Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Monday 29th November 10

Well a very snowy day, it had snowed heavily overnight, but this didn't stop me doing what I needed to do.

My first appointment was at my dentist's in town, so I set off in good time and had no problems with cycling until i got to Deangate, which had deep slushy icy snow, broken up by assorted vehicles and was difficult to cycle through.  I fell off once here, which was funny as I was expecting to come a cropper somewhere along the route, and it happened just before I got to my destination.

So, had my teeth cleaned and I bought more TePe interdental brushes and cycled home, without incident.

Then we had a meeting at home with one of the teams who's helping us, to discuss home education.

Then we had lunch. 

I managed to chat to someone high-up at York College who may be able to help with the Waste Food Feast, and he gave me some good advice about what might be possible and what wouldn't.  I hope he gets to the meeting tomorrow.  I also made initial contact with someone from York St John University Student Union, as I want these students involved too.  Looks like the Waste Food Feast is slowly coming together.

Sometime during the afternoon a neighbour came round asking for a wheelbarrow of logs as they have a chimera thing in their back garden, so I reluctantly let them have a few, but I really don't feel able to let many logs go, as we need them to keep the house warm... there is no such thing as a spare log here.  The same can't be said for compost or dried fruit, I'm happy to get rid of some of those!  But I like to keep relationships sweet, so it was more of a social thing than anything.

In the evening I had a headache and I went to bed for a couple of hours but got up at 10 when the boys went to bed, as they woke me up.  Gill and I watched a programme on BBC iPlayer about bullying; very interesting.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday 28th November 10

I was happy to get a lie in, and Gill and I listened to The Archers in bed.  Lovely.

I watched Country Tracks after this whilst having breakfast, and got a phone call from Barry Potter who told me he'd be passing my house within the hour.  He wanted to come and check out the brewing stuff delivered a week or so ago, as he does a lot of brewing.  I got dressed and he arrived, bearing gifts of cyder, metheglin, mead and some honey, as he has some bees.

He went home with six plastic buckets, three 1 gallon demijohns, two half-gallon demijohns, some airlocks, crown corks and straining bags, net curtains etc.  Also, very pleased that he took two plastic crates for holding bottles.  So I've managed to give away all the unwanted brewing stuff.  Excellent!

So, a late lunch, listened to Gardener's Question Time and then went down to Country Fresh in a complete blizzard, and it was really nice to see Richard and we had a laugh, I did a bit of shopping and took away a sack of recyclables, although I won't be able to process them today as it's far too cold and snowy.  I might chop them up in the garage tomorrow and take them down the garden ready to put on the most accessible heap. I called into the Co-op on the way back and was glad to get home with the assorted goodies.

I spent the rest of the day inside, not doing a lot, bar kitchen stuff.  Hoping for an early night.

Saturday 27th November 10

Up early as had to be in Huddersfield working by 10am, so I left the house at 8, cycled slowly though the snow and ice down to the station and got the 8.27 towards Manchester.  I met two nice women on he train who were heading to Manchester to meet some old friends, flying in to go shopping.  Both were interested in green issues, one had even trained as a York Rotter, but were seemingly not able to convert their concern into significant action.  This is not uncommon, and is partly due to lack of knowledge.  Hence my blog...see How do I do 'low carbon'?

Anyway, Huddersfield stopped the conversation and I had memorised my route to the market office, and it took me less then 10 minutes to get there.  The market office people had purchased a posh Santa outfit last year for the leader of the Council to wear, and they asked me to wear it.  I kept my own trousers, red dungarees, and had a tabard thing with a stuffed front, for belly-mass, and then a really nice cloak with hood.  And a beard/moustache with two elastics to hold it on, a big improvement on the single elastic that my Santa beard has, which does not stay on very well.  They had some welly-boot covers with bells on which were a great idea too.

My role was to walk round the French Market and greet the public and give out Christmassy Chocolate eggs.  Before starting I wasn't looking forward to this that much, but as I got down to it, I began to really enjoy it.  I especially enjoyed the genuine wide-eyed wonder of some of the children, the play-along-with-it make believe of some of the older children, including teenagers, and helping to overcome the shyness of another group of mainly young children.  Only twice did someone say they didn't believe in Father Christmas, shouted at me by a teen, and one lad tried to pull my beard.  But the overwhelming response was very positive.  I didn't feel the need to alter my voice, and I was able use my verbal humour to make people laugh, which I was pleased with.

This was my first time 'out and about' as Father Christmas... the previous occasions were in a hotel just giving a present or pile of presents to guests at the lunch table, whereas in the street it was a bit more of a natural situation with lots of different sorts of possible meetings.  About half a dozen children wanted to hug me (well, my legs!) and quite a few wanted me to pose for a photo with them.  I did two and a half hours before I was too cold to continue, and went back to the office for lunch. 

I enjoyed the sandwiches Gill made for me and defrosted, and then went out for a 3 hour stint of more of the same.  I almost didn't want to finish, but I got back to the office just after 4pm and quickly disrobed, put my fleece back on and got back to the station for the 4.26 train.

When I got back to York and cycled away from the station, my bike lights weren't working very well, in fact the front one wasn't working at all.  So I cycled down to Cycle Heaven and a few minutes fiddling revealed that my dynamo had worn out, or gone wrong due to overuse, so I spent £25 on a new one to replace it, and cycled away extremely well lit - much better.

I got in and Gill and the boys were very focused on some telly nonsense (a dancing competition, I think) so I made myself some tea; home grown beans mixed with a bit of tomato soup and cheese, to make a sauce to pour over a big pile of broccoli, all cooked on the woodstove.

I had an extended facebook Scrabble session, playing for over an hour, and enjoyed watching some lightweight TV nonsense... just different nonsense to what the others were into.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Friday 26th Novbember 10

Spent the morning sorting out stuff for tomorrow's work in Huddersfield, looking at maps ant train times, contacting the market people... who were uncontactable and didn't get back to me... so I think I know what I'm doing, but it would have been good to have it confirmed.

I did a bit of assorted garden work, despite it being cold, and a visit to Country Fresh, and I sorted out a load of dried fruit for sale at tomorrow's LETS fair. I did 10 bags of 12 apple rings, 2 half pears, two half plums, two bananas, two kiwi slices, two pineapple slices, two persimmon slices... and labelled these for sale for £2 or £1 + Y1.  I also did  quite a few jars of fruit, again for a sterling and Yorky price, or just a sterling price.  I hope they all sell!

After tea I cycled down to Heslington to take the fruit to Melody.  I brought home a small bottle of truffle oil which had been prepared by their 12 year old entrepreneurial son.  He'd bought a 35 Euro truffle whilst on holiday in Italy and had worked out a way of recouping his money.  I now owe him £3.50's worth of dried fruit, which he loves, as a swap.

