Saturday, 28 February 2009

Saturday 28th February 09

Had a mini-lie in... til after 9. But then zoomed into the garden to continue riddling mature compost so I could take some down to the veg shop for distribution. I got just 5 carrier bags worth ready and took them down to Country Fresh, getting some provisions at the same time, and then heading off to St Nicks for their 5th anniversary of the surrounding area being designated a Nature Reserve.

Met Jean Claude my new Chilean friend, who bought my last Carbon Detox ticket off me... that means I've sold 18, not including mine and Gill's. I'm pleased with this. There is now a special deal on at the Theatre Royal, two tickets for the price of one... a 'Buy One, Get One Free' offer! so any folks still thinking about whether to come to see George Marshall's one-man stand up comedy show can now come with a friend for a tenner... see you on Tuesday folks!

The event at St Nicks was good, soup and bread, coffee and good company. Gill and the boys came down, and some of the boys' friends appeared which was a blessing... A photographer took some commemorative pictures and there were speeches from Pat Hearn, chair of the Friends of St Nicks, Barry Potter, chair of York Natural Environment Trust and Andrew Waller, leader of the Council, who just happens to be a trained Rotter and keen composter too!

I didn't have time to go on the new Tree Trail guided walk, as I had to get back home to tidy myself up, get changed, circus stuff packed and cycle off to Osbaldwick to do a party at 3pm. It was, as usual, a good party. The children were on the lively side of average... quite a noisy audience but lots of participation and fun, and the mum commented on my ability to hold their attention. Several of the youngsters said to me afterwards that they wanted to have a Professor Fiddlesticks party, so I told them to tell their parents! Finished on the dot of 5, having had a 55 minute circus show and workshop and 40 minute modelling balloon activity.

On the way home I spotted a skip with some good big chunks of untreated wood in, so I stopped and knocked on the door, and asked if I might later go and retrieve them to recycle them, to which the answer was of course!

Home soon... and needed to collapse as the concentration and unicycling around is hard work, and both my sons were both very cuddly and loving, which was unexpected and very welcome! Watched 'You've Been Framed' and 'Harry Hill's TV Burp' which are definite favourites in this house!

Later, at about 11pm, I popped out to retrieve the wood from that skip, quietly. Two cycle trailer loads... excellent!

Answered several composting queries on Facebook, and prepared an interesting fruit leather... about 15 passion fruit which had been rejected by one or other of the shops, plus maybe 15 bananas... liquidised together and pushed through a sieve and the resultant smooth pulp put in a tray for drying on the woodstove. Smells heavenly!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Friday 27th February 09

Woken up at 7 by screaming kids... came down thinking it was 8... but Gill told me to go back to bed, and I came back down nearer 8 when things were quieter. Gill walked into school with our youngest and I got ready to meet a 'Masters' student, Triona, who is doing some research about Freeganism, why people are attracted to those choices, and the public's response to it. I went with her to Country Fresh to see the arrangement I have there, and then on to St Nicks to see the 'free energy' being harvested there, and the other activities and educational material.

Then back home to see the fruit-drying operation, stoves, compost toilet, other composting and food-plant cultivation. I had found a bike in a skip a few days ago, and the person who put it in there said I could recycle it... I had intended to take it to Bike Rescue (also this article) but hadn't had time yesterday when it was open.. and just as well, as Triona hadn't got a bike and liked the look of this one... small wheels, folding, basket, so I gave it to her. She said she'd get a bike lock first, and have it serviced, which it needs. I am thrilled! How cool is it that a student comes trying to find out about Freegan living and leaves with a bike which was found in a skip! (She didn't actually leave with it, but will come and collect it, or I'll deliver it to the shop she chooses to get it sorted out at...)

Anyway, lunch, and then both Gill and I did some work in the garden. Gill continued sorting out the raised beds which I had started clearing a day or two back, and found quite a good lot of potatoes which she planted last year, and didn't harvest properly! And, amazingly, most of them were still in good nick... one or two had green ends, a couple were slug-damaged, but over a dozen were perfect. I cleaned them up and boiled them on the woodstove... what a treat! Home grown spuds in February!

I finished doing the huge pile of sawdust... I now have six sacks of riddled fine sawdust which can be used as compost toilet cover or in other composting operations. I also have two sacks of larger material... bits of bark, twig, wood chip type material, which again will help with the composting, and 3 paper potato-sacks of big chunks of stove-bound material, once it has dried out. Satisfying.

I then took the riddle to the bottom of the garden to start a large amount of compost riddling. Richard at Country Fresh has had several enquiries from customers asking for my carrier bags of mature riddled compost (which they give a voluntary donation for) so I need to get some of that ready... hopeful I'll take some down tomorrow morning before I go to the St Nicks 5 year anniversary of being a nature reserve at midday.

Gill went down to school to pick up our youngest, and I washed up and did some food preparation.

Tea was potatoes, quiche, peas and some of the stew left over from yesterday. It happened too late for me to go to the York University Green Week Question Time, which I would have liked to attend... but had a nice evening in with the family instead.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Thursday 26th February 09

A really productive day. However it started with some difficulty, one child not wanting to go to school, but eventually cajoled him along and we got to school just before the doors closed so he wasn't technically late.

I had a chat with he head teacher in the playground and then put my boy's bike away... and near the bike shed there was a discarded banana skin, which I decided to put straight in the compost bin which is close to the bike shed. In the compost bin some lazy or stupid person had put a plastic bag with some dog poo, so I took that over to the main big bins... where I discovered a discarded resource which was in the wrong bin. The school have a waste paper bin, but it doesn't get used much, often has other materials in it and lots of paper goes in the 'to landfill' bins. In one of the landfill bins were eight dustbin liner sacks of glossy pamphlets, catalogues, advertising materials from 2008.. all totally recyclable paper.

I hoicked them out and packed them carefully in my trailer, panniers and on my rack... an extremely heavy load. My guess is that it was about 100Kg... I know how much a 20Kg sack feels like, and three of them, and this was considerably more than my usual heavy load of compostables (often 60+ Kilos). Anyway, struggled home with this and decided to take it direct to the Hazel Court Depot on James St... and took a pile of tetrapak/drinks cartons too, in re-usable bags.

I was expecting the staff there to try to stop me using the facilities as I'm not a motorist, but luckily I was ignored, so no confrontation between a 'jobsworth' and a militant cyclist recycler. Phew. I decided to count the number of publications the school had thoughtlessly thrown away... 240, with 31 still in their plastic wrappings (which I took off, of course!). I also removed some reply envelopes as the gum on envelopes messes up the paper recycling machinery... they are better composted.

Cycled back feeling buoyant, via St Nicks, to see if Catherine the head Rotter had any teaching material that I could use on Monday for Wigginton School. She had some wordsearch things and various other materials which will be very useful, and make it more interesting and accessible for the youngsters.

Got home to find Gill wrestling with the concertina clothes dryer which was refusing to stay stood up. We tried to fix it but the plastic thing which held it up wasn't particularly well designed and wasn't working. So a repair solution was needed. I found a short bungee (found on the road a few weeks ago) and tried to make that keep the rack up, but the stretchiness meant that the rack just flopped down. So I got a nice clean 6cm x 6cm length of wood and measured that up, cutting it to the right length. Then cut a couple of narrow notches in it which fitted over two of the bottom horizontals, preventing them from moving outwards and therefore keeping the rack stood up and extended. Hooray! Gill then sanded the length of wood down so there were no splinters. We like repairs!

