Friday, 31 December 2010

Friday 31st December 10

Gill woke me by coming and turning the radio on in the bedroom as our friend Anneliese Emmans-Dean was on Woman's Hour, with some of her wonderful poetry (hear it here from about 14 mins 20 seconds in) so after that I got up and before breakfast, went to buy bread at Thomas's. 

A bit later I did a round trip to Hazel Court, disposing of wet carpet, some electrical equipment I found in a skip and I put it in the WEEE skip for recycling, some metal in the metals skip, and 3 sacks of drinks cartons.  I had no hassle whatsoever from anyone... in fact I had 2 nice conversations, one with a pet-fancier (rabbits?) who gave me his old straw bedding and another chap called Jeff whom I had a 10 or 15 minute chat with!  From here I went on to Country Fresh to see Richard and pick up some veg for us and for Debbie, and quite a lot of compostables.

Delivered Debbie's veg, home to deal with ours and before the light went, loaded some gubbins into the Compostumbler and then helped Gill prepare some sprouts for tea.  The sprouts were a bit bitter, (and we'd stir-fried them) so we added a tiny bit of sugar, some bouillon, herbs and sesame seeds... this made them delicious!  I had this with the second half of the rice/stuffing mix, and a bit of celery soup on top.  It was a good meal.

I'd been invited to Andy D'Agorne and Denise Craghill's New Year's Eve party, so I set off at about 8 and delivered Anna's TENS machine back to her... which wasn't really any use to Gill as TENS is good at localised pain, not the all-over type.  But good to know that Anna hires them out.  She was just setting off to the party, with her neighbour Pauline.  I cycled along to Broadway and was pleased to find quite a few people already partying, including a photo quiz which was fun.

I especially enjoyed talking to Will whom I know from the Green Party and his 12 year old son who was very bright and politically opinionated!  My friend Tracy, from York Green Festival days, was there with one of her friends. Guy was there, and Catherine who's voice I like, and Dave Taylor...although I didn't have a chance to speak to his partner Chris who people speak highly of, but I've never really got to know her.  There were others too... a buzzing party.  I left at about 11and cycled home via a collectible waste wooden structure which only just fitted on my bike trailer, but will make excellent kindling.

Saw the New Year in with Gill and the boys, which was really nice, lots of hugs all round. 

Thursday 30th December 10

Up early... woke up having a dream that my eldest son was pulling my duvet off me telling me to get up.  He wasn't, but I did.

And had a good day.... did some tidying by taking compostables down the garden, and decided to dig out the Compostumbler, as I had a bit of cooked food to put in which I didn't want to put in an open heap.... as it attracts rodents.  So, I decanted about half of the Compostumbler contents into a dalek, and was delighted to find the centre was full of live compost worms.... not moving much, as some of the rest of the tumbler contents was frozen solid, but the middle had a healthy population of living but slow-moving worms.  Oh joy!  Anyway, I added the 2 bags of paper plates and party food from the home schoolers party, which has been sitting quite happily in the studio... some of the time at sub-zero temperatures. I also had a 20kg sack of chapati flour which had got wet with the studio pipe-burst, so I put quite a bit of that in the tumbler as well.

Anyway, we'd been invited to Jane's Scrabble Tournament, but Gill had said that she couldn't imagine our boys enjoying it and so she wanted to stay at home and I could go and play Scrabble.  So at about 3pm i cycled down to town with the cheque which arrived yesterday, for the 5 days of Santa in Kirklees.  I was glad to get that into my account!

Then onto Fishergate for an afternoon of Scrabble.  I arrived at the same time as Andy D'Agorne and the house was already full of a whole load of Jane's Mum's friends (Jane inherited the house when her Mum died) and our other Green councillor, Dave Taylor.  I was pleased to meet Jane's partner Dave, who's from Hull.  Later, Jennifer and Jamie arrived, and Peter, who lives less than a minute's walk away.

After a bit of chat, including talking sculptures with Jane's Dave, I had the first of two games... the first was against Jane's Dave, who won, Jamie and Tracey, and the second was against Dave Taylor (the winner), Peter and Jennifer.  I came third in both games.  Not my usual standard... but I really enjoyed the games.

There was one other Scrabble game going on, plus something similar called Upwords which I'd love to have a go with.  Looks really good!

Jane had done a load of lovely baking... apparently a new skill, or art, as actually she's an artist, and so we all got fed, and there was plenty to drink, and stimulating conversation.  A really good event.

I left at 9ish, not sure exactly, and cycled home, collecting nothing at all.  Gill and the boys were happy, they hadn't done anything, but were fine.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wednesday 29th December 10

Another late start.  Another fairly nothingy day.... although I started it by making up my muesli. As we've had a Suma delivery recently, I put in some chocolate raisins and yoghurt raisins, as well as my home-made raisins, dried pears, dried pineapple, foraged almonds and home-grown walnuts. Delicious!

Also I made a really nice fruit leather.  Richard had given me 2 bags of cranberries so I sorted those... there were lots of mushy ones, so I just kept the firm ones, washed and drained.  Then I got 3 bunches of frosted bananas, all black and soft, but the banana flesh inside was still pale, although looked cooked.  I put these in the liquidiser with the juice of 3 or 4 limes, and then put the resultant pink semisolid into a sieve and spent a good long time wiping it through with what we call a 'last lick', a soft spatula used to scrape stuff out of bowls and pans.

So, this puree was poured into a shallow tray, lined with a plastic bag, one from two rolls I got for free from somewhere, and balanced this precariously on the lid of a saucepan on the stove.  Too precariously as it slipped and tipped, but I got to it in time to stop more than a few spoonfuls falling out and onto the hearth.

I had another 'use it up' tea.  I found a little box of sage and onion stuffing in the back of a cupboard whilst sorting things out, with a best before date of 2004.  But as it was in a sealed packet, so I decided to mix it with some assorted veg, some rice left over from yesterday, and mixed it with hot water, as per instructions, and then microwaved the lot in a sort of nutloaf style.  The kids had left half a tin of pasta hoops in tomato sauce, so I heated this on the stove and poured this over the portion of stuffing loaf.  Not too bad.

Used a big can of wood-heated water for a bath for one of the boys, and then enjoyed watching the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture with my other son, although he said he felt patronised as 'everyone already knew about how Velcro works'. 

Later, I peeled and sliced a load of frosted kiwis to dry, and a few pears.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Tuesday 28th December 10

Another late lie in... I'm going nocturnal, as is usual when I'm not forced to get up at a sensible time.  However, I had a busy day.  I went to the Co-op to get cereal and marmalade... Gill cannot live without Seville marmalade, apparently!  But the Tang Hall Lane Co-op didn't have the crunchy cereal that I like, so I went to the Hull Road Co-op, which did.  I popped in on Debbie, who was not yet a Grandma.

A bit later Gill said she was going to go to Marks and Spencer in town to spend her £40 voucher given to her by her sister Linda; yesterday she'd spotted that they had a DAB radio which would enable her to get Radio 7 which has various things on which she'd like to listen to. I said that instead of her buying yet another bus ticket, I'd cycle down and get it.   BUT I wanted to see if there was an energy efficient digital radio, as I'm aware they use quite a bit more power than analogue radios.  So I found this page about DAB radios, and this list of energy efficient DAB radios. Fortunately it had one of the models Gill had seen yesterday in M+S, a PURE ONE Mini, for £45. This only uses 2w when in use, and 0.8w when just left plugged in.  Obviously when unplugged or switched off at the wall, it uses no power!

So I cycled down to Country Fresh and bought a bit of fruit and veg, and picked up a small box of compostables. From here I went on to town, handed over Gill's voucher card and a fiver and within 30 minutes was back home.  Gill was delighted.  Now all she needs to do is to learn how to use it!

At about tea time we got a text message from Debbie; her son had become a father to a little boy, so Debbie's a Granny!  She'll be over the moon!

