Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Wednesday 30th September 09

The morning was a re-run of yesterday.

Got to St Nicks for 10am, 'Saint' John welcomed them and introduced me (John the Rotter) and the other people helping, took the group on a walk, and back to the centre and split them into their groups, me with the Rotters first and then, after a juice and biscuit break, the Saints.

I had taken in several cakes and quite a few bags of biscuits, all out of date and destined for landfill, rescued by lil ol me in a freegan moment, and gratefully snapped up by the various members of the recycling crew.

I got a phone call from Gladys during lunch asking if I could pop round and help her get some apples from a neighbour's tree which overhangs her property... the neighbours are students and take no interest in the garden at all, so it was good that she had these dozen apples or so. There were also some plums, which Gladys doesn't care for but I really like, especially if dried. So I picked them too and brought them back.

I did a little bit of shredding before 3.30 when I got tidied up to meet Sasiki in town, at the City Screen cafe/bar. I met her at Austin's funeral and agreed then to have a meeting with her to learn about the plans she has for YUMI : York Unifying and Multicultural Initiative, which are to have a centre where people can meet, display art, cook in a cafe (and eat in the cafe!) and have a garden where interesting foods can be grown. We had a wide ranging conversation, including about links with York in Transition, York Green Festival and others. We spent over an hour chatting.

Came home via Country Fresh where Rich was in good form and I came away with 3 boxes and a sack full of compostables... as well as bought potatoes, cauliflower, eggs and a cucumber.

Spent a good chunk of the evening sorting out plums, for drying.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Tuesday 29th September 09

Gill woke me up just before she went to school with our youngest, and again when she came back after 9. So I got up then as I was due at St Nicks at about 10am, and got there in good time.

The school party were late, they'd come over from Harrogate and got stuck in traffic I think.

'Saint' John did intros and split the group into Saints and Rotters. Then he led all of us into the Nature Reserve and along the butterfly walk where he explained about the apple trees which arrived as pips at the tip with the Rowntrees apple waste and some grew on the top, and are now mature fruit-laden trees. Then to the stone circle and back to the Centre, stopping to look at the green roof.

I then took one group and did a half-hour composting session with them, encompassing what happens in landfills, what happens in an aerobic compost pile, we found lots of beasties including centipedes, millipedes, worms, springtails, woodlice, beetles. Then had a good poke around the Can Of Worms wormery. Then an open Q+A.

After a break I took the second group and we did the same again. I was finished by soon after midday.

Home via Freshways where I was given a lot of interesting compostables/edibles, some of which will have to go in a tumbler along with shredded brambles and hedge.

I got our youngest from school and spent quite a bit of time sorting things out in the garden and brought quite a bit back in for re-use.

Excellent day.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Monday 28th September 09

Up early as I needed to do the minutes of last week's Transition meeting... and got an invitation to put my blog on

I got the minutes done and sent them off to Peter for sending out. I spent half an hour in the garden shredding some brambles which Gill has removed.

Immediately after lunch I wend down to the station with my bike minus trailer, got a ticket to Hornbeam Park and took my bike on the train so I could easily get from the station to the 'Family Chiropractic Clinic' where Karen hires a room to do her acupuncture. She had booked the room from 2pm so she could continue her research about ADHD and acupuncture. I arrived before 2pm and she was waiting outside, no sign at all of anyone within, just a little sign saying 'lunch 1-2' and Karen had already rang their number, and it was on answerphone. Banging on the door and ringing the bell made no difference either. She got reasonably agitated about this and by 2.10, went to ask a nearby shop owner if they had seen any movement at the Clinic this morning. And then the person bothered to come down and open the Clinic door. I was a bit angry about this late start... as I had hoped to get the 3pm train back to York. She told me that they opened the shop at 2.15. I hope they change the note on the door... and give Karen a key so she can get in and get prepared for her clients.

She took a little while to get ready, and then did her pre-acupuncture routine which involves looking at my tongue and asking various questions and taking my pulse. We discussed my diet and food routine. Then I had the rather nice experience of having the needles put into my skin (most of them I couldn't feel, some I felt a tiny pinprick, one was uncomfortable for a couple of minutes) and then lying there for 45 minutes or so. I felt very relaxed and calm, almost knocked out, and I might have even drifted off to sleep at one stage. It is most curious. But at 3.20 I had the needles removed and I had another conversation about my carbohydrate-rich diet and four to six cups of coffee a day.

I cycled into Harrogate and popped into Waitrose to get some goats milk which Gill had asked me to buy, and onto the station where I got the 4.05 train back to York, along with 2 other cyclists.

I called in on Freshways and picked up a small box of recyclables, and headed home.

I did about an hour of loading a heap with shredded brambles and food 'resources'. For tea I had a sandwich with two small home-made veggie burgers from a couple of days ago (basically a nutloaf mix cooked in small patties in a frying pan) and some salad and potatoes.

At half six I went out to the Theatre Royal to see what I thought was a play by my friend Kate Lock. 'Script Factor' was in fact a weird concept... five new scripts or mini-plays, read unseen by volunteer audience members, the script writer/playwright answering a few questions, and then at the end, voting for the one you wanted to win. I liked Kate's play which was based on one of her early journalistic experiences, and the winning play which was by Charlotte Court, called 'Bus Stop 21', about a conversation between 3 women of different ages. Age, specifically youth, was a recurring theme in all the scripts, as the Theatre Royal is in the midst of a 'youth take-over' with a bunch of under-26 year olds in control, and free tickets for people under 26. The winner of tonight's Script Factor certainly looked younger than 26, and it was her first play ever read out to an audience. I think she deserved to win, as her idea was so simple and elegant. Kate's was more entertaining though... a play within a play, someone having a seizure during a sex scene, a sexist critic choking to death on a scone after being assaulted with a lucky Buddha... all good dramatic stuff... darkly humorous...

I left at about 9.30 and was home 10 minutes later. Enjoyed watching 'The Cell' on BBC4.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sunday 27th September 09

Far too early a start today... had to be in town by 9am. Urgh.

But, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's punctuality. So I got there on the bongs of 9am (I heard a church chiming in case you don't quite understand what kind of bong I'm talking about!) and got the York Rotters stuff together... various leaflets, and tied the marquee side back with some string begged from the butcher next to us. The Council waste minimisation people were there too, doing the Love Food Hate Waste bit of the stall.

I had a very full-on time... really enjoyed it, despite a bit of a quiet start, it was fun to smile at people and say, "Would you like to tell me about your compost heap?", and only one person said 'No' and walked away! I had a short time off at about 12.30 and found a stall selling Foccacia bread rolls with feta cheese and salad... it was a bit expensive but I got a receipt as I think York Rotters will pay me back... but it really doesn't matter as I had such a fun day. I particularly enjoyed working with 'MeJulie' who is a Council accountant but into waste reduction and recycling, and I met at John Morris' funeral. She was very friendly and chatty. Jo turned up just before 2pm and I was able to go after my 5 hour shift.

I popped into Country Fresh on the way back and Rich had more compostables for me... whoopee! Every day I go there is like a birthday!

Things were all quiet and calm at home so I had a few minutes with a coffee and the laptop, and then popped round to the house round the corner where one of the tenants Simon said I could have as many apples and pears as I wanted. Simon wasn't in but another tenant was, and he said 'go ahead', so I went back home to get some wooden fruit trays/boxes and my giant ladders, which reach up to 9 metres leaning against something or 6 metres freestanding in an A shape, with a ladder sticking out of the top, like a Greek lower-case Lambda.

I started with the lovely but rock-hard 'winter pears' which need to sit quietly for a few weeks and ripen, when they go very juicy and sweet and aromatic and soft and are perhaps my favourite fruit of all time. The tree is very tall and I wasn't able to pick them all, but did get about 3 boxes full. Then I picked loads of apples, which are eaters (not cookers!) and are delicious too, and ready to eat now. I also picked the small Victoria plum tree, so that Simon could have what he wanted from what I picked. When Simon came back, I was up the apple tree again and I came down and showed him what I'd picked. He had just a few of each variety but said that I could have everything else.

I came back for tea, Gill had made a lovely veg stew with broad beans, celery, potato, mushroom, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and quite a few more ingredients, with a goats cheese cobbler - a scone topping. A delish nosh...

I did one more trip up the apple tree after this, but when it got too dark I brought the ladders back.

I popped round to Woodlands to pick up some logs, and met Debbie who asked if she could have some apples so I walked back with her with my first trailer load of logs, and gave her a dozen apples. Collected a second load of logs and came back home to put my bike away and relax.

What a busy day! Glad to have so much quality fruit to keep us going through the winter. Thank you Simon and the absentee landlord for not being interested in your bountiful fruit trees...

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Saturday 26th September 09

A busy and tiring day, but fulfilling.