Maria then rang... I'd offered to show her St Nicks some time ago, and now she's not teaching she has more time so she asked me to take her there and give her the tour. I agreed to go round to her at 1pm and we'd walk down together. Good discussion about aluminium cans and scrap metal, living roofs and more. A fairly quick toddle round the Environment Centre and then round the nature reserve... and back towards home, I left her at Scummerfields and was home for just after 2.

Riddled lots more sawdust.

Got my little boy at 3.15.

Came home and went on the computer to see if there was any message from Franny at The Age of Stupid about coming up to York, but nothing. Edward rang and we decided to have the special showing plus Question and Answer on 26th April, whether or not Franny can come.

Tea was good... a mix of the remains of carrot soup, tomato-based stew and some other bits, Gill made dumplings and then cooked the lot on the roaring woodstove... totally yummy! Our eldest was having tea with a friend and didn't come back til 7ish... came home bearing some flapjack he'd made at school. We were all very enthusiastic about this, despite it not holding together, and this put him in a good mood.

I went out to the York in Transition meeting which I was due to chair. I had not prepared a printed agenda but got one together at the start of the meeting. We had a quite vibrant session, including a stroke of genius from Peter, suggesting that we might get Franny to do the introduction and/or Q and A via videolink. We had two new attendees, one of whom was doing some research about the Transition movement, the other a student studying for a Ph.D in a really obscure subject which I've forgotten... but want to know more about...

We managed to finish on the dot of 9.30 and slowly made our way to the Slip Inn for a pint and a chat, and helped the researcher with pages and pages of notes....

I got back at 11pm and filled the log baskets, had a bowl of home-made muesli and settled down to dealing with emails and half-watching a programme on the recent snow and how it affected the nation, on C4+1.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Wednesday 25th February 09

I took our youngest to school... last night we got his bike mended and this morning the tyre was still hard, so he cycled, very slowly. I picked up a trailer-load of logs from the woodland the University has destroyed.

Gill went to art. I riddled (sieved) a load of sawdust/woody waste, to get fine sawdust for the compost toilet, and larger bits and bobs, bark bits, twigs etc, for a woody 'carbon-rich' layer in the compost heap. As I was doing this, I had some sad thoughts about today's news that a little boy who had Cerebral Palsy had died, and my friend's daughter who also has CP and is quite fragile... and nearly died last summer. I didn't know that there was such a high risk of death at such an early age (because there are plenty of adults with CP) and I hope my little friend stays as strong as she can and fulfils her potential, which is considerable, as she's got a fantastic personality. It would be a tragic loss, as is any child dying, but I'm glad I know a little bit more about the subject and the possibilities ahead.

I went on the laptop to do some more pushing and shoving about Age of Stupid, trying to get the Peoples' Premiere put on at City Screen and also trying to get a special screening at City Screen with the Director, Franny Armstrong, coming to introduce it and do a Q and A afterwards.

Gill came back and we had lunch. Most of our afternoon was taken up with a visitor and doing some cooking... a sauce with butternut squash in it for spaghetti.

I went to get the little cyclist and picked up another load of logs on the way home.

More work in the garden, visited Country Fresh and got 3 sacks/boxes of compostables as well as 2 'paid for' bags of veg and fruit, one for Debbie and one for home. Dropped off some seconds bananas with Ben and Jill... and when I got in, Ben rang to say he'd got the graphics card for the boy's computer... but when he arrived, he found he'd assumed the computer was an older version, but no, it was only a couple or 3 years old and the newer card was needed. So he had a cuppa whilst I searched for spaghetti (found it eventually!) and prepared tea. Good company. Gill had gone to school for a meeting about a child's fieldtrip, and when she came home the boys were enjoying their spag veg and Gill had some too.

I soon popped out to the University of York Student Union's Green Week event on carbon footprinting, which was quite a good meeting, mostly a workshop.

Home before 9 to a peaceful house. Lovely!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Tuesday 24th February 09

Gill got up early to make pancake batter for the kids' breakfasts. She got me up at 8 so I could take our youngest to school, and then go into town to deal with the paperwork I failed to manage last night. So got to town just before 9 and waited to get into the Building Society, then waited outside the bank til 9.30 to pay the water bill. Got back home before 10, Gill getting ready to go into town to help Melody celebrate her birthday with a girly lunch.

I awaited the phone call at 11.30 from Shannonside FM who had arranged to interview me about my low cost/low carbon/verging on 'Freegan' lifestyle. The presenter, John, chatted to me for about 10 or 12 minutes and seemed pretty positive about most of what I said. The interview might be made into a podcast... it certainly generated some interesting comments afterwards!

I then had lunch but stayed in afterwards ding various things on the computer and phone. This included trying to get the York City Screen to show The Age of Stupid nice and early after release. I found out that the out-of-town 'Vue' cinema in Clifton Moor is screening the Public Premiere on 15th March. I wish that City Screen had got this... they still might, with a little bit of pressure! The Vue cinema is mainly visited by car users and the Premier tickets are a hefty £10.

I cycled down to school at 3 to pick up our youngest son and again stopped at the trashed woodland to pick up some quite large chunks of Scots Pine which filled the trailer very satisfactorily...

We had a relatively peaceful after-school time. Gill thickened the carrot soup with some of yesterday's mashed potato, and this was eagerly demolished by all... much appreciated, and better with the thicker texture. I had a cheese sandwich which one of the boys hadn't eaten with my soup. And a slice of Gill's cake with an out of date free yoghurt for pudding!

I managed to make time to sort out four bags of seedless grapes retrieved from the compostables, and blanched a big saucepan full for a few minutes before draining them (re-using the water for the washing up of course!) and spreading them on a baking tray to balance on the water can on the stove. The duff grapes and stalks, of course, will be composted....

So a productive day.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Monday 23rd February 09

A fairly uneventful Monday morning. I cycled our youngest to school and on the way there saw that the developers of the new University campus had trashed a stand of trees... what used to be a nice little woodland is going to have a road through it. Most of the trees had been cut and removed, the smaller bits shredded, but on the way back I had a look around and got a trailer-load of logs to take home. What a shame. I wonder what has happened with the trunks and big branches?

I enjoyed the good weather and did quite a bit of work outside, including an attempt to do something like Alastair Heseltine's fantastic arty logpile, called 'Seasonal Sculpture':

My attempt was obviously a lot smaller and only had a small amount of patterning, but it's a start. I also ran out of uniform logs which was not helpful. I hope to add another layer and make it pretty. My attempt is crap compared to this wonderful sculpture, but I'm pleased with it as my logpiles have always looked nice, and now I have something even better to aspire to!

During the afternoon I made some carrot soup... well, I started making it last night and finished it this afternoon.

So, a creative and fulfilling day... I picked up the little one at 3.15 and another load of trashed woodland on the way home. Not enough to continue with my sculptural logpile.

