Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Monday 30th August 10

Up early as work today. I got washed, breakfasted, all my stuff together whilst Gill ironed my costume and made some sandwiches. Then I went down the garden with Janie and picked some beans, and found some windfall James Grieve apples for her. I got both our bikes and loaded up mine, minus trailer, in a way I'd not done before.

I put both unicycles on the luggage rack with their stems either side of my saddle and their saddles on my cross bar. My bag of sticks etc then went on top of the unicycle wheels, and was bungied on. In my rucksack I had costume, the fun wheels and pedal go. In a pannier I had my canvas bag with sandwiches, journal and No Impact Man (the book, not Colin himself!).

Janie and I cycled slowly down to the station... using the cycle track and then Monkgate and Goodramgate. We got there at 10.45 and had 10 minutes before her Manchester train went, and my Starbeck train left 10 minutes after that.

I was met at Starbeck by a nice and very chatty bloke called John who took me to Spofforth, where the Gala was just getting going. I'd been asked just a few days ago if I'd come and entertain, as the magician who'd been booked was ill. So I was due to do a half hour show at 1.15 and another at 3.15. Between these times I was very busy doing workshops, unicycling round and doing devilsticks really fast to a Samba Band, and towards the end, making a lot of balloon animals. Lots of people said they were pleased to see me back, which was nice.

Right at the end, the treasurer came to pay me and reimburse my train fare. John the chat gave me a lift back to Knaresborough. I got changed on the station platform! I tried to read on the way back but dozed... gigs always wear me out.

I was quite grumpy when I got back as I was really tired but there was fighting, taunting, screaming, crying etc and I lost my cool and swore, which I later apologised for. It took me quite a while to shake off this mood, but at midnight I found the second episode of Ideal on iPlayer and that cheered me up. Bed at 1.30ish.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Sunday 29th August 10

I had a good day... it started nicely and just got better.

So, I had a bit of reading No Impact Man; it is really well written and very 'digestible'. I got up and got busy, although it was windy I did a bit in the garden and before lunch, cycled down to see Richard, minus trailer, and came back with two boxes and a sack strapped onto my luggage rack, plus a canvas bag of veggies.

After lunch I picked some beans for the boys' tea and collected more windfall fruit, as there was quite a bit as it was windy.

Then after 3 I got myself ready to go to the station to pick up Janie, as she was coming over to York for the York Flashmob's 'Night of a Thousand Lanterns' event. She came with her bike so we cycled down to the Millennium Bridge and then back to Hull Road via Walmgate Stray and the University.

After a coffee we went down the garden as Janie wanted to see the results of my composting Jeans; the only things which survives the process are the zipper, stitching and pockets, plus any rivets which go through any of this material. The pockets and stitching is nylon, which doesn't rot, but most of the trousers are cotton, which turns to compost in a year or two.

Then we picked nuts! I'd picked a hazelnut or three a few days ago to see if they were ripe. Eaten immediately, they weren't very good, but leaving them for a few days rendered them delicious. So they were ready for picking... and the trampoline was in just the right place for getting most of them, and I dangerously balanced the ladder to get the rest. Janie caught the nuts as I lobbed them down to the trampoline and put them in a bucket, which we completely filled.

Here's the result:

I was extremely happy with this... I'll have to let them dry off a bit by spreading them out either in the loft or the front room floor.

Then I had my tea... home grown beans AGAIN and potatoes and the last of the veg cobbler from yesterday. After which I took Janie to see the strip of woodland next to Windmill Lane, and we had a quick look at the new University Campus buildings before coming back. Then, after some nice chats with Gill, we cycled off to what I think is called Siwards Hill, between the Retreat and the Allotments, near the entrance to Walmgate Stray/Low Moor from Heslington Road. This hill is where I suggested Janie might want to release her lantern, as it has some protection with walls and trees but is one of the highest points in York.

Although it was windy and gusty, we managed to get the lantern lit and let go... it blew along the grass for a while and then took off and soared away. It was spectacular and a very moving experience. We then saw quite a few others floating by... maybe 15 in total, singly and in groups of two or three... it was lovely. For Janie, this was a meaningful ceremony, and signifies letting go of some things in her past and starting afresh.

So, a cycle home with the moon rising and then a very nice evening chatting and enjoying the stove, I prepared some windfalls for drying, Janie went on facebook whilst I washed up, and Gill tried to find a holiday cottage for next summer on various websites.

A memorable day. Lovely.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Saturday 28th August 10

A kind of relaxing day, except that I had an accident with the blackberry and apple fruit-leather-to-be. I was using the vacuum cleaner to remove the fruit flies which were being a bit too interested in the tray, balanced on the big saucepan on the stove. I'd lined the pan with a plastic sandwich bag, as when the leather dries, it is really easy to take the sheet of fruit pulp out and peel the plastic off it and put the damp sheet on a rack to dry further. BUT the vacuum cleaner sucked the plastic bag and dislodged the tray, which spilt all over the top and side of the stove, hearth, and carpet in front. Whoops.

I was able to pour the rest of the blackberry and apple into a receptacle, as I hadn't lost all of it, but I then had to do quite a bit of clearing up. I was very annoyed with myself, as preparing the fruit took AGES!

The rest of the day was just fine. I received two books I bought yesterday from Amazon, using a gift voucher for £20 which I got for filling in a questionnaire months ago. As I've been asked to speak at the screening of Colin Beavan's 'No Impact Man' on 7th September, I've bought the book so I can read it first. I also bought Mark Boyle's book 'The Moneyless Man, A Year of Freeconomic Living'. So I've got a lot of reading to do now... as if I hadn't already!

I did some work outside too, picked beans and a tromboncino squash, and windfall apples for drying, and I dug out a dalek bin of very mature compost into sacks which I've stored in the broken Compostumbler, and half-filled the newly emptied dalek with material from the medium sized Compostumbler. I then started to fill that Compostumbler again.

I really enjoyed an hour of weeding the pond-to-be area, another patch of ground elder, it is most satisfying.

Apart from that, I did relatively little today!

Friday 27th August 10

I got up earlier than I'm used to as my friend Tara had asked me to come over and help install her compost bins. But that wasn't all... she also requested that I have a go at using the borrowed pick axe to break up the large lump of concrete which we managed to get out last time, and there were also 3 water butts needing to be installed. This seemed a lot to fit into a 10 til 1 slot.

However, the compost bins were easy to do... I used the outline of the base of the bin to make a little trench which the foot of the bin sat in, and the soil that was removed was then put back in the edge of the trench and on the lip of the bin to secure it. We put both of them next to each other in a sunny spot. Whilst I was putting the second one in, Tara chopped up some beech twigs to make an aerated base for the first one.

Then we undid one of her pots of potatoes, there were some but I think they could have been bigger, so I suggested the rest should stay. Then we had a look at her tomato plants which she's been growing on a window sill. They needed a bit of pruning but several of them had tomatoes on, and some will still produce a few more.

We were able to do some of the first water butt installation, by removing a section of down pipe, but then we got a bit stuck with drilling a hole in the side of the butt, so Tara made lunch and I had a bit of a bash at the concrete but I only got a few bits off, and some of these struck me on the face; one cut me and I decided that I didn't want to continue with this.

I enjoyed a cheese and onion sandwich and a hummus and tomato, plus dry roasted peanuts, one of my favourite treats, and then i had to go as I told Gill I'd be back around 2pm. I loaded up my wrecking bar on the trailer (I'd brought this in case we needed to lever the concrete somewhere) and set off, but I didn't get far before my trailer parted company from it's front part; the weight of the wrecking bar had caused one of the weak points of the trailer's metal bars to fatigue and break. It has broken there before, and been welded back together. I managed to fix it with bungees, and fix the wrecking bar alongside of my top bar on my bike frame also with bungees (I should have carried it here before, thinking about it) and gingerly cycle home, hoping that the bungees held the trailer secure.

