Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday 31st May 10

Gill woke me up absolutely ecstatic. She'd found my shaver recharger. And it wasn't what I'd remembered what it looking like. Friends, this is what senility looks like. You are CONVINCED that the trimmer lead you are looking for is two-pronged and has a curly flex. You look everywhere and at one stage find the old one which does look like that... but the jack on the end fits your old, now dead, trimmer. You have the vision that the lead you are looking for is curly and has two prongs, and look everywhere for it. Your wife looks everywhere. Your wife finds all sorts of things which were lost, some of which are very welcome finds. You go to great lengths to get another one, as your beard continues growing and you don't want to look like a hairy monster... just a well groomed one. You even bother a friend who customises another piece of equipment to enable you to charge the bally thing.

Then the next morning Gill looks at a mini transformer doodah which has been sitting on a shelf in plain view all the time with various other bits of electrical nonsense... it is three pinned, has a straight flex... and it has 'Remington' written on the back. An OMG moment when you realise that you are fallible, have a faulty memory which leads you astray (no pun intended) and that you cannot totally trust your brain anymore. This must be what senility feels like.

So, I took my trimmer off Ben's charger, and tried to trim my beard. I managed half of it before the trimmer died on me. Ben's charger hadn't worked. So I plugged the gadget into the newly found charger and the green LED came on, indicating it was now charging.

I was disappointed that the weather was really nice and I could not help going outside and tidying. At lunchtime I came in and on a freecycle message, saw that someone was offering a garden parasol, something which Gill has been hankering after for a while. So I messaged the offerer and got a message back quite soon from my friend Linda, saying yes, I could have it. I hadn't recognised her freecycle name. She had got it from another freecycler but had realised it was too big for her little yard. So I said I'd go over within the hour to pick it up.

So I cycled over to South Bank and Linda was pleased to see me, and she was on good form, looking lovely and healthy and happy. The parasol looked perfect. Linda showed me her little compost bin, which she said I inspired her to have, and it was looking good too (not quite as attractive as Linda!) but good looking nevertheless. I offered to riddle it for her, to create a small sack of material to top-dress her many pots and planters. I'll do this in a few weeks when it's convenient for her.

So, home via Country Fresh where I picked up a box of gubbins and a sack too. I then spent some time down the garden, I dug out an old pallet bin and put all the contents in a builders one tonne bag. This allowed me to start filling the newly emptied pallet bin. Which is good as Gill was doing a lot of pruning and tidying, and had produced a lot of vegetation for this.

But I'm feeling torn as I really should be shutting myself away and sorting out the website which is going live soon. But I cannot let a good day go, and I've seen the weather forecast for tomorrow... rain all day! Which means I should be able to do the website...

I'd soaked some beans and boiled them on the stove last night, and Gill mixed this with some tomato/onion stuff, to have with rice. It was delicious.

After this I went round to Ben to give his big transformer back and he showed me that it would have charged the trimmer if I'd have put the voltage up a bit. He had also sourced a solar charger which might do the beard trimmer and will probably do mobile phones. He didn't want this and gave it to me... so I'll give him some more dried fruit, which he and Jill really like.

When I'd collected the 'resources' from Country Fresh I'd found perhaps 40 pears of usable condition in one of the boxes. So I spent over an hour loading up several drying racks with sliced pears. So I was again not in bed til after 2am.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sunday 30th May 10

Had quite a busy morning, up just after 9 and dealt with a slight hangover by having a large coffee and 2 paracetamol, and a shower.

I needed to be in tip top condition for work... Professor Fiddlesticks had been booked by Anna, the organiser of today's 'Multi Sports Day' near the Fulford end of the Millennium Bridge, which was due to run from 2 til 4pm. So I had an early lunch and got going with my bike trailer full of the usual gear at just after 1pm. I also took a couple of bags of dried apple rings for the LETS stall, and the York World Naked Bike Ride leaflets.

Stuff was already happening when I got there, and I secured a place on the path with my bike propped up against a lamp-post and immediately there were youngsters wanting to have goes on the unicycles. So I was busy for over 2 hours, unicycling and helping people with the 4 wheel unicycle, 2 wheel unicycle and occasionally the one wheeler. Oh, and rewarding people with balloons and doing some unicycle and devilsticking demos.

