Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tuesday 31st March 09

Another late start, but a productive day nevertheless.

Washed up, twice. (not the same stuff, just two drying-rack loads!)

Put a load of spare glass jars in the recycling.

Took the second lot of planks up Hull Road to the people who will be able to re-use them.

Emailed round the Hull Road Planning Panel members to remind them about the meeting tonight.

Mended my son's bike light.

Did some paperwork connected with the Planning Panel and cycled it down to the Council, also visited the Co-op Bank and my building society.

Came back via Country Fresh and Freshways.

Did a bit of composting and some weeding.

At 6, Gill fed me... cauliflower and macaroni cheese. Then at 6.20, rushed off to the Planning Panel meeting at Tang Hall Community Centre and dealt with about 5 applications, with 3 other Panel members.

Home via a friend who has recently been bereaved, to give her my condolences.

A relatively quiet evening. Listened to two radio programmes on BBC iplayer. Started a Facebook version of the No Miles High Club for people who don't fly, won't fly...

Monday, 30 March 2009

Monday 30th March 09

Woken with a phone call from a friend who's applying for a job and wanted to check that I was OK being a referee. When the post came I had to do some fairly urgent paperwork and this took til lunchtime. I got an email reminding me (or telling me for the first time, I think) that I have a column due in today, so I emailed back expressing surprise, and have til tomorrow lunchtime to get it in. Some thinking time needed.

I got a phone call from a new LETS member who had listed that they wanted some structural timbers, so weeks ago I said, yes, I have some tanalised timber which I don't want to burn, and want someone to use... so this person said they could be with me in 10 minutes! She came by car. However, I was happy that she and her husband will be able to use about a dozen lengths of timber, also helping to tidy our front garden, slightly! She was also happy for me to deliver, as she said she'd have to get a friend with a van. I can do it with my bike and trailer, in two or three loads. Fortunately they are just 6 minutes cycle up Hull Road.

I popped out to get some bits and bobs for Gill from the Co-op and bakery, and on the way back found a large rosemary bush in a skip, one where previously the owner had said I could have something out of it. So, I loaded up my trailer with lots of lovely-smelling rosemary, and then a nice chap called John walked past and asked if I wanted some bits of tree he'd just removed from next to his garage where it was beginning to cause some structural damage. I went to check, and he had quite a bit of Ash and Elder, already chopped up and some of the twiggy bits already bagged up. I was very happy to accept his offer. The alternative was him driving it down to the Hazel Court recycling depot.

So a good haul of compostable and stove-able material. I delivered the tanalised planks up the road, and came back via John's logs and twigs. I got completely engrossed in processing the twigs and at 7.15 Gill called me... it was Dave from City Screen ringing and reminding me that I was due to be at a meeting at 7pm... whoops! I quickly cleaned up and jumped on my bike, and was at City Screen to meet up with Dave, Edward and Barry for 7.30. We discussed the forthcoming showing of Age of Stupid at City Screen on 26th April, who is going to speak at the panel discussion afterwards, and how we are going to publicise it, on top of the existing publicity offered by City Screen.

Back by 9pm, via the cycle track logpile, where someone else has been removing logs... so I'm not the only log burner in York! (Well, I knew this, but renewable fuels are an increasingly valuable resource.)

Spent til 2.30 am writing my column, on 'Buy Local'.

Sunday 29th March 09

Woken ridiculously early by an enthusiastic 5 year old, who always wakes at 6am.

During the morning I did some balloon models for her and my first successful balloon flower, for Ali. Sarah was amazed at the 'dogs dinner' model, where I put a small marble-sized balloon inside a dog. I can also do this with someone's watch, and call it a 'watch dog'.....

I watched Countryfile at 11 and then we went to a garden centre to get some things for Ali's forthcoming raised bed garden project. She got various seeds, seed potatoes and bags to grow them in, seed trays with propagator lids, biodegradable pots and some peat-free general compost. She has ordered some huge pots and will find some good local topsoil. Also a compost bin, water butt and wormery. I've offered her some rich compost to mix with the soil. Nice one Ali!

Back for a late lunch and potted up some herb seeds and the potatoes. I got away at 4 to get the 4.20 tram and the 4.50 train. Chatted to a very nice chap called Alan who works at Ampleforth College, involved in Transition, and might meet him at the Kirkbymoorside 'Springboarding Day' on April 25th, their name for the 'Unleashing' that is the more usual name in Transition for the launch event. Back into York just before 6, collecting some compostables from both shops on the way home. When I'd unloaded, I cycled over to Fulford to collect our eldest who'd had a fun day all day with his friends, lots of pretending to kill people with sticks, sorry, Excalibur, and shooting people with pretend guns etc etc... and no adults trying to direct them into more wholesome activities! He'd had a lovely time, and was happy to see me, good chats on the way home and had supper and was in bed by 9pm... presumably completely worn out!

I had to amend my Community Care blog written yesterday as when Ali and I looked at it, we found that when the link to Danny's myspace page was clicked, it opened up in the same window, replacing the blog window with the poem written out. So, no easy way of reading the poem and listening to Danny reading it... I'll have to learn how to open something up in a new window...

A relaxing evening, spent on the laptop, enjoyed a chat to a new Facebook friend who writes an interesting blog http://hippiechickdiaries.com/ which I like. Like her too!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Saturday 28th March 09

Woken too early by a phone call from one of the boys' friends, who then came round.

I had breakfast and then tried to find something to do for my Community Care blog... I'm not feeling inspired at the moment.

So I used someone else's inspiration... Danny Chivers, a poet, whom I met at a gathering of Climate Speakers in London earlier this year. See http://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/green-living/2009/03/green-man-wonders-how-to-get-t.html
I love this poem! It's even better hearing him perform it whilst you read along...

Got this done by midday and got dressed and up, ready to go to Sheffield for a performance of the Ukulele Orchestra.

I was picked up at Sheffield station soon after 2 and spent some of the afternoon with Ali and her daughter and their new PA Sarah, who is lovely too. At 5ish, we headed down to town on the tram to go to the Blue Moon, to meet up with Al's parents and an ex-carer who's become a friend and a soon-to-be ex-carer who they will both miss. This meal was part of a Mother's Day present from Ali to her 84 year old Ma. Blue Moon is a lovely place, veggie and vegan, and caters for other special diets such as gluten free. I had a good main meal, a cauliflower thing with some spinach and feta pie with salads... and some of Ali's too, as she didn't like the bean-heavy thing she had ordered, so I was stuffed and didn't have cake. Sarah took Ali's daughter home, as he was very tired... she is only 5years old.

Then the short walk to the newly refurbished Crucible Theatre, where the brilliant Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain were due to perform. I knew nothing about this bunch but was really impressed. A line-up of 7, as one member (Kitty) wasn't well, so I hope she gets better soon. But the performance was awesome... really, really clever, funny, very 'tight' arrangements with brilliant mixing of different songs. All of us enjoyed it, although Ali's parents missed some of the 'in jokes' according to her Dad, as many of the pieces were post 1960s and some post-Punk. Afterwards, we hung around as Ali wanted to get her CD and DVD signed.. she has bought a Ukulele, as she used to play the guitar but has found it more and more difficult to hold but the Uke is more manageable. Her daughter has also got one and loves the UOOGB too. They have another fan as of tonight!

We went home on the tram and I had a comfortable night on a sofabed, the one the PA usually uses... she slept on a matress on the floor in Ali's daughter's bedroom.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Friday 27th March 09

Quite a relaxing day, although I did a lot. At about 10, two Film and TV students arrived, Liam and Laura, to do a piece on recession, freeganism and green, low carbon lifestyles, drying fruit and composting.... well, they wanted to do recession and freeganism, I turned it into all the rest!

We cycled down to Country Fresh where unexpectedly, Richard wasn't working and Shirley was, so she got the starring role of handing over the box of compostables. We came back via Freshways, but Raj, the 'Mr Charisma', wasn't there, so no filming. Back at home, we did a bit on composting and how I re-use some of the stuff that the shop is unable to sell... such as a blemished red pepper which had three quarters of it perfectly edible. Back inside, we did the dried fruit theme, and by 1.30 they had got enough 'footage' and they went. I hope that they got something useful and interesting for their project. I've asked them to send me a copy so I can see what they've made me say. Anything can happen in the editing suite!

