Thursday, 12 November 2009

Thursday 12th November 09

My 1000th blog post on Low Carbon Lifestyle. I wonder how much lower carbon my lifestyle would be if I hadn't have done all this blogging?

But hey, no-one's perfect... especially me, as today's events have reminded me.

Today I was due to attend a York Rotters management meeting, but yesterday one of the other managers rang me to tell me that there had been some complaints about me following the Big Green Market last week when I spent over four hours engaging with the public about home composting. So today, instead of the management meeting, I went in to St Nicks to listen to the accusations, and to try to work out how to deal with the issues.

So, what did I do? Well, it was acknowledged that I am an excellent communicator of composting information and there is no-one more enthusiastic and keen. But, on one occasion I was listening to another (novice) Rotter give some (incomplete or incorrect) information and when they had finished, I spoke to the member of the public and said "actually, you CAN compost that", and told them how. The other Rotter felt they had been contradicted and they didn't like it, and complained. So, first complaint, unjustified I think.

The second was more serious... I was talking to another volunteer and we were talking about ethical burials... I'm not sure who initiated the conversation, but that doesn't really matter. The problem, for the complainant, was that I talked about my plans (Gill and I have a burial plot booked in York Cemetery)and was explaining about Promession, which would be my preferred disposal route, and I told the joke which Gill made when we got the plot, that if I died before her, she'd request to be buried face down. Most people find this amusing, but some over sensitive volunteer complained. They thought it was inappropriate as another volunteer Rotter had died the previous week. I am quite matter of fact about death.. I see it as a consequence of life, but I do know that some people are not as comfortable with the thought of this inevitability. So, this complaint was perhaps half justified.

The next one is inexcusable. How I get members of the public engaged is to wait until someone looks at the cut-away compost bin and I then say "Would you like to tell me about your compost bin?" Many people stop and tell me. A few say "No thanks" and on one occasion someone said "I don't bother to compost" and on this occasion I said "So you don't like recycling then" and this I agree was unprofessional of me. Black mark against my name.

The final thing is the thing I'm most sorry about. One volunteer said they wouldn't want to be on the stall with me again, and another said that they felt like not being part of York Rotters after their experience. I am mortified about this as I started York Rotters in 2004 and love the fact we have been so successful, have lots of active volunteers and are a vital part of St Nicks.

So we sat and talked about my behaviour, the fact that I have been diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum, but don't tick quite enough boxes to be given the Aspergers Syndrome label, despite Gill, my mother, my friend Ann and probably others thinking I have all the classic symptoms. And if I do have AS, then it could be classed as a disability, and this puts an interesting spin on the whole situation. However, I am willing to try to improve and learn to be more empathic, more appropriate, and I will again look to try to secure some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through the NHS, which might help me.

So, the result of this meeting was that I have been suspended from York Rotters for a month to see if we can resolve the situation. I cannot think of any 'quick fix' here. But in the meantime, I won't be wearing the York Rotters teeshirt, won't do any Rotters volunteering, and won't attend any social events. This is sad but if it helps, and enables York Rotters to continue more smoothly, I can accept the situation.

This was a really difficult meeting for my friend and colleague at St Nicks and I don't want to put that person through this again. Nor do I want to upset the other volunteers (whether or not I think they are oversensitive) or members of the public.

Anyway, I cycled home, had an early lunch and cycled off to see Robin who had asked me to help him install his new solar tubes on his roof. We spent an hour getting ready, with the help of his neighbour, and then when I was in his loft poking a sensor wire through the tiles, he realised he had made an assumption about the new set of tube-holders he had bought. His existing set was configured one way round, with water in at one side and hot water out the other, but unfortunately the new set was made the other way around. This means that he will have to replumb his pipework in his loft. What a nuisance. Poor Robin!

I then went into town to pay in a cheque and to get out another to pay for some advertising.

Then back home, via Country Fresh and Freshways.

I had a quiet and fairly subdued evening. I prepared some pears for drying.


Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Thanks, once again, for your assistance today - even though it didn't have the preferred outcome! At least I know that the job is not, with help, beyond my means. I've been putting off the final stage of the installation for some weeks as I didn't feel comfortable working on the roof away from a roof ladder to cling onto. Even though we were stopped at stage one, I feel much more confident at tackling it in future - with appropriate and valued help of course! I just feel a right 'nana for not checking the construction before installation and assuming it was the same as an earlier model!

Thinking about your experience with Rotters today has had me thinking ever since and has left me in two minds; on one side I found your acceptance of some of the issues raised as being a problem you need to address quite inspiring, on the other I am almost angry that you and I volunteer a lot of our time and personal enthusiasm supporting and promoting a way of life that City of York Council would otherwise have to spend considerable sums executing any other way. Given that you and I have similar life outlooks and senses of humour, I think that if I had been on the receiving end of such oversensitivity and small-mindedness (NOT a description of those managing York Rotters) I would have withdrawn my support and returned my T-shirt forthwith. However I know that this is something you would not want me to do. This would not be in protest but a declaration of my personal right to express myself, within reasonable limits, in the manner I would prefer rather than have to tread on eggshells all of the time. Some people just need to get a life!

I hope and feel confident that this won't curb your enthusiasm for helping others live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Live long and prosper!

(Nannoo nannoo!)


James said...


Keep on going with all that you do.

Some people shouldn't be so sensitive.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about the Rotters but I do know you! In many ways I think you are more caring than most.Not many people would give up their free time to help others in the way that you do.Unfortunately,people will always make judgements, and take offence when someone else challenges there opinion or behaviour.I know that is you being passionate about what you believe in, but they don't. My son is just the same.If he knows you're wrong or "misguided" he'll tell you! Keep on being you and only look for treatment if you feel that's the right thing for you(not other people).


Anonymous said...

hope york rotters issues with you are resolved quickly.

Anonymous said...

john i read all this and wanted to say i thought the complaints against you petty.. you are such a very positive force for york green issues..and sure, maybe your enthusiasm comes out wrong sometimes.. but maybe the comment to the person who wasn't interested in composting would have made him think.. think the other volunteers who complained need their heads banging together.. love to you..

oddny said...

It always makes me angry when people complain to other people after the event instead of taking up any issues they have with the person it most concerns at he time! Hope this is resolved quickly. Best wishes Oddny

Compostwoman said...

John...I am gobsmacked....

as a fellow composting volunteer ( although in another part of the UK..) I find this quite astonishing....

Whilst I accept that that we, as volunteers, have a duty to behave in an appropriate manner...I really can't see, from your description, what you have done wrong....

I would be very tempted to hang up my tee shirt, if I were treated like that....