Thursday, 30 September 2010

Wednesday 29th September 10 Walk it, Bike it, Bus it, York's Car Free Day 2010

The weather was looking dismal and I was feeling tired, but I'd committed to helping with today's event.

So I got up soon after 7 and left the house at 8 to meet with other volunteers at 8.15 at the Postern Gate Hotel on Piccadilly.  I was the first there.  Julia was the second.  She is from Switzerland and is in York to do a PhD on neuro imaging... fascinating stuff!  Then Jenny arrived, and Kaj, from Finland, and Guy, our own FoE stalwart.  Three of us went to Bootham Bar and gave out leaflets about the Car Free Day; the leaflets had information about the extra two traffic-free streets today, Micklegate and Fossgate, and the entertainment that was timetabled, plus the attractions which were admitting car-free travellers at a reduced rate or for free.  It rained constantly, and our leaflets got wet, but lots of people took them.  Quite a few people said they didn't know about the day, but two told me they had noticed less motor traffic on the roads.

Then I went to Millers Yard and picked up the sacks of squashed halved oranges, and came home.  I had just 10 minutes at home, time for a coffee, and I cycled back to go to Micklegate, with my balloons.  I'd been booked to do circus skills, but there was no way I could do that in the rain. But balloons can be modelled in almost any weather.  Trouble was, there were not that many people walking down the road, and only a tiny percentage of them were suitable candidates for balloon animals.  But, I must have given out a dozen or so.  It rained continuously, although mainly drizzle rather than 'proper' rain.  Some good conversations with Kaj, who is a linguist and loves accents and language.  I left at 11.30 and visited Fossgate where I was pleased to find the traders had put stalls out into the street and it was a lot more vibrant, despite being damp.  I came home and had lunch and some quiet time, cracking nuts and doing the washing up.  But soon after 3pm I went back to Fossgate with my bag of balloons and stood with a school sustainable travel person under a gazebo, darting out to give out balloon animals to parents with small children (using the device 'Excuse me, but do you know anyone who likes balloon animals?').  I enjoyed listening to a guitar player called Richard Harrison, and then later a pair of young sisters playing the Sax and Clarinet, the Frankland Sisters, aged 12 and 14. They were very good, and played things like 'Singing in the Rain' and 'Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud'.

It began to rain very heavily and at about 5pm I came home.  Very wet, very exhausted, feeling deflated and in need of bed rest.  However I didn't manage to get the early night that I would have liked.  I made my own tea... 3 slices of the huge Tromboncino squash, half an onion, some nuts all fried up on the stove top, then I added a sliced huge 'beef' tomato straight off the plant, and some pasta left over from yesterday, and some old Edam cheese which the children now claim not to like.  I spent some time on facebook, and got a message from a friend who told me that a scan had found a tumour on their liver, which kind of put my low mood and tiredness into perspective.  I went to bed at 9ish, intending to get up a bit later and do stuff, but I slept right through.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Tuesday 28th September 10

A mixed day, woken by yelling so came downstairs to just be around and I didn't have to do anything but be there.  Both boys went to school. 

Gill went to Physio and I spent some time dealing with emails and then got the chainsaw and chopped up 3 large pallets, and a few branches and logs.  I had lunch at the usual time, on the dot of 1pm, and then I got a phone call which changed the mood of the day.

I'm well known for collecting waste wood to replace fossil fuel use, and find untreated timber in skips, and sticks and logs in nearby woodland, and people with gardens sometimes let me have fuel, and tree surgeons sometimes drop stuff off.  When I arrived in Hull Road in 2001, I saw that there was a small patch of woodland in the front of the Woodlands MS Respite Care Centre, and I spoke to the grounds managers who said that they put chopped branches and shrubs there, and I could have them if I wanted them.  So since then, I've been collecting bits and bobs of sticks and branches from there several times a year.  I'd not seen the need to ask every time, taking the gardener's words as good enough.  When the Centre was going to fell a tree, I offered to pick up the logs and they were more than happy to save money and let me do the clearing up.  This has happened twice.

So, last Thursday, I went into the wood in the afternoon and tidied up some tipped branches, and in the evening, at dusk, went back to pick up a wheelbarrow full of sticks.  As I was doing this, one of the volunteer managers, Mel, spotted me in the woodland and asked what I was doing there. I answered truthfully and she went and left me to finish what I was doing.

This afternoon, Rachel, the Volunteering and Fundraising Co-ordinator, phoned me and told me that I hadn't had permission to go in the woodland and that I was trespassing, and what was I doing there in the dark anyway?  The upshot of the conversation was that she is no longer wanting me to be a volunteer there, and help the grounds management staff with their clearing up behind the Centre. I feel this is unfair, as I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, and I didn't hear any message from her when we arranged the induction, which was to be on Thursday, about ceasing to use that space... in fact, I didn't mention that arrangement and she claims that she didn't know.  So it's a sad situation, as they have lost a potential keen volunteer worker, and I've lost a source of logs which I was looking forward to.  All the logs at the back will now be burned on a bonfire, instead of me sorting through them and making a wildlife pile with the smaller bits, and taking bigger bits off site in my own time.  Shame, left me feeling sad.

But then Clive my Green Party friend arrived.  He'd asked if I wanted help delivering some of the election leaflets, so we walked for nearly 2 hours around the local area and delivered several hundred of them.  We got a bit of a chance to chat, and it turns out he worked in the same place as Gill's father, and remembers him.  This was nice to come back to Gill with.

I had a quick tea and at 6.15 went to Tang Hall Library for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel.  We had quite a jolly time, and dealt with just 3 applications.

I came home via a skip; I'd spoken to the builders earlier and they were more than happy for me to take some wood out. I got two trailer loads of big roof beams.

Later on, I lit the stove, washed up, chopped apples, watched Ideal and played Scrabble on facebook, which is pretty well back to normal.  So, a mixed day. 

Monday 27th September 10

A good day with two York Rotters meetings.  I got to St Nicks before 10am and the Management Group meeting went well.  We discussed how we are going to try to achieve the targets we haven't yet met this year, some ways of working which will enable us to reach more people, and some possible longer-term projects.  We work really well together and I think we're a strong team.

Soon after midday, my second meeting got underway; this being the latest in the series triggered by my over-enthusiastic behaviour at the Big Green Market Rotters stall last year, which generated complaints from some other volunteers and Council staff.  Things are moving forward positively... there is the possibility of my getting a 'buddy' who would work with me on the stall, and keep an eye on me and warn me if I was getting over enthusiastic or saying anything which was inappropriate.  We discussed my working to some rules, which would be very helpful with my type of Aspergery 'Neuro Diverse' way of being, and I learned that there had been some diversity training for staff and volunteers at the centre, which is wonderful.  Although this has been a difficult time for me, and my colleagues, I'm glad that positive things have come out of it, and I've learned more about the filters and boundaries I already use in certain situations, and need to develop for others, including my volunteering.

I went home fairly happy, to a late lunch, and had a productive afternoon in the house and the garden. 

Later, I put a load of dried apple rings in 2 big jars, pear halves in 2 jars, and one jar full of dried plums.  This frees up space to do a lot more apple, which I have considerable quantities of.

After 10pm, Andy Chase came round, and gave me the election leaflets which need to be delivered round Hull Road Ward.  Andy had a cuppa and some apple cake which Gill's made, and we had a good chat about all sorts of things.  I did more washing up and more fruit for drying...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sunday 26th September 10 Last day of 'Everyday People' and Participants Reunion

Another early start, bleary eyed, as off to Manchester for the last day of the Spencer Tunick exhibition at The Lowry, and a reunion with some of the participants.

I cycled down to the station for 10am, got a day return and had a very nice journey over there, although it took a bit longer than timetabled as there was working on the track and we had a bit of a diversion.  But it was only another 15 minutes.  I had a nice conversation with a chap who was recovering from a night out in the Leeds Gay quarter (I didn't know it had a Gay Quarter!) and a sweet Nigerian lady who told me all about her family and we talked about faith and belief and all sorts.  I do enjoy train journeys for the interesting conversations I often have on them.