After lunch I did a bit of work in the garden, weeding and more compost heap loading and some work out at the front, bow-sawing some smaller timbers... and then David came with his LETS bank account paperwork and we discussed him photographing another gig, so we can finish off the new publicity material. Then the children came home and all was good humoured and happy.

I had the hot-pot with scone top that Gill had made yesterday, reheated on the woodstove, and I attempted to catch up on assorted e-jobs such as doing some publicity for a forthcoming Green Festival meeting.

So, an unhurried day and quite productive.

Thursday 26th March 09

Off to Sheffield to see Age of Stupid at the Showroom, and to see Franny Armstrong, the film-maker, introduce it and answer questions afterwards.

I had quite a busy morning at home but got a train just after midday, then a tram in Sheffield up to near where Ali lives, and then a 10 minute walk to her house. Arrived at 2 and spent some of the afternoon with her before going to a meeting that she chairs... a nursery which has loads of kids... I think 60 children under 4 years old... I didn't attend the meeting, I did some balloon animals for the few children who were still around, but when they went I sat in on the last 10 minutes.

At nearly 6 we went on to the Showroom where there was a queue for the Age of Stupid special screening, sold out as Franny Armstrong was due to introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. As we were queueing for a mocha, I spotted Franny, I was glad she'd made it, as earlier I'd received a mass email saying it was touch and go whether she'd be able to get up to Sheffield.

The film is brilliant... this was the second time I'd seen it and I got more out of it this time... some bits I'd missed the first time, and also the linking theme of oil which connects all the stories was much clearer. But I still cried and cried at one point near the end, when the years roll forward to 2055. I think it's the music actually, it's so, well, emotional!

I enjoyed the Q+A, although one question, asked by a young teen or child, about what Franny herself does to be climate friendly, was answered in a bit of a tough way, as many people have asked her, in one way or another, whether she's a hypocrite? I don't think this young person was actually asking that complex a question, they just wanted to hear that she was vegetarian, charged up her laptop with solar panels and didn't drive, or fly on holiday (although being a film-maker means that she has flown and will be travelling by air to the US next month).

Afterwards, we went to the local groups discussion, hosted by Transition Sheffield and Sheffield Against Climate Change. Before I went to get my train home, we went to Subway for a sandwich and I then got the 10 15ish train to Leeds, had a 25 minute wait in Leeds and arrived in York soon after midnight.

A super day! Rerally good to see Ali, and AoS again, and glad to share this with Ali, who enjoyed it too, if 'enjoyed' is the right term!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Wednesday 25th March 09

Up early, Gill got me up at 7 to light the stove and get myself ready to leave the house at 7.50, so as I could get the 8.24 train to Leeds. Then I got the 9.05 to Wakefield, and the 9.31 to Featherstone where there was a brilliant event...

Graham Lee, supplier of Sempertex balloons, runs regular 'Care and Share' days which he does to help balloonologists, entertainers and other performers develop their balloon modelling skills, and inspire them to get deeper into the amazing art of balloon modelling. I had been told about this by my friend 'Henrietta Rabbit' who runs a successful entertainment company, with all sorts of face painters, magicians, balloon modellers and more. She's even booked me to do some stuff occasionally.

This event was the first Care and Share Performance day, with Danny Schlesinger running two one-hour workshops on Performance and Performing with Balloons. He was really good... patient, experienced, funny, with dry wit, encouraging and was very aware of psychology, body language and the art of entertaining and how to perform for audiences.

Much Much More to come in this post within 36 hours... possibly with a photo!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Tuesday 24th March 09

Up early as Gill wanted me to light the stove as the children were cold and she had to get their breakfasts and do three packed lunches. She left with our youngest as he's on a school trip on and around the River Ouse, and she's going with the group.

I really wanted to go back to bed but didn't, as had to go into town to give in a cheque, visit the bank re the LETS account, to see if I've filled in the paperwork correctly, and various other places. It was a bit of a frustrating morning, as the bank doesn't 'do' anything connected with business banking or voluntary groups, yet I waited about 30 minutes to be told this, and I was unable to speak to anyone at the council re expenses connected with the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel. But whilst I was waiting to hear this, I filled in a request for permits to use my trailer at the Hazel Court James Street recycling site, where, apparently, bicycles are not allowed for 'Health and Safety reasons'. I look forward to the response; if it is 'you cannot go there as we don't allow pedestrians up at the top', I'm going to ask why, therefore, car drivers are allowed to get out of their vehicles and take materials from one skip to another, as pedestrians? I want to be allowed to use the site 'at my own risk', the same as I use roads 'at my own risk' and pedestrian crossings 'at my own risk' etc etc. I want to be treated like anybody else depositing drinks cartons or scrap iron for recycling, ie, basically ignored and left to get on with it. I would, however, accept them walking in front of my bike with a red flag to warn other people of the dangers I pose, or to protect me from being endangered. We'll see. I expect a campaign coming on!

I got home at midday and did more washing up and had lunch.

A quiet and productive afternoon, went all too quickly, but got quite a lot done, including a phone call with the Co-op Bank, revealing that I need to get signatures from the new signatories in another part of the form. SO complicated just to get some new people able to sign the cheque book!

Gill and our youngest came back; he was completely knackered as they'd walked miles, literally. Our eldest came back bearing his school report which was very good, with above average effort in most subjects. We really rubbed it in how pleased we were with his effort.

I went to the York Rotters Social at 7pm... the 'end of year celebration and thank you' party. Initially there were just 7 of us but as the evening went on, a few more came. Catherine our paid co-ordinator had provided some food and drinks, and organised a quiz, based on World Records... things like 'what was the height of the tallest costumed character to run in a marathon?' We were given a multiple choice, and the answer was apparently 4.2metres, a nurse character in 2007 I think! Some of the questions generated some comments, chat and laughter, and our team came second with 6 correct out of 20. Catherine had organised prizes for all participants, and two lucky people got a Compost Mate turning tool. I chose a Bubblehouse stacking Desk-Top Wormery which I'm pleased with, despite it being a bit twee! It will probably be a good teaching aid for me, as taking my Can O Worms (with extra tray) anywhere would be really difficult with a bike trailer! This, however, is small and compact, but demonstrates the concept of stacking wormeries which allow the worms to work up through the composting material.

So, a good event, met several new people and had some fun, and came away with new kit, which will undoubtedly come in useful. I think our Master Composter scheme is excellent... well funded and managed, a team of trained and supported volunteers who attend lots of different events, helping people start composting, helping existing composters compost more. I have found friendship and a deep satisfaction in promoting one part of a low carbon lifestyle. I am proud to be a York Rotter, the original York Rotter!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Monday 23rd March 09

Got up in time to take our youngest to school, and came back and tried to find some info on my computer about a balloon modelling workshop I'm wanting to go to on Wednesday. One of the UK's top balloonologists is doing a performance and workshop, and I want to go and learn some more... or at least get inspiration! But I found it difficult to find the info as other things kept on happening which were more immediate.

One of those was a dear friend Diane from Norwich ringing me and asking if I could do a favour. Our mutual friend G., who has some quite severe disabilities, has found himself in a tight spot financially and has no food in the house. He is expecting to receive a fuel payment on Thursday, which will mean he can go shopping, but until then, he's no food. Diane asked me if I could go to Alligator, and she'd put £20 on an account, and could I buy him some provisions and cycle them up to him? I said I could do something like that, but would ring him and ask what he wanted, and get back to her about the arrangements.

G. was surprised and very grateful and eventually got me a shopping list organised, some of which I can get at Thomas the Baker with the Yesterbake deal, some at the Co-op, some at Country Fresh, and a few bits at Alligator. I rang Diane and said that she didn't need to send Alligator any money, I'd cover the cost.

I also got a phone call from a family member who feels strongly I shouldn't ever mention about when things get difficult with family life, with bringing up children. I have already agreed to not put too many details, but I feel like I'm being blackmailed. Although this blog is ostensibly about low carbon living, I happen to be a parent, and that sometimes means I mention good times and bad times as a parent. Not everything in this diary relates to carbon emissions... there's all sorts of ethical dilemmas, and other things going on in my life which I personally feel happy to share with any reader. So I now have another dilemma... do I kow tow to someone who wishes to control what I do, someone I'd like to please and make happy... but therefore not feeling free to do as I want, or do I continue writing this blog as I want to, with occasional references to some of the difficulties which families sometimes have to face, and risk losing some of the small benefits that remaining in contact with this person might give? Do I get stressed and unhappy trying to ensure that my writing is acceptable to them, or do I keep the freedom to be myself and do what I want to do and have the knowledge that they are critical of me and don't accept me as I am, and are threatening no contact with anyone in my family because of this?