I cleared up my mess from chainsawing etc before going down to town to put a cheque in and pay the water bill... but I arrived a minute after the bank had closed. That'll teach me to stop and chat to Steve the Roofer! So came home feeling silly, but picked up a load of compostables from Freshways so it wasn't a completely wasted trip.... I'll do it first thing tomorrow, before the Irish Radio station rings me to discuss low carbon/low cost living. That's at 11.30ish on Shannonside.

After tea, which was the carrot soup and a slice of Gill's cold pie left over from yesterday, I went down to town again (no stopping the bike to chat this time!) and attended the York Green Festival planning meeting, at the Golden Fleece, which was loosely chaired by Martin our treasurer. This meeting didn't last too long... finished before 9 and we had some jovial chat before and after.

I got home to a quiet house, and did some washing up and tried to make space to dry some more fruit. I have too much fruit and not enough drying racks...

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Sunday 22nd February 09

Not too early a start, but once up got the stove going so I could do the washing up, and watched 'The Big Questions' which was from York. Good to see my friends Claire and David Kennard being interviewed, although I'm not sure why they got front row... they always talk sense though, I have a lot of respect for them.

I recorded Countryfile and half-listened whilst I washed up, and at 11.30 cycled off to the allotment, hoping to get to the lottie shop before 12 which is when it closes on Sundays. However, I got waylaid in Country Fresh by a student journalist called Joel who was doing a piece about the shop and was interested in how the shop reduces it's waste stream. I 'paid my penny' for the bag of resources which in most other shops would be put in the bin as waste, and cycled to the allotment, missing the shop by 3 minutes, damnation!

But I did spend the next hour and a half doing my composting... emptied out a dumpy bag of overwintered and mature compost, and filled it back up with some nearly done compost from one of the pallet bins, removing larger sticks to put in the current heap.

I left at 1.45 and got home just in time to listen to Gardeners Question Time on Radio 4.

A quiet afternoon... did some stacking of Brazilian Pine and used the Compost Mate tool to aerate the current hot garden heap, which is still being added to and is risking getting compacted.

Gill did rice for tea. The boys did their homework. I washed up again.

Later, Gill and I had a game of Scrabble and she won for a third time in a row! I'm obviously losing my touch... too much Facebook Scrabble... perhaps it's sucking all my strength?

Saturday 21st February 09

A bit of a lie-in but not a long one... and popped in to Deb's to see if she wanted any veggies at Country Fresh... got those for her and went to the allotment for an hour to do some digging up weeds and filling the compost heap! Then home via Debbie, quick lunch, and then to the bakers and the Co-op for provisions.

Our youngest went to a birthday party and eldest had a friend around. I got a phone call from Johan asking if I'd like 3 'Brazilian Pine' doors, which have been sitting on his driveway for a couple of years, their plastic wrappers trapping the rain and causing them to rot. Very nice looking pale wood, completely untreated, but unusable as lots of discolouration and at the base, rot. What a waste! However, I said yes to it and fairly quickly turned it into firewood. He came round with a second load of assorted offcuts from his woodworking. He brought Maria and their son, and so we had a cuppa with the adults whilst their son joined the other two lads for an hour.

I then carried on sorting the overflowing logging area, and did some stacking before coming in for tea... Gill had made pastry and a pie with it, containing a mushroom and pepper mix in a sauce. Very nice!

Our youngest's party was due to finish at 8pm so Gill and our other boyo walked up to collect him.. and I got a call to say that Gill had been given a glass of wine and all the boys were playing happily. They eventually came in at about 10pm!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Friday 20th February 09

A long lie-in as went to bed at 3am. Got up at midday and there was a knock at the door, a neighbour offering me some wood. She described it as an old fence... I asked if it had been treated and she said, yes, tannalised, but I went to have a look anyway. It wasn't treated, it was oak, which doesn't need treating as it lasts for ages without. The fence was in pieces, ready to be put back together and used. They just want rid of it and were wondering whether to skip it. It will be reused not burned! I had a nice chat with the couple about quite a few things, including their enormous fir tree which has looked unwell for the past year. It may have to come down... which will be a pity as it is a good habitat for birds. and it sways beautifully in the breeze and I can see it from lying in bed!

Lunch and a quiet afternoon... Gill had a snooze and the boys played on the computer... I let them have a long time and then invited them to do some homework.... which after a while, and a bit of noisy protest, they did do! Wonderful. Why the fuss?

I popped down to Country Fresh before it closed and also Freshways, then stayed in the garden til dark, piling stuff on the current hot heap.

Gill made tea, cauliflower based, very nice.

Watched an excellent Natural World programme on BBC2, called The Future of Farming.
Well worth a watch (BBC iPlayer available til 17th March 09)

Later in the evening, Gill and I watched the film of Sex and the City, a DVD she bought for £3 from the local Blockbusters, an ex-rental copy. Good re-use!

Thursday 19th February 09

Well, an early start as the rest of the family were heading off to the station in a taxi at 9.05 for the 9.44 train to Birmingham to see friends at The Think Tank, and I set off a few minutes earlier on my bike to get the 9.27 to Sheffield, to spend the day with Ali and the evening with the South Yorkshire branch of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

Ali collected me after dropping off her daughter at the playscheme and we went back to her place, but not for long, as we decided to go into town, have some lunch at Blue Moon and then get some more footage for her film, for her media degree. So, had a good lunch.... cauliflower and rice in a cheesy sauce with several salads, and were joined by a friendly librarian whose job is to make the library as accessible as possible, which is how Ali knows her.

Then we took the tram up to the University building where there's a massive photo of Ali saying 'I love Politics', and we made a poster which we filmed, for a message for the closing credits. That didn't take as long as we thought it would, and so we leisurely rolled back to the Blue Moon for a coffee, and when Ali's PA and daughter arrived we had a cake each.

Soon after 4 we left and I was dropped off near the station, where I had a few minutes to wait before my Environmental Health contact was due to meet me. On the dot of 5pm, Fiona met me and she took me back to where Ali had dropped me off and Fiona's colleague Martin arrived and we drove to a pub just off the M1 where the CIEH group always meet.

The meeting was the AGM, so there was quite a bit of business to do before my talk. I had a gander at the Agenda, and was surprised to find that I'd been given the job of talking about my 'Carbon Neutral Lifestyle'. So, my small amount of preparation to talk about climate change, peak oil and Transition Towns was ignored, and I proceeded to explain why I hadn't got a carbon neutral lifestyle, but how I achieved a low carbon one. Somehow it all flowed nicely and I produced enough anecdotes, quips, facts and opinions to do a good presentation which was well received. I don't really know how I do it, but it comes naturally. I was given a five minute warning that the 'pie and peas' supper was on its way and as mine was a spinach and ricotta canneloni which I was looking forward to, I came to a swift halt, inviting the audience to ask questions after the meal. This was quite nice, especially the berry cheesecake, and there were indeed a few comments and questions afterwards, including one about Transition Towns. I was also able to explain peak oil in less than 3 minutes.

As a thank you I was given a bottle of Lindesfarne Mead (how DID they know it's one of my favourite drinks?!!!) and a cheque to cover my expenses. Several of the attendees asked if I could give a talk to other groups.... always the best compliment!

