Thursday, 31 July 2008

Thursday 31st July 08

Quite a good day.... my eldest went to his last day at Able, Gifted and Talented, this time at the University. I went to town to do some paper shuffling at the bank, as we are doing a SUMA order tomorrow. We have to pay the delivery person on the day, so any cheques we get have to be paid into the account beforehand.

A busy afternoon too, and in the evening the Friends of St Nicholas Fields AGM, which was preceeded by an intro to York in Transition by Barry and Edward which was good, once again seeing the stuff presented in another format.

Found that Scrabulous on Facebook is now back on... for non-US folks at least. This is good!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Weds 30th July 08

I took my eldest to one of his friends' house by bike where his mum took them both to the Gifted and Talented Summer School. I cycled his bike back via school where I watered the plants in the 'Green Thumbs' planters.

Later in the morning I cycled to town to pay in a cheque and give the Green Fest insurance documents to Baz who was at work as I am unable to attend the meeting tomorrow night, and he needs them for that meeting.

I came back via Country Fresh and picked up lots more compostables, then lunch, then garden.

Had a visit from Mike, who made the little film about the 'Big Freeze' in which I have a speaking part (after the Freeze!)
and he had a tour of the garden and we chatted about future possible films including the Green Festival.

I enjoy using Facebook and have been playing Scrabble on it, as 'Scrabulous'. However I became aware that the owners of Scrabble have been upset at this online version, and yesterday, one of my US playing partners told me that the application had been deleted for US and Canadian users... and today it was removed from Facebook totally. However, there is a page for Scrabulous fans:

and an online petition to ask Hasbro to allow Scrabulous to continue:

So no online Scrabble tonight!

Tuesday 29th July 08

Quite a good day... I got up early and prepared to go to work at the Next Generation Club just up the road, got there for 9.15 and found I was upstairs, so couldn't take my bike in... so unloaded stuff and took it up in 3 loads... then the children started to arrive and enough came to do a good party. I did my usual routine, circus workshop followed by balloons, and it went very well. Finished on the dot of 11.30am, sorted out paperwork, loaded up and came home.

Our eldest had his second day at Manor School so things were peaceful, our youngest was happy and played on the computer for quite a long time. Gill also spent time looking for a family holiday on the internet.

I did some garden work, visited Country Fresh with 7 carrier bags of riddled mature compost, and was given a large pile of bananas to do whatever I wanted with...

Had a visit from an electrician to look at our electrical problem and Hugh came with a bootload of timber for me to cut up.

A good chat on Skype, although cam not working...

Monday, 28 July 2008

Monday 28th July 08

Gill took our eldest down towards school quite early this morning as he was being picked up by a friend who also has a 'gifted and talented' child who has been invited to attend a 4 day summer school for the aforesaid 'gifted and talented' year 6 children.

I had a slow start but at midday got up properly and did more work in the garden. I lit the stove (perhaps not understandable on such a hot day, but our boiler has broken) and after an hour had enough hot water to do all of yesterday's washing up. Our youngest spent quite a lot of the day singing to himself which was nice to hear..

Our boy came back very happy but tired. So glad he's had a good time.

I made tea for the family again after a quick trip to the supermarket and Country Fresh... baked butternut, potato, and stuffing lumps baked 'til crispy... with salad from the garden.

Did some compost riddling and then at 8 my buddy Phil arrived and we had drinks and chats and half an hour in the garden finishing off the riddling.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sunday 27th July 08

A peaceful morning as our eldest was up early and Gill said yes to him playing on the computer, which meant that our youngest got a lie-in til 9 instead of being interfered with and awoken. So Gill and I had a relaxed hour or so before the youngest woke up and demanded breakfast.

I spent an hour after my breakfast cutting a hedge which was getting unruly, and putting it through the shredder. Then watched Countryfile which was an anniversary edition and very enjoyable, especially Jon Culshaw's impersonation of John Craven.

A busy afternoon and evening. Spent quite a lot of time in the garden dealing with unruly hedge and shredding most of the clippings... and collected a large trailer-full of stuff from Country not-so-fresh and mixed it in with the woody clippings and completely filled a tumbler....

At 2 I had a visit from Jennie whom I met on a train a few weeks ago when she was carrying an armful of mint, and invited her to come and visit. She came with her husband Juan and had a tour and a good chat, what lovely people! Then at 5, whilst I was making tea, my friend Grange came, and we had a really good evening, all enjoyed the nutloaf, spinach, flower/herb salad and potato salad that I made.

A good relaxed chat on Skype carefully avoiding contentious subject areas!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Saturday 26th July 08

Another busy day... set off for the Dunnington Playing Fields Fayre at about 10.30 to be at work by 11am... and the day was very hot, busy and I had no rest from 11 til 4. I did have a difficult situation when a woman put a chair fairly close to the circus activities and I asked her if she could move for her own safety... and she was quite rude to me but I kept my cool and again explained that the children participating in the activities could on occasion be dangerous, and she eventually walked off, calling me allsorts of names!

But the children enjoyed it... their parents did too, and the organisers were pleased with what I'd done. I had a pint of pear cider once I'd finished, and collected a couple of bags of aluminium cans out of bins, and received my cheque, getting back at 5pm. Gill had taken the boys down to the station as our visitor is booked onto the 5.44 to Leamington Spa, so I had a bit of P+Q which was good!

Folks came back, generally in good moods. Kids ate in the garden whilst I continued with some P+Q... I had home grown potato salad and home grown cucumber for tea, and a cheese sandwich... which wasn't home grown.