I wish they could have contact with the rest of the family and just leave me alone to do what I want to do, and accept my aspergery ways and accept me as I am. But from experience, that is unlikely. I will try to keep the blog appropriate and not put lots of details of what the children get up to but I cannot promise to 'never mention the children in a negative way' as this would give a totally unrealistic view of family life!

I did eventually find the balloon workshop info, and got train times to Featherstone which is where it's being held. I then went and did some shopping, for us as well as G.

Gill and I had lunch together and at 3.30 went to a meeting at school, which was good. Our youngest went home with a friend and eldest let himself in, and when we got in at 4.30, I collected the shopping I'd done for G. and shot off to get some fresh veg he's requested from Country Fresh and something else from Alligator. I then cycled all the way to the other side of York to deliver this to G.... but when I got there, I discovered I'd left the bread and hummus behind, doh! So I promised G that I'd come back and deliver these later.

When I got back home, there had been some interesting times. Our youngest had been out cycling around the University with the friend, but the friend cycled faster than he did and left him behind. Our little boy was then slightly lost and came over all miserable, as he didn't know how to get back to the friend's house. A lady stopped and asked him if everything was alright, and suggested to him that he find his way to a friend's house he DID know how to get to. Which is exactly what he did... and ended up at another friend's house just up the road from us. He knew that we had planned to be out, and the second friend's Mum wasn't in, so they just played. When that Mum came back, she rang and said that our boy had turned up at her place. In the meantime, friend number one was very unhappy he's lost his buddy, and his Mum was going spare trying to find our son, and was on the verge of ringing the police. So a bit of a fright, but everything turned out fine in the end.

I heard all this when I got back... and all seemed very peaceful and calm!

I did a second round-trip at about half ten, taking my trailer off to speed things up. I collected our youngest's school bag from where it had been left at the friend's house, and then cycled over the Millennium Bridge and over to G's house, delivering bread and hummus, and back over Hob Moor and home, an hours cycling exactly. Came back drenched with sweat and feeling very healthy. Whilst I'm cycling I mull over the things which have happened recently, it's good therapy, thinking time. I realised that I cannot have my life revolving around trying to please everybody, some of whom are very difficult to please! I do plenty of good things, live an ethical life - although not to everyone's liking, and I am happy with 99% of what I do. I cannot help if a few folks out there are unhappy with me. I see it as their loss and I'll live with the consequences; I will have to as I am unable to be anybody else!

Bed after 2am, as usual.

Sunday 22nd March 09

A really good day in any ways, starting with a not too early start, breakfast and back to bed for an hour or less. Because of an outbreak of 'What do I do now'-ness, we rang round various friends but no-one was in or available, so there was a bit of frustration and disruptive behaviour, but we got through it like any parent has to.

I had a very productive day, including visiting the Co-op and stocking up on cereals, visiting Country Fresh and buying spuds and a cauliflower, and bringing back about 5 boxes of compostables, coming back via Freshways and collecting another 2 sacks of compostable stuff plus about 20 loaves which I'll dry next to the stove until crisp and fuel-like, re-built a large pallet bin and lined it with chicken wire salvaged from the skip in Tang Hall last week, cut down yet more brambles, shredded them and put layers of this with layers of the fruit/veg 'resources' in the new pallet bin, and did some weeding in the raspberry area, prior to top dressing with compost. I also did a bit more riddling of the contents of a dalek bin, which so far has resulted in 4 sacks of compost/loam mix, which will form the basis of this year's tomato/cucumber crop. At one stage during the day I persuaded one of the children to actually help in the garden; he pruned a load of ivy which was taking over the fernery. Good work!

This evening I did a load of washing up and more fruit for drying, another load of apples and pears. At about 11pm, Gill told me she'd got a DVD out when she had taken back an old one to Blockbusters... she'd got 'WALL.E' out, as she and the kids had seen it at City Screen in town and she thought I must see it, as I'd like the theme of recycling... Well I have kinda half watched it and yes, I do like it, to some extent. I'm not particularly into animation of the kiddie kind but I'm glad that I at least know what it's about!

Spent some time exploring the new improved vyouz network, which include vskips, the virtual skip site where things can be offered and requested, to stop them going to landfill, and bornrecycling, which enables people to 'give away, swap, sell or request all manner of baby items from cots and cribs to bottles and bibs'... what an excellent idea! I posted a couple of offers on vskips: compost, and paper sacks. The vyouz network is worth exploring as it has more than just these websites.

So, a busy day! My hands hurt with blackberry prickles and fruit juices...

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Saturday 21st March 09

Very busy day mostly inside, but enjoyable nevertheless.

First thing I did was to write an email to the people involved in the access issue about York in Transition meetings. I am determined to get this sorted so that we are open to all.

Then a visitor, an ex YorkLETS member signing the bank forms saying she is happy to stop being a signatory to the sterling account. I'll now be able to go to the Co-op Bank on Monday to get this paperwork checked, and hopefully sent off. That will be a big weight off my mind.

Then lunch and a lot of clearing up... I did a vast pile of washing up and prepared lots of fruit for drying... a load more apples (at least 10) and pears (at least 5). However, I enjoyed listening to some William Orbit and Massive Attack on Jango. This website allows you to play almost any music of your choice, and even have your own 'radio station' which you can access, and other people can too, and listen to your favourite bands or musicians. I only got outside at about 4pm. I did some compost riddling and even got some help with sorting out a load of used envelopes from the boys, which was really nice. I was given a sackful by school... and am composting them, but saving the stamps for charity.

Gill made tea, I washed up.

Friday 20th March 09

A good day, up quite early but Gill took our boyo into school, as she's walking back with four of them! I did a bit around the house and got ready to go to town to do paperwork and meet my visitor. So, popped into see Richard to have a giggle about his more than 15 minutes of fame on Street View and then headed into the Building Society to pay in two cheques and get out one to pay half of our Council Tax. Then to the bank to pay in a SUMA order cheque and the Council Treasury to pay them, and onto the station for 11.30 which is when Chris was supposed to arrive. I met him at the Compost Doctors training a few weeks ago and he seemed like someone I would get on with, so we've connected via Facebook and I offered to show him St Nicks.

Chris turned up at 11.45 and his 2 year old son was very cute! We walked through town and got to St Nicks, the boy having fallen asleep by now. I was able to do a very quick tour... after all he works at Skelton Grange Environment Centre and for a year taught Leeds schools how to compost. Wish he was in York! He took a few photos as inspiration, such as the cut-out dustbin and the Komp 250 compost bin with the perspex front. Got home by 1pm and had lunch together, and then had a walk down the garden to look at all of the various compost bins, wormeries, fruit trees and more. His little boy enjoyed the trampoline.

Chris left at 3ish, as Gill went down to school, and I continued tidying up the back room as we've got a horde of little boys coming... I love the Ewbank!

When Gill and the noisy boyses came back, I went to Somerfield (aka for humour, Scummerfield) and got mayo and chocolate, and then I went down the garden to do more riddling.

Gill made a pizza for tea... not her best as she used goats cheese which was too salty for me.

Happy family today. An excellent day!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Thursday 19th March 09

Woken by shouting children, so came down to see if I was needed and I think my presence did calm things down. People did get off to school on time though, despite shouting and kicking doors and saying why should he have to go to school etc.

I had a phone call responding to an email I sent off yesterday... I had received a newsletter from the project manager of the forthcoming York and North Yorkshire Credit Union, announcing their proposed launch in May, so I emailed in and asked whether I could be of any use? I got a phone call this morning and we discussed various sorts of networking and marketing, and I look forward to being involved with this. My interest in this stems from the fact that I founded York Credit Union, taking 7 or 8 years to get it launched. I stepped down upon launch, as I'm an ideas person and I felt I wasn't best suited to actually running a Credit Union, so I've never been a Director of YCU, just the mainstay of the Study Group prior to launch and a huge supporter of what they do. But it's so very satisfying knowing that something I dreamt about in 1997 is about to extend its services to such a wide common bond... to anyone who lives or works in York or North Yorkshire. Services will initially be pushed in areas of poverty in Selby and Scarborough, but when we launch, anyone in the common bond area will be able to join, save money ethically, and borrow money at competitive rates.