I met Janie at Manchester Piccadilly, and we went to get on a tram to the nearest stop to The Lowry, Harbour City.  There were loads of cars parked in the Harbour City area, and I remembered it was the day of the Great Northern Swim, with apparently about 3500 swimmers doing a mile in the Salford Quay.  We watched a bunch of them start off and go under the bridge we were on.  My facebook friend and fellow greenie Tracey Smith was supposed to be there, but she'd had a cold a couple of days ago, and the organisers ask you to be in tip top condition.  She'll do another swim sometime, raising money for her cause, The National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

We were soon at The Lowry and Rosemarie and Martin were there at the entrance, with little blue ribbons to identify participants.  I sat with Janie outside for a few minutes and had my sandwiches, and then we went inside to have a final look at the Everyday People exhibition, and I picked up my signed print.  We also looked round the LS Lowry paintings and drawings, which was really interesting.  He was capable of doing a number of different styles, not just the iconic 'matchstick men' pictures.  At 3pm we all gathered outside and several people took photos, with us in various poses, all clothed, but echoing some of the poses we had to do for Tunick.

After this, which was fun (shouts of 'Dont smile', and many other humorous comments) Janie and I went to check out the rest of the artwork on display, a 60s photographer Philip Townsend.  And then, a walk back to the tram and we ended up in Piccadilly Gardens, where I eventually found a reasonable looking place which did me a rice dish and a feta salad.  Janie wasn't hungry but had something to drink.

Then, after watching some street dancers, we went to the station and Janie got her train back to Stockport and I got the next train back to York.  I got in before 10pm, lit the stove, washed up and went on the computer.  A good day.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Saturday 25th September 10

Had quite a few things I had to do today, but it was a goody.  I got up fairly early and after my usual bowl of cereal and soya milk, loaded up my bike trailer with a very large number of plastic stacking fruit boxes.  I also put some on my pannier rack and some on my handlebars... it looked great, and wasn't heavy so was no bother to steer or stay upright.

But I needed to get to Millets as early as possible, to check out a tent which Gill had spotted, which would solve our summer holiday problem for next summer.  This summer's short camping excursion proved that our existing tent is too small for me and both boys, let alone the whole family!  But as the boys enjoyed camping, we have tent-ative plans for next summer and Gill's been looking out for a four-person tent, and in Millets she found a half price Berghaus Cuillin 4.

So I headed down there first and found it hadn't sold, so I reserved it and said I'd be back later with some money.  Then I cycled out to Scarcroft Road to where Dave Broughton, of Edible York and Abundance fame lives, and delivered the crates.  I hope I put them into the right back yard, as no-one was in!

I then went to Priory Street but the meeting I'd been invited to was at midday and I'd got there at 11, so i parked my bike and walked into town, went to the cash machine and then to Millets, and came out with the really heavy tent bag on wheels... and went back to CVS and then the Green Streets meeting started slowly coming together.

This project started about a year ago, with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the City of York Council working to develop a way to spread the message of carbon reduction and greener living in certain streets and neighbourhoods.  They chose a few areas and found some local champions to carry the project forward.  One group of people contacted them and asked to be involved.  I was aware what was going on but wasn't involved.  In January 2010 the project started with a baseline carbon calculation, and then a series of easy interventions and approaches followed, until August when the second calculation of the carbon footprint was made.  One team only managed a 1.7% decrease, whereas the best had a 17% reduction.  The average was 11%.  One of the confounding factors was the very cold weather which meant increased home heating in the early part of the experiment.

So this afternoon, it was a review of the project, awards and some discussion about the way forward.  Quite a few of my friends were there, and I'd been invited as I'd expressed an interest in some of the proposed follow-up work.  I also brought home all of the paper plates and some of the thrown away food for composting.

However, I popped into the Brigantes to meet Andy and Dave, our two Green Councillors, to look at the election leaflet which is being put together for the By Election on 14th October in my Ward.  We made quite a few edits. I then cycled home, the trailer completely filled with the new ginormous tent, but still picked up one sack of compostables at Country Fresh and half a bag at Freshways.

Had a very busy evening and was unable to complete my blog before I got too sleepy, due to lots of my friends chatting with me on the computer.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Friday 24th September 10

Got up before 9 but didn't get dressed til after 11.  But then I got up and did a bit of work outside, mainly in the pond-to-be area, and came in for a late lunch at 1.30.  But that didn't leave much time for my gig which started at 3pm, quite near, just off Heslington Road.  But I had a quick shave and bath, hair wash, and then packed my trailer and set off at 2.45, so I was there before 3.

The event was for York Housing Association, to celebrate the new housing development in Alne Terrace, Apollo Street and Horsman Avenue.  I went in costume and was therefore able to unload my trailer and get onto my unicycle withing 2 minutes.  I did quite a bit of unicycling whilst devilsticking as assorted photographers wanted a picture of the event with the new housing behind. When they were done with me I wanted more interaction and took my balloons into the marquee and made animals for the children and some of the oldies.  I also cornered some of the HA staff and made them balloon models too...  Towards the end of the event I ran a juggling workshop and worked with a woman who knows Edward Harland well, and has connections with CAT, so we got on well.

People started drifting away at 5ish and Sue said I could stop, despite being booked 3 til 6.  I popped into Country Fresh round the corner and picked up a box of goodies and some fresh veggies which when I got them back to Gill, she was incredibly grateful as she was at a loss at what to make for tea. 

In the evening I did an immense pile of washing up and yet more fruit slicing for the drying racks...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Thursday 23rd September 10

Up reasonably early in order to get to Leeds for the hospital appointment to remove my dressing and the stitches.  So I left home at about 9.15 and popped into Cycle Heaven as both disc brakes need tightening and the rear brake's plastic wheel with which it can be hand-tightened has disintegrated, and the socket to use to tighten it has become stripped, so I'm unable to tighten the rear one.  The front one is movable, but difficult.  I am not happy with these brakes.  I had a chat with Ash who said he'd do something about them.  I left my bike with him, and took a Cycle Heaven replacement. 

I took this on the train to Leeds, as I missed the fast 9.58 which would have got me into Leeds with time to walk to the hospital, so I got the 10.11 stop-everywhere, which takes over 30 minutes to get there.  So I put the bike on the train, and then cycled up to the LGI, and arrived at the Plastic Surgery dressing removal place at one minute past 11. 

I didn't have to wait long, and the nice nurse took just 5 minutes to deal with me.  I was really pleased to see that the scar is very well healed, is small and tidy, and already looks fairly invisible.  Amazing!

I cycled back through Leeds and got on a train before midday.  Cycle Heaven had sorted my brakes; Ash had dismantled and rebuilt the front one and removed the plastic disc from the rear, so that it can now be tightened with a spanner.  He said that next time I brought my bike in for servicing he'd consider putting brakes on which had bigger pads, which he hoped would last longer.

I got home via Country Fresh, and 3 sacks and two boxes, about 60kg, and had lunch at 1.30pm.

So, the afternoon went quickly as my next appointment was at 3pm, with Owen about 10 minutes cycle away, who had asked me to install two compost bins at his block of flats.  He'd had a neighbours meeting which I'd provided information for, and they'd then decided to get communal compost bins.  One week later, Owen was lucky enough to win a compost bin!  So he'd only needed to purchase one, and today I took a spade, a roll of chicken wire to make them rat-resistant, and pliers to cut the wire to size.  To install a 'dalek' bin, it is best to first find level ground, in a sunny corner if possible, and to place the bin on the ground and mark out where the base of the bin sits with a spade.  The bin is then moved away and a narrow trench made for the foot of the bin to sit in.  Then Owen helped me cut the wire into a square big enough to cover the whole of the base of the bin, and stick out each side.  This is put onto the ground, on top of the trench, and the bin carefully placed onto the wire and pushed into the trench, so the wire completely covers the base of the bin.  Then the soil from the trench is put back onto the foot of the bin, to help hold it down.  This makes it difficult for rats to get in through the base, although if they really want to, they can gnaw a hole in the side of the bin.  However, I've only seen this once.

So I was home soon after 4pm, and I did a bit in the garden, and after tea (the delicious carrot stew/soup, with extra pasta in it), popped over the road to deal with another pile of waste wood... chopped shrubs and bits of trees, which I pruned down to useful sticks.  Later, I went to collect a wheelbarrow full of them, and was accosted by a Woodlands staff member who was surprised to see me working there at that time in the evening.  I guess she didn't know I've been visiting that bit of woodland for about 9 years, and tidying up some of the detritus the gardeners throw in there.  I hope it doesn't put my becoming an official volunteer in jeopardy!

