Saturday, 31 October 2009

Saturday 31st October 09

Bit groggy this morning as didn't get to sleep until after 3am and the air bed wasn't brilliant, with a bit of a leak, so it became flatter as the night drew on. But there was cereal for breakfast which is always the best way to start the day, for me, and some of the conversations from last night continued until lunchtime, when other folks drifted away, and then at 2, I went out to Canon Park station, as agreed, and met Ruth, my friend from college days, and we caught up with our various bits of life story for an hour and a half in the park, mostly sitting in the walled garden. It was lovely to see her again as she is one of my longest standing continuous friends.

However Ruth had to go and see her parents and was then heading out to a party, so at 4ish she got in her car and I walked through the park back to Paul's flat. I was amazed at some of the huge trees on the outskirts of the park and in surrounding streets, some are vast Sequoias more suited to an arboretum, not residential streets! Nice anyway!

Paul was having another party this evening, with some different guests, and I again helped to prepare a bit of the food.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Friday 30th October 09

Got up early enough to get all my stuff together and jump on the bike at 10 and head off to the station, where I caught the Grand Central service to London just before 11am.

I met a nice woman on the train (in the seat next to me) who recognised me from the talk I did in Northallerton, and we chatted all the way down. She was going to visit a family member with her two teenage children, and we got on well... covered a lot of subjects in two hours!

When I got to Kings Cross I decided I wanted to go and see the Thames... and find somewhere to have lunch... so I got the circle line to Embankment and went up on the bridge where there was a busker playing a pan (steel drum) so I ate my sandwiches listening to him play. Memories of Trinidad!

I decided not to go to Tate Modern but to get the Northern Line to Edgware... found an internet cafe to do emails and blog, then made my way to where I'm staying tonight.

Paul, who's about the same age as me, lives with his parents following a business venture which didn't work out, and they are away so he decided to have a few people over, and Lisa, one of his close friends, invited me following our meeting in May, where we got on well primarily due to our views on sustainability and social justice. When I arrived, Paul and his friend Naomi were just finishing getting ready... in fact there were a few jobs yet to be done so I helped by mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors, as asked.

I also helped chop veg for dipping, and potatoes fo roasting. People turned up in dribs and drabs after work and as they could get to Edgware from as far away as Dagenham and even one from the Welsh borders. The conversation flowed and the food was good. I always enjoy meeting new people and Paul has a diverse bunch of friends ranging from a nightclub entrepreneur through to a teacher of adults with learning disabilities. I really enjoyed the evening and the company of these people.

Paul had provided some blow-up mattresses and things to sleep on, and half a dozen of us slept in the big living room.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thursday 29th October 09

A day with not much on the agenda apart from at midday we were due to collect our friends' son from the station, as he's come up from Leamington Spa for a couple of nights to spend time with our boys.

Also, Gill had booked her bike into Cycleworks to have the handlebars replaced.. the more or less straight ones were giving her backache, but she thought that curved ones would be easier for her. She'd asked at Cycle Heaven and they said they wouldn't do it! Weird. So she asked at Cycleworks, which is our nearest bike shop, and they said yes, and today was the day. So in the morning I cycled her bike (me on mine, holding her handlebars with my right hand, with hers freewheeling alongside) down the road and left it there. Mid afternoon, I went down and got it back. On the way back in the morning I popped into St Nicks and got my preserving pan back.

So the rest of today was filled with sorting stuff out in the garden, moving things around, digging out a compost heap, putting stuff from the small Compostumbler into that pallet bin, refilling the Compostumbler, tidying up my messy plastic bag habit, setting up the new wormery.

Then in the evening, amongst other things, I did lots of paperwork... wrote an article for a magazine, wrote a couple of important Fiddlesticks emails, made several rail times phone calls, and more.

Later on, got myself ready for a trip down to London tomorrow. I've been invited to a party and a Fiddlesticks booking. I'm using the Grand Central service on both journeys as it was the cheapest.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Wednesday 28th October 09

Quite an early start as although my work in Leeds starts at midday, the train times mean I had to leave on the 10.11 train. And before this, I had to deliver the pumpkin soup to St Nicks.

So, I was up before 8 and had a shower and hair wash, Gill made my sandwiches and ironed my costume, I breakfasted and packed, loaded the bike. Gill was worried about my taking the preserving pan of soup on my bike, but it was quite easy and I got it to St Nicks un-spilled and with the loose-fitting lid still on. Catherine, our head Rotter, was pleased to see this.

Then onto the station and got my day return to Cross Gates. Once there, it was a 15 minute walk up a hill to the Church hall where Swiis Foster Care were having a half-term fun day, with about 20 children and the same number of adults invited. I arrived an hour early, as the next train of the day would have meant me getting there only minutes before being due to start, so I got the earlier train and had an hour to wait. However, there was an aerobics class going on so I sat quietly at the back and half-read, half watched this... I've never seen anything like it!

They finished at 11.30 and I got set up, got changed and the guests and organisers started to arrive. One of the staff, Gael, is a friend of mine from the Northern Green Gathering, and it was lovely to see her again. I was glad to be in costume to welcome the children, and I played throw/catch with my juggling balls, although one got lost. At 12.15 I started my show, and they were obviously completely un-used to live interactive entertainment. But quite soon I had nearly all of the children and a couple of the adults up and doing things, and the show lasted just over an hour.

As usual, whilst they were eating, I inflated a unicycle-wheel full of modelling balloons and then got everybody, including all the adults, having an attempt at making balloon animals. Lots of fun, finishing just before 3pm.

Got changed, got paid, got back to Cross Gates where I finished my NewScientist and was back in York for 4.20. Home via Country Fresh, where Martin had got me God knows how much unsold stock... I was only able to take two boxes of it on my pannier rack as my trailer was full of unicycles and juggling equipment.

I had a quick tea as soon as I got back, the boys were finishing theirs prior to going out to the St Nicks Pumpkin evening. I took my big pumpkin down, to enter it into the giant pumpkin competition, despite it being not much bigger than a human head. I decided to go via Country Fresh and picked up two sacks full of compostables and a big tray of grapes in punnets, each punnet having some mouldy grapes in, but, crucially, some good ones too! I left them in the punnets... and went to St Nicks and arrived at the same time as Gill and the boys who had walked down.

The pumpkin evening was very well attended, with quite a few folks I knew, including Jeremy Piercy, Jim and family, and Robin, to name but a few. My boys both carved a pumpkin, I had mine weighed and it was 24 lbs, and the biggest of three entrants! It looked like my medium pumpkin was the winner of the Giant Pumpkin Competition! Unfortunately, when the judge of the pumpkin carving arrived, Anneliese, and she chose her first, second and third from three age categories, neither of my boys won anything... but I won a new model of wormery called a Worm Cafe, see this (silent) video about how to use it! I was amazed.. I really hadn't thought I'd win. And it's worth close on £100! I balanced it precariously on top of the sacks of compostables and walked home with my family.

A quiet evening, slicing apples and sorting and blanching grapes. More raisins in a few days!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Tuesday 27th October 09

I had a nice morning with the family and dealt with various phone calls and things around the house. Late morning our eldest made a cake with Mum and youngest helped me with some hedge processing in the garden.

In the afternoon, Gill took the boys into town and I went to the University to attend a lecture by Professor Uta Frith about how autism helps us understand how our brians work. I had got the room number BO20 in my memory, and hadn't sussed that it was in the Psychology block. I asked someone if they knew where BO20 was and they told me it was in Biology, where all the room numbers start with BO, apparently. I went looking round Biology but didn't find the room. I eventually found someone in a 'help' office and after another 10 minutes looking through the University website, they found the lecture... in BO20 in Psychology. But by this time I would have been at least 15 minutes late so I cycled home.