Spent some time dealing with emails and mucking around on the computer, and discovered Google's 'Street View' completely by accident, and took it up and down Hull Road in York, and was amused to see the software had fuzzed out a bag of litter left by the Council litter pickers next to the litter bin outside our house. Down Lilac Avenue, the software had missed one of the car number plates which it has fuzzed out in most cases. I was pleased to see my compost bins at Lord Deramore's School were there in plain view! I was delighted to see my good friend Richard immortalised outside his brother's shop, Country Fresh... see '36 Heslington Road, York' and you can see him, fuzzy faced, arms folded... brilliant! Fame at last, Rich!!! If you look to the right, you can see the wheelie bin with sacks of compostables next to it, awaiting my next visit. Tee Hee!

At 11 I went to St Nicks as I had been invited to a meeting about composting at the University, which I thought had been thwarted because the Compost Doctors scheme hadn't left us enough time to do anything properly to set this up, and I thought York Rotters had decided not to bother, concentrating instead on home composting. However, the meeting wasn't to discuss composting at the University, it was to reprimand me over my perceived misconduct in writing a too-frank email to the University revealing some of the workings of York Rotters (which I had misinterpreted anyway, thus possibly making York Rotters look unprofessional) and to remind me to be very careful what I say and do with my York Rotters tee shirt on. I must remember that when I'm wearing it, I am representing the organisation and mustn't mention any of the more extreme composting activities I'm interested in, lest it put people off ordinary home composting AND run the risk of upsetting our funders. I promised to do my best in the circumstances, and it wasn't an easy or nice meeting, for any of us. But it was worth having as I don't want to be responsible for anything untoward happening to the organisation. I will try harder! And it will be difficult as I have a deficit in knowing quite what is appropriate in all situations.

Home for lunch and spent some of the afternoon peeling tiny oranges (over 40 thrown away by school) to make an orange-segment and vegetaran jelly desert.

I picked up our little one and hen did some compost riddling down the garden until after 6 when I came in. Gill had made a costume for a Shakespeare thing our eldest is doing tomorrow, a cloak and 'ruff' which he seemed happy with.

A nice quiet evening. Ben popped round and had a cuppa and left me a floppy disc which will wipe the hard disc clean on the AVP Computer, so it can be safely recycled with no possibility of peoples' info getting into the wrong hands. Also had a good phone chat with a friend Linda who I've got friendly with via Facebook, after getting to know her initially through her partner and then through York in Transition. More play on Street View. More washing up.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Wednesday 18th March 09

I got up quite early and put the seed potatoes I bought a while ago into egg boxes for chitting. I'll put these trays of egg boxes in the loft under window so the shoots go green and stay relatively short, before planting them mainly in the allotment when the risk of frost has reduced. If the shoots are coming through, and a frost is forecast, I'll have to go up there and earth them up to protect them.

I took our youngest to school and came back in good time to meet the first of my two visitors this morning. Marabel arrived first, then Lizzie, both people from York in Transition. Marabel is undertaking an MSc on the embodied carbon footprint of buildings compared with the energy used within them during their 'lifetime'. Lizzie is a student too, but I cannot remember what her subject is. They asked to come and see how I managed to live with a carbon footprint of about a twelfth of the UK average.

So we sat and chatted and had a 'past it's sell-by date' instant chai-tea ('just add hot water') plus dried fruit, and discussed needs versus wants, black/white and grey-areas, and a variety of other interesting conversations connected to ethical lifestyles.

We had a fairly leisurely wander down the garden and then off to St Nicks. Lizzie wasn't on a bike, so I gave her a lift sitting on the rack behind me. Initially she was a bit unsure of this but once we got going she told me she was enjoying the ride.

I did my usual tour around the Environment Centre, and then around the nature reserve, where they left to go to the North of the City, and I cycled out of the area via Freshways where I collected a bag of compostables. I was back in time for a 1pm lunch.

I did a bit of 'office' type stuff after lunch, despite nice weather outside... took a couple of phone calls and did some essential emailing. But I also did a bit of logpile building, including some of the slowly growing 'arty' pile.

I went down to school to collect our youngster but he wanted to stop and participate in the streetsports activities, cycling around the playground with ramps provided by the City of York Council's play team. He therefore stayed with a friend, and I agreed with the friend's Mum that I'd collect them both at 4.30 and bring them home, were she could collect him when she was ready. Which is exactly what happened.

I visited Country Fresh at 5ish, and Scummerfield too, on the way back. Whilst I was having tea, Anita and Bruno came round to pick up their SUMA stuff, after it had been sitting in our hall for weeks!

The boys went to bed early, after several very late nights.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuesday 17th March 09

Gill woke me up at 9.45... she'd got the children off to school and was just about to get back into bed... and I told her I'd got to be at Monk's Cross by 10.30! I had told her last night, but she was snoozing then!

So, I shovelled down a bowl of brain flakes and muesli and Gill made a sandwich for me, and I set off at 10.05, washed, hair brushed, fed, presentable. I got to Sainsbury's at Monk's Cross just as Luna had finished setting out the Love Food Hate Waste info table. We had rice/pasta bag-clips, to stop foodstuffs spilling out whilst being stored and to stop wee beasties getting in (weevils, psocids etc) and fridge thermometers so fridges aren't running too cold (waste of energy) or too warm (won't keep food wholesome as long), recipes to help people use up spare food, a portion control activity so folks don't cook too much pasta or rice, and, of course, info on composting, wormeries and bokashi. We had a competition called 'spin the carrot' and when this ended up pointing at a section (reduce, reuse, recycle) and a particular foodstuff (bread, fruit/veg/ pasta/rice) punters had to answer how they would, for instance, reduce bread waste, if they were able to come up with an answer, they were entered into a competition to win a compost bin or wormery.

Tips and recipes to reduce food waste - Love Food Hate Waste

I spent til 4pm here, I did have a short lunch break but this is work I really enjoy doing, despite it being voluntary. We spoke to 90 people, did 21 'spin the carrot' competitions, and gave away loads of leaflets, bag clips, fridge thermometers and more. The national research shows the average person throws away a third of the food they buy, but it was interesting to hear that nearly everybody we spoke to said they wasted hardly anything. I think many people have a warped perception of their own lives!

Good chats with Luna, between customers. She's nearly finished this job, and has got a new one with the Co-op with their paper recycling education scheme.

I came home via the cycle track and brought two large branches/tree trunks home, one in the trailer and one strapped to the bike frame.

I chainsawed these up when I got home. Our youngest had a friend round and at 5.30 he needed walking home so I did this, and at his house he showed me a Roman coin he found in his garden recently... I was well impressed, it has a very visible head and legible writing on the other side. Either it's a recently dropped fake OR it's one of the best Roman coins I've ever seen. I suggested to him that he take it to the Yorkshire Museum for an assessment.

Gill made a nice rice and veg tea, with bought felafels and olives.

Not too bad an evening. Did a fair amount of Facebooking.... various stuff including handing over my Facebook page NOT STUPID to the NOT STUPID people! I got there first... they all had a day off yesterday... I started the page on Sunday night as a response to the launch of the NOT STUPID campaign after the premiere of Age of Stupid. There is a list of cinemas where it is opening on 20th March on this page.

Monday 16th March 09

Up quite early so could do my review of Age of Stupid for my Column in Community Care. It wasn't easy to write, as my first draft was over 500 words... I have to try to keep it under 350!

But I got it done by lunchtime but had a fairly quiet afternoon too. But this was most welcome as I was tired. I did go and get my bike trailer from the menders, cost me £23 but I got a receipt this time which I'll save for my accounts. I popped in to Country Fresh and got some plums which my boys like, and cucumber, tomatoes and eggs, plus two boxes of compostables.

I pulled apart a compost heap after this, one made of pallets. I put the contents in the bay next to it, this being it's first 'turning'. I also dug up the contents of a nearby dalek which has rotted down really well and put this on the big riddle, to start making my potting compost. I had topped the dalek's contents with some turf, so there was a good mix of soil and compost already.

At 5.30 came in and cleaned up, using the composty hand-washing water to water and feed the houseplants. I first wash my hands in cold clean water, with the plug in the sink, and scrubbing the compost off with a scrubbing brush. Then I scoop up the water and dribble it into various houseplants. Then I finish off with a bit of soap. I don't give the plants this, despite it being biodegradable.

