Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday 31st July 09

Lovely lazy morning apart from some hectic emailing and phoning re insuring York Green Festival. However, the chap at the insurers was away so everything will have to be done on Monday.

I popped down to Country Fresh and picked up the stuff which Lynn couldn't as she's not well. There were some slightly damaged nectarines which had 90% good flesh and several tomatoes, so I washed and cubed the nectarines and put them in the fridge for later, and did an initial clean-up of the tomatoes.

So I had lunch and then at 2pm a cycling friend arrived, Sally, to collect some compost and see how I make the dried fruit which I've shared on the Critical Mass cycle rides. She had a cuppa and a chat with Gill and me, and a wander down the garden to pick up three carrier bags of riddled compost and soon she was gone.

During the evening I cooked the tomatoes, about 8 of them, with onion, to make a sauce, on the woodstove. I also sliced some small aubergines and partially fried them. I think I'll make a moussaka tomorrow. I had some very entertaining chats with Laura whom I met at DAD, she sometimes messages me on facebook and I enjoy the chats as she's very open and honest, like me.

Thursday 30th July 09

Woke wondering about why I hadn't been contacted by the insurers re the York Green Festival. So after breakfast I rang... and found that the email I sent on the 21st hadn't been received. So I resent it and then had a chat to the recipient, who wanted several other bits of info plus a signature, electronic or otherwise. I knew nothing about electronic signatures, and I didn't have the other info either, so I sent out a 'help me' email to the other YGF-ites, and got a reply from Tom who offered to help me do an electronic signature.

Gill went down to the station to collect our eldest and his buddy, they'd travelled up on the train together from Leamington Spa, and immediately they came in the noise levels in the house rose about 100-fold. I soon went out to go to see Tom, who scanned my signature and put it into various formats so I have a chance to add it to documents, like the insurance document I need to send to the insurers. I'll have to have a play around later.

After seeing Tom I called in on Anita who told me that next month she is emigrating to Spain for a couple of years, to live in the house she's refurbished. I will miss her as although I don't see her very often, I am fond of her. She says she'll be back in a couple of years.

I came home via Sainsburys as Gill wanted flour, ice cream and a baguette to make garlic bread with.

I popped in to Freshways on the way back and picked up 3 small sacks of compostables, and then spent an hour or so down the garden sorting them out.

Pasta and home grown veg for tea, and garlic bread, and I then shot out to St Nicks for the AGM and a talk on the National Bee Unit which was really interesting.

Ben Jones is a researcher there and he talked us through the work of the Unit which is based at Sand Hutton. Their role is to ensure the health of the honeybee in England and Wales... there are probably no 'wild' or feral honeybees left, all are managed or farmed, either by commercial beekeepers or by hobbyists. Most people think of bees as responsible for honey, but this is just worth between £10million and £30million a year, but their value as pollinators is somewhere between £120million and £200million.

He told us about the assorted diseases, legislation, how the inspectors identify the problems, the different sorts of beekeepers, and lots more. There were lots of questions asked too, so many that we over-ran and therefore missed the little film that was planned about the tree planting on St Nicks, but there will be another chance to see that.

The AGM was very straightforward. I collected some logs on the way back from a chap round the corner who had invited me to pick them up whenever I wanted, and I got in just before 10pm.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Wednesday 29th July 09

A hearty but not brilliantly healthy breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, fried mushrooms, fried potatoes, fried hash browns, baked beans. Coffee, fruit juice. Left at about 9.30 and cycled along the not-very-nice A607 to Grantham. The first few miles seemed slow, gently up onto a sort of plateau, but then it was level with a following wind, and towards Grantham, some wonderful hills, one of which I sped down at at least 30mph, and saw a recent car accident at the bottom... a chap who'd driven his van into a hedge/tree and was walking away from it, phoning someone on a mobile. Then I passed a notice saying how many people had been killed on this stretch of road. I didn't enjoy this cycle ride that much and was glad to soon be in Grantham. I bought a ticket, a single up to York, for just over £30 and waited for the 10.46 to Doncaster. But there'd been a fatality on the line at Stevenage and the train didn't come in til after midday.

I got lunch in Doncaster, a pastie and a sandwich, and then the 1.15 to York, and was home by 2pm. I saw the results of another car smash on the way up the Hull Road... I felt quite lucky to have got home in one piece!

Gill was delighted to see me. But she'd had a phone call from the chap who booked me for Sunday's Sewerby Gala gig in Bridlington. They were seemingly expecting me to do big shows with huge audiences, and I on this occasion did smaller one-to-one and small-group workshops as this seemed more appropriate for the type of event and the space I'd been given. So this is the second complaint about my work I've ever had in 16 years of working! I also made a negative comment about the American Car Rally which was going on next to the Gala to the wife of one of the organisers who'd offered to take me into Bridlington afterwards, and that didn't go down well. So the organisers were not willing to pay me the full fee agreed, and were offering a lower fee, not much less, so I accepted as I want an easy life and don't generally like causing trouble. But I am disappointed that the organisers said nothing during the event, as if they had, I could have done something different, got a different spot in which to perform, with no-one behind me (my original request) and a better 'stage' area. But I won't get another booking there, but I'm happy with that as it was difficult to get to and had lots of additional expenses.

Gill made a super tea, a stew with ciabata bread, and we had a cozy evening.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tuesday 28th July 09

Well, the train journey yesterday went very smoothly... I cycled down to the station with everything I needed, and bought tickets for my son and me from Birmingham to Leamington Spa. Gill came down on the 4pm bus with the boys and got to the station just in time, with only just over a minute to spare... I quickly loaded my bike on and we waved goodbye and the doors closed!

The journey was very easy, and made more enjoyable by meeting a pair of American tourists, one, Colleen, was a keen photographer (and works as a portrait photographer) and I was able to warn her about the spire at Chesterfield which she got some pictures of, from the moving train. The change at Birmingham New Street was easy too, and we arrived in Leamington at 8pm, and were met by Ulrich and his two sons. We cycled back to their place; I gave my lad a lift on the crossbar which he tolerated. When we got back, there was Katarina with their new baby to greet us, and they'd done some tea for us, an interesting German meal of thinly sliced potato baked with a white sauce followed by blueberries and ice cream.

My son was very very pleased to see his friend whom he met in York before the family moved to be nearer Ulrich's workplace, Ryton Organic Gardens just a few miles North of Leamington.

A fairly non-eventful evening... I used Ulrich's tiny and ancient laptop to do my emails on Tiscali Webmail, and Facebook, but the machine wouldn't let me onto my blog.

SO, TUESDAY... Ulrich cycled off to Ryton at 8.30 and I had breakfast and got myself ready to cycle after him. I had contacted my friend Pippa and had arranged to meet her there at 11am, and Ulrich would have his mid-morning break then too, and give us a guided tour!

So I set off at about 10am up the A445 and was soon at Ryton Organic Gardens, and I showed my membership and therefore got in free, and had time to look round The Vegetable Kingdom which is an excellent exhibition with really huge models of vegetables and some good interactive stuff too, lots of good info.

11am came, Pippa arrived and Ulrich met us and introduced us to his colleague Francis, who is a researcher on soil fertility. After a cuppa, a guided tour with Ulrich and Frances, including a look into a couple of polytunnels where there were trials of rock-dust on tomatoes, to see if it increased production or improved taste. I was impressed with the size of the courgette plants too, they were enormous! We saw the trials field, and Francis' dustbin-sized anaerobic digester experiment, and the reedbeds which clean up the toilet water...

But then the two hosts had to get back to work, and after Pippa bought a birthday card for my sons (she never forgets!) she had to get off too. I decided to have lunch at Garden Organic as it was already past 1pm and I imagined that I wouldn't be in Leicester for at least a couple of hours, looking at the distance on the map. So I had a veg lasagne and a baguette.