But it wasn't a perfect day... we had gusts of wind, strong enough to lift up some of the gazebos, rain showers and even a hailstorm, but several nice patches of sunshine. There were at least 100 people there, possibly up to double that, and it seemed that everybody had a good time. I was pleased to see quite a few of my friends, including Tony my WNBR friend who had collected the Yorkshire WNBR leaflet, half of them for Sheffield, half for York, and he'd also got some flags. These will be available on the York Ride, at a slightly discounted rate.

I packed up soon after 4pm as I'd had a phone call just before I'd set out from Randall, who wanted me to help fill in a Risk Assessment for the forthcoming CarFree Network Street Party, and he was due to come round at 5pm. I got in at 4.50, and then got a phone call from Rand saying he'd been moving paving slabs around with his bike trailer and would prefer not to have to cycle from Acomb to Hull Road... so could we do the meeting by Skype?

So we had a 1 hour 45 minute Skype call, filling in the documentation and raising several important questions. At the end of it Gill gave me a bowl of home-made celery soup which was delicious, and then home-made 'stuffed crust' pizza with salads, also delicious. Gill is an awesome cook, and knows it, and loves it. She's always saying how much she likes being a mother and looking after us. We are all damn lucky.

I visited Ben as he had offered a CFL bulb on freecycle which would fit our ceiling light socket in the front room (downlighters) and he also might have a solution to my shaver conundrum. He'd found a large heavy transformer, a box with knobs on which changes mains power to whatever voltage you set the dial at, and analyses whether things are shorting, etc. In return, I'm taking a box of waste metal to the recycling site for him.

Later I did the washing up and sorted through the bananas and set about 30 of them to dry, and left my shaver charging on Ben's machine.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Saturday 29th May 10

Well, Gill and I slept in, after a very long drawn-out game of Scrabble til 3am, which Gill won.

But I'd already arranged to meet Sarah or Sarah's housemate Jasmin at midday at the Scarcroft allotments with a trailer load of compost, so I had to get my skates on and have a quick breakfast, go and get the compost from down the garden, and loaded 7 sacks into my trailer. I also got 4 carrier bags of riddled compost for Country Fresh.

My other reason for heading into town today was to try to get a recharger lead for my beard trimmer. On the way into town, I met Ben and Jill and Ben had a quick dive into his room full of cables but found nothing... he suggested Argos, or failing that, eBay.

So, I dropped off the riddled compost at Country Fresh and got to Scarcroft Allotments on the dot of midday, and Jasmin was there waiting for me. It turned out that she is the daughter of a friend of mine, and has memories of having a Fiddlesticks party as a little girl. So I dropped off the compost and visited her allotment, and helped her pull out a bit on encroaching couch grass.

She invited me round to her house, actually a shared house owned by another friend of mine, in order to pay me for the compost. We had a cup of hot chocolate and a chat, and for someone so young, she has a really wise approach to life. She takes after her mother in this respect. I was really pleased to have got to know her a little bit.

Then I cycled into town to go to E. Roy, who has a tiny shop near the market, which sells all manner of electricals. But they didn't have the 240v to 3v dc converter with the 3.5mm jack, and he said I wouldn't be able to find it anywhere. I looked in Argos... but they only sell complete sets, minimum price is £20 for a new beard trimmer.

Called in to Country Fresh on the way back and they had a surfeit of bananas, so I now have a full box of ripe bananas to deal with.

I did a bit in the garden as it wasn't raining too much, and after a pasta-based tea, I went out to see my favourite local band, The Falling Spikes.

They were playing at a night called The Fuzz Club at City Screen. The first support band, Mon Mon, were not to my liking as there was too much shouting. The second band, Insect Guide, were better, with an interesting start. The guitarist got his iPhone which had a recording of a commentary from an Apollo mission or something similar, and he pressed the iPhone against the strings so the recording played through the guitar pickups. He used his effects pedals to do things with the sound too... very inventive! I also liked the fact that they had made their own backing video, which was projected onto the band. But I couldn't hear the female singer's words and I wasn't moved by this band.