We all watched a good programme on the science of plants, and after that I had an interesting conversation with both boys based on an incident I'd read about because of a link in facebook, about a man who'd lost £80,000 from the roof of his car whilst driving to work, and a completely dissimilar event when our youngest found a pound on the sofa.  So we discussed the various ethical issues involved with finding lost money.  If you find a pound in the street, nearly everybody would just put it in their pocket.  Would you do it with a £2 coin?  A £20 note?  A roll of notes adding up to £100?  £1000?  Where is the cut off point?  What amount would you put in your pocket and think 'lucky me' and have no conscience, and at what value would you think 'I ought to report this find to the police'?  Obviously there's no 'right answer', it's one of those ethical dilemmas that occasionally people have to deal with.  This conversation led to a discussion about laws, speed limits, drugs, the age you can get married and more.  It meant they went to bed a bit late, but it was an interesting chat.

I did some more fruit later, and had a shave and a bath.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Thursday 25th November 10

A sleepy day.  But I got up at 8.20 and during the morning took on a teacher role.  The curriculum our son was following had got onto cells so I asked him to find me a range of answers about Amoebae.  He did that with relish, and we went on to discuss organelles, symbiosis in lichens and corals, taxonomy and the differences between plant and animal cells.

Later, Gill went out and I did some work outside, in the snow flurries, moving green logs to a carefully stacked wall at the back and bringing nice dry ones from the store at the back to the front door stack.  I love stacking logs.  Makes all those childhood jigsaw puzzles worth it.

After tea I walked down to the Co-op and got cereals but they had some cheap bits and pieces which was nice, like a French Stick for 20 pence and a Mars Bar for 15p.  Rare treat, I hardly ever buy chocolate.

I did lots of other bits today including some tidying around the stoves, sorting out nails etc, ready for recycling, also washing up, the never-ending washing up.....

And, late on, I got my CV finished.  At least, finished to my satisfaction, and have sent it to my friend Beth who is a professional CV puller-aparter.  She'll put me right!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wednesday 24th November 10

I had an appointment at 10 to see Jane, a newish green friend who shares a love of Scrabble and has a lovely wildlife garden.  We'd met at several meetings and had tried several times to meet up, failing on at least two occasions.  But today's meeting had been in the diary for a while and it was good to meet up, attempt a game of Scrabble, and then give that up as chatting and Scrabble were not very compatible, and then had some lunch.  Our conversations ranged from bird and tree identification, oil paintings, communication in relationships, optimism versus pessimism, food and a whole lot between. 

I came back via Country Fresh where Shirley gave me the usual sack of gubbins, and then via Freshways who had a sack for me.  I got back to find Gill and our eldest had gone into town to get some glasses repaired but they soon came in.  I did a little bit of log stacking, and then our friend Maria came round to talk to us about home education, as she is a tutor who has some private students who learn mainly chemistry with her.  She had a good pile of text books and advice about resource material to get him through to GCSE in the three sciences.  Later we accepted her offer of an hour a week tuition.  Things are beginning to fall into place.

I had a subdued evening, dealt with some admin stuff and tried to write an important email which I've been composing in my mind for a week or two.  Late on I prepared some more apple and then a large pile of yellow peppers which I'll use to make sweet pepper paprika once they're dried.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday 23rd November 10

An odd day as we have decided to home educate our eldest child, as of today.  Gill spent quite a bit of time doing the required admin with the Local Education Authority and the school, and we'll be contacting the local home schooling group which is very active.  I've done a party for them, and I hope we can get involved in this group.
I'm not brilliant with major changes like this but I expect I'll get used to it.  Between us, Gill and I have a lot of expertise and learning, and we have a lot of contacts who could do some specialist teaching.  I am extremely disappointed that the school has been unable to accommodate our child's needs and has been unable to deal with the dreadful behaviour of some of the other pupils.

Anyway, we look forward to exciting and positive times ahead, and most important, happy times.

I did quite a bit of work outside... stacking logs, filling the leafmould pile, a bit of compost heap management, taking down bean vines and bringing in more dry beans.  I even found a meal's-worth of potatoes.  I had an appointment with the GP practice nurse for an asthma check and flu jab.  On the way back I collected a large sack of gubbins from Freshways.

In the evening I had a use-it-up meal and did some more apple prep for the dried apple production line.  I watched a great programme on the ultimate environmental absurdity, bottled water.  I had an email enquiry from a Tesco marketeer asking me to do a blog post about how Tesco is green.  I could hardly believe it!  I'll consider writing this up over the next few days.

Monday 22nd November 10

A mixed day, with the usual Monday morning stuff and then recovery and housework and Gill and I having lots of talking about how we deal with what we're going through. 

Gill went to town to buy a coat as one's been stolen.  I stayed in and sorted out the tomato, bean and cucumber plants (now all dead) in the conservatory, carefully cutting them down, taking off tomatoes and beans (and a few yam tubercles) and piling the dead stems up for taking down the garden.

When the boys came in we had a big family conference and I expect we've got some news to share sometime soon.  However I have to discuss with the family about what I'm allowed to say here.

A peaceful evening.  I made two facebook 'event' pages, one for this week's YorkLETS Christmas Fair on Saturday, and the other for a Waste Food Feast preparatory meeting which it seems I'm organising.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sunday 21st November 10

I slept in late, til 10, and then got breakfast.  Went to Temple Meads to meet up with my old friend Lucy whom I've known from my teens, but she wasn't able to get to Bristol til 2.30, so I read my NewScientist and shelled pumpkin seeds in a warm waiting room.  I met a delegate from the conference yesterday and went for a coffee.  Lucy arrived with her 11 year-old son and we went for a bite to eat and a nice long chat, til after 4.30, when they had to get their train back to Weston Super Mare.  I got the 5.30 train and deleted more emails on the laptop, wrote my blog (in an email, so I could just copy/paste into blogger when I got in) and had a few conversations with the people around me.  I got back int the house at about 10pm, and was glad to find everybody had had a good weekend.

Saturday 20th November 10

Up at a horribly early 5am in order to get the 6.09 train to Bristol where I was to attend a conference focusing on relationships. I'd offered to bring my Fiddlesticks stuff down to do a circus skills session, so that if there were any children at the event, parents could leave them at my workshop and go off and do something else. Two CRB-checked people were due to attend to oversee the session,but as it turned out there were no children so the CRB people didn't have to attend... but the workshop went ahead as there were adults there who wanted to participate.

So I got to Bristol at about 10.45 and met a friend, and we made our way to the conference venue which was just 20 minutes walk from Temple Meads. I helped put the chairs out and once people had arrived I blended in and was just another delegate. I did play a part in one of the plenary sessions and my circus workshop went well too, with about 10 people participating. I got a lot from the day; lots to think about in the areas of communication, especially. I met quite a few people that I'd become friends with over the 'net and it was good to meet them in real life. There were a few people I'd met before and a friend from London whom I'm fond of. I met loads of people whom I might now be in contact with and all-in-all it was a great for networking. The event was all good apart from one niggle when someone misunderstood something I was telling someone, and got upset, but they weren't part of the conversation, they had just overheard something and got hold of the wrong end of the stick. No harm done, I offered an apology for any lack of clarity on my behalf and enjoyed the rest of the event. No point in getting upset when the overall tone of the day was pretty jolly and positive.

I stayed over in a hotel about 15 minutes unicycle away... I was glad to be able to glide through the streets quite quickly and got a relatively early night, compared to my usual 2 or 3am crash time. 

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Friday 19th November 10

A really good day, included a fair bit of house management... washing up, as usual, and fruit, and preparing some squash for tea, and taking compost down the garden, and 3 sacks of leaves which mysteriously appeared in the front...