Later in the evening, I couldn't resist opening some of the windfall walnuts, and my fingers ended up black.  I also got a load of very ripe plums from Country Fresh, so I halved them and skinned them and put them on the drying rack....  I had time to do this as facebook was playing up and I couldn't have my usual chats and Scrabble...

Wednesday 22nd September 10

Up early as was due to be in Elvington by 10.30, to meet Mike, who responded to my request for an air rifle on Freecycle, by inviting me to borrow one of his.  He'd asked me if I'd had any experience of them, and I said, no, not since my Dad let me have a few goes on his when I was about 14.  He told me that he'd show me how to do it, and asked a few questions about our garden as some places are not suitable for using air rifles.

So I set off soon after 10am and zoomed out and Mike was waiting for me at 10.32... not bad timing!  I locked my bike and he took me, his dog, two air rifles, a bipod and two tins of ammunition pellets out to a farm about 10 minutes drive away.  He's related to the farmer and goes to shoot pigeons in a barn where they roost and foul the straw bedding and hay fodder.  The pigeons he gets are fed to the cats that the farmer keeps.  Mike set up a target using hay bales, a wooden board with an A4 paper bulls-eye on it, and showed me how to use the basic rifle, which has the charge of air put into it by 'breaking' it and flexing it to just past right angles.  It takes one pellet at a time.  I had a few goes and I think he was surprised how good a shot I was.

Then he showed me the multi-shot air rifle, which has a magazine of 12 pellets, and is powered by a little CO2 canister similar to one in a sodastream fizzy drink maker.  This had telescopic sights, which made seeing the target much easier, and the gun was lighter too, and easier to hold.  However, when the canister is full, the pellets go faster and end up higher on the target, and as the pressure reduces, they go slower and gravity pulls then down, so aiming is much more difficult.  However, the ability to pepper the target with holes withing a short space of time makes up for this.

I chose to take the single shot one with me, and when we got back to his place, it went into a plastic sack and into a pannier, and I cycled home.  On the way back, I found a pheasant and a crow which had been killed by motor vehicles, so I popped them in my trailer to add to my compost. I also collected some branches and they went into the trailer too, for the stove.

Had lunch, and then did a load of weeding in the garden, picked beans, and was interested to see the squirrels seem to have lost interest in the walnut tree.  Maybe it's the curry?

In the evening I had problems getting onto the internet, so couldn't finish or publish my blog and couldn't do my usual facebooking.  But I did do a large pile of pears and apples... and the stove is very well laden now. 

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Tuesday 21st September 10

A good day for me...  up early and then at 10.30 I headed off to St Nicks to meet Peter, whom I met yesterday.  He was very interested in our local eco centre, as he believes that to spread the message of how to keep our Planet habitable, we need a network of similar places for people to be educated and be inspired, find information and hold meetings.

So I showed him the various 'bits' of the Environment Centre, the passive solar design, Sedum roof, rainwater harvesting, compost toilets/waterless urinal/strawbale urinal, photovoltaic and hot water solar panels, the energy balance display, woodstove and the York Rotters stuff.

Then we went out onto the nature reserve and looked at the John Lally Wood, the original mature trees in their dips, where the clay cap on the landfill wasn't put.  And to the stone circle, the kids playground where a very friendly little boy was playing on a swing with two women with him, and then back to the Environment Centre.  Here I had a brief chat with Catherine and left Peter chatting with Ivana.

I came home via Freshways and picked up a sack of wilting greenery and sad foreign vegetables.  I had the usual sandwiches for lunch.  Whilst eating lunch Gill and I spotted the very persistent squirrel leaping over to the walnut tree and leaving with another nut.  It (or they?) has had about half of the crop so far, and I'm getting increasingly annoyed as I really want a crop of walnuts.  The live trap is being ignored... fresh walnuts are obviously too much of a pull.  A few days ago, last week, I rang the RSPCA about their advice about squirrels and how to deal with them.  Drowning them is illegal, as is releasing them elsewhere, as they are officially vermin.  We're talking about the American Grey here, introduced as a novelty by the Victorians, and they've pushed our native Red Squirrel to the brink of extinction due to competition for habitat and because of the Squirrel Pox virus that they carry, which kills the Reds. The RSPCA told me that I ought to get a pest control person out to kill the squirrel in the trap.  They'd either do this with a gun, or release it into a hessian sack and hit it on the head when it was in the corner of the sack.  So it's a bit of a problem, as I don't fancy the clobbering method and I understand why drowning them is inhumane, and I haven't got a gun.  Still trying to work out solutions, and a second phone call to the nearest vet didn't get any results either.

But I'd heard that squirrels don't like chilli so Gill mixed up some curry powder with Vaseline, and we spent half an hour wiping as many nuts as we could with this, just a thin smear, to get the taste onto the nut.  I have no idea if this will prevent them getting taken.

At about 2pm, a Freecycler called Chris called, and delivered a stainless steel sink which he's taken out of a kitchen he's doing up.  Our white enamel sink is horrible and stained and Gill's been asking for a while about replacing it.  This one seems to be the right size, although it needs the tap moving so the drainer is on the right. 

I did some chainsawing, to keep on top of the bits and bobs I regularly bring home.  I also did a bit of compost management, and some weeding, and picked the three remaining Winter Squash.

For tea I had a stir-fry of courgette, home grown sweetcorn and green beans, the pakora from the Sheffield Freegle Ceilidh and a couple of felafel, which Gill bought.  Gill had made a delicious chocolate and banana cake so I had a small square of that... yummy!

In the evening I made up my muesli, made some carrot and tromboncino squash soup, and did another large batch of fruit for drying...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Monday 20th September 10

Up reasonably early and once I'd done emails and facebook notifications, I wrote a press release for the compost donation I'm giving to the RSPCA.  This needs to be OKed by York Rotters and the RSPCA, but both groups will get some publicity out of it.  I got a positive response from Sara at the Council, although she suggested that Catherine might put it into Press-Release-ese!

As it was a lovely day, I went outside and saw our neighbour Marion was out at the front... and she'd mentioned a while ago, when I was picking cherry plums, that she'd like a branch cut off the tree, as it's overhanging their driveway and shading their front window quite a bit.  So I offered to sort out this problem now!  I got my big ladder and with her directions, removed several limbs with my bow saw.  Then I used the loppers to reduce these down to sticks worth keeping for fuel and twigs good for shredding.  Then I got the shredder from down the garden and put it in the driveway, and spent a while feeding stuff through it, resulting in four sacks full of woody stuff.  Very useful!

Then Peter arrived, as agreed over the phone earlier.  Peter is Hugh's brother and we got on well at Hugh's party.  Peter is a green, involved in Transition and we have a lot in common.  We had a wander down the garden and then he had a bowl of carrot soup as did I. 

At 7.45 he went as I was due to go to City Screen and see Metropolis, which has recently had some more footage found.  This is one of my favourite films.  The extra 25 minutes of film mean it is well over 2 hours long, but the story is easier to follow and I loved it, absolutely loved it.  What a classic!

It finished at 11.15 and I cycled home with a big smile.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sunday 19th September 10

Raining today so my work today wasn't looking too hopeful; I'd been booked by the Charity bit of Tesco to come and do some entertaining at their Charity Market.  There is an awning-covered walkway at the side of the store, but it's quite narrow, so I didn't know if I'd be able to work there easily.

Anyway, got myself ready to leave the house at 9.30am and I got to Tescos before 10, and Duncan, my handler, found somewhere for me to do my stuff.  I got changed and got busy, offering free circus workshops to anyone who would have a go.

The day went smoothly until a woman, in her 50s or 60s perhaps, decided to smoke quite near me and the children so I asked her to move.  She did move but was about the same distance away, so I asked her to keep going.  She was rude to me so I went over and said to her that it was wrong of her to smoke so close to children, and could she just walk a bit further away.  She refused and was rude, and I tried to put her cigarette out by flicking it.  Her husband appeared and started verbally abusing me, at which point I withdrew back to the kids.  Then the Tesco people arrived and told off the smoker and her incandescent husband for abusing me and smoking.  Half an hour later, the Tesco people came to me and said the woman had rung the store, complained about me and the staff, and had threatened to call the police as I had allegedly assaulted her!!!   They told me that although I'd been very good with the children, I'd better go as they didn't want a scene if the police turned up.  They paid me in full, apologised, and said go!  So I got changed and went, arriving home at just after 3, when I should have worked til 4.

