Friday, 30 January 2009

Friday 30th January 09

A smooth morning... apparently the child who had to finish his homework got up at 5am to do it and was ready to go to school early! I left soon after with the other, and got to school on time as usual. On the way home I found some clumps of Flammulina, winter mushroom or velvet shank, so brought those back to add to the evening meal.

Gill and I had a tidying morning and sorted out the SUMA order. I quickly cycled down to the bank to pay in a cheque from one of the SUMA food co-op members and transfer some money into our SUMA account so we can pay for the order when it's delivered. After lunch I went to see David the photographer to look at the pics he's sorted out from the gig a few weeks ago. Some lovely shots of the audience enjoying themselves, but not that many good ones of me, mainly because of a non-uniform background confusing the images.

I picked up some stuff from Country Fresh and brought it home, going straight off to school to do the composting there and pick up our little one. He'd had a good day and was whistling loudly on the way home.

We got home at almost the same time as our eldest, who came back with a new friend who's not been here before. So a pretty happy bunch of children, very nice! Whilst the older two were on the computer, I played on the Wii at my son's request... he's much better than me so I let the team down somewhat and he then asked me to get off the team as he'd do better by himself!

But, it was a very nice Friday evening... we all ate together although the boys had baked potatoes and omelette and Gill and I had stir-fried veg (including the enokitake mushrooms I picked earlier and some reject sprouts which I had to peel/prepare quite carefully to get to the edible bits) with noodles... and I had some of the pickled walnuts from last summer. Very vinegary.

In the evening, checked out the trailers for a forthcoming film The Age Of Stupid, which looks really interesting. It's based on a surviving human (Pete Postlethwaite) in 2055 looking back and wondering why we didn't DO SOMETHING about the impending climate crisis which was obvious to anyone who understood basic science and could foresee the consequences of continued consumption of carbon fuel. The film comes out in March and promises to have more of an impact than An Inconvenient Truth. I look forward to it.

I also did a load more fruit drying, washing up and general household stuff whilst Gill snoozed... she's a 'lark' and I'm an 'owl' but we still find time to be awake together and enjoy each other's company...

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Thursday 29th January 09

Another 'good side of the bed' morning... with luck this is a new approach to getting up and ready for school! I cycled our youngest into school and cycled straight in to town in order to meet Stuart who's part of Visit York, to discuss my role in the York Residents' Festival, which for many years has been the York Residents First Weekend, where locals brandishing a 'YorkCard' could get in a whole load of visitor attractions free, and some places not usually open to the public, like the Minster Stoneyard. So this forthcoming weekend there is a new-look event, with a wide range of attractions open, plus activities and entertainments in Parliament St and St Sampson's Square. They've got a huge Tepee type structure for a sort of stage area, and I'm contracted to do 5 one-hour shows over the two days.

So I chatted to Stuart for 20 minutes and then headed to the station to meet a student called Sally who's doing a dissertation on supermarket waste food, and some solutions to the problem. She'd contacted the UK Freegan website and asked if anyone in the North East would be willing to talk about what they do to reduce this kind of waste, and I said I was happy to show her. She was due to arrive at about 10am but by 10.15 she hadn't turned up so I cycled home. An hour later I got a phone call from Ivana at St Nicks saying that Sally had found her way to St Nicks after missing her first train, and could I meet her down there.

I cycled down and showed her around the centre, then we walked back home via the supermarket who sell me their unsold veg and fruit for a penny per sack, so I can use whatever I can, and compost the rest. We had lunch and I gave her a little tour of the estate (!) and answered her questions as well as signing a release form to allow her to use the info I've given her. My request was that I would like to read her dissertation once it's done.

She walked back into town and I cycled down to school to collect our little one.

A peaceful evening until homework was mentioned. Homework is the absolute bane of all our lives as when it is due to be done, there is inevitable trouble. So, we all had a nice tea... Gill made a stew with my help... I prepared some of the veg, including Jerusalem artichokes which need careful peeling as they are rather knobbly, at least the ones I grow are! Gill made a cheese scone mix to put on top of the stew... the veg cooked on the stove, then the 'cobbler' placed on top, and bunged in the oven for half an hour to cook the scone dough on top. Totally yummy, as is over 90% of Gill's cooking. Whilst she was making this, I made tomato soup for the weekend, and Melody came, her son and ours spent time on the computer, having fun with 'Club Penguin'. Melody and offspring went, having done a SUMA order and had fun on the computer, respectively. We then had tea... very nice, all together. Then time for homework and it all kicked off.

The situation became so serious that I was unable to go out to the meeting I was supposed to, as I had to stay in and deal with the difficulties that were occurring. Extremely depressing stuff as when it happens, I feel like a rubbish Dad, even though I know I'm doing OK compared to many less-involved and less caring fathers.

Of course, non-parents cannot understand, and some parents with easy children won't either... and it feels slightly better when we get sympathetic comments from those in the know as we know we're not alone. One of the problems is that both children get teased about me and my compost toilet... this is obviously the weirdest thing I do in some people's eyes, and children can be so cruel and unthinking, especially to other children. I love my boys so much it really hurts to go through what we are going through, and I feel little pangs of guilt and responsibility... some from the fact that I was a difficult child and some of my traits are obviously heritable, and also because the lifestyle I lead means I stick out from the crowd and it's easy for my sons to get teased and bullied about what I do. And neither of them actually use the compost toilet... it's absolutely nothing at all to do with them!

So, I missed the YiT meeting and spent at least an hour keeping the peace. Things did eventually cool down... no-one can keep up that level of activity for long... it's obviously exhausting.

Had a very nice sympathetic phone call from a good friend who is going through something similar. Much needed support. By 11.20pm the homework was done... an amazing piece of work, really excellent!

What an evening, what a day, what a life!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Wednesday 28th January 09

Another peaceful morning; lovely. We never know if the boys will get out of bed 'one side' and get ready for school without a murmur, or 'the other side', and be quite resistant and uncooperative. Today was the good side!

Gill went to Art once I'd got back, I took some compostables down to the now steaming heap and saw a heron in the top of a neighbour's tree. It was having hassle from a crow, and soon flew off.

I did some log-management too, in the front, chopping up some big logs recently retrieved from various dumps, and splitting and stacking them.

Gill came back and had lunch, Will came round and we finished off the LETS Awards for All application, to allow us to get the LETS Link UK software which will allow us to become a web-based organisation. I'll now ask Melody to check the application, and I have to get our new bank signatories sorted, and find an independent referee.

I had a rest after lunch as I was suddenly absolutely bushed, but got up at 2.30 as I had to set off for work at about 3pm. I'd had a phone call yesterday to invite me to go and entertain Riccall Rainbows, the youngest of the Brownie/Guide continuum. They meet at 4.30 for an hour every Wednesday, and the client wanted me to go and do two sessions (or was it me that suggested this?), one today and one in a few weeks time. I'd agreed a ridiculously low fee... at this time of year, on a weekday, and in 'these times' of not much money around, I have to take any work I can get. So I decided on a route -Heslington, Fulford, Naburn Lane, Route 65 York-Selby cycle track, Riccall. So most of this ride was off-road, and took me about an hour... I didn't go over fast as I'd given it enough time to cycle steadily and get there in plenty of time. I saw my second interesting bird of the day, a lovely pale barn owl, between the sewage works on Naburn Lane and the cycle track.

I got to Riccall at 4pm and cooled off, waited for the keyholder to arrive and then I went and got changed and ready to rumble! Did my standard show, in 50 minutes, and cycled back, in very dark conditions (took my dynamo off for much of the cycle track bit... exciting cycling in the pitch black!) Arrived home at 7pm, really tired and looking forward to tea... I just had sandwiches as Gill had had her hands full whilst I was out and had not been able to cook for herself or me. The boys had some quiche and potatoes, but then needed a lot of 'looking after' so she was unable to get on. She was very glad to see me! I was able t calm things down and the problem homework got done and both of them got to bed at about 9pm. Phew!