But I made good use of the time, I popped into the old chap on Windmill Lane who wanted help removing a cherry tree trunk and asked him if he'd like me to do it in ten minutes... he was delighted so I cycled home, picked up my chainsaw and went back to him. The job was actually much easier than I thought it would be. The difficult job was getting the log to the front of the house, but I walked it end over end. He offered to drive the thing round to mine, I accepted as I don't think my trailer would have coped with such a heavy and long load. I don't do that very often.

I cycled home and cooked some pasta and had the remains of the tomato and trombone squash thing, and Gill and the boys arrived home, having eaten something in town.

At 7pm I set off for a long-arranged meeting with Di, a new Transitioneer, who wants to start a Huntington and New Earswick Transition group. I popped in on my friend Keith on the way, to pass on a message from two of my friends from long ago who want to be in touch with my old partner, and Keith said he'd pass on the message. The meeting at Di's was good, her neighbour Angelica came too and we had a good talk through what would be a good way of starting a local Transition group.

I left soon after 9.30 and got home at 10ish. A bit of a fraught evening as I have a dilemma about what I'm doing this next weekend. I have arranged to do one thing and now there's a chance to do something else... decisions decisions...

Monday, 26 October 2009

Monday 26th October 09

A day filled with cooking. I lit the stove and started preparing the pumpkin soup that I'll take to St Nicks on Wednesday morning and help eat during the evening's event. I decided to use the preserving pan as this holds between 30 and 40 bowls full, and our next biggest pan (a 'Le Creuset' casserole) only holds about 8 bowls worth.

So, I fried some onion, leek and spring onion, and then added a large carrot and a couple of potatoes before lots of sliced pumpkin and covering with a kettle full of water. I set this to simmer on the stove, I'll add herbs, spices and bouillon later.

Straight after lunch I took the boys on their bikes down to Country Fresh as they wanted to choose a pumpkin each for the carving competition on Wednesday. It was good to see Shirley back, as she's been away for some while. I picked up two sacks of stuff for composting but lots of these items were apples, which I'll try to make space to dry.

I got home in time to go straight out again to the Monkgate health Centre where I had an asthma check and flu jab. I've had asthma since I was a child but no-one would know as I take a tiny dose of preventative every night. However, in my late teens I ended up in hospital twice with severe symptoms, and on one occasion I came close to dying and if the ambulance hadn't have come and scraped me up off my neighbour's doorstep, I might have done. This was when I lived in an unheated house with mould on the walls, no phone, and the day after a Hawkwind concert where it is just possible I might have inhaled some toxic substances! However, even with my much cleaner-living lifestyle, I could still get a bad chest infection if I got influenza.

I popped in to Sainsburys on the way home and then cycled back with some nice bread, some cheap tomato puree and a good selection of breakfast cereals.

Before I got home I stopped off at Freshways and Raj had a lot of 'freegan' goodies for me. I was able to share the chili sauce with my friend Simon and his son (who proudly tells anybody who will listen that he's growing the hottest chilis commercially available). I don't know many 10 year olds who are chili connoisseurs!

So, my next job was to cook some tea. I did a tomato based sauce with sliced baby tromboncino squash (good picture here) and pasties, potato and salad.

After tea I continued to add to the pumpkin soup, so we have a rather hot house tonight. I'll finish it tomorrow and put it in the fridge overnight before taking it in to St Nicks on Wednesday before my work in Leeds, as I'll get back with not much time to spare before the 5.30pm start of the pumpkin event.

A warm evening.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sunday 25th October 09

Quite a lazy first part of the day but a hard-working afternoon. I did quite a bit of removal of accumulated compostable stuff which has built up in the conservatory and is annoying Gill, and the children helped me, just a little bit, with some hedge-stick-chopping. After I got tired of composting I switched to harvesting.

I picked all the rest of the pea beans, and took down all the spent vines. I picked the last winter squash plus a huge number of small 'tromboncino' squash which are very like courgettes. I'll use them in a meal tomorrow. I also picked two cauliflowers and a few stray broccoli spears. I steamed the cauli, broccoli and the youngest of the beans and had them with pizza and potatoes for tea. I'm so glad I've grown cauliflower as this is the first year I've done so and it's not that difficult. And fresh-cut cauli is so much better than even the big ones I buy in Country Fresh. I also picked some apples, they are quite small but will be excellent for drying on the woodstove.

So, spent some of the evening sorting through various vegetables and getting them ready for storage or eating. Also wrote to my MP Hugh Bayley about the meeting he and I attended on Saturday, and played some facebook Scrabble whilst Gill watched Emma on BBC1.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Saturday 24th October 09

Well, a busy enough day starting with a cycle down to town to attend the CAFOD and Christian Aid - organised York Wave, a few hundred people encircling the Minster as a gesture of solidarity for those at risk from climate change and a message to our government that we want them to set ambitious, tough and binding targets at the Copenhagen talks in December.

I was glad to go, as despite my agnosticism and dislike of how some people put their religion above their love of humanity. I think we have to get over our differences and prejudices and move towards a unified goal of looking after this planet and life on it, whatever our beliefs in the supernatural, science or otherwise. I was pleased to meet lots of people I know and love and care about, and to join hands with to surround the Minster in solidarity.

After this I went to the Belfrey Hall on Stonegate, a building I didn't know existed, and took part in a debate about the issues surrounding governance and carbon emissions, developing countries and climate change. There were four speakers, Hugh Bayley, our Member of Parliament, a Nigerian called Father Blaize, an amazing 'sustainable housing' lecturer called John Grant from Sheffield, and Rashni Mistry: I'm not sure where she was from or who she represented. They introduced themselves, Hugh going on about the overseas development work he does, and John Grant was a very good speaker about the whole gamut of issues.

After intros, the chair asked if there were any questions, I got my hand up and was picked first. I asked the question which was on many people's lips, (John Grant had referred to it) which was why Hugh had voted against the 10:10 motion on Wednesday? Now I'm not sure if I heard him correctly, but I think he said he didn't vote against it, which is a lie, according to the official website (scroll down to see if your MP voted yes or no to the motion). He very cleverly wriggled out of it by going on about the small committee who had discussed the motion beforehand, and they had come to the conclusion that the House of Commons was incapable of reducing their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. Well if they'd voted to aim to do that, and maybe got to a 5% or 8% reduction, that would have been FAR better than saying 'We don't think this is possible'. I am very very disappointed with him. And, unfortunately, the more free-thinking John Grogan whom I like a lot. Our other local MP, Anne Mackintosh, voted for the motion. How sad that party politics spoiled this debate.

Anyway, back to today's discussion. The 'Energy Champion' for York, Cllr Christian Vassie, asked another difficult question as did a couple of other people. Not all the discussion was about Bayley's voting record, there were ones on insulation and water resources and other things.

I cycled home in the rain after this. Lunch. Gill went into town with the boys.

I washed up.

At 4.30 I cycled off to St Nicks to meet with Melanie who asked me if I could introduce her to foraging... she wanted to pick some sloes so I said yes, why not, on the understanding that she'd let me sample the sloe gin when ready. We also got some apples.

I had a 'use it up tea' heated on the woodstove. I had some nice 'bundles' with the boys (boisterous play wrestling which boys like doing... girls might too but it's very common in boys!) which was fun. And a quiet evening followed.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Friday 23rd October 09

First thing in the morning (OK, after breakfast and emails, so at 10am) I went to Country Fresh to pick up the second lot of pumpkins for the St Nicks pumpkin festival evening next Wednesday at 5.30pm... fun carving and free food, all made with pumpkins!

I got 11 of them, another 10 for St Nicks and one to take home to form the basis of a pumpkin soup I've offered to make for the evening.

From St Nicks I went into town to see my friend Anita who is back from Spain for a week. She opened the door looking happy and slightly disheveled. A few minutes later Bruno came down looking equally happy. It's obvious they are delighted to be back together. Making up for lost time.

Anita made me a cappuccino and offered me chocolate bread, and all three of us had the most amazing discussion. Anita is someone I can talk to about anything as she's very broad-minded and experienced. And I'm glad to get to know Bruno a bit better. A very enjoyable hour.