So an hour relaxing and recovering, before setting off for Sheffield, where I was due to help my sister with running a ceilidh. I got a train at 5.40 and when I got into Sheffield at half six, got a taxi to the Broomhall Centre and helped set up and then sat with Douglas dealing with the tickets.  The band were called The Well Dressed Band and they were good, I enjoyed the music.  I'm not good at following instructions so I cannot do line dancing/barn dancing, but I loved watching.  Anna and Douglas were able to have a few dances because I was sitting on the door.  I enjoyed chatting with Sarah, a Freegle moderator. The event was a Freegle social, and might have raised some money for Sheffield Freegle (almost the same as Freecycle) so they could get stalls at events, etc.  There was a bring and share meal, which was lovely, and Anna had a spot on the stage to explain about the way Freegle works, as she's a moderator too (and might be the chief moderator!)

At 9.45 I walked back into Sheffield and got to the station in good time to get the 10.21 to Leeds, where there was a bit of a wait until the York train.  But I got back into York at 12.10, and cycled rapidly home.

Saturday 18th September 10

I woke at about 9.50 and realised I was supposed to be at St Nicks at 10.  Whoops!  So I quickly got washed and dressed, shovelled down a pile of bran flakes and muesli, and got to St Nicks at about 10.25.

Fortunately, people were still gathering and Edwards York in Transition workshop about Eco Renovation hadn't started. So I chatted with Peter and JayZee, and within a few minutes there were 10 people sitting down to listen to Edward's presentation.  He explained how he came to write his book, and then briefly went through each section, covering a few areas in more detail.  There were some good discussions.

Afterwards I chatted with someone I knew from years ago, Anne Leggett, who's getting involved in a project to make the local pond more 'community friendly'.  We had quite a long conversation.

I came home via a log pile and Freshways, the chemist to get a tidy-looking covering for my forehead and the Co-op for cereals.  After a late lunch I had a busy afternoon in the garden, and just before 5pm cycled down to Country Fresh where Rich had several boxes for me, just before he closed.

I came back and had a bath, Gill carefully washed my hair as it had iodine in it, from the operation.  I'd been told not to get the wound wet.  Then at 6.30 I zoomed off to Clements Hall where Isobel had organised a surprise 60th birthday party for Hugh Bernays, her husband.  I've known Hugh and Isobel for 20 years or so, and I'm very fond of them both.  Their children knew me as Professor Fiddlesticks from when they were very young... but Emily, the eldest, is now a beautiful young woman and working as a hotel receptionist.

I took Hugh a jar of my best dried apple rings and one of Gill's home-made cards.  As the time came for Hugh to arrive I got a bottle of bubbly (all with Isobel's blessing, of course) and a couple of minutes after the shout of 'SURPRISE' and the singing of Happy Birthday, I poured him and Isobel a glass.  Then I headed for the food!  Yummy party food!  I chatted with loads of people I knew, and met a few people I didn't.  I was very pleased to see Andy Chase, Simon Brerton and Pauline, all of whom have been involved with the Clements Hall project.  I met the architect.  Andy gave me a short tour.  I got on well with Hugh's brother Peter, and he's coming to visit on Monday afternoon.  I specially enjoyed listening to David Ward Maclean singing.  Then Don Walls with some poetry.  When the birthday cake came in, instead of a speech, Hugh played a tune on his Jews Harps, and David joined in with singing, and Milladio with the tomtoms.  It was lovely!

But I left at about 9.40 and got home, had washing up to do and fruit to dry. And work tomorrow.

However, last thing I made a big pan of carrot soup with waste carrots, and left it on the woodstove overnight.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Friday 17th September 10

I slept in and when I got up, my top dressing had come off revealing a neat pair of 'butterfly sutures'.  It isn't clear whether I have normal stitches as well.  Gill replaced the gauze and attached it with tape.

So I had a sedentary day, mostly.  Wrote my piece for the Ward Election newsletter, and dealt with more fruit.

Later, I installed a dalek compost bin which came home from Lord Deramore's minus it's lid and basal door.  I used a load of bits of rock and concrete to block the door hole and I'll use something to put on the top.  I half-filled it with the contents of the medium Compostumbler, and started refilling the tumbler with shredded shrubs, shredded rotten wood and a couple of sacks of greengrocers stuff. 

I picked some beans for tea. I picked a lovely looking bright orange winter squash, which should keep for quite a few months.

In fact, tea was excellent.  Someone (err, was it Loony?) had suggested making a bread and butter pudding but make it savoury with layers of veg instead of fruit.  I had a thrown away wholemeal loaf, so Gill and I made an experimental meal.  The beans were chopped up and put in a dish with onion, mushroom, tomato and courgette, with herbs and a bit of bouillon, and microwaved for a few minutes to soften them.  The bread was dipped in a mix of goats milk and egg, and some put in the bottom of a greased pyrex dish.  Then a layer of veg mix, and another layer of bread, and so on, finishing with a layer of eggy bread, and some goats cheese grated on top.  This was microwaved to heat it through, and then put in the oven to crisp the top and make sure it was really well cooked.

It was delicious, a really nice meal.  We'll be doing a version of this again!

A quiet evening, wrote the minutes out for the YiT meeting last week as I had a gentle prompt from Peter that I hadn't done it yet.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Thursday 16th September 10 Lipoma removal

I got up reasonably early as today I was booked into the Leeds General Infirmary to surgically remove my forehead lipoma.  I've had this quite a few years; it's a fatty lump, benign, not harmful, but if it's in a visible place, people do notice it and some ask about it.  Mine has looked like I've bumped my head and got a bruise or 'egg' for several years.  When I took it to my GP after it became very obvious, he described it as the size of a squashed pea, and told me not to worry about it.

However, as it got bigger, an average of two people a week would ask me if I'd bumped my head.  I grew tired of having to explain what a lipoma was.  Children especially are really good at just saying what's in their mind, and sometimes have no concept of whether it's appropriate or not to mention strange lumps on people's foreheads.  The worst time was when in a committee meeting quite recently, someone kept on looking at it; it was most off putting and I found it difficult to concentrate on the meeting because of that.

So today I cycled down to the station, hopped on a train which got in to Leeds at about 11.45, and walked up to the Art Gallery where I sat and had my sandwiches for lunch, listening to the aural sculptures. Then I walked up to the LGI and followed the signs to the Clarendon Wing.  I went to the wrong bit at first, the plastic surgery dressings place (I was sent there by Reception) and they phoned through to Ward 63 to find out if I was on their list, which I was.  So once I'd got there I sat and waited, then was called in to have my blood pressure taken and an identification band put on my wrist.  Then I went to wait again, and there was friendly chat in the waiting room.  Then I was called again and the Doctor drew an arrow above my lump and I signed the consent form.  Then more waiting... but not long.  I was called again and told to take off mt tee shirt and put on a gown.  My canvas bag and bum bag were put in a locker and into the theatre I went.

I was asked to lie on a trolley/table and assorted covers were put on me, my head washed with antiseptic and eyes covered up.  I had I think three local anaesthetic injections, which are never nice, but aren't really that awful.  Then there was a fair amount of pushing and pulling and I recognised the crackling sound of cauterisation, where a wire is caused to heat up with an electric current, and this is used to seal blood vessels, as the area is well supplied with blood. I guess the operation took about 20 minutes.  I'd already said I'd be interested to see what they took out, so when they were done and had taken the tape off my eyes, I was shown the little plastic jar with some clear liquid in it, containing my lipoma, a pink blob, like a Smartie or a Minstrel in shape, and size-wise, somewhere between the two I think.  It had been growing between my skull and muscle.  Apparently they can appear anywhere, under the skin, within tissues, even within a nerve.  So mine was easy to remove.  They deal with quite a few.  Mine will be sent for analysis, to check it is in fact a lipoma and nothing more serious.

So I had a coffee and 10 minutes rest, and a talk about coming back in a week to have the dressings removed, and about not getting it wet and not doing vigorous exercise for a couple of days.  I got my tee shirt back on and gathered my stuff and walked back to the station, leaving the hospital at 2.45.  I got back into the house at 4.30.

I was fussed over but didn't want fussing over.  I'd bought paracetamol in Leeds Station and that had kicked in and the soreness and pain was gradually going.  Gill made tea... microwaved sweet potato and mushrooms in white sauce, with goats cheese, and broccoli.