I waited in for a Freecycler Ian to come round and picked up some of the remaining demijohns, buckets and corks, siphons etc.  Then I got a phone call from Barry asking whether I had any plastic buckets... I laughed and said 'you're in luck, I've just taken delivery of a load of them' and he said he'd come and collect.  But then he rang again and said his car had broken down, so he wasn't coming.  He'll come next week.

I zoomed into town to put in a cheque and on the way back called in on Rich and picked up a couple of bags of stuff which I condensed into one. 

Sometime after 5pm, our friends Jennifer and Mark came round with their delightful 4 year old son, and they had tea with us.  I had to get ready for a gig so I wasn't particularly sociable and left with all my gear, and in costume, at 6.45.  The gig was in Bedern Hall, a lovely venue, for Barbara who was celebrating her retirement.  I knew a few of her guests, which felt odd, as I was working... doing a few circus workshops with anyone who would try, being saucy with the yoyo balls and balloon models, joking, chatting... about an hour and a half of fun, and then at 8.45 the meal was served and I departed with my cheque.  Nice!

So back soon after 9pm, and had a bit of Gill's quiche and got ready for going to Bristol tomorrow.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Thursday 18th November 10

A very peaceful day, although I had the headache again.  The day slid by with not a huge lot happening apart from a meeting in town in the afternoon, and on the way back I went to Alligator and picked up a trailer load of compostable resources... and then came back via Country Fresh where there were 3 boxes of the same for me, which I balanced on top of the trailer and bungeed on to my pannier rack.

I was pleased to see that Shirley had sorted out some Persimmons, or Sharon Fruit, or as I remember them from a Chinese girlfriend Wai Fong Cheng, back in Leicester in the 1980s, the Chinese Love Apple.  These are mainly yellowy orange, but have naturally occurring dark patches in the flesh.  The ones with the most dark patches on had been thrown out... 14 good solid fruits, plus two which were a bit soft.  So I had 16 persimmons to wash, remove the calyx, peel and slice into 4 slices, and put on the drying racks above the stove.  When they are dry they have a curious date-like texture.  They're delicious dried.

At 4pm, one of my LETS contacts sisters arrived, with a pre-arranged delivery of a big load of brewing equipment.  Her father, who's made wine all his life, has now got too old for continuing to do his hobby, and the demijohns and plastic buckets were taking up too much space.  So Vivienne contacted me and asked me if I'd be able to get rid of this for her.  I said yes, of course, and so today she brought round 20 demijohns, 10 buckets and barrels, 2 boxes of assorted equipment and 2 plastic crates which could fit 20 bottles each.  But fortunately I had seen a 'wanted' message yesterday on Freecycle for brewing stuff... so at 5pm, Rob came round and was really happy to pick up 3 demijohns, 3 plastic buckets and a selection of filters, muslin sheets, corks and a corking machine.  Later, I called on a neighbour, Charles, and he was delighted to have 7 demijohns and some straining bags for his fruit press.  I love Freecycling!

I put an 'offered' message on Freecycle and got 21 responses asking to be given the rest of the equipment.  I contacted the most local and said yes, come tomorrow early afternoon, and sent a copied/pasted message to all the others saying sorry, and I'd hang on to their details in case of non-collection.

I made tea for the family; I cooked some Bulgar wheat, grated a carrot into it, popped some home-made raisins in, and this was a basic salad which was enjoyed by all.  Gill and I had the last of the celery soup, and I had a waste avocado chopped up in with my Bulgar wheat.

At 6 I set out for the University of York People and Planet showing of McLibel.  I've got a copy of the film on DVD but I haven't had time to watch it.  The McLibel trial was big news in the early 90s, and the story is quite amazing.  I remember the leaflet from the late 1980s, when I was getting into green issues and activism, and still have a tee-shirt from that era with MuckDonalds on it.  This is a story that should inspire anybody wanting to make a better world or campaigning for a more just society.  It shows that ordinary people... like Helen Steel and Dave Morris, can change society, get laws changed, and damage multinationals such as McDonalds, which has suffered and lost business since the trial.  I do recommend watching this film, it can be ordered here.

I got back soon after 8 and did the washing up, kept the stoves going, dealt with fruit, and caught up with the email avalanche following the Freecycle offer of brewing equipment, and wrote my blog whilst watching Panorama about whether to tax fatty and sugary foods.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wednesday 17th November 10

Well a traumatic start to the morning but both children did go to school and this allowed us to get on with a variety of paperwork-type things, despite feeling stressed, tiredness and having a headache. I wrote and sent an invoice,  received a cheque for the Pickering Transition event, and got the paperwork through for a series of 5 gigs as Father Christmas in Dewsbury and Huddersfield.  I don't really enjoy being Santa Claus, although the excited kiddies wouldn't know that as I remain professional and do my very best.  For me, being Professor Fiddlesticks doesn't actually seem like work most of the time, as I genuinely enjoy myself, and Fiddlesticks is more the real me than John Cossham is.  But acting as Saint Nicholas is tough, it is definitely work, not play.  I'd rather not get offered more Father Christmas gigs, unless the money is very good, which in these cases, it isn't.  But I'm in a situation where I cannot afford to turn down any paid work, so I look forward to the eventual cheque and will ensure that I work hard and do a good job.

So, once I'd done some of this paperwork, and dealt with a sales phone call as politely as possible, I did some outside work... a load of chainsawing, collecting the final load of logs from the Millfield Lane house and processing them, and at 4, I cycled round to Beryl the Freecycler in Heworth, who had offered a pair of size 9 steel toe cap wellington boots, and I went to try them on.  They fitted me perfectly and she was happy to give them to me.  On the way back I got a heavy wooden pallet.  I also collected one sack of fallen beech leaves from a nearby tree, and added these to the leafmould pile.

The boys came back having had a good day at school which was a relief.

In the evening I did a big pan of stewed apple, using the tasty cooking apples from our garden, and Gill made a celery soup which was really nice.  Later on in the evening my headache went away, probably due to a second dose of paracetamol.  I enjoyed the last of the 3 programmes on the National Grid... a fascinating subject.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tusday 16th November 10

A much busier day.  I got up early as there was a commotion downstairs but I was ineffective in solving the problem.  However I got busy with a bit of housework and at 10.30 got my bike out and headed to town as I had arranged to meet Naomi, and she'd suggested El Piano, my favourite place for a hot chocolate made with soya milk.

I met Naomi because she's a disability access campaigner and I too am fed-up with the discrimination that some people face... we also share an interest in circus skills.  She's a psychology graduate and has just got a job with Lime Trees, so we talked about child development and mental health issues too.  She asked me to help sort her compost heap (or lack of it!) at her new flat, so I think we'll be meeting again. 

I came home via Country Fresh and Freshways and hauled home a broken pallet too. 

After lunch I popped round to the house on Millfield Road which recently had a skip outside which provided me with a big haul of logs and privet sticks.  I'd seen the owner the other night and he'd invited me to take some more logs, so I took the secateurs and loppers round and helped them clear the back garden.  I got another load of privet, some hawthorn (my favourite wood for providing a really hot stove!) and some elder.  The owner appeared and was happy to remove the twigs I'd cut off and take them to his horticultural nursery, and he used his chainsaw to cut another elder trunk down.  I took a well-packed trailer full back, and then returned to collect a second load.

