Saturday, 27 September 2008

Saturday 27th September 08

Up quite early to get ready for my little trip away.. but made time to do my last email download before going.....

Went to the station for about midday and caught the train to Scarborough, changed at Seamer and caught the Bridlington train, arriving about 2pm.

Got to Flamborough for 3 and settled in to the tiny cottage for my mini-break/retreat/holiday or whatever it's labelled. Time for reflection and writing, and deleting emails!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Friday 26th September 08

I took my little boy into school... he carried his own schoolbag instead of it just going in my trailer, to 'prove' that he could do it, so if one or other adult cannot carry it because bike basket or cycle trailer is full, he knows that he can carry the bag and cycle at the same time.

At about 9.30 I set off St Nicks for the second day teaching the kiddies from the Harrogate school, and popped into Bob's to give him the final cheque to pay him for stuff he spent for the Green Festival. The Harrogate kids arrived soon after 10 and John and I worked as a team, well a double act, Saint John and John the Rotter.

So whilst John took one group I did the rubbish game and half-card game, then we swapped and he took my first group to the EcoDepot to see the straw bales, big wind turbine and acres of solar panels...

The two groups ate lunch separately and I did the post-lunch waste activity with them, showing them how much of their packaging could be recycled, reused, composted or landfilled. After a play on the play area (swings, climbing equipment etc) I did a 25 minute composting and worms info/demo whilst John did something on climate change.... then we swapped over, finishing at 2pm.

I came straight home and started to get ready for going away tomorrow, when I'm off to Flamborough to go on a retreat, where I'm hoping to do a lot of writing and not much blogging!

However, as I'm away this weekend with no guaranteed internet access, I wrote my paid blog, on my take on the Credit Crunch, as well as doing a lot of washing up so I don't leave a huge pile of it for Gill to do...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Thursday 25th September 08

I took our youngest into school and Gill had a lie-in whilst I lit the stove, did the washing up, wrote invoices and emails and when Gill awoke, I took bathwater up for her.
Tried to get my column finished but had so many phone calls including one from Kate Lock who was going to give a talk at the Food Festival this afternoon but cannot do it now and has asked me to do it... she was going to promote her book 'Confessions of an Eco Shopper' but her daughter had been sent home from school unwell, so she couldn't do the talk.

Well, I did it! I picked up Kate's veg bag and her notes which she'd prepared to guide her through her talk, plus her home-made beauty products, and went to the York Rotters stall which was supplying a cut-out compost bin, bokashi bins, compost caddies and compost info fridge magnets from WRAP. By 3pm there were about 10 people wanting to hear the talk and as I was doing it, others arrived. Also, a lady representing Swale Organics came, bearing a Swale Organics veg box so I included that into the talk. Kate gets a veg box from Goosemoorganics and they'd supplied a £10 sack of veg for display, so I included that in my talk too. One of the things about a veg box is that it produces less packaging waste and Kate had collected a bag of packaging from Tesco where she had bought the equivalent veg to the £10 Goosemoorganics bag, which has minimal packaging, and most of it is compostable at that.... I finished the talk with a piece on composting, bokashi, wormeries and the help that York Rotters offers to would-be composters and existing compsters to encourage them to compost more...

I delivered the bag of veg to the Peaseholme Centre for the homeless as asked, delivered Kate's bag of packaging and her home-made beauty products back to her, and cycled home via Country Fresh and picked up two boxes of compostables from them.

Gill had created tea... home grown potatoes and cauliflower cheese, and a slice of bread. Simple but good. At 7 our babysitter Sarah arrived and we went to the Secondary School Cheese and Wine Reception to meet the teachers and other parents. Home soon after 9, boys had been exceptionally well behaved and Sarah had had an easy time. I gave her a copy of Kate's book as she refused payment in cash.

Finished my column, emailed it in. Watched 'Easy Rider', one of my favourite films....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Wednesday 24th September 08

I took our youngest to school and came back in good time to get myself ready to go to work in Harrogate, for their CarFreeDay activities.

I got the 10.11 train and was met in Harrogate by a camera operator from BBC Look North who wanted to get some footage of me advertising the event. So we walked to the St Peter's Church and I got changed into Professor Fiddlesticks and went outside to unicycle around and invite people into St Peter's to see the exhibition materials from Sustrans, the Christian Ecology Network , FoE and others.

As I finished doing the unicycling around, the group toddle arrived... actually a group of about 10 mums with pre-school kids in push chairs and buggies. I don't know where they'd walked from, but they were the sort of 'customer' who might usually go places by car. I was expecting a school group to entertain but it turned out that the youngsters were these pre-schoolers! So I did a half-hour show aimed at the mums, Vicar and his helpers, and the CarFreeDay volunteers... which seemed to go well.

Then Yvonne invited me to come to lunch... which I wasn't expecting. We went to a mock-French place and the service was slow and several people didn't get what they asked for. I had a tomato soup and baguette 'pizza'. Thanks to Malcolm Margolis for this. At least the long wait allowed us to chat!

Back to St Peters where the displays were starting to be taken down, and I chatted to a nice couple called Rachel and Dan, with a cute baby, and an enthusiastic chap called Lee and his friend Adrian...

I went to get the 3.05 train but missed it by 3 minutes so read my NewScientist and got home before 5. On the Leeds 'Look North' there was a brief mention of Professor Fiddlesticks, see
It's about 3 minutes 20 seconds in...

Later in the evening I got a call from a friend/neighbour who had a bust-up with her 17 yr old daughter and she'd locked her out of the house, partly as the daughter had some large chaps with her and Mum was not feeling safe. I negotiated that the daughter came in, got her overnight stuff and rang one of her brothers who said he'd let her sleep over for a night. I stayed in the house whilst the daughter got her stuff together and left. Happy families eh?

Nearly finished my column on Electrics and Gadgets, but it's too long so will edit it down tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tuesday 23rd September 08

I took our youngest into school... I'm impressed with his road sense.