However, The Falling Spikes, which is a six-piece... Rich my greengrocer buddy on drums, Moz on synth, 3 guitarists and a singer, they blew me away. I love what they do. There is so much going on... a wall of sound and lots of polyrhythms, an assault on the senses. This has the effect of making me very happy; it transports me to a different level of consciousness. At one stage, all the band walked off, leaving guitars up against the amps, giving shuddering feedback mixing with the synth playing some early Eno-esque or perhaps Kraftwerky noise. Brilliant.

I was pleased to meet Jan whom I met many years ago at Cafe No 8 on Gillygate, and Jenny, who looked happy with Moz, and filmed the whole gig on her mobile phone!

I got home at about half midnight. Tired and needing sleep.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Friday 28th May 10

Spent most of the morning writing. I did two Press Releases, one for the York World Naked Bike Ride and the other for the forthcoming website launch.

In the afternoon I cycled down to town to get some train tickets for next week, and then went to Boots to see if they had a replacement beard trimmer lead. They didn't, but the assistant gave me the phone number of Remington, who make the trimmer... and when I got home I rang them and was given another number for 'Shaver Spares'. So I rang them...and they didn't have a lead either.

On the way back from town I popped into Country Fresh and Martin was happy to load me up with several boxes and bags of stuff gone mouldy... so after phoning Shaver Spares, I did a lot of compost heap building. I spent quite a bit of time riddling compost too, as the shop needs re-stocking so I filled about 15 carrier bags with good fine rich compost. I'll take it down tomorrow. I might go to town again and see if E.Roy has a charging cable for the trimmer.

So, a quiet day.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Thursday 27th May 10

A quiet day... spent most of the morning sending photographs to my colleague in Canada, so he can help me decide which ones are suitable for the website, and doing publicity for the Fifth York World Naked Bike Ride. Oh, and washing up!

In the afternoon I planted about 20 sweetcorn plants in the raised bed... I needed to remove the old purple sprouting broccoli plants (which I fed through the shredder), and removed lots of American Land Cress which had self seeded itself all over. I left the self seeded perennial Spinach Beet and the self seeded Rainbow Chard. Then I broke up the hard ground with a fork, and sprinkled a sack of riddled compost all over this, and created a sort of grid of planting holes around the Chard and Spinach. I put a dollop of riddled compost in each of these and dug it into the base of the hole, then popped the sweetcorn into them, and watered them in. I hope we don't have any late frosts!

I did a load of pruning too, a renegade beech hedge, some unruly loganberry which has got to the wrong side of a fence and is making access to a water butt difficult, and I took a low hanging branch off the walnut too. All this was shredded and put in a tumbler with loads of waste fruit and veg stuff.

So, a busy day... too busy to remember that I should have gone to a lecture at the University at 6.30. I remembered at 10pm, too late to do anything about it. Duh me.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Wednesday 26th May 10

A good visit to York Cemetery today. I'd arranged a visit to John Waterston the Warden at 11am regarding the website which I'm collaborating with. I needed to take some photographs, but needed permission, and I also wanted to talk to him about some of the practices used in this cemetery.

We walked around the large Cemetery, which I know well as Gill and I have a plot booked, and about 20 years ago I planted a few trees on the new section. John told me assorted tales about life as a Cemetery Warden, and his plans, and how he deals with the public, and his employers the Trustees. All very interesting and I'll be able to say more once our website is launched.... not long now!

After the chat I took a few photographs with Gill's little camera, and I hope that my colleague in Canada likes some of them, and then the Warden allows us to use the ones that we want to use. Whilst wandering round, I chatted to a woman who was tending the grave of her parents, and I asked her if I could take a couple of photos, and I got her contact details in order to get permission to use these. Complicated stuff, but probably easier than having to purchase the rights to use images.

After the Cemetery, I called in on Alligator for three small bags of compostables, and then on into town as I needed to purchase a new journal/notebook. I'd been given a £10 WHSmith token over a year ago by one of Gill's sisters, and Gill had found it recently, so that's where I went. There were plain paper notebooks in 3 areas in the shop, and I eventually found one for £7. I queued up to pay for it, and was told that they didn't give change. Oh bother... what to do? I then spent another half hour trying to find something useful for as little over £3 as I could, and found lots of lovely books for around £20, but finally plumped for a tiny book called 101 Grow to Eat Ideas, by Gardeners' World Magazine, for £5. This checkout person told me that I could have put the £3 on a a card to spend later.... but I decided that as I'd spent half an hour trying to find the £5 book, I might as well have it. So, it took me an hour to spend a £10 token and a £2 coin. You can see I'm not very good at shopping.