As soon as I got in, Gill went to town to try to find some clothes for the boys for school.

I had a bit of time on the computer and did some housework.

At about 7pm, we all set off for Simon and Melody's party. I cycled down and Gill and the boys got a lift with Ros and her son in their car.

I had a great time, enjoyed chatting to Phil, and then Lynn, and briefly with Kate and Alison, and I prized myself free after 11.30. A really good social time!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Thursday 26th August 10

I had a very sedentary day, doing mainly paperwork and admin.

I created an invoice for a gig in a few weeks time and sent it electronically to my client, a Housing Association. I wrote a confirmation letter to a lady who's booked me for her retirement party. I confirmed a gig in Preston with my agent and sent a Freecycled DVD to someone who'd requested it, one of a large pile of DVDs and CDs I'd found in a skip. I decided I'd see if anyone on Freecycle wanted the insulating plastic flex from all the copper wire I've been stripping, and was amazed and delighted to get a taker.... but I don't know what she wants it for yet! (not that's any of my business, but I'm curious!)

I also found several bills which need paying and some paperwork which needs filing. However I didn't find the paperwork from the WHSmith gig in Malton weeks ago, which I need to process before I get paid. More searching tomorrow. One of my facebook friends joked that I needed an administrator and yes, I reckon I could use her.... I think she works in an office and seems very organised!

Before tea I went down the garden for an hour of compost tumbler filling, bean picking and windfall collecting.

After tea I chopped up a lot of James Grieve windfall apples and liquidised them with the stewed blackberries, then put the puree through a sieve, and the seed-free and fibre-free slurp went into a non stick tray on the stove and will end up as fruit leather. The stuff that didn't go through the sieve is going to be mixed with water, boiled on the woodstove and left to drain through the sieve to make a blackberry and apple drink. I really like to get the most off my home grown fruit crops.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wednesday 25th August 10

I had a nice lazy morning but got going after lunch as I'd been booked to perform at the Woodlands MS Respite Care Centre Garden Fete. That was from 3 til 6, so my usual lunch hour from 1 til 2 wasn't affected, and I leisurely got stuff together and left the house at 2.50pm.

At the bottom of the drive there was a group of people gathering to protest the planned closure of the Respite Care Centres by the MS Society, who claim they are not cost effective and patients could be looked after in their own homes for less money than it costs to put them up at the centre, which gives everyone concerned a change of scene. Patients become guests and meet other people with the same condition, and family members back home have a rest from care-giving for a week or two. It is a very good solution for a difficult problem, despite being expensive.

So I went up to Woodlands and got myself organised there, but was asked by a protester to come and join them for a few minutes to have a group photo taken. So I actually started work at about 3.10... but worked solidly all the way through til 6. I started with a show for the children, and had about 20 of them watching and taking part, after which they all disappeared to do some races or something, so I went and sat at different tables and chatted with the guests and their family members or carers, and made balloon models with the usual silly humour. The kids came back in dribs and drabs and I did a few workshops whilst still doing balloons. It was a good day for me, and the other entertainment was good too; a cover-version duo, various stalls, ice cream van, BBQ and bouncy castle. I hope they raised some money!

I bought a veggie burger and salad right at the end, and walked home with that plus my unicycles and juggle-kit. Gill had bought a pizza as the boys had a fussy friend to visit who doesn't eat vegetables (although he did this time eat one potato and one forkful of broccoli) so I had a couple of slices of this with the burger and salads.

Immediately after tea I had a visit from someone I know from LETS, also a Freecycler, who had asked for some wood to make a compost bin out of. I have, over the past few years, collected some treated wood out of skips which I choose not to burn. So Marion and her fella came round and took a pile of assorted tannalised boards off my hands, for which I'm very grateful.

I picked another load of pears after this, right up at the top of the tree... I'm glad Gill wasn't around as she'd have had a fit seeing me right at the top of the ladder, all by myself. It is very high, 30 feet/10 metres. But I am careful how I place it, and do value my life. I'm not a daredevil!

In the evening I watched Richard Dawkins' take on religion and I have to say, once again, he is spot on. Science cannot prove there is no God, but it is always looking for proof which corroborates other proven information, and for me, is a far better way to base a life on than blind faith. I'm still happy being agnostic though, as I cannot be 100% sure there isn't a creator, and so many of the people I know have some version of spirituality, I would feel churlish to dismiss it completely. I wonder how many of my Christian and Muslim friends watched the programme?

Gill and I looked through a good book called 'Pears' by Jim Arbury and Sally Pinhey, and we reckon our huge pear tree is a Jargonelle. I emailed an expert who might be able to confirm this. I'll also message my friend Barry Potter and see if he knows about pear varieties.

I spend quite a bit of time on facebook, and last thing tonight I came accross this video, about plastic bags. It is well worth a watch, it is funny but has an important message.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tuesday 24th August 10

I wasn't feeling brilliant today, and towards the end of it I had a running nose and was sneezing all the time, so I didn't do an awful lot.

But earlier in the day, I did check that tomorrow's Woodlands gig was going ahead. I hope to be well enough... I usually recover very quickly from this kind of ailment.

I visited Debbie and she was in a great mood, having had some good luck.

I came back and had lunch, and eventually decided that whatever state I was in, I really must get down to town to put my cheque in. So I cycled down to Country Fresh, picked up one sack there, then onto Alligator where they had quite a bit for me, and then, with a trailer full of compostables, into town where I put in my cheque from Sunday and got out a cheque to pay a bill. I decided to again try my bank card in the Link ATM and whilst about to do this, was approached by a drunk and possibly Irish man who launched into a tirade of verbal abuse. It seemed he knew who I was, or a bit about me, but I didn't know him. He accused me of all sorts of horrible things, and I was really taken aback. I'm not someone who can ignore this kind of thing; I generally get stuck in, and so I did, telling him it was entirely wrong of him to give me this verbal abuse. I didn't understand a lot of what he said, but I did gather that he had lost a son, and had stood in a general election as an independent and came 6th. He had some choice words for Hugh Bayley, our MP, and was really unpleasant.

This left me quite shocked and shaken, but I kept it together and went to Sainsburys for a nice loaf and some vegan ice cream so Gill can have a treat.

I did some work in the garden but I wasn't feeling that enthusiastic so I sat in front of the stove and stripped yet more copper wire, resulting in a big pile of plastic insulating spaghetti and a bag of tightly coiled copper wire of assorted gauges or widths.

And in the evening I picked some blackberries and tried to find enthusiasm for preparing them.

Monday 23rd August 10

Gill and I both woke fairly late, 9ish, as our eldest son had requested that he see in his birthday, and stay up til midnight. This meant that his little brother was also up... and they didn't get to sleep for quite a bit after that. Excitement!

So, a birthday, and we now have a teenager! He hadn't wanted to go anywhere or do anything in particular, so it was a low-key day.

I did a variety of jobs... went to get bread from Thomas the Baker, and was lucky with a good selection of Yesterbake, unsold bread from Saturday, available at half price and two for the price of one, essentially quarter price. Better for the company than having to pay to throw it away, though!

On my way back from the baker, I noticed a big branch in Hull Road Park, so a bit later, I cycled round to the 'Fast Pack' shop on Lilac Avenue which sells all sorts of nuts, bolts, tools and much more, as one of my unicycle saddles had lost some nuts fixing it to the metal shaft. I got the right size nuts and then went on to the park to chop up the branch with my bowsaw. This was a trailer-full of nice Ash logs.

Later, I used a climbing rope I found a few months ago on a road near Durham to pull the walnut tree more vertical; Gill asked me to do it as it is leaning over, and there are so many walnuts on it that it is weighed down somewhat. Oh, the squirrel trap has had it's first victim. So, more nuts, fewer predators!