And back home via Freshways who had two sacks of 'resources' for me. A good lunch, finished the tomato soup from a couple of days ago and started making another tomato-based dish as we are over-run with slightly sad tomatoes, perfect for cooking with and too good for composting.

At 2.15 I headed off to see David who is in the early throes of getting a publicity leaflet together. I was happy with what he'd done so far and hopefully he'll do an equally good job on the reverse side.

Home to an hour of compost heap building and at half five came in, washed and headed out again to the Minster this time, to meet Rachel Semlyen and Kate Lock who have been conspiring to do a 350 picture with a photographer friend they have, John from The Star. They had devised an ingenious way to get a really good image, using cardboard templates and LED torches, and the camera on a tripod with a long exposure followed by hand held flash guns from several different angles to get the best lighting. The results are amazing and I'll post it here when I can. The photo will be sent to and will probably be shown internationally with many others. Tomorrow is a big day with loads of symbolic actions to show our 'leaders' how much we care about the outcome of the Copenhagen talks in December. I'll be attending the York Wave tomorrow morning.

I got home feeling very elated and Gill had made a pasta, cauliflower and broccoli bake with the tomato thing I made earlier. What a team!

I really REALLY enjoyed seeing a programme on one of my favourite bands, Kraftwerk. Brought back loads of brilliant memories. I grew up with this predecessor of hip hop and dance music and somehow got myself an early album of theirs... it's pretty industrial but interesting textured sound. The cover looks like this:
Kraftwerk - Kraftwerk
anyone know what it is, as there is no information on the cover, or, if I remember correctly, on the discs inside?

Gill and I had a game of Scrabble and it was very close all the way through, but Gill won.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Thursday 22nd October 09

A lie-in. Awoke with a phone call, then got up and got my huge ladder to start removing the Wisteria which is trying to eat the house. I need to do this to allow the builders to replace the fascia boards and to get access to the roof to put the solar panels on, and defunct chimney off.

This took most of the day. I got the shredder out too, and shredded all the stuff I took off, making 5 sacks of shredded Wisteria for composting.

At 5 I stopped and got myself ready to go to work. I'd been booked to go to Bishopthorpe Beavers and do my show. They are like CubScouts but smaller! So, maybe 20 six and seven year old boys who loved my show and participated fully. I made it quite science-heavy but also with maximum fun, including the gag I do with the Indian club and banging it on my head which makes my eyes go wonky. Oh I do love my job! And I get paid to have such fun! Amazing!

Home by 8pm, had tea (Gill had made rice tonight) and then enjoyed Question Time with the idiotic Nick Griffin who showed himself up as many people had hoped he would. I think appearing on this programme has actually been a good thing, as people have been able to see what a vile piece of work he is.

I had a good chat with Ali on the phone at midnight, and then did the washing up, bed after 2am, as usual.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Wednesday 21st October 09

I did lots of paperwork today... I renewed our house insurance with the Co-operative Insurance Service, and got 500 points on our membership dividend. I sorted out some travel arrangements for a Fiddlesticks gig in Leeds next week. I got a pass code retrieved for a voluntary group's bank account. I did various other things involving emails, letters, the phone... But this took most of the morning. I also got an unintelligible phone call from a sales person from Titan Telecom which took a long time (I am never rude to these people, never put the phone down on them) but I also wrote a polite complaint email to the company afterwards.

Around lunchtime I went down to Country Fresh to buy and pick up some pumpkins for next week's Pumpkin Celebration at St Nicks. I got three in my trailer, one in each pannier. Came back via Freshways and got waylaid with the ever-jovial Raj, which meant I didn't get back for lunch until nearly 2pm.

Gill went to Lord Deramore's to pick up our youngest from his fieldtrip, and arrived back at nearly 5pm. He'd had a great time and was full of stories of exciting activities.

I went down to Country Fresh again to pick up their compostables, and ordered another 10 pumpkins which I'll pick up on Friday, probably needing two trips. They aren't small!

I had an interesting tea of a couple of reject sweetcorn on the cobs which I cooked and stripped off the cobs, with oyster mushroom and some rice left over from yesterday, with half a jar of 'chicken tonight' sauce (which doesn't have chicken in it) which was given to me by Gladys who doesn't eat food past it's best before date... but I have the constitution of a scavenging freegan, and pretty broad tastes, so I quite enjoyed it. I wonder what I'll do with the other half?

So a pretty quiet and unexciting day.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Tuesday 20th October 09

I enjoyed today as I visited my friend Ann for the first time in ages. She had requested some compost as she's just prepared a little patch of land for growing things in.

So I took 5 sacks of well rotted compost in my trailer over to Clememthorpe, and also some freegan Masala tea, freegan Saudi biscuits and a small bag of apple rings. I had a coffee and chat, met her handyman who was replacing a Velux window.

After this I went over to Millers Yard to pick up 5 sacks of orange halves, which I took to St Nicks. I collected my tin bath from here, as I left it there after Apple Day.

Home for lunch.

During the afternoon I finished building the logpile outside the front door.

And during the evening I watched The End Of The Line on More4, as well as playing Scrabble on facebook and doing the washing up.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Monday 19th October 09

A bit of an unusual day as our youngest is heading off to Todmorden to have three days of fieldtrip. So Gill and our little one headed off at 7.50am, on foot, to get to school by 8.15. I spent time with our eldest, and chatted carefully about things which I hoped wouldn't piss him off, and he got out of the house at the normal time.

So at 8.45 I was out in the garden finishing off the shredding of the twiggy bits of hedge... and completed this job! Hooray!

I also unloaded a couple of sacks of compostables from either Country Fresh or Freshways and found a large stash of tomatoes, of which about 25% were compostable and the rest washable and I therefore brought them in and washed them, fried an onion on the stove (in a pan, lol) and added about 40 small to medium tomatoes and a stick of celery, and cooked that up on the stove top to make a delicious soup.

Then I made sandwiches and had them before cycling off to the station to get on the 13.11 to Harrogate for my last acupuncture session with Karen. I fell asleep on the train and again on the acupuncture table. I asked her quite a few questions today, about what she was doing. Few of her answers made any sense to me, but I do come from 'Western medicine' background. I decided not to take her up on a further two sessions as although I've enjoyed this experiment, I haven't really got anything positive out of it. I agreed to fill in her questionnaire at the end of this week.

I cycled quickly back to Harrogate station and got the train to Knaresborough, and then mooched around the tile and stove shop whilst waiting for the York train. I had a fiddle with a Dovre stove and chatted to the shop assistant about flat irons and stoves. Then the York train came and took me and my bike home.

Gill had taken a phone call from a Dave on Windmill Lane, who's taken down a cherry tree and has offered me the branches. He wanted me to go round after 6pm, so I did and picked up a trailer and panniers full of freshly chopped cherry logs. He hadn't managed to take down the trunk and asked me if I had a chainsaw and could do it? So I'll go round in the next few days to help him out. Then I popped down to see Raj as he had asked me to help him with something, and after I'd spent half an hour with him, he gave me two veggie samosas.

Then I came home for tea, at about 7pm. Once again, a good tea... tomato soup followed by cauliflower, macaroni, potatoes, quiche, salad, olives... yummy!

Enjoyed some telly and tried to catch up with emails which are again building up...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sunday 18th October 09

Up early as was expecting a visit from old friends Tim and Anita, whom we haven't seen for about 10 years. They were due to arrive at about 9.30 and spend about an hour with us, before going to meet their friend who had a big 50th birthday party yesterday, someone Tim went to University with.

At about 9am they rang and said they were running a bit late, could be here at 10. I went out the front and started building a new logpile to the left of the front door (looking out) and soon they arrived, in a taxi. How absolutely lovely to see them again. They had a fruit tea and a walk down the garden and all too soon it was 11 o clock and their taxi back to Bootham arrived. Hopefully next time we won't leave it 10 years! I am very fond of them both.