The new Chair Janice offered to take me to Doncaster; we arrived at 10.15 and there was a train heading for York just a few minutes later, so got home soon after 11. I was pleased to find Gill and the boys had enjoyed their trip to Birmingham.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Wednesday 18th February 09

Quite a relaxed morning, and as our eldest was at a loose end, we rang one of his friends to see if he could come here or our lad go there. The latter option looked good, and I cycled down to Fulford with him and left him there.

Came back via a logpile and then did some splitting and stacking of the freshly felled softwood that Don left, and spent some time in the garden doing other things. Our youngest had a friend round and they played happily all day.

Gill went down to town to get some birthday presents for a pair of boys who are having a joint party on Friday, I think. When she came back I got veg and eggs from Country Fresh plus some compostables and a nice natter with Rich.

I collected our eldest after 7pm... he'd had a brilliant day, he'd been taken to the City Screen Cinema by one of the Dads, and seen a Pink Panther film. So he was in a good mood, and was patient with me attempting to get a large log home, which I found was quite unwieldy.

Both boys pretty worn out so a relatively easy 'night shift'! A peaceful and pleasant day.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Tuesday 17th February 09

At about 10, Ian came round, as planned. He's a trainee teacher and a member of People and Planet at one of the Universities in York, and he's asked me to come to the primary school he's working in and do a days work on composting. He told me he wanted to learn a bit about the subject before I came in so I invited him here before going to St Nicks.

So I started by explaining 'from the basics' what composting was, assuming no knowledge, and was surprised to find that he did have extremely limited knowledge of lots of the basic facts about climate change and some of the processes connected with composting. For instance, when I asked him what he understood about climate change (I wanted to talk about the role of CO2 and CH4 in the greenhouse effect), he asked was it to do with ozone, which is almost completely unconnected with climate change. I was somewhat shocked by this... surely student teachers should know the basics of atmospheric science? Surely someone in People and Planet should know the basics? He does care about green issues, but I don't understand how someone can care but know so little. So, he got a pretty good overview of loads of the basics, such as the Carbon cycle, oil/coal/gas, plants and living organisms, how the greenhouse effect works, and of course decomposition and the role of composting in enabling individuals be more eco-friendly.

Next we had a little look down the garden at the assorted composting set-ups, wormeries, tumblers and the like.. and soon cycled off to St Nicks to see the resources there. He was pleased to get a good pile of leaflets which I hope will reinforce some of the stuff we'd covered earlier. We discussed what I would do in each of the 45 minute slots (I'm doing 5 classes) and what he would do with them beforehand.

We came back home for lunch.

After lunch I got myself ready to go to Coppergate for the launch of the Viking Festival... I put extra wick on my fire devil sticks and had a test burn to make sure that I still had the knack of working with fire, as it's been a few years since I've done it. Then at 3.30 I gathered up the fire stuff, wooden yoyo balls, wooden devilsticks and a couple of black flowersticks (which look more rustic than some of the day-glo stuff I have) and my insurance documents, risk assessment etc, and cycled down to the Jorvik Centre to get costumed up and ready to take part in the launch event.

Fairly soon after I got outside, Gill and the boys turned up... they initially didn't recognise me in my non-gaudy clothes.

The launch went very smoothly... I did some workshops in the marquee whilst the VIPs were eating, and some more workshops outside the marquee in the arena area. Then I got the nod to bring that to a close, and the half-dozen Vikings did a kind of warrior routine... not exactly a fight scene, but a demonstration of the different weapons and shield work. They finished and the wax torches were lit and held aloft, I lit my devilsticks and did a 2 and a half minute show... quite a few drops (showed how difficult it was! ahem!) but apparently was still impressive. My son took a film of it on Gill's camera, so once we were home I was able to see the whole performance, which was good.

I cycled home, beating the rest of the family who had gone into town on the bus... and found a colleague from the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel waiting for me... I'd forgotten to deliver the paperwork to one of the other volunteers (which I had said I would do) and the meeting hadn't taken place... oh dear! Duh me.

I had a slice of nutloaf for tea and some bought pizza.. 'Yorkshire Pizza' from Thomas's, and some fruit.

Gill and I had a game of Scrabble late on (still playing at 1am) and it looks like she's going to win... again!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Monday 16th February 09

A swift start to the day, as had to take my bike into Cycle Heaven for an overhaul and then get to the station for soon after 10.

My bike needed coaxing down to town... no acceleration at all... a real problem! But I did slowly get to the shop and showed them the problem. The front cog teeth were worn down into spikes, meaning a new cog and chain were necessary. I had noticed a loose spoke.. on closer inspection, it was obvious that it had pulled free of the wheel hub, which had broken... How DO I do it? However, the hub is under warranty and they'll send it back to the manufacturers who will (probably and hopefully) decide to replace it. So I left it there in good hands and walked up to the station.

I got the 10.26 to Middlesbrough, and at 11.30, met Andy from the BBC, who is doing the Inside Out segment on an experiment to see if someone could live on £1 a day for a week. The subject of the experiment is John Foster who is a radio presenter on BBC Tees, and I met him next, the meeting being filmed by the same cameraman who did the Yorkshire Inside Out piece in 2007. We then headed to a Thomas the Baker shop which does the reduced price bread, known as Yesterbake, where we did some filming, and then onto a veg shop where John was unable to get any cheap veg, so no filming there. Onto a park where I was lucky enough to find some edible mushrooms and John and I did an interview about the connections between his experiment and low carbon living.

Then John went home (on his bike... actually a borrowed bike as he hasn't got one!) and I went with the two Inside Out chaps to a noodle bar for a late lunch.

I got the 3.50 train back to York... I slept on the train, headache throbbing, very tired.

Collected my bike from Cycle Heaven and cycled home... lovely to have such a responsive bike again!

I went straight to bed as I felt very tired and unwell. Slept til after 8 and came down to spend some time with the family but I don't think I was much company. Headache all evening. Didn't eat as felt sick. Dosed up on painkillers, which didn't work.

Good to see Justin Rowlatt back doing Ethical Man on Newsnight... he's off to the US to 'save the world' apparently! Good luck to him!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Sunday 15th February 09

A good day... chilled morning watching The Big Questions and Countryfile, whilst playing Scrabble on Facebook and keeping the stove going. The bananas I loaded up yesterday are looking a lot smaller and soon I'll be able to move them to another cake rack to finally dry off. The banana glut has been caused by the heavy snow last week. Don't see the connection? Read on!

Every day, primary school children get a piece of fruit under the 'Fruit for Schools' scheme... it could be an orange or apple, banana or even a stick of carrot. This is a regular consumption pattern, so when the snow came, and a percentage of schools were shut for a few days, this meant that several hundred thousand pieces of fruit were left uneaten... and came back onto the market. So a box of bananas, which ordinarily might cost £15, became available for about £5. So, many fruit shops bought these and sold the bananas more cheaply than they usually do. But they go off quickly and some people don't like over-ripe bananas (I do though!) so that's why there are over 100 bananas still sitting in our hallway, waiting to have the chance to be rapidly air-dried, jarred up and bartered on the LETS, or given to friends as gifts, or even chopped up and put in my daily muesli.... or composted, which is what will happen to most of them.

So, Sunday afternoon was equally relaxed... did some wooding, visited Country Fresh on my bike which is just about on it's last legs (if that's not a misnomer) as the jumping drive cog is worse today... making it almost unrideable uphill with a load, but still OK on the flat or downhill...