I spent a bit of time pruning the tomatoes in the conservatory... taking out unwanted side shoots and the tops of the plants, so they put more of the energy into fruit. I picked about 20 tomatoes too.

I got a Fiddlesticks booking for late September at a Housing Association do, and got a reminder from Book of Green about a bill for the iPhone application.

After tea, which was a lovely nutloaf, tagliatelle, green beans and tomato sauce creation, I cycled round to Nick, a Freecycler, who had put a large television up for grabs, and we'd asked for it as our small TV in the front room is not that good for doing the Wii with... and this reason was enough for him to choose us as the lucky recipients. I took an old duvet with me and this meant I could balance the huge TV on my trailer.

Later in the evening I chopped up more pears for drying. They are SO tasty!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sunday 22nd August 10

Straight back to work today, I started with a shower to wash my hair and then loaded my bike trailer up with jugglestuff and my unicycles... the first day with my big unicycle in 8 weeks.

I popped in on Country Fresh to say hi to Rich and then on to the station to park my bike, gather my belongings and get a ticket to Leeds. The 12.15 train was late and due in at 12.37. But there was an earlier train, also late, due in at 12.13, so I went to wait for that. I sat on a seat on the platform and started chatting to a nice older lady, who turned out to be involved in her Transition Town, somewhere near Oxford. She was Ros Kent, and a quick search shows that she is centrally involved in Transition Eynsham Area. We had a really good chat on the platform and then on the train all the way to Leeds.

I had my sandwiches for lunch whilst waiting for Alan to pick me up at the back of the station, and in less than half an hour we were at Middleton Park, and I got ready to perform. It was a very standard show, workshop and balloon show, two hours non-stop, and very enjoyable. The unicycling fitted in with no problems, my ankle breaking 8 weeks ago is now becoming just a bad memory. However, I will try to be more concious in the future and try not to let it happen again.

I especially enjoyed meeting Paul and Margaret, volunteers with FoMP, and my young friend with Aspergers who is doing really well with her Poi, flower sticks and diabolo skills. She's attended all four of my visits to Middleton Park.

4pm came soon and I did the last of the balloon requests, got changed back into 'civvies' and Alan took me back to the station. There was a train within 20 minutes, and I got into York at about 5.30pm. I visited a ripe skip on the way back, and found some electrical cable, which I'll remove the copper wire from, and some lead sheets, which will realise a pound or two at the metal merchant. The skip user gent was happy for me to have these bits and bobs.

Home at 6.10 and I had some quiet time running a blade along some flex and pulling the wire out whilst watching Secret Britain. Gill had created a nice rice-based tea, with home grown tomatoes and home grown beans... totally yummy!

After tea I got the big ladders and picked a big bucket full of pears from our early pear tree. I first put them up in the self-supporting shape, which gets me 6m off the ground, but then I put them into the straight configuration and leant them against the tree, and went up the full 9 metres, my head popping out into the top of the tree! Many of the pears are over-ripe but some are just right for drying, so during the evening I halved, cored and peeled a lot of them and put them on the drying racks over the stove. Dried pears are one of my favourite of all the dried fruits I make. I still have a lot to deal with, and there's more on the tree... and several more trees to deal with, none as big as this one though.

Saturday 21st August 10

Gill and I got up early to finish packing, do the recycling... we'd only produced a carrier bag of landfillable rubbish, four glass bottles, 2 glass jars, a few plastic bottles, several cereal boxes full of compostables, dealt with guerilla-style, and half a dozen drinks cartons which I brought home to put in the recycling here.

We'd ordered a taxi for 9.15 and the driver told us all about her house and grounds, which sounded interesting. The journey into Swansea cost £13.

The train was at 9.55 and the journey up to Shrewsbury, a quicker route via Cardiff and Abergavenny was still very interesting and pretty in places. However, we were glad we'd taken the four hour trip on the Heart of Wales line on the journey south, as that was really lovely.

We got into Manchester for about 2.10pm and then had a bit of a wait for our train to York. I chatted to a nice chap who was a driver of the Virgin Pendolino trains.

A non-eventful trip back to York, apart from managing to delete about 450 sent messages and inbox stuff. Altogether this holiday I've re-organised my computer substantially and deleted well over 500 messages and over 100 pictures and files.

I took the heaviest rucksack and several other bags and put them in my bike trailer, which I'd left at the station. Enjoyed the cycle home, popping in on Country Fresh to say hi to Rich.

When I got in, I found Melody (presumably) had not just watered our tomato plants but also tidied up a bit... how embarrassing but how lovely. A Yorky reward will be hers!

When the others came in (they gave up waiting for the bus and got a taxi) I visited Country Fresh again, and Rich had left me several boxes of desirable compostables. In a skip on the way back I found some copper pipe, lead pipe and a lump of wood. Nice!

I did a bit of compost bin filling and set the squirrel trap, as there was evidence of nut theft from the red hazelnut tree.

Dealt with 300 emails! Cut/pasted blog posts, written whilst on holiday on Wordpad. Lit the stove. Washed up.

Friday 20th August 10

I was woken by thunder. The view across the bay was spectacular... ie no view, just dense rain.

When it calmed down a bit I went into Mumbles to buy some pasties, broccoli, rolls and soya milk, and got some sweetcorn as well. But I did come back quite damp.

In the afternoon I took the family exploring the path behind the house; it led into a housing estate and we asked a local person which way to go at one junction, and we decided to go to Langlands Corner. But a minute later, the boys decided they were tired so they and Gill went back, and I walked to Langlands Corner and from there, down to Rotherslade Bay.

I bought an ice cream and when I'd finished this, climbed up the rock in the middle of the bay and watched the tide come in. Then I moved to the east side of the bay where I could see the waves crash against the rocks a bit better, and stayed here til about 4pm, which was high tide. Then I walked slowly back to Bryn Terrace, collecting blackberries on the way.

Gill and the boys had come back and Gill had boiled the rest of the potatoes and then cooked the sweetcorn in that water. The potatoes she roasted and then heated the pasties in the oven, and this plus the broccoli made a good last meal here.

After this, I went on a walk with our eldest down to the promenade, and along to the pier, and as the tide was going out, we tried to get to the lighthouse. However, the channel between the first and second island had still got deep water in it, and it had started raining again, so we turned tail and walked home, past Bracelet Bay and up the hill and back to Bryn Terrace. We got back soaked but happy we'd had a nice walk together.

I lit the stove to dry off our wet clothing. At intervals through the evening we were getting our bits together.... I stewed the balckberries on the stove and filled two peanut butter jars with it, which will go back to York with us.

Whilst we were cleaning under one of the sofa we found a pair of socks left by the last visitors... or maybe the ones before that, who knows?

Thursday 19th August 10

The forecast was rain but later in the day, so before it started I went to find a bit of firewood for later, as I anticipated needing the stove. Gill rang George and Rhona and discussed whether to meet up at Plantasia in Swansea today, but George said it was expensive and good for younger children, and the Waterside Museum was better and free. He offered to come and collect us, Gill couldn't persuade him to let us get the bus in. So he dropped Rhona off at a cafe in the Marina area, and came to pick us up.

When we got into Swansea he parked near the new and controversial tower block ... which I quite like and find attractive... and we walked past this and looked at the bay, and then walked quite a long way around the Marina, past the statue of Dylan Thomas and into the Waterfront Museum where Rhona was waiting.

Due to our long walk it was after 12.30 and some of the group were hungry, so we had lunch here, then had a leisurely wander around. It is an excellent museum; I could have spent much longer here but some of the group were ready to move on. But it was now raining, so George took us to the Leisure Centre where there is a good swimming pool, flume, water slide, river ride and much much more. We went to the viewing area and watched... but neither of the boys wanted to be bought swimming trunks and get into the pool so we just watched for a few minutes.