By this time it was dark and I was due to go to Leeds for a meeting starting at 6.30, so I had a tin of dolmades and a hommous sandwich for tea.  And then down to the station.... ran from the bike park to Platform 4 and got the 17.40 train with seconds to spare.  And was in Leeds by 6.08, and walked down to The Common Place for the Northern Green Gathering Annual General Meeting.  I've attended quite a few NGGs, and am a keen supporter of what they do.  I've provided composting services on several occasions.

I was pleased to meet my friend Dave Petty who is a long-term Director of the organisation, and there were several other familiar faces, and some new people who were friendly and nice.  There were 15 or 16 of us there, and after discussion of the accounts and a report of the past 2 years activities, there were the elections of Directors.  David and Andrea were re-elected, and Pete, Rowen, Keith, Nigel and Becky were elected as new Directors.  I was considering putting my name forward but as so many other people did, I kept my hand down. I probably have enough on my plate as is.

It was a good meeting and it looks like we have a potential venue for next year's festival, and there are some possibilities for having a presence at other festivals.

I didn't go to the pub afterwards, as I wanted to get home so I walked back to the station.  Once again there was a train just about to go, and I shelled quite a few pumpkin seeds on the way back to York.

I picked up a third load of logs from the Millfield Lane house on the way home.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Tuesday 15th November 10

A kind of nothingy day, although I did have a bit of an odd Fiddlesticks enquiry in the morning.  It was from a GCSE pupil who was at school and arranging some sort of school celebration where an entertainer was needed.  She wasn't very experienced at talking to a service provider over the phone, and I have no idea whether she'll come back to me.  I'm not sure she understood how I negotiate the fee.  But, we'll see!

Apart from that it was a quiet morning, and in the afternoon Gill went to town and I went out on the bike and came back with some logs. I did do some bits in the garden... pruning loganberries amongst other activities.

Probably the most notable thing today was that Gill got the next bit of secondary glazing done, in the downstairs loo, with a sheet of perspex and magnetic self adhesive stuff.  She had a slight accident with the self adhesive strips but it still works, and immediately the house feels warmer. 

I made tea... pasta salad and slices of stove-fried squash.  But a pretty low key day with lots of this and that, bits and bobs.  Tomorrow might be more focused.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sunday 14th November 10

Gill let me sleep in til 10 and I woke very slowly which was nice.

I had a slow morning but did some work in the garden before lunch, and after lunch, got ready to go to a gig off Bootham at 3pm.

The gig was quite tough.  The audience were mostly 7 year old boys, who were noisy and restless and obviously unused to watching live entertainment. The mums, whom I encouraged to sit on chairs behind the children, chatted through the show, and although I asked several times for quiet, several mums chatted at the back near the kitchen, which didn't help the atmosphere of a live show.  Also, the venue was hot which meant I got quite sweaty by the end of the event.  So I enjoyed this party less than most, and I was worried that my strictness would have annoyed them... but apparently not.  The mum who booked me said she was happy with everything and paid me the agreed fee... and by 5.15pm, I was cycling home.

I stopped off at Freshways on the way back and picked up a large sack of compostable which tore as I tried to pick it up, so I put stuff into a box and that went on the pannier rack with the sack on top.  I had a quiet evening, didn't do much apart from eat, wash up, watch telly, play facebook Scrabble, dealt with emails and jarred-up the pears and pineapple. 

Saturday 13th November 10

I had a 9am start to the day, despite a late night, and caught up with some washing up, as Gill had kept the stoves going and there was hot water.  She got up at 6, as usual!

Our youngest went off to a party and eldest went to have a hair cut, and I got ready to go to Manchester for a regular social I like to attend.  I made sandwiches to have on the train and zoomed into town and got my ticket and got down to Platform 4 to get the train.  I chatted to a musician chap who had two chunky cases with him... probably guitars but I thought at first one was a cello.  We talked about being a performer and all sorts.  He was off to Cheshire to do a gig.

I had my sandwiches and read Resource magazine.  I was soon in Manchester.  I met my friends Laura and Nina, and we went to Night and Day and met another of Laura's friends Colin, and Janie and Jonathan, and Swin and Ellie, and a new attendee Simon, and Fiona and Tess, Sean turned up, and Ian, and plenty of others.  What a lovely crowd.

I had two coffees and lots of conversations and left at about 5.45, and got the 6.11 train back which was a bit late, and I spent the journey chatting to a nice retired couple who were keen to get back to Edinburgh and were slightly worried about getting their connection in York.   They'd been to a nephew's wedding at Manchester Town Hall.

And therefore I got back into the house at 9.30pm and didn't do much apart from get slaughtered at Scrabble by Gill.  She beat me by 108 points.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Friday 12th November 10 Visit to Promessa UK

Today was something I'd been looking forward to for a while, meeting one of my heroes, Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who has invented and developed a greener alternative to cremation and burial called Promession.

I became aware of this process whilst working with Justin Rowlatt, BBC Newsnight's 'Ethical Man', during filming in my garden, and when I found out more about it I just knew that it was a big improvement on the 'traditional' methods of disposing of human bodies when someone dies.  For those of you who don't want to visit http://www.novaterium.com/ which my Canadian colleague Rory Rickwood and I have written, where we discuss the issues in more detail, the basics are:
Cremation uses fossil gas, lots of it, to reduce the body to ash, but releases fossil CO2, polluting oxides of nitrogen, mercury from fillings and other undesirables. About 70% of UK funerals are cremations.
Burial, which may seem like an eco friendly option with the 'dust to dust' bit, but means the corpse decays anaerobically and this releases methane, CH4, a greenhouse gas. The grave may also release liquids and chemicals from the often-used embalming process, which could escape into groundwater or watercourses. Burial also uses up valuable land which then isn't available for food growing or housing, etc.
'Natural' or 'Green Burial' is a version of traditional burial, often in a rural area, often with trees being planted, often without embalming and with a cardboard or willow/bamboo casket, but if placed any deeper than a metre under the ground, it is highly likely that the remains will release methane.
Promession is a fully automated process which renders the body to a state where it can be safely interred in the top 50cm of the soil where it composts aerobically.  The body is frozen with liquid nitrogen, a waste product of the oxygen industry, and because it is then brittle, is able to be shattered into tiny fragments by means of a vibrating table.  These are subjected to a vacuum which removes all the water, leaving a material which is similar to instant coffee granules.  The casket is mechanically chipped. Metals such as fillings are automatically removed.  All the biodegradable remains are put in a small biodegradable casket which may then be interred, or cremated, or, I suppose, the contents scattered in a favourite place, like the contents of a cremation urn.  The aerobic decomposition means that a small amount of CO2 is released, rather than methane, and the resultant humus is a perfect medium for plant roots to gain nutrients from.

So, Susanne spent the best part of two decades developing this process, and it is now ready to be licenced to be used.  She has now given the job of promoting it in this country to Promessa UK, which comprises a couple, Nathan and Meredyth, and a friend of theirs, Willem, who is a business advisor, and today I went to Cambridge on the train to meet the team. 