During the evening I deleted loads of emails out of my inbox, and complained to Facebook about someone who has posted a York Green Festival page which contains errors and has been put up without permission. I asked the guy to either change the content or to remove the page, and for a while he did take it down. However, it has reappeared with the same misinformation so I've complained.

Friday 25th July 08

An early start as had a long cycle to work... a day's worth of Brownie camp near Market Weighton 20+ miles East of York. So by 7.30 I had loaded up my trailer with circus gear, unicycles balloons etc, and set off down the A1079 past Dunnington, past Kexby and Wilberfoss, Barmby Moor and Pocklington, and onto Market Weighton where I doubled back on myself for a short distance and then turned North to get to Goodmanham where the Brownies have a building where they go to have holidays. I got to Goodmanham at about 9.40, so 2 hours cycling... before getting changed and ready for a show, 10-11, workshop 11.15 til 12.30, a second workshop 1.50 til 3 and a balloon show 3.15 til 4.15...

The girls were very hardworking and several succeeded in some of the basics, although all had a lot of fun. I pretty swiftly got going after picking up my 'charity' fee and cycled quite fast home, taking just 1 hour 45 minutes.

The main feature of the A1079 is the huge volume of roadkill. I counted 3, possibly 4 hawks (ether sparrowhawks or kestrels), a large white owl, about 30 rabbits, 20 hedgehogs, a fox, 30+ pigeons and scores of smaller birds. The carnivorous birds must come to eat the other roadkill and get hit themselves. I didn't bring anything home for composting apart from the food the girls left uneaten at lunchtime and the burst balloons. Roadkill is just one more reason I dislike motor-vehicles, the annual toll must be enormous if this 20 mile stretch is anything to go by.

Anyway, got in and collapsed, knackered, and Gill provided a delicious tea. The boys had had a good day, playing with friends and Gill had catered for several visitors, including making a wonderful cake which went well with loganberries and ice-cream!

Enjoyed Tour De France on TV a lot this evening, amazed at their speed compared to my 11 or 12 mph crawl.....

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Thursday 24th July 08

A really good day... The boys were on good form as they had their visitor and behaviour is always better when they have visitors!

I took the paperwork from the Planning Panel down to town via Millers Yard, came back via Country Fresh, had lunch went to the allotment and did a lot of clearing up, pulling out nettles, digging potatoes etc.

Came back to make tea for Gill... fried onions on the stove and added some large waste tomatoes and thrown-away basil, and home-made sweet-pepper paprika to make a stewy thing. Also chopped down some flowering perpetual spinach spires, and cut off some leaves and small buds, chopped them up and stewed them on the stove. Then added some pasta to the tomato stew and served it up with the spinach and a little bit of cheese on top... Gill said it was the best meal she'd had for ages.

Later on, I wrote my paid blog on cycling... on panniers and trailers. Then had a quick bath and a chat on Skype with K who has had a good holiday, and was in a happy mood thankfully!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Wednesday 23rd July 08

A good day, boys in a happy mood as their friends from Leamington Spa are here, and they were content to play by themselves. Ulrich went to Tadcaster to inspect a chicken farm, and it was interesting to hear from him about what issues he had to take into consideration about it becoming certified organic. It is going organic because of increased demand from consumers, which is great.

I went into town to pay my National Insurance and pay cheques in, came back with a sack of squished lemons from the lemonjuice stall, and several boxes of stuff from Country Fresh.

A peaceful lunch as the boys are completely engrossed in a board game called Dragonology.

After lunch I had an hour's circus skills play with them... something my boys never want to do with me, but as their guests were keen, both of mine joined in too, which was FANTASTIC!!! We did diabolo, devilstick, juggling and unicycle, and were still doing this when Ulrich came back from his organic chicken farm inspection at 3ish. I really enjoyed this time with them.

We all had tea together at 5.30 and at 6 Ulrich left with his youngest to drive back to Leamington, leaving his 11 year-old with us until Saturday when we'll put him on a train which he'll get off at Leamington Spa..

I had a meeting at 8pm, the embrio 'York in Transition' co-ordinating team. I chaired the meeting at the Stables project, and just managed to fit in a long agenda into the 2 hour slot. However, at the end, we couldn't lock up as the chap who offered us the venue didn't turn up himself (he's a keyholder) and we spent nearly an hour trying to find a way to get the place locked up! Had a nice chat to a chemist called Bryony though, which was good...

Home after 11, went on the computer but didn't get that much done...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Tuesday 22nd July 08

Gill got me up as there were rumblings of dissent and talk of not going to school. This all stemmed from asking our more complicated child if he'd like to have a 'leaving party or birthday party combined'? He has been saying for a while that he didn't want any party, but this morning, the last day of school, he said he did want to do something with friends.

So Gill asked him what he wanted to do. This was too much for him, and there were shouts and crying 'I don't know WHAT I want to do' 'so I won't bother'. So Gill made a few suggestions, including going out somewhere, seeing a film, playing in the garden, playing at the Outgang (playing fields in Heslington) and he then shouted that he didn't want to be given suggestions. So we just cannot 'win' with this child. Impossible. Anyway, we between us eventually got to a situation of agreeing that he would invite some of his friends to the Outgang tomorrow at midday. Gill quietly asked me if I thought I could do some Professor Fiddlesticks activities at his party, and although I hate his aggressive behaviour and churlishness, I still love him and want to help him have a good time... so I asked him if he'd like that, and apparently he would. But minutes later he was having another paddy about writing some little invites and he threw punches and yelled a lot. God knows what our neighbours think we're doing to him! I just don't want to reward this crap behaviour but I do want to be a nice Daddy.