It was still raining hard but we needed to get back. Gill had seen George and Rhona talking about how to get us home, as George's car only had space for four passengers. But we said it would be perfectly easy for us to catch a bus back to Mumbles, and this is what we did. We got a purple FTR bendybus as far as Brynmill Lane and then, our luck was in, the 2B to Limeslade came in just 2 minutes later! We'd got a family day rover for £8 and this got us all the way to the stop really near to our house, with no hill-walking needed. I lit the stove as soon as I came in and dried off a bit, then took the umbrella and walked down into Mumbles for bread, milk, potatoes, baked beans, mushrooms and chocolate.

I got back extremely damp but with all the provisions and peeled potatoes whilst Gill did a mix of onion, green bean, courgette, mushroom and baked beans, and then the boiled spuds were mashed and plonked on top.... a very filling and wholesome nosh.

We watched a DVD of Toy Story, the first one, which I'd not seen before... it was great!

Then we watched a programme about the wildlife of the Himalayas and then another hour of archaeology. Whilst this was doing, I decided to do the washing up without the use of fossil gas, and put two saucepans of water on the woodstove, and when they were hot, poured them over today's plates, bowls and cutlery. I refilled the saucepans and got another batch of 'carbon neutral' hot water to pour over, and this meant I was able to do an 'ethical' wash up.

Wednesday 18th August 10

Quite a slow start to the day, I came down before 9 and did the washing up as there was lots to do from yesterday's cooking, and we'd run out of bran flake cereal so Gill went into Mumbles to get that plus some other bits, and I had breakfast at 10 when she came back.

Then I read NewScientist and dozed until middayish when I went to explore the Langlands Bay road, and then I retraced my steps with a folding chair to go and pick some blackberries. They were mostly a bit higher than I could reach without the chair, and I got a colander full. Back at 1 for lunch and at about 2pm I suggested to the troops that we might actually want to go and find Langlands Bay as it had a nice beach.

There was a hell of a kerfuffle about getting out but I was firm and we did eventually all get going to Langlands. When we got there, actually Rotherslade Bay, we had a lovely time... balancing rocks, digging a sandhole and building a sandcastle, paddling, lots of sunny fun. I just wish I hadn't been forced to play a game of brinkmanship or risk in order to get the children out of the house.

So, we were on the beach til 5pm and I picked more blackberries on the way back.

A nice tea... courgette and beans from Uncle George, broccoli, pasta shells and cheese sauce.

Enjoyed watching Richard Dawkins offering his view on faith schools. I'm totally in agreement with him. Children need protecting from indoctrination and I was shocked to see the science teacher in one school not being able to explain evolution, and the children all saying that their holy book was a good source of scientific information. I have no problem with adults choosing to believe whatever they want, but I'd like churches and schools to have less of a connection. Churches and faith organisations do have an important part to play in society, and I have friends of several faiths and belief systems, and I don't think organisations such as the Credit Union would have got started without the support of people with a strong faith, some of whom were, I'm sure, doing the volunteering as an act of worship and 'good works'. For which I'm grateful, as I basically don't care what people believe, I'm more concerned about what people DO!!!

Gill and I then had a game of magnetic travel Scrabble. Gill won by 2 points, overtaking me right at the end. Very satisfying for her.

Tuesday 17th August 10

Well, a super day; my first job was to go and find somewhere to do some 'guerrilla composting'. We'd generated a small bag full of compostables and I wanted to dispose of this in as appropriate way as possible. So I took it just a few minutes walk from the back door and found a place in the woods where I could make a little heap and place a few rotten sticks over them as camouflage. This will just add a little bit extra to the leaf litter and fertility of the woodland, and avoids the only other disposal route open to us, landfill.

Then I went down to Mumbles to get cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, soya and goats milk. I came back in good time to get myself some lunch and get that eaten before Gill's Uncle George came to pick us up. But I was in the middle of making my sandwiches when there was a knock at the door and it was Karl. He wanted to find out from me how I earned a living as a self-employed entertainer/educator. I finished making my sandwiches and as I ate them, answered his questions and suggested how he might be able to do his creative 'thing' and make some money. I hope we keep in touch, he seemed like an interesting and nice guy.

Then George came, and Karl left. George is Gill's Father's younger brother. He is very much like what Gill remembers her father Brinley to be like, so this was a lovely meeting. He drove us via Langlands Bay, where we got out and had a quick look at the beach, and then on to Caswell Bay, Bishopton, Kittle and then onto the main road across the Common past the airport and into Killay, where he and Auntie Rhona live. We last saw them at our wedding in 1999, and it was really lovely to see them again.

We were shown a load of photos, including some of when Gill was pregnant with our first child. We had a laugh at this... the boys were amused at her hair colour, which was brown, whereas it's now white, and Gill was amused to see that in the photo she was wearing a blue denim dress and red woolen cardigan. She still has both items of clothing, and has them with her now here on holiday!

Then we went into the garden where George grows leeks, runner beans, more leeks, a few potatoes and courgettes, and more leeks. I offered to do a bit of weeding for him, as his compost bin needed some more materials. I said I'd swap the weeding for half an hour on his computer so I could catch up with my emails. So I pulled out lots of spindly brambles, lots of small rose bay willow herb and some bindweed. I joined in with a game of boules and did some more weeding/Rotol Bin filling.

Then it was tea time; we'd brought a few bits with us, a plum and apple crumble, some pasta salad and a kind of nutloaf made with the excess Bulgar wheat from yesterday's stuffed courgettes. Rhona had provided potato salad, lettuce and coleslaw. After this George showed me his computer and I signed into Tiscali webmail, where there were some messages I was really glad to get and to reply to, and I went on facebook too and got up to date with a few messages there. I finished just as George and Rhona's daughter in law Diane arrived, and soon after, their son and her husband Jonathan. Gill hasn't seen these cousins for decades, so this was really nice too.

As it was getting dark Jonathan took us back to Mumbles. Although it hadn't rained much today, it was fairly cool this evening so Gill said yes to me lighting the stove, which is a Nestor Martin approx 4kw jobbie, with a top-loading facility. The glass in the door was quite well sooted up so I used the old method of cleaning it... screw up a sheet of newspaper, spit on it and dip the wet area in the ashes in the grate. This has the right amount of abrasion to easily remove the soot, and the window came up clean very nicely. The stove worked reasonably well and was fun to have a go with. I'm glad I collected some fuel.

I was really pleased to see the first episode of the latest series of my favourite comedy 'Ideal' which is completely surreal and very funny. Gill loves it too.

Monday 16th August 10

Awake early again as the curtains are far too thin, and I got up and after breakfast went to explore the footpath behind the house, and I found some nice lumps of dry wood which I brought back in case we light the stove on Tuesday evening when it could be cold and wet.

Then Gill and I walked into Mumbles together and had a wander around and did some shopping, and found two greengrocers and a health food shop, a love spoon shop and two charity shops. We spent more than an hour out of the house... and when we got back we thought the boys hadn't noticed that we'd gone, as they were so totally immersed in their DS games. So we had lunch and then had a family conference about what to do with the afternoon. Both the boys wanted to go and play Crazy Golf, as there is a place just at the bottom of Village Lane. So we all walked down and on the way we met a friendly Australian-sounding chap called Karl, who's currently teaching physics but is interested in working in a more creative way, and we immediately hit it off, and chatted for a short while.

I'd never played Crazy Golf before, but the idea is to knock the golf ball along the concrete playing area, past or through the obstacle, and into the hole at the end. This course had about 12 playing areas, all with different shaped obstacles. We all had our own club and different coloured ball, and four score sheets and a pencil. We just totted up the number of putts we each needed to get the ball in the hole, and at the end of the round, we totted up the number of points... and the person with the least had won, and, amazingly, that person was me. Beginners luck!