I cycled to York station and got a day return for £66, and then met Edward for 10 minutes to sign some York in Transition cheques.  I got on the 11.35 train to Peterborough.  I was already sitting down when an old colleague of mine, Gary, from Local Agenda 21 days a decade ago, got on... and we had a good chat, and the other person at the table, a nice woman called Jill joined in too.  I love trains for these conversations.

I had another interesting meeting with a young illustrator on the Peterborough to Cambridge train. I was amazed how well she could draw on a moving train!

I'd memorised the route to East Road from the station, but on the way, next to a bin at a bus stop, I found an unopened bag of 4 Tesco's Croissants, reduced to 26p.  I can't pass by a 'freegan' opportunity, even in a different city, so I picked this up.  I think it must have fallen out of a shopping bag.  I put it in my bag.

East Road was only about 10 or 15 minutes walk.  The office block where I was due to meet the team was easy to find.  I was early and they were still at lunch, so I read my NewScientist in one of the comfy chairs in the lobby.  Then they all came back, about 8 people, some of whom said their goodbyes and disappeared, and Nathan led the way to a nearby pub.  I was really happy to meet Susanne, who is as keen a composter as I am. She has fewer compost bins than me, but has been composting for longer. 

Over coffees in the bar, we had wide-ranging conversations.  I was pleased to meet Peter, Susanne's husband, and got on really well with Meredyth and Nathan, who have a long history of voluntary work, low carbon living mixed with international travel. We talked about some research which needs to be done (and could be done by me, or perhaps be overseen by me?) and a little about the Promession process itself.  We chatted about all sorts of different subjects including Paul Stamets' mushroom cultures, the failings of drug prohibition, prostitution and non-monogamous relationships, free thinkers and autism, hot composting versus cold composting, aerobic decomposition versus putrefaction, Effective Micro-organisms and much much more.

The company is still in the early stages of being set up so we didn't talk much about that.  They seem keen to have my input and want me to work with them, but it's too soon to talk about anything concrete such as roles, hours, pay or anything.  They have asked for my CV and references, so I think that once I provide those, we'll be in a better position to move forward.  All I know is that I am a keen supporter of this technology, and will do what I can to help introduce it, to help people understand why it is better than the alternatives.  I'd be very happy to work with Nathan and Meredyth, and feel honoured to be associated with Susanne.  I always admire innovators... especially if in the field of sustainable development and composting!

Our chatty social came to a close at 6pm, and Meredyth gave me a shoulder bag with the Promessa Organic Burial logo on.  Nice!  I walked back to the station, getting a 99p tub of hommous on the way, which I thought would go well with the croissants.

The train connections were good, nice chat with a Dutch prostate cancer PhD researcher from York University called Paula, and on the York train I had two croissants with hommous whilst chatting to an oil company lawyer.  I got home on the dot of 9pm, feeling amazed, wowed, happy, buoyant and very lucky.

I was just in time to watch another of my heroes, David Attenborough, about the evolution of life as explained through fossils.  I had a can of cider, and after midnight, a bottle of beer which has sat on a shelf collecting dust for a year.  A happy evening. 

Thank you Promessa, you have made my day... and more!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Thursday 11th November 10

I woke feeling much more cheery.  Both boys got to school and this meant we could get on with stuff around the house.

Gill was busy preparing the wall in our youngest's bedroom to take a self adhesive magnetic strip, and then put the other bit of the magnetic strip onto the sheet of perspex which I carefully cycled home last week.  By the early evening, it was up... secondary double glazing, and hopefully will mean that his room will be warmer.  We ought to put up Sempatap too, but it's quite expensive.  The secondary glazing cost about £70.

I did quite a bit of logpile stacking, at the front door again, on the left looking out.  We've had both stoves going quite a bit and we're getting through the logs quickly.  I had several phone calls including my agent asking me if I'd be interested in doing several gigs as Father Christmas.  I have mixed feelings, as I don't really enjoy doing this... but if it earns me an income, I feel that I need to do it.  Let's see if the various local authorities and city centre managers say yes to my quote.

I visited Country Fresh to get a big bag of root vegetables and two sacks of compostables plus two boxes full.  Also a sack from Freshways.    Then I went straight back down to town to pick up a freecycled bag of carrier bags which I'll use to sell compost in next spring, and then on to Millers Yard to pick up 3 sacks of autumn leaves.  I came back via Sainsburys to get nice bread, cheese, soya yoghurt, soya ice cream and a treat, four cans of Kopparberg perry.

I had a fairly quiet evening, editing the Novaterium website to reflect some feedback I'd had from Promessa UK.  I also dealt with the three remaining pineapples and all the slices of pineapple look lovely drying on the racks.  It is one of my favourite dried fruits.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wednesday 10th November 10

Quite a low mood day today.  However I did get a lovely phone call from someone wanting to book me for a Christmas party in a nursery, and I explained how I could alter my usual show to fit the youthful audience.  We chatted and it turned out she is on the Committee for the village Mayday celebrations, AND she's involved with a school.... so that conversation could lead to a number of gigs.  Let's hope so!

As the weather was nice I did a good hour or so of chainsawing, chopping up all the chunky hazel and some of the recently rescued skipped logs.  I enjoyed doing the chainsawing and splitting... I might do some stacking tomorrow, depending on how bad the weather is.

I made a nutloaf from bread, peanut butter, cooked quinoa, nuts, onions and some finely chopped pumpkin.

In the evening I cycled over to the station to buy my tickets for Cambridge on Friday, but there were no advance tickets left, so it will be a buy-it-on-the-day situation, at a cost of £66.  But that's an off-peak return, so I don't have to get a certain train back... but I may not get a seat.  I called in to see Dylan and did his recycling collection, and then on to Green Drinks at the Three Legged Mare.  It was a fairly quiet meeting, but good to see my friend Tracy and one of her friends, Jenny and her partner, Katie and her partner, June Tranmer, both Green Councillors, a nice chap called Julian, Peter and Edward from Transition, JZ and others.  Andy Chase showed up and asked me to sign the Election Expenses forms.

Towards the end of this jolly social, I noticed that there were four pumpkins/squashes, on a shelf, as decoration.  One of them, the big pumpkin, was going soft and just beginning to leak.  The other 3, winter squash, were sound and wholesome.  I spoke to the bar staff and told the boss-lady that her pumpkin was about to leak all over the place, and would she like me to take it away for composting? She was happy with this offer... and gave me the 3 squashes too.  Excellent!  Apparently they had been props at the Theatre Royal and had been brought in a while ago.  She'd intended to take the squashes home and cook with them, but hadn't had time to do that.  I was surprised that she gave them to me.

So I cycled slowly home with a heavy load, and when inside, started to deal with the pineapples which I've had sitting outside the front door for a few days.  Still feeling a bit grumpy.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Tuesday 9th November 10

Well, a mixed day... a noisy start, I came down to help get the boys off to school, which did eventually happen. Gill and I had some quiet time together before going out to a meeting, which took til lunchtime.