I took them to school. I came home. We both had a cry. We are wondering where we have gone wrong and are absolutely dreading the summer holidays. We haven't booked a holiday as we cannot face an experience like last summer. And this just punishes our other boy who is mild mannered, quite chilled and relatively well behaved, and gets ignored when the other one takes all our attention. Parenting is soooooo difficult!

Before lunch went to the tax office and asked about a couple of queries in our accounts, and was asked to chat to someone on the phone for 'technical advice' and it all seemed quite simple. I'm going to submit my income tax stuff electronically this year, for the first time. And possibly the last as we are going to get an accountant to do it next time! To not have that hassle will be lovely!

Then went to the Hazel Court/James Street skip site with a load of cartons for recycling, some more batteries which surfaced, and some electrical stuff including low-energy lightbulbs for the 'weee' collection. Then to St Nicks where I bought two dalek compost bins which folks have returned, for a tenner each, one of which will go to a lady in Windmill Lane who asked if I could get her one. Both went on my cycle trailer no problem. Then came home and had lunch and phoned up the tax credit people and re-applied for that over the phone.

Then did some washing up and washed my walnuts which have been in brine for a few weeks, and left them to air-dry in a cardboard box. Next stop, getting pickling jars ready, and assorted herby/spicy vinegar. I might co-pickle them with some early nasturtium seeds.. or even flower buds (which is what capers are, so I don't see why I shouldn't give 'nasturtium capers' a go!)

Did emails and blog, got ready for my last day bringing two boys home from school!

As soon as I arrived at school and my occasionally horrible child came out, he said, 'Dad, forget about this morning' so I replied 'why, what happened this morning?' with a smile and he gave me a hug. I collected quite a bit more end-of-term recycling/reusables and then the boys said they wanted to go to the Outgang with all their friends, so I told them they could but when Ulrich said it was time to go, they must cycle home together and be careful using and crossing roads. An hour after I got home, Ulrich arrived with his eldest son and 10 mins later, both mine arrived home happily and safely. Ulrich and I picked a load of loganberries, raspberries, redcurrants and a few gooseberries and then he went to collect his youngest from another friend's house.

I went to the Hull Road Planning Panel meeting for 6.30 and we dealt with 4 applications, one of which was really difficult to deal with as it was changing a student house with 5 bedrooms int a 'House of Multiple Occupation' with 8 bedrooms, and we all felt it was a bit crowded... but couldn't object on any planning grounds we knew of. Interesting! Home for 7.45 and had pizza, home grown potato salad with chives and some olives donated by Ulrich.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Monday 21st July 08

There was the predicted difficulty this morning with our eldest as he hadn't done all of his independent learning project which has to be in this morning. One of the reasons was that last week Gill's sister Linda offered to help, by writing down what he dictated and then he could copy out what he had said.. basically an amanuensis for him. So last week he took this into school and he told us that he'd told them what he'd done and they'd told him off, so he'd thrown it in the bin. So this morning I took them into school and went and explained to his teacher about him not finishing this work, and they told me a different story. He'd not been told off... he'd started to copy out what Linda had written down, and been very slow, wasting time and getting distracted. The teacher had suggested that he might want to just take the basic facts from what had been written down, in order to speed up. He'd got angry and screwed up the sheets written by Linda, and then all weekend, refused to do the required work.

We are dreading the new school's heavy homework load. He will get into major trouble if he refuses to do it and might get expelled if he continues to behave like this. We are at a complete loss at what to do. It is not possible to force a child who doesn't want to work to do the work. If we push, or encourage, or cajole BLOG CENSORED There are no easy solutions but sharing this problem with blog readers makes me feel better even though it publicly reveals information about his private torment, and ours as parents....

Anyway, I told him that I'd spoken to his teacher and all he had to do today was to do a one-minute talk about his chosen subject (Marco Polo and Genghis Kahn) and I got a kiss from them both.

Came home with a headache and went to bed. Got up at 10.30 and tried to sort out my computer glitch... justabout successfully, although I still get an error message with sending emails, even though they are being sent! Weird...

Anyway, got on with the day, did lots of housework as Gill was working hard to finish the accounts.

I picked up the boys, they'd had a good day. School have hired a skip and I asked this time if I could recycle stuff from it, and got a 'yes', which was good. So I took a load of cardboard and some metal, and a bag-full of plastic bottles. There will be more tomorrow...

Quite a quiet evening... Ben came round to see the last remaining glitch on the computer and he instructed me how to take it off... and I gave him a Yorky check for Y45 to spend on LETS members' goods and services. I expect I'll see some of it for dried fruit! We also had a visit from our 'pet' electrician, Justin, who checked out our electrical problem and diagnosed what the solution would probably be, and offered us the name of a reputable and qualified Sparky who might be able to do the job.

Gill spent most of the evening making cakes but fell asleep after midnight and almost burnt a couple of them. Just been informed that two of them have been burnt, partly my fault as I thought she'd finished and let her snooze, rather than waking her up earlier. Never mind... she'll cut the edges off and they'll get used! I feel a trifle coming on, with loads of raspberries and loganberries....