This was enough activity for most of the family so we came back home. Gill had prepared some tea earlier, a mix of Bulgar wheat, finely chopped onion, mixed seeds and grated carrot, and the middles of the hollowed-out mini-marrows, brought from home. The marrows/large courgettes were stuffed with this and baked with some grated cheese on top. We had this at about 6pm and it was really nice.

Before dark I went to a hedgerow where I'd seen a lot of dead wood and came back with a bag full of lengths of stick, which I may use if we have the stove going sometime.

In the evening I added chopped cooking apple to the de-stoned York cherry plums, and Gill's going to make a crumble with it to take to George and Rhona's.

Sunday 15th August 10

Woken early as the morning sunshine came straight through the unlined curtains and was very bright. I had breakfast and then as Gill had a bath, I got in after her to reuse the water; the bath was so short that I couldn't sit in it with my legs out straight. It was nice and hot though and I had a good scrub. I went to dry off in the bedroom, and as the sun had moved round it had become less bright and I went to sleep for a couple of hours, getting up again at 10.30ish. Luxury!

I had noted that there was the raft race this morning at 11, and from the house we could see boats converging from all around the bay. But no-one else wanted to come to see the race, so I went down by myself. The race had just started so I went to the finish and got a good spot to see all the rafts come in... they took almost an hour to come in, and it was a lot of fun. There was a probable father and son in a sea-going canoe, the child was collecting water bomb balloons which had been thrown at incoming rafts but hadn't burst, and threw some of them back into the spectators. At least three rafts were unable to get to the finish by themselves and got a tow in. Several rafts broke up on the way, although a couple of these did still make the finish line. This event raised thousands of pounds for the RNLI... at least £250 entrance fee per raft, and then street collections (there were apparently 25000 spectators) and other fundraising. They were hoping for £70k today.

When the last raft had come in, I walked along to the Co-op and got bread and soya milk. Then back to the house for 1pm and lunch.

I had my sandwiches whilst watching Monster Moves, and had some laughs with the boys, play fighting/horseplay... we call it 'bundling'... but at 2pm I wanted to have some quiet as I wanted to listen to Gardeners Question Time. Immediately after this, the rest of the family were ready to go out so I took them to the beach at Bracelet Bay... much complaining about having to walk down a steep hill and then up one to get somewhere they weren't sure about.... but once on the beach the complaints disappeared and we played in some soft sand, letting our feet sink in up to our ankles... and then we made a long sand barrier to divert a stream, and made the pretty sand-dribble turrets all along it, and enjoyed watching the erosion that happens when the stream is forced to turn a corner.

After at least an hour, probably two, we washed off the sand in the sea and went to the top of the beach where Gill was chatting to a nice chap called Steve who is a singer, who'd recently been working with Jon Lord of Deep Purple fame, and I had a nice chat with him. Then we left to go and find a place to eat, and I showed them the pier and we went to the Mumbles Pier Cafe. I had pizza and chips, Gill beans, chips and salad, and our boys had pasta Napoli and a veggie breakfast! And onion rings on the side. And a J2O each.... It was a nice meal and we needed the walk afterwards from the pier to Village Lane which leads up to Bryn Terrace.

I had wanted to go and explore the area behind the house, as there's a footpath up into the woods, but I just cuddled up on the sofa with Gilly and watched Antiques Roadshow, which Gill especially likes. She's got several antiques books and has pretty good guesses at what things are and what they are worth. Then I got trapped by Secret Britain and when this finished it was too dark to go exploring.

Saturday 14th August 10

An early start, as we had to leave the house at 8.30 because we were booked into the 9.05 Shrewsbury to Swansea train. This four hour journey was definitely part of the holiday... we could have chosen a quicker route, but it wouldn't have been as pretty or interesting. It was a lovely journey, lots of beautiful scenery, trees, mountains with clouds on their tops, valleys with livestock and interesting homes, farmsteads and rivers. The boys filled in a Michelin Eye-Spy book and I wrote down as many of the station names that I could. We had lunch at midday, sandwiches made this morning.

Then we were next to the South Wales estuary and then a steelworks. The train changed direction at the next station and we crossed the estuary and were soon in Swansea.

We had a bit of an argument about how to get to Mumbles... I wanted to get a bus but the others wanted to get a taxi. I found out where the bus was due to go from and we walked there, it was only about 7 minutes walk, and a bus came along immediately. There was some good humoured conversation amongst the locals and myself, but the boys weren't feeling like it. I found out that the taxi would have been about £17; the bus was £7. A helpful lady on the bus showed us where to get off and how to get to the 'Home From Home' office... we arrived at 2pm and it was due to open at 2.30 to let people get their keys. Gill and the boys went to find an ice cream, and I chatted to another early arriver, a nice old lady called Sue, from Northamptonshire, who was collecting a key for a house for her two daughters, and some grandchildren.

Gill and the boys came back, bearing 'BoojaBooja' ice cream (vegan) and much happier. I got the keys and directions to the house, which was down to the seafront, turn right and then third on the right, and back up the hill... about 10 minutes walk. We did eventually get to the house, on Bryn Terrace, and at the top of a steep hill. The house is apparently called Cymylau, which means 'clouds', an apt name when you look out of the window.

After an hour recuperating, we left the children playing with their Nintendo DSes and we went to the Co-op at the bottom of the hill, and got a rucksack full of provisions, plus several bags... including two little bottles of Welsh cider and two of Welsh Perry! That should be ample til next Friday.

I helped Gill make tea: pasta and veg, including the tromboncino squash from home. I then went for a walk which was lovely. I found a good place for some sticks for the stove (cold wet day forecast on Tuesday) and took some photos of the evening sun on towering clouds. I got back at 9pm.

Friday 13th August 10

Another lazy day, kids on the computer and although I started off with a walk, looking for the missing ear-ring, I didn't find it. I also had a day mostly on the laptop. Gill and her niece went to town and I looked after the kids. Danky came home earlier today than yesterday.

He and Sophie went out to a works 'do' and I did a balloon modelling workshop with my two and the two youngest of their children. There was a huge fireworks display which was part of the Shrewsbury Flower Festival, which we watched from their house.

So, probably the most relaxing day so far of the holiday.

Thursday 12th August 10

A really lazy day, a true holiday day. The children spent most of it playing on the Wii and I was on my laptop for a good long time, reading blogs and looking at things that people had posted on facebook, and doing emails through tiscali webmail as my Thunderbird thing doesn't send emails when I'm at someone else's house.

Sometime in the afternoon I went out on Danky's bike to go and get my prescription, and eventually worked out how to use the gears. Good bike, knife-thin wheels, could have got up to some high speed but as I was new to this machine, I didn't push it. I was only away from the house for 20 minutes, anyway!

At teatime we all went for a walk along the Oswestry side of Shrewsbury, and down to the River Severn where there were trees to climb and a beach with stones to skim. Only one negative, Sophie and Danky's 10 year old daughter had been into town with a friend the day we arrived, and got some clip-on earrings... and she decided to wear these for the walk... and, predictably, lost one of them.

But apart from this it was a nice walk, and we found some interesting things including a Pinocchio figure in a rabbit hole!

In the evening, when it was dark enough, some of us went outside to watch Perseid meteors.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Wednesday 11th August 10

First popped into GP to pick up a repeat prescription which whilst packing I found I needed.

Then onto the Dentist for a tooth clean.

Then I called in on Barnitts to get a padlock for the garage as the old one has started playing up, and I bought a squirrel trap too, which traps larger animals alive so if it's the wrong animal (a hedgehog, say) it can be released, and if it's vermin, drowned, which seems the quickest way to dispatch a live-caught rat or squirrel. I prefer using rat traps with the instant spring action for rats, but on a couple of occasions I've caught a bird or a frog, so they have to be very carefully placed. And this wouldn't catch a walnut-eating grey squirrel. So the live trap will be put into use when we get back. I'm determined to protect our nut harvest from these cute but non-native 'tree rats with bushy tails'.