Then we had lunch and immediately after lunch, I had another meeting, this one with Paul from BT Retail, about an advertising package which would allow me to have a website with key words which would be flagged up with Google, Yahoo and Bing, and I'd have a 'pay per click' type account.  I quite liked this offer, although I can't afford it right now and will wait until my BT advertising comes up for renewal.  Currently I'm in the paper directory and have the mini-website, although I haven't done anything with the website as I haven't had time.

After Paul went, I got an email from a City of York Waste Minimisation Officer asking about my contacts within the University.  This is because someone from Love Food Hate Waste is wanting to organise, or facilitate, a series of Waste Food Feasts, to feed 1000 people.  I contacted Briony Pete and she told me about an event she co-ordinated in Hull.  She wants to get other Universities but hasn't had any luck with York so far.  I told her I'd see what I could do with my People and Planet contacts.

I spent a very short bit of time in the garden; too cold, windy, wet.  But I did unload several sacks of leaves into my leafmould pile, and brought in a load of cooking apples which are all over our orchard.

I finished making the broccoli and sweet potato soup, and that's what we had for tea, it was delicious.

Then soon after 6 I headed off to Tang Hall Library to attend the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, which was short and sweet, just two applications to look at.  Then a short cycle to Langwith College at the University to attend the People and Planet meeting, to hear the updates on their composting campaign and to ask them about their initial thoughts on the Waste Food Feast idea.  They are an amazing bunch of people, and were enthusiastic about the Feast.  I'll invite Briony to come and talk to the group.

Came home via a logpile, and came in quickly as it was very cold.  A cosy warm evening inside, more pear preparation, lots of reading, writing, washing up.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Monday 8th November 10

A nice simple day, although it started with a very weird lucid dream which Gill asked me about but I couldn't explain as it was far too complicated. 

I got up and got to St Nicks for a York Rotters management meeting for 10am.  It was a fairly short meeting as John had another meeting at 11, I was glad to chat to Sara the Waste Minimisation Officer about how I might be able to take the People and Planet composting project forward, she suggested that as the contract is with YorWaste, we need to talk to them.

I came home via Freshways and when I got back, found a freecycler had given me 5 sacks of leaves for my leafmould pile.  That's the easiest way to get leafmould!

As it was raining I had a fairly quiet afternoon, some paperwork, other bits and bobs.  At about 5pm, Gill got something out of the freezer to add to tea... and couldn't get the door shut again.  I told Gill that this was the cue to defrost the freezer, so I got a box from the loft and we loaded the contents into that, and then I spent over 5 hours defrosting it with bowls of hot water from the stove, left to sit in the freezer and slowly melt the thick ice, and a careful but prolonged attack with a breadknife.  Eventually I got it completely ice-free, dry and clean, the trays washed out and dried, and it all put back together.  It was fascinating what we found underneath it!  I'd wondered where that knife had gone....

So that job took most of the evening and I wasn't able to get anything much else done.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sunday 7th November 10

A work day.  I got up early and did my laptop catch up, and then got my Professor Fiddlesticks clothes and kit together, making sure I had everything I need.  Then packed it into the bike trailer and headed down to the station to get the 11.29 to Doncaster.  Here I had a 30 minute wait... and got accosted by a group who were going down to London to some sort of awards ceremony, as one of them, a child, had saved a load of people from dying in a fire.  I think it was the Pride of Britain awards, at Grosvenor House.  They were asking about my odd-looking equipment and requested balloon models... so I gave them one each.

The train to Brough normally goes to Hull but today, due to engineering on the line, it stopped at Brough, but that was where I was going anyway, so I didn't need to go and get a bus onto Hull, thank goodness.

My lift soon came and Paul, Dad, drove me to the party venue, which was at South Cave.  I've performed at this venue before and it's a lovely quite modern community centre.  There were already loads of partygoers and their parents, so I quickly got changed and soon the show was getting going, with the usual 'warm up acts' from the audience first, and then my Circus routine which went incredibly smoothly.  

So then it was birthday tea... the two children who I'd been booked to do the party for, plus an unexpected extra, a girl with assorted disabilities, who apparently was a neighbour and was approaching a birthday and kind of hitched onto this event.  So this meant there were maybe 50 children and perhaps 20 adults there... a good audience, but quite tough for the balloon workshop, as I had a queue of participants who burst their balloon and were asking for another.  Not only this, but I only had about 25 minutes for this show, and I usually need 30 to 45 minutes.  But it went well, and I finished only 5 minutes late, at 4.05pm.  Everybody seemed really happy with the party, and I got paid and got changed and got my kit loaded into Paul's car and got driven back to Brough station, where I only had 5 minutes to wait for the train back to Doncaster, and got back to York just after 6pm.

I had a quick bike ride back home, collecting a box of compostables from Country Fresh, specially left out for me, and Gill had made an interesting tea... baked sweet squash and a kind of shepherd's pie thing with some wonderful ingredients, which included broad beans.

A quiet evening, various laptop stuff going on.  Enjoyed 'The Sky At Night' as always.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Saturday 6th November 10

A funny day for our 11th Wedding Anniversary!  I slept for 9 hours, woken by Gill at 11am, with a phone call from Candy, offering to come and look at the bathroom lights for us.  So she said she'd come round at 1pm, with her son who is friends with ours. 

So, after breakfast (!) Candy arrived and after a coffee, she came up to the bathroom and when I got a stepladder tall enough, and turned off the upstairs lighting main, she extracted the existing halogen downlighters, and told us the good news, they are the sort which run off the normal 240 volt supply; there are no transformers to 12 volt bulbs.  This was good as she had with her two new Supalite Mini GU10 7 Watt lamps, which replace the 60W halogen GU10s which gobble up the power, wasting most of it as heat. This will save us quite a bit of electricity in the long run... we don't spend a long time in the bathroom, but over the years, the savings will mount up.

Candy had bought these lamps for between £9 and £10 each, for use in her own house, but I think they were surplus to requirements.  We gave her £20 for them, and an old brass and cast iron kitchen balance which we were going to freecycle or take to a charity shop, and she was really happy to be given that.  She stayed with us as her lad was enjoying the company of our two plus another of their friends, and she chatted to me as I made a log wall, and a bit later, as I filled sacks with the last of the leafmould collected in 2009.  She was happy to spend the afternoon with us as her husband was with a friend, and showing her round the City walls as a touristy experience.

Later on, after tea, our boys had another visitor and he stayed til after 9pm.  I listened to Tracey Smith's Slow Down and Green Up show and did the washing up.

Later, I went out on my bike to collect leaves for the recently emptied leafmould enclosure.  I have a good way of doing this... using my Wellington boot-clad foot I scrape up a load of leaves from the gutter by riding fast towards the leafy gutter, and then putting my boot into it, aiming to get a large pile by the time I come to a stop.  So I collected 9 bin-bags full... and then went to pick up a trailer load of hazel logs too, getting in at half ten.

I had a bath and washed my hair, as I'm working tomorrow and want to look clean.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Friday 5th November 10

An excellent morning as we had a visit from someone who was able to help us sort out a problem we are having... great advice, lovely chap, very professional and helpful.  Both of us felt greatly relieved afterwards.