Gill was putting a load of washing on in the washing machine in the conservatory, and said she could hear running water in there.  But nothing was obvious.  Later, she heard it again and suggested I go and check the studio, which has a flush toilet and my compost toilet.  I found that a pipe had burst in the freeze and was now flowing freely into the little room which has both the (unused) flush loo and my commode which is the 'business end' of my compost toilet set-up.  I switched off the stop tap which is in there and spent an hour clearing up, pulling up the carpet, moving stuff, and by 11pm had put the dehumidifyer in there to start it drying out.  What a bummer.  However, this will force us to declutter in there, which it desperately needs. I know we're not the only people with burst pipes, and we're lucky it's in an outbuilding.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Monday 27th December 10

Another nothingy day... I slept in late, not surprising as I went to bed at about 3am.

Gill took the boys into town on the bus mid afternoon to go and buy books with the book tokens they got for Christmas, and I did a short bit of chainsawing and splitting.  I now have no more logs which need cutting and very few rounds which need splitting.  But now there's a big pile of stackable stuff which I need to attend to...

Before the family got back I hopped onto my bike to go down to Country Fresh, but they'd closed at 4pm and I'd arrived at 4,20.  I popped in to my friend Debbie as her daughter in law is due to have a baby, which will make her a grandma. So, the news was that she'd been induced, so baby will arrive... well, sometime in the next 24 hours...  I'm looking forward to the excited text message, although Debbie says I'll hear her shout from here when she hears the news!

So, tea was a pastie which Gill got from town, plus a mix of parsnip (phew, now finished!) pasta and tomato sauce.  I had a nice Skype chat with Laura after tea, to catch up with what she'd been doing over Christmas.

So, a fairly nondescript day, nothing particularly exciting.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Sunday 26th December 10

A really nothingy day... woken by fighting so went downstairs to see what was happening and got a thank you from Gill as the boys know that I don't stand for any nonsense.

But that was just about the highlight of the day... I did a lot of chatting on the computer, Scrabble, watching TV, and mid afternoon spent a couple of hours piling frozen veg on top of more frozen veg, and then stacking logs.  Nothing unusual.

My tea was almost the same as yesterday... parsnips and the last of the bhajis, (hurrah!) but this time I cooked the lot on the woodstove (hurrah again!).

Did a few jobs around the house, washed up, some tidying, bringing wood in, dealing with a wasp which came in on the wood, making toast (the boys supper), in front of the stove, that sort of thing.

I did some networking too, putting my real friend Ali, and new facebook friend Jody McIntyre in touch with  another new facebook friend, Dave Lupton, who does 'Crippen' cartoons. I like the way that Dave, who also does Sox cartoons, provides a written description of his cartoon so that visually impaired people can have the cartoon explained by someone reading the text.  I like this Green Party cartoon by Sox.. I also shared the link to a really good wildlife film called The Bear (shortened version, long version part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, and finally, part 9,)  sent to me by one of my friends.  So, much online stuff today.

Saturday 25th December 10

I had a bit of a lie-in as the boys were happy with the few presents they had in their 'Santa's sack' which Gill and I quietly slipped into their room last night.

When I came down, they didn't want to dive into their presents immediately, so I had my usual bran flakes and muesli and did my emails and had a few goes on facebook Scrabble.

Them before lunch we all gathered in the front room and the boys had their presents... lots of books mainly.  I gave Gill and the boys a York Monopoly as Gill's been mentioning it for ages, and I got mine from Our Celebration, which is mentioned in the game (I think in 'Community Chest') as they were offering a limited number for £20, cheaper than the advertised £25.  I hope they got them given as a fundraiser.   I was very happy to get 6 pairs of good quality socks and 3 handkerchiefs.  Excellent presents!

Because one present required batteries, I suggested that I walk down to Freshways (which is open, as it's run by people who don't celebrate Christmas) and as the boys don't get enough exercise, I said that one or both of them had to come with me.  Eventually, both of them AND Gill came down with me, a nice family walk, just 20 minutes or so, but it was nice.

I went out after a sandwich lunch and stacked logs... the very cold weather means we are racing through the supplies but there is still enough for several weeks more of the same.  I had offered to make a nutloaf for Christmas tea but the boys wanted pasta... so that's what they had, and I didn't need to cook.

I popped round to see Debbie, and had a pear cider there whilst chatting and she showed me some family photos from when her children were little.

When I got back, one of the children had walked past the back room telly with the magnetic darts board that someone gave them, and the red colour had disappeared from the screen, leaving it very greeny blue.  Apparently the darts had not been put onto the screen, but they contain super strong neodymium magnets and they only need to get near a sensitive object to affect it.  I wonder if the full colour will come back?

My Christmas tea was interesting: a few more onion bhajis thrown away by my friends at the greengrocer's, a couple of waste parsnips, some new potatoes left over form a couple of days ago... these all roasted for 20 minutes in the gas oven, with a small pile of pasta and a tomato sauce Gill made from some tomatoes which had become frozen whilst on display, thrown away, and rescued by me.  An incredibly cheap meal, with the only major ingredient purchased being the pasta, plus 20 minutes in the gas cooker.  But an unusual Christmas meal... or not, as I don't really celebrate Christmas.  If I didn't have children, I wouldn't bother. Not sure why they like to celebrate it, really.  It's mainly Gill who likes the tradition.

Anyway, the family watched telly in the front room, stuff I didn't want to watch, so I chatted with friends, played Scrabble, peeled and sliced melons for drying and had a quiet few hours.  I sent a few e-cards by Anita Sancha to friends, wishing people a 'Happy Winterlude'!  Later, I had a bath, with both big bathwater cans heated on the back room stove and it was a luxurious bath, very deep, very hot, and I must have spent a good half hour in it.  Lovely! I needed it as I've slept in the same clothes for a couple of nights and was feeling a bit grubby. 

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Friday 24th December 10

I enjoyed waking up this morning, a long slow drift into conciousness.  A peaceful morning too... lovely.

I did a bit of kitchen work, some stuff in the garden, a trip to see Richard to get a few parsnips and spuds, and to give him a non-Xmas present of some dried fruit and a little jar of sweet red pepper paprika, to aid his cooking adventures.  In return, he gave me some onion bhajis which he'd been given (from the nearby Indian takeaway, I think) which made my evening meal.

I sorted out a lot of fruit today... made a banana and lime and tamarind leather, was in the middle of this when Maria came round.

Later, Nick popped in to deliver a card, he had a cuppa and some tamarind, and some of the banana and lime leather I made last week.  I think he was impressed.

Gill and I had a leisurely evening dealing with the presents, watching rubbish on the box and keeping warm.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Thursday 23rd December 10

A late start, but woken by someone screaming as if there was a murder happening.  In fact, it was just a lego piece going missing.  Ah, the joys of parenthood!

The main thing I did today was to go to Sainsbury's with a shopping list from Gill and her Nectar Card which had accumulated about £30 worth of 'points'.  So I did a £24 shop which therefore cost me nothing... pasta, baked beans, tinned tomatoes, bread, cereals, goats milk... I got myself a treat too, a bottle of Irish Cream stuff which is like Baileys but cheaper.

On the way home I picked up a load of stuff from Freshways and then spent a bit of time loading a compost heap with some of the accumulated and mostly frozen fruit and vegetables.

Oh, I made tea too... a nutloaf made with waste bread and tomatoes, plus some broccoli and new potatoes.

Enjoyed a science programme with my eldest son.

Got an early night as tired and headachey.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wednesday 22nd December 10

My final day working for Kirklees Council on their market as Father Christmas.  I once again got the 9am train to Dewsbury, and was pleased to see my old Credit Union colleague Simon Brereton and headed towards the market and it's little building with the office upstairs and the grotto downstairs.  The temperature sign on the nearby building said -8 C when I arrived, but during the day it got the sun on it and slowly went up, to -6, -3, -1, then -0 which surprised me, and then 0 and for a short time, up to 8 C, but it soon fell again when the sun went away, and by 3.30 pm it was below zero again.  In reality, where we were, it never rose above freezing.