Then home to pick beans, courgettes, tromboncino squash and tomatoes to take with us, although I gave a courgette to Debbie over the road too.

Gill and the boys were picked up in a taxi at 12.15 and I left the house 5 minutes later by bike. I cycled over to the GP surgery and picked up my prescription and then over to the station where the family were waiting for me... but there was also a steam locomotive in with a very long carriage set bound for Scraborough. I scooted over the bridge to see the loco, and was delighted to see it was my favourite steam locomotive, the Leander. Back in the 1980s, possibly 82 or 83, my Uncle Robert bought me a really lovely present... a trip behind the Leander, which took us from Guide Bridge near Manchester, over to York, then to Leeds, Settle, Carlisle and dropped us at Carnforth where we got an electric loco-hauled rain back to Nuneaton and then a Diesel Multiple Unit back to Leicester, which is where I lived at the time. I've never forgotten this trip. I'm not a train spotter now but am still an enthusiast as train travel is quick, comfortable, usually more eco friendly than bus or car and I always seem to have good conversations in trains.

However, when our 12.58 came in, we got on and looked for our seats, but before we got to them there was an announcement that the train had been cancelled as there was vandalism in the Leeds area. So we got the next one, 30 minutes later, and had our lunch whilst waiting.
The train journey from here onwards was very straightforward, just a detour around the cable theft area, and got into Manchester at about 3pm. Our Shrewsbury train was at 3.30 and we got into there at 4.50, got a taxi to Sophie and Danky's house. Lovely to see them.... I'm an uncle to them, despite being a similar age. and their three lovely children, a similar age to our two, I'm a Great Uncle to!!! (well, this is what they say, haha).

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Tuesday 10th August 10

We were woken early by an excited little boy who is 11 today... he had woken at 4am and was too excited to go back to sleep, so he'd been reading but was hungry, at 7.40. Gill got up and told me to go back to sleep.... I'm not an early morning person, and am up til 2am, whereas she sleeps in the evening when I'm doing things and she then gets up at 6am.

So, at about 9 I was woken again, the Birthday Boy had held on and wanted desperately to open his presents. So I decamped into his room and sleepily watched him open a box with some Lego figures in it, including a jester and a magician, and his older brother had made him a wand out of a stripped holly stick and in the split handle was a trapped pheasant feather, some kind of (imaginary) 'power' that I don't understand. I don't get make believe, never have really, it's an Aspergery trait.

We all breakfasted and I wrote a letter to the Neighbourhood Unit about the Funding shenanigans I've found myself having to deal with. Then before lunch, their friend came down to join us with a trip into town. I cycled in, stopping at Woodlands as one of my documents hadn't photocopied properly, and they wanted to re do it, and then to chat to some chaps who were taking down an Ash tree.

The boys and Gill caught the bus into town, and I'd arranged to meet them at the Museum Gardens after I'd met up with the Neighbourhood Unit to explain the position of York in Transition about 'sponsoring' another organisation, or rather, not being able to. I met them on the steps of the Yorkshire Museum, which has recently been refurbished. We spent quite a long time in there, and it is improved, although some things aren't yet labelled/numbered, and I spotted at least three mistakes, one was a spelling mistake, another a text layout error and there was a factual error too, but I can't remember what that was.. But I liked the use of the Tempest Anderson Hall as a film theatre, and I liked the more open space with the reference books visible on the floors above the exhibitions.

After this the boys wanted to wander through town looking at shops, my idea of Hell, so I cycled home via the Edible York Raised Bed,where I saw my friend Lizzie talking to the Radio York presenter next to his car with the aerial up. I stopped, and found out they were about the do an interview. Chloe turned up, and all three of us were briefly interviewed on live radio... what a surprise! I talked about the Transition to a low carbon economy where we grew more of our food locally, and the presenter introduced me as Compost John, responsible for 30 sacks of compost getting to this bed.

But I needed to get back, and when I did, I spent an hour getting about 400 or 500 kg of Ash logs onto my trailer, I think I did 6 trips, before the time came for my 4pm appointment, the York Environment Forum which I occasionally attend.

This was at the Guildhall, and was a special meeting to ask questions of Andrew Cousins from the Allerton Waste Recovery Park, or Anaerobic Digester/Incinerator plant. We had a series of questions and I asked a couple of supplementary questions based on the wide-ranging conversations I had with Andrew at The Hospitium. It was a good meeting and we agreed to write a position statement about this development. We also debated our Vision Document. We finished well after 6pm.

I came home and loaded lemon halves into a heap and came in quite tired to have pasta for tea.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Monday 9th August 10

Another good day, very busy though, despite getting up at 10am!

After my usual bowl of cereal and soya milk, I got going with stacking about 5 wheelbarrows worth of split 'green' logs, taking then down into the back garden and onto pallets where they will spend a year or more drying, ready for the stoves. Whilst I was down the garden, someone rang up wanting to talk about green funerals; she'd seen the Novaterium.com advert in The Book of Green.

But she didn't leave her number and when Gill did a 1471 call, it was withheld. She said she'd ring back in half an hour. So I worked out at the front, chopping sticks up with loppers and putting them into wooden fruit boxes for stacking and drying for kindling. Then it was lunchtime so I came in and had my usual pile of sandwiches. At 1.45 the phone rang and it was the Novaterium enquirer, Lynne from Morecambe, who was wanting to know more about green funerals but doesn't have internet access. She wanted to know if I could provide the information on paper. I spent 40 minutes talking her through the various options, explaining what the problems are with 'traditional' disposal and the new developments which should be available soon. She was enquiring as someone she knows has a terminal illness and she was hoping to help organise a greener funeral. She might send me an SAE and I'll send her some information which will help her sort something out.

Then it was 2.30, when I'd got an appointment with the volunteer co-ordinator for Woodlands MS Respite Care Centre, where I'm hoping to volunteer in the grounds, as they have lots of logs and branches which need clearing; the groundsman usually just has a bonfire, but I'd like to use some of them, by cutting the branches off the logs and taking the useful stuff away, replacing fossil fuel use with renewable waste wood. So I want to help, but with a good dose of self interest and environmental issues there too. I took my documents... birth certificate, wedding certificate, bank stuff, tax stuff and a couple of others, so I could get CRB checked. Although I'm not going to have any close contact with the guests, all volunteers need CRB checks.

On the way back from Woodlands, I popped in on Debbie, to tell her that I had a sack of dry wood for her, for Debbie Fricker's memorial, and would she like to come and choose a branch for the memory tree thing she wants to do? I had several Lilac branches which might be good for this, so she came over and chose one, and I took the sack of sticks and logs back over to her. She was very pleased.

Then I loaded my trailer up with 2 sacks of soya milk cartons and others, and Gill gave me a sack of clothing and material only suitable for shoddy, and I cycled them down to Hazel Court, where the notice forbidding cycles up on the top level has now definitely gone. I reckon the 'civil disobedience' and letters to the paper must have worked. I'm very pleased with this.

I went on to a pet shop to get fish food, then off to my building society to get out a cheque for British Telecommunications plc for advertising, and to pay a water bill at the bank. Then I popped in to see Dylan as I knew he'd have some oranges for me, and David, Debbie's brother was there so I chatted with him as Dylan was busy. I took 4 sacks of orange skins and coffee grounds, 2 boxes of mostly mouldy oranges and two sacks of plastic bottles. Then I came home, calling in on Freshways where they had a sack for me, which I had to put on the handlebars and tri-bar to get home.

Then I did some composting, fully loading up the Compostumbler and adding to the SunMar Compostflow.