Home via Country Fresh, where Richard's brother, Martin, who owns the shop, told me a woman had come in and bought all the carrier-bags of compost that I'd taken in... about 6 of them I think, and had given him £15 for the lot. Gill says this is a good price as in the Co-op, you can get an entire grow-bag for £1.15... but methinks this must be peat-based, and my stuff is really rich and needs to be mixed with other less rich soils, or top-dressed on existing growing media. So I was happy with my £15 and Martin asked me to bring in more bags. I'm delighted it's being used!

Home by about 2pm, lunch and some quiet indoor time, before doing a little bit outside.

In the evening I had a meeting at The Black Swan with my two friends from the World Naked Bike Ride.... we discussed publicity and permissions and stewards and many other things. It is all coming together well.

Home by 11pm, lit the stove, hot water for Gill to soak her feet and me to do the washing up, a pretty normal evening.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tuesday 25th May 10

A reasonable day... both boys have a tummy bug and are off school, but they just read and did stuff on their computers/DS. Gill too was achy and found a that the medicine she is taking to deal with her painful ankle is affecting her kidneys and making her ankles swell up... back to the drawing board on that one then.

I spent the morning doing assorted emails, a Fiddlesticks booking, and a phone chat with the Cemetery Warden who has agreed to see me tomorrow. Also a brief chat with my Aunty who might be visiting this neck of the woods soon... she hasn't seen where we live so that would be nice.

But I spent most of the day in the garden... a bit of planting but I got distracted by a compost bin which needed emptying... well, two did, the finished bin, which is an old tumbler which has come off it's stand and is effectively a static barrel, and when I'd unloaded this into several sacks, I transferred the dalek-bin contents which have been sitting and rotting quietly for a year or more into the now available barrel. The tumbler, whilst in use (before I rescued it from a skip) had been gnawed by rats, and they had made one of the aeration holes a bit bigger. So I utilised this hole to carefully put a courgette plant in, so it will grow (I hope!) directly into the compost as it continues to rot down. I'm quite pleased with that!

I also got distracted by ground elder, which I now need to eradicate from the raised beds next to where the hedge was and is now replaced by the wall. I will need to remove the roots for several years to get rid of this weed.

After tea, which for me included some very stringy purple sprouting broccoli, the last of, I unicycled down to the Co-op for cereals for me and muffins for the children. I couldn't be bothered to get my bike out, nor could i be bothered to walk, as I wanted to get back for 9pm to see the Science programme on TV.

Spent some time on the new website later on, to edit a few bits. We'll be launching it next week!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Monday 24th May 10

I think it was quite a good day... I did get quite a bit done and nothing terrible happened.

Although I went to bed at 3am last night, I was up just after 9 this morning and feeling fine, and soon got myself on my bike with the paperwork needed to pay our Council Tax and re-subscribe to Resource Magazine, which is always a good read.

So I got cheques out and then went to the City Treasury to pay in half of our annual Council Tax. We have the opportunity to use PayPoint in a local shop, but this would be connected to our bank account, and I don't pay the Council Tax from this... I always pay from my Fiddlesticks income, from the Fiddlesticks Building Society account, so I'll continue to pay twice a year, using a cheque from this account. I did find out though that I could get a cheque out made payable to The Post Office, and use a card (which is being sent to me) to get that paid on to the Council. I had a 20 minute wait at the Council Treasury, as they no longer have the numbers of staff that they used to, so I might use the Post Office option next time.

I visited Dylan at Millers Yard, but someone else had taken his last bag of orange halves, shock horror, for their allotment. I was delighted!

Then back through town, collecting halved lemons from the lemonade stall, and visited Rich at Country Fresh and came home.

After lunch I did some paperwork (an invoice, emails, several phone calls) and sent a reply to the US Composting Council about the Sierra Club's new proposed policy on composting and then outside, yet more foodplant stuff, getting the last tomato plant potted up, and some of the squashes and beans outside in the radiator raised beds.