At about 9.30 I went to St Nicks (See their new website!) to help them with a group of 36 primary school children who have booked an 'eco day' with them. John had asked me to come today and Friday, two days work... paid and something I like doing, helping people understand about waste and recycling, composting and re-use.

So I was there from before 10 but the school party didn't arrive til nearly 10.30. They were given a brief intro to the centre from John ('Saint John') and then I took half the group as 'John the Rotter' and we discussed composting whilst John did something with the other half inside. We then swapped over and I had the other half for another 30 minutes. They loved the wormery and asked some great questions! Then it was lunch (in two halves again, the non-lunching half going to the play area) swiftly followed by a 'sort your waste' game. Then I had half the group for a re-use/recycle/dump game and a matching card-halves game..... then the second half for the same, whilst John took the other group to the Council's 'Eco Depot', which is the largest straw bale building in Eurpoe and has loads of PV panels, rainwater lorry wash facilities and now, a large wind turbine.

So, we were finished by 2.15 and I came home with a cycle trailer load of chunky branches which I saved from going through the hired shredder a few weeks ago, and have been donated to me.

I went to school to pick up my little one and came home tired, but needing to get on with my column which has to be in by the end of the week.

However, I had a phone call from BBC Radio York who wanted to interview me about tomorrow's Harrogate Car Free Day so I agreed to cycle down to the studio and chat to Gemma. When I got there, via my GP surgery to give in a repeat prescription request, she wanted to do two interviews, one on Car Free Day and one on York in Transition's eco building walk on 28th September. I obliged.

On the way back I went to Sainsburys to get Marmite and Ribena, and succumbed to one of their superb multi-seed loaves, which are delicious although expensive.

I cooked some fresh spaghetti and an onion/tomato topping for Gill and myself, and she made a microwaved cake to create a trifle using home grown raspberries, blackberries and a tin of 'summer fruits' I found in a skip. Delicious!

Later in the evening, watched Griff Rhys Jones on Anger which was very interesting since all three males in this house have some degree of it. I hope the second programme offers a few solutions! I wonder if they'll visit an AVP workshop or a graduate of one? I recorded the programme but I think it has too much swearing to show it to our eldest child. Pity.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Monday 22nd September 08

I took our youngest to school. I came back to have an interesting discussion with Gill about blogging, and then we were both invited to have a coffee with our friend and neighbour Maria, and some of the conversation continued there and Maria was able to put some of the issues into perspective which was good, and the chat helped us both.

Lunch with Gill and then down to the station to pick up a visitor from London who is up in this area because of business, but had booked to see YorkLETS members to offer us some software which should help us run the system quite a lot better. We walked through York, stopping for a coffee at El Piano, and then walked on to St Nicks as I had to have a chat to John about tomorrow's work I have there, with a bunch of school children who are visiting on an 'Eco Day'. I'm working 10 til 2 and we had to talk through what was needed re times and activities.

Then back home for a few minutes before walking round to Ben's to have a look through the software. We were impressed and will be debating the situation at the next Core Group meeting.
Our visitor had a bite to eat with me and Gill and then headed back down south, getting a lift to the station with Ben who drove down to collect his partner Jill.

Got a lovely email from a supportive friend regarding the turbulent times we've had this weekend. How good it is to have friends like we've got. Life would be much tougher without them.

Enjoyed watching Bruce Parry in the Amazon, despite all the puking. Started writing column on electrical stuff and gadgets but got distracted looking at energy websites and similar.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sunday 21st September 08

Woken by my youngest child obviously being beaten by my eldest.

Came down to find Gill sitting on top of the eldest to stop him attacking the youngest, and complete chaos. This was all to do with homework and the boy's resistance to doing it. When he had calmed somewhat, Gill let him go and he went upstairs to scream a lot and break things, this being normal in our household.

After a few minutes he came in whilst I was eating my cereal and Gill was sitting crying on the couch, and he said he was sorry. I responded that his apology did not undo what he had done and he went ballistic and attacked me, my cereal bowl got kicked out of my hands and the contents went everywhere. In retrospect I should have just heard and accepted his apology despite my anger about his previous behaviour. I really have no idea how I should deal with an 11 year-old shouting abuse at me, telling me to 'shut up' if I try to talk to him about anything which he construes as criticism, and hitting my wife and younger child.

We are seriously considering sending him to boarding school as we cannot cope at home. He threatens to run away and sometimes we wish he would as then we might get the help we need.
What do we do?

Well, the question resulted in several responses, a couple positive or sympathetic, one quite dismissive. But the afternoon went well and things were calm, despite there being homework around. We've found that 10 minute bursts are best.

Later on in the afternoon I had a visit from my friend Lorna and we went for a meal... just a pizza and salad, and then a walk down to the Millennium Bridge and up through Walmgate Stray where I showed her my allotment. Got back soon after 8pm and I wrote my paid blog on Car Free Day and anger. See

I publicly apologise to Gill and my family for again talking about family issues within this public domain. I shouldn't do it, and should try to limit it to my life and my attempts to be 'low carbon'. I do find this difficult though after over 20 years diary/journal writing and my very open nature. But in future I will try to limit what I put as I have upset Gill by being so public.
I am sorry and will try harder.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Saturday 20th September 08

A Fiddlesticks work day, cycled to Selby to do a gig for my friend Mark, who attends a church called St James, and the gig was an outreach fun day ('Fun-B-Que') organised by
The Edge Project. Everything was free... food, bouncy castle, face painting, 'gospel magician', band, me, and more. I got there at 11.20 after a good cycle down the York to Selby cycle path (Route 65) including getting a 'tow' (cycling in the slipstream) from a couple on a brand new tandem, on a day out from Tockwith.

The 'Fun B Que' was from 12 til 3 and was a lovely event, which I enjoyed adding to, and the weather was perfect! I very much enjoyed my cycle back, and was delighted to meet my friend Lorna within a group of about 10 cyclists on a try-out round trip. Lorna's twin lives close to York and is a very keen cyclist, so she was there with her husband on recumbents. The editor of Velovision magazine (Peter Eland) had supplied some of the bikes, so we stopped at his house briefly before going over the Millenium Bridge. I parted from Lorna and company near the University as they had parked a mile away in the Heworth area.