I got up early enough to be on my bike and going down to town before 10 to be a York Rotter at the Food Festival, from 10 til midday. There were assorted Council bods there already, doing the Love Food Hate Waste info and giveaways. I immediately launched into my Rotter mode and enthusiastically engaged with as many people as possible.

Town was busy and in the two hours I chatted to about 25 people about home composting and sometimes other subjects. Very enjoyable.

I came home via Country Fresh to pick up compostables and had some good chats with Rich before zooming back for lunch, a quick email session and then got changed and bike loaded with Fiddlesticks gear to go up the Hull Road to a four-year-old's party, booked less than a week ago. I'd suggested that as they'd already got a bouncy castle arranged, that a shorter circus skills show would be best, with reduced workshop content, followed by a balloon model giveaway rather than a workshop.

So this format worked well... most of the partygoers were four, two were twelve years old (I think) and there were plenty of adults too, which was good. Everything went as planned, and I was given a veggieburger when all the children had received their balloon animals, and a slice of delicious cake. I had to ask about the cake. It was unlike anything I'd had before... and I was introduced to the cake-baker, the Jamaican Grandma. I asked about the recipe and she said she never used a recipe. She used butter and sugar, blended with a bit of milk, and assorted essences, vanilla pods etc, and some raisins and currants soaked in wine for several months, gravy browning (!) and bicarbonate of soda, and a whole bag of flour. Oh, and some rum, white rum. The secret, though, was to add a few slops of rum to the cake as soon as it came out of the oven. So, and interesting and delicious creation.

I stayed on at the party well after the 4pm supposed finish time as I wanted to make sure that as children left, they had an intact balloon model... and of course there was fizzy pop to drink and the Jamaican Grandma to chat to...

But was home by 5pm and I got changed and did a load of chainsawing. Gill had made a sort of ... veggieburger for tea! I didn't watch the stuff that our boys were engrossed in (some Merlin fantasy stuff I think, and saw an awfully rubbish ITV programme on the other telly which was dire). I switched off and did a lot of Scrabble on facebook, and several interesting conversations with new facebook friends, including a gent who works for the US Environmental Protection Agency and was interested in my uber-low carbon lifestyle. Interesting stuff.

A quiet evening, bit of washing up, lots of computery stuff. (Gill finds this last line funny, can't think why!)

Friday 25th September 09

I enjoyed several things today, including an early start when I settled down to write up the minutes of the York Green Festival meeting on Wednesday. This took several hours during the morning and Gill went out to have her hair cut. I didn't manage to finish the write-up, as I got distracted.

I was due to meet Hannah my Re-enactment friend during the afternoon, but she rang and put it off til Sunday afternoon. But I had to go into town anyway, as we're doing a SUMA order next week and I needed to shuffle some money around our accounts and put a cheque in from Melody. I looked in on the York Rotters stall after this to see where it was, as Parliament St is full of Food Festival stuff.

I decided to pop in to Kyi-Po on the way back, as I'd heard a rumour that because of their behaviour, Matthew and Sarah had been beaten up or even stabbed. Now their behaviour towards me hasn't been very nice, but whatever they've done I don't believe that they deserve this kind of treatment. I also wanted to ensure that I don't remain in their list of persona non grata, so I went in and chatted to them for a while. I was frank about my displeasure about their behaviour towards me, but also said that I was sorry that they had been attacked. Sarah showed me her huge bruises, but I didn't ask for any details about what happened. I didn't spend a long time there and soon arrived home.

However, I only had a half hour or so to have a wash and brush-up before I needed to get off to the station to get the 4.37 train to Scarborough for the launch of the 10:10 project there. I had been invited by Jane Gresham, a passionate activist, to do a talk to introduce the Age of Stupid film. On the way over I was able to continue typing out the Green Festival minutes, as I took my laptop and this train had a plug to keep my laptop knackered batteries going!

The venue was just across the road from the station, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, and I found my way through a labyrinth to the room Jane had been given. I was very happy to meet my friend Sarah there, and I chatted with her til the event started.... at about 6.30. Jane did introductions and I did my bit, perhaps 10 or 15 minutes.

I started with an introduction and a quick plug for Professor Fiddlesticks (people always like to know what you do!) Then I shared my green journey from the 1980s when I chose to live an 'environmentally friendly' lifestyle, which was soon labelled as 'low impact', and then during the 90s, when I got involved with Local Agenda 21, it was renamed 'sustainable'. It was at this time when I signed all my letters 'yours in sustainable development'. But more recently, my approach is relabelled 'low carbon'. I explained how I know it is low carbon, by using carbon calculators, and review your score regularly, such as I do with The Carbon Account. I didn't spend a long time talking about why I've chosen to live like I do, just a mention of climate change and more of an explanation about peak oil, and wanting to leave this precious resource in the ground for my grandchildren's grandchildren to use, sparingly. And that I wish to be remembered as a responsible ancestor, not a selfish and greedy ostrich. Finally, as I'm a solutions person, I covered, briefly, personal actions and group or community solutions, then how politicians can help... both councils and governments. I referred to the 10:10 movement and then introduced the film.

Then the DVD of The Age of Stupid was played. I didn't watch the first half, but finished typing out the Green Festival minutes. However, I did watch the second half and as usual, it rendered me into a blubbering wreck. I only just pulled myself together for the Q+A straight afterwards.

There were some interesting questions, observations and comments. And I think I made a few good points. Enough for two people to buy me a drink afterwards.

My train was just after 10pm and soon I was in York and home.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Thursday 24th September 09

A very quiet day in many ways.... nothing much happened in the morning, apart from me washing up and Gill cleaning the fridge, and in the afternoon, again, not a lot to report. However, at 3.15 we had visitors... the solar panel people, Harris Construction, with a rep from Solarwall who will supply the panel.

So this chap took a couple of photos of the boiler, roofspace and from outside, the roofline. He said it would be very straightforward to install the hot water panels. We even have a choice between panels made in Germany or in Washington, Tyne and Wear. The UK ones aren't quite as efficient, but they're cheaper. So, we'll get a detailed breakdown of the choices and prices, and hopefully we'll get our system fitted quite quickly. There's only one problem... our loft is rather, err, 'congested' (read: untidy, chaotic, full of stuff) and it will be quite a job to get it sorted out, I estimate several days work.

Anyway, I'm glad we're moving on with this project.

Soon after 4.30 I headed down to Heslington Road, popped in on Country Fresh to pick up compostables, and then locked my bike up outside David's, so I could look at the most recent photos he took of Professor Fiddlesticks, and I could pick out the best ones. Dave will now put together an album of all the best ones taken over the past months, and from that I'll choose the best and most appropriate ones for my new advertising flyer. We agreed a price, in Yorkys and Sterling. Once a proof has been made, I will then get some printed.

This evening, Avaaz posted this video about Monday's myriad of ways in which people all over the Planet participated in the 'Wake Up Call'. What a brilliant stunt.. well done Avaaz and all the people who did these creative things.

We had Bulgar wheat and home grown green beans for tea and I chopped up loads more apples for drying. Enjoyed Question Time on BBC1.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Wednesday 23rd September 09

Not a bad day really, certainly started out right with a lie in with Gill who then slept all morning.

I had heard what I thought was a chainsaw so I hopped on my bike to go and find it, but it turned out to be a petrol hedgetrimmer, so I came back home.

I sorted out some fruit to dry on the woodstove, cooked some slices of homegrown squash and then had lunch. At 1.30 the Yellow Pages/Yell dot Com lady arrived and we had some interesting chats before I signed the paperwork agreeing another year's advertising.

Gill went for our youngest and I spent quite a long time preparing potatoes, some knobbly Pink Fir Apple to add to tonight's tea. I did a bit of work in the garden and came in for tea, which for me was a pastie, four slices of fried squash from earlier and a handful of cold cooked potatoes.

I had a meeting at 7 up at Rand's house so I zoomed up to Acomb to meet with other Green Festival core group people to have the post-festival roundup. This was an interesting meeting as we had to analyse not just how it went, but our own role within that. I chaired AND made notes... and have now got these to type up and send out.. aargh! However, it was a good meeting, and there was wine and assorted food.

Quick cycle back, it's all downhill from Acomb! Then a long phone call with my dear old Auntie after which I tried to catch up with some more e-paperwork.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Tuesday 22nd September 09 International Car-Free Day

and York's First Car-Free Day!!!

Our plans swung into action. I got up at 6.30am (not my favourite time of day!) and got together Lynn's parasol and filled the base with water, my smallest 'dalek' compost bin (actually the one which belongs to the school and was delivered to me by accident), and a planter with a courgette plant and a broccoli plant just about ready to harvest. In my panniers I took bread, hommous, apples, Danish pastries and similar, a knife and a toy car which belonged to Gill's Uncle Tom, for sticking the ticket on for the parking space.