After this I went to do just a bit of gentle wooding; to the place where the shrubs and trees have been dumped, and I sorted through them, secateuring off twigs and thinner stuff, ending up with another trailer load to bring back.  I chopped this up with loppers and put my bike away and came in.

A quiet evening dealing with fruit ensued, with quite a bit of facebook stuff.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Wednesday 15th September 10

Up far too early and could have done with a lie-in.  But with kids to deal with, no chance of that today.

I spent some of the day attempting to write something for the election leaflet but got some sort of block.  At 10.30 I set off to see my friend Kate, who'd requested my expertise in a couple of areas of my degree training, Environmental Health.  We had a nice 90 minutes together, talking about vermin, and how to remove and prevent, about heat loss from homes, chimneys and door frames, architectural salvage and woodstoves.  I was happy to consume a scone with jam and a coffee... and as always, enjoyed her company.  On the way home I stopped off at a chemist for Gill and then Cycle Heaven for a couple of replacement bits, and then called in on Alligator for some recyclable resources.

Home for a late lunch, after which I did some pruning of shrubs in the front.  Once the children were home, I had 2 hours nap, which was nice but I got up just before 7 so I could go to the Green Party meeting at 7.30 in town.  I didn't have time to eat.

The meeting was good, met an energy expert who is keen to stand in the 2011 elections, and we discussed some sections of the manifesto, a lively debate.  I signed a document to allow the use of the Green Party logo against my name in the forthcoming local By-Election.

I made a meal when I got home.  I had a Freecycled sachet of ready-cooked rice, home grown courgette, tomato and hazelnut, all done in a stir fry on the woodstove.  Lovely.  My sister invited me to help her run a Ceilidh in Sheffield on Sunday night, so I spent some time trying to work out the logistics of that, as I'm working til 4pm that day in York, so it's do-able!  Still didn't manage to write the election leaflet...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tuesday 14th September 10

Up early as I had agreed to speak live to BBC Radio York about a quite sensitive subject.  I am going to prepare a 'page' about this, and will link this post to that page to explain.

So I was on soon after 7am, and I stayed up and spent chunks of the day listening to the 'player' to listen to the whole show.  I was disappointed with the rest of the programme 

I did quite a chunk of work in the garden and also visited Richard and picked up several sacks of compostables and a hand of bananas... not very local or in season but the children like them.

After lunch, Jennie dropped by to give me some Edible York postcards, which I'll deliver in the next few days to houses with big gardens.

I called round on a friend who is desperately fighting alcoholism, to see how they were and I met someone who is helping, and they went off to alcoholics anonymous together.  I squashed a huge load of aluminium cider cans and brought them back, the beginning of my new collection!  Then I visited a nearby wooded area where some shrubs and small trees had been taken down, and I came back with a trailer load of reasonable sticks and small branches, some of which I chopped up.

I collected a lot of windfalls as it's been windy, and I made space on the stove for more drying.  I had an enquiry from ITV about a homes-of-interesting-people programme, but I declined as I don't think it would be a good idea to have cameras round when we're so untidy and chaotic, and also, I don't want to embarrass the children.  I had a call from 10:10 about their recent emails to York in Transition and Professor Fiddlesticks being 10:10 organisations.  I had a long chat with Heidi, a 10:10 volunteer and I enjoyed this.

I did quite a lot of fruit prep in the evening and had a nice facebook chat with a new Malaysain friend who's into green issues.  I half watched a film I've seen before, 'At First Sight' with Val Kilmer.  Got my blog done for 1am, which is early for me!!!!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Monday 13th September 10

Got up before 9am and got going after breakfast and email/facebook session... but then had to concentrate on the forthcoming election, as I have to get papers in as soon as possible.  So I looked all through the Register of Electors which Andy, my Election Agent had sent me, and found about 25 people whom I either knew or thought that would sign my form saying they were happy for me to stand.  This doesn't commit them to voting for me, or voting at all, but it does mean that they shouldn't sign someone else's form!

Over lunch I sorted out some more plums... they don't last long when sitting in a bucket with I don't know how many other plums, and quite a few were well on the way to compost.  Sad, but I've been too busy to deal with all of them.  But I filled another cake rack with halved and skinned plums, and balanced this over the warm woodstove....

During the afternoon, I popped round to a couple just round the corner, and explained that I wanted to ask them a favour but I wouldn't be at all offended if they said no.  They were happy to fill in my form, and then we chatted about politics, lifestyles and all sorts for quite a while.  Then I went looking for another two who live close by but neither of them were in.

A bit later I went out on my bike and got the next 7 that I needed (Gill was my proposer, and 10 are needed).  This included a lovely old gent of 89 who was very pleased with some company, two Green Party members, a young chap who'd helped with the Green Festival, one of my neighbours and a friend who is politically active but I'm not sure she's a Green voter!

So I was done, all filled in, and this meant that I could take all the forms down to the meeting about the proposed incinerator.  My agent said he'd be there towards the end.

The meeting was really interesting but when I got back home I had internet connectivity problems and ended up typing my blog out on Gill's laptop.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sunday 12th September 10

Not a bad day, on the whole.  I didn't get up that late but had a slow start to the day, and watched a bit of Politics Show and started doing the hazelnuts which have sat in a bucket long enough, and needed to be processed.

After lunch, I got a phone call from Freshways who had a bag of wilted herbs for me, so I collected them.  When I got back I noticed that the sacks and bags of aluminium cans I'd put at the front ready to take to the metal merchant had gone.  I asked Gill if she'd moved them but she hadn't.  So, they'd been taken, stolen, and someone else had got about £20 worth of aluminium.  The only consolation was that I know that they will be recycled, and won't be going to landfill.

Then I decided to go down to the Get Cycling show in Rowntree Park, and I called in on Country Fresh on the way there.  The Festival of Cycling was excellent.  I first looked in at the fixed stage area, where there were a lot of different unusual bikes available, and a queue of mainly families with children waiting to ride them round and round.  It looked like a lot of fun.

Then I cycled round to the main field, which had stalls round a couple of the edges and a big jump-landing bag on another, with a ramp and stunt riders demonstrating different types of jump.  On the concreted area in front of the toilet block was a toddlers cycling circuit.  Then there was a the cycle powered Scalextrix and in the basketball court, a tricycle recumbent racing circuit. 

There were the usual burger vans, ice cream vans and inflatable slide and bouncy thing.  The whole park was full of children with their parents. It had rained briefly earlier but whilst I was there it was sunny.  I met quite a few people I knew, including someone who gave me feedback about their experience of last weekend's Peace Festival.  They told a story of a particular Council Officer who had attended the event and made themselves a real nuisance, behaving in a completely unacceptable and unprofessional manner.  Amazingly, this person was not even supposed to be there in any official capacity.  However, the good news is that this person, who made life difficult for me whilst doing the Green Festival, may be retiring next year.  Maybe I should organise a festival to celebrate their going? 

As I cycled home, over Millennium Bridge and through the Stray, it rained briefly again, but not enough to make me want to cycle any faster.  I found a dead fallen tree, about 6 or 7 metres long, and it found itself attached to the back of my trailer, and I dragged it home.

I didn't do much more work outside after this, just picking up windfalls and putting a bit of shop waste  resources in a tumbler.  I helped Gill in the kitchen too, cooking some courgette and some slices of tromboncino squash, and mushrooms, to go with her pasta dish.

During the evening I finished the hazelnut job part one... removing the nuts from their frilly leaf-like sheaths.  This resulted in 5 envelopes of hazelnuts, which are now ready for cracking and rendering edible.  What a job!  I fully understand automation, but in the spirit of self sufficiency and low carbon living, I'm doing it by hand.  And anyway, it's only a couple of kilos!  Took me an hour or so.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Saturday 11th September 10

Although I went to bed at a comparatively early 1.30am, I got up at 5.50 in order to leave the house at 6.35 and get to the station to get a ticket to Preston, and get the 7.06 train all the way there.  As I was settling in to my seat, Robin just got into the train as the doors were closing, he'd got the train down from Darlington.  So I didn't get a peaceful time... Robin is an enthusiastic talker and we had a year to catch up on!