After lunch which I finished at 2.30, I cycled off up the Fosse Way to Leicester, going through Bretford, over the Oxford Canal and under the West Coast Main Line and then over the M6 motorway. I was impressed by the number and size of mushrooms I saw on the verges. Some were the size of dinner plates, all ordinary field mushrooms, but all mature and therefore full of insect larvae. At the A5 I turned more Eastwards through Claybrooke Magna, Broughton Astley and Countesthorpe, Wigston and Oadby, which is near where I used to live. I cycled along roads I used to walk to school to, and up Knighton Church Road which is where I lived from 1975 to 1984. I visited my old best friend's mum, Yvonne, and another friend's parents, Irene and Don. I called at the house I used to live in, but there was no-one in... a pity as I'd have loved to see the garden. The trees in the front garden my parents planted are doing well, a Rowan and a Ginkgo. Amazingly, the bell-push on the front door still has our family name in the little plastic box under it! My folks left here a long time ago, and I would have thought that the new owners would want their name in this box! I cycled away, through Leicester and a rainstorm, past the first house we lived in there, and via a circuitous route to Scraptoft Lane where we had our second house, and from Scraptoft I went via Beeby, South Croxton, Barsby, Great Dalby and on to Melton Mowbray, arriving at 8pm. I asked a local chap if there was anywhere in Melton where I could get Bed and Breakfast, and he suggested the Noel's Arms.

I had a quick look at the room and it seemed OK to me, so I paid Jackie the Publican and dumped my stuff which I took off my bike and went to find somewhere nice to eat. I was recommended to go to Mamma Mia's and I had a delicious 3 course meal for £20, including the best Tiramasu I've ever had! Nice chats to the staff too.

I had a pint back at the pub, and went upstairs to plan my route for the following day. However I saw the weather forecast and as it was due to rain heavily and be squally and windy, I decided to get the train from Grantham up to York.

So I went to sleep in Noel's Arms, my first and probably only time.... !

Monday, 27 July 2009

Monday 27th July 09

Planning... what to do instead of the Big Green Gathering.

I rang a friend in Kenilworth and I might visit.

I went down to town to pay in my cheques from this weekend and went to the library to get some maps out, so I can at least have the chance of cycling from Leamington back to York, or some of it.

What I do know is that I'll be away for several days, on my bike, with a tent and very minimal stuff, and will be back in 3, 4 or 5 days. I have no idea, it's very open.

There will almost certainly be no posts on this blog until I get back, as I'll be away from everything, and probably won't feel inclined to pop into a cybercafe to do emails and 'tinterwebby' stuff.

So at 4ish I'll go down to the station and get tickets from Birmingham to Leamington, and Gill will bring our eldest down to put him on the train with me and my bike, and wave us goodbye.

If anyone wants to know more about the closure of the Big Green Gathering, you can do no better than to read Derek Wall's blog :

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sunday 26th July 09

Up reasonably early for a big breakfast of cereals followed by toast, beans and scrambled egg.

Then up to Sewerby Gala which was very close to the Bed and Breakfast, and had to wait for quite a long time to be shown my performance space... which was right next to where I was standing at the entrance! There were some negotiations with the Punch and Judy chap... I like to work continuously as the day goes more quickly, the punters get more of me and the organisers get a better deal. So the P+J went to set up nearby and he was going to do just three half-hour sets. I worked continuously from 10am til 4pm, with 15 minutes sitting down for lunch... peanut butter sandwiches left over from yesterday! By 4pm I was exhausted.

I got a lift from the organiser's wife to the Bridlington Bus station where I got a bus at just after 5pm all the way home.

I had some bad news this evening. On Friday I had a message from my friend Hannah who was planning to work for the Big Green Gathering stewards team... she'd had an email from the BGG security team saying there was some doubt that the event would go ahead, although there were no explanations, and just a request for people to not buy travel tickets. So I'd left on Saturday morning not feeling that confident about the coming week, but chose not to share my concerns with Gill as I didn't want to cause her to worry, as she is prone to this.

Tonight, when I got back, Hannah messaged me and told me to check the website, and yes, the following message has been put on:

"urgent message
Dear Friends,
following threatened injunction proceedings in High Court by Mendip District Council supported by Somerset & Avon Police and having taken extensive advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers, the directors of the Big Green Gathering have been left with no other option than to voluntarily surrender the license for the Big Green Gathering 2009. The event will now not take place and the directors' advice and request is that no one intending to attend the event should attempt to do so, as the site is now closed and they are likely to be turned away by Somerset Police. It is our intention to avoid any form of confrontation or public disorder in regard to this and it is our earnest hope that all those involved will follow this advice. It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all those concerned. The Directors of The Big Green Gathering.
A note to the traders from our markets coordinator: OK you’ve read the reasons why the event has been stopped at such short notice. We have all been fighting it up until this morning. It is with heavy heart that I have accepted the authorities have closed us down. Apologies to all of you who have been trying to phone me. There is one place on site where I can get intermittent signal so long as I don’t move more than half an inch to the left or right, but I've only got one cel left. If you need tips and help with other events to replace your lost trade, please text me. If you do, please put your stall name on the text to help me identify the sender.I am totally happy to talk to all of you and answer any questions about how this happened, but realistically it will be when I am back home on landline. Keep watching this space and I hope to make contact with all of you over the next month. With deep regret and much love, Jennifer Sunday 26th July 2009 3:30pm."

There is a blog post from Jennifer which explains a bit more.

I sat down with my family and explained what had happened. There was sadness, anger, tears, more conversation. We made alternative plans. My son and I will use the train tickets I've bought to get as far as Birmingham, and then get tickets to Leamington Spa where I'll spend the night and then probably cycle back to York. My boy will spend a few nights with his friend in Leamington, then they'll come up to York on the train together.

What a day!

Later, found this post which tells more about the reasons the event has been cancelled.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Saturday 25th July 09

Professor Fiddlesticks at Dunnington Playing Fields Fayre, then heading to Bridlington as working there early on Sunday.

Everything went as predicted... I got myself ready to start at 11am, and ordered a taxi to take me up to Dunnington. Gill came along, with our youngest and one of his friends too, as our eldest had gone to the East coast with Simon and his son fossil hunting. Their aim was to find a 'Reighton Shrimp' or perhaps more realistically, some belemnites.

Our taxi took just 10 minutes and I was able to get started on time... working with my back to a conifer hedge. I had a full-on day, always busy, Gill and the boys really enjoyed quite a few hours there, leaving at about 3pm. The event finished at 4pm and I got paid before making my way to Bridlington and to the BnB I'd booked some weeks ago.

I had a pleasant evening, had a curry for tea, and a walk up to the event site at Sewerby Hall Cricket Field to see where it was.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Friday 24th July 09

I went into town in the morning with our eldest son's bike, to get it serviced before out longish cycle ride next week. Also visited the library to get a map, so we can find our way from Weston Super Mare to Cheddar and to the Big Green Gathering. Finally to my building society to get a cheque out to pay a bill.

Had a good day at home, in the garden dealing with compost and logs, chainsawing , splitting, stacking. Very satisfying and enjoyable.

Later, went into town with my eldest to collect his bike... he was needed to get the height right and the brakes in the right position, and he realised that the stand was missing, so they found that and put it back on. So his bike is in tip-top condition for the journey next week.

So, a quiet evening... a nice baked veg tea, aubergines from the compostables, slices of potato, tomato, onion and all smothered with the very delicious sauce I made a day or two ago.

Some interesting chats on the computer during the evening. Had a shave and bath as working tomorrow and Sunday.

Thursday 23rd July 09

In the morning I cycled round to St Nicks to give back the Rotters stuff from last night, and then popped down to Country Fresh to thank Shirley for the basket of fruit which was the first prize to go in the raffle, and then on to Gladys who had asked me to help her dispose of some rubbish. This turned out to not be rubbish, but two galvanised tubs, 'dolly tubs' used for washing clothes, plus a roll of roofing felt. I put the roofing felt on Freecycle but I'll use the tubs to grow stuff in.