So I came home with a smile. I had some soup for tea and chopped a few logs, bagged up some leafmould as it's that time of year again to empty last year's leafmould container to refill it soon.

Restful evening.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Friday 19th September 08

I took our youngest into school and was told that there was to be a Green Thumbs assembly to show the children the produce as it looked really good and the growers were so proud of it.

However it was going to be at 10.15 so I deliberated whether to go or not. Had a chat with Mrs P the headteacher about a composting message but she said this would complicate the assembly, so no composting message. I decided to do something practical at home instead.

I have recently built a new logpile to the left of the door (looking out) and I was filling the logbasket with logs from the top of the other side's stack, and disturbed a beautiful ichneumon wasp which was just laying an egg deep into the wood, presumably in a woodboring beetle or some other grub. The ovipositor was about the same length of its body and antennae, and it had beautiful reddish yellow legs, could have been Lampronata setosas which parasitises Goat Moths. It withdrew it's ovipositor and proceeded to walk around the log, gently touching the surface with its antennae and putting them into cracks and insect holes, smelling for prey to lay an egg on/in. Gill and I watched it for 10 minutes or so, it was absolutely exquisite! I couldn't now burn this log, as it had an ichneumon egg growing in a grub within... so I decided to put this one with several others under a hedge, as a 'wildlife refuge'. I found a good image on the internet and tried to download it but the resolution was poor... so I emailed the owner of the website, Kim, and he said I could use a better quality image. His site has some fantastic images, well worth a look! see: Thanks to them for this image! This is the first image I've been able to add to my blog, hope readers like it!!!

I had a busy afternoon, several visits including a Rotters visit to a Dutchman wanting advice about his 'dalek', an easy visit. Came home and got together 10 paper bags of dried fruit prizes for the York in Transition Quiz which Anna Semlyen and I have been preparing for. I cycled down to the Friends Meeting House at about 6.30 and when I got there, Anna had just got the room sorted out with five tables, each with 3 chairs, 3 sheets of paper and 3 pens. By 7pm, the advertised start time, we had got 15 bums on 15 seats... how lucky was that? Anna and I read out alternate questions, we had done quite different styles of question and on different 'green' issues. It was really good to hear the discussions on the tables (each table being one team) and the questions obviously caused much thought. I think a green quiz is an excellent way to present 'Transition' information... Anna had got some prizes from The Co-op and I had brought my dried fruit, so everybody got something. Most enjoyable! I can send enquirers a list of my questions (and answers!) if there are other green groups wanting to have a quiz as part of an awareness-raising event.

A less then easy evening followed, as had agreed to have a skype conversation with a friend and we don't see 'eye to eye' with everything. But it is an interesting friendship and I am always 'up for' learning and new experiences...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Thursday 18th September 08

I took our youngest to school. Was quite moved by the sight of a tree in the schoolyard with literally hundreds of Orb Web Spiders' webs, all visible because of the autumnal mist and the sun shining through. Several people had said they'd noticed the same phenomenon whilst walking down Windmill Lane.

When I got in, I spent most of the morning inside despite it being a lovely outside, because I had loads to do. I had to book a venue for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, and email the members to inform them I did a bit more prep for the quiz on Friday night. I sent an email to a potential facilitator for our visioning meeting. I discussed some work with John from St Nicks for next week. And washed up.

During the afternoon, what there was of it, I did spend a little time in the garden. But at 3 had to go to school and do the first Green Thumbs Gang meeting of the year. This was very exciting and rewarding, because it was harvest! We picked fennel, beetroot, onions, spring onions, garlic, spinach, and LOADS of potatoes. We also had a fairly quick tour of the garden looking at weeds, blight, green potatoes, bolted lettuces and more. An extremely satisfying hour.

I visited Country Fresh on the way home and came back with about 4 boxes of compostables and some bought produce including a couple of avocados as a treat. Spent quite a bit of time sorting out the compostables, layering them with shredded twigs and cardboard, but rescued a good pile of little leeks and some cauliflowers which aren't perfectly shaped... so that might make a good soup or stew for tomorrow... Prepared this lot much later in the evening on the woodstove.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Wednesday 17th September 08

Managed to stay asleep til after 9 which was good after a late and difficult evening sorting out, or trying to sort out something complicated last night.

However, still not feeling physically very well either, but did some sorting out in the conservatory, getting recyclables together to go next Tuesday.

Gill went to town but Oxfam was shut and she tried to get Euros from a Post Office, but the exchange rate was not what I expected. I thought one pound was about two Euros but it looks like it's about 1:1. Will do some research. I researched train and bus times for a trip later this month.

After lunch I cycled to The Winning Post pub to give in a £50 deposit to secure the function room for 5th October when York in Transition is showing the film The End of Suburbia with a discussion and social. On the way back I met a friendly tree surgeon with a load of spare logs which he was only too happy to drop off at my house, which was less than half a mile away.

So I then proceeded to chainsaw them into splittable rounds but due to the type of tree, they wouldn't split. The wood has lots of cross-links and stringy fibres making splitting with a maul virtually impossible. I got my hydraulic splitter out, which my neighbours prefer me to use as it's quieter than the axe or maul and log grenade, but it wasn't working very well. I'm wondering if the hydraulic oil needs replacing, after all it has had a lot of use. I rang Tony Castle, York's best tree surgeon (well, certainly one of the most knowledgeable and biddable!) and asked if he'd be able to replace my hydraulic oil.... for a price, to see if that made the machine work any better. He'll be able to collect it in the next few days and do it in his workshop.