So we were soon in Preston, and we got a taxi to where we thought the venue was, but it wasn't and we got taken down to another part of the campus.  I got changed quickly and proceeded to do a lot of devilsticking and a bit of unicycling in the area where new students were arriving with their parents, luggage, sometimes siblings.  This Freshers Weekend is a regular event at UCLAN... except that this year it's just the Saturday. 

I enjoyed the various bands and musicians, devilsticked to the music, made balloon animals for some of the staff and existing students and Student Union people, as well as the children tagging along with their older brother or sister starting Uni this weekend.  I had a lot of fun greeting the 6 or 10 year old and welcoming them to University, asking them what they were going to be studying, and more silliness.  I had quite a long lunch, 45 minutes, in a room out of the way, before embarking on my second 2 and a half hour slot of zany, clever, silly, colourful, quick-witted and quick moving entertainment.

I got away (in costume) just before 4pm, and scurried down to the station on foot, as I wanted to get the 4.10 train.  I got there and it was cancelled, so got the 4.23 instead.  Once my ticked had been checked, I got changed in the carriage toilet, and then dozed til Manchester... New Scientist sending me to sleep.

At Manchester I went to Cafe Nero and met up with Laura, who was with Ian, and Janie, who had her friend Jonathan there.  It was good to see both my friends and these new friends.  A bit later, Laura took me to the Arndale Food place, where she had noodles and bones and I had a baked potato.

Then back to the station, and I got on the 8 something and was back in York soon after 10pm, after a noisy journey and sympathy from/with my neighbour, Sally, a student of 3D wallpaper!

Later still, had a long type-chat with Ali, whom I haven't chatted with for ages.  Really good to catch up.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Friday 10th September 10

Up early despite a late finish last night.  I had been booked by Tara to help finish off her water butt installation, using the drill bit 'borrowed' through Freecycle.  This was achieved by saying in the WANTED post 'Wanted for drilling just three holes in plastic waterbutts, on one day only'.  When the lovely John the engineer contacted me, I said I'd be very happy to return it, which I intend to do early next week.

So, I set off at 9.30ish and got to her house on the dot of 10am... this time, she was yawning and not quite ready.  But at least she was dressed.  The water butt installation was actually very easy, the most difficult bit was cutting through the plastic downpipe to insert the diverter.  But all three went in and as it was a wetish day, we saw that they worked.  I did a little bit of couch grass root removal and explained how to prepare this for composting safely in a cold compost heap.  She has a lot of work to do, as the lawn is just a mass of couch grass and she wants to make a vegetable patch.  But I predict that next spring she'll have at least some of it ready for planting.  We also dealt with her beech hedge and wove some twiggy bits into a new fence.

She fed me sandwiches for lunch, and gave me two chocolate muffins as she's started a diet today.  I expect my boys will like these.  I also got a tub of highly fattening Ben and Jerry's ice cream.  I'll eat it slowly.  I should be aware of my waistline too...

And then away, zooming into town to call in on the Council Offices to find out about the fate of the Hull Road Ward funding applications I put in, and to try to find out about what the role of a 'sponsoring organisation' is, for future reference.  I met a senior officer but he didn't know the details of individual applications, so I got an email address and need to write to that officer.

And to home, via Country Fresh where I was a bit shocked to see that Rich had been in hospital with a cat bite on his finger.  His whole hand had swollen up and he'd been admitted overnight. Poor Richard!  However, had he not contacted NHS Direct, who told him to go to the drop in, who told him to go to A and E, who said, we need to admit you overnight, he could have lost a limb, or even lost his life.  Blood poisoning can be very very serious. He was given antibiotic injections into the afflicted area, and oral antibiotics, and was today pretty well recovered.  I picked up a couple of sacks and a box, and came home.  There was more, so later, I returned, did some shopping and picked up the remainder.

I had a relaxing afternoon, weeding the pond area, loading a compost bin, recovering fruit for drying.

In the evening I did that fruit management, jarring up a load of dried pears and refilling the racks with wet fruit.

Thursday 9th September 10

A very productive day.  I got up fairly late but was busy soon, did some housework and after lunch, did a load of fruit picking.  I started with the plums as they are very ripe, many have fallen and others gone mouldy on the tree.  I took the ladders down and picked quite a few, about three quarters of a bucket full, and then asked my neighbour if I could take my ladders down his garden to reach the rest of the plums in our tree from his side of the hedge.  He had no problem with that... they have two similar plum trees which were equally loaded.

So I ended up with a whole bucket full of plums... what will I do with them?  My neighbour also told me that I should be taking the opportunity to pick the apples from our tree which are accessible from his side, so I moved the ladder and picked a large box full of James Grieve, a delicious and fairly early eating apple. We have a Cox apple tree too, this ripens later in the year.

So, lots of fruit to process.  I had some quiet time and sat and cracked shells off hazelnuts.  We have a really good nutcracker, with a spring which opens it up after squeezing it, and the nut goes into a conical chamber which copes with all sized nuts (well, not coconuts!) (looks a bit like this).

I also did an hour or so chainsawing and log stacking, on the right of the front door as you look out.  This means we are now using the stuff on the left which has been there all summer.

I had a quick tea at 6.30, reheat rice and some tomato sauce Gill made, and microwaved green beans, perhaps some of the last from the garden.

Then at 7 I went down the garden and found 4 sacks of compost for Suki, Ann's housemate, and took that round on the way to the York in Transition meeting.  It was Peter's birthday and he, Edward and Andreas were drinking coffee and eating doughnuts... they'd had a Directors meeting which I'd missed, but the Steering Group was from 7.30.  I took minutes.  We finished just before 10pm.

Then I came home via Freshways, picked up a couple of sacks of limp vegetation, and lit the stove to keep the plums drying.  I cracked more nuts whilst watching Lorenzo's Oil, a moving film.  I chatted with an American friend on facebook called Sheila, who sent me a recipe to use some of the plums.

Bed ridiculously late again!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Wednesday 8th September 10

Another late start... I've got into the habit of going to bed in the wee early hours (was after 3am last night) and then getting up late. So I had breakfast when some people would be having an early lunch, and then I got dressed just in time for a mid afternoon appointment with Lucy from Yellow Pages and and I agreed the same package as this year for advertising Professor Fiddlesticks. I've dropped Thomson Directories and I might drop the BT Phone Directory too... I don't know. But Lucy and I didn't just talk business... we covered peak oil and diet, amongst other subjects. I promised to send her a couple of links via facebook, and later in the day she 'friended' me and I sent her a link to the peak oil article and also one to a nutloaf recipe I wrote yonks ago in the Community Care blog I wrote.

I responded to a Freecycle offer of a drill bit which Tara asked me to find so we can do her water butt on Friday. I cycled round to meet John, a chap of mature years who has a lovely engineers workshop in his back garden. He showed me a Sterling engine he'd built... but lamented that it didn't work very well.

Gill went to town and found a second-hand desk in the Banana Warehouse for our youngest to use in his bedroom. It was delivered, and Gill and I took it upstairs and it looks great there. Our son was pleased with it.

After this, I collected a load of windfall fruit from the garden (apples, pears and plums) and spent some of the evening sorting these for drying. I also dealt with a lot of hazelnuts. I am inundated with hazelnuts. A bucket full of them takes a LOT of time to process. I have only just started, perhaps a fifth of them, probably less than this. Maybe this is why I'm not sleeping much, I have too much to do.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Tuesday 7th September 10

I had a late start as I was up and around doing things last night til a ridiculous time. But I had nothing planned for the morning, and in the afternoon I had three meetings one after the other, with not a lot of time between them, including a 'public appearance' for which I felt the need to be clean and well groomed!

So after breakfast/lunch I had a bath, and then read a bit more No Impact Man book. I'm just over halfway through.

At 3.30 I set off for the Environment Forum meeting at the Friends Meeting House. The attendees had received my version of the Allerton Waste Recovery Park response document, and we were also going to meet and discuss things with Kersten England, the Chief Executive of City of York Council, and also we needed to discuss our Vision Document. It was really good to meet Kersten England for the first time, and she responded to all our questions in the manner expected of a Chief Exec. The Allerton Park response is going to be reconsidered after we've heard more information next Monday, when some of us will attend a meeting which will discuss a 'Zero Waste Policy' which has not been considered by the Council. The Vision Document discussion was complicated, and over-ran, and I left at 6.10, which didn't give me enough time to get to the Planning Panel meeting. So I went home and Gill gave me pizza and broccoli, baked beans and potatoes. I had some quiet time before setting out for City Screen at about 8pm.