At teatime I was informed that our eldest had to take 500g of cooking apple into school tomorrow for his 'food technology' so he can make apple crumble, so I cycled down to Country Fresh again and got two cooking apples (550g, allowing 10% waste for peel and core... clever, eh?) plus a large load of blood oranges which are past their best, bruising a pale powdery blue colour... They'll be absolutely fine on my compost heap, though.

So, finance, paperwork of the electronic kind, phone calls, assorted eco activism on the web, making potting mix, planting plants, riddling compost, collecting compostables, building another layer on the heap, seems like a good active day.

During the evening I told all my German friends about the forthcoming screenings of The Age of Stupid in German, had a discussion about vaccination and immunisation on facebook, stimulated by my delight that Andrew Wakefield has been struck off the Medical Register for unethical practices, and played a bit of Scrabble... and washed up, and washed and blanched grapes ready for drying into raisins.

Oh, and watched the Community Channel on Freeview to see assorted Age of Stupid stuff. Which as usual had me in tears. Wonderful, still!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunday 23rd May 10

Working today, at the Colitis and Crohn's fundraising walk. So I had a fairly quiet morning, got my bike and circus gear ready and had an early lunch. I cycled down to the Museum Gardens in costume as it is close enough for me to do that, and I didn't want to have to get changed there, in the Hospitium. John Gray the organiser was there, pleased with the huge turnout. There was a really good band playing, the Brampton Community Band based in Chesterfield.

My role was to do a bit of entertaining whilst the band played, then at 2pm do a 30 minute performance, and then whilst the band did a second set, give out balloon models. John gave me a NACC teeshirt, which is red like my costume, so I exchanged what I had on for the more appropriate themed tee shirt. I did some unicycling and then a load of devilsticking to the nice boppy music, then it was my turn. I got some children to move a bit closer and then did the first half of my show/workshop, which went well. Then I had a half hour or more of kids queuing for balloon animals. When the event finished, I stayed back to pick up all the burst balloons from the finish line, to bring them back for composting.

I was pleased to learn that this event had raised about £13,000, which will be spent on research into the condition/s.

I came home via the lemonade stall at the bottom of Parliament St, to collect their halved lemons, Richard at Country Fresh, for a box of stuff, and Freshways for whatever they had, which was just one small bag. But they did have two other bags of fruit/veg, been put into the skip, so I left them but made a mental note to return later.

Was glad to get home and have a cool-off, took my laptop upstairs and played a bit of Scrabble and answered a composting enquiry on facebook, on the 'Organic Gardening 101' page. At about 5pm I popped back out to collect the sacks of resources from Freshways, and found about 40 packets of biscuits in the bin. Not sure what I'll do with them but I think they'll come in useful for something... cheesecake base anyone? Then I had tea, a burgery thing in a bap, made from yesterday's grain mixed with beans and fried in a burger shape, made with a hommous pot mould.

Then I worked in the garden til 10pm, potting up more plants for the conservatory, another layer on the compost heap, enjoying birdsong and the relative cool of the evening.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Saturday 22nd May 10

An incredibly busy day, despite a medium lie in and almost unbearable heat.

I have work tomorrow so I went to put my shaver on charge, but Gill has reorganised the bedroom and the flex to plug it in has gone missing. She spent quite a bit of the day sorting through things trying to find it. It might be that I just have more facial hair than I prefer when I do tomorrow's gig. She's felt frustrated for much of the day.

So whilst Gill was doing things inside, I was busy with foodplants in the garden. I planted 9 beans and 2 cauliflowers and a butternut squash in one of the raised beds. I filled another load of planters and put in a variety of stuff I already had, but then mid-afternoon I cycled over to Brunswick Organic Nursery in Bishopthorpe and spent Gill's two £10 vouchers she got from York Rotters for making a cake or cakes. I got 4 tomatoes, 6 squash, a melon (I've never grown melon before), some basil, 6 purple sprouting broccoli, 6 calabrese and 8 sweetcorn.

I cycled home carefully and slowly and didn't bounce the plants too much. I planted the melon in a tub in the conservatory. I put several beans by the side of the shared path, where they can grow up against my log piles, which won't be used over the summer so they'll make a good support, well I hope so. Gill thinks our neighbour won't be happy about it but I think he won't mind. They aren't in the way.