Our youngest had tea with a friend and didn't come back til after 7, giving the eldest plenty of space for doing homework, which he is particularly resistant to. I had to go to a York in Transition meeting and when I came back Gill was in tears as there'd been a huge violent outburst about homework and she was at her wits end. I just held her but also have no answers. I went up to put the lights out. We cuddled on the sofa and watched crap on the telly and chatted. At midnight when she fell asleep, I went onto the computer to deal with emails and to try to find a facilitator for a visioning meeting. I had to deal with a very long badly written email which took well over an hour to wade through and reply to. I have told the sender that I prefer short, to the point and well constructed messages, short sentences, good punctuation and spelling, if possible. This makes the job of the reader so much easier and is just plain courteous and polite.

Bed therefore at 2.30am.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Tuesday 16th September 08

I took our youngest into school as Gill had been up from 6.30 getting packed lunches together and the boys' bags, persuading them to get dressed, etc.

In the playground I had a chat with Mrs P. the headteacher, primarily about the four sacks of finished compost that I removed from the final compost bin where it had been all summer. I needed to know if it was OK to leave it with the other Green Thumbs stuff or whether there was a better position for it. The reason is that the school grounds are not secure in the evenings and youths often use the grounds, and if they were injured or harmed by the sacks of compost or their contents (!!!) they could possibly sue the school. Ridiculous I know, but that's the situation...

However, another very interesting situation has progressed over the summer. The Health and Safety Executive (and local Environmental Health) visited the Japanese Garden which was constructed last year. Regular readers will remember that as the old, tarry sleepers were being unloaded from the contractors lorry, I told the school that I was fairly sure that old railway sleepers were not meant to be used in Children's playgrounds or schools. The next day I gave a letter into the school with the details of the EU legislation (Directive 2001/90/EC) which states this. The contractor was either told or worked out that it was me who had done this and gave me loud publc death threats in the playground, which was most upsetting. The work continued, despite the warnings that I thought that it was illegal. (See also UK Statutory Instrument number 721)

So, the HSE sent a letter (which I haven't seen yet) telling the school that they would have to remove the smelly and possibly carcinogenic sleepers and replace them with untreated ones. However, their reason for this wasn't that it was against the law, but apparently because I had reported that my son was "made to eat his packed lunch off one of the sleepers by Mrs P." which is totally untrue. I had reported to the HSE person that my child was made to (or asked to) eat his packed lunch in the newly opened Japanese Garden and he that afternoon reported to us that the smell of the sleepers had made him feel sick and that's why he hadn't eaten his lunch. So the HSE people had got the story completely twisted up and wrong, and very unfairly blamed the situation on the Head. If I get a copy of the letter, I will write to the author/s and ask for a correction as this situation has given the Headteacher a lot of stress over the summer. The reason they should have given is that the work contravenes an EU Directive. I don't feel that good about it as I'm partly responsible, and I'm sure the head feels bad about it as she ignored my initial advice, before the sleepers were installed. However, I am glad the garden will be made fit for use, although I'm sorry that this will cost so much more than if the situation had been sorted right at the beginning.

In searching the net about information offered to members of the public, I found this site which is offering illegal advice to use treated sleepers in gardens as planting containers. I had an email discussion with one of the people at this site about the way it seems to suggest that it's ok to use treated sleepers as plant containers, and was assured that they communicate the facts of the legislation to all customers. However, I was still unhappy to see photos of raised beds growing vegetables made with creosoted railway sleepers on this website, when this is explicitly prohibited.
So my advice is to only use UNTREATED sleepers if you have any doubts as to the suitability of their purpose. They cost a bit more (ie they are not 'waste'!) but don't smell awful, leach carcinogenic chemicals onto skin or clothes, or run you the risk of being told to replace them.

I had a low-mood day as I've been feeling unwell, headache, tummy ache, tired. I went to bed for a while and haven't eaten much... Gill persuaded me to have a fried egg sandwich but I ate it without enthusiasm.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Monday 15th September 08

Slept well and Gill asked me to take our youngest to school as his bike was out of order, Gill had tried to sort out a new inner tube but the shop, Cycle Works, had sold her a tube that was way too thin/narrow for his chunky wheel/tyre.

Soon after I got back from school I set out for a house a bit further up Hull Road where our friend Beth is a gardener. She'd asked me to come and help dig out the compost heap so she could spread it as a mulch under the raspberries and roses. I dug out 11 barrows full and then started to turn a large heap into the vacated space. Whilst I was doing this, I was pulling on my fork to try to pull some material towards me, to make it easier to fork up and move, and I pulled the handle into my mouth by accident, splitting my top lip. I was initially worried that I'd knocked a tooth out but it was only my lip which was bleeding. After a glass of water and a two minute breather, I continued shifting the heap and justabout finished the job. Very satisfying work, pity about the accident.

Home via the bread shop and had a fairly restful afternoon before going down to school to collect our little one, who again got a lift on my bike to do the journey. When I got back I zoomed down to Cycle Heaven to sort out the inner-tube problem, and visited the Building Society to put in the cheque from the organisation which was being very slow in paying. I am so glad they've paid up as I really didn't want the hassle of taking them to court.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Sunday 14th September 08

Another day entertaining.

Saturday 13th September 08

Off to Preston to entertain new students at the University of Central Lancashire, UCLAN. A ridiculously early start, had to be on the 06.13 train... which was made more bearable by meeting Robin from Visitation Productions who is also going to the same event.

After an hour of chat (til the other side of Leeds) he had a snooze and I read NewScientist and woke him up at Preston. We got a taxi up to the Harrington Building where we had a long wait for our handler to arrive, and when she did, we were swiftly despatched to our locations. Robin was taken to another campus, but I stayed at the central location and found a good spot in a lobby where I twiddled my devilsticks all day and did a small number of balloons and perhaps 3 workshops, in about 5 hours of work (10 til 4 with a lunch break). So a very very tough day.

I waited for Robin to get back from his far-flung gig and we got a taxi up to Ashton where he had booked us into a BnB/Hotel/guest house.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Friday 12th September 08

I took our youngest into school and then straight into town to buy train tickets for the weekend, purchasing assorted medications, toothpaste etc for the family, and home pretty quickly.