I was surprised by the instant response re the roofing felt... almost immediately there were four responses asking for it, and later, when it appeared on the digest email with 25 messages in, another four enquirers. I had put that I would wait a while to decide who was to receive it, so I left it for today.

I popped round to Lynn to pick up the cash Gill earned with her little quiches, and saw the Yorky checks I earned with the dried fruit. I chatted to Mark on the way back too... a very social day!

I spent quite a bit of time logging with the newly repaired chainsaw.

In the evening I went to St Nicks to the York in Transition meeting; I took the minutes and when I got in, spent ages trying to type them up, but also chatted on facebook instant messaging with a friend who was feeling very low. I cheered her up, she said, which felt good.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Wednesday 22nd July 09

Lovely late start... not surprising since Gill and I were up til 3am getting the accounts sorted out. Gill was determined to do it before the Summer Holidays started so we weren't rushing to get them finished for the tax deadline in Autumn.

I had to cycle down to town to put in a pile of cheques, pick up the basket of fruit from Country Fresh (prize for LETS event raffle), pick up the Rotters display stall in my trailer and get back home in time to have tea before the LETS event. I got back in good enough time to make a tomato sauce with totally free ingredients... including the basil I've grown! OK, I bought the olive oil! But not the onion (it had a small area of mould on one side) the rather wrinkled red pepper and the 8 large tomatoes, some of which had damage, easily cut off.

At about 6pm I got together 5 bags of mixed dried fruit, two dozen little quiches which Gill made this afternoon and a packet of balloons just in case, and set off for the St Hilda's Church Hall on Tang Hall Lane. Lynn had put a huge amount of effort into organising this Healthy Living Event, and there were several Complementary Therapists there... Michael the masseur, Rowena the homeopath and Joyce the essential oil lady... There was a trading table with loads of books and videos, a food table with cakes, chocolate crispies, Gill's little quiches, tubs of frozen soup, fresh lettuce and bundles of green beans. The event wasn't very well attended, most of the non-LETS people who came were Lynn's friends, but Roger the ward councillor turned up, the new vicar Tim, and several people off the street.

The raffle was popular, although I've never bought a ticket (or placed a bet or even participated in a tombola) so I didn't join in. All Gill's quiches sold, at 20 pence each or one Yorky for 5. All my bags of fruit sold too. I spoke to 7 people with my Rotters hat on, four non-composters and 3 already composting. All in all, a quite successful evening. Finished at 10pm and I came home with two choco crispies for the boys.

During the evening, sorted out some grapes for blanching and making into raisins.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Tuesday 21st July 09

Another lazy morning. Gill was doing the accounts and I chatted with her, occasionally helping her decipher my scrawly writing in my account book... The boys played happily, first with armies of toys on the landing upstairs, then with virtual armies on the computer.

A very relaxed day, kids enjoying not being at school. I cycled over to Poppleton Road to Kutters/Shannons to collect my chainsaw... the flex going into the machine had fractured and needed to be replaced, this cost me £25, but at least it won't keep on cutting out on me. When I took it in I told them that it was cutting in a gentle curve, and when I phoned yesterday they told me the bar was bent, and would cost £40 to replace. I decided to put up with curved cutting... as the cost of a new chainsaw would be about £100, so spending £65 on cable repair and new bar didn't make a lot of sense. Having a curved cut doesn't matter too much anyway.

Enjoyed the cycle ride, apart from when zooming down the road at about 30mph and the lights changed suddenly to red so I slammed on my brakes, not remembering that I've got new blocks in the discs, and my back wheel locked and I nearly lost it... but I've skidded many times and I controlled it and came to a safe halt at the traffic lights.

Came home via Country Fresh where I bought eggs and veg and picked up three boxes of compostables. Did a stint in the garden loading most of today's haul into the compostumbler.

Tea was nice... a chunk of nutloaf with some home grown cauliflower, coleslaw, olives and other salady bits... and then out to the York Green Festival meeting at St John's.

We had a new attendee, Aaron, who has quite a lot of experience of organising things. This was lucky as Helgi's stage line-up was far too congested and we really needed to cut it in half, give Seize The Day a bigger set and have all the singer-songwriters on another stage. So, Aaron said he'd take this on... which is fantastic, as we're back to TWO stages again. Our second stage will be unamplified apart from 'practice amp' sized rigs, a sort of 'busking stage'.

We got quite a lot sorted and it all looks as if it's coming together... just! But we still have loads to do and putting on an event this size is quite scary. Especially when you're not in charge, and have entrusted others with most of the decisions and work, but still care very much about it happening!

Home at about 10pm and enjoyed one of my favourite films, 'Being John Malkovich' on Film4.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Monday 20th July 09

A lie-in... lovely. Got up at 10.30 and didn't do much til about midday.

Then I persuaded the boys to come and help me put the tent up, which was quite easy as it is very similar to the previous design I had... except this seems better designed actually. We had a bit of time trying to suss out where to hang some daft pocket things and our nearly 12 year old worked it out.

After lunch Gill and the boys went to the dentist and I completed the York Green Festival insurance documents and sent them to two of my colleagues to check. I really hate Microsoft Office 07, which I have on a trial. It's too complicated, I couldn't work out how to 'save as' and had to just save, then go into my documents folder and alter the name from there. What a faff.

Anyway, they will be on their way tonight or tomorrow.

I made a nutloaf with some old bread, yesterday's rice and a couple of leeks minus their tough flower stalk, grated carrot, a couple of tomatoes, plus some 'bush basil' which is doing really well in the conservatory. This is what I'll grow in the future, it tastes lovely and is easier to grow than the big leafed varieties. This is the first year I've grown it. Oh, I lined the baking dish with slices of a courgette, perhaps our third or fourth this year.

After tea I took the tent down 'all in one' so that when we put it up again we don't have to bother putting the internal compartment in again. Also popped down to Freshways and picked up 2 sacks of assorted unwanted material... including a load of coconuts which don't compost well, but do burn well! There were also a large number of fresh red dates, some with damage and dark-coloured bad bits, but the majority seemed quite acceptable. I wondered how to use these? Fresh they are a bit astringent, but if I blanch them and dry them, they might be useful in something. I might ask Raj how he uses fresh dates.

A busy evening dealing with the York Green Festival insurance documentation, and then trying to sort out how to deal with the compostables which will be generated at the Big Green Gathering... the farmer/festival has been granted 'an exemption' and is allowed to compost on site, but he wants to use the composted material. When I last composted on site, in 2006, there were too many sticks in the pile (which I'd built with several aeration layers using sticks, branches, twigs, cardboard and straw) for him to use it. This year we are going to use Bokashi EM which will mean we don't need to initially aerate it as much... just have it drained. There is another keen composter going to the Gathering, called Chris, and he'll be there from the Thursday before, so he'll be involved in the pre-build.

Last thing at night, I blanched the dates and this got rid of the astringent properties and they tasted sweet, and will be lovely dried.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Sunday 19th July 09

Another work day... shouldn't complain! Lucky to have it!

So, started with a shower as yesterdays hour-and-a-half cycle back from Barmby Moor against the wind had rendered me reasonably fragrant. Gill didn't mind of course, but my employers today would have done and I like to try to make a good impression.