So then I got to work as it was a lovely day, and did 2 hours hedge removal and shredding. I finished the hedge roots processing... pulling them apart and taking off soil so they are bare-rooted, and don't have any ground elder with them. Put all these aside for the chap to collect later.

Lunch and Gardeners Question time, then cycled to Country Fresh to get some veg and came back with a trailer load of gunk to put in layers with the shredded twigs, the perfect mix.

As I arrived back the Freecycler from near Easingwold had arrived to collect the last of the privet roots, about 160 of them. He was delighted, and shared some Oscar Wilde anecdotes with me, which was interesting.

I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out the material I'd cut off the extracted roots. Our neighbour got busy setting out where the foundations are going to go and I found him three builders 'dumpy bags' which are a cubic metre each to put the soil in. I used the rotasieve to separate roots from soil, and shredded the roots along with more of the twigs. I also collected together quite a lot of stones, which will help with the wall building apparently.

I stayed out in the rain and came in when it got dark, very achy and tired, but happy that so much has been achieved. Gill had made a good mushroom quiche, had this with potatoes and cabbage salad and some other bits and bobs.

Our youngest was very excited as he's going on a field trip tomorrow, I just kept my head down and let him bounce around and be his lovely excited self. He had a bath with water from the stove which I carried up. Played lots of facebook Scrabble and watched synthesizer stuff from my youth on BBC4.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Saturday 17th October 09

Not too early a start but as soon as I got up I went to do yet more work in the garden. This hedge removal and processing seems never-ending but it is gradually getting done.

Gill went into town with both boys on the bus to get assorted clothes. They are growing fast, and our youngest is going on a fieldtrip next week so he needs some more clothes.

I cycled round to the bread shop and bought £3 worth of 'yesterbake' bread, baked yesterday but not sold. So then it's all brought to the Tang Hall Lane Thomas the Baker and sold ridiculously cheaply, effectively at quarter of the full price. An excellent way of reducing waste. On the way back I cycled up to Harris Builders and gave them the 25% deposit cheques for the solar panels and chimney removal.

I contacted the Freecycle privet roots people and after lunch, one lady came round to pick up 25 of them, and a chap from near Easingwold is coming tomorrow to pick up all the rest.

I finished taking out the hedge, and put aside about 100 roots for the chap tomorrow. He'll be delighted. My sons also helped me start to chop up the sticks, of which there are a huge number, using loppers. This was lovely as they generally aren't interested in any garden activities. It made me very happy to work with them, although it was only half an hour maximum. Our neighbours are also very happy that I've removed the hedge so swiftly. The wall and fence will be put in soon.

Chatted on the phone to my friend Anita, who with her hubby Tim will visit early tomorrow morning. I found bus times for them as although they've got a car in Reading, they have decided to come up by train. They've a friend in York who's having a birthday. I haven't seen them for perhaps 10 years or so. Maybe more! I used to go and see them when I went to the WOMAD festival when it was held in Reading. It'll be lovely to see them again. I have lovely memories of WOMAD and it was there where I learned to do Devilsticks for the very first time.

During the evening Gill and I had a game of Scrabble. It was very close, score-wise, and whilst Gill took her goes, I did emails and wrote my blog. I won by 4 points.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Friday 16th October 09

A good day, with a bit of a late start but when I did get going I did another bout of hedge in the garden... I'm over halfway now. It's looking good, nice and open, more light. I think having a fence will be an improvement.

After lunch I did a little bit more (another 30 roots in a sack, destination unknown) but soon got ready to go and get two cheques out to pay the deposit for the solar panels, one from my Fiddlesticks money and the other from the Credit Union savings. Then I cycled round to a friend who wanted some help with a bike... simple things but this person is new to bikes and asked me to come and check it out. We walked into town and bought a pump and lights, walked back and I fixed the bike, and was rewarded with coffee and good conversation.

Home via Freshways and a quiet evening at home. Fruit drying tonight, washing up too... the usual!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Thursday 15th October 09 'Blog Action Day 09'

As regular readers will know, and new visitors would find out if they looked at previous posts, this blog is really just a daily diary. I usually just write about what I do, and rarely express an opinion or have a rant (although sometimes something gets my goat so much I just have to let rip, see this recent post about my child's Primary School and it's lack of environmental awareness), but today is a bit different.

It is Blog Action Day and it's all about Climate Change. Well, my life has evolved and been directed to be as 'climate friendly' as it is possible to be in this country whilst living reasonably normally. So today I will share with readers what I did, BUT explain the climate/carbon or otherwise ethical reasons behind this.

Firstly, I work as an entertainer 'Professor Fiddlesticks' which means I mostly work at the weekend, and have weekdays pretty much free to do what I want. I do a lot of 'home making'; things like preparing food and cooking, washing up, and gardening including some food growing. The house is heated by two smoke free Clearview woodstoves and we don't use our gas fired central heating at all. I have to do a lot of wood collecting with my bike trailer and spend time cutting, splitting and stacking logs.

My job means that I do not earn a lot of money... but in carbon terms this is great! Rich people have far higher carbon footprints than poorer people, as one of the things which adds to your carbon footprint is the embodied energy and resources in the stuff you buy. So, as financially I'm poor, I don't buy much. Some of what I buy comes from charity shops too, which is re-use of unwanted stuff. Your home heating, power and your transport choices are a huge part of your overall footprint. We use electricity (and gas) from Good Energy, who supply only renewable electricity. We only use about £80 of gas a year (Gill bakes cakes in the oven, and we sometimes use instant hot water for showering) but we get this from Good Energy as it will enable us to qualify for a little annual grant when we install the solar hot water panel on our roof, which should be before Christmas. Smokefree woodstoves are a very efficient and a clean way of heating your space; we also cook on ours, and heat bathwater, washing-up water, and dry fruit (more of this later!). Wood is a renewable resource and much of what I collect is stuff which would have been shredded and left to rot, put on a bonfire, put in a landfill or just left lying around (although this last option also has some environmental benefits).

So, during the morning I dealt with more hedge, which my neighbour has asked me to remove and he will replace with a low wall and a fence. He is going to re-use some bricks which I salvaged from an air-raid shelter I took down ages ago, and re-use an oak fence that a neighbour was getting rid of, and asked me if I wanted it for my stove! I am grubbing out the hedge and cutting off the roots over 100 of which have already gone on Freecycle, and will grow more hedge. The larger sticks will be cut to length and dried for a year before being used for kindling on the stove, the smaller twigs are being fed through my 'quiet shredder' and will make good carbon-rich and aerating layers in my compost heaps. The hedge removal will allow us to grow more food; the existing roots extend into our raised beds, making them over-dry and robbing the soil of nutrients. The fence will be designed to allow both sides to be used to for climbing plants up... I'll be growing climbing pea beans.

And talking of beans, all through the summer I've been picking the young tender green pea beans (instead of buying flown-in Kenyan green beans), but today I picked a load of the pale papery pods with mature seeds in. Some of these I'll soak and cook... replacing shop-bought baked beans, but the ones in the longest pods I'll keep for sowing next year. I also often keep a few in my pocket for giving to people to get then started with this variety.

I also did some composting. Those who know me or read this blog won't be surprised by this (!) but I usually do some composting every day. I service a greengrocer, a supermarket and a cafe, and purchase their unsold fruit and veg 'resources' at a penny per sack, and reclaim what I can from this and compost the rest. The 100+kg I cycle back home every week would all go to landfill if I didn't recycle it. Landfills emit methane from the biodegradable material in them, and methane is a climate wrecking gas 23 times more powerful than CO2. My compost heaps may emit some methane but mostly the stuff decays to CO2, water vapour and leaves a rich soil-improving humus or 'garden compost'. I have about 34 compost systems, five of them are rotating tumblers and most of the other ones are 'dalek' bins or 'New Zealand' pallet bins. I also have wormeries, a 'green cone' and am trialling a spherical rolling composter at the moment. I LOVE composting! I even built myself a compost toilet which not only saves the valuable 'humanure' but doesn't waste water. Cleaning our waste water nationally takes between 2 and 3% of our electricity, most of which is generated by burning coal. So my compost toilet means my manure isn't adding to the national (or my) carbon footprint.