A nice peaceful evening... including a phone call from my Aunty in Norfolk.. we chatted for half an hour and she was most supportive.

Spent quite a bit of time trying to find another speaker for the launch of Transition Town Kirbymoorside, which I've been invited to attend. I suggested finding a more 'normal' person to speak as well as me, as my tiny footprint might be seen as a bit unobtainable and my deep-green lifestyle not very realistic for the majority of ordinary folks trying to reduce their impact by 10 or 20%. I look forward to some replies. Any offers from newbie greenies happily considered, especially if you are not male, middle aged and bearded!

Tuesday 27th January 09

A relatively peaceful morning, both children getting off to school as normal.

I got back and immediately went on the Government 'self employed' tax declaration website to submit my tax return. It was not easy... two businesses, interest from savings, a 'capital expense' ie my bike which I bought in Autumn 07, and I was advised to split the cost between my two businesses and personal use, a small 'loss' on 'John the Composter' the previous year to bring forward to the 07/08 year, but enough Fiddlesticks income to live on.... too complicated for my liking. I think that I'll hand over all my paperwork to an accountant for the 08/09 tax year, it'll be a lot less stressful!

This took all f the morning... but I did arrive at the end and a figure to pay. Hooray!

After lunch I bombed into town and got a cheque out and went straight to the tax office and gave it in.

Then cycled straight in to school and picked up our youngest, who'd had a good day. As I had just an hour before going into Leeds, I went to find a selection of different types and grades of compost, and two bags of worms which I'm swapping for some blackcurrant bushes. Also got a big mix of dried fruit together to donate to the shared meal.

Just caught the 5.28 train to Leeds... I didn't have time to get a ticket at the station and was prepared to buy one on the train. However, there was no conductor, so arrived in Leeds needing to get a ticket in the station platform area before going out through the new barriers. But there was no office open on the platforms, and the staff advised me to just walk through the barriers (which were open anyway!) and buy tickets at the ticket office. I did do this... a return, but could have avoided paying for the outward journey if I'd have wanted to.

An easy walk to The Common Place where the Leeds Permaculture Network was meeting. It was a social, with shared food and then an 'inspirational' talk from me with all you ever needed to know about composting, with exhibits and humour! It worked well and it seemed that we all enjoyed ourselves... I certainly did. The donations covered my travel and my dried fruit went down well. I swapped the worms for a large bag of assorted blackcurrant bushes and a spineless gooseberry. I will send another worm donation through the post as I feel Niels got rather less on that swap than me! The talk might result in some Compost Doctor contacts, some people coming to Carbon Detox, maybe something more...!

The train journey back was nice as I met Jill as in Ben-and-Jill, and her colleague Alex, both physicists at Leeds University.

Home soon after 10pm to a tired Gill who'd missed me.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Moday 26th January 09

Another tough morning. I am not enjoying parenting one bit at the moment.

Took our youngest to school and came back to get ready for the Compost Doctors training; Catherine the York Rotters was also booked in so she picked me up and drove me to Elvington Airfield where the training was taking place.

Cath and Doug ran the training and I was slightly disappointed that the DEFRA offer is for 'third sector' organisations which promote composting, not individuals who might be wanting to be consultants. So if I am to be a 'Compost Doctor', I'll have to do it through York Rotters. Now York Rotters is a 'Master Composter' scheme... it trains up volunteers to promote home composting, not businesses' organics composting or 'commercial' composting. The Compost Doctors scheme is aimed squarely at businesses... schools, prisons, greengrocers with a garden behind the shop, a cafe within a park... basically any catering establishment with grounds in which to compost their catering waste and, importantly, grounds which can use the resultant soil-improver. However, I enjoyed the training and participated in my usual enthusiastic way, and the issue of working through York Rotters needn't be a barrier to my doing this consultancy work. It might be good for York Rotters, providing some good publicity and and some income.

The food was good, and I enjoyed meeting the other potential Compost Doctors, including Chris from Leeds BTCV who goes into schools and teaches about 'education for sustainable development', something I'm keen on. Hope to meet him again. The training finished just after 4.30 and Catherine and I came back into York. She too thinks that if I do the Compost Doctor stuff, she will not need to do much admin, so I won't be using up her core York Rotters time. So a decision is needed soon as I have just 8 weeks to do the work!

Things were calm at home... as calm as waiting for a volcano to explode. But we all had a civil teatime, not much talking and no arguments or the like. Gill manages to just keep going and kind of 'surf' over the difficulties, but I am feeling depressed.

However, I cheered up when I got a phone call from Kirbymoorside in Transition, who are launching their Transition initiative in April, and after seeing my spread in The Ecologist, have been asked to speak at the launch. How nice! I also got a Fiddlesticks booking for an event in Hull.

Sunday 25th January 09

I was lucky to get a lie-in til about 9.30 which was good, and we had a quite relaxed morning. At midday I set out with our eldest to visit his friend who lives a couple of miles away... perhaps a bit less than this, depending on the route taken. We had a good ride and nice chats whilst doing it. We both acknowledged that cycling together was a good thing to do and we should do more of it.

We cycled through the University and down towards Fulford, and to Candy and Eugene's. Candy was celebrating the near end of her job... she's sick of all the travelling, despite the ethical nature of the work... she is another 'low carbon wannabe' and has been going round businesses and helping them reduce their energy bills. But, it's been a cycle ride to the station, a train journey to Leeds, a 20 minute wait, a train journey to Bramley and then a one mile walk. Too much travelling... so she's jacking it in at the end of this week and is going to write a book.

She was chatting with our mutual friend Denise, and I spent a few minutes with them before cycling back via a well-known logpile. It was agreed that I'd collect my son at 7.30pm.

So, a quiet afternoon... our other son played on the computer and had some nice gentle times with Mum. I did various jobs around the home and garden, and we had a rice stir-fry for tea, containing the home-grown Oca tubers... a wonderful flavour. I wish I'd grown more of them! Trouble is they are daylight sensitive as well as frost sensitive, so they don't start making tubers til about 4 months after midsummer, so the longer after October they can be kept frost-free, the better. These were growing at the side of the house, protected from the worst of the early frosts, so plenty of pretty pink tubers.

7pm came all too soon and I cycled back through the University grounds to Candy and Eugene's, collecting 3 logs on the way. I had another little chat about shared interests before asking my little charge to find his shoes and get ready to come home. On the way out of their house, leaving by the back door, I tripped on a stick or mini-log that Eugene had collected for their Clearview stove (yet another person influenced by seeing ours!) and landed flat on my face in the gravel, with a log or branch somehow pinning my right leg down and wedged into my welly boot, I think. I couldn't move. I lay there for a few seconds mentally checking my limbs for breakages... and decided I was OK, but couldn't move. My son, who had been walking behind me, somehow moved the obstruction off my leg and I was able to get up. Although I knew I was bruised, I needed to get home (needed to get my child home actually) so we continued on our way home, chatting happily. He'd had a good time, with two friends, a variety of activities.

When we got home I told Gill how he'd rescued me and she put an ice pack on my calf, whilst my caring son looked after me. I think he must have been shocked to see me fall over and be unable to get up.

So, a very good day, plenty of bonding activity. And not a good day for my leg which is badly bruised. Listened to a bit of Equinox 107 and then a tear jerking film with Julie Walters playing Dr Anne Turner who after witnessing her husband dying from a degenerative illness, found she was developing something similar. So she decided that when it was almost too much to bear, she would commit suicide, and the drama, 'A Short Stay in Switzerland' was about this. Really powerful, had me in tears several times. Thought provoking too, as it' such a contentious issue. I do believe though, that we have a right to die in certain circumstances... and I would probably consider this option if I found myself in a similar situation. But would I be brave enough to go through with it? The drama alluded to the statistics that many who get the go-ahead from the Swiss Clinic decide not to do it.