Later, after tea, I made the same journey again, down to David's to see the photos he took down at the Residents' Festival and then last week down at the Museum Gardens. Some nice Fiddlesticks images, we think we almost have enough for David to start doing my new publicity leaflet.

During the evening I got both 5 gallon cans of bathwater hot so as I can have a bath tonight, as I'm doing some filming tomorrow up in Middlesborough, and although it's about frugal living (someone's trying to live on a pound per day, I think, and I've been asked to help and give some tips and advice), I do want to look clean and tidy... not as if I've been head down in a skip!

Had a bath and hair wash. Lovely!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Saturday 14th February 09

A slow start to the day and spent a chunk of the morning doing the washing up, it seemed anyhow. Got a phone call from Don who's a tree surgeon friend, asking me if I wanted a delivery of logs. I said 'of course' but asked him to deliver after the York in Transition Clothes Swap, at perhaps 4.30.

So, to the clothes swap event at St Nicks... Gill sorted out a couple of bags and I took these down with the 3 carrier bags of decent clothes left over from the Blue Peter Bring and Buy sale. So, added these to the piles of clothes already there but I didn't take any as I'm not really interested in clothes... as long as I've got some which fit and are functional, that's mostly what matters.

I managed to sell a few Carbon Detox tickets and had some nice chats, including a pre-arranged meeting with a Chilean chap called Jean who's very interested in how local currencies could, in theory, solve the Credit Crunch and re-invigorate the economy. I invited him down to the next LETS meeting, where I said he could have a 10 minute slot to put his idea/s forward. He's approached the Council and Hugh Bayley our MP, but not really got anywhere. He was passed onto me as the contact person for the existing LETSystem.

Came back from St Nicks via a logpile and Freshways, who had three sacks of compostable veg resources for me, including a vast load of bananas, which I'll try to make space to dry.

Don arrived with his four-wheel-drive and big trailer full of a load of quite thin Ash trunks... nothing over 15cm diameter, plus some hefty chunks of softwood, and an assortment of other stuff including some well-died Elm... perhaps half a tonne or so in total. I asked him if he'd like something for it... some dried fruit, or cash, or just a heartfelt 'thank you' and he opted for a £10 note which I think was very reasonable. But this is the first time I've paid for woodfuel for a couple of years!

Then did a bit of tidying in the back garden until it was dark at about 6pm. Loaded up several cake-racks with bananas on top of the bathwater saucepans... plus some apple rings too.

Not a very easy evening, having to work on my patience.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Friday 13th February 09

I managed to get our youngest into school on time but our eldest is unwell so he stayed at home.

I spent a chunk of the morning writing my column... did it on 'greener driving' which was interesting... ie acknowledging that if people HAVE to use their motor vehicles, there are things they can do which will reduce the cost to the planet as well as to their wallet. I enjoyed writing this and got it in at lunchtime. It'll be published in 2 or 3 weeks time in Community Care magazine.

After lunch cycled down to town with my poorly bike not letting me go at my usual breakneck speed (!) and put a cheque in and got some cash out so I could buy another £50 worth of Carbon Detox tickets, which I hope I'll sell at the York in Transition clothes swap tomorrow. I then went straight to school to collect our youngest. His bike has a puncture which was initially a slow one, meaning that I could pump up the tyre and it would last until he got to (or home from) school. However, it's now a fast puncture, so I strapped it onto my trailer and we walked home together, holding hands and chatting. A very enjoyable 'being a good daddy' experience! Helped of course by him 'being a good son'!!! Both boys had some time on the Wii and then on the computer after school, and barring one short outburst followed by a sincere apology, we had a really nice evening together.

Thursday 12th February 09

Not an easy start to the day but everyone got out of the house on time. I cycled our youngest to school, with him sitting on the luggage rack, as there was snow forecast for the afternoon and Gill didn't want him having to cycle back in that. However, my drive-cog wheel (sprocket?) is somehow slipping under the chain when I push hard on it... which was more than a bit of a nuisance. I had to walk up the hill away from our house but once on the level, so long as I didn't accelerate hard, I could cycle relatively easily and got to school on time. Time for a service, methinks!

I then cycled gingerly into town and dumped the machine at the station and got my ticket to Sheffield, where I was due to help Ali with a day of interviews for new personal assistants. I had a really good chat with a lovely South African woman from Harrogate, called Julie, who was heading to a conference in Birmingham. We discussed any number of interesting subjects... religion and evolution, polyamoury and cheating, Zimbabwe and politics.... a train trip which helped me feel a whole lot better!

Ali met me at the station and we went up to Blue Moon Cafe to look at all the applications and discuss the questions to be asked in the interviews. One of Ali's other carers Sarah arrived to help, and we had coffee and cake to help us with our deliberations. At midday we toddled up to the Friends Meeting House where Ali had hired a room for the day, as a neutral space in which to interview the six applicants. One phone call message arrived saying one had withdrawn, but we interviewed five really lovely people, including two Poles and two Africans, one a refugee pleased with recent residency papers. All of them had the ability to do the work and fit in with Ali's family and their care needs. Because all of the applicants were good, choosing who got the jobs was difficult, but Ali was glad to have the two of us to bounce ideas off. Over lunch, another of Ali's friends arrived and stayed for an hour, and he joined in one of the interviews too!

We finished the interviews and spent nearly another hour discussing the notes we'd made and who might fit best in Ali's household.

We left at 5.30 an I got a lift to quite close to the station... and grabbed a baguette for tea before getting on the 5.47 to York via Wakefield and Leeds. This 'CrossCountry' was rammed full... standing room only, and it was a cold hour in the lobby area between the main part of the carriages. However, I got a seat from Leeds to York, and had a nice chat with Zena, travelling fro Oxford to Durham to see her boyfriend.

Once in York I had no time to go home before the Transition meeting started, so I struggled in the snow with my poorly bike along to the Stables, where just five of us came for our regular fortnight meeting. I was really tired and cold, but had a good meeting, getting a lot done. The Carbon Detox Show tickets are selling well, and our Transition Initiative project is moving forward.

I was glad when it finished though, at 9.40, and got home for 10pm. Gill had had a tough day and was happy to see me to tell me all about it. I had over 70 emails to deal with and was up til nearly 2am doing that and this blog, having a bowl of pasta and soup supper and watching BBC News 24.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Wednesday 11th February 09

Excellent day in many respects, despite having a headache all day. I cycled our youngest into school, came back via logpile.

Nice morning, despite Gill setting off for art and slipping over and twisting her knee... came back in tears so I persuaded her to go to bed. Joined her. Got up at midday. Went to buy paracetamol and codeine, also to Country Fresh for veggies.

Walked down to school with her, holding her hand all the way, at 2.30 to watch our youngest in his class assembly. He was great! What a star!

I cycled back with him, Gill got a lift from a friend with a motor.

Quiet evening, boys in good form.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Tuesday 10th February 09

I cycled down to school with our youngest son as the roads were clear, and came back to get going with the large pile of washing up. Then jarred up some dried fruit and did emails, and before lunch took three wheelbarrows-worth of split logs down to the covered logpile, and did a good job of building a couple of self-supporting walls. It's like a jigsaw... there's definitely ways which the different shapes will fit snugly together.. and plenty which will result in the stack falling over. I love doing it!