At 2.15 pm I set out on my bike to the Hazel Court Civic Amenity Centre, where people can dump unwanted waste and take their recycling. The 'rules' say that cyclists are not allowed in, as they are classed as pedestrians, and pedestrians aren't allowed up at the top area, just drivers. However, the drivers get out of their vehicles and walk around, and in my view, they are therefore pedestrians. So I regularly go there with my cycle trailer full of mainly drinks cartons, which are not collected in the kerbside recycling. Today, I took several electrical items, rescued out of skips, and according to the WEEE regulations (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) these should be recycled not landfilled. So, if on my cycles around York, I find a WEEE-able item in a skip, I generally chuck it in my trailer and take it to the WEEE area at Hazel Court next time I go. Today I took a bedside light, a 'boom box' radio, tape and CD player with the CD player not working, and a slow cooker. All the metal components of these items will be recycled. I guess most of the plastic will end up in landfill. I also took lots of soya milk cartons.

From here I went on to my building society to put in a Fiddlesticks cheque, and onto Edward's house for a meeting with two halves to it. Edward is centrally involved with York in Transition, and attended the Transition Network Conference in London in May, with me. We haven't yet written a report of this for YiT, so we reviewed our experiences there and will write a report each. My report will be heavily based on my blog posts for the event, see Day One, Day Two and Day Three. Transition Initiatives are providing information about climate change and peak oil, and are helping to enable local communities to develop resilience against these coming threats with some creative projects. Those wishing to explore Transition could look at the Transition Towns Wiki the TT Network and Rob Hopkins excellent blog, Transition Culture.

The second reason I was visiting Edward was because he is updating his EcoRenovation book and he really wants to use social networking to inform that process. So, although he's had a facebook account for a while, he hasn't got to grips with it and so I offered to give him a tutorial. We ended up getting his EcoRenovation New Edition page started. This facebook page won't be published for a bit (as of today there's nothing on it!) but when it is, people will be able to contribute their thoughts on the subject. Rewriting the book will be quite a job as technology has moved on, so has the climate imperative, and there is a lot more information out there. But renovating and retrofitting an existing house is in many cases far better in carbon terms than demolishing and rebuilding, although with some housing stock the best thing to do would be to replace with really up-to-date energy efficient homes.

I left Edward's at 5.30 and popped in to Country Fresh to pick up the latest load of compostable material. Richard had four boxes and a sack for me, quite a lot... perhaps 60kg. I was pleased to find two pineapples in this lot... with some damage to one area but the rest was fine. Most consumers won't look twice at damaged fruit, but I'm very happy to use it. I cut off the damaged or rotten bits and, in this case, I sliced the rest and put about 20 slices on my drying racks above the woodstove. I use this dried fruit in my muesli, and my children eat it instead of sweets. I dry apple rings, pear slices, whole bananas, kiwi, melon, grapes (make raisins) and sweet red pepper, which once dry, I put in a blender and the sieve the dust to make an excellent sweet red pepper paprika, which I add to soups and stews. I also make fruit leather... a blend of different fruit, sieved and then put in a non-stick tray and dried. When dry, this is cut into strips and it is wonderful. Obviously, the taste depends on what fruit is put in!

Later on, I made some soup (mixed veg, leek and potato) on the woodstove, and we'll have that with some crusty bread tomorrow teatime.

So, this was a fairly 'normal' day for me. A lot of what I did was low (fossil) carbon and climate friendly. Not everything I do is zero carbon and I don't think it is possible to have no impact. For instance, I have fathered two children with Gill and today Gill bought new shoes for one of them. An environmental impact. Gill also shopped at the Co-op and bought breakfast cereal. This was not organic (lower carbon option as no pesticides/artificial fertiliser used) and even if it was, there is still a carbon footprint involved in processing and transportation. However, because of the choices I've made re transport, home heating/energy, shopping habits, I have a carbon footprint (according to ActOnCO2) of half a tonne a year. Double this to include the public transport I use, and take some away for the stuff I take out of skips (maybe?) and I'm probably living with a footprint of about a tonne a year, possibly a footprint within the carrying capacity of the Earth. The main thing, though, for me, is that I'm happy and enjoying living this way.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Wednesday 14th October 09

A very late morning... Gill got me up at 8 to see if I could sort out a child's bike brakes (which I did) and I then went back to bed, til 11. Lovely. Partly as I was up til 3am last night... or this morning, if you want.

So, after lunch I did a big load of shredding, the stuff I cut yesterday. Then I attacked the hedge again and yanked out a load more, cutting the roots and bottom of the plant off and removing all the spare soil, and pulling congested roots apart. This realised another 60 plants, which I bunged in a sack and invited another Freecycler to come and get.

I worked up until teatime and had a quick tea and then went to the Hull Road Ward Committee meeting which was just round the corner. This was the meeting where this year's funding applications are presented. John from St Nicks presented his request... something towards a new CCTV system and another requested grant towards some new play equipment. Then people in the ward vote for which ones they like and don't like... and the Council decisdes who gets the money.

This finished at about 8.30 and I popped in back home to check all was well, and then cycled down to Green Drinks for a single pint, just one hour. Had some chats with Ivana and Graham, Dave and Jennie, and a couple of others, but I was tired and came away at 10. Glad I did as when I got home I watched Newsnight which had a piece on the Green Movement with Justin Rowlatt and Caroline Lucas. 'Twas good.

So, a quiet evening followed, ploughing through emails, following up various things I'm obligated to do.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Tuesday 13th October 09

Up at a civilised time... 8.30am. I had breakfast and did emails and waited in for a chap from Harris builders who said they were coming round at 10am to collect the contract for our solar hot water system. Gill went out to go to Priory St for something, and I waited... and waited... wanting to go out into the garden and do more hedge. At 10.50 I rang the company and left a message saying I wasn't happy with being told I'd be visited at 10am and was waiting in... and I am too busy to be messed around. I got an apologetic message back saying the chap had been held up in Harrogate (so why didn't he ring me?) and would be here at 1pm.

I went into the garden and dug up more hedge. Just before 1pm I came in for lunch and awaited the builder. He actually came at 1.45. I suppose I'll have to get used to 'builder time'. The York Press had already arrived and I was delighted to see that they had published an article about the Charity Fancy Dress Ball, including David's photo.

I had a bit of time in the garden but towards 3pm I got my bike ready to go and get our youngest, as Gill had had a 'ladies who lunch' meeting in town and was only just getting the bus back home (she rang me to check I was collecting him) I arrived a bit early, despite collecting my first two sacks of autumn leaves on Windmill Lane. I had an extra plastic sack so when I got to school I couldn't help but check the playground bins. The school is STILL not recycling the huge volumes of fruit the children throw away. In just 5 minutes I filled a plastic sack with half-eaten apples, banana skins, raisin packets, paper towels. I weighed it with my spring balance when I got home... 17 and a half kilos. I also retrieved 12 uneaten apples, two uneaten bananas, one unopened orange, one uneaten peach and a bag of grapes, uneaten. These were all thrown away and NOT RECYCLED. I will wash these and eat them myself. I also checked the big bins and these were full of mixed waste including plenty of recyclable material such as metal cans and cardboard and paper. The dedicated paper bin was overflowing but had some non-paper items in it. This means it will probably be rejected and will go to landfill.

Shame on you Lord Deramore's School. I started trying to get you to compost your fruit for schools waste in 2001. And 8 years later, you have removed the bins you grudgingly let me install, have lost several parts of my bins, making them useless, and are now putting about 8Kg/day easily biodegradable fruit waste into landfill. Shameful. I am SO ANGRY.