I got there just after Candy, who had bought a 3 hour ticket at 7am. We chose a space as close to the junction of Lawrence St and Foss Islands Road, between a pub and two fast-food places. Very soon Rich arrived on the St Nicks load-carrying trike with the plastic sheets to put the turf on, and the 12 rolls of turf. Bryony came with her palm tree. The turf was rolled out and garden stuff placed carefully, and a couple or road cones with bamboo canes in to support the banner which read 'PEOPLE PARK NOT CAR PARK' and I think another line underneath about York in Transition and/or Car Free Day. The picnic table and deck chairs went up, and the table was soon covered in breakfast-type food. We also had leaflets about Car Free Day and York in Transition, and as we were right next to the traffic lights, several of us were able to speak to drivers and give them leaflets.

Three City Councillors turned up, Christian Vassie (LD), Dave Merrett (Lab) and Andy D'Agorne (Green), and I was disappointed that my friend John Galvin, our current Lord Mayor (and a Conservative) didn't appear. That would have been a real coup to have all four parties supporting us.

We suffered a bit with the gusty wind, and it was an unpleasant place to be as the area is totally dominated by roads and cars... but that was the point, to have a little chunk of parkland in an urban jungle. The media turned up, BBC Radio York interviewed Candy (sorry, Dr Candida Spillard!) who was very eloquent, and the York Press guy hung around waiting for the right light... he couldn't do anything whilst the early morning sun was so bright, but when it clouded over he got his photo... I think he might use the 'Uncle Tom's Toy Car in the foreground' shot... I hope so!

At about 10 am we had a little conference and as we had just about run out of leaflets and the weather was looking ominous, we decided to strike camp. I took the compost bin and parasol home in the trailer and came back to help transport the turf round to Anna's. She bought the turf off me, so there was no net outlay for the turf. We got a few donations, which paid for the Danish pastries and parking ticket.

On the way back from Anna's I stopped off at Country Fresh and picked up yet more compostables. I got in at midday. Gill was about to head off into town, so I had a quiet afternoon and at 3 cycled down to school to collect our youngest, and had a nice chat to Mrs Lee, one of my favourite teachers, about the school now not composting AND having lost bits of two compost bins I had lent them and they'd removed. She said that she'll say something quietly to people... I kind of want to write the school a letter but I don't think I should.

Later in the evening I returned Lynn's parasol.

Rich made this video of the day, nb the traffic noise!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Monday 21st September 09

A very busy busy busy day.

But I didn't have to actually get up until just before 11, although I did do a bit of housework in my dressing gown after breakfast.

At 11am the replacement solar panel surveyor man arrived. The chap who looked round a few weeks ago has hurt his back, so someone else has taken over. Alan was a young and enthusiastic chap, and we had some lively conversations whilst he looked at the outside of the house, the boiler in the bathroom and the roof space. I also showed him the solar panel on the house down the road which has an integral photovoltaic panel which runs the pump. That's what I want. Not a 60w pump wired in and using mains power all the time... sort of defeats the object of the exercise.

Then shortly before midday I bombed into town to attend the Avaaz 'Wake Up Call' flashmob which was aiming to give world leaders the message that there are a lot of us who think that the forthcoming Copenhagen talks are possibly the last chance to set firm and binding targets to reduce CO2 emissions. The York Press photographer was there, and BBC Radio York, and I was able to inform listeners that Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister, had decided to attend Copenhagen himself, demonstrating how important he realises it is. This decision is partly due to the rising clamour about this event. Today, people were given Gordon Brown's phone number and asked to ring him up. What good this will do I don't know, but it's worth trying.

Very soon after this I walked my bike through town and as soon as out of the pedestrian zone, cycled quickly to St Nicks where the load-carrying trike was waiting for me. Tom gave me the key to the lock and told me he wanted it back within the hour. It was not easy to ride, as it hugs the road camber and doesn't lean into corners, but I got the hang of it and plodded up to B+Q, parked up, locked it and went to find someone in the gardening section. There was no-one there. I wandered around and found a B+Q staff member in the paint section. I asked her if I could ask her a question and she looked terrified and said that she was on her lunch hour and actually buying paint. I said that I just wanted to know where I could pick up the turf and she smiled and said she was responsible for the garden bit and would take me to the turf waiting for me. She had looked terrified as she thought I was going to ask a technical question about paint!

I loaded up the 12 rolls of turf onto a trolley whilst she did the paperwork, and I scooted it all outside to the tricycle. It was a heavy and slow cycle back to St Nicks, but the whole trip took just 45 minutes.

I came home on my bike, unhitched my trailer and made a sandwich to take down to the station, as I needed to get the 2.11 train to Hornbeam Park. I put my bike on the train, as when in Hornbeam Park I needed to get to the place on Leeds Road just outside Harrogate to meet Karen the acupuncturist for my first session. I got there at 2.55 and she was expecting me, so I was led to her treatment room. She had already done a full history on Saturday, so she just needed to check my tongue (why, I have no idea!) and pulse, then I lay down and she put about 6 pins in me, only one of which was slightly uncomfortable as it went in... the rest I didn't feel at all, just the pressure of the guide tube. The I lay still for between half an hour and 45 minutes which was LOVELY... being told not to move just felt great... and I felt totally relaxed, but I didn't fall asleep, though I think I could have let myself... The session was over all too soon and she took my pulse again (as before it had been racing as I'd just cycled quickly) and off I went, in the rain which had started. I got to Hornbeam Park with loads of time to spare, and waited in the rain feeling very calm and slightly elated.

It didn't take long to get back to York, and home via Sainsburys as I had forgotten to get Danish Pastries this morning from Thomas's Yesterbake for tomorrow's CarFreeDay picnic breakfast.

I came home via Country Fresh and Freshways.

When I got home, with the pastries, and a nice loaf and some cereal, I went straight out again, to the Co-op to get some more bits and bobs for tomorrow's event.

Tea was a pastie and roast potatoes and some sweet potatoes, rescued from the compostables. They had been thrown out as they were beginning to sprout... I cut of the sprouting ends and will try to grow them on, in the conservatory through the winter.

Then out again to a Transition meeting. I went via Lynn's to pick up a parasol for the CarFreeDay demo. The meeting was good as there were two new faces, but it was also a tough meeting as we had a bit of sorting out to do with regards which activities are 'core Transition' activities and which are 'community building' activities which pave the way for the core Transition activities to take place. I took minutes, and also agreed to work with Diane, to help set up a Huntington and New Earswick Transition Initiative.

Home quite tired but had a lot of typing to do, so to bed at the usual time of 2ish.

And here's what Rich filmed today (added a few days later)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sunday 20th September 09

A work day, but didn't have to leave til midday. This allowed me to indulge in a lie-in which was good... just til 10am though, nothing exorbitant!

Gill ironed my costume as I had breakfast, and at 11.30 I got my stuff together, but then got a phone call from a friend who had hit rock bottom, wanting a few minutes of my time, so I said I would be able to come round at 11.55 just for a few minutes. My friend suffered some horrible abuse many years ago and hasn't had any counselling or help overcoming or dealing with the memories and the emotions they stir up. This friend has a serious (legal) drug problem and the information I learned today makes that much more understandable. I offered to support them if they wanted to access counselling or get help from their GP, but I could only spend 10 minutes with them as I had to be at Millers Yard by 12.25.

I set up my stuff in the studio there, and walked round towards the ceramic-painting shop, where many of the party-goers had spent some of the morning. They were just coming out and heading for Millers Yard, so I turned round and led the crocodile of children to the venue.

The show went like clockwork, a really good show which I thoroughly enjoyed, as did the kids and their parents. I did the circus first, then prepared the balloon show and had my sandwiches, then did the balloon animal workshop. There were two girls celebrating their birthdays, so I think that my fee was probably shared by the two families, but I'm not sure. I got paid at the end, and several parents told me very complementary things before I cycled off with my trailer full of circus stuff and burst balloons for putting on the compost heap.

I got home at 4pm, via Country Fresh which is looking very nice with a new shop-front. All the old rotten wood has been replaced, but the original huge windows kept, which halved the cost of the job.

I had half an hour on the computer but when I'd dealt with the emails I got changed and went into the garden as I've had my eye on a length of hedge which has got a bit bushy, and needed a radical haircut.

I had nearly finished this job when our neighbour started chatting to me about the proposed removal of this length of hedge, and replacement with a fence, or a low wall and fence. We agreed that in a couple of weeks I would start taking out the hedge, and I would take care of that. My neighbour would put in some foundations and use the bricks I salvaged from when I took the coal-house out. The fence would probably be the one which I was given by another neighbour a few months back, a lovely oak fence.

Putting a wall/fence there will allow my neighbours to grow vegetables up it, and will mean that our veg patch doesn't have such dry soil where it is now depleted by the hedge roots. Removing the hedge will also allow me to remove the Ground Elder which is in the hedge and growing into the raised beds.

I came in at about 7pm, pretty tired but having cut the hedge (which will make it easier to take out) and riddled some more compost.