I had carrot soup for tea, then set out to go to Edward's house for a York in Transition Directors Meeting. This was mainly taken up with Anna's funding stuff again, which is causing us significant problems, as she has not consulted the Directors and we hadn't got any documentation. Edward is going to have to go and chat to the Council people, and I have to write a letter to the Neighbourhood Unit about another issue connected with a different set of Anna's Ward funding approaches. However, we may be able to work with the YiT funding applications she's put in, but we'd have to see if we can find volunteers in all 18 wards she's applied to, or find a volunteer or paid co-ordinator to run the scheme citywide.

We worked on these from 7.30 til well after 9.30pm. I visited two skips on the way home for some scrap wood. Later, at midnight, I mashed all the stewed cherry plums to remove the stones, which I took out one by one with a fork. Gill made a cake for our youngest son's birthday tomorrow. Finished this at about 2am.

Sunday 8th August 10

I really enjoyed today...

After a slow start, and after lunch, the family went to Scarborough on the train, with one of the boys' friends, and left me to get on with whatever I wanted.

I spent a bit of time tidying the kitchen and then got the shredder up the garden to the front, and organised various sheets and bags to deal with the huge volumes of vegetation that I was due to process. So, I took all the pine tree I cut yesterday and clipped off any twigs, leaving the slightly larger sticks for stacking into a fruit box. I shredded these twiggy bits with all of the Wisteria I ripped out yesterday, and got 5 large sacks of shredded material off it. I did this on and off for about 4 hours, taking a break to make carrot soup (carrots from unsold Alligator stuff, home-grown courgette) and to prepare another saucepan full of Cherry Plums.

I got a nice visit from Debbie who was wanting me to help with a remembrance event for her friend Debbie Fricker, but I won't be able to attend as I'm doing something else. However, I'll be able to provide a little sack of logs for a ceremonial fire she's having.

Gill and the boys got back at 8 and Gill was pleased to have some carrot soup.

I had a really good chat on MSN Messenger with Leonie, a friend of my sister whom I've met once but have become friends with recently through facebook.

So a hard-working but relaxed day, happy that the Scarborough visit went well, and I feel lucky to have such a wealth of friends.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Saturday 7th August 10

Woke relatively late but got going quickly and had a very busy day.

I paid a quick visit to Alligator and Country Fresh and brought back 2 full sacks from Alligator and one box from Richard. I loaded these immediately into the Compostumbler.

I was out at the front and heard our neighbour Marion doing her hedge with an electric trimmer so I went to say hello. Whilst talking to her I noticed the tree above, an ornamental Prunus of some sort, had got lots of fruits on it... the first time it's fruited since we've been here. They were like large cherries or small plums. I tried one and it was lovely, tangy and sweet. Marion had one as well, and liked it too.

So, later I got the big stepladders and picked as many as I could, and I got a tray full, at least three kilos. I then found the tree in our Roger Phillips 'Trees in Britain' book: it's a Pissard Plum, Prunus cerasifera var. atropurpurea, a dark-leaved sport of the Cherry Plum or Myrobalan. Here's a good article about this fruit tree.

Whilst I had the ladders in the front, I helped Marion by lopping some of her hedge, at the top where she couldn't reach, and I had loppers and ladders so I did it for her. I also put the ladders up against the big pine tree which I'm slowly removing. It is too close to the house, shades our front room and the roof, which wouldn't be good if I put photovoltaics on it. But I'm not removing it all in one go in case the ground swells with the increased moisture that would then not be being transpired, and puts cracks in the house walls. I removed several branches, and cleaned out the gutters too.

I then cut back the Wisteria. This is a thug... I cut it back last year before the work on our roof, and it is already up on the roof again. I was quite brutal. Our youngest helped me by holding a builders bag open so I could collect the large amount of prunings, which I'll shred tomorrow I expect.

So, a very busy day... later on I tried to prepare some of the Cherry Plums for drying but I don't think this will be the best way of preserving them. Stewing will be better.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Friday 6th August 10

Woke at 9.30 and got up feeling refreshed and happy.

However in the back of my mind was the fact that today was the deadline for getting the Hull Road Ward Funding bids in... and I didn't want to miss it, nor face Anna's despair for not doing it, so I rang the Council and someone from the Neighbourhood Unit said yes, the forms would be in reception waiting for me.

So I got there just before midday and filled in all three forms. The first was easy... a suggestion that the Ward needs a public notice board. The second was an 'under £500' suggestion, and I put that York in Transition would like fruit and nut trees planted in the ward... the places decided by local people, and the number of trees dependent on the cost of digging the holes and installing tree guards and stakes, etc. I did suggest that the holes could be dug by volunteers but I somehow doubt that will be realistic. We'll see! The final application, to the 'over £500' pot, was something I made up on the spot... I hadn't thought about it in advance. I suggested a one-day home energy event, in the ward, with stalls from renewable energy providers, insulation companies, the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, groups promoting public transport, cycling and walking, and community groups offering related things... I estimated the cost of the venue to be £300, publicity £300 and refreshments £50... and I asked for £590 grant, the rest to be found from stall holders fees and donations for refreshments. Again, this would be a Transition event.

All this took an hour and a half. The applications will be considered and then the best ones which fit certain criteria will go forward to the Ward Committee and local people will allocate the budget to the schemes they like... and not to the ones they don't!!! So I won't know the outcome of this process until February 2011. The money won't be available until April and will need to be spent between April 2011 and March 2012. This is the first time I've put in suggestions.

I came away from the Council reception quite frazzled but glad I'd done it. I put a cheque into my Fiddlesticks account and came home via Country Fresh and picked up a box, a bag, another box, and then from Freshways, another bag. Lots of lovely composting to do!

When I got back, at 3pm, I had lunch, and then later, went into the garden to deal with the medium-sized Compostumbler... I emptied it into a dalek and immediately refilled it with shredded hedge, lilac and holly plus a large load of chopped veg and fruit, mouldy sliced bread and cardboard takeaway food cartons with biodegradable plastic windows...

I came in to help Gill do tea, peeling some thrown away but perfectly usable sweet potatoes, and a large handful of freshly picked pea beans. So we had pasta salad, rice salad, sweet potato chips... but the pea beans got left in their pan of cold water, uncooked, so they'll be for tomorrow's tea.

Later I helped Gill with some washing (I went to get it off the washing line and helped hang it up next to the stove) and did some washing up. I really enjoyed a programme on BBC4 on Blondie, which was one of my favourite bands as I was growing up. I was one of millions of teenage boys with a Debbie Harry poster on my bedroom wall..... I still think she's hot!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thursday 5th August 10

Quite a good day... up at 9ish and Gill had already gone to her physio appointment, to see if her leg pain can be cured.

I had the usual muesli and emails... I'm pleased that since paying for extra Tiscali email space, the number of spam emails has dropped hugely. Now I need to contact them about the occasional bounces possibly caused by my sending emails out using the Phone Co-op but with a Tiscali address... Ben has tried to explain this to me but so far the problem persists.

I also got a letter from a friend who I thought I'd lost contact with, but she's a poet and her publisher contacted me inviting me to buy her latest book. I did so, but put in a note to pass onto my friend. I'm glad she's well and is now more easily contactable as the violent man she was hiding from has died. Previously I had to write to her mother who passed on the letter... or not! My last letter (4 or 5 years ago) was not answered.

I got busy outside and continued shredding the holly that Gill took out, and then did some quite radical pruning myself, taking out a lot of dead clematis and honeysuckle from a pergola, and then cutting back a hedge with privet, beech, a shrub with pink blobby flowers and quite a bit of bramble... all shredded! Some of this I used immediately but I also bagged some up for future use.

Then I took the electric 50m extension flex up the garden to the front and did a good load of chainsawing. I heard another chainsaw somewhere near and cycled round trying to find it, n case of some more logs becoming available, but I didn't find it as it kept on stopping. So I visited Debbie to see how she was and then picked up a couple of logs from the nearby woodlands where logs are often dumped.