I am also very angry with the City of York Council for letting this crap situation continue. I let them know I don't know how long ago, and was promised that there would be some changes and that Lord Deramores School would be dragged in to the 21st Century and be taught how to behave in an appropriate manner when you are a school teaching children who will have to cope with catastrophic climate change caused precisely by the kind of ignorance and lack of care that the school is demonstrating. I am FURIOUS. I even spent many hours helping to start and then volunteering with Green Thumbs, primarily to facilitate a composting area or project... and now Green Thumbs isn't happening and the children aren't learning about gardening. I think they should give the money back to the Co-op who would re-allocate it to a worthy project.

What more can I do? I want to embarrass them into action. I want them prosecuted. I need to tell them and the world what I think of their attitude. Schools exist to prepare the next generation to get by in the world. They teach various skills. They should set a good example. This school is showing the children that they just don't care. This is quite plainly wrong.

I cycled home with my load of leaves to make into leafmould, sack of compostable fruit stuff and the bag of nice fruit which I'll have over the next few days with my muesli.

I then spent another two hours getting hedge out, cutting off the tops and shredding the thinner twigs for composting, cutting up the larger sticks for drying and recycling into heat, and putting the roots (35 today) into a plastic sack so another Freecycler can have them and plant a new hedge. I came in at 6pm and had a nice plate of Bulgar wheat with roast veg, watercress, carrot-sticks, baked beans and a cheese straw. Not bad!

At half 6 I headed off to the Millennium Bridge, as Councillor Andy D'Agorne had invited me to see the new lighting possibilities there. When the bridge was built, it did have some good lighting but then vandals discovered they could easily destroy the lights, and also, repairs and replacements meant the bridge had to be closed. So, the Council have teamed up with Philips Lighting, and this evening were looking at a variety of lighting solutions. To cut running costs and reduce the frequency of replacing them, the bridge will have LED (light emitting diode) technology. This will allow very dynamic colour changes, for special occasions, or white light for normal use. When Philips re-did the lighting on a bridge in, I think, Newcastle, the cost of lighting the structure dropped from several tens of thousands of pounds a year to just £4k, if I remember the quote correctly. There were some interesting conversations about renewable electricity and some of the lighting choices. The reduction in overall energy use is the greenest thing about the project.

I had to leave at 7.20 as I was due at a York in Transition meeting at The Stables.

This was a good meeting, with a visitor from Spofforth and a small bunch of the committed Transitioneers. It was a relaxed but productive meeting, one which leaves me with a few jobs to do... including working on the supporters leaflet. I had a chat with Di afterwards, and agreed to visit her in a couple of weeks to plan a first meeting of the Huntington and New Earswick Transition Initiative. I decided not to go to the pub afterwards as I was tired.

Home soon after 10pm. Despite tiredness, stayed up til 2am writing and watching the last episode of Electric Dreams on BBC4.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Monday 12th October 09

A good day... got the paperwork for the new quote for solar panels, using Solartwin. My friend's worries about the photovoltaic-powered pump being from a car windscreen washing device are unfounded, and the reports from another nearby installation are really good, so we're going for Solartwin. Harris Builders are using the Solartwin installers, and Harris will provide the scaffolding, take down the unused chimney and make good the roof and re-do the fascia boards.

We are pleased we've made this decision. It will fulfill our desire to reduce our already low carbon footprint yet further. We will get some cash back from the Government for putting it in, and also will qualify for a small amount of money off our gas/electric bill from Good Energy. I don't know how much this will be.

So, after dealing with this paperwork, I spent quite a bit of time doing the shredding of the hedge that I've removed so far. Last time I took a load of hedge out, I left all the twiggy bits to the end, and then spent AGES processing them. This time I'm removing hedge, passing the roots on to people who want a Privet hedge, and processing the tops as I go. Much more sensible.

I came in for lunch at 1pm, as usual, and then at about 1.45 cycled down to the station minus my trailer so I could put the bike on the train to Harrogate, and cycle over to Karen who is using me as a subject for her Masters degree on acupuncture and ADHD.

As I experienced in the previous two sessions, I found the lying down on the treatment table to be most relaxing. I'm not sure why this is... proponents of Traditional Chinese Medicine would say something to do with Qi and energies, but I'm not sure. I wonder if it's because I rarely get a chance to lie down in the middle of the afternoon, and usually get only 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night?

Anyway, I'm enjoying the experience. I haven't felt any changes in my energy levels though, nor am I any tidier! Karen thinks I might need 15 to 30 sessions to get any lasting effect.

I got the 5pm train home and was home by 6 via Freshways... and went straight into the garden to do another hour of hedge processing. Beautiful sunset.

Pasta tea. Lover lea.

Quiet evening, did some more plums.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Sunday 11th October 09

A lie in, lovely!

After lunch I cycled down to York Cemetery to go on a fungal foray with another fungus enthusiast, Findlay Cook. I asked both my boys if they'd like to come but the answers were negative, pity. Lots of people turned up, but because of the mostly dry weather, relatively few fungi. There were a few 'ink caps' and related 'fairies bonnets', a parasol, puffballs, a bracket and quite a few difficult to determine species. After the walk around, we went to the Chapel where Findlay had got a few more specimens he'd found elsewhere, including some Amanita muscaria, the Fly Agaric, and a conjoined pair of ceps.

I had a good chat with my friend Jane, who's a wheelchair user, about access to shops and what she thinks about places which could easily be more accessible but don't bother. We are both pretty pissed off with some people's attitude.

When we finished our chat, Findlay had cleared up and put all the specimens in a bag, so I asked him if he was intending to use the double Boletus... and he was happy for me to have them. So I cycled home with some Shaggy Ink Caps and the little 'penny buns' and I cleaned these up and put them into a frying pan when I got home.

When I'd had a coffee I went to sort out more composting and pulled out another few Privet hedge plants. This resulted in between 10 and 15 roots, and another Freecycler came round to pick them up.

Gill made a pizza with home-made tomato topping, and we had that with potato salad, and some tough avocados which I think need to ripen a bit.

The most mention-worthy thing during the evening was that I prepared a lot of plums, and put them in a drying tray on a plastic bag, so that they dry on the stove over the next day or three, and can then be peeled off the plastic and put on a rack to continue drying. They end up chewy and delicious, by far my favourite way of preserving fruit, and my favourite way of eating fruit too!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Saturday 10th October 09

Up reasonably early as had to be ready for David to come round at 9.30am as he's doing the last of the photos for my new publicity leaflet. I really wanted to get a shot of the devilstick balanced on my nose, taken from above, looking down along it's length. So I got changed, got the big ladder out and took it down the garden to the orchard where there is a bit of open space. The light was perfect to begin with... diffuse and misty but 10 minutes later the sun burned through and the lighting got more difficult... a brighter sky meant I couldn't look up as easily without squinting. But, after a bit of manoeuvring and trial and error, we got some good shots.

Then we cycled down to the Novotel which has some good red walls which David really liked when he did the photos last Christmas, so we asked permission and moved pictures off walls and moved a light and tables to get to the right bit of wall. We spent over an hour there, and had a break with a coffee each after which we got some excellent shots.

I had a brief early lunch and got down to St Nicks for Apple Day, where I'd been booked to do Apple Juggling... and to help with announcing (I've a big voice which I can project) and operating the apple press. It was an excellent do, well attended and lots going on. Nettlefoot Kate did her storytelling, popular as ever, the 'Apple Olympics' had apple and spoon races, Andreas did a winning apple peel of about 180cm, and there were lots of some delicious cakes, crumbles and sauces... all made of apple. And juice... the St Nicks staff and volunteers had done a load in the morning and continued crushing and pressing apples all through the afternoon too.

Gill showed up with the boys plus their friend who is spending a lot of time with us, and there were lots of other lovely people there. It wound down around 4pm but I helped sort out various things and didn't leave til 5. I arrived home exhausted.

But after a brief sit down I did do a 45 minute session of compost loading before settling down to some lightweight telly and a delicious pasta-based tea.