Tea had been made by our youngest... a rice and noodle nut loaf, with sprouts, carrots and roast potatoes. Impressive stuff! Delicious stuff too...

During the evening I enjoyed a programme on Coldplay, featuring my musical hero, Brian Eno, who produced their most recent album. I also jarred-up loads of dried apple rings and pear slices, and prepared loads more for drying.

Also today I received a phone call from my wonderful activist friend in Scarborough, Jane Gresham, who invited me to go and speak at the Scarborough 10:10 launch on Friday. 10:10 is a project launched by the good people behind The Age of Stupid, the aim of which is to encourage individuals to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010, AND lobby government to do the same. There is a pledge that people can sign... the movement is supported by a large number of organisations. I'm going through to Scarborough on Friday 26th to the Stephen Joseph Theatre to do a short talk before the film The Age of Stupid (which is having it's global premiere this week), and be on the panel for a Q+A afterwards. It's not a paid-for gig, but my train fare will be covered.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Saturday 19th September 09

I got up just in time to have breakfast and get dressed and then receive my guest this morning.

Karen C is an acupuncturist and a colleague or friend of my friend June, and is doing some research into acupuncture and ADHD. June contacted me, knowing that I self diagnosed with ADHD yonks ago. I explained that the experts had told me that although I had probably had ADHD as a child, I did not have enough of, or severe enough symptoms of the condition to be diagnosed with it. However, as Karen was having difficulty finding enough diagnosed adults, she altered her research parameters to include people like me, who are on that spectrum but not 'bad enough'(!) to merit the full label...

So, soon after 10, Karen arrived to do my history, which is standard practice before doing any complimentary therapy. I have done this several times for different people and it does take some time, in this case, over two hours. But it is, for me, the most important part of the work of the complimentary therapists that I've experienced so far (and I confess to have only tried maybe 4 or 5) as 'normal' GPs don't ever have this time for their patients.

I've never had acupuncture, but Gill has and it helped her painful back. I tried homeopathy with a good friend who is a very experienced and well respected homeopath, but I had no response to it whatsoever. I told her in the history-taking that I was skeptical and didn't believe that there was any active ingredient in homeopathic medicines. She said that didn't matter. But my expectations were realised.

I've also tried a couple of types of massage therapies, of which Indian Head Massage was by far the most wonderful and deep tissue Swedish massage was the most horrible.

Anyway, Karen was happy with the info I gave her, and I agreed to go and see her four times in the next month (in Harrogate) to see if having acupuncture helps me either become tidier (!) or more organised, more relaxed or any other improvements.

She had a quick tour down the garden and took a bag of dried fruit, and I had lunch.

Then we all had a good time in the garden... the boys played on the trampoline and Gill and I pruned a large lilac tree... Gill directed, I went up the ladder and sawed the branches off, pollarding the tree for a second time since we moved here. I then spent quite a bit of time shredding the large pile of stuff which resulted from this massacre, and then loading a pallet bin with layers of this woody stuff with layers of vegetable and fruit, surrounded with flattened cardboard boxes up against the pallet sides.

I picked another load of stuff including a courgette, a tromboncino squash, some Jack Edwards climbing pea beans, runner beans invading our garden from next door, bramley apples, James Grieve apples and assorted pears. Tea time!

And tea time was lovely with lots of good fresh veg... much of the above but also tomatoes from the conservatory, all mixed with noodles.

I prepared quite a bit of food tonight, including potatoes and sweet potatoes, which will get eaten tomorrow.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Friday 18th September 09

The day of Austin's Funeral, but not until the afternoon so had a slow morning doing various things around the house and chatting to Gill. Did some paperwork too.

Had a bit of a late lunch and got finished at about 2pm, shortly before I was due to go to the Cemetery.

I love York Cemetery... which is good as I'm going to end up there, in the Butterfly Walk section in the Victorian part of the Cemetery. I've been to some amazing events in the Chapel, including lots of Juggling Club evenings, many years ago, and probably the best funeral ever, Tom Mason, just a few years ago.

Anyway, I got there and was greeted by Robin who was teaching at Archbishop Holgates at the same time as Austin was a lab technician there. There were loads of people, quite a multicultural bunch for York, this because Austin, a metalworker from Sheffield with a liking for samosas, married Azra, a Muslim girl, against the wishes of her family who then had nothing to do with her again. Austin volunteered for YUMI and quite a few of the other YUMI people were there.

Austin loved the 60s band The Shadows, and there's a band which does Shadows covers which he really liked, and three of them were there to play a selection of tunes on guitars. (possibly the MoJoes)

Austin and Az's son Oliver hosted the ceremony. Sasiki spoke about Austin's involvement with YUMI and Dev read out a poem which Azra read to Austin just a few weeks ago. There was also a story from a teacher which demonstrated Austin's sense of humour, and a few words from Az, but she was really too emotional to say that much. Then the coffin was carried a short way to the grave, a few more words were said, and it was lowered in.

I waited to thank Az for a moving ceremony and then cycled home, and spent nearly an hour before going to the Viceroy, which was Austin's favourite restaurant, where I was pleased to meet Paul, an old friend, and his wife, and have a chat with Sasiki and a few others. Just before I went in, I had a good chat with my good friend Jonathan, who was walking towards his house.

Then home again, via the cycle path where I picked up 4 chunks of willow log. Good to see the family, who were enjoying a Friday night.

At about 8pm I cycled over to Vyner St to go to Jennie's 27th birthday party, and was pleased to meet Edward and JayZee, Guy, and later, several other friends. I did a bit of a balloon model workshop, which was fun, and then after 11 we all went to see Jennie and her friend do some fire poi in a nearby field. Jennie managed to lose one of her poi in the long grass, so there was only one pair being used.

I watched for a bit and then cycled home along the cycle path, picking up 2 chunks of willow.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Thursday 17th September 09

Gill did the early stuff but I got up in time to get some bits and pieces together for my stint at St Nicholas Fields. I took some slightly damaged/bruised/beginning to rot fruit, some half rotted materials and some finished compost, to show a group of about 15 home-educated children and their parents.

They'd been out on the nature reserve but soon after 11am were ready to engage with me and my enthusiastic composting lesson. I always ask groups to put their hands up if they home compost or have a compost heap... and maybe I should have expected this, but they all did!

I ask lots of questions, and the answers help the session move forward, but I often soon ask them to look under the green grass of the lawn they are standing on and tell me what they can see between the soil and the living grass. There is invariably some dead grass and other decaying vegetable matter, which introduces the idea that composting is a natural process. I ask if they know what happens if fruit and veg material is thrown in an ordinary bin, and some of the older children already knew about landfills and methane, so the climate change implications came into the discussion.

I showed them a selection of compost bins including the one which has a perspex front which is revealed when the ordinary front panel is taken off, allowing the different layers of material to be seen... well rotted stuff at the bottom, semi composted in the centre and freshly added at the top. I also showed them the large New Zealand bins, where I found a slug, woodlice and a lovely staphylinid beetile, sometimes known as a cocktail beetle, similar to the rove beetle known as the Devil's Coach Horse. (another good image here)

Finally, on to the wormeries. The Can Of Worms wormery is a really good educational tool, as it shows the results of the worms' work in the lower layers. Children tend to really like worms, so this was a good place for me to stop and the new Education Officer to take over with a game based on statements about composting and a 'true' and 'false' pair of caddies to put the statements into.

This didn't take long and I was soon ready to go home and have a late lunch.

At 1.30, just before I had lunch, Martin and Bob from the Green Festival came round to sort out the last of the financial transactions from the festival.

After lunch we got a phone call from our eldest's school. He had received a bump on the head somehow and therefore the school needed to tell us. He didn't want to come home though... but a short time later we got another call saying he had a headache and did want to come home. So Gill hopped on her bike and cycled up there, and walked him home. He certainly does have a big lump on his forehead... we were able to joke about it being like my lipoma, a fatty benign lump I've got on my forehead. (mine is similar to this one)

I collected our youngest. And then as Gill was spending time with the boys, I made tea... a nutloaf with walnuts and rice (plus the usual breadcrumbs, peanut butter, grated and chopped vegetables, egg and assorted flavourings) cauliflower cheese and roasted Tromboncino squash (sometimes known as Zucchetta Rambicante, and here's the best set of photos of this vegetable).

This was well recieved and very filling. I'm glad this weird long squash I've grown are so tasty... although not quite as good as butternut, the metre long fruit I just cooked (in chunks) was easy to grow and is quite productive. I'll try to find these seeds again.

A quiet evening, washing up, drying bananas, facebook, blog, telly. The usual.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Wednesday 16th September 09

A very busy and good day... maybe because Gill ensured that I had a lie in, and I came downstairs after 9am, and had some good chats over breakfast.

However, I had assorted things to do so I got on and did them.