I dealt with Melody and Simon's redcurrants and later, Gill and I made jelly out of the juice.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Wednesday 4th August 10

A working day so I had a bath after breakfast, and at 11.15 I set off for Strensall Barracks to perform at the playday.

I took just 35 minutes to get to Strensall and had an hour to have my sandwiches, get changed and get my equipment ready for a 1pm start.

The playday was very well attended... I had an audience of over 40 for my show and more than this wanting to participate in the workshop, which was difficult as I usually specify maximum 20 for a workshop... and the last hour, the balloon modelling show and workshop, I think there were about 70 people in the room.... far too many really! But I'm getting really fast at inflating the '260' modelling balloons... I can do each one in one breath now. The times that I needed a balloon pump are long gone! So I blew up about 50 in 15 minutes and the show went well, although I did have a queue of children at the end wanting a balloon, as they didn't get one or had burst theirs. It was a really tough 3 hours, and I was glad to get paid (charity fee) and cycle home. Got in at 5.15.

Gill had made tea so I had that and then had an hour in the garden. The usual compost management stuff.

Later I had a game of Scrabble with Gill; she won. I also had an intense chat on the computer with Janie AND Joanne, although not at the same time.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tuesday 3rd August 10

Slept much better as there was no cockerel at 3am and again at 5. And my position on the edge of the inflatable mattress was better than being sandwiched between my sons too.

I got up at 8 and started getting stuff together to go home... with a coffee offered from Mary and a visit up the field to give out balloon models as promised last night to about half a dozen children.

Eventually my two were up and breakfasted and we got the tent sorted and into its bag. We got the 11.02 bus back... we were the first on and therefore got the top deck front seats, the best view and a real treat.

We got into York slightly late, at about 12.25, and there was a number 10 bus home at 12.54, so I gave the boys the bus fare and went to get my bike, and then waited til the bus came and they got on and got their tickets, I then cycled home, and of course got home well before them. Gill met them at the bus stop and they reported having had a good time, thank goodness!

I had lunch and a couple of hours dealing with emails and catching up with the blog... and then went out to see Richard at Country Fresh, and when I came back I had a peaceful hour in the garden dealing with the result of this visit.

I picked a courgette and took it round to Debbie but she wasn't in, but I left it for her. I found a load of electrical flex in a skip so I brought that home to recycle the copper.

Gill bought a pizza for tea and had some veggie sausages in the freezer which needed using so we had those plus potato salad with home grown cucumber.

I had a fairly sedentary evening, lit the stove so I could get freshened up for tomorrow as I'm working. I looked up bioluminescent wood and it is colloquially known as foxfire. It is indeed caused by growing mushroom mycelium, although it isn't known what purpose, if any, it serves.

Monday 2nd August 10

An excellent day, hired bikes after lunch and cycled up through the forest to Dalby, stopped at the visitor centre where the boys played for an hour, and then came back down some lovely quiet lanes and tracks on the other side of the valley. This was the highlight of my short holiday.

I had mentioned to Paul and Sue about the cock crowing and apparently, another group of campers had complained as well. So they got one of their friends who has strong hands to come and visit... he always comes when a chicken is ill or getting towards the end of it's life. The cockerel had started as a fairly normal one, with a bit of crowing in the morning, but more recently had been doing it in the night and very persistently in the morning. This change in behaviour and complaints/comments from campers was enough to seal it's fate.

In the evening I took my lads to a pub where they had a good meal which filled them up. However, the chef was overworked and thought that our order of tomato soup and chips plus veg lasagne and chips was just one order for one person, so the soup came first and we had to wait AGES for the lasagne. But when it did come it was appreciated by the now hungry little chap! I just wanted bread and hummus so I didn't have anything until I got back to the tent at 8pm.

When it was dark we went back into the forest to show the glowing wood to Mark, Jamie, Adam and Sophie. We then stayed up til quite late, playing on the rope swing and playing around. Then I had nice chats with some other campers round their fire, the boys put themselves to bed and I slipped into the tent at about 1am.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sunday 1st August 10

Up early to get ready for work and camping for a couple of days.

If all goes well, and there's no knowing that it will go well, Gill will bring the boys up to Pickering on the bus and we'll meet up after my gig, and I'll spend two nights under canvass with the boys.
It did all go well. I got the 9.52 bus to Pickering which got in soon after 11, and I made my way to the Memorial Hall where I suggested to Natalie, my handler, that I'd meet her prior to the 1pm start. However, on the way there I met the Treasurer of the event who introduced herself, so although Natalie didn't turn up, I think she knew I was around. She'd asked me to text her when I got in, but 3 buttons on Gill's phone weren't working so I couldn't input her number.

But I had lunch and got changed, leaving my clothes etc in the Memorial Hall and I made my way to the Market Street to find her and find where she wanted me to work. I'd been asked to do walkabout but she was happy for me to do my usual static show; I aid I'd do that for the first hour and then reassess what was to be done, whether walkabout was the right thing to do after that.

I found a good spot on a wide bit of pavement at the top of the street, and immediately got a good audience. But I had another 'first' today: I was doing a workshop with several children balancing sticks and a small family group started to walk in front of the kids, so I tried to stop them and asked that they go behind the audience. This in itself is not uncommon, there are some rude unthinking selfish people out there. However, this group pushed past me and to make the rude intrusion as entertaining as possible for the 100 or so people watching, I larked around behind the chap with the pushchair, making faces and holding my arms up over my head to look silly/scary... and the audience laughed, which was my intention.... but the guy suddenly threw his arm back at me and thumped me in the chest. I've never been punched before in my show. It wasn't a hard punch, but visible and shocking to the audience, so I went alongside the man and said "What you've just done is assault and if you don't get out of Pickering now, I'll call the police. People like you are not welcome in Pickering." He continued walking on... and I told the audience, mostly children, that they'd just seen an example of a rude and horrible person and I hoped that none of them would ever be as nasty as that. Over the next 20 minutes or so, several adults expressed their concern for me, and shock at what he did.

In the last half hour I did a long queue of balloon animals. I had an audience member called Shaun who had been watching the whole show and I chatted with him afterwards; he was a lovely guy. I find it odd that with some people, I just 'click' and I know I've got a friend. I hope we meet again, I think we will.

I finished soon after 3 and the Treasurer lady gave me my fee in an envelope. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I went to get changed and then walked back to the bus, and at 4.15 it came and Gill and the boys were on it.

Lovely to see them, some excitement about our little holiday. We were soon in Thornton Le Dale, and 4 minutes later at the Prospect Farm Campsite.

Paul showed us where to camp, right next to the trampoline, and together we set up the tent. We then walked Gilly back to the bus stop, had a brief explore of the village and put her on the bus back to York.

We met some other campers in a hired 'Commer' van, Mary and Mark, plus their two grandchildren and a cousin, all 16 and under, lovely people. I did a bit of balloon fun with them and the youngest had a go at making his own. Lots of fun, playing around, including with a frisbee.

We had a good evening... cold pasta and salad bits for tea, and when it was dark we went to explore the forest above the campsite... and whilst we were in there I suggested that the wind up torch should be switched off, and amazingly, there were glowing things all around us. These turned out to be ends of rotten logs, some kind of fungal mycelium giving off low level light. I'd read about this as a child (possibly in 'Swallowdale' by Arthur Ransome, can anyone confirm this?) but never seen it myself. Therefore I was really pleased to see it! I think the boys were pretty amazed too.

Had an uncomfortable night as I slept between the boys, one snuggled up and head on my shoulder, the other preferred to have his head in my armpit and my arm around him. I didn't sleep well and was awoken by the cock crowing at 2 or 3am, and again constantly at 5am. I got up and had a wee at 7 and then fell asleep for 2 hours til 9, when the warmth in the tent woke me. We'd all had a fairly disturbed night, the boys commenting on my snoring!