I cycled down to David's to pick up the LETS bank paperwork, and had a good chat about some of the issues which Age of Stupid had thrown up, and a conversation on Facebook about flying.

But he was going out so I didn't spend long, and cycled up to Bootham to see Liz, who used to be our Treasurer and I needed her signature to take her off the account, and we had a short but good chat.

Came back via the cycle track, and brought home a large and long tree trunk, not on the trailer (far too long and heavy for that!) but held to the frame of my bike with several tightly stretched bungees. The heavy end of the trunk stuck out over my front wheel, the narrower end out over the trailer, the whole thing being a bit longer than my bike and trailer combined. Felt a bit odd to cycle, initially, but I got used to it quickly.

So, home, I reheated the long-lasting mushroom soup and used it as a sauce for the pasta left over from yesterday. So, a use it all up meal. There were homework shenanigans this evening, and I did my best to keep out of it. Any involvement from me generally exacerbates the difficulties being experienced, which is a pity as I'd love to help.

I did a huge pile of washing up and prepared 3 pineapples for drying on the stove.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunday March 15th 09, Age of Stupid Premiere

A fairly quiet morning, noisy lunchtime, then a quick visit to Davids with LETS bank account paperwork. Collected some compostables from Freshways on the way back and then went to meet Lorna who had been visiting her sister this weekend, and she drove us up to Clifton Moor to see the Age of Stupid. Amazing film.

Pity it was at Vue at Clifton Moor, as it is almost exclusively served by cars... it is cyclable but takes an ordinary cyclist perhaps half an hour from the centre of York, and there is a bus service. However, Lorna had driven from Burton on Trent in her tiny car (so small the road tax is just £35 a year) so I was happy enough to be collected and spend some time with her before and after the film.

We arrived early and the other York in Transition volunteers arrived with the stuff for the info table, and the Friends of the Earth people arrived as their head of campaigns, Mike Childs, was doing the welcoming and hosting the discussion afterwards, and they had publications for the info table too. I was happily surprised by the numbers of people attending, over 100, and I was able to engage many of them and give them a Transition leaflet, and asked them if they'd like to go on the Green Festival mailing list.

The cinema had a live satellite link-up to the Premiere in Leicester Square, where their solar-powered cinema tent was attracting a lot of attention form celebrities and people connected with the film in some way. This Premiere had been carbon footprinted and was said to have a footprint of about 1% of an 'ordinary' Hollywood film premiere. The wind farm developer Piers arrived in the UK's only road-legal solar-powered car. Lots of folks came by bike.

The film was very accessible, a mix of newsclips from recent times and half a dozen interwoven stories of real people, including an 80 year-old French mountain guide, an Iraqi widow who's husband was killed by Americans, a Nigerian woman who wanted to be a doctor, caught fish in such polluted water she had to wash the oil off with detergent and found more money selling black-market diesel, a Hurricane Katrina hero who used to work on oil rigs, and the aforementioned wind farm developer. Oh, and animation too, to help explain various things. All held together in an archive run by Pete Postlethwaite in 2055, in a devastated world with deeply flooded London, Las Vegas over-run by desert, and the Sydney Opera House in flames. A very memorable film, arresting images. The real-life stories were good at getting to our emotions and I for one couldn't help crying during one bit... it is not a feelgood film but should leave people feeling like they want to do something to prevent the extinction of Humanity.

It opens on general release on Friday 20th March, and comes to the City Screen in the centre of York at the end of April. On April 26th, York in Transition is hosting a special screening with a Q and A afterwards, the film starting at 3pm, Q and A Panel discussion at perhaps 4.45 or 5pm.

There was an opportunity for a discussion after this film, but not many people wanted to do that, but I got in a plug (!) for Good Energy renewable electricity.

Lorna drove back through York and dropped me off before driving back down South. I felt quite quiet during the evening, full of what I'd seen. I hope that lots of the 'non-converted' go and see it, as it is something which could change the World.... but I've always been an optimist!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Saturday 14th March 09

Quite an early start when I'd have really liked a later one... as up til after 2am last night following the Climate Change Plan meeting. But, I got up before 8 and used my new beard trimmer for the first time so I was perhaps a bit more presentable, and maybe a bit less like Pete Postlethwaite who is looking really quite unkempt in some of the recent pictures of him.

I headed off soon after 8.30 to The Guildhall to the Development Control seminar which was led by Councillor Richard Moore, who sits on one of the Council's planning committees. This training was for members of Parish Councils, Planning Panels and other interested members of the public, so that responses to Planning Applications are more relevant and focused, and respondents understand some of the complexities of the planning process.

So, at 9 I was at the Guildhall and it was good to see George the 'front of house' chap who's been there ever since I can remember, and was ushered upstairs to The Smoke Room (now unimaginatively renamed 'Room 4') which overlooks the River Ouse. One coffee and several chats later, we were ushered into the main Council Chamber, where I unintentionally sat in Cllr Dave Taylor's seat. The course covered what is and isn't 'development', and which legislation and guidance covers the processes. We learned about 'Permitted Development', which does not need planning permission, and the different classes of land or building use, and the different types of planning applications. We were told the difference between Development Control and Building Control. Then we looked at how the application is submitted, who can be consulted, the levels of determination, which means whether an officer can decide, or the Area Sub Committee, or the full Planning Committee, or even another authority such as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Highways Agency or the Ministry of Defence. Decisions must be made on Material Considerations, and things which aren't Material Considerations must be ignored. Then we looked at how City of York Council runs its Committee meetings and how public involvement is provided. Finally we found out about the different types of decision made, appeals and 'Section 106' Agreements which in some cases can be seen as 'planning gain', such as a house builder providing a play area for residents to use. In one local example, all of the first residents from a group of new houses were provided with a 6 month bus pass so that they had the opportunity to get used to using public transport.

Then we had some real life cases which the Council has had to decide over the past year or two. Some of them were far from clear cut, and we were asked to vote whether or not to approve the application. I only got two out of the five correct, but sometimes the Committee doesn't agree, and it has been known for almost half of them vote to reject with the others voting to approve.

This finished at 12.30 and I went straight to the National Railway Museum to go to the Science Week event, and the York Rotters stall at this. I was pleased to see Robin and Jo, and of course our enthusiastic paid worker Catherine. I had my sandwiches and then started speaking to members of the public, asking them, when they were looking at our displays, if they wanted any help with their compost heap? If they replied that they had a heap, I asked them if they'd like to tell me about it. This then leads to me being able to ask if they put cardboard and paper on the pile, and the conversation continues. I often ask experienced composters if they put cooked food on the heap (and we have a plate with fake food on it!) and this allows the subjects of wormeries and Bokashi bins to be discussed.

John the Rotter talking to a member of the public.

Gill and the boys appeared and Gill had her camera, which is why these photos are on the blog.

Members of the York Rotters team at the National Railway Museum.

I left when it all quietened down towards 4pm, and came home via Country Fresh where Martin offered me just one compact box of recyclables, and I got home some time before the rest of the family who were on the bus. I lit the stove and had done one batch of washing up by the time they got in.

A happy evening, with me looking forward to tomorrow's big Premiere all over the UK... I'll be attending the York Premiere of AGE OF STUPID, at Vue, Clifton Moor, at 5pm.

See you there!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday 13th March 09, Yorks+Humber Climate Change Plan

Up early to go to the Climate Change Plan and Regional Adaptation Study launch event at the Royal York Hotel next to the station. I took my bike trailer off as one part of it had broken, I'll try to find time to take it in to repairs sometime.

The conference was organised by the Yorkshire and Humber Assembly about the 2009-2014 Climate Change Plan for Yorkshire and Humber, see yourclimate.org, and the Y + H Regional Adaptation Study, see adaptyh.co.uk. After a coffee at 9.30, and an introduction by the chair of the Y+HA Sustainable Development Board, the Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spoke in his usual quite animated and enthusiastic way... he really does understand the enormity of the situation and the difficulty we're going to have reducing emissions (mitigation) and dealing with what climate change throws at us (adaptation). There was a short Q+A afterwards, and I managed to be one of the two people to ask a question. The question I originally intended to ask was partly answered when he answered the first person (it was about whether he saw the economic recession as a good thing as it caused reduced resource use and therefore carbon emissions, and whether he could see any opportunities to address the greenhouse gas issues as part of the recession). So when my time came with the microphone, I said I was pleased to see him again, as I'd first met him as a winner of the Oxfam Carbon Footprint Competition, and I asked if the Government had any plans to adopt The Green New Deal? He seemed genuinely pleased to be reminded of the Oxfam/CRAGgers visit a year ago, and praised my 'extraordinary' attempts to live a low carbon lifestyle. He did partly answer the question and came to chat to me afterwards.