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sunday 20th July 08

Quite a relaxing morning... woke up dreaming of redcurrants and raspberries, weird! Anyway, lit the stove to get some hot water, as some of our electrics are not working and this means our 'instant' hot water (using gas) isn't working either... so had a bath before going to work in just one 5 gal pan of hot water, washed hair and got tidy. So then straight after lunch, as was just about to go, Gill's sister Jane and her husband Mike turned up, unexpectedly, after dropping off Linda at York station. I had to go anyway... to Mike's old Railway Institute Rugby Club on Hamilton Drive to do a party which was booked just a couple of days ago.

I only just got my bike in, and the group of about 17 six-year olds were in a lively mood,and it was quite a tough party to do. At one stage, half a dozen of them all went to the loo, one came back crying as he'd dropped the loo seat onto his hand... I had to ask them to quieten down perhaps 20 times, and not to talk through the show, and to please sit down, and to stop fighting... all in all it was one of the more difficult groups I'd had to deal with. However, at the end, the grateful parents told me that last year, they'd invited 33 children and the female entertainer they invited (no names given!) just couldn't cope at all so they were happy that I did manage to do my show, and all of the children participated in something. But I was happy that they only booked me for the one show, and at 3.15 I left in a hurry to get to my next appointment.

This was at Edward's house to discuss next Wednesday's 'York in Transition' Co-ordinating group meeting, and to get an agenda together. Peter turned up and we had quite a jolly and good-humoured meeting, sorting out a lot of issues and all 'getting up to speed'. Back home at about 6 after picking up a sack from Country Fresh.

Our eldest child had been to a leaving party and came back having had a good time. Gill asked me to go to the shops as our youngest had refused point-blank to go with Gill, and on the way back I found a good stash of aluminium cans in a skip plus some electrical wire which I brought home to strip of it's plastic insulation and ended up with quite a lot of recyclable copper wire. Will add this to the copper pipe I've accumulated bit by bit and small bits of lead, and will pay another visit to the metal merchants soon.

A quiet evening, Gill made tea (more broad beans!) and I refilled a compost heap with the turned compost and another load of potatoes which I hope will be ready in the autumn.

Saturday 19th July 08

A relaxing day in some ways... firstly took my laptop around to Ben who has purchased a new screen and has offered to take the old one out and fit the new one. I paid him the £105 the new screen cost to buy and send, he wants Yorkys for the time it takes to do the work.

Then got my logsplitter out and split a large load of logs which I cut yesterday. Our youngest wanted to visit a friend so we rang up and he was with his grandparents, as parents away, and they were taking him to Eden Camp, and offered to take our boy too. Just before I left to take him to his friend's house, I got a phone call from Candy, who had asked a while ago if I could bring my chainsaw to do some of her logs, as her household has now got a woodstove... a Clearview of course, as they ARE the best! So I took the chainsaw and biodegradable oil with me, dropped off our little boy with his friend and went on to Fulford to do Candy's sawing, which took just half an hour. Good chats about carbon footprinting, which is what Candy does for a living, for businesses, I think. Eugene came back and he too was pleased with the chopped logs.

Back via the University waste logpile, loaded up an enormous one, and cut and split that when I got back. Visited Richard and bought veg, got compostables. Turned a sit and wait compost pile, using a builder's bag I found in a skip. Lots of small 'volunteer' potatoes in the pile, which I had for tea with some broad beans thrown out as the pods were discoloured!

Picked up our youngest.

In the evening, Ben came round with more-or-less mended computer... he put in a new hard drive as the old one was very slow and not working at all well, partly due to the knackered screen and my not being able to read instructions on it, and shutting down the computer whilst something was running, probably. However, still not able to send emails from Outlook Express, just able to receive... Frustrating. But the new shiny screen is lovely, despite a pixel not working.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Friday 18th July 08

A funny old day...

I took the kids to school as my eldest was behaving as if he had a hangover... was actually as a result of being at a disco til 9pm and not getting to bed until 10ish. But, once on their bikes, they went into autopilot and zoomed down to school, no problem.

I had some phone conversations with assorted people from the council and the HSE about tarry sleepers in the school's Japanese Garden, and then went to St Nicks to turn the compost pile I constructed last week. It was really hot!

Nice chats with Catherine the head Rotter, who proudly showed me her new 'pet poo wormery' and to Ivana about activities over the summer for kids..

Lunch with Gill, did an hour's chainsawing, and went to school again to pick up our little darlings.

Was reminded that at 6 we'd been invited to Simon and Melody's 'Dr Who Party', so despite my not liking Dr Who, I took the boys down. However, before this I tried to download my emails and my computer just kept crashing. So when I got back from the party with two tired boys, I had a go getting onto my emails on Gill's laptop... and used the Tiscali webmail thing for the first time. Not the same as Outlook Express,but has different features like Blind Carbon Copy (which I don't think OE has?) but I find it not as easy and I cannot find all my inbox, so no deleting tonight! Also, Gill's laptop is really old and slow, very odd! But, hey, we are lucky to have been given it and it works, so no complaints!

The party cheered me up, I took the boys but Gill stayed at home to complete the accounts. Several people arrived whom I knew plus others whom I didn't know so well or at all, so there was lively conversation and good food, and I left with the boys at about 8.40pm. A good party, thank you to Melody and Simon.

Thursday 17th July 08

I took the boys to school in the rain.

Had a fairly quiet day. I did go to town and get out the insurance cheque for the Green Festival, and sent it off. I popped in to the Kyi-Po shop for some soya ice cream which Gill likes, and then on the way home on the cycle track, got a trailer-full of logs.