Not too late a night as getting up early tomorrow.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Saturday 24th January 09

A reasonable day. Gill still feeling very poorly so I did all the shopping we needed... went to Thomas The Baker and the Co-op before lunch, and Country Fresh after, to get veggies and fruit, and then Scummerfield with my eldest (shock horror!) to get goats' milk. This was really nice.

I did a bit of chainsawing, splitting and stacking AND compost heap adding.

But the antibiotics seemed to kick in and Gill felt well enough to make a pizza which was delicious. I did a big tidy up of my piles of paper, finding multitudinous envelopes and sorting them into re-usable, compostable and 'have to tear out the window-able'. I then spent some time tearing out plastic windows and crumpling the rest of the envelope into a ball for composting... Envelopes are not suitable for putting with the paper recycling as the gum clogs up the recycling process and the windows are best put in the rubbish. I could just crumple up the envelopes with the plastic window.... and then remove the window out of the finished compost. But although I've put some complete envelopes with windows into various compost bins, I'm happy to spend a bit of time removing windows first.

During one of today's outbursts, our coat stand in the hall got broken which caused tears of guilt and regret. I didn't react or say anything, I just ignored the situation, as if I'd said or done anything, it would have caused things to get even worse. Therefore within a few minutes, everything had calmed down..... a good thing! I think I'm slowly learning to be a slightly better parent. Maybe. But in my day, pushing the coat stand over so it snapped would have earned some kind of punishment. Thus I feel as if I am partly neglecting my 'duties' as a parent, to instruct between right and wrong, to encourage good behaviour and discourage bad... parenting does give rise to so many dilemmas.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Friday 23rd January 09

I took our youngest into school. Came back and Gill was feeling very poorly and was wondering what to do. I told her to ring the hospital and/or her GP and she was offered an appointment for 3.40, but really she was so ill that I thought she needed something sooner, as she thought she was going to die. Our neighbour Marion has just retired from nursing, but is still qualified, so Gill went to ask her opinion. Dave, Marion's husband, offered to drive Gill to the surgery (shows how ill she was, as it's less than 10 mins walk but she couldn't face it. The doctor gave her a prescription for some strong antibiotics as she has an infection in her abdomen.

Somewhere in amongst this lot, we had a visit from our friend Maria who has just handed in her resignation to the school where she's recently started working. She found that the combination of so much prep and marking, having loads of different classes shared amongst relatively few teachers, and various other pressures was too much. Very sad, as she is in fact an excellent teacher... but it wasn't the teaching which she found to much, it was all the surrounding stuff. But she knows we are sympathetic and always have a cuppa and listening ear for her. I'm sure she'll find something else.

I also did a compostables collection by request from Freshways and came away with some interesting tubers which I might have a go at growing. Today I also harvested some Oca from the molasses drum at the side of the house... it's a frost-sensitive plant and the recent cold spell has rendered the tops into a collapsed state, but the soil was completely full of lovely shiny pink tubers, which can be eaten raw or stir-fried, and have a tangy lemony flavour and are crunchy. Latin name is Oxalis tuberosa, for pictures of Oca, see and there's an excellent article with photos here: I will eat some and replant the smallest ones in pots so that I can grow them on in the conservatory for a few months before planting them out or letting other people have them.

At 2.30 I went down to school and helped prepare for the Blue Peter Mission Nutrition Bring and Buy. I got a load of tables out of the hall and put them up in the playground... Julia suggested a circular shape which did work well. One of the mums brought a load of fairy cakes and Julia had already collected some stuff to sell from a previous Mission Nutrition sale (afterwards, the stuff which hadn't sold) and parents brought stuff in today. By 3.15 we were ready to sell and it was a very busy few minutes. We hadn't put prices on anything... we just asked for offers and reminded people that it was for Mission Nutrition, and many parents and children were very generous. Lots of people got some fantastic bargains though. Later during the evening, I got an email saying we'd taken about £120. I was delighted!

I helped pack up and took some clothes which will be OK in the forthcoming York in Transition Clothes Swap, on 14th February. Then I cycled home with our little one who was pleased with his little computer game (50p) a laughing furry ball, a paper clip holder and a wooden snake for a pound, he also bought two buns, ate one and brought one back for his older brother.

Gill was back in the house when I got back but went to bed. I prepared the boys' tea on the woodstove: sliced and fried butternut squash, pasta parcels and shells with a leek, cabbage, tomato and cashew nut stew/sauce. Gill had a little bit afterwards... we all enjoyed this nosh.

At 8 our friend Will came round, as agreed during the week. He had wanted to play a game of 'co-operative Scrabble' but we also had a funding application form to fill in for the new LETS software, so we did that instead. Will left at 10.30 and I did a bit of wire stripping and Gill came down after midnight needing painkillers.

Thursday 22nd January 09

Seemed like a busy day... I took our youngest into school and was busy around the house until lunchtime, when I cycled into town to get a cheque out for the Compost Doctors event next week, and pay in a cheque which I've just got for my gig on Christmas Day. The BACS payment I was expecting has not gone into my account. I also got a cheque out to pay for my allotment for the coming year, just over £30.

When I got back I got a phone call from the organisation about the bouncing BACS, and I asked them for a third time to send me a cheque. This was agreed this time! Hooray!!

I got home in good time to go and get our darling from school, he was in a good mood and we chatted about states of matter on the way home. The teacher had stated that there were three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas. Our little scientist put his hand up and said "there are actually four, as there's plasma". The teacher told the class that they wouldn't be learning about plasmas just yet.

As the children were heading for bed, I cycled down to Anna's for a meeting of York in Transition Media group. There were just four of us... me, Anna, Bryony and Ivana. We had a quick and business-like meeting, reviewing the past events YiT has put on, checking the publicity for the forthcoming planned ones and dreaming up future ones, just one per month.

I got home just after 10 and did emails and nominated my friend Dave Hampton for the 'future friendly' awards, as his creation 'The Carbon Coach' is really good. I have also been nominated for this award.

Quite a late night again, with Gill snoozing beside me. She needs lots more sleep than me, but also she gets up earlier and does the kids lunches etc, whereas I do the washing up in the evening... and lie in til 8am usually.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Wednesday 21st January 09

Got up at much the normal time, despite going to bed at 2.30am having done my column for Community Care... but had to get up as had a busy day ahead! I cycled down to the station at 8.20 to get the London train just before 9, for which I got tickets well before Christmas.

I popped into the WHSmith at the station to see if they had the February issue of The Ecologist, which several people have told me has the article about my low carbon lifestyle in... and yes, I was able to buy this and the article is pretty good, the photos are excellent. It was written by a journalist called Sam Southgate following a conversation we had, and it is mostly correct, apart from I'm sure I never said my diet was 'well over 99.99% non animal products'. The truth is it's probably over 95% non-animal, as I do eat some cheese, occasional egg and very occasional dairy milk. I am vegetarian, and am a 'wannabe vegan' apart I've never had a good vegan cheese, so I'd miss my occasional fancy cheeses...... Gill also makes cakes, and some of these contain eggs (free range of course, but out of chickens' bottoms) But, I'm DELIGHTED to be featured, under the banner 'How to reduce your carbon footprint'.

I was due to meet Peter Hale on the train, but he wasn't in the seat he was booked into so I just sat where my seat as booked, and chatted with a woman who was into arty fabrics and makes felt and all sorts of other things, and a Polish mum with a lovely smiley 10 month old baby girl who was the epitome of beautiful baby.