So, got to the station for about 10.20 and bought a ticket to Hull and was on the 10.40, where I wrote out my invoice for the day's work. This was for a community event organised by Tesco Extra in the St Stephen's Centre. As it was raining, I decided not to attempt working outside where the rest of the stalls were, so after I got changed, I set up my stuff in the centre against the Tesco window, and immediately was engaged by some youngsters who wanted to see me ride the unicycle (people often assume that I can't!). About 10 minutes later a security man approached me and told me that cycling wasn't allowed in the centre, so I didn't do any more unicycling at all. So, from 11.55 til 3.50 I worked constantly, except for about 7 minutes to eat my sandwiches at about 2pm. I did mainly devilstick workshops and juggling, and had some lovely successes with this with people who said 'I can't do that' and then, with a few minutes coaching, could. At one point a chap came along who was good with the diabolo, so I let him use Derek and that was quite fun as I was able to talk to Derek with someone else making him do tricks... and misbehaving, as usual! It was an instant 'double act'. There were other entertainers around, including stilt walkers, costumed characters, another balloon modeller, facepainters and various others. So it was a fun day.

The Tesco people seemed to like what was going on and were happy to let me go shortly before my official 4pm finish, as my train was due to leave at 4.01, the next one not being til 5.25.

So I was back in York quite soon, and as I came up to my bike, there was an old chap looking intently at my bike in the station racks. He was obviously admiring it, not trying to steal it or damage it, so I explained about my asking Cycle Heaven to build the strongest bike they'd ever built, and we chatted for a while.

On the way home I picked up two sacks of stuff from Country Fresh... and when I got home and got changed, I put a load of this in the compostumbler with a sackful of the shredded material I prepared last week.

I didn't eat until after 7pm, a plate of rice and vegetables, followed by a raspberry, loganberry and gooseberry crumble. Berry tasty!

I was just finishing off my email/facebook session when there was a huge crash outside and Gill, sleeping on the couch next to me, lept up. I immediately knew it was a logpile falling over, but it was quite a spectacular noise. Gill went back to sleep and I spent 20 minutes partly re-doing it and clearing the way for our neighbours to use the shared passage between the houses. Glad it decided to collapse when I was around to sort it out. It may have not coped with several big rainstorms today... Gill says there was a violent hailstorm here today.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Saturday 18th July 09

Work day today but didn't need to be in Barmby Moor until 1.30pm, to participate in the procession which precedes their historic 'Feast'.

So I got myself ready to cycle all the way down the A1079 lovely Hull Road to Barmby Moor, and left at 11.30... and I didn't stop and really pushed it, arriving at 12.20pm. There was an insecure door at the Village Hall so I let myself in, had lunch and got changed, and was ready to take my bike up to the show field by the time the marching band arrived to get changed.

As I arrived at the Barmby Moor Feast field, it started raining so I negotiated with my handler to get me a place in the bar marquee to do my show sometime during the afternoon.

But the rain stopped just in time for me to unicycle down to the Village Hall again where the procession was just starting off. I overtook a tractor-trailer float at the back and some yokel-locals thought it was funny to spray me with gunk... a kind of string-out-of-an-aerosol-can stuff and I was pretty annoyed. However, it did brush off and I picked it out of the spokes of my unicycle, then got to a position in the procession which seemed right for me. But I was behind some very slow-walking fancily-dressed kids and it was a challenge to unicycle so slowly. But I managed it, just! The procession wound up at the show field and it started raining again.

I went to the bar marquee and made a few balloon models until it stopped raining again and then I did a series of circuits of the field twirling my devilstick, and unicycling, but not at the same time as when I do that I often drop and I didn't want the sticks to get wet as they stop working when wet. But when I'm walking around devilsticking I rarely drop.

I did my show routine at 3pm and an hour of balloon models afterwards, got paid and set off home. I had the wind against me all the time and I had to stop and rest twice! This journey took me til 6.35, twice as long as the Eastward journey.

I got in, unloaded my stuff and went to bed and slept for two hours.

I had a small tea just after 9pm as I wasn't that hungry but Gill's quiche is very yummy. I hope there'll be some left tomorrow when I get in from Hull.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Friday 17th July 09

I got up quite early as I needed to talk to the woman who had booked me to work at her child's school in Cliffe, near Selby, for the leavers' party. She rang me back on her mobile as her landline wasn't making outgoing calls, as the whole village had had a power cut at 1.30am, and the school was closed, so she'd had to cancel. It's a kind of mixed blessing as I was wondering about whether I should actually do this gig as I might have had H1N1 'Flu earlier this week, and if I did have it, I could be still infectious... AND it's raining heavily and I was intending to cycle down there... it's an hour and a quarter away.

So, I was able to peruse my emails and I was interested to find that a new website has been developed, called Real Time Carbon, which shows you how much carbon is being emitted from the mix of generation being used, updated every 5 minutes. Here is how it works: screencast from Jamie Andrews on Vimeo.

The other news is that the Government has introduced 'Feed In Tarrifs' which guarantee an income from solar photovoltaic panels and other renewable generation. This means that an average sized system on a domestic roof, costing about £12,500, will give an income of almost £1000 a year for 20 years plus halve an average home's electricity bill. Here's the Green Building Press article on it.

I think we need to seriously consider this (not that we have £12K to spare!) as our electricity bill is significantly lower than average, so we'd make/save more money than most! I wonder if I could get a loan from the Credit Union?

At about 4pm, despite the rain, I cycled down to town to put in two cheques, pay a bill, give in an invoice and to give in a form to the council. Whilst I was in the Nationwide, I asked if I could borrow £12K to put photovoltaic cells on my roof. I was seen to by a teenager (seemed like it!) who started to go through an eligibility questionnaire. I failed at the first hurdle. I don't earn £750 a month... their minimum requirement. Whilst in the Co-op Bank, I asked the same question, and I was told, after a few details were put into their computer, that I could borrow £11K over 84 months (7 years) and pay back £175 a month, an APR of 8.42%, interest amounting to £3,700. Early repayment penalty of about £44. I felt this was quite a good deal. I got a 0.5% APR discount as I'm a Co-op member!

Came back with a vast amount of stuff from Country Fresh including maybe 40 bananas and a large pile of Asian pears... all will be dried! So lit the stove, dried myself off and did some fruit prep later in the evening.

Boys seem pretty well back to normal. They've had the day off school and may have had Flu.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Thursday 16th July 09

Woke feeling quite a bit better. Both boys feeling a bit poorly so they stayed off school. If I have had Swine 'Flu, it was very mild and just affected me for about 24 hours. I phoned my GP as I wanted to chat about whether I should be tested as I've been in indirect contact with Ali's daughter, who has a weak immune system. The NHS Direct website said I had the right range of symptoms for Swine 'Flu, and so did the GP when she rang back, and as I'm taking medication to prevent asthma, she offered me tamiflu. I declined as I was already feeling much better, and I wonder if indeed I have had this virus. The NHS are not testing people anymore, just diagnosing using a tick-list, so I was told to tell Ali that I had exposed her to Swine 'Flu. The GP also suggested looking on the Health Protection Agency website, on their page about H1N1 Influenza.
Ali rang her daughter's doctor. The advice was to wait until she had a temperature and then get some antivirals. A bit worrying, but we're all in the same boat, as even healthy people might get struck down badly.

I did quite a lot outside today, shredding the hedge clippings I chopped yesterday, collecting some garden waste from Gladys round the corner and shredding them, chopping up a huge pallet which a chap with an overfull skip gave me, posting some cardamom tea sachets to a freegan contact over in Ireland, checking the progress of the money I've sent to the Netherlands for my questionnaire, visiting Raj, and more!

Whilst on the laptop, I wrote some of my blog and checked the Feedjit widget and found several referrals from, and I had a look through this website... it is really good. I enjoyed the blog list by party section, as this is where my blog is, but there's a lot more and I'll be going back there to check it out...

Had a lovely tea, linguine (like spaghetti but slightly thicker and flatter) with quite a bit of home grown veg, including broad beans, broccoli and spinach. Delicious.

A quiet evening, boys still feeling a bit ill, maybe they have Swine 'Flu.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Wednesday 15th July 09

Not a good night as feeling ill... headache and elevated temperature... obviously I was wondering if I have got H1N1 flu. I slept in til about 10, not good deep sleep and the paracetamol I had at 7am didn't touch the headache.