There'd been a phone call from Richard who had removed a big tree from his back garden and I'd started taking bits of it home a week or two back. Today I took my chainsaw to try to chop up the stump... which was tough as my electric chainsaw is small and the trunk was big, but in an hour we managed to get it more or less sorted. I came home with a generous load of chopped roots and chunks of trunk.

Stacked a load, Gill came in with loaf, had lunch... and a very relaxed pottering-about type of afternoon. Included splitting and stacking wood, composting, tidying...

Eldest child went to a friend's house after school but on the way there something happened to his front wheel and the tyre came off, so at 6.45 I cycled down there and popped his bike on my trailer and him on the crossbar to bring both home.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Thursday 11th September 08

Woke to hear a rumpus downstairs, REST OF PARAGRAPH CENSORED

Anyway, he went to school and school rang to say he'd arrived. Phew! Gill went to an appointment. I lit the stove and did some of the washing up I didn't do last night as I was on the computer.... bad John :-(

The day got better. I saw there was a gap in the rain and I rang Joan who lives in Tang Hall/Heworth and had an apple tree fall, and one of her neighbours or friends suggested that I might be able to help her dispose of it. Joan was in and so I cycled my electric chainsaw and extension lead round to her house to cut up the trunk of the tree. She was very chatty and we spent as long talking as I spent actually cutting up the tree. I think she probably needs the company. She certainly likes my cycle trailer and seemed amazed about how much I can fit in it, ie all the chunks of tree trunk, several branches, the extension lead AND chainsaw.

When I came home I kept the chainsaw out and did a bit of tidying in the front, dealing with a pile of Leylandii trunks which came from a neighbour I lent my loppers to. Whilst doing this I was thinking of quiz questions for next week's York in Transition quiz. Also, a friendly neighbour, Paddy, asked me if I could help him recycle or dispose of two old bicycles which have been in his garage for a while. I told him I could take them to Bikerescue down on Terry Avenue, they would reuse and refurbish what they could and then re-sell the finished bikes. This is a fab scheme as it keeps bicycles out of landfill (well, some bikes!) and out of metal skips, which although better than landfill, isn't as sustainable as repair and re-use. So I loaded my trailer with two bikes and five spare wheels(!) and took them to Bikerescue, who were pleased to see me with such a full trailer. Apparently there is a bit of a dip in the number of bikes coming to them and they need as many as possible to keep their volunteer bike repairers busy! See here for some good photos of what Bernie and Andy are doing...

On the way back I saw the door was open on my friend Anne's houseboat... and she was just putting a 'For Sale' notice on it! What a pity, they've lived there for 11 years but they aren't really near enough to their child's school and are going to become landlubbers again. So if you want to buy a static houseboat, for £150,000 and annual ground-rent (water rent?) of £5,000, in the centre of York, then contact me and I'll pass you her details or yours to her!

Got home in time to go and pick up our youngest son from school.

This morning's difficulties were put far behind us and we had a good evening. Opened one of the jars of pickled walnuts and had some of these with a bulgar wheat-based tea. I'm not that impressed with them... perhaps I've used the wrong vinegar. I'll try the other jar soon which has a different vinegar preserving them.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wednesday 10th September 08

I took our youngest into school and asked the school secretary about hiring the hall for the forthcoming York in Transition 'Open Space event. She said she'd find out prices and availability.

Then into York to spend the morning with Ali, as she'd spent the night in a hotel... so we continued our chats and went for a wander through town towards the station, where she got the train back to Sheffield.

Home for lunch and then via a circuitous route to school to 'do' their compost bins. Emptied the oldest one onto sacks, using my 'Compostmate' corkscrew tool, removing a few uncomposted sticks for a base for the next one... These sacks of finished compost will be good for next year's gardening. I then transferred the contents of bin number two into the third bin, just with the garden fork. Then I emptied the contents of bin number one into the second bin, leaving number one empty for this year's fruit waste...

I spent nearly two hours doing this and got home between 4.30 and 5pm, just in time to have some pasta and home grown green beans before my next meeting. This was Jenny from York in Transition plus Melody, who is a funding expert, and we talked through our issues surrounding funding for an hour.

Then I cycled down to Heslington to attend, hey, even participate in the Green Thumbs committee meeting in the Deramore Arms. It was a good meeting, we reviewed the past year and planned the next year's activities. Our chair got the meeting finished quite quickly and I cycled down to see David a fellow YorkLETS member, who had invited me to help produce a poster to put up, to try to get some new members. Just spent about 40 minutes there and got back home well before 10pm where one of our sons was shouting at Gill, the homework issue AGAIN. I was able to distract him and we had a cuddle, and I think he forgot he'd not completed his homework and after Gill read him a story, he went to sleep.

A fairly quiet and late night.

Tuesday 9th September 08

A reasonable morning... cycled into town via Hazel Court Recycling Centre with a load of drinks cartons, which are not collected on the doorstep, but can be put in a 'bring bank', the nearest of which is the one at the Council's skip site. I also took a few bits of scrap iron and our old phone which had stopped working, for the WEEE skip (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) for recycling. I was not shouted at by the staff who seem to have realised that cyclists can use this facility as safely as motorists who then get out of their vehicles and wander around putting stuff in different skips.

From there on to see Dylan at the Healthy Living Centre, Millers Yard, where we had a conversation about where the York Green Festival was going, and what might be said at the forthcoming meeting. To the Council to give in some paperwork, and to the Building Society to put in a cheque. On to Boots but they didn't have what I wanted (little brushes to get between my teeth) and to Cycle Heaven to buy Gill a D lock as hers has gone wrong...

Home for lunch... and had that before a pre-arranged visit from a journalist, Sam, who used to work for the Press and knew me from those days, who's now working independently and is doing a piece for The Ecologist. So we had an hour and a half chatting, talking about carbon footprints and motivations and some quite detailed stuff. I do enjoy this, explaining about carbon calculators and 'easy to measure carbon and much more difficult to measure carbon' and the fact that it's not actually measuring, just approximating, guessing, but also the value of doing the exercise. At 3, I went to pick up our only child who now needs picking up from primary school... the older one arrived home soon after we did.