However, despite it being cold, I enjoyed my day... it was quiet enough to be almost boring, but the occasional visitor made it just worthwhile.  I got on well with my 'Santa's Little Helper' or 'Mrs. Claus', Trish, and we had some good conversations.  At the end of the day, at 3.30, I gave her some pea beans I happened to have with me.

An uneventful ride home, had to change trains in Leeds though.  I cycled home as quickly as possible.

Gill had made tomato soup for tea and this was delicious, really delicious!

A quiet evening.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tuesday 21st December 10, Winter Solstice

Gill always wakes earlier than me and woke me up at about 7 to see the eclipse of the moon.  It was quite a while before totality and it was less than impressive.  I went back to bed and slept through the potentially more impressive total eclipse, but Gill saw it at about dawn and she wasn't impressed, as it wasn't that visible as it had become too light.

So I slept til nearly 9am and then got up to make best use of the little daylight there is today.  As we're going through logs quickly, I did a load more stacking, and some chainsawing and splitting... and even persuaded my eldest son to help with some easy stacking, of chopped up pallets.  Gill went into town on the bus and came back with a good pair of shoes, plus some bits and bobs for Christmas presents for the boys.

I visited Country Fresh late afternoon and bought a bag of fruit and veg plus brought 2 half sacks of compostables home.  Was good to see Richard, we nearly always have a laugh.

In this blog I don't do a lot of comment and analysis about politics and the science of climate change, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested.  The primary purpose of this is a diary, replacing my daily handwritten journal which I kept for 20 years or so before I started writing this.  I write it to show how someone can live a fulfilling and interesting life without emitting much fossil carbon.  However, today something happened which I'd like to write about.

A few days ago I saw a link on facebook to a video so I watched it and thought that it was mostly crap. It linked the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to the current cold snap because the author thinks that the oil spill has shut down the Gulf Stream..  I put a short concise comment which the author, someone labelling themselves MrGlasgowtruther, replied to.  We had a bit of messaging ping pong. 

Today I saw an excellent blog post by George Monbiot which explains the current weather really well, and has links to good sound science publishing.  I tried to post this link to the YouTube comments section of the video, but I wasn't able to, and thought I'd been blocked, but this evening I posed a comment and was able to... it was just the URL link that wasn't able to be posted.  So the gist of this is that the current bitterly cold weather is actually due at least partly due to 'global warming', or as it should be more accurately termed, 'climate change', or even more accurately anthropogenic climate change, ie caused by the actions of humans.

So, a good day... cold, but productive and relaxing.  Work tomorrow... the last day of paid work this year.

Monday 20th December 10

Another early start as had to be in Huddersfield by about 10am, so I got the 9am train, and had a fairly quiet journey. I did chat initially to the people sitting opposite me but they were what I used to call 'plastic people', as they were sad fashion victims going from Sunderland to Manchester to go shopping... ugh.  They had nothing to say, empty lives.

Anyway, I got to Huddersfield and briskly walked to the market hall where I had first been sent a few weeks back and as I approached the office, a market official sped out clutching the Santa sacks, recognised me and said to go with him to the other market hall where I'd be working today.  We got in his car and had a 5 minute drive to the market very close to the railway station, which is covered but not enclosed, so it was bitterly cold.

I had a walk round with the head of the market and then went to get changed and get walking round with my sack of tiny chocolate footballs and mini chocolate Santas.  I enjoyed this a lot... banter and humour and fun, but I was glad to get back to the office at midday and have my sandwiches.  I got going again at 12.30 and worked til 1.45 when i had a quick coffee before going to the reindeer enclosure, this time the two reindeer were from Reindeer For Christmas, and they had a sleigh (on casters) which I sat in, and the reindeer pulled it around to different areas of the market.  This was quite memorable!  When the sleigh came to a halt, various children were placed in the sleigh with me for photo opportunities, and I met a nice lass called Joanne who was really keen on the reindeer and very extrovert.

I did another half hour giving out chocolate balls after this and finished at 3.35, and was soon walking up to the station dressed as John, with no-one taking any notice of me.

There was a train soon after 4pm, and I dozed all the way to York.  I took the Cycle Heaven bike down to the shop on Bishopthorpe Road where my mended bike was waiting.  However, I was a little shocked at the bill... I'd had my chain de-kinked and lubed, a new mudguard put on, a new pannier rack and new rear tyre... the cost was £113.  I had just £115 in notes on me, so I had just enough to pay them.  But it was lovely to have my bike back, and on the way back I popped in to Freshways and picked up a sack of tropical veg which was too limp or otherwise unsaleable.

It was good to get home, as I was frozen.  I cannot remember being so cold, ever!  I'd had a text from Sue asking if she could come round and collect some dried fruit before travelling South for her Christmas break, so she appeared after tea and was really quite entertaining with her stories and recounting of incidents from her past.  She stayed til nearly 10pm. 

I got on with washing up and a few other bits but generally relaxed.  The boys slept downstairs in the front room as it was the warmest place.  I wondered whether I'd be able to get up early enough to see the eclipse of the moon in the morning...

Monday, 20 December 2010

Sunday 19th December 10

Not too bad a start this morning, as I didn't have to be on the train til 10.13 to go to Northallerton.  However this still meant leaving the house soon after 9.30, as I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get my stuff to the station on the Cycle Heaven bike, which only had a pannier rack.  I'd left my trailer at Cycle Heaven, and will pick it up tomorrow.

So I didn't take my one-wheeled unicycles... partly as there's no space at the Black Sheep Brewery to ride the unicycle, so they are there mainly for show, to provide a backdrop for the show and workshop.  I managed my sticks, balls and diabolo bag on the pannier rack, and my costume, balloons and 4-wheel and 2-wheel unicycles on my back, in a rucksack. 

So, I got the train and chatted to a nice Occupational Therapist from West Yorkshire, whom I'd be really happy to have more conversations with, but Northallerton is only 20 minutes North of York, so our chat was truncated.

I'd booked a taxi last night so Keith was waiting for me, and he drove me all the way to the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham. I got there at about 11am, and was due to be available from 11.30, as people start arriving then. I had a coffee and got changed into Fiddlesticks gear, much preferred to the Father Christmas garb. 

Quite a few people are regular Black Sheep Brewery Christmas Lunch attendees, and so some of them have seen me just about every year for I don't know how long... best part of a decade I think.  This event attracts lots of families with children, and many of them know what to expect from me.  My 'dog's dinner' balloon  was the most requested.  I did some welcoming whilst devilsticking, then table hopping with balloons and humour, then a circus show and workshop, and worked continuously from 11.30 til 3.30, with no time for my sandwiches. 

At 3.30 I quickly got changed and was given an envelope with my payment in it, and I signed for that. The taxi was waiting and I was taken back to Northallerton, paid the taxi driver the £50 for both journeys, and had my sandwiches whilst waiting for the train back to York.  The people sitting opposite me on the train were supposed to have caught a flight from Newcastle to London, but due to the snow, Heathrow is shut so they had to catch a train.  But this train, supposed to go to Kings Cross, was stopping at Doncaster as there was a problem with the overhead wires near Peterborough and no trains were getting through.  So they got off at York as they had the chance of having their tickets refunded, or to resume the journey tomorrow. 

I was lucky to be able to get on the bike and cycle home.  I didn't need any evening meal as I'd only just eaten lunch at 4.15pm.  But I hoovered up a half-plateful left by one of the boys when I was a bit hungry at 8pm.  I made up a load of muesli and kept the stove going.  Also enjoyed a programme about the origins and history of Father Christmas, appropriate, as in just a few hours I'll be 'doing' him in the streets of Huddersfield.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Saturday 18th December 10

Another early start for me, as due to be in Dewsbury for 10ish, so I got the 8.58 train and chatted with a nice couple, students, heading back to her home village of Giggleswick for a few days over Christmas.