However, my usual routine of having breakfast wasn't dented, and I chatted with Gill who was sorting out the accounts... and finding several things which I haven't been paid for. One requires me to write an invoice... how tedious! I already wrote a reply letter to them; this is often enough.
Got an email from Peter at York in Transition with a link to a video about the first 'Carbon Neutral Village', Ashton Hayes in Cheshire, and if you've 17 minutes to spare, it is worth watching:

At about 11am the council lorry arrived with my 3 compost bins PLUS the little bin which the school had in the men's toilet for a year. Oh dear... do I take that back? Dilemma.

When I investigated the compost bins in the front garden, two had been delivered without their basal doors and one without the lid. What a nuisance... nothing is ever simple!

After lunch I felt well enough to go and cut a hedge but this just about wiped me out.

A very quiet afternoon and evening, didn't feel that hungry but ate salads and two dolmades anyway, kind of to be sociable. Going to get to bed early.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Tuesday 14th July 09

I woke and was aware that our eldest did go to school but our youngest had a cough and sniff and was very tired, so he stayed at home. I used the good weather to do some tidying up in the garden... a wheelbarrow full of compostables from the greengrocers which needed to be roughly chopped up and loaded onto the latest pallet-heap, also some shredding, hedge material from last week, and some sacks that Gladys from Thief Lane has saved for me, including Berberis which is prickly.

I got a message form Lynn saying that she'd like to ask Freshways for a raffle prize for the LETS Healthy Living Event. I agreed to meet her outside the shop just after 11 to give the letter to Raj; he wasn't at work today but one of his employees said they'd give it to him or his brother. I then went on to Country Fresh with another letter and poster, and Richard said no problem to providing us with a prize. What a generous guy! I'll collect it next Wednesday.

On this leg of the journey I met a chap called Paddy who is an estate worker, who's role it is to do various jobs around the small bungalows between Lawrence St and Heslington Road, and he was cutting up some elder branches with secateurs and putting the bits in a bin bag. I stopped and said hello and asked if I could have the cut stuff, and he was only too happy. I had the cut branches and the sack of chopped up stuff... which was heading for 'the bin'. We had quite a long chat and I gave him my card and invited him to contact me if he was in a similar situation again. I also said I might be able to help him find a solution to this bad situation.

I came home and shredded this material... took about two minutes. It all filled just one small sack when shredded and made a layer on one of the current heaps.

I had a go at deleting loads of emails over lunch and found one from the chap in charge of waste and recycling in York, Geoff Derham. He had taken charge of the sorry situation with Lord Deramore's School's approach to my composting attempts. I sent him an email asking if anything had happened... had there been a meeting? Were the school going to improve their 'eco-credentials'? What had happened to my compost bin the alleged Health and Safety advisor had ordered to be removed? I got a fairly swift reply. There had been a meeting. The school was going to undertake some process of greening, but this would take time. My compost bins will be returned to me by lorry in the next couple of days. I have received no thanks or any communication from the school regarding the years of waste-reduction work and composting, nor the work I put in with Green Thumbs. I do feel hurt and angry, yet I also see this situation as having a potentially positive outcome as this school might, just might develop ways of being a 'shining example of sustainability within the community' which has always been my aim. Just a pity it should happen with them virtually excluding me.

I picked our first two courgettes and we had these for tea, with nutloaf croquettes, potatoes and corn on the cob. I had to rush out to the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, meeting at the Tang Hall Community Centre, where I was due to hand over the Clerk's role to Vicky... something I'm sure she'll do a much better job of than me. We did go through several applications though, and I got away shortly before 7.30 and headed down to Green Drinks.

This is an idea which started in 1989 in London, where like-minded environmentally conscious people meet up for a drink and a chat. Simple really. This was York's first.. upstairs at the Yorkshire Terrier on Stonegate, made reasonably accessible with a stairlift, but along narrow corridors. It was well attended and I was pleased to meet Susanne, an archaeology support worker, and Pam, a newbie to York but Green Party member, plus various friends including Dave and Andy, Lynn, Rich and Ivana, Bryony, Katie, Jennie, and others. Had some good chats.

I left fairly early... before 10 anyway as I was tired.

Monday 13th July 09

Slept well if not for very long, and had some of the worst muesli for breakfast I've had for quite a while. Next time I visit Ali I'll buy her some cereals!

I did some sorting out of Ali's bokashi bins and wormery whilst she got up and ready to go down to University. I went with her and had lunch (thanks Ali!) and then got the tram to the station and within 20 minutes the Edinburgh train came and I put all my unicycles and bags of circus stuff in the cycle store area, and chatted to a really nice bloke called Paul, who was on his way to Newcastle so he could take the train to the West side of the country and cycle 'Coast to Coast' for charity. He'd just become a grandfather and was raising money for the unit where his tiny baby grandchild had spent it's first few weeks. We had a lovely chat and the journey went quickly.

Back home by 3pm, did the washing up (straight in there!) and took compostables down to one of the bins... then went down to Country Fresh and collected 2 sacks and a box to keep my heaps hot! I emptied the Compostumbler and reloaded it. I picked some loganberries. Gill did pasta for tea. I made a tomato sauce using small tomatoes thrown away by Country Fresh.

Whilst eating tea I received a phone call from a recent client. I've never had a phone call like it. Someone had overheard some of my Fiddlesticks balloon modelling banter and had complained. Now although I'm a children's entertainer, some of my humour is aimed over the heads of the children and is meant for the Mums, Dads, Grandads, Nanas and other adults. Most of this risque or slightly lewd humour is just suggestive, innuendo and has always been greeted with hilarity. I'll give you a couple of examples. If an adult woman asks for a balloon rabbit, I quickly rustle one up and then as I hand it over, I sometimes ask if she'd like extra batteries for it. If I'm making a dog, I occasionally hold the tail in the wrong position for a half second, as the adult watches, and say, 'it's important to get the tail in the right place' before moving it round to sticking out of the rear of the animal rather than pointing forwards between it's legs and under it's tummy. Again, this is for the adults and the child generally doesn't see and of course doesn't understand the chuckles. My handler for the gig was contacting me as the complainant had to be taken seriously and my response also had to be taken into consideration. I talked him through my innuendo-laden jokes (I have four including the two above) and explained how I decided whether these were appropriate in the situation, as well as saying that I was sorry that someone had been upset by my humour. Apparently it wasn't the recipient of the balloon or the comments, but someone who had overheard it. The board of the organisation will be meeting soon, and my handler will get back to me with their response. I offered to do my next gig for them with the suggestive humour removed, if this is what they wanted.

I then spent quite a long time sorting out my computer, deleting emails and replying to some and more e-communication necessity. Lots to do on the computer this evening.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Sunday 12th July 09, Disability Awareness Day

Awoken by a phone call to my hotel room at 8, got up and went to the pub next door for breakfast, where I had a hearty bowl of muesli followed by fruit and croissants, also made myself a marmite sandwich for lunch which fitted neatly into the bran flakes box.

Last night's taxi man had offered to come and collect me so I had asked the hotel to ring him and collect me at 9.30, as the Disability Awareness Day venue, Walton Hall Gardens, was 2 or 3 miles away, just a tad too far to walk whilst carrying all my clobber.

Another £8 spent, but hey, I get receipts so I just file them as expenses... He dropped me at the bottom of the lane as it was completely traffic jammed up, but it is only 5 minutes walk to the entrance and another 5 minutes walk to the arts marquee where I usually have my spot. But this time I'd been given a spot of my own, between a stall giving information about stroke and one providing help and support to disabled parents. I spent some time here but did a lot of unicycling round with devilsticks spinning and a bag of modelling balloons in my pocket ready to dish out as soon as the circumstances suggested that was appropriate. Towards the end of the day I did some circus workshops and had an especially fulfilling time with a 22 year old girl with ADHD who showed considerable promise with the devilsticks, and was not backward in coming forward. I like people like that.