I cycled down to Lawrence Street and measured three parking spaces which have a two-hour limit, so I could work out how much turf to get. This don, went on to Morrisons to get a big jar of Marmite, and some goats cheese for Gilly. Then on to St Nicks to discuss a job which has been advertised there, with the recycling team. I am wondering whether to apply for it. It's four days a week, 28 hours, and pays £10K. If I got it, it would be a big change for me as I'm used to pretty minimal paid work, and lots of free time to do things which reduce my cost of living. But the Fiddlesticks work is not that busy and I'm missing the writing work, so I might give the recycling job a whirl.

But I also needed to go to St Nicks to sort out the bags of stuff brought back from the Green Festival, all the paper plates and biodegradable containers, cardboard cups, wooden forks etc. I had to take out some plastic and a few cans and other non-compostable bits... but this left me with four sacks of material to bring home and put in assorted tumblers and daleks.

Home for a late lunch and then after that went up to B+Q to find out about the turf, and I easily bought what I needed. I got 12 rolls for £31. I'll collect them on Monday, the day before the stunt.

Then did a little bit of riddling, and dug out a pallet heap into a builders bag so I could re-load the pallet bin... and took some riddled compost down to Richard at Country Fresh, and brought back a huge load of perhaps 80kg. More composting, finished pruning the little cherry tree, and picked some pears. I prepared the pruned cherry wood into a 'magic staff' for one of my boys who desperately needed one.

Gill used the broccoli I bought to add to a lightly spiced curry that one of the boys had requested and we had that with rice and pitta bread.

I then popped out to see Lynn who's been requesting some dried fruit for weeks, and saw that she has got a garden parasol to lend to the Car Free Day event.

So a busy day. Productive, active, feels good.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Tuesday 15th September 09

Last night I replied to an offer of some Lilac logs on Freecycle and put that I'd be happy to collect by bike trailer, and put my phone number into the reply email. I was phoned very promptly by the lady making the offer and she had chosen me as I was collecting by the lowest carbon method possible. She'd had one enquiry from as far away as Castle Howard, and many other offers of collection in cars. So, this morning, after cycling our little 'un to school, I cycled over to Stockton Lane and got a trailer-full and panniers full. When I got home I chainsawed it up and split the biggest chunks, but didn't manage to stack any of this.

Whilst taking a break, I got a message from a friend that I would be an angel if I would accompany them to their GP's as the person in question was rather upset about an unpleasant health problem which has developed. This person is a short train ride away so mid afternoon I cycled down to the station and hopped on a train.

The GP took the issue seriously and my friend is going to be fast-tracked into the hospital. Pretty scary, not knowing how serious the problem is.

I got back just before 8pm, as I had a bite to eat with my friend and talked about something other than ill health. I used both train journeys to delete old emails as I have a real problem with too many emails coming in each day, and not deleting enough of them. So time to delete a hundred or so was really welcome.

A quiet evening, lit the stove and prepared some apples for drying.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Monday 14th September 09

No lie in this morning... Gill wasn't feeling like taking our youngest into school so I cycled in with him. On the way back I collected more aluminium cans from Windmill Lane, about another 20 or so, plus some plastic bottles. I'm glad to pick them up but really mystified why people think it's OK to throw them into the hedge and verges.

Anyway, it made the early start a bit more useful, but I didn't do much for an hour or so after that, just spent time with Gill, washed up, did the recycling, the usual household chores. I had a phone call with Karen who knew Austin and was as shocked as I was to hear what happened.

In fact, had a very quiet day, did a significant amount of work on the computer (if you call emailing 'work'?) but this included some York Rotters stuff, Fiddlesticks stuff, various bits and pieces. Oh and I went to the bread shop and got 'Yesterbake' and found some stuff in a skip which I put on Freecycle. I picked some beans for tea and washed some potatoes. Gill made tea though.

I collected our youngest and spent some time outside after that, digging out last year's leafmould pile and bagging it all up, about 10 sack's worth, leaving the wire netting enclosure ready for this year's harvest. I'll soon be riddling last year's bagged-up stuff, ie leaves collected in 2007, and using it in next year's potting mixes.

After tea I went to a hastily organised Car-Free Day meeting, as some members of York in Transition are preparing for a stunt next Tuesday, which is International Car Free Day. More info posted here when things are finalised. Home by 9.30, in time to say goodnight to the children, light the stove, get water for washing up and hopefully dry some plums.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Sunday 13th September 09

I woke at about 8.30 and had my breakfast with a nice old Welsh guy (aged 88) on a walking holiday. I think his name was Gwilym and he was very nice. However, i couldn't stop and chat for long as I knew ideally I should be at UCLAN by 10am. I also knew I'd probably have to walk into town. So I got changed into Fiddlesticks clothes (minus hat!) and packed my rucksack and walked into town. The bus shelters confirmed my suspicions that Sunday morning bus services in Preston are few and far between...

But I got to the Harrington Building by about 10am and there was a lot happening there, so i went to get myself ready and was throwing my devilstick around in my usual arty way by ten-past.

I had a lovely day, working almost continuously. Towards lunchtime though, the Facilites Manager Phil, whom I'd had a discussion with last year about recycling I think, took me to the nearby Students Union Building to see the huge array of solar photovoltaic panels and the real-time readout in the building. You can read about this in more detail in this pdf newsletter (scroll down to page 3 'Solar Signpost') and the latest developments with more solar electricity and wind turbines coming on stream with this pdf, first page. I was very impressed, although the real-time monitors needed some explanation as to what the numbers actually mean.

I enjoyed lunch and the afternoon session even more, especially as Zoot showed me how to use a 'walking ladder'. I wasn't very good but I reckon I could be if I practiced! I also enjoyed watching The Wonderful Stevie with contact juggling and bubbles.

And all too soon (!) my enjoyment of Pugwash Convention and the Red Rose Brass Band came to a close as Stevie and I were offered a lift down to the station so we could get the 4.30 train.

I got changed at the station and our train was on time. However, there were quite a few children on the train, some of whom were fascinated by Stevie's constant contact juggling (see
this YouTube vid for one style of this, and this one and this one for more amazing manipulations!) I made a few balloon animals but Stevie really got their attention with a contact juggling workshop followed by plate spinning... it was a lovely sight to see, and one of the best train journeys I've had! Stevie doesn't have a website (yet) but if anyone wants to book him, you can ring 0113 261 0057 or email raw_raw_inexpert (at)

He got off in Leeds and then did a load of huge bubbles on the station platform, much to the delight of the children (and their parents!) I had another half hour to York and got home to my family at about 7pm.

What a weekend!

I did my blog and emails late on, and received the very sad news that my friend Austin Wilson died last weekend, very suddenly after the Green Festival. I talked to his widow Azra on the phone and she told me what had happened. I know them because they have provided fantastic Indian food at YGF since we started three years ago. They had been married 30 years and were a lovely couple. I am very upset and will attend the funeral on Friday.

Saturday 12th September 09

Up ridiculously early before 6am as the train to Preston is at just after 7am. I'd already got my ticket so I parked and locked my bike and got my stuff and got onto the train which was waiting as it started at York. I had agreed to meet Robin, who was coming down from Darlington, and I saw his train come in and he just got to the Preston train on time.

I'm very glad he did as he is such an entertaining chap, always full of anecdotes and funny stories, and I enjoy his company both when he's working as an entertainer and when he's travelling or socialising with me. So we caught up a year's worth of stuff, and at Leeds 'The Wonderful Stevie' got on so we suggested he sat with us. Stevie is the calmest and quietest of the three of us, but even so, the conversation flowed and erupted into laughter many times. It was amusing to find that all three of us were vegetarian, have never owned a car, have a pony-tail hair style, don't like football, rugby or cricket... and I'm sure there were other co-incidences too.

So, we all piled out at Preston and squeezed into a 'black cab' taxi which was a tight fit as Robin is large and between us we have a lot of weird luggage. The Harrington Building at UCLAN isn't that far away but a shared taxi was a good idea. We spent a while waiting to be told where to go, and when the person with that decision-making responsibility arrived, we all went to get changed and get to work. I was at the Harrington Building, where new students trickled through to collect keys. I had plenty of time to practice new tricks, including some 3-ball juggling (something which doesn't really 'grab' me) including juggling 3 balls whilst on the unicycle, this was a first for me, and certainly looked like it, so I was glad there was hardly anyone around.

After lunch Stevie and I were taken to Roeburn Hall, a halls of residence where all the rest of the action was... the other entertainers and two bands. And of course, hundreds of students and their families, many of whom were young enough to enjoy balloon models. I enjoyed devilsticking to the music and jolly repartee with the students and families.

Just before 4 I was taken back to the Student Union Building, '53 degrees' and almost instantly there was a bus which took me to near my bed and breakfast at Ashton, on the corner of Tulketh Road and Victoria Parade. I checked in, paid and collapsed onto my bed and was soon asleep.