My favourite quote from him today was "The future will be inherited by the low carbon and the resource efficient."

After a short break we were introduced to the Climate Change Plan by Jeremy Walker, chair of the Regional Flood Defence Committee, and he explained why this region is especially vulnerable to climate change, and briefly went through the priority areas of strategy and monitoring, our built environment, transport, health services, businesses, land management, and the importance of engaging us, the citizens and decisionmakers.

He handed over to the Nick Cooper from Royal Haskoning, the agency which co-ordinated the Regional Adaptation Study, who took us through some of the projected climatic changes we might expect by 2050. These include average temperatures up 2 Celsius (doesn't sound a lot but it actually is) and extreme temperatures up 3 degrees C. There will be 17% more rain in the winter and 26% less in the summer (read winter floods, summer droughts) and sea level up by 35cm with much higher surge events. The mean wind speed stays much the same but with storm events more likely, expect higher destructive peak winds. The impacts of these variables are flooding, erosion, buildings damaged from wetting/drying stresses plus storms and floods, agriculture and forestry affected by changing seasons, differing yields, new crops possible/necessary and irrigation needed in summer, possibly by trapping winter rainfall in reservoirs. Also pests and diseases with new vectors (for instance 'blue tongue' in cattle, transmitted by a fly which originated in Africa and, due to mild winters, has come through Europe and crossed the Channel to the UK, damaging our livestock industry). Then there's the impact on the emergency services, with floods and moorland fires, and heatwaves like recently happened in France, which killed many people. Our transport will be affected... rail tracks buckling or being washed away, 'roadmelt' and even lorries being blown over, a surprisingly serious problem. And then there's biodiversity... many species will need to move, needing corridors, and many niche species will just die out. The importance of our peatlands was mentioned, as they are a vast store of carbon, and drainage lets that oxidise into yet more CO2, keeping it wet allows them to grow, absorbing carbon.

Then, a quick dash through how we adapt to the inevitable climate change, with planning, monitoring, innovating and taking any opportunities it throws up. Implementation of these was discussed, with the different sectors such as green infrastructure, land management, the private sector and public services all playing their part. How to enable change and engage stakeholders, collecting and publicising evidence and pioneering pilot studies... all enormously complicated and far from easy.

Then a presentation from John Clubb, about how to take forward the delivery of this.... after all, we have no time to waste and don't want to come back in a year to hear more of the same. We need action. For me, one of the most telling graphs of the whole morning was one showing the effects of the current policies of the Y+H Assembly (creating jobs, prosperity, improving infrastructure, etc) with regard to carbon emissions.... the projections are that they will just go up and up. And what's needed is a swift reduction. Which, if that's to be achieved, means a radical rethink in what the Y+HA stands for, in my view.

Finally, a short Q+A session with a panel of people from the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Forward and the agencies already mentioned. The best question was from Dylis Cluer, a Green Councillor from Scarborough Borough Council, who mentioned that at a previous meeting like this, that there was a suggestion that aiming to reduce meat consumption by 1% a year would be one way of helping to reduce overall greenhouse emissions. She asked whether or not that was in the Climate Change Plan. The Chair of the meeting, Cllr Arthur Barker, confessed he was a beef farmer, so he wasn't positive about this, and the another panel member also said it wasn't included. A pity really, as the UN suggested that it would be a very effective way to cut our footprint, and called on Westerners to have 'one day a week without meat'.

I had a quick lunch there, and was disappointed to see lots of bottled water there, and meat too, which meant that the carbon footprint of the event was much higher than it needed to be.

I cycled away bearing loads of interesting documents from UK Climate Projections, the Environment Agency, the Nottingham Declaration, Yorkshire Futures, Natural England, the Yorkshire and Humber Assembly, the Local Government Association, the Friends of the Earth (including response to this Climate Change Plan), Royal Haskoning, Yorkshire and Humber Biodiversity Forum and AEA. A lot of reading!

Called in on the Building Society on the way home and then to the welders on James St, who said if I left my broken trailer with them over the weekend, they'd fix it on Monday. So before they closed, I cycled down carrying the trailer and left it with them.

Tea was more mushroom soup, with a chunk of Gill's quiche and another avocado sandwich. Spent a long time during the evening looking through the documents I got today, looking through websites, and familiarising myself with the subject.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Building a logpile, March 09

OK, I've swept up the mess from the last logpile and am ready to start stacking.

Here go the first few.

The view from the side I'm working from, notice the logs placed at right angles to most of the stack, for support.

The next 'wall' beginning to be constructed.

Some good long support logs, should stop the pile from collapsing.

Coming on nicely!

Getting higher!

About halfway..


Ready to use, well, after the pile on the right, which has been stacked under cover for a couple of weeks.

Tursday 12th March 09

An excellent day! I took our youngest into school and when I got back in, went back to bed... lovely. Lucky me!

The afternoon was more productive, did some tidying up in the kitchen and various other things around the house, and decided to record the building of a logpile... hence the photos above. That took just over an hour.

Tea was the home-made mushroom and leek soup, and then I went to The Stables to the York in Transition meeting, which was good humoured and fun. Arrived back by 10.30, collected a bit more of the fence from our neighbour and then came in to settle down and do my blog, watch a bit of telly and head for bed again.

Wednesday 11th March 09

I took our youngest down to school and when I got back, Gill was nearly ready to go to her art class. I did a big pile of washing up and made some mushroom and leek soup, from fresh leeks and a bag of very out of date and unidentifiable Chinese or Japanese dried mushrooms, which I'd soaked overnight in cold water. I fried the chopped leek and cut up the 'shrooms into this and added some water and a stock cube, and a bit later, once I'd whizzed it to reasonable smoothness, some red lentils to add a bit of thickness. I've no idea what it'll taste like but the mushrooms needed using as they've been hanging around for ages, sealed in their packet, but taking up room. So, tomorrow night's tea will be that, for me... I doubt the boys will have any, but I'll offer it in case! I've been surprised by their ability to enjoy some mature tastes, on occasions.

I popped round to the bread shop and got a big pile of 'Yesterbake' loaves and rolls, and came back to have an avocado sandwich (one which was thrown away as it had a damaged side... this I cut off for composting, leaving t'other half for a mayo and granary deliciousness...) and at half 12 I jumped back on the bike and zoomed over to the home of an AVP facilitator who was hosting the biannual AVP NEEM meeting. AVP is an organisation I've been involved with since 1995, when I found myself having occasional difficult conflict situations which led to me not respecting myself, and at that time a new group had just been set up in York called Alternatives to Violence Project, and they ran workshops on how to resolve conflicts in a creative and non-violent way. The first weekend course I went on was a revelation... I'd never learned anything like it before and I went away feeling like I could deal better with provocation and things which made me angry, and had previously led to me being verbally and physically aggressive and violent.

Anyway, I joined the organisers and started helping to put on more workshops. I did a further three, all 'level twos' where the participants explore a particular subject in detail. I remember them well despite them being many years back. My first level 2 was 'Anger in the parent-child relationship', which was excellent as I was then still angry about the way my parents had treated me (I've more or less got over this now!) and the pivotal point was when I took part in a role play with me being me and someone else being my father. That was when I realised I could only change myself, not anyone else. The second level 2 was quite odd for me, as it was decided at the beginning of the session by the participants, by consensus. The group chose 'Blame and Forgiveness'. I wasn't very thrilled by this topic, as it didn't seem to relate to me much. However, the weekend showed me that many other people are very much affected by both blaming others and blaming themselves, also forgiving others and forgiving themselves. I realised that I didn't think like many other people and didn't use these concepts... I tended to use the idea of 'responsibility' which, for me, encapsulate all the blame/forgiveness areas. But it was a good workshop, and after a gap of a few years I went on another level 2, on 'self development' which by that time I was exploring in other ways too, not just through AVP.