Lunch was lovely, apart from seeing the distressing scenes over in Australia with the Bushfires destroying so many lives, livelihoods and homes. We should, however, expect more of this as the climate shifts and we experience more droughts and extreme weather. It's not going to be easy.

After lunch I got a phone call from a TV producer up in Middlesborough looking for a 'Freegan' to interview. Spent at least half an hour talking to him about the various ways in which I live cheaply, get things for free, collect aluminium cans and occasional scrap metal and sell it, use the LETS and Freecycle networks, and give stuff for free too, such as composting advice, and many hours voluntary work with a plethora of local groups, and more. It looks like I'll be going up to Middlesborough next week, but nothing's been agreed yet.

I collected our son from school, on the way delivering 5 litres of Ecover Clothes Washing Liquid to one of our friends who participates in our Food Co-op.

I did a final (hahahahaha) load of chainsawing and wooding in the front... and finished the current pile! Just gives more space to put more there....

Ben came round as our eldest had emailed him asking for help with accessing the games bought a few days ago... they aren't loading and neither son knows why. Ben, however, arrived with a large polystyrene box and asked us if we'd like a 'science treat'? Well, we're all up for some science fun... so he opened the box and revealed a thick layer of 'dry ice' chunks at the bottom. This had arrived with a delivery of chemicals to the place he works, and the dry ice was surplus to requirements. Dry ice is frozen solid carbon dioxide, which keeps the temperature of the inside of the container at about -100 degrees Celsius. He showed us several tricks... including putting some pellets of dry ice in a glass of warm water, which then proceeds to bubble away and gives off lots of cold water vapour which looks like smoke or steam flowing out of the glass and down the sides. This could be modified by adding washing up liquid to the warm water... the large volume of bubbles generated can be popped, releasing the smoke-like water vapour. I found some balloons, held the nozzle open wide and slipped a pellet of dry ice into the balloon, and tied it to seal the initially flaccid balloon. As the ice sublimes (changes from solid direct to gas) the balloon inflates, as solid CO2 takes much less space than the same weight of gaseous CO2.

After all this fun, Ben tried to fix the computer problem... the boys computer might need a new graphics card. Ben left with a job-lot of lychees and two banana and chocolate chip buns which Gill made yesterday.

Gill did one of the best evening meals I've had for quite a while. We had a leek and potato soup which was delicious, and she used up some macaroni/cauliflower cheese and some tomato/onion pizza topping by putting the pasta in the base of an oven-proof dish, then a layer of sliced mushrooms, then a layer of tomato stuff, then a layer of wholemeal breadcrumbs and grated carrot, topped with small halved tomatoes and grated goats' cheese... and baked this. Absolutely Fantastic!

I then went to the Hull Road Ward Committee, chaired by the elected Councillors. A good presentation from the NHS Trust, and discussion about the Ward Committee budget and where it should be spent. I did a short presentation about the Planning Panel work, and there was an 'election' where those who wanted to be on the Panel were given the nod by the citizens present. We got three new members and lost two. I remain the Clerk, a role I am now happy with.

Home soon after 9pm, watched Horizon on dreams. I spent a couple of hours shelling the remaining lychees, then liquidizing the flesh, added 10 bananas, re-liquidized, pushed through a sieve and carefully placed the fragrant liquid in a baking tray balanced on the stove. Within a couple of days, this will be well on the way to being wonderful fruit leather.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Monday 9th February 09

Gill took our youngest into school on foot, as it had snowed last night.

I was up and about by the time she got back, and we had a reasonably relaxing morning doing stuff around the house.

Got a message from my friend Gary Haq, who works at the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, telling me about his new blog which I think is very good. He's very knowledgeable and has contributed to lots of studies, and published lots of stuff. It's about 'Human Ecology', which is something I sometimes list as one of my interests, so it's good to read about Gary's take on what's going on.

Gill went to town to buy train tickets for a trip to Birmingham next week, half term, she's taking the boys to meet friends and visit a science centre called Think Tank, which looks really good.

I processed quite a large pile of logs... chainsawing and splitting, to replace the various stacks of logs which have kept this house warm over the past few cold weeks. The logs I'm preparing now will be ready to use in a year or perhaps two, depending on how well they dry. Different types of wood dries at different rates, and some I store under cover, out of the wet... other logpiles are just raised up off the ground and have air all around them (they might look as if they are stacked against the house, but I leave a gap between the wall and logpile).

Then it was time to go and get or youngest. I gave him a lift back, and he had a friend visit for an hour or two. A peaceful evening.

After a pasta and cauliflower tea, I cycled off down to the Friends Meeting House to go to the York Green Festival meeting. We had no agenda... so I constructed one and chaired the meeting. There were 19 of us there... an excellent turn-out. Several more job-posts got filled, including the music co-ordinator and the event co-ordinator too, which is really good! I feel we're really going somewhere now.

I popped into the Golden Fleece to book a meeting room for a co-ordinators meeting, and there will be another 'public' meeting at St John's College on 9th March.

Home soon after 10, Gill asleep in a chair after a tough evening managing our little darlings.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Sunday 8th February 09

A nice relaxed morning and enjoyed Countryfile. It was good to see my friend Guy Wallbanks interviewed in Whitby about how to have an ethical St Valentine's Day. Then I enjoyed Gardeners Question Time. I spent lots of time peeling dozens and dozens of lychees, which were unsaleable as they have some little patches of mould on the outer skin. But when this shell is peeled off, the fruit within is absolutely fine... so did loads, then peeled the fruit off the stone, and liquidised this fruit pulp with some apples to make a wonderful juice. I'll convert some of this into fruit leather, but we had some nice perfumed juice drink with our evening meal...

Mid afternoon went for a cycle with my eldest lad. He had some homework to do, making a virtual tour of York, so we went with Gill's camera down to Heslington to get photos of his school, the park, Heslington Hall and parts of the University. He decided where to take the pics, I took him to the places he wanted to see.

Then we went down to Country Fresh and got some bananas and tomatoes, plus recycling, and then on to Freshways where one of the guys offered my son some bananas and he was unsure whether to take them... he's not used to the generosity that shop-owners display to me, their volunteer recycler!

Pizza for tea and then I took some lychees up to Wendy in part payment for the exercise bike... I sorted out a couple of dozen with minimal mould on, and she was happy with these.

Bathed both the boys in stove-water and a very peaceful evening.

Saturday 7th February 09

A good day on the whole. At 10, as agreed yesterday or the day before, David rang and we confirmed the meeting in Museum Gardens to do a final(?) photoshoot for my new flyer.

So at 12.50 I set off, in costume, and with some of my circus gear, and got to the Museum Gardens just after 1pm. We did a variety of shots... including some of me standing on top of a box and doing the diabolo around my foot, some of me with devilstick on my nose, taken from above (using the stairs at The Hospitium) and some unicycling action shots and juggling portrait ones. It was very cold so i was glad to keep moving. We spent about an hour doing these... during which a little boy whom I'd met last week ran up requesting more Fiddlesticks activities... so I let him play with some equipment whilst we got on with the photography.

I did a lot of logpile building during the afternoon, and a little bit of chainsawing and compost heap construction.