I had tea upstairs in the bedroom as the family were all wallowing in Dr Who. I had a basic grain and veg dish with crispy-fried Oyster mushrooms. Lovely. I listened to a bit of Tracey Smith's DJ-ing on her Hospital Radio show on Apple AM, and when that finished, I half dozed and half played Scrabble on facebook.

Then I got up and had a solar powered shower... the panel has got the cylinder up to 85 degrees Celsius today, and the shower was lovely and used no gas. Great!

Later, I watched Michael Moore's film on Capitalism in America. Watch this and you'll understand why I do not support the Capitalist status quo. It is a system which generates a huge gap between the rich and poor, squanders resources, peddles false dreams such as stuff makes you happy, more stuff makes you more happy, and it is just wrong. I'm not a Communist wanting everybody to be equal, as Communism didn't work well either. I want a Co-operative Democratic Green revolution.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Friday 21st May 10

A late start to the day, not surprising since I was up til 3am. It is a constant question as to why I am nocturnal if left to my own devices.

But once I was up, I had a busy day... a teeny bit of woodchopping, planting out beans and squash, preparing a bit more growing medium, compost heap adding, also several phone calls, a pile of emails, letters to answer.

I went down to the Cemetery at about 2.30, to get some photos, and as I'm essentially a polite and law-abiding person, I asked in the office, where one of the team was working. She explained that taking photos in such a sensitive place as a cemetery wasn't really allowed without permission, and the Warden was back on Monday. This meant I couldn't take any today as I need to discuss it with the Warden, and explain why I want the images.

So, onto Alligator, to pick up a week's worth of compostables, and then to Richard to buy groceries and then his compostables. Unfortunately I put the bag with fruit, veg and eggs in my pannier and then as I was loading the 'resources' into the trailer the bike fell over. When I got home, I found two eggs were broken. It's not often I waste food.

Then home, in time to be there for our eldest to get let in before Gill came in with our youngest, who's school is further away.

I went to an appointment with my GP at 5pm, calling in on Oxfam for a big tub of Cafe Direct fair trade coffee. When I had my bike crash a few days ago, I continued moving forward as my bike stopped, and I banged my groin onto the handlebar stem. Then a day or two later I found a lump in the same place, which Gill thought might be a hernia or a burst blood vessel, so I went to wave it at my Doctor. Also, my lipoma on my forehead is getting bigger and about two people a week ask me "Have you bumped your head?", and at a meeting recently, I noticed one of the other participants looking at it quite a lot. That was a bit offputting and annoying. I think I know how it feels when men talk to a woman's cleavage (well, a bit). The lump wasn't a hernia and I've got to go back if it's not gone in a month. The lipoma could be removed but as it would be considered cosmetic surgery, it won't be done on the NHS and I'd have to go privately. Not sure what to do. I'll get a referral to a plastic surgeon who will tell me what could be done and how.

A bit later when at home again, I picked a lovely little bunch of Oyster mushrooms from a log which I had nearly given up on... it has some other fungi in it, but the Oyster mycelium has grown through the soil from one of the first logs I inoculated, which has (I think!) finished fruiting, but the same strain is now growing from this other log. It had 3 clumps on it, so I picked the biggest and I'll take some photos of the other clumps when they are a bit more mature.

Here's the clump I picked today:

And here's me looking happy with the crop:

I know what's for tea tomorrow!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Thursday 20th May 10

A morning full of phone calls, paperwork and pretty boring stuff... and the afternoon I did a lot of work in the conservatory and on the lawn just out the back, preparing growing medium for pots. I filled one huge ceramic planter with a branch for support, 4 Chinese Yams, 2 beans and a cucumber. I did a large plastic pot with a tomato, bean and yam. Another pot with 3 beans only, and another pot with a tomato and I think a bean and a yam.

I have space for another 15 large pots... but preparing enough growing medium for all those will be quite a job. I'll be going to Brunswick Organic Nursery soon to get a few more different tomato plants, hopefully a bit more interesting than the Shirley and Tumbler that I've just put in.

Gill made chips to go with the pastie and salads, which was nice as we don't have chips very often. Then I went to a Car Free Day meeting, with people from York and Ryedale Friends of the Earth, and we had good conversations at the Seahorse Hotel. Our slogan for the Car Free Day on 22nd September is 'Walk It, Bike It, Bus It'. We have some interesting plans but I cannot divulge them as some bigwigs have to make some decisions before we can move forward.