I woke again at 8pm. I hopped on my unicycle and went to visit my friends Stephen and Meg, who live just round the corner. They were about to have their evening meal, as Stephen had done a 50 mile sponsored cycle ride and had only been in half an hour. I stayed about 10 minutes and unicycled down to Watery Lane to ring Robin and tell him I didn't want to come into town to meet for a drink and take away, and I went to a Spar to get a sandwich and some fruit for my tea. And another quick pedal up to the BnB to eat.

Later, at 11, I decided I should phone Gill and tell her I was OK, so I hopped on the unicycle again, cycled up to the Blackpool Road and turned right towards the Woodplumpton Road junction. I spotted a baby hedgehog crossing the bridge over the railway, so I stopped and walked behind it to make sure it didn't go into the road, and when at the other side, I helped it into Haslam Park.

It was good to chat to Gill who'd had a good day. We spent about 20 minutes on the phone, the full 40 pence-worth allocation. Then back to the BnB where I put my laptop on and deleted loads, as my inbox had overfilled.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Friday 11th September 09

For me, today was a good one. I didn't have a lot to do... just a bit of preparation for the weekend. I enjoyed time with Gill, time on the computer, quite a bit of time in the garden, and at the end of the school day, went to get our youngest.

One success was when the Wii appeared to go wrong, and there were unbelievable ructions about the disc not loading and the machine being a complete waste of money. I calmly asked the child remaining in the room to take the disc out and turn the whole thing off for a moment, and then restart it and put the disc back in. It worked and I thanked the obedient child. I called upstairs and told the upset one that I had got the think 'rebooted' (which I thought was the correct term) and got another huge earful about it not being a reboot as this would have erased all the WiiMe characters and scores and everything. I apologised profusely and bade hm come and see it working again. And so all was peaceful again, save the aggro usually associated with two brothers 'sharing' the Wii. Phew. Parenting!

The most interesting thing which happened today was a phone call from a friend whom I'll call 'B' for this story. He regularly walks past Kyi-Po, a vegan shop on Goodramgate. He is a supporter of ethical living and admires what Sarah and Matt have done. However, he had noticed that they started selling alcohol and tobacco, and was a bit perturbed about these less ethical products, and had discussed it with his girlfriend. A few days ago he noticed a notice advertising the arrival of 'triple strength vodka' and so he, without thinking, walked in and said something to the effect that he'd noticed the new products and wondered why they were selling them?

Sarah obviously felt this was an attack and yelled that what business was it of his to say what they could and could not sell...? B kept calm and said that if she had listened to what he had actually said, which was a question not anything else. Sarah continued her defensiveness and aggression and B left as he could see that he wouldn't get an answer or even a polite discussion.

Today, B was walking past, deep in conversation with his girlfriend... they didn't even look at the shop. Suddenly, Sarah and/or Matt (I am telling this story second hand, I wasn't there, so fine details might not be 100% correct) leapt out and confronted them, yelling about 'do gooders' interfering and poking their noses into other peoples' businesses. Somehow my name got dragged into this, as some weeks ago I asked them if they had a ramp to enable my friend, a wheelchair user, to get into their shop. I had a similar experience of defensiveness and abuse, and have since received unpleasent messages and hostility from both of them, despite my being a supporter of their venture. So there was a confrontation in the street, with Matthew shouting and using foul language towards B and his girlfriend, who had nothing to do with the situation at all. A crowd gathered and even the traffic stopped as it was such a commotion.

B rang me to tell me about this as I was slandered and called all sorts of names (including Matt saying I'd threatened to take him to court, which is complete rubbish!) and B wanted to warn me not to go near the place as he felt these two were capable of much more than verbal abuse. I'm very surprised by their attitude. I'm quite shocked, as surely, a shopkeeper should try to be as polite and nice as possible, as every penny you earn counts. And I was considering going in to get some more lemongrass mayonnaise which I got from them a few months back... but in the light of what has happened today, I think I'd be a fool to go in!

All that the shop-owners should have done was to say 'we've started selling these products as they too are vegan and they sell well' or words to that effect.

I did spend quite a bit of today thinking about B's experience whilst building the latest compost heap and putting some prunings through the shredder. I can only think that the shop owners have some sort of persecution complex. And no-one I know is critical of what they are doing or opposed to them or their shop... until today that is! I am going to find out if what they said about 'not being able to have a wooden ramp available for wheelchair users who want one being against the planning regulations' is true or not. I think it's nonsense.

Anyway, I had a good day and got quite a bit done. Good chats with Rich a the fruit shop, friendliness at Freshways too. Got on well with the kids and Gill. What more could I want from a Friday?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Thursday 10th September 09

A busy morning, cycled into town... first to put two cheques in from recent gigs, then to the bank to try to work out why there's so little in there. (answer, school shoe shopping!) Then to the station to get tickets for Saturday, when I'm off to Preston for the weekend. Then to the Credit Union to withdraw some money from there, and took that cheque to the bank to help our balance there. Finally, back to the building society to get cash out so we can get by over the weekend.

Came back via Country Fresh and Freshways, another 3 bags of assorted compostables and reusables.. and home for a squishy avocado sandwich. Yum.

Had a good afternoon at home, did some chainsawing and have much less of a pile to do now. But, I have loads of stacking, something I enjoy doing.

Before tea, I walked down to Blockbusters with both boys, as they wanted to rent a computer game for a week... and so they got a Wii game with lots of rabbits, known as Rabbids on this disc.

Gill had made pizza for tea, but the dough hadn't risen much so it was a kind of unleavened bread pizza. The toppings were good though, home grown tomatoes and some wild mushrooms I picked off a verge between here and the University.

Yet more pear peeling and slicing, and a hot evening loading up the drying racks...

Had a quick peek at one of my favourite blogs, 'The Compost Bin' and found this:

Many thanks to Compostwoman, who is based in Herefordshire and is probably equally as keen on compost as I am... but she has chickens too!

Wednesday 9th September 09

A nice lazy day in many ways. Just did some housework, picked some tomatoes, riddled some compost, did some dried fruit. At 3pm I cycled down to school, and on the way picked up LOADS of aluminium cans, well over 30, which over the summer had been thrown into the long grass and nettles on the verge on Windmill Lane. I picked them all up and bunged them in my trailer, when I got home I had a stamp-fest and squashed them all. I need to go and visit a metal merchant soon.

I had a bright idea about a fundraising stunt. Ask a load of people to collect lots of aluminium cans, unsquashed. Hold a competition to see how many cans can be squashed in 30 seconds. Or, a system with with one point for a can squashed on it's side, and two points for a can squashed so it's just a circle. This latter method is more difficult: put the can on flat ground with the opening downwards, and just gently crinkle the sides of the tin inwards a bit. This reduces the risk of the can popping out from under your foot, and increases the likelihood that it will squash down into a small circle. This stunt would be fun, as can squashing is an art... a bit hit or miss, even for someone experienced like me, and the squashed cans would be left to sell for cash, to raise money for whatever cause you chose. Entrants could pay to enter, or be sponsored, and a prize or prizes awarded for the most done in the allotted time, or most points earned.

Any thoughts folks? Am I just being a daft eco-dreamer or shall I organise something like this?

At about 8pm, I decided to go to the Green Drinks meeting at the Black Swan, which was nice as I had some good chats with Guy, David (who shared some astounding news), Sarah, whom I introduced to several more people she could interview for her PhD, Graham, Rich, Ivana, and Jim who is going to come and see my composting set-up soon I hope.

I got back in time to see Newsnight with Franny Armstrong and Ed Milliband discussing air-travel and carbon emissions. Good to see the Age of Stupid getting another mention and the new campaign 10:10, to get people to commit to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010... a good start for the vast majority of people who haven't yet begun to act. Possibly a little more difficult for someone like me who has already cut their emissions significantly. It is easy to take a tonne off a footprint of ten tonnes, but more difficult to shave off 100kg from a footprint of a tonne or so... but I've signed up anyway, as I reckon our solar hot water panels will reduce summer gas use and summer evening log use.

Had a nice chat with Ali after midnight...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Tuesday 8th September 09

Woken early as school creates a lot of tension in this house... sometimes so much Gill talks about home education. But both boys did get over the morning difficulties and got to school on time.

I had another free day... and made best use of the morning spending time with Gill as this just isn't possible when the boys are around. Between 11 and 12 we both went round to see Maria, and have a coffee and chat. She gave me a bowl full of plums off her very well-laden Victoria Plum tree, and a load of 'Discovery' apples, windfalls. I will dry some of these. Gill wants to make a crumble with the plums.

Home for lunch, after which I got several phone calls, one from the organiser of the Charity Fancy Dress Ball I worked at on Saturday, about David's photos, as she wants a couple to send out with the press release. David is happy to sell them to people who want a happy memory of a fun evening.

Later, I was loading some more fruit and veg material into the CompoSphere and began to roll it, as instructed, and it fell apart. The fixings provided are just not good enough, I'll replace them all with stainless steel bolts. This evening I emailed the manufacturers to give them feedback.