A quiet evening... I did consider going to the Green Party music night, a band called Fusion with my drummer friend Keith Jackman, at the Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Road, but I was feeling like a quiet night in just playing Scrabble on Facebook, dealing with fruit on the racks, chatting with Gill etc etc. It was a good evening which couldn't have been better really.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Friday 9th October 09

Gill got me up quite early as a wasp which had come in with the logs last night had reappeared and she wanted me to 'deal with it'. However, when I got downstairs, bleary eyed after just 5 and a half hours sleep, it had gone to ground again.

This wasp phenomenon is the only disadvantage to bringing logs in from the piles outside the house. At this time of year the queens leave the nest and find somewhere to overwinter before setting up home in the spring. Often they choose my logpiles, and I find them on the underside of logs, torpid and still, and I flick them off into another logpile to sleep the winter away. But if I don't find them, they wake up in the warmth of the living room and fly drunkenly around. They are bigger than normal wasps, perhaps about half as big again, and could be classed as a bit scary!

Anyway, much though I would have liked to go back to bed, I didn't, and after breakfast went to a road near Country Fresh to collect four sacks of windfall apples that someone wanted to dispose of, but didn't want to put in landfill. I'd agreed to collect them, and I took them to St Nicks to sort out into compostable and juice-able. About half of them were OK. When I got back home, I stayed outside to get on with hedge removal. I was expecting a Freecycle visitor at 11 but he arrived at 10.20 and I only had about 10 roots for him, and he'd wanted 20. But he was nice and said that 10 was OK, and maybe once the other enquirers had had some, he could come back for some more.

After lunch I had invited another Freecycler to come and collect a large box of perhaps 30 or 40 roots, she showed up late and this meant my day was somewhat rushed after this. Chad came round to pick up the ratchet pin for the apple press, as tomorrow they are going to get started with the juicing a bit earlier than the 1pm start. Then I had to go and collect stuff from Country Fresh and Freshways, also popped in to the new Co-op which used to be Scummerfield just to check it out, and got fed lots of free cheese and biscuits...

Then I came home and had just half an hour to spare before setting off for the station so I could get the Northallerton train at 5.43. So I had a beard-trim and shower and hair wash. My shaver settings had been mysteriously changed and I've ended up with the shortest beard I've had for years. Gill made me some sandwiches.

I ate these on the train. Sally met me at Northallerton and we walked to the Town Hall. The Northallerton and Villages Community Forum had organised the showing of The Age of Stupid and had invited me to come and say something about low carbon living and Transition. I was pleased to meet Peter Hale of the Climate Speakers Network, and he was pleased to be able to see one of his speakers speak!

I did a very similar talk to the 10:10 Scarborough launch. About 15 minutes. Whilst the film was on, I sat at the back going through my inbox and deleting emails. I got rid of 95. After the film, a break with hot drinks and local tea-loaf, and then a question/answer session and discussion, including an offer from a farmer to do some type of Community Supported Agriculture project.

I got the 22.19 train back to York, cycled fast back home and was in soon after 11pm. A good evening.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thursday 8th October 09

A busy day, much of it outside. Our next door neighbour has offered to put up a fence between his barbecue patio and our veg patch where there is now a big bushy Privet hedge. The hedge roots go right under our raised beds, making the hedge-side of them very poor at growing stuff, and he wants to grow things up the fence and cannot grow things up the hedge. So the deal is that I remove the hedge, and he builds a little wall with the fence on top, and we share the cost.

So today I continued to get the hedge ready for removal, and then started removing it, using my amazing digging bar. This is a very heavy metal bar, pointed on one end and has a chisel on the other, and can be jabbed into the soil and used as a lever to break up the ground. Then I move the earth away from the roots, take out any ground elder roots for composting and eventually am able to pull out the individual Privet plants. I cut off the tops and am saving the roots and in the evening put a message on Freecycle offering the first roots. I was gobsmacked to get 6 replies within an hour, all wanting them.

So I spent much of the first part of the day digging and shredding. But I also had some paperwork to deal with and some phone calls.

But at 1pm, I got my Vigo fruit press and apple grinder (my apple grinder is like this with teeth!)ready and one of the St Nicks recycling crew, David I think, came along on the big load-carrying trike and picked it up, along with my galvanised tub which is used for washing the apples. This is a central part of Apple Day at St Nicks, and I lend it to them every year. I bought it years ago when I was a winemaker/cider maker, but haven't used it myself for some while.

Then soon after 2, I got my bike out to go down to St Nicks as I was meeting Mark and his friend Tom to show them round. As I arrived I met a Taiwanese lady called YChing who also wanted a tour. So I took them all around the centre and the nature reserve. YChing is a PhD student, studying tropical mountains and climate change. She was interested to find I was involved in Transition, as she is attending the Transition North event on 6th November.

So we all had a good walk around and finished up back at the Environment Centre. I had got on so well with YChing that I invited her back to see the compost heaps etc at home, so we cycled back and had another half hour together.

After she cycled off, I did more hedge removal and came in for tea, knackered. Pasta, cauliflower, sauce, fancy bread... yummy, needed that!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Wednesday 7th October 09

A slow start to the day... I was able to have an hour of reading the NewScientist which was great... although I'm still 3 weeks behind!

But got up at 10ish and did some more sorting in the conservatory... taking down more dead Yam vines and collecting it all in a huge saucepan, and then taking off the little balls from the leaf axils and collecting them together so I can give them to people and plant more next Spring... I have hundreds!

Had a delivery of new bolts and wing nuts to hold the Composphere together, as the ones it was supplied with were no good, and I contacted the company, who said yes, this was true, and they'd send some different ones. I spent 20 minutes making the sphere spherical again.

Then I put all the Yam vines and tomato haulms together with a large load of other compostables and went down the garden to load up the Composphere. I also picked two pumpkins and a squash, loads of beans and some nasturtium seeds.

I also did a small amount of log splitting whilst waiting for our eldest son to come home, and I visited Country Fresh which has a new groovy green paint-job. Lovely!

Later in the evening I heard the excellent news that the power company E.ON have decided to not build the dirty coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth, supposedly because of the economic downturn meaning that electricity consumption is down. I'm sure that the widespread opposition and criticism also had something to do with it. See for the announcement and the reaction; loads of comments.

I got a call from a friend who wanted some help understanding some forms which had arrived so I popped round and looked through them, and talked her through what I thought she should do, and explained her options. A little bit of advocacy work... I may need to help her fill them in.

Late on I sorted through a load of thrown-out pears to salvage what I could to dry. A wet and messy job, interspersed with trips back to the laptop to have goes on Scrabble.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Tuesday 6th October 09

A bit of a wasted morning in some ways. I had been invited to 'participate' in a webinar, a made-up word based on a seminar conducted over tinterweb. This was because of my being involved in organising York Green Festival, and my interest in organising events generally. So, cvent had invited me to get my computer ready to listen to and watch a presentation, and presumably contribute my views/experiences/questions.

So, as requested, 10 minutes before the event, I registered but my registration procedure just went round in circles. At about 5 minutes into the event, I was about to give up and the phone rang, and one of the organisers tried to help me get onto the correct webpage, and sent me an email with a URL, and put the phone call onto the live presentation so I could listen with the phone on loudspeaker, whilst I copied and pasted the URL into my browser but that just sent me to a pdf document. I got increasingly frustrated. I was also finding it difficult to concentrate on the presentation, as the gentleman had an accent which meant that to understand what was being said, I would have had to put all my concentration into the presentation... which I couldn't as the speakerphone isn't the highest quality and I was still going round in circles with the website. Right at the end the presenter asked if anyone had any comments so I decided to speak... and he answered me, was very apologetic and a bit later, he rang me back and I was able to explain the problems I'd had trying to access the presentation.

So, all I got from the presentation was that the organisation offers a wide range of online services which help event organisers run a successful event. Nothing that York Green Festival could use, I think, but who knows, in the future, I may get involved in organising something which might need cvent's help. I'll keep an open mind but hope the webinar software can be improved, as it gives a poor first impression if something doesn't work.

Anyway, the rest of the day was OK, I did quite a bit of housework, nothing outside as it was raining a lot.