Dewsbury was quite snowy and very cold... there is a big building near the market with a digital display and as well as the time and date, it shows the temperature, which was -7 Celsius, and during the day it got no warmer than -5 C.  However, I was in a grotto which had a little electrical fan heater, which kept it slightly warmer, but the grotto was open to the elements and was I think at or below freezing all day.  A local animal petting place called Ponderosa supplied two Reindeer, which attracted a bit of attention.

But I did 10.30 til 12.30, and was due to restart at 1pm but was called down as a queue had developed.  And I worked on through the afternoon, coming to the doorway when the place was quiet, to wave at passers by and try to attract family groups over to hand their £2.50 per child to have an audience with Santa and be given a pre-wrapped present.  Towards the end of the day we had two incidents.  Firstly, a woman appeared who had brought an 18 month old girl and a 3 year old boy in, either last week or earlier today, and she had both their presents.  The boy had got a board game based on bingo, and the girl a pottery VW campervan moneybox.  She was complaining that these weren't appropriate.  The woman in charge of me, Trish, dealt with the complaint and gave the complainer her money back.  Then at about 3pm, half an hour before our finish time, the rickety fan heater got knocked by my flowing robes and fell on it's front, and burst into flames!  The grotto filled with smoke, Trish unplugged it and put the fire out (not sure how) and went to get one of the bosses.  This person said that we should finish early as the room was stinking of burnt plastic and kids shouldn't go in there.  So I went to get changed and set off for the station at about 3.20.

I dozed on the train as I was very cold, and got into York at about 4.30.  My bike chain had been jumping so I decided to pop in to Cycle Heaven to book my bike in for some work... but amazingly, they said I could leave it there and pick it up at 6pm if I wanted.  So I borrowed a shop bike and sped round to Peter and Jenny's house, where they were having a party.  I explained to them that I'd have to go in less than an hour... but was very grateful of the warm 'port in a storm' which I needed, as I was still cold from the day working in sub-zero temperatures.  I had a couple of mugs of home-made mulled cider, the cider was home made from apple concentrate apparently, and two delicious mince pies.  This, plus the conversation, all worked to elevate my mood. 

At 5.50 I got the bike and cycled back to Cycle Heaven.  They'd found that the jumping chain was due to a stiff link in the chain, but whilst finding this, they'd found my pannier rack was not fixed properly, it had broken, and needed replacing.  However, this would take another half hour, and the shop was shutting, so could I pick it up tomorrow?  I explained that I was going up to Masham tomorrow but should be able to pick it up on Monday, on the way to Huddersfield.

So I cycled home on the shop bike.  There was a parcel waiting for me, from Rory in Canada.... he'd found a jester hat, a stripy cap, stripy socks, stripy jumper thing and stripy waistcoat.  Oh Wow!  A costume rejuvenation!  Not sure how I'll use the cap, but all the other things either will or could come in useful, and I love the socks and waistcoat.  I have no idea what I've done to deserve this from Rory, but it moves me that he has sent this, and several other gifts. 

I had a quiet evening as the rest of the family were watching some dance thing in the other room, and I couldn't get Tracey Smith's radio show to play on Apple am.  Never mind, I kept myself occupied and had a reasonable evening.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Friday 17th December 10

Up early as working this morning... due to be performing a Christmas party show 9.30 til 10.30, at a nursery in Poppleton.  So, working backwards, I had to be there for 9, and it takes up to an hour to cycle there, especially with a trailer full of equipment, so left the house at about 8am.

The gig went really well, though.  The audience were 3 and 4 year olds, so I had no expectations of lots of participation.  I decided to do both my shows in one hour.  I blew up a load of balloons before the show started, and held them carefully in a kind of horizontal paper holder thing which was on the stage behind me.  The circus show started well, with the juggling ball dropping trick, which works even for the very young.  I got a few of them up to try the feather balancing, and they enjoyed saying hello to Derek the diabolo and counting his jumps on the trampoline, and two children had a go with the yoyo balls, and three had a go on the four wheel unicycle.  Then I made a few demonstration balloons and then gave all 30 or so children their own balloon of their choice.  I finished on the dot of 10.30.

I got packed up, changed and cycled down to Holgate and from there on to the Millennium Bridge which is very close to the Steiner School.  We'd been invited to come and see the school, and meet Jonathan, who has the class which our youngest would go into if he wanted to go to this school.  Gill and our youngest had got there in a taxi, and had seats reserved for them, and we watched the Christmas Festival, with each class presenting a song or a poem, or a mini play.  However I had waves of depression whilst I was sitting in the audience.  All I want is my children to be happy and go to a nearby school where they aren't bullied and beaten up.  I don't want to home educate and I don't want to have to take my boy all the way to the Steiner School which is quite a long cycle away, maybe 20 minutes each way. I don't agree with the teachings of Steiner although there are some lovely people at the school, lots of my friends have children there, and I do like it that they are very child centred not subject centred.

Anyway, we had a good chat to Jonathan afterwards, with our son, and then a few minutes without him.  Depending on what happens early next term at Archbishop Holgates School, he may have a trial two weeks at the Steiner School. 

Gill then took our boyo into town on the bus to collect his glasses, and I cycled home where our eldest was supposed to be working.  I got in at 2.30 and had lunch.

I did a bit of stacking after this but it got dark early and was very cold.  I popped round to see Debbie to see if she was a grandma yet, and to give her some support regarding a difficult social situation she's dealing with.  After tea I was very tired and feeling low so I went to bed for two hours, getting up after 10 to do the washing up and write about today.  I did enjoy a programme on BBC4 called Festivals Britannia.  Memories.

Another early start tomorrow, as going to Dewsbury to do the Santa in the grotto gig again.  Grit my teeth.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Thursday 16th December 10

A busy morning, dealing with the arrangements for our youngest son's schooling. 

In preparation for today's event, Gill made a load of small quiches with goats milk and goats cheese, after I'd been out to buy the milk.  I grated cheese as we'd promised to bring that, and I collected together a bag of dried fruit together. 

The YorkDistrict Home Educators were gathering for a Christmas party at 1pm at Rawcliffe Pavilion in Clifton Moor.  This is really convenient for us, as it is less than 5 minutes walk from a bus stop on Rivelin Way, with the No. 6 bus, which also goes along Tang Hall Lane, which is 5 minutes from us.  The only disadvantage is that this journey with the No. 6 takes 50 minutes, winds it's way through Heworth, Layerthorpe, town, crosses the river, almost gets to the station before doubling back, crossing the river again, going past the hospital, through the Burton Stone Lane/ Burton Green area, and eventually gets to Rivelin Way. 

So I reckoned that if we left the house at about midday that would be about right, but there were major shenanigans and messing around, so I announced that I had got all the mini quiches, cheese and fruit and was ready, and went outside the front door, as I reckoned my presence inside wasn't helping my mental health OR that of any family member.  I stacked logs for half an hour whilst things calmed down and people got ready.  When the bus came, about 5 minutes after we got to the bus stop, I got a family Day Rover for £7.40.

We got to the event just after 1.30 and there were others still arriving.  Our eldest immediately found a group of boys his own age and was all smiles and laughter, it was so good to see.  Our youngest was determined not to enjoy any of the event and therefore didn't.  I enjoyed chatting to one of the other dads and a few mums, and helped by doing a short spot of 3 ball juggling workshop, and lots of clearing up at the end, taking 2 sacks of paper plates and food waste back home on the bus to put in the tumbler.  It was good to meet some other home educators, and although I'm only slowly coming to terms with this change in my life... and not really enjoying it, this event will have helped me move towards acceptance.

When we got back it was dark.  I lit both stoves as the house was cold.  Tea was yesterday's nutloaf and I made a sauce with the rems of the leek and potato soup and some dead pasta and cauliflower. It was delicious!