I worked solidly til just after 4 when I decided I'd had enough so packed up and went to catch the bus down to the centre of Warrington to get the train. I rang Gill who had got in from Hebden Bridge and Ali to tell her what time I was due into Sheffield. The train was a bit late but it wasn't a problem as the train person had told me the wrong time that it arrived into Sheffield, which with the delay turned out to be correct....

Ali was there to meet me and we went for La Tasca for something to eat, as Ali had got another of the half-price coupons she is good at finding on the internet. A delicious meal, and only £15 each. Bought some wine and pear ciders on the way to her place and had a good chat with Ali and one of her favourite PAs for nearly an hour when we got back.

Saturday 11th July 09, Hebden Fringe

Slept well at Mark and Jennifer's but got up quite early as the boys had been up since daybreak... excitement I suppose. Both Mark and Jennifer had a busy day ahead, Jennifer to collect their cat from an orthopaedic veterinary hospital and the other to go to a meeting connected with work, probably a Green Party meeting knowing Mark.

I wanted to get into town at a reasonable time to do balloons in the central square, and Gill went out with all the boys to see their treehouse, and wasn't back by the time I was ready to go, so I left and walked down into town... but five minutes out I realised I had forgotten my bag of devilsticks and diabolos etc (duh!) so I trudged back up the hill and got this extra bag.

I set up right in the central part of the town, a pedestrianised square surrounded by shops and cafes, and blew up 3 balloons and stuck them in one of my bags, sticking up, and got on with some 'practice' devilsticking, which of course attracted attention. When plenty of people had started watching, I did a free first balloon animal for one of the most attentive and engaging children, after which lots more came forward and the next hour was busy with giving away balloon animals, which was exactly what I wanted as my part of the public part of the Hebden Festival.

I got enough donations to pay for my lunch and tea, so bought a pastie and little quiche for immediate consumption and a folded spinach pizza called a calzone for my tea later, wherever that was. At just after half twelve I packed up and wobbled off to the Central Street School where I'd done my show last night and was due to do my Fun Physics Show today followed by a free-play workshop. By 1pm I was ready to start but not many people had turned up but ten minutes later I had quite a good crowd.

The show went like a dream... warm-up acts from the audience first, then the 'obligatory mathematical bit' where I lob a single juggling ball up and ask if they spotted the mathematics, and soon get them to understand the parabolic curve and all say the word 'parabola' together, then devilsticks which is a good way to include friction, fulcrum, pendulums and frequency (you have to see the show to see how these are connected!). Following this is balancing, starting with a stick balanced on my nose and then peacock feathers balanced on volunteers hands, and this leads to a explanation of air resistance and friction again. Derek the naughty diabolo did his usual tricks and misbehaviour but explained gyroscopes much better than I ever could, and then we just had fun with the unicycles at the end. I do enjoy myself such a lot!

There was a chap doing some filming for the Fringe and he interviewed me outside before the workshop started, and by 2.30 the workshop's participants had arrived and I did a catching and throwing game followed by a quick run through of all the quick tips connected to the skills I teach. Then on to the free-play workshop which was pretty easy for me, although still had to keep my eyes out for stuff not going well and people getting stuck. Another full-on hour, finishing at 3.45.

Jan then paid me, and I was pleased with the fee, as it hadn't been fixed beforehand as it partly depended on the numbers of audience/participants, and as these had been quite low, I wasn't expecting as much as I got.

A walk though the park where there was another bit of the festival going on, and to the station where at four thirty something the Blackpool train came and I continued my journey to Warrington. I got to Preston and changed to the Euston train, and was soon at Bank Quay where a nice Warringtonian taxi driver took me to the hotel where I was spending the night. As I got into the hotel the rain started so I decided not to go for a walk and explore the local area, and I had my calzone and some fruit and dozed. But later, I got up and watched an excellent film on Virgin 1, which was on the hotel's Freeview package, called 'Inside I'm Dancing' which I loved. I would say it is easily in my top-ten favourite films.

I went to sleep very soon after this.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Friday 10th July 09, Hebden Fringe

Pretty hectic morning as lots to do and not enough time to do it, but did manage to get down to the station in time. So the morning included a fair amount of paperwork, a trip to Country Fresh, taking the sacks of shredded tree collected last night down the garden from the front where they were making things look more untidy than usual. Also went to the shop for Gill, to get pasties for tea (she will eat with the boys on the train) and assorted medications. Had quite a bit of ringing to do, and email confirmations of work.

But by 2pm I was just about ready to go to the station with all my Fiddlesticks stuff and other things for 3 overnight stays, one in Hebden Bridge, one in Warrington and one in Sheffield. A busy weekend ahead.

Good chats on the train with a nice 'just retired' lady who's husband has a terminal illness and she wanted to talk... She got off in Halifax and very soon I was in Hebden. Jan, my handler from the Hebden Fringe met me and took me to the venue where I was performing, a school just off the main road. I had about 45 minutes to get ready, so I actually had a good 20 minutes reading a recent NewScientist (I'm still a month behind!) about Gravity, the mysterious force...

At 5.30 most of the audience had assembled, under a dozen adults and the same number of children, so quite a small 'intimate' event. As usual, we started with a couple of warm up acts from the audience, and then straight into my routine. At least 3 of the lads were already into circus tricks, and afterwards I found out they attend a circus school in Rochdale I think. So they knew what things were called and what they did, and were keen to come out and do stuff... excellent, and for me it was a perfect gig.

I finished on the dot of 6.30 but some of the people wanted to play so I let a 10 minute workshop take place before packing up and walking the 5 minutes to Mark and Jennifer's house. This is a 5 story 18th century terrace... amazing! Lovely to see friends whom I'd got to know in York and their two boys, one the same age as our eldest and a little one quite a bit younger. Their 17 year-old daughter is on the verge of leaving home and doesn't spend much time there.

Jennifer was just serving up a rice and beans meal, and halfway through this Gill and the boys rolled up, having had tea on the train as planned. Very soon Jennifer and Gill went out to see an actress called Linda Marlowe perform some of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry, from 'The World's Wife'. I did a little Fiddlesticks show for the boys and a neighbour Mark invited round, with her little boy. That produced riotous laughter and wonderment.

Then Mark and I left the older boys playing and went on a short walk over the other side of the valley and up to a place where there's an amazing view. Their youngest came with us and it was fun walking with him, carrying him sometimes, swinging him and having him on my shoulders. He's so small and it brought back memories of when ours were little.... lovely!

Got back in at almost exactly the same time as Gill and Jennifer who'd enjoyed the performance.

Thursday 9th July 09

A productive day, although lots of it was paperwork and sorting things out. Got the train times worked out, more or less, and sent 70 euros over to the Netherlands to pay for my questionnaire to be hosted for this year... and various other bits and bobs. I visited Freshways and stopped to chat to some guys who were chopping down a load of trees on Lilac Avenue, and shredding the branches and putting the shreddings in a skip. They were happy enough for me to go and get some sacks (10) and fill them with shreddings. I also picked up some branches of the beech tree they'd taken out, and they seemed to be having some problems with their hired chainsaw, I told them that I too had a difficulty with mine. They needed a bit of oil to lubricate the chain, so I said they could have some of mine. One of the chaps offered to bring round some more sticks and collect the small volume of oil they needed. So we both benefited.

I really enjoyed my avocado sandwich for lunch.

In the afternoon I had a meeting in town and then cycled up to Cutters/Shannons with my electric chainsaw which has a loose connection, and hopefully they'll be able to repair it. From there I went to find Randy's house, as he wanted help filling in the York Green Festival paperwork. I was impressed with his solar panel set-up, designed to recharge his laptop, phone, radio and LED light they use for bathtimes and breastfeeding. Excellent... a bit complicated, but really interesting.