So, 14 years on and I'm still committed to what AVP is doing. In York we hold 4 community workshops each year, in Doncaster we've a partnership with MIND and run 6 a year. We also run them in prisons and occasionally with other groups. AVP Britain reorganised a while ago and now AVP York is part of AVP North East and East Midlands, or NEEM. We had a good meeting, with representatives from Whitby, Sheffield, York and Manchester (a member of one of the AVPB bodies). I always enjoy these meetings and it was productive, with another interesting partnership on the near horizon (with a hostel for the homeless) and news of prisoners from an open prison attending a community workshop, which is good. This meeting ran from about 1pm til just before 5, and I was pleased to meet a new person, just recently trained up as a facilitator, and a facilitator who heard me enthusing about AVP a few years ago and got involved... I didn't know til today it was my talk to her group which caused her to become involved. That makes me happy!

Home via George Hudson St where I got rid of an invoice which I should have done weeks ago... but, better late than never!

Boys playing video games when I got in so I went in the front room where it was quieter.

Tea was nice... more mashed root mix, home made 'baked beans' and toasted cheese on a roll (thanks Richard... better to feed me than feed chickens!!!)

Popped out at midnight once I'd done another batch of washing up to get the neighbours fence which she offered me, and today asked me to take away. I did it quietly.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Tuesday 10th March 09

Another fairly nothingy day... late start, time with Gill cooking and chatting, time on the computer, some time in the garden, some washing up, paperwork, collecting my youngest son from school at 3. Actually, this was really nice as we walked back together and discussed daydreams and radio-controlled robots.

At 6.15 set off for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel meeting despite there being no actual planning applications in, just some replies and the city-wide applications. I emailed round the other members telling them that it wasn't essential that they came, as there was little or nothing to do. Several then phoned me and said that they wouldn't attend. However, there were three of us there and we looked through the paperwork and chatted.

Home soon after 7 and Gill had made a pasta bake, using a load of cherry tomatoes I'd rescued and prepared, and she'd made into a sauce. She cooked some carrots and pasta together, then drained them and put them in a pyrex dish, tomato sauce on top and some grated bread and goats cheese on top, this going in the oven to crisp off... delicious!

A very peaceful evening... very nice!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Monday 9th March 09

Gill took our youngest into school and I had a slow start, doing a bit of paperwork (rewriting an invoice which got ripped up by someone with a temper) and writing my Community Care Blog, which I'm very happy with, and thanks to reader James who suggested I do something on Earth Hour. Gill went out to the dentist as part of a filling had broken off, so I had a quiet lunchtime and then went to get our youngest, walking back through the woods along Windmill Lane chatting.

I washed and blanched a load of grapes when I got in, putting them for drying on the stove, and then took 4 sacks of rubbish from the composting operations down to Country Fresh to put in their bin... after all, it would have gone there much earlier if I hadn't have taken it home wrapping up all the biodegradables, sorted it out to recycle the compostable stuff and bagging up the waste, mainly plastic film and packaging.

Richard was visibly upset when I arrived... there'd been an incident in the street which had saddened him. A member of the public had gone into the Spar shop just up the road from his greengrocers, leaving their little daughter's pet Staffordshire bull terrier dog attached to the railings outside. When they came back out, the pet had been taken. Now this in itself is upsetting, but more so when the reason is inferred. Apparently, docile domestic pet Staffies are targeted by people who get a kick out of watching dog fighting, and they use the non-fighting dog as 'bait', for training purposes. Absolutely sickening. I'm not keen on dogs but I dislike animal abuse a lot more, and I think that anyone who gains pleasure from using animals as entertainment, or seeing animals getting hurt or killed is pretty low. I include fox and deer hunters, badger baiters, hare coursers, dog racers, horse racing enthusiasts, dog fighters, people who go to watch animals in circuses and more. I think we should completely rethink our relationship with animals. We can have ethical relationships with animals, there are plenty of well-kept pets and companion animals which have their needs met and do not suffer. Then there are 'working' animals such as draft horses, sniffer dogs and guide dogs/hearing dogs, truffle-hunting pigs, pigeon-scaring birds of prey... there are so many species of animal we use, and there is heated debate about the rights and wrongs of this. I haven't even mentioned laboratory animals, used to test drugs, vaccines and cosmetics, and many other procedures... it's an ethical minefield! I've been vegetarian for well over 20 years and have opinions about the millions of animals which are kept specifically for slaughter... another ethical dilemma.

Anyway, diatribe over... life goes on despite all the suffering, and I came home with a new garden fork and spade which were on sale in the greengrocers, a buy-one-get-one-free deal, for £8, plus a penny's worth of compostable resources. Called in on Freshways on the way back for more.

Gill and I had the last of the amazing tomato soup she made yesterday, plus a mix of mashed swede, potato and butternut squash, and a rice-loaf thingy with red pepper, done in the microwave, and mushroom sauce on top! Restaurant Cossham is a good place to get fed! And I didn't mention stewed pears with chocolate sauce and a slice of lemon cake... no wonder I'm a bit tubby round the middle....

Evening... a York Green Festival meeting at St John's College/University or whatever it is now, with just 10 of us there... quite a good turn out, I think we're a strong team! We have a team leader on Music, Kids area, Infrastructure and Council liaison, Publicity, Finances and Stalls. Excellent! This meeting lasted less than two hours and I got home, with logs in the trailer, at 10pm. To a peaceful house, hooray!

Logpile photos March 2009

This is where it starts... logs arrive here in the front garden and are cut mainly with electric chainsaw and cleaved with a maul or splitting axe.

Logpile in the front garden. This is mainly cherry from Woodlands MS Respite Centre.

Logpile in the back garen, with sacks of aluminium cans ready to be taken to the metal merchant.

This is a large pile of beech, on pallets, in the open air. Note my 'Can O Worms' wormery in the foreground.

Close-up of the centre of the beech pile, with a split round placed back in it's original shape.

Close-up of the split disc of beech trunk.

Logpile under pollarded willow.

Logpiles in the shared pathway between us and our neighbour.

Logpile in the back garden, under a roof.

This is a logpile in the process of being built... the wrong way! To make a stable pile, do not make 'unconnected walls' (here, there are three separate walls) otherwise there is a greater risk of collapse!

Disaster strikes! I was building up the pile in the previous picture and this happened.

Oh dear oh dear! I've a bit of work to do now!

The rebuilt logpile!

Close-up of new logpile.

After I finished rebuilding.

Logpile next to the side of the house with added 'arty detail', pile not yet finished.

Logpile with arty bits.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sunday 8th March 09

Quite a good day, very productive in the garden, as Gill helped me tidy up a bit... well, a lot! I am very untidy, probably too many things going on at once, and the garden has lots of plastic sacks with compost, and 'contraries' which I've taken out of the compostables I've retrieved (aka rubbish and 'dry recyclables' such as aluminium cans and plastic bottles) and today we removed about 6 sacks of genuine waste from the garden.

I made a load of seed compost (growing medium), out of ordinary 'garden' compost, sand which was thrown away by the school, and I bagged up and brought home yonks ago, leafmould and some loam salvaged from turves from a skip. I put this lot through a big riddle, and it arrived on the sheet below in layers, so when I'd put the right amounts through (ie, not much rich compost, more sand and leafmould), I shovelled it into my rotasieve to mix it well, and then slid batches of this into, you've guessed it, plastic sacks!

I also did some more log stacking, outside the front door, of dry logs that are ready to go on the stove. However, my usual ability to make a stable pile was somewhat lacking today and the pile collapsed, and took 30 minutes to rebuild. The trick is to not make it in three separate vertical walls which I had been doing, but to do it in horizontal layers with lots of interlocking pieces which hold the thing together. Difficult to put into words, maybe pictures would be better.

Gill made a rice-based dish for tea, I added some salvaged butternut squash which I'd cooked on the stove earlier in the day. Lovely.

Saturday 7th March 09

I woke as Gill was doing something in the bedroom, and she said she was going to the garage to get our eldest child's bike out, but I knew it was kinda tangled up with other bikes, or at least mine would have to come out first, so I said I'd do it. He'd been invited to go to the Yorkshire Museum by Simon and his son, as there was a 'Portable Antiquities Open Day' event there, and Simon's son has been doing some field walking near where the new sewer has been put in between the new University Campus ('Heslington East') and Elvington... and has found lots of pottery and one enormous iron nail.

So our lad set off with just one item.... a clear glass bottle with a marble stopper and the original rubber seal ring which I found near where the University had trashed a stretch of woodland.

I got a delivery of a HUGE poster from The Age Of Stupid. I'd like to find somewhere sensible to put it up...