I had an early lunch and cycled down to town to the Big Green Market, where York Rotters were having a stall.  This was my first time back for exactly a year... as it was at last year's Big Green Market that I received complaints about mentioning inappropriate subjects, so I've promised not to mention them, and have a minder to make sure I behave myself.  So I did a 12.50 til 1.15 stint, chatted with quite a few members of the public, and LOVED IT.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy talking with all-comers about their home compost heap.  I love it when they find out that they can put cardboard on the heap, or how they can compost cooked food and meat scraps.  Today I also had a 'growing mushrooms' enquiry which was a bit unexpected.  And I kept to the subject... or rather kept OFF the subjects I'm banned from talking about, and everybody was happy.  Especially me.

I came home via Country Fresh and Richard had a vast pile of stuff for me. I put a carrot sack and a thin polythene banana bag in the trailer and four boxes on top.  Two boxes went on the pannier rack.  One of the greengrocers who isn't as bothered about recycling had put about 15 bags of English pears and 5 pineapples in the bin, not in the recycling where I could take them.  So these got rescued, and later I sorted out the pears (there were 70 in perfect condition) and had a bit of a wobbly about how I was going to use them all.  We had pears with chocolate custard for pudding tonight, and I spent the whole of the David Attenborough programme halving, peeling and balancing pears on the drying racks.  The pineapples will have to wait!

So, a good day.  No money earned, but a lot of resources saved, and information shared about how to reduce waste by home composting. 

Thursday 4th November 10

Despite being a very overcast day weather-wise, I had a sunny day!

This was because my friend Janie came over on the train from Manchester with her bike and I took her down the West side of the Ouse, over the Racecourse and to the start of The Solar System.

Janie is not an experienced cyclist, and was already tired by the time we reached the Sun, the start of the ride, so we took it slowly to Mercury, Venus, Earth and Moon, Mars, and then a stop at Brunswick Organic Nursery, where I bought 3 lovely squashes for about £2 each, plus a tub of bean salad and a bag of crisps.  I was also accosted by Clare, who used to live near us in the Groves.  I'm surprised she recognised me, as it's the best part of a decade since we last met, I think! 

Janie and I cycled on to Jupiter, over the River Ouse and to Saturn, and at Neptune, we had a break and I had some bean salad and crisps, Janie had some cracker things, plus a few beans.  I wasn't expecting her to get this far, and the wind was against us, but she said let's keep going all the way to Pluto.

So we cycled another mile, and I was glad that the old path, which used to be a whitish compacted stone surface, quite rough, with puddles and more of an 'off road' feel, has been covered with tarmac and is a really smooth ride, all the way to Pluto.  So, we did it... and on the way back, the wind was behind us and it was considerably easier. We didn't need to stop, although Janie got off and walked a few times, but only for a few minutes at a time.  I stopped in one place to pick up a trailer full of logs from the tree management at the side of the path.  When we got to Naburn Station, I suggested that we go on the road to Fulford and then through Heslington and back to Hull Road. 

When we got back, my family were relaxed and happy, and Gill pleased to see Janie and to hear about the cycle ride.  Over a coffee, I worked out the distance we cycled, using an Ordnance Survey map and a piece of paper and a pencil, which allows the twists and turns to be straightened out, and the accurate distance then measured against the map scale.... and from the station to Pluto and back to our house was 19.4 miles.  Wow, I wonder if that's the furthest that Janie has ever cycled in one go?  For me, that would be a gentle 2 hour trip, but with Janie and the wind, and our stops, it took us from 11.45am til 4.30pm.  A really good day.  Good to be able to have some nice conversations with my friend, and see pheasants and lovely autumn-coloured trees, and to show her the amazing Solar System and Brunswick.

I had some use-it-up tea... pasta shapes, spaghetti, seconds asparagus and cheese sauce, after which I cycled with Janie back to the station so she could catch the 8.10 train back home to her husband and children. 

I came back and collected 3 sacks of leaves to start restocking the leafmould cage.  Gill made a loaf of bread.  I watched the interesting Channel 4 programme about the green movement, which was good, as it echoed some of my views about genetically modified plants; I'm happy for this technology to be carefully explored and used, if it is deemed safe and beneficial.  I'm referring to crops like golden rice, for instance.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wednesday 3rd November 10

Another good day, despite being woken by sounds of distress.  So, assorted housework in the morning and not getting time to sort out the leafmould which I was really hoping to do before the 2pm rendezvous at St Nicks with the University of York Green Party.  I'd arranged this a couple of weeks ago, to show a group of students around the Environment Centre and Nature Reserve, and to open it up to others, I'd made a facebook 'event' for the tour. 

I got there at 1.55 and there was also a group of University of the Third Age visitors who were wanting a look round, so I ended up taking them round too.  We started with the 'passive solar design' of the building and the two types of solar panels, rainwater recycling and Sedum roof.  I showed them a sample compost bin and wormery, and inside, the cut-out wheelie bin and the energy balance monitor, displaying the energy generated and used by the building.

Outside, we saw the recycling compound, and went up on the bund to see the James Street office and light industrial buildings which could have covered the St Nicks area too, had the local people not made a fuss.  We saw the John Lally Wood and the older trees which were growing on the surface of the landfill when it was capped with clay.  We went via the stone circle back to the centre, where Jonathan the Volunteer Manager gave a 5 minute presentation about the various volunteering opportunities available.

It was a really nice walk round; I always enjoy showing people round St Nicks.  It is a very special place for me.  One of the people on the tour was Emma, who's a mature undergraduate from Harrogate, who had asked if she could interview me for her Dissertation on Transition Towns.  So she walked back with me and once ensconced on the sofa with a chamomile tea, she asked me a list of questions with a tape recorder going.  This was good too.

But it left no time for doing my leafmould cage.  It was getting dark by the time she left, so I didn't do any more outside, just bits and bobs in the kitchen, and after the children had gone to bed, another load of late-night fruit peeling, slicing and balancing on the drying racks.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Tuesday 2nd November 10

A busy day ahead, with 3 meetings scheduled for the afternoon/evening.  But Gill and I had a fairly busy morning too, dealing with yet another situation which has arisen.  Life does not run smoothly for long.

However, a solution is on the horizon and I was able to spend a happy hour or so bagging up last year's leafmould, which has sat  in a chicken-wire cage undisturbed for the past year.  After a year of slow mouldering, I put it handful by handful into plastic sacks and leave it for another year.  This initial sorting allows me to remove twigs and sticks which I put in the Compostumbler with a job lot of putrescible food waste.  I also removed quite a bit of street litter... plastic mainly, and there were absolutely LOADS of pebbles, gravel, and small stones, some of which I was able to remove but the rest will have to be riddled out.  I don't know where these came from, but since I collect sacks of leaves from all over the place, it's obvious that someone has swept up leaves from a gravelly area.  Bit of a nuisance.  I filled 6 sacks before lunch at 1pm.