I went to school at hometime to attend the End of Term Green Thumbs Gang party, and took my Fiddlesticks stuff to do a little show which was ok, not brilliant, but it added to the event.

I left early as I had an appointment with the Blood Donor folks and headed down to the Merchant Taylor's Hall and the Blood people took an armful. I like to give regularly, but last donated in March 07 as they lost my details off their computer and didn't invite me to donate... I thought they'd found something they didn't want in my blood and weren't inviting me back. But then last week I got the magazine they send out (so I was still on their system!) and I rang them to see if I was still wanted... and I was. Anyway, I'm usually quite quick with my bloodflow but this time I had a slow-down half-way through, but not enough for them to stop the donation, and I managed to fill my bag and left with a cuppa and 3 biccies in me.

On the way home I couldn't resist picking up another load of logs from the cycle track...

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Wedsnesday 16th July 08

Had a lie-in til 9!!!

Then after breakfast went shopping for Gill at Country Fresh and the Co-op.

Did paperwork, 3 invoices, and collected a booking letter from Woodlands and wrote a reply.

As our eldest son was having a fun day at school (he's in his last few days there) I delivered two cakes Gill had made for their 'banquet' and collected our youngest. Then at 5ish, went to the allotment and spent a good three hours weeding, managing compost heaps and testing potato plants... dug up two white spuds and found a few egg-size and smaller, and two reds and there were lots more. So that was satisfying.

At 8 went to collect my eldest son who's had a picnic, trip to the York Dungeon, water fight and banquet, and couldn't help giggling when he came to the door as he had obviously been having close contact with a chocolate fountain, and he had lots round his mouth and on hs shirt... but a big smile. They'd all had a good time.

Had a reasonable evening, spent some time on the computer in the loft, my laptop plugged into the stand-alone screen, as my screen is completely unusable.

Tuesday 15th July 08

A good day.. we finally got the piano taken away, by the YMCA charity shop.

In the evening I went to the York Rotters Social and it was really good to see Jo present the information about her lifestyle, garden, compost bins and wormeries. She also brought in several home-made wormeries.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Monday 14th July 08

Gill took the kids into school, I got up as I had a tooth-cleaning appointment at 10, so went for that and to the Co-op Bank to put in York Green Festival cheques, and found out that they are going to have a stall at the Festival, which is excellent news.

Home in time to say goodbye to Linda who is off visiting friends and relatives.

Had a muck about on the internet, using the 'next blog' tool on the top of this blog... and came accross this one which has some really good artwork, street art and other visual stuff. Foreign language, but pictures in international language....

I picked up the children as Gill was in town and when I came back she was in, and preparing potatoes for tea. I did a bit of washing up and helping, and we ate together. I had picked our first cucumber of the year and it was delicious and crunchy.

Sometime after tea I put my laptop on abd Gill suggested I try out the new Futon which she's put together, and is now a sofa not a bed. I did... and tried to use my laptop whilst on it but it fell off and the screen broke (internally) and is completely unusable. I took it to Ben on the way down to the York Humanists meeting which was on 'peak oil' and he said he might be able to source me a second-hand screen to fit the still working computery bit.

The peak oil meeting was good, met my Green friend Andy and old friends Mick and Jane (not that they're old... just that I've known them a long time...) and a friend from long ago called Anne. I liked the way that the subject was presented, and the talk covered several related subjects including peak minerals, peak soil, peak water, peak food, even peak population! Fascinating. It's good to experience someone else's take on a subject you know fairly well yourself, as they always have a slightly different focus or angle, and phrase things differently, and this is good to help you see things from a different perspective.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Sunday 13th July 08

A busy day... two gigs, a two-hour party in Dunnington, and three hours of entertainment at the
Madhyamaka Centre near Pocklington with associated cycling, about 30 miles in total.

So the first was 11-1, a very enthusiastic 7 yr old and 19 of his friends and siblings, and the only difficulty was that the party was in the front room, with a fairly low ceiling and no space for unicycling... however I did my unicycle finale outside, suprising a visiting window cleaner!

I finished there at just after 1 and was cycling to Pocklington by 10 past... and got to the Buddhist Centre on the dot of 2pm, which is when I was contracted to start. I was quite hot after a 14 mile cycle, pulling a trailer full of kit, so changed my teeshirt and had a 10 minute rest with juice to cool off... then did a load more unicycling and circus workshops, finishing after 5pm.

I cycled back quite leisurely, getting in at 7, and Gill had a quiche and potatoes ready which was most welcome. So a busy few days, but all has gone well...

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Saturday 12th July 08

Not a particularly hurried start, but got up in good time to get into my Fiddlesticks clothes and bike loaded up to go to Lesley the Facepainter's house, as she was going to the same event as me and had agreed to give me a lift. I got going at about 10.30 and the rain started... and got extremely heavy so when I arrived at Lesley's, I was soaked! Dumped the bike and put gear in the car and she drove to South Milford, where the school was having a fun day, from 12 til 4. I did four hours continuous workshops and shows, teaching devilsticks, juggling, unicycle and diabolo. I rewarded youngsters who worked hard at the different skills with a balloon animal, and other kiddies wanted them too, so I was busy til after 4.. and the weather held, it didn't rain and it was a really good event.

I was given four unsold pots of lettuce seedlings to take home... I offered Lesley two of them but she only wanted one. I managed to wedge the three pots in with my clobber and got home just before 6... Gill's sister Linda had arrived to spend the weekend with us before visiting other friends and relations in the North.

