and she's working in 'Education for Sustainable Development' (ESD) and I offered my services as an exciting presenter in her school. There'd be no payment, but the youngsters would have a chance to work the rotaseive and hear about composting...

Home via David's to give his wallet back but he'd gone out after cancelling his cards, he'd not bothered to ring us up and ask if he'd left it here! He'd shared his distress with his downstairs neighbour and so I left it with her. Later I got a message thanking me for finding it and returning it.....

Tea and soon it was time to go to the York Eco Action meet up at the Black Swan. A well-attended meeting, I wrote an impromptu agenda and facilitated the meeting. Everybody seemed happy with this.

At about 10, closed the meeting and cycled off to see another friend whom I don't know that well, and we soon found ourselves having a very deep talk. This person told me that they were contemplating comitting suicide as life was very tough, had been for 20 or more years and it didn't look like it would ever get better. I was a good listener and offered some possible solutions and I hope that I will be able to find a counsellor/advocate for this person, to help with one of their problems. Because I am very open, some people find it easy to be open with me, and I have some very interesting conversations and relationships. This talk had me in tears as the thought of this person killing themselves was so very sad. I was told when it was time for me to go that talking to me had helped. I offered to be a sounding board whenever I was wanted; I also offered the person the opportunity to visit me and Gill. Now to try to find someone who might be able to help... not too sure where to find a counsellor/advocate person but I'll try.

Home by midnight, a chat with Gilly and then a good chat with K over the water, who has got her compost bins up and running and suprised me by agreeing to recycle her urine on the heap. I didn't think she was the type! Assumptions can be so wrong....

Very late to bed, well after 2am...

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Wednesday 7th May 08

Very groggy this morning but came down to let the children wish me a happy birthday. Gill took them to school and I went back to bed and read NewScientist for an hour whilst thinking about various other things.

Came down to do some computery stuff and then at 11 our visitors came... two of the three facilitators of the parenting course. The course has officially finished but both of us missed a couple of sessions so to round things off they offered to come and spend a couple of hours with us to recap some of the techniques.

They had a tour of the garden and then we chatted together for a couple of hours, leaving at 1.30, having had a good in-depth conversation. They were pleased that we have obviously made some progress and our difficulties are reducing as our son learns to deal with his emotions better. So they went, I cut up some sticks from Anna's house and then at 3 went to school to bring back 3 boys, two of which were taken to Martial Arts by Gilly.

I continued in the garden until tea... Gill had made a quiche with a Shiitake mushroom grown on an oak log in our back garden, totally delicious! It was even better as we all ate together and we all got on well!!! The cake she burnt last night she made into a trifle with banana and chocolate goo... much better than a cake!

Did more in the garden til 9.30pm, came in tired but happy, kissed the boys goodnight and had a shower to get the anti-midge stuff off, as Gill cannot stand the smell...

A quiet evening with some telly and lots of chats on the computer, and lit the stove to do the washing up.

Tuesday 6th May 08

A really good day, as met up with Ali at the station and had lunch with her at the National Railway Museum, and had good conversations... just not long enough before her train was due to go, and I had to cycle back home to go and get the kids.

A quiet afternoon and evening... Gill made a chocolate and banana cake but then went to sleep and it started to burn... I smelt the nice aroma and as it got stronger, I came into the back room and awoke Gill and asked if the cake was ok... which it nearly wasn't.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Monday 5th May 08

A really fantastic day, didn't get downstairs until 10am when Gill had finished with me... and then did some washing up whilst looking out at flowers and lovely greenery behind the house. Did a quick email download and then went out to take a large load of finished compost down to school to start off the 'growing in containers' project. It is to be mixed 50:50 with soil and will then be put in the containers ready for the children to plant stuff in...

So took 6 sacks down before lunch and 6 down after, plenty to get mixed up with ordinary soil, laid them out on a large sheet to dry off a bit so they can be picked over and the non-compostable things removed, and the larger compostable things out for recomposting. Had a good chat with one of the school's neighbours, Gill, about some of the plans for the area.

Then went to the lottie and took out a huge pile of dandelions and clumps of grass, weeded the asparagus plot and planted 3 rows of potatoes.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sunday 4th May 08

A very peaceful start to the day.

The day continued peacefully.

I half-watched Countryfile whilst doing a huge pile of washing up, the only complaints were that I'd made the living room too hot by lighting the stove to get washing up water.... but not a problem. I'd rather light the stove and burn a kilo of waste wood to get some hot water than put on the gas for a few minutes.... and it helps dry the bananas which are sitting on the wok-stand on top of the two-gallon pan.

I had an early lunch and set off with my eldest son to Rowntree Park to attend the York Rotters Worm Charming contest, with Gill and our youngest following on afterwards. I helped set up the grid of 16 squares 2m x 2m on the grass, and entrants started registering, including our two boys. I did some announcing with my loud voice and soon the event was underway.