We were soon in Kings Cross, I bought a map which I didn't need as the meeting house, opposite Euston, was only 10 mins walk away in a straight line. I could have just asked... but I bought a £2.25 map and then asked the kiosk person. So, to the Friends Meeting House at Euston where there were already a couple of people from the Climate Speakers Network. Including Peter, the organiser, who had been on the train but had found a table seat so he could stretch his legs. It was good to finally meet him after much email conversation.

By 1pm, the start time, there were 15 of us and another 3 joined us soon. A very good turnout. The aim of the meeting was to meet other people who do talks and education about climate change, share information about what works and how to get bookings, and who from. I was particularly pleased to meet Anthony Day, who's from York and is on the York in Transition email list, and has written a book 'Will Climate Change Your Life', a CRAGger called Robin Smith, and my Green Party friend Janet Alty, whom I'm very fond of as she's very outspoken, radical, sensible and friendly. But everybody was interesting in their own way, and the meeting was very enjoyable and useful, lots of ideas, things to research and look up, read, people to email.

The meeting finished at about 5pm and a few of us went for a drink (bottle of 'pear cider' cost £4!!!) and then sometime after 6, walked along to Kings Cross to get the 6.30 train. This journey went quickly as I dozed for some of it and read the rest of The Ecologist. Got back home soon after 9pm.

What a day... really positive and inspiring. I'll have to send some notes to Peter so he can do a mail out to the attendees.

I had some left-over leek and potato soup and some toasted stale bread which was lovely! The family was happy to see my photo in The Ecologist and I read the article to the boys, who seemed proud of me. I am very happy today. VERY!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Tuesday 20th January 09

A very smooth pre-school time... both boys got out of the house without a hitch, and in good time. I took our youngest down to school and bombed back to spend a little bit of time with Gill before her sister Jane arrived and the Media students came for their second day with me. They were due to come at about 10.30, but rang then and said they were having difficulty getting away from the campsite, apparently unable to find someone to pay!

So they rolled up at sometime after 11 and we headed off to St Nicks to see the assorted demonstrations of sustainable living..... things I don't have such as photovoltaic panels, rainwater harvesting, a solar hot water panel and the wind turbine. I found some more oyster mushrooms, demonstrating one aspect of 'Freeganism', ie free wild food, and on the way back, harvested some logs and sticks and popped into Freshways where Raj was most complimentary about the service I freely offer.

Over lunchtime, I cooked the mushrooms on the woodstove and had a long rambling interview covering much more than low carbon choices and freeganism. I think they enjoyed themselves. I was asked to do a bit of devilsticking and we had a final trip down the garden, which might be made into a speeded-up walk with normal-speed bits where I'm pointing things out, such as various fruit trees and other features. They left just before 3, in time to have a quick coffee and cycle down to school for the usual school-run.

Jane stayed for a bit to see the boys, and I started to try and tidy the conservatory, which is embarrassingly chaotic and cluttered. Mike her husband came to take her back home, and we all then sat down to watch Barack Obama's inauguration, which I found very emotional and tear-jerkingly wonderful. I spent quite a bit of time sorting out a sack of envelopes that school had given me to recycle... I removed excess sticky tape, tore off stamps, tore out plastic windows and screwed up the rest of the paper so it can form a carbon-rich layer in the latest heap.

I had some leek and potato soup and a chocolate bar a child wouldn't eat as it had got damp, and at 6 headed out to the Burton Stone Lane Community Centre, the other end of the route 66 cycle track. This was to participate in a Waste Watch and York and North Yorkshire Waste Partnership training session on reducing food waste. Luna and Felipe made it a really good session... there were lots of 'party games' as well as facts and tips. The aim is not dissimilar to York Rotters: once trained up, we are in a position to help others reduce their food waste... so we could attend roadshows or chat to colleagues, neighbours and family.

This finished between 8.30 and 9 and as I came home along the cycle track, I arrived home dragging a tree with me.

Gill had just woken up after dozing for two hours whilst the boys were playing on the computer... they headed up to bed pretty sharpish and I got on with various computery stuff. I still have to write a column before tomorrow morning....

Monday, 19 January 2009

Monday 19th January 09

The morning was very tough and traumatic.

A peaceful lunchtime, Gill went to bed and I waited for the media students to turn up. They were much later than they'd said they would be but I made good use of the time and they arrived just before 2pm, just in time to discuss the next moves and show them the composting ops in the garden and fruit rescue situation.

I collected our youngest at 3 and the students came back again at 4.

We walked down to Country Fresh, me with my bike, they with filming equipment, to see my pick ups there and interview Shirley, who works there when Richard has his days off. During the conversations/chats, one of the students asked whether my coming in to collect recyclables had made her think differently or do anything different in her life, and she said that now, since seeing my dedication to separate recyclables out of the shop waste, she now recycles at home. This is EXACTLY what I want to happen. I am unable to TELL or FORCE others to create less waste, but by just doing what I do, I show others what is possible and then they are possibly more likely to change their ways as they can see it is the right thing to do. What Shirley said made my day. I had no idea that my voluntary actions had been part of a change in Shirley's behaviour, but I am extremely happy that she now bothers to recycle. Just excellent!

I left the students walking up Heslington Road and cycled off with my two sacks of compostables and found branch, to go to Scummerfield to get milk, cheese and pasta.

Gill made cauliflower cheese and macaroni for tea, very good it was too. I left again at 7ish to go down to the York Green Festival meeting at the Friends Meeting House, where Rand had organised a good agenda... which we didn't follow that closely! However, the media students were able to film some of the proceedings, and the 12 or so YGF volunteers were able to decide the date of the next York Green Festival, 6th September, and most of who does what. It was a very successful meeting, well chaired by Randall... flexibly.... and I think everybody who wanted to contribute was enabled to do so.

We finished at 9.30 and some of us went for a drink in Pivo Bar... a jolly occasion and Martin bought me a second pint which was good. Back home just after 11 where Gill was just finishing helping/encouraging our eldest to finish his homework. They'd had a lovely evening, lots of work had been accomplished and my Sister had 'met' him on the interactive computer game and they'd chatted and got on well. Thank goodness this evening was peaceable!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sunday 18th January 09

Woke late and didn't feel that comfortable with such a lot of cleaning activity going on so I went outside to take cardboard down to the current compost heap, then cycled to Hazel Court to take drinks cartons, batteries, and some scrap iron for recycling. On the way out I was gently accosted by one of the operatives who explained that bicycles were not allowed up to the area where cars go, and that I should leave my stuff down at the pedestrians area. However, this area does not cater for drinks cartons or scrap metal, so I told him that I intended to continue using the normal area. There does not seem to be any sensible reason why cyclists should be singled out as not allowed... as when drivers get out of their cars to take stuff to different receptacles, they too become pedestrians. I will send in my application for a permit to use my trailer and see what happens. In the meantime, every now and then, I'll take in my tetrapaks for recycling, and use the correct 'bring bank'. Grrrr.. I hate stupid regulations!

Anyway, came back feeling refreshed and invigorated, having done my recycling and had a good-natured discussion where I stated my case clearly and politely.

Or kitchen was immaculate! Thank you Linda!!

Had lunch, said goodbye to Linda and got the stove going whilst listening to Gardeners Question Time on the radio and doing emails. Then I went and did some more tidying in the garden... mainly cutting back last year's blackberries and putting the chopped bits on the compost.

Listened to a little bit of York's best radio station, Equinox 107, which broadcasts on Sunday afternoons. Also popped down to Country Fresh to pick up a bag of resources, and cycled it down to put most of it on the new compost heap.