So, a peaceful day ensued... I did some paperwork... an invoice (on reused paper, as usual) and a couple of other bits and bobs, including watching a 50 minute film about the making of The Age of Stupid. This was fascinating... the concept was born in 2002, as 'Crude' and used a novel approach to funding, called 'crowd funding' with 'shares' being sold (the first batch were £500 each), and then the subsequent evolution of the film, with Pete Postlethwaite being invited to be the crux of the film right at the last minute. Really worth watching... I am so looking forward to seeing the film on the 15th... next weekend.

I got a phone call from a chap round the corner who had got some waste wood outside his house I was interested in, and I'd left a note saying if they didn't want it, I would be happy to recycle it for them. He rang as he was clearing out a house in Tang Hall/Heworth area where a relative had died last year, and there was some wood in the garden he was wanting rid of. So I said I would come round within half an hour and see what there was. He admitted he'd already disposed of some stuff on a bonfire. Anyway, I easily found the house as the whole of Heworth was full of the smoke from his bonfire... There was quite a bit of wood left, and I sorted out the stuff I wanted from the non-burnable wood, and advised him to get the rest of it recycled at Hazel Court. There was also a couple of rolls of chicken wire which they wanted rid of, and I was glad to have this! As I was leaving, he offered me a pair of unused wellington boots with steel toe caps... my size too!

So I cycled into town with a trailer full of wood and wire netting and the wellies too, and went in search of a beard trimmer. My research had not found a wind-up model although there are a couple of wind-up shavers available, just not beard trimmers. So I went to Boots and got a model by Remington with rechargeable batteries, costing £25.

Came home via Country Fresh, and once I got home and unloaded, I popped back down to Freshways to pick up their 'resources'. After a coffee I did an hour's worth of filling the Compostubler with a mix of fruit and veg, shredded Christmas tree, sawdust stuff which was too big to go through the riddle and unwanted bokashi bran which St Nicks didn't want, as it had got damp and partly gone mouldy.

Spent quite a bit of time preparing pears... I have absolutely loads from the collections over the past few days. I wash each one and let it drip dry on the plate drying rack, then cut it in half from the stalk to the flower remnant, take out the core, flower, strings up to the stalk and the stalk, then peel it, taking out any bruises or damage. Then I cut each half into three, lengthways, resulting in 6 slices per pair, put on the cake racks for drying. Dried pears are one of my favourites!

Our eldest son came in having had a good time cycling and playing. We had tea... home made tomato soup and a Thomas' Vegetable Pastie. Not too bad an evening, although there was noisy resistance from the children to being asked to go to bed at 10.20.

I stayed up late whilst Gill slept on the sofa next to me as usual, until the early hours when I go to bed and she comes up too.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Friday 6th March 09

Gill walked our youngest and his friend to school and I got up and did some paperwork and chopped wood. A few weeks ago someone suggested I enter a competition being run by the Yorkshire Post to find a green person.. even the greenest person, so I entered that. I also took some photos with Gill's camera of my assorted logpiles and compost bins.

Before going down to school I went to Country Fresh and came back with a huge load of stuff, which again I photographed to give an idea of the sort of stuff I bring back with me. When I transfer these to my laptop I will be able to post them on this blog... exciting! Well, exciting to maybe a few people!

Had an email from Susanne Wiigh Masak who has invented a compost burial process which is more environmentally friendly than conventional deep burial, called 'Promession', something I've been interested in for quite a while. And then I had a brief Skype chat with her. Excellent!

I prepared some of the contents of the fruit and veg haul, including a load of tiny tomatoes which Gill added to the tomato and onion base for the pizza she was making.

I went down to school and did my self-imposed composting duties, emptying the playground bins of about 20 Kg of fruit and veg bits, which as there is no compost bin at school to put it all in, I put in a large potato sack and brought it home, where it all went into the Compostumbler. I have had an email from the headteacher saying she had received my letter, and could she pass it on to the Health and Safety person who said schools weren't allowed to compost. No apology though, not yet. I would like one..... it would make it feel a lot better. I asked her to copy anything in to Councillor Waller as he said he was taking action, and I trust him.

I did some more splitting and stacking, had a phone call from Thomson Directories about extracting money from me, and then continued with the much more enjoyable wooding.

Gill's pizza was good, but it arrived too late for me to go to the Critical Mass, but I'm not obliged to go to that... but maybe I should have as there was aggro at home which I could have done without. But once the little darlings were in bed, all was peaceful and I prepared a large number of pears, putting them on racks for drying.

Watched 'Rocket Science' on BBC2 which was OK but not brilliant. Nice chats with Ali, sorting out future visits to Sheffield.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Thursday 5th March 09

Gill woke me at about 8 to help her make a costume for our youngest's 'book day' at school. Several days ago, Gill asked him if he'd like to dress up for the day (school encourages them to dress like their favourite literary character on book day) and he declined. She offered to make a costume which would make him look like Twig from The Edge Chronicles, but he wasn't bothered. This morning, at 7.45, he said he WOULD like to go as Twig. So Gill got to it and found a fleece-like woolly jacket which needed the arms cutting off and cutting down the front and the blue stuff at the bottom taking off, and she came up to ask me to do it as it would take too much time, when she was getting them ready to leave the house... I asked her to hold the garment, stretch it, whilst I wielded the scissors. 2 minutes later, the costume was ready! The only difference between Twig and our son now is that Twig's hair is in small tufts, and to get our boy's hair into tufts would definitely take too long!

I went back to sleep for an hour, much needed after some very late nights and busy times...

However, when I did get up after 9 I had a good session of washing up and did my Carbon Account readings. At midday I went out to visit Pauline who had requested a wood-chopping session in exchange for a lunch and coffee. We had a lovely chat and I processed a pile of scrap wood for her. She's trialling a compressed sawdust briquette product and has also tried a paper briquette product, which is made locally by people with learning difficulties.

After Pauline, I popped into the bank and then Oxfam for £15 worth of coffee and Kyi Po for a chat with Matthew and I bought some delicious lemon-grass flavoured mayonnaise but resisted all of the large selection of organic booze they have in now... lovely though it may be!

Then onto Sainsburys for bread and Ribena and marge and some other bits and bobs.

I came home via the cycle track where I picked up 3 chunky logs, and when I got in at 5ish, I did a bit of chopping and stacking before having tea with Gill. The boys had already had tea and were happily playing with a friend, who is staying the night.

A peaceful evening with nothing notable.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Wednesday 4th March 09

I woke at 8am and took our youngest to school and came back via the trashed woodland to collect more bits of demolished tree.

Gill had already gone to art, walking up to Osbaldwick to do some 'pointillism'.

I wrote my blog for yesterday, and sent a copy of the letter to the Vicar of Heslington with whom I'm friendly. She asked me to copy her in to anything I was sending to the school when I chatted to her a while back expressing my unhappiness with the School's environmental performance... she is also a Governor or Board member.

Then, a phone call from Councillor Waller, trained Rotter and leader of City of York Council. He said he's received my email and was surprised to hear about this as a school near his house is successfully composting. Later, he sent me an email saying he was taking action! I felt quite elated! I am glad someone is doing something.

I spent a little bit of time in the garden, starting to load up the Compostumbler again. But came in for lunch and then spent some nice times with Gill who was busy in the kitchen and then ironed my work clothes. I loaded up my trailer with all the Fiddlesticks stuff and at 3 set off for Riccall, going exactly the same way as on the 28th January, via Heslington, Fulford, Naburn, and then the cycle track all the way down to Riccall. I arrived at the cycle track at 3.30 and Riccall by 4, and my gig started at 4.30. I had a quick chat with my handler... she confessed that the youngsters had not made juggling balls (as I'd suggested) and they'd not done any circussy practice at all. So I said that I'd just repeat the show, with plenty of participation, and that children were usually completely happy with repeats. There were a few new audience members too, which was good. So, 25 Rainbows and about 10 grown-ups and 3 or 4 pre-Rainbows and younger siblings. The show went well. I finished on time. I got paid for both days work.

And I was on the road again by 5.45 and was soon off the road and onto the Riccall to Naburn cycle track. I stopped several times to pick up litter... mainly aluminium cans, but got home on the dot of 7pm. Gill had made a simple but filling Bulgar wheat meal and I had this whilst watching Inside Out... which had the John Foster living on a pound-a-day piece, and me giving him tips. This is now on iPlayer, I'm on at about 9 mins 28 seconds... just at the beginning of his piece. See:

A quiet evening mainly.