I came in at 6.30 and rushed down a plate of pasta, and then cycled off to the Fulford Social Hall with my laptop, an essential part of the presentation that Peter and I were giving to the Fulford Women's Institute. We used part of the brilliant film A Farm for the Future with Rebecca Hosking who first hit the headlines with her 'Plastic Bag Free Modbury' and now is well known for exploring peak oil, climate change and Permaculture through this BBC documentary.

The talk/film/discussion went well. Good to get the Transition message across to a bunch of people who were NOT 'the usual suspects' (OK, Candy was there, but everyone else was not a regular green-group attendee!) However, afterwards I did chat to one woman, who turned out to be Jane, a Green Party member, but I've only ever met her in a Green Party setting once. Several people were interested in getting speakers into their school or community group, which is good.

Cycled home and did a bit of fruit preparation and the usual writing which you have just read. Oh, and some lively discussions on facebook!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Monday 7th September 09

I had a well deserved lazy morning, although I got quite a bit done... Gill took our youngest to school and our eldest had a couple of friends round as they didn't start school til 11am or thereabouts. I did some washing up and tried to reduce the large numbers of emails which have accumulated in my inbox over the weekend.

My neighbour popped round as he'd seen a rat either going into our garden or coming from it... and says there is nowhere in his garden where they could possibly be interested in, or living, or feeding... so it must be my fault! I promised to set my traps to see if I could do something about it. I suggested he too set a trap, but he said that the rats weren't his problem or responsibility!

I spotted a few wasps around the nest that I thought Id finished off... looks like I'll have to continue disrupting it and making it difficult for them to get in and out. The glass bowl is still in place, but there might be another entrance.

Gill went to Poppleton to visit our old friend Kate, who was a friend of Betty Adelaide, Gill's mother. Betty Ad would have been 90 this weekend, so Gill went to put flowers on the grave of both her parents.

Therefore I went out to pick up our youngest from primary school, and had a nice chat with a mum who attended the festival yesterday, who loved it and had a really good time.

When I got back, Gill was just in and our other son was home too. I went to see Ben who wanted to discuss something about this evening's LETS meeting, and Raj at Freshways who was talking with some chaps about the landlord of who had tried to remove a parking meter, firstly by jemmying off the solar panel, and then attaching it to a vehicle and pulling the whole thing out of the ground. The parking meter person told me he'd really enjoyed the festival especially Seize the Day. He loved their harmonies and political lyrics.

I brought back three sacks of stuff, and loaded up a dalek and the composter I'm trialling, a spherical roll-around thing called a CompoSphere. I harvested beans, a squash, a pumpkin and cut back some withering squash/pumpkin vines.

Gill made tea... some pasta parcels with a tomato sauce made with our own tomatoes, beans and bought onion. Delicious. I then went out to the LETS meeting, Ben chaired and we agreed a reshuffle which will hopefully make things work more smoothly. I now have the important task of minutes secretary, which was vacant. We had a wide-ranging conversation about membership fees and admin fees... but came to no clear conclusion. Feedback about the LETS stall at the Green Festival was that it was fab... we got 5 new members and at least one rejoiner. And the rejoiner turned out to be Sue, a friend I've known for about 20 years, so after the meeting we chatted and caught up. Good to see her.

I got back soon after 10pm and prepared windfall apples and pears for drying. And washed up with stove-heated water.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Sunday 6th September 09 YORK GREEN FESTIVAL

Up at 7am so I could get to Rowntree Park by soon after 8 to get ready for one of the most important dates of my year, York Green Festival. I took my bike trailer and panniers full of toilet rolls, 50m of electric cable on a roll, dried apple for the LETS stall, my Professor Fiddlesticks hat and a bag of modelling balloons and some used but reusable bin bags which I felt would probably come in useful at the end of the event.

I wasn't the first on site, and several of the marquees and gazebos had already been put up the previous day. My role was to hover around the Terry Avenue entrance and direct people coming into the park to set up stalls to the right place. I also did quite a bit of running around getting bits and pieces and 'gophering', either on foot or on my bike.

11am, the start time, came all too soon. There were still a couple of cars on the main field which I had to usher to the parking area, and there were various stalls which hadn't read the literature we provided and hadn't brought a table, and were therefore asking if we could provide them with one. We had problems getting the park keeper on the radio to see if he had a spare table in his building, but we did manage to get everybody sorted out. When the first band went on, I cycled round to the other side of the river, via the Millennium Bridge, to listen from near the potential sources of complaints. As I was listening to the band, a couple of boats passed and their sound was louder than what was going on in the park. I wrote down what I had heard, when and where.

As I cycled back into the park I became aware that the sun was out! Whoopee! A much better day than YGF08, when early in the afternoon it began to rain and gradually got worse and worse. Today the weather was really good, with a bit of a breeze, occasional sunshine and periods of being overcast... but the rain didn't start til about 5pm when we were due to finish.

As I was busy the time went quickly. I was really happy to see Gill and the boys; there was some doubt that they would make it as school starts tomorrow and there is still homework to be finished. I took a few minutes to sit down and have one of Azra's curries, with her homegrown potatoes, carrots and runner beans. This came with fair trade rice and a green lentil dahl. It was delicious.

At about 1.30 I asked Rory Motion to do an announcement between bands and say that I was going to do some balloon animals in kids area, and I had my silly hat on and blew one up and made a very quick elephant, giving it to one of the children in front of the stage. I then made my way to the kids area and did about 30 minutes of balloon model giveaways.

Then I did more soundchecks, one in the residential areas to the West of the park, where the main stage was pointing to, and another on the other side of the river when Thatcher's Bush were playing... perhaps a bit too loudly, and my radio message got them turned down a bit.

Quite late, maybe 4pm, Ali and her entourage turned up... a carer, a friend and her little daughter, and Ali's enthusiastic and excited daughter. Seize the Day were just starting... they are absolutely brilliant, very political, lovely music. Vibrant, upbeat, angry, positive. Perfect for our event. As we had overrun a bit, they finished soon after 5, and I got the chance to thank the audience and Seize the Day. I wished I had asked the audience to pick up their cigarette butts as I spent the next hour and a half litter picking, 90% of which was fag ends. I hung on til Baz came back with the van at 7.30 to help load up a very heavy marquee... and then I cycled round to Rich's to help unload it into his garage.

Despite my being very knackered by this time, I spotted a load of waste wood offcuts and so I stopped and loaded up some spare space in the trailer, a bin bag and a carrier bag full of these.

When I got back, Gill had some food ready and I lit the stove. After I ate, I fell asleep on the sofa for an hour as Gill was putting the children to bed... but after I had a coffee I perked up and did my emails, typed this and chatted to Gill about the people we'd seen, conversations we'd had, what the children did and other stuff, before she fell asleep whilst hemming trousers for tomorrow, the first day of term.

I am so glad that the only complaints the main council person made were that Seize the Day had a song lyric which included the word 'Bullshit' in it, whilst there were children around, and that there was no catering aimed at meat eaters. I hooted with laughter when i heard about this one... what an idiot, not realising that as we are a green festival, we are not going to promote the most polluting sort of diet. But a good result re this person. I wonder if any of the regular residential complainants from previous years complained this time, and if any complaints were upheld? Time will tell!

I am very happy tonight. Tired, but content.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Saturday 5th September 09

A very busy day today with two gigs... and quite complicated travel arrangements.

I got the 9am bus from very near where we live out to Market Weighton, where a Brownie leader was waiting to take me from the bus stop to her car, to go to Goodmanham where the Girl Guiding people own a place called Paxwold, where Brownies go and have resedential events. Last time I visited, I cycled out, but today I didn't have time as I had a second gig at 6pm.

I was part of the Girl Guides 100 year celebrations... a residential activity event with all sorts going on. Today was the first day, and I had 5x 45 minute sessions with about 25 girls in each workshop. I did a very quick whip-through the skills and that left 35 minutes for them to have 'free-play' with a 5 or 6 minute swap-round so participants could get to try different things.

I had lunch provided, which was nice of them, and I think the workshops worked well, despite being very short. I was busy til 3.30 when I quickly packed up, and in costume, got a lift back to Market Weighton to await David coming to pick me up. He came at 3.55, a bit later than planned, a bit flustered as today was the first time his car hadn't started, ever! He'd called a couple of friends and Ben I think had come along to give him a jump start.

Anyway, he got to me with plenty of time. I directed him accross country to Stamford Bridge, Stockton on Forest, Haxby, Shipton and Newton on Ouse, and we were at Linton on Ouse by 5pm. The gig was at the Air Force base there, but they were expecting me and David and had tickets with our names on at the gate.