Gill and I joined in with our boys attempts to get worms out of the soil and we got four by the end of the 15 minutes allotted time. However, a minute later, I spotted another one and I didn't stop to think and popped it into the pot. When the adjudicator counted the worms, our team was in equal first place with 5 worms. So there was a 'charm-off' with the two top teams going back to their plots and the first team to charm a worm was the winner. Gill and I encouraged ours to do lots of jumping up and down, and suddenly, there was the winning worm...

So they walked away with their prize, a 'Junior Wormery' by Original Organics, and I cycled it home. However, I had a niggly thought that I had cheated by putting in a charmed worm after the time had passed... and I shared my feelings with my eldest who has a keen sense of fair play and honesty, and I admitted to my wrongdoing. We decided that the best thing to do would be to tell Catherine the Rotters project manager, and to give the wormery prize back so it could go to the real winners. I offered to give one of my wormeries to the boys as a consolation, as I have three different types. This made me feel better. I blame my lack of impulse control and lack of 'thinking of consequenses', both of which I am aware of when I stop and think.

In the evening I came accross a good blog which is worth reading if interested in carbon footprints etc.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Saturday 3rd May 08

Awoken at 7am by loud banging downstairs and after three episodes, went down to see what had happened. One of my sons had got a splinter in his finger and was having a paddy about this. It is absolutely incredible how much fuss such a tiny irritant causes.... amazing!

I tried to talk to him calmly but was shouted down. I told him that if it were my splinter, I'd cut the top layers of skin off with my penknife scissors and extract the splinter, and he could do this himself if he wanted, or I could do it for him as any Dad would. He wouldn't let me, loudly. I then offered to take him to casualty. He could see the ridiculousness of this and soon allowed me to carefully remove the splinter in the way I'd described. It was about two millimetres long and not deeply embedded, and afterwards I got lots of thanks from him and Gill, and cuddles from the other child who hates the huge outbursts just as much as we do.

The day got better! Both boys were engrossed with friends and I went down to town with some York Rotters stall stuff in my panniers... as part of the York Fiesta weekend is a performance of Anneliese Emmans-Dean's 'Compost, the mini Musical' and we have a stall to catch any passing or associated interest. I was embarrassed by Anneliese introducing me as 'The Greenest Man In Britain' or something similar, but happy with 'He can answer any of your composting questions'!
(see for the info about the mini-musical!)

The musucal was good, although could have been better if the children had been wearing microphones as the city centre was noisy and their voices small. Our stall got only a few visitors, perhaps a dozen or so.

Before 2 we closed it down and Jo and I took the stuff to Rowntrees Park, as she's now got a cycle trailer, and we left it in the pavillion ready for tomorrow's Worm Charming do. We had a coffee and a good chat before I went to Anna's to pick up another large load of greenery to take to James St for the green waste skip. There's far too much for me to take back home to compost, perhaps 4 cubic metres? Quite a few bike-loads anyway, even though I get a lot on each journey.

No hassles at James St, they seem to have dropped their objection to cyclists with trailers visiting the site and doing their recycling, maybe the letters to the Press struck a chord and they realised the folly of their ways...

Home by 4pm. Did some work in the garden with one of our boys' 9 yr old friends, who was very keen to work with me and riddle compost with the rotasieve. I didn't realise til Gill mentioned it, that he either doesn't have a Daddy or doesn't see him much, and that made him wanting to work with me kinda nice and a bit more understandable. His comment about boys enjoying getting dirty made a bit more sense too, as he's in a female household and they may not appreciate his mud-pie making. I took him back home at 8pm, as he'd had tea with us and then come back outside to help me with the composting! Very satisfying.....

A good evening, nowt much on the box so typed away at my keyboard, mainly chatting on Skype message thingy with Ali whom I met at a recent gig.

Friday 2nd May 08

A good day.... I took the boyos into school and picked up a bit more pine tree on the way back.

Visited town to sort out some paperwork.

Picked up from school. Soon after we got in, Sarah came round to look after the boys so we could go out.

Went with Gill to Cartwright Hall, Lister Park, Bradford to hear Peter Randall-Page talk about his life as a sculptor, and attend a viewing of some of his work. This was the highlight of the week for me, as I absolutely love his work. It has a very strange effect on me...

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Thursday 1st May 08

Gill took the boys into school and we were able to have some time together before getting on with stuff around the house... tidying up the back room before my old friend Mark came round for lunch. Was really good to see him, we don't see each other more than two or three times a year but we go back to 1987, as he was my first friend in York and I have clear memories of where and when we met. It was good to catch up with his news over a sandwich.... he's writing a book, a novel loosely based on fact, a kind of adventure book for 8 to 11 year-olds... sounds great!

After he went I had to sort out some seed compost for this afternoon's Green Thumb Gang first meeting, where we are planting some seeds.

Gill went to school first to pick up the boys and I went down 10 mins later to get ready for the gardening club. This met at 3.30 and was a great success, good teamwork, enthusiastic children and lots of seeds planted! Fun was had, learning happened, and I was able to pick up some recently cut softwood logs on the way home....

A quiet and happy evening, although one child adamantly refused to do some homework, so we just let it go and he'll have to deal with it himself.

Wrote a couple of letters in the evening, whilst watching Question Time on telly.