Gill had made a tasty grain dish, using hot water in the latest nearly empty Marmite jar to provide taste to the bulgar wheat... and we had some delicious green tomato chutney with this... very nice!

I spent an hour in the garden after this, dealing with several sacks and boxes of compostables which went into the compostumbler, with cardboard, and twigs from the high winds recently which I collected and shredded.

A relaxing evening, good to chat with Linda.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Friday 11th July 08

I took the children to school... my buckled front wheel still went round, but with a weird noise, so I carried on with what I had arranged to do, which was to continue down to Fulford and meet up with Scott the Scout leader, who was working with a team of volunteers at the Fulford Scout Hall, behind Fulford Social Hall, to 'do' the garden, and had requested my pro-composting, anti driving-stuff-around knowledge, so that was good to be able to help them to decide to have a wild area/composting area.

Then went to Cycle Heaven to get them to sort out my wheel... which they'll rebuild. Then came back home on one of their lovely 'sit up and beg' bikes, and got ready to go to the nearby Catholic School who have booked me to do two one-hour shows. A 'fun' based one for their Reception group and for the older ones, aged 5-7, a circus show/workshop with a smattering of science and maths. I would have cycled had I got my own bike, and would have walked had it not been raining... but rang a taxi because I didn't want everything to get wet and wanted to get there in good time...

The shows went like a dream! The audiences were fantastic and we all had a brilliant time...

I walked back as it wasn't raining too hard, and got back shortly before Gill and the boys.

I had an early tea, went down to Cycle Heaven to pick up my bike... which had got a new wheel and repaired brakes, quite an expensive fall, will have to be more careful when collecting aluminium cans! So came back via a deli on Bishopthorpe Road for goats cheese for Gill, and Country Fresh for potatoes and compostables, and got home soon after 6.

Then went to the Greenspeak meeting which was about carbon footprinting. Ellie Dawkins from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York did the presentation, talking through what it is and the different definitions, how it's measured and what the results are, for countries, individuals, regions, socio-ecomonic groups, etc. She showed us some distorted maps from a website called Worldmapper, which were very revealing.. specifically toy exports and toy imports, as examples of the inequalities. Carbon calculators were discussed, and policy connected with cutting carbon footprints, and economic issues including something called price elasticity, which is how much increasing prices of different goods affect behaviour... ie some things are very sensitive to price increases, but others are relatively unaffected. It was noted that recently, car use had dropped noticeably due to the increasing cost of fuel.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Thursday 10th July 08

I took the boys into school as I was expecting a phone call from my greengrocer friend Jamie to ask me to meet him at St Nicks to do a recycling job for him... but when I got home he hadn't called, so I got on with some work at home... and then got a phone call from John at St Nicks... Jamie was there waiting for me, he'd forgotten to ring me. Anyway, I bombed down there and did two hours of the most revolting stinky work, but very worthwhile, and it will earn a little donation for St Nicks too...

Home at midday, showered, had lunch... felt negative for a few minutes about composting, but I'm sure it will pass...

Did some paperwork connected to a late booking which is tomorrow at a nearby school, and before collecting the kids, delivered the confirmation letter to them so they know I'll be with them before the 1pm start time...

And went to school, fielded the children and asked them to play for a bit as I was doing some Green Thumbs volunteering and as it was a nice day, good weather 'n' all, they were happy enough to play on the field whilst I got on with the young gardeners.

After the hour, took my boys home and thanked them for being so good and well behaved whilst I did the gardening club.

After tea, which was a toastie with assorted other bits, went to the core group meeting of York Green Festival which was at Rich's house fairly close to here. Last time I cycled up Heslington Road, I noticed several aluminium cans in the grounds of the Retreat, plus others on the roadside verge, so I stopped to pick them up and as I got off my bike, my foot slipped off the kerb and I fell, bashing my elbow on the pavement and pulling the bike on top of me... What a fool! But I was wearing new shoes which have soles which do seen to slip if wet, not like my wellies which have good grip. Anyway, I got myself together, threw the cans in the trailer, and prepared to cycle off... and my foot slipped off the pedal and I fell on top of the bike, into the road, and when I got up, I found that I had buckled my front wheel, bloodied my knee and bruised my knuckle... oh what a double fool! But the front wheel still went round so I slowly went down the hill to the meeting feeling very foolish and sorry for myself...

The Green Fest meeting was really good, Rich chaired well and we got all the stuff talked about... publicity, workshops, stalls, stewards, kids area, waste/recycling, healing area, DJ area, insurance, marquees, the neighbours' letter and the website.

The meeting lasted til after 10, after which I cycled carefully home, beginning to ache and feel sore.

I came in and did the neccessary YGF emails, had a chat on Skype and relaxed.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Wednesday 9th July 08

A good day, although Gill asked me to come downstairs to help the boys get ready as she was going to get their bikes out... and they have real attitude problems with putting socks and shoes on... but with regular encouragement, they got to leave the house at 8.35 and to school on time...

Gill and I spent the best part of the day doing paperwork.... accounts, and I was doing York Green Festival insurance documents.

After lunch I cycled down to the Green Party office to give in a cheque for business cards, which the 'York Community Print' is doing for me, on 100% recycled card, printed both sides, two colours....

I picked up the kiddies from school, plus one friend, and came home quickly so they could go to Martial Arts, but Maria came round and told us it was cancelled. She chatted with us for half an hour whilst the 3 boys played in the garden.