I got in at about 10pm, and at about 11 I lit the stove to get enough hot water for the washing up.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Wednesday 19th May 10 The Day I Fell In Love With A Ridan

Today I went to Durham by train... I got the 8.30 and was in Durham by 9.15, with my bike, minus trailer. I'd been on Googlemaps the previous evening to work out about travel, and had seen that Houghton Le Spring was only 7 miles from the train station in Durham, so I took my bike (but not my trailer, as these aren't welcome on trains).

I'd memorised the route and it didn't take long to get to where I thought I needed to be, but I took a turning off the main road a bit early, and cycled through an office estate before going back to the A690 and going a bit further North. I was looking for a sign to the A1052, but it wasn't advertised on the A690 so I cycled past that exit, thinking it must be the next one! But there was a steep hill through a cutting and I walked up this, and asked a local, who told me I'd overshot the mark, so I went back and soon found Dairy Lane and Houghton Kepier Sports College, where Dan from Ridan was due to install his lovely Ridan Composter. Terry King the Estates Manager met me and proudly showed me round... first to the readout from the newly installed wind turbines. This readout shows how much they are generating now, how many Kwh they have generated, and how many kilos of carbon they have stopped going into the atmosphere. Then Terry took me to see the gardening area, with greenhouse and raised beds, and a few food plants, and then to the field next to the A690 where the wind turbines, capable of generating 6Kw each, are situated. These were put up in February (see Sunderland Echo) and underneath, they've planted an orchard of mini fruit trees, and some soft fruit in a fruit cage.

As we were walking away from here, and Terry was telling me about the automatic light switcher offers in the classrooms, he got a message saying that Dan from Ridan had arrived.

He had driven from Devon with two Ridans, one in the van and one on a trailer. Several Sunderland City Council people arrived, as funding has come from them. I helped carry the Ridan out of the van... it was quite light, just 60kg, and it was placed in the bins area just outside the kitchen door. There was a raised area next to where the machine was placed, which means that access to the entrance hatch won't need a stepladder. The second stage of the process requires a fairly long 'sit and wait' in a compost bin called a worm bin, and one of the two supplied was installed next to the Ridan. The other will go up near the wind turbines in the orchard, although the idea is to fill one, then the other and let the first rot down. I wonder if the school intends to dig out the one nearest the machine and bucket it over to the second one? I'm sure they will work something out!

So, what is it about the Ridan that I love? It's the simplicity and the sturdiness. It is a plastic tube with a volume of 400 litres. This is double skinned with an air gap between the two... and then surrounded by an insulating blanket about 5 cm thick. Along the length of the tube is an axle with a series of arms which sweep through the material when the handle at the end is turned.

A nice design feature is that this handle is geared, meaning that it is easy to turn, and about 6 turns of this handle gives just one rotation of the inner axle. When the unit is full of a third of a tonne of material, this system should make aerating the material reasonably easy.
For every bucket of food waste... and it will take meat and cooked/processed foods too, an equal volume of woodchip needs to be poured in. Ideally, if it receives 150 litres a week, the material will take about a fortnight to pass through and fall out of the exit hole at the other end. This won't be fully composted but will easily rot down in the static compost bin. The Ridan should easily enable the contents to get to 60 degrees Celsius for several days, pasteurising it and rendering it down to an easy to compost worm food, and thence on to a brilliant soil-improver.

Dan did a brief training session.... it's hardly complicated... and then he had to get off to his next delivery, a National Trust property in the Lake District. I cheekily asked if I could have a lift to as far as the A1(M) so I put my bike in the van and got that lift. From there it was a quick cycle down into Durham, getting to the station at midday, just 3 minutes before a Southbound train pulled in. I was home for lunch just after 1pm.

I didn't do a lot during the afternoon, until the children came home, and then I got busy in the conservatory, filling up a couple of the planters ready for tomatoes and cucumber plants, which will go in tomorrow.