So a pleasant day. Gill also had a good day, taking the boys into town where they spent pocket money on a computer game each.

Soup for tea... hooray, we've finished it!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Friday 6th February 09

Gill was feeling tired this morning so I took our youngest into school... the ice has more or less gone so he cycled with me rather than taking a lift.

Soon after I came back I zoomed into town to meet Chris from the Jorvik Viking Centre to try on a costume for the Viking Festival launch. The festival looks really good (download this pdf for the festival programme) and I feel much more confident about my role in the launch event on the evening of 17th Feb. I went to the Building Society to get a cheque out to pay for the extra insurance for the fire show.

I decided to take a slight detour and head for the cycle track and was pleased to see yet more logs being harvested from 'weed trees' growing out of the top of the cutting wall (it's an old railway line, with brick-lined cuttings). If these trees were allowed to keep growing, they would slowly destroy the masonry, so although it looks a bit bare without them, it is best that they are removed. The chaps were happy for me to take another load. I saw that one of them was loading up a trailer and I asked him if he would like to deliver some to me, and gave him my business card. I said that I would pay him for a delivery. He said that he was taking some to his mother near Selby and would see if he could fit me in.

So, spent most of the afternoon working on the risk assessment requested by the insurers. I've done loads of risk assessments before but they are still quite tedious, and this one took nearly 2 hours to put together. I just hope the insurers will accept it!

Then went to school and brought our little one home. I then went back to the cycle track... and most of the tree trunks were gone. But some were still available so I took another load... I've had four loads now and that's added considerably to my store for next year's carbon-neutral fuel.

Went to post the paperwork off plus a Wedding Card that Gill's made for her nephew who's getting married over in Australia... she spent the afternoon writing a poem for them and making the card. It is lovely and very humorous.

I made my own tea... a roux-based sauce made with soya milk and some of the everlasting carrot soup, and stove-fried onions and pasta tubes. Filling and wholesome. I love onion... it's my favourite vegetable at the moment, especially as the current lot were free... the benefits of being a composter. I followed this by a pint of perry... not quite as wholesome but nice none the less...

A relaxed evening followed, the children were well behaved and happy and we all enjoyed our Friday night.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Thursday 5th February 09

Gill took our youngest into school and I had a lie in... thank you Gill, I needed it.

Gill and I had a lazy and enjoyable morning.

I tried to prepare some notes for tonight but kept on getting distracted. I think that detailed notes won't actually be necessary.

Had an early lunch and then headed into town to get some money out to buy a block of 10 tickets for Carbon Detox on March 3rd at the Theatre Royal. Met up with Edward and co in the Theatre and he told me the password for the block of ten cheap tickets... just £5 each!

Home via the cycle track where a large group of workers were taking down quite a lot of trees, shredding the branches but leaving the cut up trunks. They were happy for me to take some on the trailer, and invited me to take as much as I could... there must be over a tonne. Nice!

I picked up our little one and he came back on the luggage rack, as it's still too slippery for him to cycle safely and confidently. I'm happy to, though... I've been cycling in snow and ice lots... nothing puts me off!

When I got back I did some more washing up and had a bowl of soup and a sandwich, and did manage to think about my talk to the York Pain Management Support Group tonight. At 5.40 I set off for the hospital where I had agreed to meet Jess, who is going to supervise me (!) and make sure I get my facts right, and hopefully add some of her own expertise too.

Jess appeared soon after I arrived and we had a sit down and chat, and the structure of the talk became clearer. I would first say what the talk was going to be about (Climate Change, Peak Oil, York in Transition and what we could do) and then introduce Jess and myself. The Climate section would have info about the greenhouse effect, gases and the sorts of activities that these gases come from, plus the complications from positive and negative feedbacks, and some of the possible effects of increased greenhouse effect. Then the peak oil section would be pretty straightforward... about Hubbert's predictions and how they came true, and what the post-peak would mean for humanity. The Transition Towns bit too would be fairly simple, with Jess doing her bit about inclusion and participation re the non-usual suspects, including people with disabilities. We'd talk about York in Transition and what our aims are, to probably focus on food. Finally I'd talk through some of the things that we can do to reduce our impact, including diet, reducing our resource use, recycling and composting, plus ideas such as calculating your carbon footprint. We'd invite them to get on YiT's email list and to come to the Carbon Detox show.

Then we walked over to the venue on White Cross Road and met the organisers. After 15 minutes, just six people had turned up... they usually get between 5 and 20. The cold icy weather had probably put some folks off. The group organiser bought us both a drink and soon I was invited to start. The talk went well and there were quite a few questions afterwards, and comments and anecdotes.

We left at about 8.45pm, and walked along the cycle track together... I collected a good stash of logs and then parted company with Jess. I got home soon after 9.30, and rang Ben who had rung Gill, saying the memory chip had arrived. He came to fit it... this took just 2 minutes and he went. My computer now works more quickly... it has 1.24 whatever it is now... double what it used to have!

Watched a good programme on exploring the Amazon on BBC2... a low-carbon method of enjoying the planet.

Wednesday 4th February 09

A good day although during the day I didn't get much done apart from housework and such like. I took our youngest into school... he didn't cycle as it was icy, he sat on my luggage rack with his cycle helmet on, hanging onto me. He says it's quite comfortable! Well, more so than sitting side-saddle on the crossbar...

So, before we knew it, it was time to go and get him again... the day went really quickly except from a visit from Simon to collect his SUMA stuff, always nice to see him.

Once our little one was home, I went up to see Wendy and her son, who's friends with our eldest, and quit by chance, they are selling an exercise bike at the same time as our eldest wants one! He no longer cycles to school as it's near enough to walk, and sometimes he has excess energy so he suggested that he get an exercise bike to use to use this. He had walked up to his friends house to see the machine. It seemed to be very posh... with electronic read-out of kilometres cycled, calories burnt, speed, pulse rate (measured by contacts on the handlebars) and even different sorts of rides, with uphill sections or ups and downs! New, I think it cost about £100, and Wendy was happy to see it go... for £5!!! I tried to offer her more but she wouldn't take it!

I left the boys playing and went to the veg shop and then on to Freshways to do my regular pick-ups, and home, and then back to Wendy's to pick up our static cyclist and the machine which fitted conveniently on my trailer. When we got it back, it caused some excitement... especially the burning off calories bit! It gives a readout about your fitness levels as well!

Tea was a carrot soup I'd made, with sandwiches, after which I went to the York Green Party AGM, which was well attended. Our guest speaker was Jacquie Warren the relatively new Sustainability Officer at the City of York Council, and then we agreed a new constitution which acknowledges our local supporters as well as paid-up national members. I managed to not volunteer for anything which was good as I'm involved with too much as it is! A good meeting.

Home before 10pm.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Tuesday 3rd February 09

Our youngest had a disturbed and feverish night and Gill decide to keep him off school. I had breakfast and at 9.40, cycled down to the Jorvik Centre to meet Chris, who's in charge of the Viking Festival and has asked me to perform on the opening night, on 17th February. We discussed costume, the fire show and what I would do for the audience mingling/participation bit of he event.

Home via Country Fresh and had a nice chat with Shirley, and collected several kilos of apricots which are past their best.