I kept myself to myself this evening, didn't interact with the children, thought it best not to, and just let them do as they wanted.  I fielded a phone call from Jonathan, a teacher at the Steiner School, about us coming to see the school and discussing our youngest going there.  I also had a crisis message from a friend who's an alcoholic and has an Aspergery boyfriend who had put the phone down on her as she'd admitted to having had a drink, which although he's a drinker himself, he disapproves of.  Complicated, and I'm not sure I was able to help much, but I did ring and listen, in case I was able to help.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Wednesday 15th December 10

I had intended to go to St Nicks today and help with some coppicing, but Gill wasn't feeling too brilliant so I decided to stay closer to home and do some work in the garden, chainsawing and compost bin filling, harvesting artichokes, tidying.

I popped round to the bread shop, and after lunch went into town to put in a cheque and find a 'seasonal gift' for the family.

I came back via Richard at Country Fresh, and made a really good nutloaf, with equal amounts of breadcrumbs and grated parsnip.  I also put all the dried red and yellow pepper in the liquidiser goblet and reduced it all to dust, sieved it so that I had a bowl full of sweet pepper paprika.  Melody came to pick up her Suma order, so I gave her a jar of the paprika as a seasonal present.  She gave us a bag of foraged nuts, some jam and chocolates.

The nutloaf was delicious.  I zoomed into town after tea as I wanted to attend the York Green Party AGM at the Guildhall.  I enjoyed this.  Then I visited Anna as she hires out TENS machines and I borrowed one for Gill.  However, I'd asked on Freecycle about one and I had an offer there too.

I enjoyed a science programme quite late into the night, and a nice facebook chat with my friend Lisa.  She is fun.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tuesday 14th December 10

The day started a bit rapidly because Gill had a GP appointment at 9.40 and woke me up at 9.20 as I'd offered to walk round with her, as it was slippery and I really didn't want her to fall over. So my usual routine of having breakfast first thing was replaced by a slow walk round to Tang Hall Lane, using the only ice-free part of Lilac Avenue, the car tyre tracks.  So Gill was happy to have me with her, and I pocketed her presrciption for painkillers and went to get those later.

We got home and I sat down to enjoy breakfast... and the Suma lorry came, so I put muesli on hold and helped unload our order... peanut butter, muesli base, soya milk, bouillon, rice, goats cheese, some other bits and bobs, plus things for Sue and Melody.

So then it was time to do some log stacking, as we're going through loads at the moment and I really need to get a load stacked by the front door to prepare for the forthcoming cold snap.  I also tidied up the Wisteria leaves which had been knocked off by the snow, and some other mess.  I started splitting the softwood rounds I picked up over the weekend. 

Sue showed up sometime between 2 and 3 to pick up her rye bread and tinned lentil soup, and I took the 2 boxes of rye bread over to her van.  I'd noticed a woman rooting through a skip of household goods in a neighbour's driveway, and as I walked back to the house, I spoke to her and we chatted.  She'd seen the skip last night and put a note through the door asking if she could rummage through.  She'd got a phone call with a yes, so had come down to find clothes and other bits.  She had a huge suitcase plus at least 2 rucksacks, a large plastic carrier bag and a child's scooter. 

About 10 minutes later, as I was splitting rounds with my axe, she struggled past and I wished her well.  Five minutes later, I was setting out on my bike to go and get Gill's prescription, and she was outside our neighbour's, still trying to manage her heavy load.  So I offered to help her move her stuff, it wasn't far, just up Osbaldwick Lane, and we had a good natter whilst going there.  Turns out she was at the Pumpkin evening and Apple Day and I'd taught her daughter to juggle...

I got the prescription and came back and didn't do any more outside as it was now dark. 

Gill had made leek and potato soup, and I had mine with two slices of bread.

Then at 6.15 I set out on the bike again to go to Tang Hall Library for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, and we had a very interesting and quite long meeting, lasting over an hour.  So it was nearly 8pm when I got back.  I watched a programme about equations with our eldest at 9pm, and had a fairly quiet evening.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Monday 13th December 10

Got a phone call first thing from Gill saying that after the ward round, and the issuing of some paperwork, she'd be getting in a taxi and coming home.  And had I got money to pay the taxi?

So, within an hour or two, Gill appeared and got a very warm welcome, and I payed the happy taxi chap.

I went round to Thomas the Baker for Yesterbake bread... except on Mondays it's Yesteryesterbake, from Saturday.  Still a bargain, still very edible.  Makes great nutloaf midweek.

I hadn't given blood since May 2009 for some reason... the National Blood Service hasn't contacted me in all that time, and I haven't been proactive and prodded them.  But today was my 25th donation, and I hadn't been able to make an appointment so I arrived at the lovely Merchant Taylor's Hall 10 minutes before the session started, and had to wait 10 minutes... but I was first, and was processed quickly, and I squeezed my pint out in 5 minutes 20 seconds.  I was also given my 'Silver Award' for donating 25 times, a certificate, a thank you letter and a tiny badge/lapel pin thing.

I then went to Salisbury's and had a free mince pie, bought bread, marge, goats milk, cheapish sun-dried tomato salad and two cheap Toblerones for the boys' Xmas stockings.  Came home via one of the many logpiles I know about, and then Freshways where I got a huge overloaded sack of stuff, a third of which i had to decant into another plastic sack which i just happened to have in my pannier.  And home, to take a wheelbarrow full of sacks down to the working compost heaps, one of them running at about 20 Celsius, compared to the ambient temperature of zero.

Then I cycled down to the University to pick up the last of the pine logs, a big load, just managed to get them all into the trailer, panniers and pannier rack.  Probably about 100kg.

I made tea.... rice with carrot and squash, boiled together on the back room woodstove, and in the front room, in a frying pan, a mix of leek, onion, red pepper and tomato, all the frying pan materials were completely free, rescued.  (OK, not the olive oil, bouillon or dried basil)  The family enjoyed it when it came, at 5.45pm, and I had mine quite quickly as I had a meeting, a social, at Delphine's, at 6.30.  I wanted to be there in good time as I had another diary entry for 7.30, York in Transition at Edward's.

I enjoyed talking with Delphine, and then others arrived, and Luke, my University of York Green Party friend... but I had to go and cycle over to Edward's.

But Edward had forgotten the meeting, as I think had everybody else.  I chatted with JZ and Edward for a bit and then went, cycling to Heslington via the Millennium Bridge, and picking up MORE logs, spotted on the way back from the earlier logpile expedition.  And these are oak, a good find.

Gill told me that my friend over the road was being terrorised by someone so I went over and tried to give her some confidence and advice, and spent about an hour with her.  The person she is frightened of didn't turn up, fortunately, but had they done so, I would have dealt with the situation.

When I came in, towards 10pm, the boys were just getting ready for bed and I was glad to be able to wind down a bit.  Quite a day.  Good to have Gilly back.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Sunday 12th December 10

Quite a tough day, without Gilly around.  She rang before we got up from a payphone in the hospital, as her mobile was out of power.  Later, I rang the ward and then she rang back.  She had eaten and was feeling well, and awaiting some tests.

I made porridge for the first time in, well, decades, as it was requested by our youngest.  Apparently it was very good!

I asked the boys if they would go and buy some bread, cereal and goats milk from the Co-op, and with a bit of persuasion, they did.  Later I did a quick trip to Country Fresh where I got fruit and vegetables and 2 sacks of recyclables.

I had a short time on the computer and got a telling off from our niece for mentioning that Gill was in hospital, but I said that I'd not mentioned any gruesome details and it was the best way to tell people what was happening (and why I couldn't do several things I'd planned to do today) and also, the status privacy was limited to friends only.  She later apologised for her outburst, but I'm glad she cares so much about her Auntie. Maybe she doesn't realise that some people share all sorts of stories on facebook, like this sad and moving one.  I did get dozens of messages wishing Gill well, people saying that they were thinking of her, praying for her, keeping her 'in the light' and sending hugs, best wishes and all manner of positivity.  Let's hope it works!