Tuesday 8th July 08

Gill gave me a lie-in and I got up at 9 and had breakfast whilst chatting with Gilly. I rang Ali who is going through some difficult times with her daughter, who is in hospital, very worrying.

I did some paperwork, a cheque in the post, and various computery things whilst Gill went to town and got a futon for our front room, so her sister can have somewhere to sleep.

During the afternoon I went to the allotment to turn the compost heaps and do some weeding.

Gill went to school to get the boys, picked up the eldest and waited to pick up Yoga boy an hour later. I got in soon after she did.

At soon after 7 I went to the York in Transition meeting at St Nicks.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Monday 7th July 08

I had a bit of a rude awakening as Gill was intending to take the kids to school but suddenly the realisation that there was some independent learning project work still not done meant that one of our boys had got back into bed and was refusing to go to school. So I got up and reasoned with him, cajoled him, explained about the law, etc etc, and even used the term offered to me by a commentator to this blog, that it was 'non negotiable'! I pulled him out of his room by his wrists and ushered him downstairs, onto the chair where his breakfast was waiting... which he started to eat and slowly then calmed down and seemed to forget his bad mood. By 8.30 it was clear that Gill would be able to take them to school, and I went back to bed and slept til 11.

During the day, helped tidy the front room trying to get ready for Linda coming to visit over the weekend. It's a big job as it has become the dumping ground for all my paperwork and circus stuff...

I picked up the boys from school and gave my apologies to the committee meeting of Green Thumbs, which I couldn't attend as I was bringing the boys home.

After doing emails I cycled down to town to get a couple of cheques out and put a trailer's worth of drinks cartons into the carton recycling skip at Hazel Court, James St. No-one tried to stop me this time, and I again ignored the advice/ruling of 'no pedestrians or cycles' in the top part of the compound. I watched a car-driver get out of his vehicle and wander between several skips... in a very 'pedestrian' manner! It's a nonsensical rule!

Home for tea, and at 7.15, whilst getting ready to go to the LETS AGM, got a Fiddlesticks phone booking to go to an Autistic Society playscheme, which I know I'll enjoy.

I thought I'd be late to the meeting but I wasn't, and several people arrived after me. I chaired the meeting, it went well and we made some importaant decisions including asking members to consider having newsletters and directories electronically. We had a nice buffet, sandwiches, pizza, quiche, etc. Good social too, and trading. Back home at 11pm.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sunday 6th July 08 Disability Awareness Day, Warrington

A ridiculously early start... up at 5am to get the 6.05 to Manchester Piccadilly... where I had a 55 minute wait for the short hop to Oxford Road, then 10 mins wait for the Warrington train, getting there on time at 9.39, in plenty of time to catch the 10am free transfer bus to Walton Hall Gardens where the fantastic annual Disability Awareness Day takes place.

So I spent the next 5 or so hours unicycling and devilsticking and making balloon models, having a whale of a time in an environment where I feel completely at home and amongst friends. It is one of the highlights of my year. The weather was suprisingly kind... only one showere during the event, and one at 5 as it was shutting down, as I went for the bus.

A short wait on the station and a train all the way back to York, getting in at 8.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Saturday 5th July 08

Up quite early as at 10 I had agreed to take the children to St Nicks to do some 'Balsam Bashing' as part of the Eco-Active Days programme. They were both keen, despite the wet weather. We got there before 10 and met up with half a dozen other volunteers, all happy to pull up Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed as these are both invasive foreign species. The balsam is an annual and in winter, it leaves bare soil on the sides of watercourses, which erodes very easily. So the idea is to pull it up to allow other species to grow, which may have better root systems, which can keep the soil in situ. The knotweed is very invasive and potentially destructive, and it needs removing if at all possible, and pulling it up helps keep it under control.

So we spent an hour and a half of pulling up nettles from around newly planted trees, balsam and knotweed, piling up all the vegetation in the same place to rot down. Hwever, the rain got very heavy and a bit much for my two boys, and we three went back to the Environment Centre building. The rest of the team followed us within half an hour.

Our reward was a lovely lunch of tomato soup and bread... with good humoured company. I chatted to two new volunteers who are going to be there on Saturdays, one a physicist, the other a speech and conversation expert. Fascinating stuff!

Gill had had a quiet and pleasent morning, and was glad that we'd all enjoyed the work, lunch and each other's company.

The rain got very heavy during the afternoon, but I did some work in the garden anyway... but lit the stove to dry stuff off.

Friday 4th July 08

I took the boys into school and then at 11, we both went in to have a meeting with the head and several others, which went well and we left reasonably reassured. We came home and had lunch, cannot remember what we did with the rest of the afternoon, but 3pm came all too quickly and I cycled down and brought them back.

A good evening, though, as I had an early tea... including the second lot of 'chicken of the woods' mushroom, cooked in tomato and leek this time, to help it be a little more moist. Had this with a home-made burgery thing using yesterday's unused rice. Delicious!

Then I bombed down to the Minster to attend the celebratory Critical Mass, about 10 of us happy that York has been made a cycling demonstration city, with Cycling England giving York £3.7 million to help promote cycling. So we had a 10 mile tootle round, very good natured apart from one aggressive taxi driver.