Came home and within the hour the SUMA lorry arrived and I helped the driver unload the soya milk, washing liquid, nuts, seeds and other bits that we and our friends have ordered. Gill did the paperwork, ticking items off the list and doing the cheque.

Then had some lunch and after that did a bit of work in the garden, cutting back yet more brambles and some dead wild dog roses and using this woody stuff as an aerating layer in the current compost heap. I measured the temperature of the heap... 43 degrees celcius and the ambient temperature just above freezing. So, it's a warm heap trying to be a hot heap!

After tea (pasta) I took my laptop round to Ben as the screen has been intermittently poorly, and he offered to take it apart and see if it has loose a connection or something... He does this for a job-lot of dried fruit. Brilliant bartering! Later he brought it back and showed me how to defragment the disc and is going to get me some extra memory for a tenner.

Alison came round and collected her SUMA stuff and I watched a bit of TV, and made notes, which will help me with my book... when I regain my creativity and enthusiasm for it!

Monday 2nd February 09

As there was lots of snow this morning, Gill walked our youngest to school as cycling might have been difficult. I was therefore lucky to have a lie-in, after breakfast, and after ringing SUMA with our order which I would have inputted via the website last night, except Gill's lost the password... I read NewScientist and dozed. And then slept. Til midday... catching up on all the late nights I have and hard-working weekends... It is a rare treat to have such a lazy morning.

However, had a more active afternoon, doing housework, and at 3 cycled down to school with our sledge in the trailer. Our youngest was delighted to see me with it and I attached it to the trailer and cycled round the playground pulling him, and through some of the Science Park, but the more well-used roads were clear of snow so he sat on my luggage rack and the sledge went in my trailer. I wonder if it'll get used tomorrow? More snow is forecast.

I built a logpile outside the front door... we're getting through loads of wood, with both stoves going for most of the time to keep the house warm. Then cycled round to my GP's and after that, Sainsbury's to get mayonnaise and nice bread, Edam cheese and paracetamol.

Gill had cooked up a stir-fry with savoy cabbage and a pie, which was nice, and soon after this I gathered my paperwork together and cycled down to the monthly LETS meeting. No-one had been appointed chair so I got an agenda together and facilitated the meeting... and we were finished in an hour. The main topic was the funding application to see if we can go 'on the web' which will make administration so much easier, and members will be able to put their own info on the website.

Home by 9.30 and a peaceful couple of hours deleting emails... binned nearly 1000 out of my inbox, and now I can get emails again, as my provider had told me my inbox was full. MUST keep on top of this! It's a nightmare getting so many interesting emails each day!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Sunday 1st February 09

Another morning with initial aggro followed by loveliness! Gill and I had a lie-in after breakfast whilst the boyos peacefully watched some TV programme, and then they went on the computer.

I came down for 10.30 and filled the log baskets and got changed into my very-cold-weather performance clothes, watched a bit of Countryfile and set off so I could be in town for midday, my first appointment with the Residents' Festival.

This first midday gig was quite quiet, but after a while I did get a bit of an audience and the show went swimmingly. The second show, at 2pm, was excellent although it was getting colder and there were flurries of snow, and the last one, at 4, was just a workshop with a handful of people, some of whom had come to the previous shows and wanted to have another chance to try stuff out. My handler, Stuart, was very happy with what I'd done and told me the cheque would be with me by the end of the week.

As I left at 5pm, the blizzard started and it was really quite difficult to cycle because I could hardly see where I was going! However, I did make a planned stop at Country Fresh and picked up a couple of sacks of compostables.

When I got in, Alison was at home, sorting out her share of the SUMA order... quite a substantial share... nuts, seeds, washing liquid, pasta sauce and pesto. Yummy mix!

Gill had created a yummy mix of parsnip, broccoli, roast potatoes and assorted garnishes. Not bad at all!

A very quiet evening, I'm shattered as I've done 3 one-hour shows and six trips in and out of town with all my gear on the trailer...

Saturday 31st January 09

Was awoken by boys fighting right outside the bedroom door. I ignored it and after a few minutes the rumpus stopped. My tip... if you want a quiet life, don't have children. Although having children can be very satisfying, lovely, exciting, fulfilling and more, it may cause your life to include a lot of noise, disturbance, heartache, questions about why you decided to do it... perhaps having one is different, perhaps some children are easy to live with, but at the moment, living with two boys is, from time to time, horrible. I do continue to love them to bits, and yes, I see some of my own behaviour in them....

This early fight or loud argument preceded a very peaceful and harmonious day! Breakfast was fine, I got ready soon after and left in my cold-weather costume (red dungarees and outlandish skiing hat) at 9.30 and was in St Sampson's Square to start the City of York Council's Residents' Festival off at 10am. David the photographer arrived and as there was no audience at first, I did some unicycling and stuff for him... but when my activities caused people to stop and watch, I interacted with them and ignored David, although he continued to snap away.

I finished just before 11 and invited people to come and watch the Punch and Judy, and I reloaded my stuff on the trailer and cycled home. Within an hour, my younger brother Tom arrived, with Kate his wife and their three children... lovely! We all had the tomato soup I'd started making on Thursday, which Gill had finished seasoning and whizzing this morning. That with bread and hummus was delicious.

Sometime after 2pm everybody went out to get on the bus and go and visit the Castle Museum, Gill and Katie's favourite. I had another 45 minutes in the house, did some washing up and left the house at 3.30 for my 4pm performance. This show went really well... a big crowd, up for entertainment, with quite a few staying all the way through right from the beginning, which was good, as street-crowds are notoriously transient. There was loads of interaction and laughter and I enjoyed myself immensely. I came away once again thinking how lucky I am doing a job which I enjoy so much.

Got away at about 5.15 and came home fast... the family were already back and all the children were happy... my eldest playing with Tom's youngest, and the other three immersed in Asterix comic books and similar. Within the hour Tom and Katy took their tribe back to Sheffield and we continued to have a very harmonious and peaceful evening.

At times like this, I'm very happy to be a father. This may seem inconsistent, but I think it's pretty normal to have feelings which change dependent on the circumstances you are experiencing at the time! Someone can feel cold and uncomfortable whilst putting a load of bikes away in the shed after a family cycle ride, and within minutes of getting in and putting another log on the stove, feel cosy and defrosted. Same with parenting... sometimes it's hell, sometimes it's lovely and rewarding... all in the same day, sometimes within the hour! I have no regrets and am coping with the difficulties by remembering the good bits.

For me, blogging helps too as I've written a diary since I was a teenager and find it very cathartic to get it all (not all!) down on paper (not paper!) and share some of what's going on. This approach upsets some of my more distant family members as they think that I shouldn't mention my children. I don't understand this, when other blogs (go press the 'next blog' button at the top of the page a few times!) do more than mention children... they have photos of them and names and all sorts of detail, and I feel that is intrusive, more so than my descriptions of family life.... I am careful not to go into too much detail and am trying to not 'betray confidence' although this is difficult as I am naturally open and honest, and don't understand some people's obsession with privacy. My immediate family know that I write about them and sometimes I read the post to them.

Anyway, I enjoyed today and was really happy to see my brother and his family. More work tomorrow, forecast is very cold with snow-showers. Could be a challenge!