I then went down to town again to meet Ali who's in York for a meeting. We went to El Piano and had a lovely meal together, lots of chat about a huge range of subjects and we sorted the World out! A lovely evening.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Monday 8th September 08

An early start as had been asked to be in Knaresborough for 10.30 for a photoshoot at 11. As the train got in at 10.35, I got the one before, to ensure I was at the venue in good time. So I arrived in Knaresborough at 9.35 and took just 10 minures to walk to King James High School... and had 45 minutes of unfettered reading time, George Marshall's 'Carbon Detox', an excellent book.
At 10.45 other Co-op and Knaresborough Car-Free Day photoshoot people started arriving, and my role was to be a unicyclist... an alternative means of transport, eye-catching, unusual! So I was in a static pic for the newspaper and did some action shots for the Co-op photographer.

I got the train back soon after midday... again, plenty of time for reading.

I called in on the Council Finance Centre to pay the second half of our Council Tax and Country Fresh just in case there was any recycling... which there wasn't.

Home after 1, lunch and emails, and then at 2.30, went to the City Screen to meet with Jackie from Northern Green Gathering, for a coffee and a chat as she was in York for a meeting. I had more time with Carbon Detox... it's a brilliant book, very easy to read, and wasn't unhappy she was late. We went to El Piano and chatted for over 2 hours, all sorts of subjects, nothing seemed off limits. I carried her luggage in my bike trailer towards the station and then cycled home, past queues of almost stationary traffic as there'd been some kind of blockage somewhere.

Home at 6ish, home-grown potatoes for tea with tomatoes from the conservatory, lettuce from the garden and cheese from the Co-op!

Quiet evening, did paid blog on Dexter's Art and IPCC suggesting not eating meat for one day per week...

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sunday 7th September 08

Gill woke me up as the wonderful Caroline Lucas was on an early-morning politics show being interviewed. I am a fan of hers, and am glad that she has been elected to the position of 'Leader' of the Green Party. Now I didn't really want the Green Party to change and have a leader, although I think that the reasons to have a symbolic leader are pretty convincing. So, despite my reservations about my party having a leader, I think we've got exactly the right person. She is extremely articulate and seemingly an accomplished politician, being able to slag off the 'grey' parties extremely well (ie firmly but politely!) and remind the interviewer that being green is fun, gives a better quality of life than the materialistic capitalist nightmare which is ruining this planet. So I say 'Good Luck Caroline' and I hope you become the first of many Green Party MPs.
The rest of the day was marred by homework... well, not homework in itself, but the children's attitude to it, and their behaviour towards Gill and myself. They are incredibly resistant to actually getting on with it. They need constant cajoling, encouragement and help. And even then, there are many bouts of CENSORED...

I went to the allotment for over 3 hours, dug up loads of potatoes and onions.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Saturday 6th September 08

Busy busy day... although a fairly relaxed morning.

I had to decide whether to do a gig in Haxby in aid of SNAPPY.. I'd been invited to go but the organiser rang back saying they couldn't afford to pay me even my (officially) lowest charity fundraiser fee. But I sometimes do my Fiddlesticks work for nothing and I said if the weather was ok, I could go up and do some balloon modelling to add fun and colour and perhaps make a few pounds on donations for the balloon models. Chris my contact said if I did go up and do that, he'd give me an 'expenses' type cheque, but I wasn't contracted to go up, and he wouldn't expect to see me if the weather was poor.

So as the weather was good I got myself into costume and at midday was ready to go to the charity football match on the Ethel Ward Memorial Playing Fields in Haxby, 5 miles North of York. The spot I had to work in was tiny, a bit of hard-standing in front of the changing rooms, but enough space to do some devilstick workshops and juggling, but only one person wanted a balloon model so I found Chris and told him I'd go. Everybody was there for the football!

I came home and decided to go to Anna's Street Party in aid if 20's Plenty and York in Transition with my colourful Fiddlesticks costume on, and taking my entertainment stuff with me. However, I knew that the City of York Council were installing their wind turbine at the eco-depot, something they've had planned for well over a year. The eco-depot is the biggest straw-bale building around (not sure if that's just UK, Europe or in the World, but it is big) and has a huge array of photovolteic cells on the roof. The wind turbine was planned to complement this design. When I arrived I met Kristina P, the ex-sustainability officer who has moved on to work for another authority and responsible for the installation. 'Twas good to see her again, she still lives in York but now commutes by train. The turbine is 15 metres tall to the nacelle (where the blades are attached) and will be 3 or 4 metres higher than the surrounding buildings. It has a maximum output of 15 Kw, and using electricity prices from a year and a half ago, was due to pay back it's financial cost in 16 to 20 years, based on the measured wind speeds at the site. But if it gets windier or electricity prices go up, this payback time will come down. And of course, it's giving us carbon neutral electricity (once the equivalent of it's embodied energy has been generated) and helps us reduce our carbon footprint. Excellent stuff.... I want one!

And so on to Anna's street party which turned out to be excellent, a big turn-out, lots of people watched the film The Power of Community and heard Edward Harland speak about the Transition movement and York in Transition in particular. The children had a fun time drawing in chalk on the road, and cycling up and down. Two police officers attended and gave out some information to help residents avoid being burgled. I unicycled and blew up balloon models for a donation to YiT... raising more than the SNAPPY event this morning! The event was supposed to be 4pm til 6, but I didn't leave til 6.45, when the rainclouds were ominously gathering...

Later in the evening, I spoke to my good friend Jonathan who I hardly ever see anymore and he invited me round to spend a couple of hours with him. I watched a couple of programmeswith my eldest son about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on the French/Swiss border which is due to go live this week, and at 9.45 headed off to see my buddy. He earns his living as a nurse but has ambitions to be an artist, which seem to be coming true. There's lots of interest in his work, which aims to help people reminisce and remember their past. He's known as Dexter in the art world and his fun website can be seen here.