Mid afternoon I told the boys they had to come off the computers to do some physical activity, and gave them ample warning of the time to get off by and said if they weren't off by that time, they wouldn't be allowed on after tea.  This worked.  We spent quite a bit of time with two spades breaking up the ice off the pavement in front of our house, and also Dave and Marion's next door.  I tried to get them started on the pavement in front of Ken and Di's but they weren't having it.  Several pedestrians walked past and thanked us, so we knew it was a worthwhile thing to do.

The boys then read quietly and I split a few logs and stacked for a bit, until it was too dark to continue.  Then I came in and sorted tea.  I fried sweet potato slices on the stove, and a large ordinary potato too, made a toastie for one of them and eggy bread for the other.  I had a thrown-away instant couscous thing someone gave me plus a (frozen) pastie that someone gave me, cooked on the stove.

At about 8pm I took bathwater upstairs for one of the boys and had a bit of a to-do, then realised I'd left one of the big cans filling up downstairs, and it had overflowed.  Not too badly though.  And then the sink wouldn't empty.  I couldn't find the plunger and my cupped hand wouldn't shift it.  I tried a wire, no joy.  Eventually I found a slim siphon tube which I slipped as far down as possible and blew hard.  This caused a black fountain to come out of the overflow.  So then I covered the overflow and the plughole as best as I could and blew hard... and bingo!  It worked.  A bit later I poured a load of boiling water down the hole to shift any grease and loose biofilm.  I could have done without this hassle today.

Gill had got herself a hire phone next to her bed (I think) and we all had a chat with her.  She'd had some investigations and nothing had been found, so she'll be released tomorrow, but will go in again as an outpatient soon to have more investigations.

So a really busy day, on the go most the time, and missed Gill... her company and her contributions to managing the house.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Saturday 11th December 10

A disturbed night.  Gill discovered that she was losing a lot of blood in the night and rang the out of hours GP service; they said go to Accident and Emergency.  So she got a taxi and went in, but was back by 4am and I'm not sure what they did, if anything.

I got up at 7.30,  to be heading off out of the house at 8.30 to go to Dewsbury.  Gill had got up at 7am and made sandwiches for me, and plaited my hair which I can't do for myself...  I got off in enough time to get the 8.58.  The carriage I got on had a party of 9 Geordie women, all related, off to Manchester for their annual Christmas bash... shopping, a night out, good times.  They were drinking Champaigne and eating fancy chocolates and biscuits... the party had already started.  One of the women, Pink, chatted with me and expressed her desire to be less acquisitive, less materialistic.   At one stage of the journey she suggested to the group that they ought to only give each other Christmas presents every 5 years.  I enjoyed this 'people-watching' time.

I dragged myself away at Dewsbury and the Market Office was quite close to the station, about 5 minutes walk... I'd memorised the route last night on Googlemaps.  The grotto was right next to the office, and the Kirklees Council team had brought the Santa Claus costume, so at 10.30 I got started... sitting in the grotto, with kiddies and their families being ushered in, for £2.50 per child, to have an audience with Santa, and a wrapped present.

It was fairly constant, with not many gaps, and I enjoyed it almost as much as the walkabout next week.  The most interesting thing this time was the number of Asian customers, many obviously Muslim.  This was curious, and my questions like 'are you all ready for Christmas?' were quite often met with a 'no', as they don't celebrate it.  But the children are growing up in a culture with images of Father Christmas, so of course they want to experience it.  I love our multicultural society.  On a couple of occasions when talking with these people, I said I enjoyed Eid, which seemed to go down well.

There was one incident which was a bit disturbing. A pair of women came in right at the end of the day, with a 3 or 4 year old daughter, and one of the women's Dads.  He was either drunk, or unwell in some way, and was very controlling, verging on the aggressive. At one stage he tried to sit or crouch down next to my chair, and fell backwards.  He said he hadn't been out for 11 days and mentioned that he had diabetes.  He also tried to grab and move the child but the mother wasn't having it and stopped him, told him off.  It was by far the most difficult visit.

But this was quite close to 3.30, my finish time.  I actually worked til 3.40, as the Harry Potter RoadShow finished at 3.30 and I got a few visitors after that.

But I got changed and away to the station for the 4.07 train, and I switched my phone back on and dozed.  I tried to send Gill a text but for some reason it wouldn't send.  Then I got a phone call from Ashley, one of our friends from primary school days.  She'd taken Gill into hospital at midday and the boys were with her.  She suggested that I might go to Ward 22 to see Gill, and then come to collect the boys.

So I cycled to the hospital and found Gill, who was in good humour, on her feet, and helping to look after another admission who kept threatening to get out of her bed.  Gill told me the doctors didn't know what to do with her, whether to endoscope her to find the source of the bleeding, or something else.  Gill told me to get back to the kids and to put £10 on her phone using a card in the hospital shop.

So I did that, and then cycled all the way along the Route 66 cycle path which was mega slippy along to Melrosegate, up Green Dykes Lane, down into Heslington, picked up a good load of logs, and then up Windmill Lane to Ashley and Paul's.  The boys were pleased to see me, and had been impeccably behaved, even helping to break up ice on the path outside the house.

I thanked Ashley for all her help, and walked back with the boys.  They went onto the computers and I lit the stoves, heated water for pasta, washed up, cooked squash, onion and tomato with herbs, and then boiled carrot, celery and pasta, and those two dishes were adequate for tea, eating at 8pm.

Before bed, we had 2 games of consequences, one a picture game with the theme of robots (good suggestion from our youngest) and then a story consequences which filled 3 sides of A4... meaning that each of us wrote 3 chunks of fiction making 3 funny stories. 

Wheat sacks were warmed, hot water bottles filled, hot drinks downed, and they went to bed with no problems whatsoever.  Magic!

I then washed up, put the logs in the front and bike away, watched a programme on body language and went to bed at my normal time.

I look forward to finding out what is happening to Gill tomorrow, and if she's in hospital all day, we might go in and see her...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Friday 10th December 10

An earlyish start as I was due to take our eldest round to Maria, our biochemist friend who coaches and teaches, and has agreed to do science for an hour a week as part of his home schooling.  I had told him that I'd be happy to go round with him, to sit in with him if he wanted, or to stay in Maria's house.  In the end, I sat downstairs for the hour, read my NewScientist and dozed.  Our lad had a good session, mainly planning the forthcoming weeks.

I went into town to meet my new friend Lisa, whom I've had loads of chats with on facebook, and we have a shared music taste (Talking Heads, dance music, etc) but we'd never met, until today. So we went to El Piano and after that, I parked my bike and we walked down to the Millennium Bridge, and then back into town the other side of the river.  I was really pleased to meet her, and I'm happy to have found another friend.

I cycled home for a late lunch via Country Fresh, and then realised I'd forgotten to do one of the jobs I'd meant to do in town; paying in a cheque and some cash o our Suma account, as we're doing an order next week. So I cycled back into town, did the Co-op bank stuff, then went to Alligator to pick up their compostables, and by the time I got home it was dark. 

My next thing was to walk down to Heslington with our eldest, as Simon had offered to do a regular class about computer graphics, whilst his son is out at Scouts.  I came back via a logpile a student had alerted me to, and then I did another trip to it, before going to get our son at 8.  He had really enjoyed the computer graphics workshop.  He has a real aptitude for the subject, apparently.  We walked up to the logpile and collected a third trailer load, and walked home, chatting.  Nice.

Later, I collected a fourth load, then had a wood-fired bath and found my train times and destination for tomorrow.  Early start, so a bit earlier to bed than usual.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Thursday 9th December 10

A milder day weather-wise, so it was cold but not bitter.  This meant that I was able to go and do some work in the garden, loading sacks of compostables onto two heaps, and building two logpiles.... a dry one outside the front door and on each return trip, freshly chopped 'green' logs, heavy with sap, to be taken down the garden to sit quietly for a year or two in a tidy pile.