I did go to the Hull Road Planning Panel where we dealt with the usual house extensions making three-bedrooms into 5, 6 or even up to 9 in some cases. These are usually for students.

On the way back I decided to pop into a house just down the road which has a SolarTwin hot water panel on it's roof, distinctive because of it's photovoltaic inset which runs the pump. Malcolm was in, a very engaging gent, and was delighted to tell me all about the system, which he is very very happy with. He has kept good records of all his meter readings and bills... Very interesting stuff... the household of two used about 2000 thermal units of gas a year before the installation, but now averages 1500, a reduction of 25% on their annual gas bill. They also now don't use an electric immersion heater and this electricity use has reduced too. Malcolm reported good customer service and was very satisfied.

I came in shortly before Gill and the boys came in from an open day at the secondary school where our youngest is going next year.

As well as doing washing up, I played loads of Scrabble on facebook.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Monday 5th October 09

Up early as had an appointment in a hospital to help a friend cope with a difficult procedure.

A trip to a hospital to find out what is causing embarrassing and personal symptoms is never pleasant, especially when it means a rather invasive and uncomfortable colonoscopy. Basically, this is an endoscope, a long flexible tube which has lights and a camera, an irrigation tube, a suction tube and a port to feed down a biopsy grabber or a snare, to remove polyps etc.

My friend was not looking forward to this, in fact, was pretty terrified, and asked me to go with them to help reassure them. So I did. When the medic came into the room, he recognised me immediately as I'd performed at a charity do he'd volunteered at, which broke the ice somewhat. That also meant that I was allowed into the theatre and could watch what was happening on the screen, which was fascinating.

It was a much longer procedure than I had expected and as I was tired by the end of the day, I decided not to attend the LETS meeting; I popped in as I was cycling past and offered my apologies.

The good news is that there was nothing majorly wrong with my friend's bowel, except a bit of inflammation which will be better understood once the biopsies are investigated.

A quiet evening, highlights included doing the washing up and putting dried fruit into jars.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sunday 4th October 09 Beverley Food Festival

Woke with Viking FM on the clock radio playing a weird version of some Fat Boy Slim. Nice!

I went down after a lovely shower to have breakfast... and was surprised to find the breakfast place shut and obviously not in use. I went for a walk to find Helen, my handler, and chatted about my times, and lack of breakfast.

I went back to the Cross Keys and asked one of the staff about the breakfast situation, and was told that when I booked, I'd have been told there wasn't breakfast this week as staff were away. But I didn't book... so I never heard.

I wandered round and found a hotel, the Beverley Arms, which was happy to give me a bowl of cereal and a coffee for £3 which was very reasonable. Got me started for the day... I do need a good breakfast.

Then I went back to my room and got changed and all my stuff packed up, and got myself sorted out in my usual performance venue at about 9.55, and was immediately doing a show with a good audience. This was constant for two hours, when I took a quick break, starting again 15 minutes later, til 2.15 when I was due to go to the main marquee and change my teeshirt to a York Rotters one, scoffed lunch, and did a 15 minute talk on composting food waste. This went well... I think I had about 50 people there and there were a couple of questions afterwards, one about flies, the other about ants.

I got changed again and did another hour and a half of Fiddlesticks activities before packing up at 4.15, gathering some spare Brussels sprouts and getting to the bus station in time. Nice chats to some women on the bus who were holidaying from the North East, and were fascinated by various aspects of my unusual lifestyle. They got off at Pocklington and I read my Garden Organic mag again until getting off at 5.30pm, happy to be so close to home. The bus stop is just 2 minutes walk from our house.

Gill had done some roast potatoes to go with cauliflower, baked beans and cold quiche. After this, there was just enough daylight left for me to do one barrow-load of compostables, loading up my new Compostumbler.

A busy evening catching up with Freecycle and various other computery things, and enjoyed The Sky at Night on BBC1 as usual.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Saturday 3rd October 09

Quite an early start... good to have friends here and more chats over breakfast.

But at 9.30 I headed off down Heslington Road to see my friend David, who's gathered together the best of the photos he's taken of Professor Fiddlesticks since Christmas, and put them in a file of about 40 or 50 images. These are ones we both liked from each shoot, one at the Novotel on Christmas Day, one in the Museum Gardens, one at a kids party and one a week or two back at Linton on Ouse, where he also acted as my driver between two gigs.

We went through them and got it to about 12 good images, including cropping some with Photoshop software to make them frame up nicely. We agreed to do one more shoot, next week, to get a couple of specific shots. Once we have our 'top ten', David will create his idea of a publicity leaflet.

Came back via Country Fresh and picked up a sack full of compostables and two boxes worth.

Then zoom back, made my sandwiches and cycled at top speed (when the wind was behind me!) up to Hartrigg Oaks, which took just 20 minutes, to attend an AVP core group meeting. Members came from as far as Newark and Bradford, as the group is one of the AVP regions, which we call NEEM, North East and East Midlands (don't ask why we have a regular from Bradford!) and it was a very productive meeting, with several new attendees, which is always nice. My official role is Health and Safety, but I contribute quite a bit, since I've been involved in the organisation since at least 1994.

This drew to a close at 4.15 and I again bombed home, but I stopped in two places for different reasons and got in at 5.

Then I needed to prepare to go to Beverley for the Food Festival tomorrow.

I got the 8.15 bus from just outside the house, with just my big unicycle, my sports bag of sticks, balls and diabolos, my rucsac with costume, wash bag and balloons, 'handbag' with reading material, hairbrush and some edibles, and my laptop, which I wanted to have some offline time with, to delete stuff from my nearly always full inbox, which I have a problem doing with the distractions that happen when online.

I got to Beverley bus station in an hour, and to the Cross Keys within 10 minutes, and got my room keys without hassle. Once I'd dumped my kit in my room I went back down to get a pint, and back to my room to delete emails from various folders. I think I got rid of about 100. A nice quiet evening.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Friday 2nd October 09

Quite a busy day as we have to get the house tidied and cleaned as we are having visitors this afternoon and overnight.

So, Gill and I did some sorting out and vacuuming... I took down most of the tomato plants and dead yams in the conservatory so I could put the trays of apples and pears there, from where they were in the front room, which is where the futon is. Which is what Jennifer and Mark will be sleeping on.

So, did a variety of jobs to try to make the place a bit more respectable.

They arrived at about 4pm and left their two boys with us as they had come over for a meeting, and came back about an hour later to settle down for a cosy evening.

The children had pasta, veg and tomato/leek sauce, and we had rice and nan bread and felafels, wine and chat, followed by a game of Scrabble which Gill won.

We watched Derren Brown on telly after which they went to bed. I peeled a load of plums for drying. I ate one and now I know why they were thrown away. I hope drying improves them!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Thursday 1st October 09

A relaxing day as nothing happening apart from a social visit... well there was a purpose to it, but it was 80% social.

Ben was due to come round at 10 but arrived a bit early and I'd only just got dressed so was happy to sit and have a coffee with him and see the whiteboard he'd accidentally used permanent marker on... and try the solvent I'd offered him to try to remove this. I have both paraffin and Surgical Spirit... the latter is mainly methanol and worked quite well with kitchen tissue and lots of elbow grease.

We had some interesting conversations about astrophysics and X-ray binary star systems before going for a wander down the garden.

I gave him some fresh apples and some dried fruit and he left before lunch. Melody popped round to pick up her SUMA order.

I did assorted jobs in the garden during the afternoon but nothing too strenuous, cycled round to the chemist to get a prescription, went round to a neighbour's to chop a log in two and bring the two lengths back in the trailer.

Tea was a bowl of squash and red pepper soup and the remains of yesterday's Bulgar wheat loaf.

A warm evening with the stove on, washing up, drying fruit, playing facebook scrabble. I submitted my Carbon Account readings. Next month my annual figures will be much better as the aeroplane emissions (1947kg one way Manchester to Atlanta) from my visitor a year ago will be more than a year in the past. Hooray!