This was for the screening of No Impact Man. I met Guy and Ivana at the stall in the foyer, and other people started to turn up whom I knew. Dave Taylor arranged that the three speakers got complimentary tickets which was nice of him. There were about 45 people in the audience, many of them 'the usual suspects'. The film is excellent, has funny moments, some cute interludes with Colin and Michelle's daughter Isabella, and I really liked the fact that the story focuses a lot of the relationship between Colin and his wife. I missed the bit about the candles when I watched the DVD last night; they are not paraffin wax, but bees' wax, and therefore NOT of fossil origin, but renewable. For as long as we've got honeybees, that is.

The Question and Answer session seemed to go quite well afterwards... about half the people went as the credits rolled and the rest were happy to hear the discussion and a few asked questions or made comments. The most interesting observation (afterwards, in the foyer) was that when the film Super Size Me was screened here, the auditorium was packed. So what is it about a film which looked at the fast food culture by means of a guy eating nothing but McDonald's for a month which made it so popular, whereas a film about a guy giving up stuff for a year drew just a few dozen? Both films had the aim of drawing attention to an aspect of modern life... maybe it was because Morgan Spurlock's experiment was just one aspect whereas Colin Beavan's was about lots!

I enjoyed my cycle home and picked up one more plastic crate for Abundance York's fruit collections, and I realised I hadn't taken the crates round to Dave Broughton in my bike trailer like I said I would. I now have 11 to give him.

Later, at home and typing away doing my blog, playing Scrabble on facebook, a friend, Manuel Costa who's an environmentalist in Canada, I think, posted ths article about Germany getting the wobbles about 'Peak Oil' and it's well worth a read. Another challenging read, if you're interested in diet, meat and veganism, is George Monbiot's review of Simon Fairlie's book 'Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Not sure I'll be moving away from vegetarianism though.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Monday 6th September 10

A good day, partly as I had a deadline thrust upon me and I work well facing a deadline. But that was later. During the morning, I did some garden work, not much, but some. I composed a letter after lunch, to Kersten England, the Returning Officer for the City of York Council, and asked for a by election to be held in our Ward, as Roger Pierce the excellent Councillor has resigned. The other Councillor is nowhere to be seen, so effectively we have no representation in the Ward, which is a bad situation to be in and we need an election. Gill wrote a letter too, as to call an election, you need two electors to call it. I spoke to the Election Officer and he told me the date of the election and gave me nomination papers. I then popped into the Press and told them I'd just called the election. Exciting!

So, during the afternoon, the chair of the Environment Forum told me he was doing the mailout at 6 and could I have the incinerator report ready by then. This concentrated my mind and I took myself upstairs away from the distractions and wrote the report. I used the report written by Carole Green as a template, and massaged it and added to it, so now this document, about the Forum's response to the Allerton 'Waste Recovery Park' , is ready to be debated and then, probably after more alterations, adopted.

I had a Macaroni cheese tea with home grown cherry tomatoes exploding hotly in my mouth.

Then there was a LETS meeting at 7.30, and it was just me and Melody; we had a lively conversation and left the Seahorse at 8.20. I collected a pile of weeds from the Edible York public bed and then a pile of 10 plastic crates for the Abundance crew after that. The boys and mum were watching some sort of Dr. Who-based thing so I stayed outside and stacked some logs in the dark. I wanted to get these dry logs under cover before the predicted rain came, which it did.

Then I came in and settled down to watch the promo-copy DVD of No Impact Man, so I have something to think about before the screening tomorrow, and the Q+A afterwards. It is an excellent film, a documentary about the year-long experiment. I enjoyed it, and was right, 'No Impact' is not literally true. For instance, at one point the family decides to do away with electricity in their home. So they use candles for lighting, and a cool box instead of a fridge. The cool box is kept cool using a neighbour's ice cubes (impact!) and candles are made from fossil paraffin wax (fossil CO2 emission impact). BUT, the really good thing about the project is that millions of profligate Americans (and now, Brits) are exposed to the idea of reducing/eliminating their impact, and may, just may follow suit and do something positive re our shared environment.

Later, one of my New Zealand relatives sent me a link to a load of photos of the Christchurch earthquake, and I spent an hour looking through them. Amazing stuff! Glad no-one was killed.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sunday 5th September 10 York Peace Festival

I got up fairly early as I wanted to get to Rowntree Park before 11, when the Festival officially started. I turned out the flapjack, and had a piece... it was DELICIOUS! Most of that went into a cake tin and into a pannier. I took my devlstick, in case of some good music to twiddle to, and balloons in case of kids in need... I took two cans of cider, just in case I felt like relaxing with a drink later on.

I got to the site before 11 and reported to the Festival Central tent, as Dylan had suggested that I might be useful as a steward. However, I wasn't needed but was asked to report back at midday. I went to the nearby stage where my Falling Spikes friend Moz was playing in a dub reggae band, and his band member and friend Richard, of Country Fresh fame, was coping with it pretty well. Rich doesn't like dub. And soon after the dub finished, Rich had to head off to work.... and apparently would be back at 5.30!

I had a wander round, down to the main stage, the healing and chill out area, with the nearby cabaret stage just getting going.

I met absolutely loads of my friends old and new. I met people whose names I didn't know, like two friendly characters Lorraine and Catherine. I spotted Rachel whom I wanted to say hello to but I was chatting to Laurie the poet and she'd gone by the time I'd finished that conversation. I really enjoyed the social aspect to this event, which was good as I felt a bit 'lost' as I wasn't an organiser, a volunteer, a paid worker... I was just a punter. I helped Rakesh with getting some water, and then queued with Kate Lock to have lunch. Janie and her son came from Manchester to be here, and it was lovely to see them. I did some devilsticking to some funky music, and several people with children stopped and asked about it, and I was able to give out my business card.

Later on, I collected what started as 7 boxes of orange halves, which I compressed into 4 boxes and a bag. This filled my bike trailer, but will be a good dose for one of my tumblers.

As the event came to a close, I had one of my cans of cider, and then spent well over an hour picking up litter... mainly cigarette butts, hundreds and hundreds of them. Disgusting smokers.

Right at the end I was rewarded with a fruit scone, but I needed to get back as I was tired. I got home at about 9 pm. I had sandwiches for tea.

So, a brilliant day, one of the best local festivals I've been to... lots more people there than at the last Green Festival. I take my hat off to Dylan, Mick, Ali and all the other volunteers who made this happen. Most of all I thank my friends who enrich my life so much. I am a very lucky man.

Saturday 4th September 10

A really productive and excellent day.

After breakfast I needed to clear the decks a bit and wash up, but there was a saucepan full of waste eggs which I'd rescued from being lobbed out, and hard boiled... about 25 of them. So I went to buy bread and got a couple of bottles of clear vinegar too. I spent 40 minutes shelling the eggs, not easy as old eggs don't peel easily, and put them in 3 big peanut butter jars and poured vinegar over them... pickled eggs. I occasionally have one of these sliced into a sandwich with mayonnaise.

Then I did a bit of sorting out, washing up etc, and after lunch did some work in the garden, just an hour. Then I loaded up the trailer with a 25 kg sack of brown chapati flour, which I'd rescued some weeks earlier, as I'd found a taker, someone who really likes chapatis! Her housemate wanted some compost to top-dress the garden, so I got 4 large bags of that too, and then slowly cycled across town with this heavy load and delivered it. I got paid for the compost but the flour I gave as it hadn't cost me anything other than hauling it out of a skip and cycling it home. Very satisfying.

Then I made my way to Rowntree Park where Dylan, Mick, John, Steve, Ali and others were setting up for tomorrow's York Peace Festival. I helped move chairs and tables, and then helped Peter from Classic Marquees (I think!) and some Polish guys (I'm assuming) to erect the stage marquee.

Then I came home via Country Fresh, where I picked up two sacks and three boxes, just before they closed. More hot compost on the way!

I had a low key tea, a hommous sandwich, coleslaw and cheese sandwich and some dolmades and potato salad, followed by an out of date yoghurt and flapjack offcuts.