The space between our house and the semi next door, our shared driveway, had become extremely icy and slippy, so I spent a bit of time with the spade, breaking chunks of compressed snow off the concrete and making a less slippery path to walk along.  I worry about Gill falling and injuring herself; she doesn't need snow and ice to do that, so the slippery conditions make it a lot more likely.

I also did a bit of work inside, washing up and hoovering, and keeping the stove going (just the one today), and soon after 6pm, Melody came round to deliver her 12 year old genius of a son to me, and I took my own genius son plus Melody's on the bus down to Cafe Scientifique at City Screen to go to a talk about Dark Matter.

This talk was extremely difficult for me to understand.  The presenter was Tom Whytnie, a PhD student at Imperial College, London, and part of the High Energy Physics Group.  He explained that scientists think that the visible and measurable matter and energy in the Universe is about 4% of the total, and the remaining is 70% Dark Energy, and 26% Dark Matter.  This has been hypothesized by looking at how disc galaxies revolve, and our understanding of gravity.

Tom works at the Compact Muon Solenoid at CERN, the Large Hadron Collider, which smashes protons together at almost the speed of light.  The debris from these collisions might give hints as to what Dark Matter is... but it is unlikely that it will ever be seen, as it is 'dark' and invisible.  Whether it exists has to be inferred from what goes into the collision and what comes out.... and if there is stuff missing, that might be Dark Matter.

However, if these experiments don't come up with some results, it might be that our understanding of gravity is incorrect, and a lot of science will have to be rewritten.  I now understand quite a bit more about this subject area than I did, but my son got his head around it far more easily than me, and at the end of the talk, he asked the first question, which was a really good one, and showed he'd taken in a lot of the ideas.  I felt very proud of him.

The talk overran a bit, and finished at 9.30, the time Gill was expecting us home.   On the way out I spotted the tethered balloons floating above the Mansion House.... nice one James Alexander, not a litterbug!   We went to get the number 6 bus and didn't have to wait that long.  We got back home just after 10pm, and Melody soon set off home with her lad, and we got ours up to bed pretty quickly.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Wednesday 8th December 10

Not that late a start, woken by 'cooped-up child noise'.  This is known as cabin fever by some, and indicates a need to get out of the house.

I had sent a message to Councillor James Alexander last night after I'd had a few fairly cryptic words spoken to me by Cllr. Dave Merrett about the balloon release... and I asked Cllr. Alexander if he had changed his plans to release the helium balloons?  Today I got a reply... and YES! Councillor Alexander had changed his plans, and was going to keep the balloons tethered.  A win.

Soon after midday, Sue came round to look through the SUMA catalogue, and spent about three hours looking through and making an order of 3 items, for £25.

I did a bout of chainsawing, chopping up 3 or 4 pallets, and then stacking dry logs and layers of pallet wood.

I went to buy a jar of coffee in the early evening, and found my bike back wheel had come off somehow, so I walked down to the Co-op with Sue, and when I came back (and she eventually went!) I sorted my bike out.  It has a quick release wheel which had, well, quick released.

I had the last of the squash soup for tea and then cycled off to Green Drinks at the 3 Legged Mare.  I was glad I went, as there was a new chap attending, called Kit, and if I hadn't had been there, he'd have wondered whether he was in the right place.  Anyway, we had a good chat, and then Graham arrived, and then Melanie, so it was a worthwhile meet up.

I came back via a logpile and was glad to warm up.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tuesday 7th December 10

A late start but quite a good day.

Probably the highlight of the day was unblocking a waste water pipe which runs from the downstairs toilet to the toilet downpipe... but the pipe goes through the wall and then goes nearly horizontally towards the sewer down pipe.  There is a little bend in it before it enters the sewer pipe, but the shallow gradient means that water flows slowly along it...and our guest must have left the tap dripping, so the very low temperatures froze the trickle within the pipe.  So I removed the U bend and emptied as much of the water out of the system as possible, and then put it back together and filled the sink with very hot water off the top of the woodstove.  I then slowly poured a kettle full of boiling water over the external pipe.... and this worked, and the sink full of hot water disappeared, hopefully washing away some gunge too.  To stop this happening again I'll have to replace the kink at the end with a straight bit, and then plug it straight into the sewer pipe, which will make a steeper gradient.  Also, the tap must not drip when it's way below freezing outside!

I did a quick cycle to Thomas The Baker for a bag full of Yesterbake bread before lunch, but the next time I went out was to go to the Guildhall for 4pm, for the Environment Forum, the first meeting with our new chair, Kate Lock.  Before the meeting I asked her if she thought we'd have time to have AOB, and if so, whether the balloon launch issue was something she'd be happy for me to discuss briefly.  But luckily, a new member of the Forum, Councillor Dave Merrett, who's a Labour Party member, had obviously had some sort of discussion with Cllr. James Alexander, and he indicated that there were possibly plans to do something different with the balloons... perhaps the release is being re-thought?  I'd like to think that Cllr. Alexander has had a think about how this stunt might look to the majority of the population who don't like the idea of killing wildlife with litter.  I am very hopeful.

The Forum meeting went well... we spent most time discussing the future of the Forum, and I didn't say anything about the balloons, as Cllr. Merrett's hint was enough to make it less of an issue.

Gill phoned me during the meeting and told me the Planning Panel meeting had been called off due to the treacherously icy pavements.  So I cycled home, found two pallets on the way, and arrived hungry for the pastie I bought from Thomas The Baker earlier.  There were some cold vegetables left which I had too.

And a quiet evening, trying to get on top of some assorted admin stuff, writing up minutes, etc.  But at 9pm I watched a BBC4 programme called The Joy of Stats about statistics with our eldest, who is very into science and maths subjects.  A good programme. I sent a link to my son's email address for a fab website called Information is Beautiful, which has some of the images used on the programme.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Monday 6th December 10

Well, although I had a headache for much of the day, it was a good day.

I got up at 10, as I'd been up til 3 doing the balloons thing.

Had a long time on the laptop, was pleased to see a handful of people had joined my 'event' and, hopefully, had written or emailed James Alexander, to ask him not to do the balloon release.  I got a thank you message from the Marine Conservation Society thanking me for my actions and caring.

I tried to do some work outside, but I got chilled to the bone and had to come in within the hour to defrost.  I can't remember it being so cold!

I had a chat with the Press about the balloon launch, booked tickets to go to Cafe Scientifique on Thursday with my eldest son... it's a talk and discussion about 'dark matter', just his sort of subject... almost way over my head!  I got back to the home education Yahoo Group thanking them for their welcome, and found out about the Christmas party which is luckily on the number 6 bus route, from just round the corner.

Before tea I walked with Gill round to her GP surgery; she was afraid of falling over as she has tumbled several times, so we had some nice chats on the way there, waiting, and walking back.  I made a tea with some squash soup over some dead pasta, and enlivened this with the last of the 'stove-dried' tomatoes which I preserved in extra virgin olive oil after semi-drying on the stove.  They were yummy, and made the old pasta bearable.

In the evening I attended the LETS meeting, with Melody and Sue, and Claire from Grace Preserves came along too, as a prospective member.  Sue was going to walk back to where she lives but I suggested she come back home to warm up, and then get a taxi.  She didn't leave til about 1am.  I then got on with other things!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sunday 5th December 10

Well, a good day, relaxing but got stuff done.  I enjoyed Country Tracks and then spent some time outside, visited Country Fresh and Freshways, and cleared a bit of compacted snow which was preventing the back gate closing. I helped make some soup.  I kept the stoves going, washed up, dried pineapple, kiwi and red pepper.