A very late night, including a game of Scrabble with Gill, which I won.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Thursday 3rd July 08

A good morning, took the boys to school and a big sack of riddled compost plus a big sack of leafmold, and my rotasieve, to mix with the loam from molehills to finish filling the containers bought by Julia for Green Thumbs. This took 45 minutes and I have now justabout filled them all, there's just one big pot which is only 3/4 full, so one more sack of 'ready mixed' to go in there, I'll prepare that at home and take it in, perhaps for this afternoon's Green Thumbs.

The afternoon went all too quickly and Gill went to school first to pick up the boys, I followed on to do the Green Thumbs Gang. We planted out some radishes and a few other bits in the planters I finished filling this morning, but then it started to rain so we went into the classroom and I read most of the group the 'Magic School Bus' book on decomposition which CRAG Anna sent me as a present... the children seemed to enjoy it.

In the evening I went to the Hull Road Ward Committee, where I was presenting the fourth item on the agenda, on the progress of the Planning Panel.

Later, at home, I started to prepare the immature walnuts for pickling. I washed them and then used a needle mounted on a handle, which is from my days collecting insects as a teenager, to make a series of little holes in each one to allow the brine solution to draw out moisture. This took an hour, and resulted in some of my fingers going brown.... walnuts contain a very strong dye... I did know about this but do not enjoy using rubber gloves.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Wednesday 2nd July 08

Gill took our youngest to school and our year 6 10 year-old was due in his secondary school at 10ish for a fun day, so he walked up there with a friend.

Gilly and I had a relaxed morning which was refreshing, and then continued doing the mound of housework. I did some cropping in the garden, our walnut tree has fruited very well this year so I took off all but one nut per bunch, and will pickle the pruned-out immature walnuts. I've never had pickled walnuts but Gill likes them and Gill's mum loved them, they were a great treat. I'll have to make needle-pricks in them and put them in brine before letting them dry and putting them in vinegar.

Whilst picking these, I noticed one of my large logs (actually an innocculated cherry trunk) had fruited with my favourite mushroom, 'chicken of the woods' which is a really meaty and solid fungus which is almost indistinguishable from firm chicken flesh... except more ethical, lower carbon and less cruel! I cut the huge and heavy fruiting body off and washed it and pared off the woodlouse poo which was semi-incorporated in the top surface. Once prepared, I cut it into cubes and fried it in olive oil, and had this as a garnish on the rice and veg which Gill cooked for us for tea.

I went to Country Fresh and picked up another large load, including at least 20 cucumbers in plastic sheaths which I had to spend some time cutting off before composting the unwanted fruit. It seems weird that I am carefully nurturing my cucumber plants and watching the cucs grow bigger day-by-day, whilst the commercial system just throws away dozens of unsold ones...

Also did some weeding of regrowing nettle roots, invasive ground elder and brambles, and made another layer on the bay-window-radiator compost heap. There's no chance of them growing as it gets so hot! I had a magazine delivered this morning which I subscribe to, Kitchen Garden. Last month, there was an article about coping with mares tail, and the author, Sandra, whom I know as she's from York, had put 'on no account compost them', which I disagree with as I have composted lots, from two neighbours' gardens. So I had written in to the magazine to explain how to successfully compost mares tail, nettle and ground elder, and even Japanese Knotweed. My letter was published, but without my name as I said that I knew Sandra and I guess the editor didn't want me to embarrass her or something...

Anyway, the trick is to do it hot, dry or wet. Hot heaps are best... shred the offending material with lots of other stuff and turn it so it all heats up as it breaks down. Nothing survives the 60 to 70 degrees celcius temperatures generated. The dry method involves drying the roots etc off on a patio or path, and when completely crunchy, put them on the heap. This however, does not kill seeds, which can grow in the finished compost. The wet method is good, if a bit smelly. The materials are placed in a bucket of rainwater and left immersed to go gooey for several weeks. This slop can then be poured on your heap, or the liquid used for watering plants, as it's full of nutrients, and the stringy plant materials composted.

I went to town in the afternoon to give in the planning panel paperwork and talk to a couple of Council officers about various issues, pay in my Sheffield Green Fair cheque and buy a replacement blender/liquidiser, which I'd seen in Barnitts. Got one for half price, a good one which ought to last longer than the two £20 jobbies we've gone through in the past few years. We do a lot of food preparation so a good liquidiser is important. The one I got has a juicer thing which fits in the goblet, so during the evening I peeled about 15 oranges (also thrown out, probably because of skin blemishes) and put them in the juicer, made just over a litre of juice. Lovely!

Tuesday 1st July 08

I took the kiddies into school and then spent a few minutes collecting nice crumbly soil from molehills for the remaining containers which need filling for Green Thumbs. I'll bring in some riddled compost and mix them, making a good planting medium.

Came home to do a load of replies to Fiddlesticks bookings. In the afternoon, had an hour at the lottie, mainly weeding the onion bed. Good to meet Jessica there for the first time in months, as usual, she had camera in hand, looking for the smaller things in life to capture electronically. Her pics are available for all to see on Red Bubble.

I collected my eldest son from school at the normal time and then cycled back down to get the little one who'd been to Yoga an hour later.

At 6.30 went to the Hull Road Planning Panel, which I'm 'acting chair' of in the absence of someone else prepared to do the job. We looked at 4 planning applications and signed the forms with our views, which I will deliver tomorrow to the Council.

Then I went to Country Fresh to pick up a huge load, infact only managed 2 sacks and 3 boxes, leaving 2 sacks-worth there for collection tomorrow. Took these to the lottie to put on my 4 working heaps there.