Had a lovely chat and a can of cider, got back soon after midnight.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Friday 5th September 08

A very wet day which I spent mostly inside the house... Gill took care of getting the kids ready for school, although asked me to come downstairs to sit next to one of them to encourage him to get ready. This seemed to work but I do wish they would respect their mum enough to just do as she tells them, first time, without getting me to be her back-up or 'heavy threat'.

But I had a good day, spent quite a lot of time researching various issues and preparing stuff, answering the phone, washing up, dealing with dried fruit and more.

Made a nutloaf for the children to have for tea, picked beans in the garden and admired a pumpkin which is growing well. However, was HORRIFIED to see that all the remaining walnuts on our expensive tree have been removed... Gill saw a squirrel this morning. I think I'll have to invest in a squirrel trap, the little non-natives are so destructive... I don't enjoy killing animals but I do kill rats and I think squirrels are just as bad, although haven't resorted to destroying them yet.

A quiet evening... my eye which got a shredded thingy into it yesterday seems to have developed conjunctivitis so I took it easy and just chilled out (well, got over-warm in front of the stove!) and had a skype chat followed by a game of Scrabble with Gill. I managed to get two 7 letter words, Wallies and Venously and I won.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Thursday 4th September 08

Awoken by unhappiness downstairs. Gill rushed up saying "how CAN I think of going away at the end of the month when my child is refusing to go to school and it's only the third day?" He was shouting that he wasn't going to go to school because "WHY SHOULD I???" She asked me not to go downstairs with guns blazing, but to gently help calm things down. I think I succeeded as he started getting dressed, stopped being aggressive to his mother and went to school. Hooray!
But this still leaves the big problem that I have a few days away from home at the end of the month and I am really needed at home. This was predicted. Difficult. The next few weeks are not going to be easy or pleasant.

I had agreed to go and help out at St Nicks today, to arrive between 9 and 10 am to operate a big shredder to convert a massive pile of lopped trees, branches and bushes into a pile of shreddings for surfacing paths. When I arrived at 10 the shredder wasn't there but I'd taken my loppers so I started extracting some of the biggest logs from the pile and cutting off the branches which were just too little for logging but would be good for shredding. The van arrived at 10.30 and the chap showed me how to operate the machine, and so as he drove off I tried to start it with the handle and rope which turns the motor, and the bloody rope snapped!

I went in to show John and he rang the company and they rang the van driver who turned round and came back to collect it in order to replace the starter. So the machine eventually came back to us at about middayish. Another volunteer called Simon was working with me and we got on well... and when I got the machine going he pulled out stuff from the pile and put it for me to deal with, and feed into the shredder. This was very tough and dirty work but it went well. Came home for lunch for half an hour and then back to St Nicks to finish the job... took til 5pm, by which time I was absolutely exhausted and filthy.

I came home again and as was due to chair a meeting later, had a shower, but as our hot water isn't working, it was a cold shower and it took my breath away... especially as I had to wash my hair (full of shreddings). Had a quick tea... mainly stuff rescued from the Co-op do last night... I was last out of the building and there were loads of bits of pizza left, and quiche, and danish pastry halves, so I came away with quite a lot. It was due to sit there overnight and be thrown away in the morning, apparently!

Then at 7 went to the York in Transition meeting which I chaired, probably not as well as I can do, as I was knackered and had a bit of shredding in my eye which was giving me pain. The meeting went well and finished on time, and we went to The Swan on Bishopthorpe Road for a pint and a chat. Yorkshire Cider!!!

Home soon after 11pm.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wednesday 3rd September 08

Both boys off to school today.

I decided to read a daily email I've subscribed to, about the trial of the protesters accused of damaging Kingsnorth Power Station. Their defence that it was (is) necessary to cause some damage in order to prevent greater damage, likened to breaking a window to rescue a person from a burning building. If you would like to get a daily blog entry about this interesting trial, click here. On October 7th, there is another trial of climate change protesters, those who stopped and occupied a coal train near Selby, the 'Drax 29'. That trial is in York Crown Court and it's important that it receives lots of publicity, as climate change is the most important threat ever to face humanity. I believe that these individuals are bound to be looked back upon as brave heroes with insight, not criminals, and their claim that causing a little bit of disruption or damage is necessary to draw attention to the importance of this issue. For an interesting take on the global crisis of too many people emitting too much pollution and possible 'geoengineering solutions, see this article by James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis, written in The Guardian.

I did a lot of 'house admin' today, including taking our meter readings to put on The Carbon Account, to record the household's carbon footprint. I really do recommend this way of keeping a check on your transport and energy-related carbon footprint. Join up and become my Carbon Account friend!!!

I had brought back a load of plastic tubs of grapes, each with a few mouldy ones and mostly good ones, so I sorted through and washed and blanched the good ones, balancing a tray of them on the woodstove to make nice little sweet (and free!) raisins...

Gill went to pick up our youngest from school and I got ready to go down to the station to get the 4.12 to Hull to attend the 'Co-operative membership Co-operation in Your Community meeting, which starts at 6ish in the Feren's Art Gallery. The idea was to let individuals and organisations know about the Community Fund, and as two organisations I'm involved in have received money from the Co-op, I was a speaker. I arrived a bit early and sat in the gallery reading my NewScientist, trying to catch up as I'm 5 weeks behind!

The food arrived and I ate heartily and hopefully healthily... and at 6.30 we were invited into the lecture theatre to hear presentations from Darren the local Co-op person, Stefan who told us all about the funding streams and how they work, and then three community groups who've benefitted from their money... Yvonne from Harrogate Car-Free Day on 24th September, David from Ryedale Special Families and Michelle and Becky from Goole's Hinge Centre. Finally, I did my bit!

Got the 8.56 train back to Doncaster, cursed when the possible connecting train up to York pulled out of the station as we pulled in, sat in the waiting room for over an hour (finished a NewScientist) and got the 11pm train back to York. Fortunately I'd made a friend on the train, a 20 year-old chap working as a night-time secyrity guard in York, so we chatted. Home by midnight...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Tuesday 2nd September 08

The day started with a bit of difficulty with one of my friends, but with quite a bit of conversation I think it has sorted itself out. I feel lucky having such an interesting and busy social life, but just occasionally some friction occurs, I guess this is inevitable. My personality is quite unusual and sometimes people don't cope with me that well. I just hope my strengths and qualities outweigh my more quirky and difficult sides. Fortunately I do get plenty of positive feedback and this gives me strength and restores my occasionally battered self-worth.