I had the usual pile of sandwiches and headed out for my 2pm appointment, hopefully a conclusion to my year of not being an active York Rotter.  John at St Nicks had drawn up a document which he emailed me this morning,  Basically this is a set of rules I have to abide by if I'm to continue as a Rotter, including only wearing my York Rotters teeshirt at official engagements, and whilst representing the organisation, I'm not allowed to discuss the composting of dead bodies (including roadkill) or composting condoms (which are biodegradable if made from natural latex) or to talk about or make jokes about sex.  But the really good thing is that Pat, one of the St Nicks management team, is going to be my 'buddy' whilst I'm working on stalls as a Rotter. I'm happy with this.  I signed the document as I really want to get back to doing what I love, and working with members of the public, engaging them with home composting education.  The other good thing which has happened because of the complaints from some oversensitive volunteers is that there has been some diversity training, so, hopefully, Aspergery people like me, ADHD-ers (we have one undiagnosed ADHD-er on the team) and other 'neuro-diverse' people may be better understood and perhaps tolerated.

Neuro-typical people (that's about 80 to 90% of the population) do find it difficult to understand what it is like to be neuro-diverse, ie autistic, depressive, Tourettes syndrome, Dyslexic, etc etc.  It is difficult to understand ourselves sometimes.  I can't explain why I am happy to have the same sandwich every day, at the same time every day, or why I find it difficult to 'read between the lines' of a conversation, or why I tend to be direct and very honest.  So if I don't understand, it must be almost impossible for anyone else to get it.  But learning about some of these traits is a start, and I think that more organisations ought to offer this sort of training.

So, by 3pm, John and Edward and I had talked around the subject enough and we'd all signed the document, and we'll review things in 3 months.  I cycled home, picked up a beautiful but road-murdered male Mallard duck, had a coffee and at 3.40, headed into town to go to the Environment Forum at the Guildhall.  We discussed a range of subjects, including the York New City Vision written by Professor Alan Simpson (59 page pdf document here) and the Forum response to the Allerton Waste Recovery/Incinerator plans.  Perhaps the most important thing we did was to choose our new Chair, due to the resignation of Jonathan Tyler, who held the reins for several years very successfully.  We accepted Kate Lock as our new Chair.  She is ideal for this post, as she's passionate about sustainability, and York, is a good communicator, both verbally and in writing, and is not aligned to any political party or connected centrally to any one organisation.  So, independent, able and keen.

We finished at 5.55 and I zoomed off to my third meeting, at Langwith College up at the University.  I got there before 6.15, and soon found the People and Planet group, who had asked me to go and help them with one of their campaigns to get more composting happening at the University.  When we split up into groups, I was able to present a short analysis of the issues: first looking at promoting composting off campus, to students living in rented and shared homes.  Then the possibilities of recycling on-campus biodegradable waste: composting on site with bespoke composting machines such as the Big Hanna, Rocket or Ridan, (there are other solutions too) or composting/anaerobic digestion off site, such as the Future Energy Yorkshire site near Selby (which has some collaboration with the University) or indeed, the Allerton plant, if and when it is built. Obviously, I favour on-site solutions, as there's no driving tonnes of stuff around, and the material doesn't even become waste.  I also explored, briefly, the reasons that the University should be recycling it's biodegradables. These include the People and Planet University Green League, reduced landfill/transport costs, reduced carbon emissions and setting a good example to students!

We finished at 7.30 and I picked up 2 logs on the way back, and enjoyed a pile of rice and veg with chutneys for tea.  The evening was full of fruit prep, writing, a bit of Scrabble, lots of washing up... bed after 2am.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Monday 1st November 10

I knew that I had a load of paperwork to do, so when I got up at about 9am I got busy with sorting through things...  so by the end of the afternoon, I had sent five cheques to four places: Yell Limited, Equity, Cozmic and my National Insurance.  I paid the TV licence over the phone.  I also tidied up all the pea beans which have been drying on a sheet of cardboard on the floor, and vacuumed the floor which was in dire need of it.  I got a couple of telephone enquiries and other interruptions.

The assorted payments have left my Fiddlesticks account severely depleted, so I really have to do some more invoices... I have a few outstanding, as I really hate paperwork of this nature.  But then mid-afternoon, something amazing happened... I got a phone call from an organisation I've been very interested in for a while, which is headed up by a woman I really admire, and it looks like I'll be able to meet her next week, and explore whether I can get involved in what they are trying to do.  This is a potentially important development, but could also amount to nothing.  I'm loath to give more information as I really don't want to do anything to prejudice the outcome.  But I'm very excited and pleased.

On my way back from town (with cheques) I took advantage of a 'freegan' situation; someone had dumped a bin bag with some interesting things in -  a fresh, uncut pumpkin, a bag of mushrooms, in good condition, several unopened jars of jam and other things, two heads of garlic.  There were some opened jars of things which I'll not use... the contents will get composted and the jars washed out and re-used or recycled.  But I had the mushrooms for tea, with some garlic, and the last of the pumpkin mix which Gill had made pasties with yesterday.

During the evening I enjoyed a LETS meeting, attended by Melody and my old friend Sue Hulbert.  At the end of the meeting, Liz Sibthorpe came along and as she's moving away from York soon, she was handing over the YorkLETS archives, which the four of us looked through... with stuff all the way back to 1993 when we started.  I was the reluctant recipient of this archive.  It'll sit in my loft until someone else wants it.

I had a good chat with Sue afterwards and got back at 10pm, and got hot water on the washing up, which I did interspersed with Scrabble on facebook, blog, and working on the LETS press release for the Christmas Social on 27th November. 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sunday 31st October 10

Well a reasonable sleep; got up at 9.30 and had a relaxing morning watching Country Tracks and playing Scrabble on facebook.  I also did some tidying of pumpkin seeds, taking them off the 10 or so sheets of newspaper where they have had their initial drying, and putting them onto fresh dry sheets, just 3 this time.  There are an awful lot of seeds. 

I visited my friend Debbie and returned some things she'd given me which I didn't want, and arranged to get her a few bits and bobs from the greengrocers.  Then I went down to Country Fresh and did my shopping and picked up the 3 sacks of compostables.  When I got back I did a bit of work in the garden, dug out the Compostumbler, putting the materials into a dalek, and immediately refilling it almost completely full. I collected the last of the quinces, which I expect I'll make into membrillo, as it's such an amazing taste.  I also collected quite a few of the windfall Cox apples, which are very plentiful this year, although really small.  I'll need to prune this tree this winter.

I was glad to have a facebook chat with my friend Loony, who's visiting my sister Anna in Sheffield, and a bit later another chat, by phone, with my brother, who's found himself hosting a Halloween party for Loony's daughter and Anna.  I'm sure all the children will enjoy themselves. 

Our youngest went out with a few of his friends to do Trick or Treat, and came back happy and overloaded with sweets.  I popped out to collect my equivalent, logs, as I've found a dead hazel which hadn't been coppiced, and had therefore come to the end of it's life, with a height of about 8 or 10 metres and a trunk diameter of about 10 or 15 cm.  If hazel trees are coppiced, ie cut down regularly, the tree regenerates almost indefinitely.  I'm doing something similar to a huge willow in my garden, but instead of cutting at ground level, which is coppicing, I cut it at about 3 or 4 metres, and this is known as pollarding, which I do every 3 or 4 years.  This also extends the life of the tree. So I came home with one trailer full of hazel logs and sticks, and will go back for more in the next few days.

During the evening I halved, cored and peeled more pears for drying, and a few Cox apples, and also did a few pumpkin seeds.  A busy but good day.