Tea was mainly reheated stuff from the previous day, but also broccoli and butternut squash. Lovely as usual. Gill is feeling much better and is up and about, keeping active and is eating well.

A fairly quiet evening, warm and cosy, watched an amusing documentary on the work of Health and Safety Inspectors, called 'The Fun Police'. Tried to do some writing. (other than this!)

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Saturday 17th January 09

Not a bad day really. Linda took our eldest into town and they had a lovely time... bought a book with a Waterstones gift token, had tea and scones in Little Betty's, and Linda bought the boys a DVD of 'The Incredibles'. Our youngest had a visit from one of his classmates which kept him busy and happy.

I didn't do that much... just a bit of dried fruit preparation, some work in the garden, a quick visit to Freshways, plus lots of attending to Gill's needs. I got tea ready... but it was easy as Aunty Jane had brought a veg crumble over, although Gill couldn't have it as it had cheese in it. Bovine dairy products give Gill IBS... although this might subside with the misbehaving gall bladder gone...

More good and frank conversations with Linda, much appreciated.

I tried to get some writing done but still feel a bit low. So nothing flowed. Not enough space to concentrate either.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Friday 16th January 09

Like her sister Gill, Linda is an early riser so last night we agreed that she'd supervise our eldest getting up, as he needs a long time to get going in the morning. Our youngest gets going more quickly and has a longer time in bed... I'm even quicker and therefore don't have to get up until 8, and I'm ready by 8.30. However, this morning, Linda didn't wake me up til 8.15... so I got washed and dressed and took the boyo to school before I had my cereal and coffee.

When I got back from school, Linda was washing up. Grrrrrrr! I much prefer to do the washing up as I'm so pernickety about how it's done... I have higher standards than many people, and won't let Gill do it as her eyesight means she misses bits and I am much more thorough, although not perfect! Gill takes great delight at pointing out when she finds dirt on something I've washed up... but as I haven't experienced Linda's washing-up I cannot comment. I expect it's fine. However, it's times like these when my Aspergery traits become obvious to me, as I really like my routines and like things to stay the same, ie I do the dishes in this house.

I did thank her, though, and gave her a hug, and she kind of understands my mental situation, at least as much as any non-aspie would. Not that I'm a total aspie myself... just on the same spectrum....

I had a meeting at St Nicks at 10, and just before I left, Gilly's other sister Jane arrived, as they are both going to visit Gill today. Jane had come over from West Yorkshire by train and then got the bus here.

The York Rotters meeting was good and I have some actions I need to get on with to see if we can do another round of publicity. More on this later.

Home for lunch to find that the two sisters were still out, either visiting Gill or perhaps in town together. I got a phone call from Gill saying they were all together and enjoying each others company.

I went to get our youngest. Gill and Linda came back just as I was putting tea out for the boys... leek and tomato soup, quiche, salad. They didn't like the soup as it was too strongly flavoured. Linda's pot washing wasn't brilliant, found three items with old food on... but we had a laugh about it and I told her that I was completely anal about clean crockery and cutlery... she admitted being equally so about untidy worktops... which means in theory, we'd make a brilliant couple (except I'm married to her sister!!!)

Gill was on good form and ate a little bit, and everybody was happy to see her.

We had a relatively quiet evening and I enjoyed chatting to Linda who talks a lot of sense!

I spent some time doing Facebook Pages for the forthcoming George Marshall's Carbon Detox Show which York in Transition is putting on at the Theatre Royal on 3rd March.

Thursday 15th January 09

For the boys it was a normal morning... I took our youngest to school... he's a brilliant cyclist, very confident on the road, great signaling etc, albeit a bit slow... and our eldest got himself out of the house in good time to walk to school with his friend.

I got back and Gill was getting the house ready for her to leave and go into hospital, and her sister coming to stay. She's only in overnight but still wanted a tidy house and food for the children ready! I did some cooking too, including making a veggie fruit jelly using some frozen loganberries, dried mango strips (which absorbed some moisture, re hydrating) and fresh apple. This proved to be a big success later on in the day, when we had it with dairy-free 'Swedish Glace' ice cream.

Anyway, we got everything ready for Gill to go away overnight, and just before midday, she got a taxi over to the hospital. I did a little bit more tidying up and went to get our little un at 3. When we got home, Gill's sister Linda was already here... it was lovely to see her, having come all the way from Norwich. We three lads were all glad to see her!

I went to the Co-op to get marmalade and bran flakes, and came back to heat up the stew with dumplings and cook some baking potatoes and peas. This eventually went down well!

I had a phone call from some media students who are coming to film next week about my attempts to live a low carbon life. Their results will end up on YouTube as well as help them get their degree.

At 8 I hopped om my bike again and shot off down the cycle track all the way to Haxby Road where Gill was lucky enough to have a room of her own at the Nuffield, although her gall bladder removal was on the NHS. She'd had the op and was very groggy but happy to see me. She'd done a lovely sketch of the Minster out of her window before the operation whilst she was waiting, and kept on making jokes about 'losing her gorm' and such like! What a darling! She had a coffee and a tomato sandwich, and I stayed with her for about an hour.

I picked up some logs on the way home and when in, had a really good chat with Linda who had had a lovely time with the boys.

Later, I did some work on the York in Transition website, uploading info about a meeting next week. I'm slowly getting better at this kind of thing, and am learning a few tricks, shortcuts and codes. Useful stuff, and fun too. Late to bed though...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Wednesday 14th January 09

I cycled into school with our youngest, and in the playground had a nice chat with a new Dad, Peter from Taiwan. On the way back I collected lots of litter from Windmill Lane... mostly aluminium cans but also plastic bottles... all will be recycled (well, I'll put them for recycling; what the council and metal merchant do with them is their business!)

Gill went to her art class and I was a good househusband and continued the tidying she started yesterday and washed up. Went to Thomas's and bought their excellent value 'yesterbake' bread... two loaves, four packets of rolls, 4 danish pastries and some flapjack offcuts... all for £3.75. Excellent! This is stuff which didn't sell yesterday, and the shops all send the unsold things back to the Tang Hall Lane shop, where it is sold at half price and two for the price of one... so actually, quarter price. So a loaf selling yesterday at £120 would be 60p, but you can have 2 for 60p. Excellent, and they don't have to be the same item, so today for instance, I got a white loaf and a seedy loaf and four different packets of rolls. Good on yer Thomas's of York!

Gill came back soon after 11 and we spent some time together trying to plan the next few days... Gilly got on with some cooking and I got on with something else before Neil the Thomson Local rep came to discuss my advertising package for next year. He was very nice and we went off at a tangent/off topic on several occasions, but we eventually got to agreeing the words and signing the document.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sorting out a new woodpile outside the front door AGAIN... but hey, we've been very cosy during this cold patch and not used any more fossil fuel than we normally do. Just loads of logs.

I picked up our youngest, and as usual managed the compost bins I've installed at school to recycle some of their stuff they throw away and don't bother to recycle themselves. However, children are often really wasteful themselves and throw away fruit they don't want to eat, rather than take it back home to face their parent/carer who would (perhaps!) sternly say 'Why didn't you eat that?' So I often find uneaten bananas, apples, pears and sometimes unopened packets of crisps or dried mango. This is my reward! I bring the fruit home, wash it and mostly dry the stuff for my cereal... or the kids gobble it up as they love the dried fruit so much! I leave dried fruit out on the racks and it just disappears. I've told them they don't ever have to ask to take it... and it just goes. Great!... I bring more home just about every day to slice up and bung on the racks above the stove, and this snack is much more healthy than sweets or biscuits (although they sometimes have these as well).

I went to visit Richard at Country Fresh and he gave me a huge load of seconds tomatoes, so I'll sort them out and make soup for the coming couple of days. Yummy!