So my eldest child was getting ready to go to his secondary school for the first day, a very big day for him. One of his friends arrived and at 10.30 they walked to school together. I got ready to go to work, a gig in the cafe at Rowntree Park for a 6yr old girl and 20 or so of her friends. I went in costume and got there just before 11am as all the party goers were arriving. The show, just the circus, went well despite several very interuptive boys who were not used to being audience members... but I think they learned something about appropriate behaviour AND had a lot of fun and excitement too! Certainly the adults there enjoyed it, and I did too.

Finished the show sometime after 12 and had a sandwich and piece of flapjack before going into town and putting in a cheque from POP Club, and coming back via Country Fresh. Country Fresh had a large excess of pineapples... they don't even look grotty, so I brought them home and will as usual dry them in slices, to add to my muesli. So a reasonable afternoon... our boyo came home having 'quite enjoyed' his first day at school although he didn't walk home with his buddy as they didn't meet up after the last lesson.

To celebrate his first day at secondary school, Gill did 'special pasta' with home-grown tomatoes which went down a treat. I then went out to the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel which I'm acting Clerk of, and therefore receive all the letters and sign them once we've come to a decision, and make sure they get into the council before the due date. Only two others turned up, and we had a buzzy chat and a laugh. We did also discuss the few planning applications that have come in over the past 3 weeks! Finished at 7.30 and came home to do another hour in the garden before it got too dark to continue.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Monday 1st September 08

Woke up thinking about making a phone call to the bus company about taking my unicycle on the bus to Pocklington today and to the company who haven't paid me as I told them that if I'd heard nothing by 1st September, I'd start some actions to recover my payment.

The bus situation resolved itself... I did eventually get to speak to someone in charge and they suggested that putting the wheel of the uni in a bin liner would make it a lot more acceptable to have on the bus. So that's what I'll do....

I rang the non-paying company and eventually spoke to someone who knew about the situation and they assured me that the paperwork was being dealt with and that I'd get a cheque 'within a couple of weeks'. So if it's not with me by 14th September I'll have to do something more official. I did thank the lady and asked her to pass on my thanks to everybody who was dealing with it. Hopefully that will help get things moving...

A neighbour came to the door to ask me if I'd like some small conifer trees that they were taking out. I chatted to her about the trunks being useful but the leaves and twigs being less so, but that they were compostable and could go in the green bin or to Hazel Court. I offered to lend them my loppers to strip the twigs off the trunks, and after getting dressed, took them round and did one of the trees for them to show how I'd like to receive the tree trunks (which are only hedge height, 2 metres or so).

I did about half an hour's stacking and then came in to do emails. A friend has contacted me saying the thesis tools website she's tried to contact is not responding... and yes, when I tried, I couldn't get to my questionnaire either which is worrying. I have about 70 responses to my questionnaire on it and this is raw data for my book. I hope it comes back up and I can retrieve the information!

I had an early lunch and got myself ready for the bus to Pocklington. Gill decided to come too, with the boys, as it's a good place to visit and as it's the last day of the holidays Gill wanted to make it a good day. So we all got the X46 at Milson Grove (although it was late and that made me wonder if it was going to come and whether I would be able to get to work...!) We sat on the top deck and the skies were beautiful, clouds and interesting light.

My 'handler' met me at Pocklington bus station and drove me to POP Club which is held in a school building about 5 minutes drive from the bus station. I was welcomed by over 20 very enthusiastic children, as this was the second time I'd visited this summer and the first time it was fantastic! I managed to put my stuff down and go and get changed and within 5 minutes I was starting my show.

As most of the youngsters had seen my show before, I varied my routine a bit and we started with a chap who'd learned to juggle 3 balls since he first saw the show. He was able to just do a 'three-ball flash' (each ball thrown once and caught) and then he did four throws, and next a 'three-ball-cascade' where the balls were each thrown, and caught, at least twice each. When he did this he got a massive round of applause and cheering. Then I asked for a volunteer who could juggle two balls but wanted to be able to do three. The two-ball pattern is what I call 'school-girl-juggling' because the ball is thrown up with one hand, caught with the other and passed to the original hand in a more-or-less circular pattern. With 'proper' juggling, the balls are thrown up with either hand. The girl who volunteered was not able to do the three-ball pattern, but she still got a big round of applause for coming out and demonstrating the two-ball pattern. I also explained a little about the curve being called a parabola and how it is made up of an 'up', an 'accross' and a 'down', the first two being variable depending on how much force the thrower puts into it, and the third is gravity which on Earth is constant.

I then moved on to devilsticks, balancing, Derek the Diabolo, yoyo balls and finally unicycle. The show was very well received and they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did. There was a few minutes after the show and workshop for them to have a drink and a biscuit, and I got the 'freeplay workshop' ready. I laid out most of the equipment and when they were ready, spent a few minutes showing them the things I hadn't explained in the show, mostly diabolo which is really quite complicated to do, as there are three things you have to do simultaneously. Then I let then loose on the stuff, and did 3 minute blocks so everybody could try everything, well, almost!

Whilst we were coming to the end of that I started to inflate balloons for the balloon animal workshop, and at 4.10pm, I got everybody concentrating on the art of balloon modelling... and again, most of them loved it and succeeded in making something, although some of the animals looked a bit mutant. Finished off with the usual competitions to get rid of the animals I made, and by 4.50pm we were finished.

I got changed, was given my cheque, was driven to the bus stop where Gill and the boys were waiting... they'd had a good time at the Burnby Hall Gardens. They'd also done a bit of shopping and were all happy. Lovely bus journey home, nice tea, busy evening at YorkLETS core group meeting and late night on the computer doing a paid blog post on clothes swapping aka swishing.