In the evening I became aware of an event which is due to take place on Thursday, an anti-tuition fees rise protest in York.  I support this 'cause' as I'd prefer that the Government got the billions it needs to deal with the deficit by getting the mega rich to pay their taxes properly.  However, the event centres around a helium balloon launch, and I believe that this is akin to littering.  The Marine Conservation Society has asked event organisers to not release balloons, as some of them end up in the sea, looking very similar to jellyfish... favourite prey of turtles, and balloons have been found in dead marine mammals, fish and birds.  So I spent quite a while contacting people, including the organiser, Councillor James Alexander, but he said he was going to do the balloon launch, and seemed to me to care more about the short-lived spectacle than the effect on the environment and wildlife.  I believe that the protest would be just as colourful and effective without letting the balloons go... and when they burst, the latex can easily be composted, recycled safely, rather than littering our oceans.

So I've organised a protest, and got busy contacting his colleagues, attendees of his protest, and the Press.  Even if the planned balloon launch goes ahead, the subject of marine pollution will be raised and maybe other event organisers will be less likely to get involved in this stupid form of littering. 

So, a very busy evening, wondering what the right thing to do is.  I've had some degree of support, but will have to do more lobbying tomorrow.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Saturday 4th December 10

I got up at 10ish and by the time I'd had breakfast and woken up properly, it was too late to go into St Nicks and help with their coppicing task.  I ought to have been there when things were starting.  I'll try to get to another EcoActive day task.

So I had a quiet day, with an hour or so working outside, chainsawing and stacking. I cycled round to the bakers in the morning and bought cereals at the Co-op.

Once again I had quite a lot of time on the laptop, keeping the stoves going, making sure my boys were OK, doing kitchen stuff, jarring up dried fruit.

I spent quite a long time filling in a questionnaire to help a student with research.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Friday 3rd December 10

Another quiet day.  Our youngest was off school as it was a training day, so both boys had a computer game-based day.  Gill had planned to take them both out to see a film but eventually they decided not to go, and a friend came round and they all played computer games. 

Gill did go to town and got some clothes and perspex to continue triple glazing the house.

I did a little bit outside but generally had a lazy day inside, due to the bitter cold and deep snow. I kept it warm inside by keeping both stoves going all day.

Mid afternoon I received a phone call from Jane who was about to set out on foot to deliver her broken laptop to the computer shop on Hull Road, very near us, and she asked if she could pop in.  So she came for a wood-fired cuppa and chat, and met Gill... they got on well.

I spent a lot of the day reading, including the questions for Julian Assange about the WikiLeaks intrigue, and later, his answers.  I submitted my application to World Book Night, a plan to give away a million books next March.  I also did some cooking to add to tea... just slices of winter squash, boiled on the stove and then roasted at the same time as Gill's potato and leek quiche cooked.

So, a fairly nothingy day.  Hope tomorrow is more active.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Thursday 2nd December 10

Another quiet day, although we did attempt a 'family conference' to discuss home education choices with both the boys, but the discussion was inconclusive and not an easy meeting.

The best things I did today were to cycle down to Country Fresh to get some vegetables, and pick up two smallish bags of recyclable materials, visited Debbie, who's got a bit of 'flu, stack a load of logs outside the front door (both stoves going 24/7 at the moment) and make tea.

I spent quite a bit of time on the laptop, and was really blown away by this video, which explains the ecological 'tipping points' really well.  Anyone who wants to understand why I feel so passionate about living a low carbon lifestyle should get their head around this set of concepts, and this 12 minute film will be a good grounding.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Wednesday 1st December 10

I was lucky to get a lie-in til about 10, Gill woke me up saying my 11.30 appointment with Colin, to discuss AVP employment issues, had rung to cancel.  He'd been snowed in.

So I didn't need to do anything today, apart from housework, keeping the house warm, and preparing for this evening's talk.  Both boys were at home, Gill set them some work which they did quietly. 

Gill made a 'cobbler' for tea, basically a hot-pot veg stew with potato, sweet potato, parsnip, tomato, peas and onions, with blobs of scone mix on the top and then baked in the oven. Really delicious.

At about 6.30 I set out for the Physics building at the University of York.  I was due to do the talk titled: "Compost John : Britain's Most Sustainable Man. How does he do it?" in room P/L/005, but yesterday, a group of students, following the huge anti-cuts demo in town, decided to hold an occupation in the Physics building, to protest at the proposed increases in fees.  So I was contacted by the organiser and asked if I'd do my talk to 'The Great York Sit-In' participants.

So that's what I did: as a guest of the newly-formed University Green Party, I did a talk mainly about carbon footprinting, and how I organise my life to have one considerably smaller than average.  First I dispelled the myth that I'm 'Britain's Most Sustainable Man', and explained that this may have come from the Oxfam Carbon Footprint Competition in 2008.  So, this led to info about ActOnCO2 and my favourite Carbon Calculator, The Carbon Account, and what makes up someone's footprint.  I went through what I do to keep my footprint small, and with a goodly number of tangents, arrived at the other aspects of 'being sustainable' which in my opinion are Fair Trade and Organic consumption, and teaching others about your ethical choices.  I also admitted the un-green things I'm responsible for, including my children, and my extensive use of the railways, which isn't recordable in The Carbon Account.

There were some really good questions afterwards, as one would expect from a bunch of intelligent and motivated young people.  I feel very lucky to have these connections.  I had a cuppa and more chats, and then cycled home, picking up a trailer full of sticks and branches on the way home.  The snow wasn't too difficult to get through.

Played lots of Scrabble on facebook, read, watched telly and wrote blog til 3am.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Tuesday 30th November 10

Well a tough start to the morning, going into school and having another meeting. 

This, and another unconnected incident, meant that a 10.30 meeting I was due to have was cancelled.  But it wasn't a vital one, just a social, but I was looking forward to it.

So, I did some more prep for tonight's meeting, contacted St John's again but missed the person who would be interested in the Waste Food Feast idea, and spoke with Briony Pete, who assured me that she'd be able to find the place OK.

I cycled round to buy some bread and get a prescription, and only fell off once.  Then I went to the other Co-op (we are blessed with two both within 5 minutes walk or cycle) to get goats milk, but there was none.

So, apart from these excursions, a quiet day. 

In the evening I got a message to say the Hull Road Planning Panel was cancelled due to the weather, but I was quite glad of this as I was attending the Waste Food Feast planning meeting at 8pm, actually I needed to get there by 7.30, to meet Briony.

I had assumed that G/020 was in G block in James College, which I'd found on the map, but that was a residential block so I went to the info place and the chap in there directed me to the depths of the Mathematics Department.  I couldn't find the room but then was accosted by Briony, who had found it!

I dumped my stuff in the room and retraced my steps to put up A4 posters directing people to the room from the car park, as I was expecting someone from City of York Council to turn up, and possibly other non-University people.  When I got back to the room, half the People and Planet group had appeared.  But no-one from outside the University came... but that didn't matter actually.

Despite not being able to use her laptop presentation, Briony explained about her job, working for Wastewatch, and the Feed the 1000 event in Hull. She explained about the size of the problem: 8.3 million tonnes of good edible food wasted in the UK every year, costing £12 billion in wasted production costs, transportation, storage, and disposal.  This works out at an average of £480 per household per year, and if there are children in the house, the average cost of wasted food is £680 a year.  When it is explained that this is about £50 a month in wasted food, many families do want to reduce that cost, and save the money.   The environmental cost, in terms of unnecessary carbon emissions, wasted resources, other pollution, is enormous.

So, there were some good questions from the students, and the discussion which followed helped us crystallise what is needed to happen next, a preferred option and a 'plan b'. And a long list of people who want to be involved in the organisation of the event.  Briony said she'd sort out a facebook page to help co-ordinate and facilitate communication.  So we all left feeling very positive.

I cycled along to Melody to collect the unsold dried fruit from the LETS fair, and left 2 jars in swap for the little bottle of truffle oil that her son had prepared.  He did really well selling his chili oil, truffle oil and herb-infused oil.

I collected 2 logs in the snowstorm and came home, and watched the More 4 programme on how the British National Party got trashed at the last election.  Very interesting, a good watch.