Popped in to Freshways too... and oh no, they had tomatoes as well. So, I wish I had a cauldron. I might make a batch of soup-base and freeze it... A busy evening awaits.

Did have a busy evening. The boys kept busy too, on their computer (thank you Uncle Tom!) but somehow the screen went upsidedown and enlarged. I wanted to laugh but had to appear concerned, serious etc or there would have been an outburst. I offered to help but my solution didn't work, so I rang Simon and he talked our eldest through it... and solved it! Well, I think so...
Enjoyed 'It's Not Easy Being Green' but I don't think this series is as good as the first. Not enough Brigit!!! Hahahahaha...

Tuesday 13th January 09

I cycled our little one into school with some of the Oyster Mushrooms for Simon. Then bombed down to the station.

Got the 9.20 train to Sheffield, and when there, the tram to near Ali's. Had a lovely day, including sharing some Oysters fried with garlic in olive oil. Ali had never had them before and she liked them... we had them in a warm baguette, really delicious. At 2 her carer arrived and a bit later she brought Ali's daughter back from school, who seemed overjoyed to see me! She is just SO enthusiastic and happy, climbing all over me, asking for piggy back rides, pretending to be a little baby, pretending that I was a giant that ate children, playing games with a wooden spoon she'd drawn a face on and called Daisy, etc etc. Delightful and occasionally overwhelming!

Ali had a physio visit her after which we all went out to get something to eat, at a nearby pub. Then we went on to meet Ali's parents as Ali had something to give them. They'd met me before, when I did the birthday party last year. Then we went on to my parents' house, as I wanted to give a borrowed book back and give my Dad some Oysters, as he too likes wild mushrooms. I was surprised that they invited us all in, and we spent up to an hour socialising which was nice. Then I was dropped off at the station, and didn't have long to wait before the York train... and as I sat down, my Green Festival buddy Rob said hello... he was coming back from Birmingham airport (!) as he'd been to Spain to help some of his friends do up a castle! So chatted to him and his friend Cheryl all the way to York, and then a quick cycle home getting in just after 11pm.

Phew what a day!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Monday 12th January 09

Quite a good day... up earlier than I'd have liked, as I didn't sleep well. Got to bed as usual at 2ish and just lay there with thoughts racing round my head, so at 3.30 got up and came downstairs and played on the computer for half an hour, did some washing up, went to bed at 4.30 and fell asleep immediately! But up at 8 to take our youngest to school.....

And straight into town from school, cycling through the University, where I popped into the info place to find out whom I might talk to about getting the University involved in the Compost Doctors scheme, and along the Foss Islands Road and past the Minster to my dentist. Or more accurately, my hygienist, Cheryl, whom I see every other time, between the dentist who's called Pru (or perhaps Prue). Anyway, my teeth are reasonably OK but there are three areas which I need to work on a bit harder. I have to pay for the hygienist, and so this time paid for that plus some tiny inter-dental brushes and daily mouthwash... two of the reasons my teeth and gums are better than what they were.

Came straight home, via Gill waiting at the bus stop to go into town, so cycled over to her side of the road and gave her a big kiss, and home. Split a few logs and waited for the phone call from Elvina, who came to see York in Transition last week and today was having a 'John tour' round St. Nicks. She rang at 11 having got into York Station and was just getting on the bus. I cycled down to the bus stop we'd agreed, and waited for her, but not for long.

Elvina enjoyed her little wander round St Nicks, and I pointed out all the features which make it 'green'. We visited the stone circle and she took photos of the recycling collection vehicle, woodstove, Rotters info, energy meters, wind turbine and the building itself. Around the back, on and around the kids play area, there were perhaps 50 aluminium beer cans which had been thrown around by partygoers the previous night (presumably) so we collected them up, stamped them flat, and I filled a found polybag with them, to take home and add to my sackfuls to eventually take to the metal merchant.

On the way out of the nature reserve, I spotted a tree trunk with several big bunches of Oyster Mushroom. I removed some of the most edible-looking ones and carefully put them on a cloth bag in my trailer. Felt very pleased I'd found where Simon had found his clusters a few weeks ago... but I'll share these with him as he generously shared his finds with me.

So walked home with Elvina, took a quick tour of the garden and came in to warm up and have lunch. She then interviewed me on tape to get some quotes and commentary for her project. She'll use my info and ideas, and paraphrase it. Might end up on YouTube! Gill arrived home and had lunch; Elvina and I finished and she went to get the bus back to the station and train to Leeds.

I had half an hour before picking up our little one. So I split another few rounds...

When I cam back home Gill asked me to tidy the front garden as it was looking untidy, so I did, and took a load of stuff down the garden for composting, including a potato sack of garlic cloves in perhaps 100 little plastic net bags. I had to curteach of these bags with my big composting knife in order to put these past-it garlics on the new heap. So spent at least an hour outside doing that and other tidying jobs. Place still looks messy, though.

Tea was lovely, mushrooms and veg in white sauce with a mashed potato topping. Nice one Gilly.

A relatively quiet evening. Lots of email traffic.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Sunday 11th January 09

Another poor start to the morning... Gill woke me gently getting back into bed, having got one boyo happily ensconced on his prefered computer game, and the other seemingly happily playing on the Wii, which he likes. We do not wan t them to sit together on the big computer because of yesterdays difficulties. Gill had come back to bed for a lie-in.

However, the child on the Wii wasn't doing as well as he had done previously and started wailing. Gill went downstairs to see what was wrongd told him that today he wasn't allowed to go and watch his brother, but WAS allowed to continue with the Wii. A severe case of 'grass being greener on the other side' then ensued, with maximum volume. Gill tried to ignore it and came back to bed, and explained the situation to me.

However, the 'mortally wounded' child came upstairs and proceeded to wail outside our door, which rather put paid to any lie-in or anything!

Is childhood always this difficult? Is parenting always this difficult? Well, no, sometimes it is much easier for both chld and parent, but this morning was a low pont for two parents and one child. The child in the other room with the more desirable computer game didn't even register there'd been a problem!

So, I came downstairs and put some hot water on the washing up (Gill had lit the stove on the embers from last night) and watched Countryfile, which was mainly a re-run of several previous clips.

Lots of housework today, and mid afternoon, a cycle down to Country Fresh to pick up just one sack of compostables and took it to the allotment, where I spent an hour or just more chopping back the ever vigorous brambles and piling yet another series of layers on the compost heap. Also cut back a large woody shrub just behind the noticeboard which is on the edge of my plot, dug some grassy lumps and turned them over, and chatted to a nice lady called Sue who's partner Jerry or Gerry went to the Solar buyers club last month. I really love being on the allotment.. it's not hugely productive and I'm not mega-organised, but it's a lovely place to be and, well, just mess around. I'll plant some broad bean in soon. I got six packets from Barnitts last month.

Arrived back as it grew dark, at about half four and had some chats with the child who has homework to finish, constructing a questionnaire about 'The News' and how different people receive it, what they think about it, etc. He finished writing it out in neat, and asked all the family members the questions. With help, he rang up various other people (mainly his own age) and got their responses.

We all watched 'You've Been Framed' whilst eating tea... the boys had baked potatoes with stir fry veg/nuts and we had the stir fry with rice. Very tasty.

Later, I half-watched Swarm and tried to get into the mood to do some writing... but I'm just not really feeling like it. This daily diary-account is just about the most I can get myself to do at the moment... and I've a paid blog post to do, my book to keep on with and a column due in at the end of the month...

Saturday 10th January 09

Woken by yelling which wasn't nice.

But the rest of the morning went well and all was happy. My sister had arranged to be online at 2 so the boys could try out an online role-playing game and meet her avatar on it... so that was the exciting thing of the day for them.