The event was the Charity Fancy Dress Ball. I had a good time unicycling round as the guests arrived and then did a lot of workshopping inside. David ended up being the main photographer and negotiated a deal with the organisers.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Friday 4th September 09, York Rotters 5th Birthday

A busy day... with a photoshoot at St Nicks at 11am and then a meeting at 3.30 to sort out a Transition talk next Tuesday, a possible 'Flashmob/Freeze' fun event at 5 or 5.30 and then the York Rotters 5th Birthday Party at 7pm, plus at sometime delivering my unicycles to David, who is doing some driving for me tomorrow.

However, the day didn't work out quite as planned, but it was fine nevertheless. I arrived at St Nicks for 11am and there was a seeming lack of hurry... the event had been moved to 12 midday til 1pm, with the 11am photoshoot at 12.30. And I hadn't expected lunch to be provided. So I rang Gill and explained. Whilst I was waiting for the others to arrive, a potential volunteer turned up, so Ivana took his details and I gave him, his brother and mother a quick tour of the centre and nature reserve.

Birthday lunch was good... I can hardly believe it's been 5 years since I started York Rotters. But I've enjoyed almost every minute of my involvement with them, and am proud and perhaps a bit amazed how successful the group has been. So, sandwiches and cake... a professionally made cake in Rotters Red, with the logo on the top and some tiny vegetables strewn around the base made from icing. A very pretty cake, but the cake inside was boring. The company was great, though. Good to see Jo, York's second-most enthusiastic composter, and Kate Lock who wrote about composting in her book Confessions of an Eco-Shopper (companion blog here) and several other of the keener 'daytime' Rotters. (see the night-time lot this evening!) I was pleased to see my first glimpse of Robin's 'solar pod', a mobile demonstration unit showing how solar hot water works. This got photographed by the Press as well as the Rotters with cake. I left soon after 1pm.

I came home and did some washing up and then emailed David to see if I could deliver the unicycles to him on the way down to see Peter. He said yes, so I did. I went to Peter's to sort out our forthcoming presentation to the Fulford Women's Institute. Dot had lent a projector, Peter had found a copy of 'A farm for the Future' and had sorted out a 12 minute chunk of it to play. I took my laptop and we plugged it all together, played with assorted buttons until it all seemed to work. We also worked out what we were going to say before and after the film clip, and how this Transition event was going to work.

Before I left Peter's I had a look at his various squash plants, which were doing well. Then home via Country Fresh, where Richard explained about the forthcoming refit and some changes in the shop and the compostables collection. But good changes, which will make the whole process a little bit more streamlined and easy to operate.
There was no time for the flashmob thing.

Home and Gill had finished the cake! It was brilliant!

However, it was so big and heavy (18 eggs, 1kg flour 1kg sugar plus cocoa powder and rape-seed oil PLUS the icing!) that I said I didn't know how I could safely get it to the Environment Centre using my bike, so I rang up and Catherine came round in her car and picked it up.
I followed an hour later on my bike, with dried fruit, and looking forward to a good birthday party. The event wasn't that well attended, although those who did were 'top quality Rotters'!
One of the first people to turn up was Lynne a North Yorkshire Rotter, whom I met when I did their initial training session about 3 years ago. Then Helen M., the NYCC officer in charge of North Yorkshire Rotters arrived, with her partner, Mike, whom I got on very well with. There were of course a fair sprinkling of the more local Rotters, including Robin, who practically lives at St Nicks, Catherine, Chris, Pat, and others I've forgotten as it's now late and I'm tipsy. Yes I did have a few glasses of perry, plus sandwiches and a slice of Gill's cake which was lovely! But it didn't go on too long, and I was home for 10pm.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Thursday 3rd September 09 Professor Fiddlesticks Video at Hebden Fringe 2009

When I did the Saturday show at Hebden Bridge Fringe, on 11 July 2009, Doug Lyon filmed me and interviewed me and this is the result, posted to YouTube yesterday. I am extremely happy with the result. Thank you Doug, and Jan Taylor the organiser.

So, I found this during the computer session I had just after lunch. I had two meetings in town in the morning, then a visit to Sainsbury's and Barnitts AND the Anti Gravity shop. On the way back home I popped in to Freshways to pick up compostables. Later in the afternoon I visited Country Fresh.

Gill spent quite a lot of the day cooking a large cake for the fifth birthday party tomorrow of York Rotters. She has been asked to do it in a compost heap shape, similar to one she did before.

This generated quite a bit of washing up and work in the kitchen... and we had a very domestic day. I made a nutloaf for tea which got compliments from the whole family, which was nice. I'm glad my children like my cooking and that they are not too fussy.

The other good thing today is that the wasp nest activity has declined drastically... I think I have won! I'll give it another few days of no activity before I remove the glass dome off the original nest entrance. I think the copious watering with a squirt of biodegradable detergent in the watering can and in the sloppy compost I dropped onto any hole-digging activity must have worked. Oh, and the poking down into the cavity with a bamboo and filling the hole with the water/compost/washing up liquid mix...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Wednesday 2nd September 09

An increasingly busy day with emails and meetings. I spent a big chunk of the day with the laptop on, fielding queries, bouncing them on to the correct Green Festival person, replying, finding solutions. Things are falling into place nicely. I also did quite a bit of log wrangling... building logpiles, tidying up.

At 5 I went round to Lynn's with four carrier bags of riddled compost, which she paid me 10 Yorkys for. Then I went through to see Richard and bumped into my friend Gary Haq who wants me to go and check his compost heap sometime, and needed to know how to reduce the fruit fly problem he is experiencing. I tried to explain that it isn't a problem, that they are a resource, but actually he wants fewer fruit flies. The solution is to put all the day's peelings, cores etc in a wrap of newspaper, which means the little darlings cannot get to their food source... and when the material has broken down enough to rot through the newsprint, they are not as interested in it.

Then on to Rowntree Park where there was supposed to be a stewards meeting, but only organisers turned up, plus the ever-so-reliable Jem from JSS Audio, and his colleague who's name I didn't catch. But several of the park-keepers were there, including John who will be working on Sunday, and we were able to see the electric sockets and water availability. We had a final walk around the park with decisions as to where to put things.

It started to rain as we walked round... it did that last time too. But the weather forecast for Sunday is better. I then cycled off to Leeman Road, where a Freecycler had offered a load of compostables, threatening to lob them in the bin if nobody wanted them. I didn't want them either, but took them to St Nicks for their composting operations. Took then via a chap on Walmgate who had requested a poster for his window.

Then home, via Freshways and a talkative Raj who enquired about having a stall at YGF09. Gill had made a sort of curry with a pile of assorted veg and the carrot soup I made. This was put on a bed of rice and was DELICIOUS!!!

More email stuff when I settled down, but also got a few Scrabble moves in...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tuesday 1st September 09

Another good day, no timed things to do, kept busy.

One of the main things was that our friends round the corner were due to have their big conifer tree taken down, and they had invited me round to ask the contractor if he would like to offload the logs my way.

So, quite early, we saw the chap up a ladder cutting side branches off with loppers and a bow saw, and then cutting the tops off the tree with a chainsaw, on the top of the unsecured ladder about 10 metres off the ground, without a harness or any other safety equipment. I was astounded as tree felling is a dangerous job, and I wondered if he should have had to put on a harness or whether it is a choice. I went round to see the neighbours and they too had wondered why the tree-feller wasn't wearing a harness.

I spoke to the chap, not about his safety, but about whether he could let me have his waste materials. He told me that he sold logs and that the tree he was taking down would give him £50 worth of logs. I was happy to hear that, as I'm always happy to hear of businesses connected to renewables. I wished him well and came home.

I decided to ring the council to find out if he should be using safety equipment, and they put me in touch with the Health and Safety Executive, who took my details and basic details about the tree feller/tree fella, and asked me to email them with any photos, the address he was working at, etc.

An hour later, I was building a logpile next to the front door and the chap arrived, saying he was happy for me to have 'as many logs as I wanted'. I protested, saying that I was happy for him to take them and sell them on... he almost insisted that I take the wheelbarrow round and pick up a few lengths. What a dilemma! I had almost shopped this guy, and he turned out to be very friendly and generous. What to do? I had a chat with the neighbours and they were initially upset I'd had a conversation with the authorities, and we had a long talk about the wider effects of dangerous behaviour. The guy had his young son working with him, and my argument was that the father was risking his livelihood and even his life, and at worst, his son could lose his dad. I felt very uncomfortable with the situation, and only took two lengths of tree trunk, and didn't go back.

I decided to not email the HSE with the photos my youngest had taken, nor inform them of the chap's details, as I thought it very likely that he would work out who had 'grassed him up' and could come round and be less than friendly. But I still feel that he ought to have taken more care, not just for his own sake but for his family and the wider community.

Later, whilst I was doing more woody things, there was a huge thunderstorm and I came in. I only went back out later after dark to do a bit more wasp-nest management.

Lots of York Green Festival email traffic today, also putting up posters, and some Fiddlesticks stuff too. Also chopped up a half dozen mangoes to dry them. One of my favourite dried fruits.