During the evening I needed to find a way of using up the stewed mirabelle plums, so I made a flapjack out of them. I took two scoops of muesli base and two little packets of 'hemp hearts' which I rescued from one of the retailers I service, some home produced pumpkin seeds and some maple syrup, this purchased! I chopped up some dried apple and tipped in some home-made stove dried raisins, then several big scoops of plums, mixed well and pushed into a baking dish, with home grown hazelnuts pushed into the top in a regular pattern, so each cube of flapjack got one whole fresh hazelnut! Baked it in the oven on Gas 4 for 25 minutes, and scored the slab as soon as i took it out... Can't wait til tomorrow to try some!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Friday 3rd September 10

I didn't need to get up that early but was up and about before 10am... but as soon as I got downstairs there was a phone call. It was a young chap called Anthony who had found Novaterium and had then found me on facebook. He has an estate on the South Downs and is planting woodland and creating a new area of parkland, and he's interested in a green burial site in the woodland.

So he rang me for a general chat about how to go about the initial process of starting a natural burial site, and we spent well over half an hour chatting through lots of issues. He later messaged me and said it had been a very helpful talk, which was nice of him. He had a link for our website too, a friend of his who has a video streaming service which means the funeral can be 'attended' by people who don't need to travel to it. Very green... it'll be put on soon!

After lunchtime I popped over to Woodlands to find out about the timetable for me starting the volunteering, now that the CRB stuff is through. Both my referees have sent back a reference which is good, and so 'induction' is next week sometime. I then went to find the groundsman, Richard, but instead found his colleague Gareth, whom i chatted with for a while... he was interested in info about photovoltaic panels so I said I'd send him some links to forthcoming Transition events which will give him all the information he needs.

Then I did some work in the garden, a bit of stacking and some weeding and composting; but Gill called me back up as a Freecycler called Mark had unexpectedly turned up asking about a CD of popular Christmas music that I'd apparently said he could have. So I came up the garden and we looked through a big pile of ex-skip CDs and he took a handful.

Towards 7pm I got washed and changed as the York Rotters 6th Birthday Party was happening, and I got to St Nicks soon after 7. Relatively few people turned up, but it was good to see Chris, Pat and Jean, Ivana of course, and Catherine our Project Officer. There was also Penny, who's the daughter of Gill's Mum's old friend Kate, and Vicky whom I first met at the Transition Ceilidh and she upset me, but now we're friends. I chatted with Julia from Parashoots, who may be making a video of York Rotters. We ended up talking about the RSPCA and all sorts of things! There were a few others there but I didn't get to know them. I enjoyed the buffet and stayed til after 10 so Catherine who was locking up wasn't there on her own.

I had a chat with my friend Laura when I got back, as she was worrying about the health of one of her friends and she wanted to talk. Then i lit the stove to continue drying the Mirabelle plums. A very late evening...

Thursday 2nd September 10

I got up quite early as I had a doctor's appointment as my ankle is still hot to the touch, still a bit painful, and I'm worried about turning on it again... I've almost gone over on it twice since breaking it, well, since the pot came off. I do NOT want to damage it again!

But I also had agreed to take 3 sacks of wood to my friend Anita, who's central heating has gone wrong, but has a woodstove. So I loaded the trailer up and cycled round to Monkgate. I settled down to read No Impact Man, as there's usually a wait at the Surgery, but today I was called in two minutes early! The GP, (Brendon, I think!) was a new one (for me) and he was really nice, and he gave me some good advice about exercises and strapping my ankle. He was also interested in my lipoma, as I told him I had an appointment to have it removed. I'd happily see this GP again.

Then I popped round to Anita's but she'd double booked and got an appointment at her bank in town, so instead of chatting over a coffee we walked into town together and chatted. We parted at the bank and I went to the Friends Meeting House to see if I could book a room for the Car Free York meeting. Then onto Alligator to pick up a small load of compostables and then to Country Fresh for quite a lot more. I then had a bite of lunch and a good session down the garden, loading up this material with hedge shreddings into the medium Compostumbler.

When the post arrived after lunch, I was pleased to get the document from the Criminal Records Bureau, an 'Enhanced Disclosure'. This means I'll be called into Woodlands soon, given an induction, and be able to help them with their log problem at the back of the building! Yay!! They get volunteer help, I get to take the unwanted tree trunks they normally put on a bonfire. There's at least a win-win-win there!

The boys came home from school, our youngest has started senior school so they came home together. They'd both had a good day. Thank goodness, we were thinking about them all day.

For tea I had a plate of noodles with a veg mix which included some chunks of tromboncino squash, Jack Edwards Pea Beans and thrown-away tomatoes. Several little boxes had been put in the 'unsalable' bag, as each had one or two squashy ones, and about half a dozen sound ones, and it takes too long to sort these out into good and bad... it's cheaper for the retailer to throw the lot and get on with a job which will have a bigger return, like making the trays of tomatoes look nice so customers buy them. I enjoyed my tea, especially as some of the ingredients were home grown and others rescued from material destined for landfill.

Later I dealt with all of the remaining Mirabelle plums, cutting the plum so the stone came out (it comes out really easily with the ripe ones) and stewing some, drying the rest. Bed at 2am.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Wednesday 1st September 10

I got up really late... was up til 3 working and then read for some time, so I got up at 11, 7 hours sleep. So, didn't get much done in the morning, apart from a bit of email/facebook... but this was good as my friend in Germany, Sabine, told me she thought that the yellow cherry-plums are what she calls 'Mirabelles' (images here) and yes, they fit the description well. They are delicious, really sweet!

After a late lunch, I had a busy afternoon in the garden; cut a length of hedge, with newly sharpened shears, and then shredded this with the electric shredder. I layered this with a few boxes of greengrocers 'resources' in the current compost bin.

I picked a lot of blackberries, and then did a load of pond-area prep... I've cleared about a quarter of it now, and I want to make it all bare earth before digging it deeper and making it into a pond. All the Ground Elder and bramble roots are welcome additions to my compost, after all! Also, I'm enjoying unearthing various archaeological artifacts....

However, as the light was beginning to fail, I remembered that I had a Green Party meeting, so I rushed up to wash my hands and jumped on my bike and got to the meeting at 7.50, I thought I'd be late but as it started at 8pm I was early. I didn't stay for the whole meeting, just the two agenda items which concerned me.

I came home and got myself some food, and later, after another big wash up, washed the Mirabelle plums and put quite a few of them for drying. Tomorrow I might have a go at making a pie or tart with the remainder of them.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Tuesday 31st August 10

I had a slow start to the day as I'd worked hard yesterday but after lunch I decided to get my trailer mended, and as I got it ready to put on my rack to cycle it down to James St, a wiry old chap walked past and stopped and came down the drive asking where I got it made, or if I'd made it myself. I told him a friend had made it (Rob Kay) but I was getting it mended and was just off down to The Raylor Centre where there is a welder and car bodywork repairer. Tom, his name was, suggested that I should go to 'Blackers' in Osbaldwick, and then proceeded to tell me how to get there three times in a row! He said they'd do it for a couple of quid and on the spot, there and then.

So, I decided to give his suggestion a go, as the place at the Raylor Centre always needs me to leave it overnight and charges £10 cash or £20 with a receipt. I easily found Blacker Steel and a gent said he'd do it there and then... and indeed, only wanted a couple of quid for it. I gave him a fiver. I'll use that company in future!

On the way back I noticed an apple tree in the hedge which I went to look at, and then a greengage. I picked a couple of greengages but most weren't ripe, and a very little old lady came past and pointed down the Osbaldwick Link Road and said there were sweeter ones down there. So I went to look... and found two yellow cherry plum trees, one still with lots on the tree but lots on the ground, so I picked up quite a few there. Then I continued towards Hull Road and found another similar tree, with almost the whole crop on the pavement; it was thick with yellow cherry plums, and I almost filled the carrier bag I had. Opposite here were some damson trees absolutely laden. I have put these trees on the York Wild Fruit map which is part of the Edible York project.

I came home and my youngest son was enjoying his birthday party... although he had his big day earlier in the month, his party was today and he had 3 friends round, and they were all playing computer games together. I did a big load of chainsawing.

A Freecycler came round and picked up our unwanted armchair, at last! We advertised it yonks ago but it wasn't picked up... but Mairi posted a wanted and she came to see it and loved it... and put it in her car. Great!

A bit later, Melanie came briefly to pick up a carrier bag of compost.

I stacked logs and prepared a few plums from our Victoria Plum tree, then worked til 3am doing various things including a VAST pile of washing up. Enjoyed Ideal on BBC3 and Glasto revisited on BBC4.