We spent two hours doing the forms, many of which are exactly the same as last year's, but little details have to be altered.

I got back at 8 and had a big bowl of borscht followed by Gill's aubergine and cauliflower bake which was delicious. Then I popped out to collect the 10 sacks of shreddings and more logs. I met a neighbour (Brian) who overlooked where these trees used to be, and helped him load his wheelbarrow with a huge log, and he helped me with a big one onto my trailer. There are still several enormous logs there. In by 10.15 pretty exhausted.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Wednesday 8th July 09

I got up reasonably early but had a pretty nothingy morning in many ways. I did a load of washing up and some paperwork, some ringing up and sorting things out, but nothing particularly interesting. I did pop down to town to pay in a cheque and give in the SUMA catalogue to Anita, but she wasn't in so no coffee and chat there.

The highlights of the day were getting a Fiddlesticks booking in Cliffe next week and getting a lovely message from a guy on facebook thanking me for my composting advice on the page 'Organic Gardening 101', where I host a Discussion thread called 'Any Composting Questions Answered Here'. He said that since he'd been composting and top-dressing his garden with the compost, the productivity had gone through the roof, and he held me responsible! What a lovely message to get!

Gill had a much busier day than me... cycling down to school and back in the morning, then down to Melrosegate to book a hair cut, and back, and then down to have the hair cut and back to me looking even lovelier than before, then down to school to pick up our youngest, and back, and then at 4, down to school to attend the parents evening , and back. Then in the evening she came out with me down to the Tramways club to the Yorkshire Film Archive event.

I had a quieter afternoon, just a bit of logging and a cycle down to Country Fresh to pick up veggies and compostables, and to Freshways where I picked up a sackful and was given 3 mangoes for my time!

But the evening was excellent... we'd arranged for Simon to babysit so we could go out together to a fundraising event for York and Ryedale Friends of the Earth where there was a series of films 'with a green twist' presented by the Yorkshire Film Archive. So we cycled down to the Tramways Club on Mill Street and paid our £4 each, and Gill bought some raffle tickets. The films were introduced by a chap who obviously works for the film archive, with quite a bit of humour. Gill had told Simon and the boys that she would be back by 9pm so she left after the first half, and therefore missed my favourite film, one called Home Grown, about the Northern Green Gathering when it was just getting established at Ackworth near Pontefract. I was pleased to see my friends Dave and Dhara in the film.

I was back home by 10pm. I lit the stove to dry some washing and weird fruit gotten from Freshways. I'll have to do a Google search to work out what kind of fruit it is.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Tuesday 7th July 09

I woke up later than I would have liked to, but got into town in good time.

I gave my bike in to Cycle Heaven to have new disc brake pads fitted. These are expensive, about £15 each, plus fitting, but the chap sorted my dynamo out too, which had been malfunctioning occasionally, needing a wriggle of the wires underneath the generator to make it work. I walked round town to spend an hour waiting for the bike to be done, as I didn't want to have to come down later in the day.

I got out some Euros to pay for my questionnaire to continue to be hosted til next January, need to send this off asap!

Home at midday and went round to Lynn's to deliver some beetroot to her, as she wants to make some borscht. I also disposed of a sackful of compostables in her compost bin. Glad to have another outlet for them, and she's grateful which is good!

Home for lunch, and all too soon it was 3pm and time for me to go to the Fishergate Ward meeting with my York Rotters hat on (teeshirt actually) as there was a Rotters stall and fabric compost bin giveaway. We spoke to 20 people, most of whom were already composting but wanted to compost more. Anna was there and she took two composters for the two rented houses she looks after. But as she was not able to carry them, I delivered these to Anna's house and came home.

I had borscht with some pasta and green beans in it. Gill had made a Swiss Roll and a jelly so I had some of that too... but soon after 7 I had to go to the York Green Festival meeting at St Johns. I chaired and it was a reasonably good meeting, despite several of the key people not turning up.

I popped in on Anita on the way home and met her dog Max for the first time. Anita and Bruno looked very happy together, and they'd had a good time at Glastonbury. Infact, Anita came across as an excited teenager! I'll deliver the Suma catalogue tomorrow as we've an order coming up.

I got home before 10 and collected two wheelbarrow's worth of logs from Woodlands where another two trees have been cut down. I estimate there are another 15 wheelbarrow's worth of logs there. Maybe a tonne. But, the trees which have died and been cut down are not good splitters... the rounds are very difficult to split, so I don't feel 100% enthusiastic about them as to get these into usable logs I'll have to do a lot of work.

Came in at 10.15 and settled down to do emails, blog, facebook, more emails and finally, washing up!

Monday 6th July 09

Seemed to spend the best part of the day inside. During the morning I rang Outdoorkit, which had the best deal on the tent I wanted, and bought a Vango Sigma 300+ which has a door front and back, which allows the air to flow through... just like my old tent, a design I like.

I also did various other paperwork but I don't like doing paperwork so it wasn't a very inspiring day. But I also made some beetroot soup... fried a free onion and a stalk of purchased celery, rubbed off the loose skin from the free beetroot I cooked on the woodstove last night and chopped them up, put the chunks with the onion and celery plus about two pints of water, and simmered it for a short while. Then added home-made sweet red pepper paprika, bouillon and some balsamic vinegar, and whizzed it up til it was really smooth.

I reheated a bowlful in the microwave and had it for an early tea, Gill had hers cold and said it was very good.

I attended the YorkLETS AGM down at the Seahorse Hotel, Ben chaired and it was quite a slow one, interrupted by the chips and sandwiches arriving. Not very many people attended but hopefully we'll be able to change that this next year. I remain publicity person and also promised to contribute to the newsletter, as well as a couple of other tasks.

Home soon after 10pm, and had a phone call from a friend who's been feeling very low recently, and he thanked me for my support which was lovely to hear. I wish him well on his new turn of life, and hope he can look back on these days and say 'I got through it and I'm glad'.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Sunday 5th July 09

Up at a civilised time and was please to see Valerie's expression when she saw the life-sized Native American figure that Gill's been making for the past couple of weeks. Val is involved with a theatre group and Gill's helped with set painting before, and this time has created a standing Native American for the next production.

Then I spent quite a bit of time tidying the conservatory, pruning tomato side shoots and winding the leaders around their supporting string, and potting up some sprouting ginger that I've rescued from the compostables. I've also got some other tubers which I don't know the name of which are beginning to poke out a spiky green shoot. I'll pot them up too!

After lunch I cycled down to the station with my eldest and bought our rail tickets for the trip to Weston Super Mare, plus two bikes... and was happy that it only cost £47 for the both of us, return. Excellent. The only slight problem is that on the way down we have a 4.20 to 9.30pm journey... a bit late. We'll stay with Lucy that night.

Came back via Argos to see what kind of tents they have, as last year my tent ripped and is not really repairable. The camping shop in York doesn't have any with the shape I want, and neither did Argos.

So, after an afternoon collecting logs from Woodlands (how appropriate!) and loading a compost heap, I had some time on the computer googling tents. I found relatively few with the shape etc that I wanted but there is one which is on sale in various places. I'll phone tomorrow...

Finally, did my Carbon Account meter readings...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Saturday 4th July 09

Another work-day today. I had to be at Headlands School in Haxby by 11am, so I got ready to leave home by about 10.15, with trailer-full of circus gear, unicycles and modelling balloons. I decided to go in costume as it is sometimes easier to arrive and just get going rather than have to change into my performance clothes. It was only about 30 minutes cycle, so I was there in time for the start.