I went to do a shop for assorted stuff.. veg/fruit, to a supermarket for various other bits like margarine and ribena, tea and cereals. On the way back I picked up some logs from the cycle track.

When I got back at about 3.30, there was a war going on, for real, not just in the game. One son had 'caused' the other to 'lose his life' and there was fighting and shouting, blaming and I don't know what but Gill asked me to come in urgently and keep them apart. Boys! Computers! Aaarrrgh!

I sat outside both their rooms to prevent them coming out whilst they calmed down for about an hour. After this we had a really nice family tea... just such a nice time.

So a real rollercoaster of a day.

A good evening... watched a brilliant film, by accident, called Snow Cake which was transfixing and really absorbing. However, was deleting emails at the same time and chatting to Ali on Facebook, and she was watching it as well, which was lovely, as we were able to comment on things that were happening. Gill woke up towards the end and I filled her in with the story... I'd been following it so well I was able to do this. Often, I cannot follow plots that well, but this one grabbed me!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Friday 9th January 09

Another late start following a late night. I am basically nocturnal if left to my own devices... if I didn't have children who woke me up so early and needed taking to school....

But our youngest, who needs taking to school, didn't this morning as his cough is still bad and so Gill decided to keep him at home. Our eldest, however, was fine and got himself out of the house at a normal time.

A fairly quiet day... dealt with a couple of Fiddlesticks enquiries and other 'admin' stuff.

At 1.45, headed down to school to see the Green Thumb Gang assembly which I wrote most of, for the children to advertise the Blue Peter Mission Nutrition Bring and Buy sale we're having in a fortnight, as well as explain what Green Thumb Gang does. Also showed a filmlet from Blue Peter emphasising the importance of having a good breakfast. The children did really well, and sang beautifully. I'm really pleased with Julia for bein so patient and good with them, and the children for all their effort.

After this, I did the usual playground bin emptying, as most of the children don't know it's wrong to put their fruit peels in the bin when there's a compostables recepticle next to it, and as it was the Key Stage 1 playtime, they were fascinated with what I was doing. I took the opportunity to get a lot of good messages through to them. A few converts to a less polluting lifestyle, I hope.

Popped in to see Melody and had a cuppa, then home via a log pile, overfilling my bike trailer as usual!

At 5pm, we had a visit from an electrician reccommended by another electrician friend who isn't quite as highly qualified to do domestic stuff (he works on cruise ships mainly!) and this lovely chap, Nick, fixed our gas boiler which hasn't worked for about 3 months. So, instant hot water is now available! Showers will be gratefully had by Gill, who's not as keen on baths as I am, and does her stand-up-wash only because she's had no option. I will continue to have my weekly deep and very hot woodstove-water bath plus daily cold-water stand-up washes. I think the boys will welcome the return of the shower!

Our eldest has started playing a role-playing game on the computer, and as this is one of my sister Anna's favourite activities, I rang her so she could chat to her nephew, but no-one was there. However, seconds later, Uncle Douglas rang back and had a good chat with him, me and Gill. Very nice!

Tea was one of Gill's fantastic quiches with small new potatoes and broccoli. Pudding was home-made chocolate cake and non-dairy ice cream.

A nice family evening, house toastie, boys good, all relaxed.

Thursday 8th January 09

Well, an interesting day as both our boys were unwell enough to be at home.

So, a quiet morning as they were mostly in bed, but some interaction with them and I had lunch with them, as Gill had gone into town for some tests before having her gall bladder operation in a couple of weeks.

Gilly came back after lunch and I cycled into town to get a big tin of Oxfam coffee (it's not made by them, it's fairtrade Cafe Direct bought from the Oxfam shop in Monk Bar, then onto the Council offices to meet the contact person for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, re room bookings, then back through Monk Bar to InSainsburys to get Mayonnaise, pasta, vegan ice cream and a few other bits. Called into the metal merchants just off Foss Islands Road to find the price of copper at the moment... it's very low at £1.80 per kilo. Domestic wiring with the plastic on is currently (geddit?) worth just 50p a kilo, so the wire stripping I'm doing is worth it. But it might be a good idea to hang onto the stripped wire until the prices rise again.

Home quickly so the ice cream didn't melt... mind you the ambient temperature can't have been much more than freezing.

I filled the log baskets and had tea... cauliflower with veg pastie and squash. Not bad!

I was due to facilitate the York in Transition meeting at the Stables so I arrived fairly early, and met up with a lass from Leeds called Elvina, who's looking for some visual way of representing local environmentally friendly actions for an art project. So she took some photos and participated in the meeting. We reviewed the different sub-groups and what they've been doing, reviewed the aims of the awareness-raising talks some of us are doing, had a real-life demo of updating the wiki website (, and a run-through of the fairly new Sustainable Communities Act ( and a number of other item. Right at the end of the meeting, one of the bulbs in the room blew... tripping the fuse switch... so we were plunged into darkness, which caused some interesting comments.

Went to The Slip Inn afterwards. Good chats, but only stayed for the one pint and came home... spent a couple of hours on the computer, as usual, whilst half watching the television and keeping the stoves going.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Wednesday 7th January 09

A good day but where did it go? Still feel as if we're recovering from the holidays, and the morning went by very quickly... after taking our youngest into school, and picking up some branches on the way home and prepared them into kindling, bought bread and brain flakes and bingo, it was lunchtime! After lunch we had a visitor, and bingo it was time for me to go to school and pick him up again!

Did a little bit more in the garden and popped down to Freshways... Gill made a nutloaf with some extra spaghetti from yesterday.

So, not much to report today, but survived it... just. Probably the highlight was a heated discussion on one of the email lists I'm on, or possibly the new series of 'It's Not Easy Being Green' on BBC2, with the irrepressible Dick Strawbridge and just a quick flash of his lovely wife Brigit. I might try the carbon calculator they used, or rather the very wasteful flash cricketer whose name I cannot remember...

Having done that calculator, I'm not that impressed, as it wasn't as detailed as some I've used, but it's a start. I was rated as 1.61 planets/year, which is more than most of the more detailed calculators which take more lifestyle choices into account. A reasonable introduction to carbon calculators for novices though!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Tuesday 6th January '09

Quite an early start, as taking our youngest into school at 8.30ish... cycling in was really cold but no ice on the roads, fortunately.

Had a busy morning.. lots of paperwork to do and admin which hasn't got done whilst the boys have been at home over the holidays. So registered to do my tax online and a variety of other things, including jarring up dried fruit. But also played some Scrabble on Facebook! Gill went for lunch in town with Alison and Melody.

Kept the stove going all day and toasted crumpets for lunch, well, part of lunch. The day went oh so quickly... and before I knew it, 3pm and time to cycle down to school again and pick up out little 'un. The Green Thumbs assembly about the Blue Peter Mission Nutrition Bring and Buy Sale is on Friday so chatted with Julia about when this is going to be practiced. fortunately I don't need to be there... just to attend the assembly.

I did a little bit of logpile management and came in to have tea... spaghetti and tomato/broccoli topping, all done on the woodstove.

Then off out to the Tang Hall Community Centre to facilitate the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel meeting... dealt with just two applications but it was good to be with Andrew and Stephen who are both more knowledgeable than me about planning matters. Carolyn didn't turn up... I rang her when I got back and she'd fallen asleep and missed the meeting. She was glad I'd checked on her, as she's usually very reliable and knew that if she'd fallen or something, I'd be able to alert someone or do something... although thinking about it, not sure what.

This meeting took an hour and I came home via the cycle track to pick up sticks for kindling and logpiles.

Boys finished a game of Yu-Gi-Oh and went to bed. I typed up minutes from last night's LETS meeting and sent them off.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Monday 5th January 09

The last day of the Christmas holidays. Boys bouncy and excited... not sure what about though.

Gill took our eldest into town to try for a third time to find trousers that fitted him, and I think they were successful, as most of the evening Gill was putting in new hemlines and sewing in nametags...

Our youngest took advantage of the time and space to have numerous Wii race games. I spent some time on the computer and got a message which looked like it was from windows, so downloaded it and oh n, it was a virus called Antivirus 2009 which proceeded to perform a series of pop ups warning me of virus infection and inviting me to pay for a patch to get rid of them... I realised this was a con, and went hunting for solutions, not easy as one of the things the virus was also doing was blocking most of the web pages I tried to look at, again suggesting they had bad software in them.

It was very frustrating. I got quite annoyed. This was obvious to the other family members and the children offered to help me get rid of the problem, which was sweet of them but just not helpful and I wasn't as empathic and gentle as I could have been and this caused a row just before I had to go out to the LETS meeting... not a nice situation to leave Gill with.

But I had to go to the meeting as we were expecting some visitors from the Council who wanted to know more about LETS and how it could be part of a toolkit connected with social inclusion etc. I think we looked reasonably together to them, and there should be some mutual help. However, I have to organise our bank account to get new signatories, and then get together with my favourite funding advisor Melody to get a grant for our new software... more work!

But had good chats to them afterwards about Local Agenda 21, York Credit Union, York Rotters, my book and much more.

Home to try and sort out my computer... found some 'open source' freeware called Malwarebytes which was very easy to install and it removed the crazy virus rubbish. Whilst the scan was going on, did a batch of washing up whilst Gill ironed for tomorrows 'back to school' event!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Sunday 4th January 09

Not such an early morning today... but had to get up as we'd promised to have a game of Ug-I-Oh cards this morning to appease one of the boys yesterday who was going on about it. I had a bath first thing and whilst drying off we formed two 'teams' but it is a complicated and long game which neither I or our youngest understands so it disintegrated as there was only one keen player.

I had an early lunch as I was working today, and was picking up David the photographer at just after 1 so he could continue to get some pics for my new flyer. So we cycled along the river to the Millennium Bridge and onto Bishopthorpe Road and then to the venue, St Chad's Church Hall.

An excited 4 year old was awaiting... soon to be 5, and 34 of his classmates arrived within half an hour, after I'd got changed and introduced David to the parents (who'd agreed his attendance beforehand). At the beginning of the show I introduced David to the audience, and then got on with the entertainment. As per usual, the show went really well... lots of laughter and participation... did both shows, circus and balloons, and everybody enjoyed it. I think David was impressed... this was the first time he'd seen my full routine. I hope he got some good photos.

We came back together at 4.30 and then I popped in to Freshways to see if they had any compostables, so came back with an extra load alongside the bag of circus gear and unicycles.

Gill was then able to get on with finishing tea, virtually impossible with demanding children needing her attention. Tea was lovely... macaroni cheese with cauliflower, and I had an extra 'use it all up' tomato and bean thing. The boys were perfectly behaved.

I had been asked by a friend to go and help break up an old wardrobe as my friend was moving house, so I popped out just before 7 and got back at 9pm. Gill had had a very tough time and was glad to see me. I sat with the little darlings and watched Swarm with them which was excellent and quite amazing. As soon as that finished they went to bed and we relaxed a bit... I peeled more bananas for drying and did my emails whilst half watching the telly.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Saturday 3rd January 09

Another good day, although was awoken early by a child wailing as he hadn't got a handkerchief and had got something to put into one... the joys of parenting!

But the rest of the day was good.... I did a bit of wooding, a bit of composting, lunch, family chats... my eldest went to a party and we had a peaceful afternoon.

I visited David my photographer friend later on in the afternoon to see the pics he took on Christmas day, and to discuss how to deal with the inadequately filled-in 'Model Release Forms'. The photos had some really good ones in, certainly one or two suitable for my new flyer.

Made several phone calls in the evening, one to our friends Mark and Jennifer in Hebden Bridge, as their son has a birthday and our eldest is friends with him, and to our good friend Dawn in Sheffield and her nearly grown up son, and finally to my Dad who also has a birthday today, so the boys could sing to him. I expect this was a bit of a surprise!

A very quiet evening.... spent another hour or so peeling plastic off copper wire. It is a very tedious job, and I bet I'll only get a few quid for the stuff I've reclaimed!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Friday 2nd January 09

An excellent day! It was a relaxed morning with no shouting or aggro, and then Gill went into town on the bus to try and find trousers for our eldest and so he could get a birthday present for his friend who's party he's going to tomorrow.

I took this opportunity to play with our youngest, he wanted to play on 'Mario Karts' on the Wii... and oh God it was difficult! I was rubbish... came last several times, but hey I'm a beginner and I'm old so both count against me. Half an hour left me exhausted! So much concentration... and then the phone rang and it was Rose up the road asking if our eldest was needing a lift to the party tomorrow... and I asked if her son was in and wanted a playmate? He was and did, so we walked up there and I came back to do a composting job which has been needing doing for a while: the bin made of Anderson Shelter corrugated iron was very well rotted down... I dug it all out and put the stuff in a builders bag, from where I'll bag it up or riddle it and bag it...

Then Gill came back, our eldest with no trousers but a nice appropriate prezzie for his friend.

I then bombed into town on the bike to pay our annual electricity bill to Good Energy through the bank (electronic transfer) and put in a cheque for £30 for 6 sacks of compost Alison had off me yonks ago, the stuff Barry Potter took up on his return journey from delivering the cider press back to me...

Back in time to put some rather overdue compostables which have been hanging about into the newly vacated container, and collect a pile of electrical flex I rescued a while ago which I've been putting off sorting. However, once I'd sat down and got going with the craft knife (pulling the flex into the blade, the blade held still next to my trousered leg), my eldest started to help by pulling apart the grey outer insulation and removing the inner thinner wires, and then when I'd shaved off a long sliver of plastic from the copper wire, he extracted the wire from the throw-away plastic sheath.

We did about two hours worth... a most excellent Father/Son activity, and we did about a quarter of what I've collected recently. Enjoyed the Royal Institution Lecture again, and took wood-heated bathwater up for the older boyo to have a bath before his party tomorrow.

A most enjoyable day. I want, no, NEED more days like this, where I feel like a good parent doing the right things re my offspring. All too often these days I feel like I'm just not coping, but today was a blinder! Mainly due to excellent behaviour from both boys.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Thursday 1st January 09

Woke late... as expected having eventually got to bed after 2am fairly loaded with Russian redcurrant spirit.

Decided to get out into the fresh air and go and collect some logs I rooted out last night... and then chopped them, finishing for lunchtime.

The boys had a friend around during the afternoon, which kept them quiet and happy.

I did a bit of compost management, and more importantly, sorted out a new supply of partly composted sawdust for my toilet... it's the ideal cover material as it's biologically active and any smell molecules will emanate from the 'deposit' are adsorbed into the particles of sawdust, where microbes use them as a feedstock. If dry sawdust is used, the deposited material is covered but odourific molecules may pass through the dry sawdust. Sawdust is used as it is mainly carbon, which balances the humanure which is high in nitrogen when it composts down. I leave it for about 4 years, by which time it is a very fine lovely compost, ideal for mixing with various other media for growing tomatoes etc in.

Did this til nearly dark, came in and watched some telly whilst warming up and doing emails. Gill had made a dough for pizza, and used the tomato/onion thing I made yesterday as the stuff on top. She does make a good pizza!

A good evening... rang round a few friends to wish them a HNY and visited Debbie to give her some bananas and wish her well with her difficult New Year's Resolution.

Made a carrot and tomato soup quite late on, whilst watching the 1980s remake of The Fly... I've seen it loads of times, first when it came out and I saw it in the cinema.