I'd been provided with a little gazebo as cover from sun or possible rain, on the edge of the playground. It was a usual 'school fete' type event... tombola, DJ, Army stall, crazy bike track, beekeeper... BEEKEEPER? That was a first for me... I've never seen a beekeeper at an event like that before! Nice! I had a very busy time, but a 20 minute break when the dance troupes did their performance, so that's when I had my sandwiches.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly... I was impressed with the perseverance of a 10 year old lad who came to me pretty early on saying he wanted to learn the unicycle. I asked him to start on the 4 wheeler.. which he found very easy, and then the 2 wheel unicycle which he also balanced on really well. So I showed him how to get the pedals in the right position before trying to mount, and the best way to get started by hanging on to a window ledge on the side of the playground. He continued working at it, shared some of the time with another lad and for a short time a girl, but he kept on coming back to it. By 3pm he was unicycling across the playground! Awesome...

At 2ish I scaled down my devilstick tuition and juggling workshops and got the DJ to announce that I'd be making balloon animals for a small donation to Headlands. I had a busy hour and generated over £10 for the school. They were delighted and I was knackered and hot. I was given my cheque, packed and cycled off, stopping by Freshways to load a very heavy sack of compostables onto my pannier rack.

Home at 4pm and Gill announced that the boys had been taken to the cinema by Ros and would be back at 6.30... wow, freedom at the weekend, so Gill and I made best use of the space.

So a happy evening, boys post Ice Age 3 and us feeling contented, a nice tea of cold Bulgar wheat 'salad' with added feta cheese, olives, broad beans. Lovely.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Friday 3rd July 09

A working day today, but didn't need to leave the house til midday or after. So a slow start to the morning, but was ready in plenty of time with everything in the house packed up... and then it got darker and darker and the heavens opened. I rang my employers in Castleford and they said we'd be working inside the Bridge Arts building.

I got the 13.09 train and a sweet old nun sat next to me... Sister Rosemary from The Convent of the Good Shepherd in Manchester. She'd been visiting her family in York and was happy to chat. Lovely!

I got off at Leeds and had my sandwiches whilst waiting for the 2pm train to Castleford. Then it was only another 17 minutes on the train. It was raining in Castleford, but it was less than 10 minutes walk to the venue on Sagar Street. I got changed and was 'up and running' with my circus stuff by 1.50pm. There were several other stalls there... the ones I liked were
'Teddies for Tragedies', who knit little teddy bears to give to children in less than fortunate situations, and some historical re-creators called Time Tarts who were very friendly. I chap turned up with a bag of diabolos and proceeded to perform some absolutely amazing tricks, including with two diabolos on one string. 'GT' as he likes to be known did quite a bit of diaboloing, and I then did my little show... the tricks not nearly as sophisticated as his, but I make up little stories with mine and explain how the diabolo works... whereas he did his amazing tricks in silence. I was pleased he liked my act as much as he said he did. I offered to help him develop his entertainment a bit, and told him I was willing to give him info about Equity, insurance, advertising, risk assessments, how to ask for fees and more.

There were a steady stream of 'punters' wanting to try devilsticks, juggling, balancing, diabolo and the four wheeled and two wheeled unicycles, as well as have assorted balloon models. At one stage a group of people assembled on the new bridge (it had stopped raining) and I was invited to go out with them. The bridge is brilliant! It's an S shape horizontally and is for pedestrians and cyclists. It connects a residential area with the town so that the people don't have to go to a busy road bridge. I love it. (See a selection of images here)

I left Bridge Arts at about 5.50 and got to the station 2 minutes AFTER the 6.02 train had gone. Oh dear! So I sat and read and waited for the 6.57 to Leeds. A good quick change in Leeds and back in York surprisingly quickly. I decided to pop in to the St Nicks' social and BBQ for something to eat... I had several veg kebabs and rolls with 'Linda McCartney' in them (!) and two pints of organic cider...

Home before 10, and was able to confirm with my son that he does want to work at the Big Green Gathering so he can get in for free. He has to do 6 hours for me to get the cheque back. If he doesn't do the work, they cash the cheque! He seemed quite excited about being 'part of the festival' and gave me big hugs! I'm really looking forward to it... I need to get train tickets and a tent! My last tent disintegrated in terrible weather at last year's NGG. However, I have only had two tents in about 20 years... so it's not bad going!

Settled down to do emails and blog, and watched one of my favourite films 'It's All Gone Pete Tong' for a second time...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Thursday 2nd July 09 Meeting the Prime Minister

Quite an early start as although I was told to come as I am (ie scruffy) I of course wanted to be reasonably tidy for meeting the VIP, whoever it is. So, cleaned and ironed tee-shirt and freshly washed shorts.... Did a quick email check and cycled off to the Credit Union Office where Nick took me in his car down to Sherburn in Elmet. There were lots of police around the library and people being searched on the way in. I offered my penknife to the policewoman who said she'd look after it until the visitor had gone. We found out that the visitor was to be Gordon Brown the Prime Minister.

The event was to thank three organisations and for the PM to tell them what a good job they were doing... the local SureStart Children's Centre which is based at the library, the Citizens Advice Bureau and North Yorkshire Credit Union, of which I'm the founder and member number one! NYCU is a good example of partnership working and use of technology, as we are just rolling out a web-based paying in system for use in libraries, are going to use PayPoint, and start financial education and a Junior Savers Account, which will be done in conjunction with schools and Children's Centres. There are other developments too, which I'm not at liberty to divulge. I had some interesting chats with people from North Yorkshire County Council, the Department of Work and Pensions and other agencies. I was pleased to meet John Grogan, who is perhaps my favourite MP. I've known him for at least 10 years and I like his friendliness and approach to life. He is one of the 'old socialists' from pre NewLabour days, and I'm surprised he's still with them. However, he is standing down at the next election. I asked him if he'd consider not doing that and going for the leader's job, as I think he'd make a smashing PM! His face crinkled up into his lovely big grin and said definitely not!

So the Prime Minister arrived, with hoards of TV cameras and photographers jostling to get the best view. A group of us was invited to sit in a ring of chairs, people from CAB and NYCU, as well as two people from the local community who had used the services of CAB. Gordon came from visiting another part of the library and went round the group, shaking our hands, then sat and conversations were had with some of the CAB people, the local people, then Mike from NYCU had his 5 mins, where he briefly outlined the history of the group and it's recent change into a county-wide service. He was careful to explain about the partnership working and innovative use of technology. I was not asked any questions and I didn't speak to the Prime Minister.

However, when he left I was near the door and said thank you for coming and he patted me on my shoulder. Very soon, Nick said we should go back to York, and he was able to explain about the developments following the conversations at this meeting. Very exciting and well worth going.

Nick dropped me off at Priory St and I cycled through town to Millers Yard, where Dylan had put aside six sacks of halved squashed oranges and coffee grounds. I carefully loaded these up and took them to St Nicks to their big composting area. They have regular deliveries of sawdust and wood shavings from a pet shop, so I layered the squishy oranges with the sawdust on top of the existing pile.

Glad to get home and have a couple of pints of water plus my lunch, sandwiches as normal.

Soon Gill got home and the boys followed, Melody soon arrived and worked out her SUMA order.

We need to defrost our freezer so Gill found an old nutloaf which is what I had for tea, with some home made tomato sauce on, and potato and broccoli.

After tea I did a bit of work down the garden and then popped round to Lynn's to deliver something for LETS. Raided two ripe skips on the way back... got a load of copper wire and wood from one, and more wood from the other. Excellent!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Wednesday 1st July 09

A late start for me; but I was up in the night as I heard noises outside and had to go and check... after which I lay there listening... how annoying! Then the dawn chorus started. Loud.

The broadband internet wasn't working so I made a few phone calls and found that a BT interchange was down and they were attempting to fix it. It was off all day.

So I did a variety of other things including taking some little yam plants down to Country Fresh to let them go to other people... and collected three boxes of compostables.

Cut a hedge, riddled another 9 carrier-bags worth of mature compost. Cut back more brambles. Watered wilting plants. Drank lots of water so I didn't wilt.

However, during the evening the internet started working again so I spent at least an hour dealing with emails.