I will do a report for York Rotters and City of York Council about this composter, as I think it is well worth trying out here in York, probably at a school, or perhaps the Environment Centre. Of course, I'd love one, as it would be a lot easier than having all the different smaller tumblers and dalek bins. For me, this composter has overtaken the Rocket in my affections... it is lots cheaper, doesn't need electricity, and can still legally 'do' cooked food.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tuesday 18th May 10

First thing I loaded up the trailer with two sacks of mature unriddled compost, and a sample carrier bag of riddled. My friend Dave B asked me to take some round to the Chemistry Department of the University of York, as there's someone there who wants to rejuvenate some old tired growing media in half barrels, and to grow some veggies.

Then I cycled down to Cycle Heaven as my bike needs the back wheel kissing better and the back brake stroking back into working order. When down there I also asked them to replace the saddle, as my synthetic saddle has fallen apart and I have been considering a leather saddle, which should last many times as long.

I was given a nice little Brompton to get back home on, and I called in to the Building Society to put Jenny's cheque in for the compost I took round ages ago.

Then I popped in on my friend who is doing a detox to try to conquer alcoholism, and said I'd visit after lunch.

At about 3, I got a load of compost bagged up for Nick to pick up, as requested. Then at 4, back down to Cycle Heaven to pick up my machine, which has a repaired back wheel and responsive brakes. However, they didn't have the saddle that they wanted to sell to me, so that'll wait for next time.

Then I paid the water bill and came home via Country Fresh, to pick up 3 sacks of compostables.

I got home at about 5 which is when Nick said he'd visit. He gave me £20 for 3 sacks of unriddled and 1 sack of riddled.

Soon after this I had a pastie and salads for tea, and went to the Hull Road Planning Panel, at Tang Hall Community Centre. There were quite a few 'student' related applications, including several registrations of houses being re-designated 'Houses in Multiple Occupation' after legislative changes in April, and a huge 330 bed student accommodation on the Dairy site.

I'd taken the final bag of compost to the Planning Panel to deliver to Julie the Freecycler on the way back. This was a single sack of riddled, and she'd previously had 4 sacks of unriddled. I also let her have a bit of dried fruit... and she gave me £20 as well. So, today I've been paid £40 for compost, paid in a £15 cheque and delivered two sacks for which Dave said he'd give me something! A totally composty day!

During the evening I did a load of washing up and made the decision to go to Durham on the train tomorrow, and cycle the 7 miles to Houghton Le Spring to go to the Houghton Kepier Sports College, where Dan from Ridan is delivering one of his lovely machines.

He intends to be there at 10am, so I think I'll get the 8.30 to Durham, arriving at 9.13, and I should get to the College at the same time... with luck!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Monday 17th May 10

First thing I popped round to my alcoholic friend who is undergoing a detox today, in an attempt to kick the habit. Gill and I gave a card wishing good luck.

Then a meeting in town then a trip to Sainsbury's to get nice bread, and I met my good friend Jonathan in there and we chatted for at least half an hour. I again visited my friend, and will do so several times over the next few days. Lots of support needed.

Home for lunch. And then a good afternoon preparing compost for sale... three sacks to go down the road to Julie the Freecycler, and a request for two to go to the Chemistry Department to enrich some existing potting media, so a few veggies can be grown in the courtyard. I'm really enjoying my composting... I'm also making a container mix for this year's tomatoes and cucumbers: I have 5 sackfuls already but I need quite a bit more.

I came in just after 6 for tea... bought pizza, sweetcorn and peas, new potatoes.

Then at 7 I left to attend a York In Transition Directors meeting at Barry's house which was a nice ride over the Millennium Bridge and Racecourse. The key thing at this meeting was meeting Mike, who may become our Treasurer. Mike is fairly new to York, but is an experienced Director and Charity Trustee, so we may have a lot to learn from him.

It was a good meeting... I took my laptop and took minutes during it, so when I got back I could just send them out to the participants. I called in on Anna on the way back as I had a donations tub... but it wasn't hers and probably lives at St Nicks, on Ivana's desk. She was pleased to hear of our meeting.

I picked up two pallets on the way home, ripe for conversion into firewood. As I did my emails and blog, I enjoyed a history of the railways on 'Quest'.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday 16th May 10

A good day as I had no appointments or particular jobs to do... so I did a lot of garden work, including sorting out chopped hedge sticks so I can build the raised bed next to the fence in the orchard, weeding, riddling compost and soil for planters.

During part of the day the boys went into the garden and hit lots of plants with sticks, so I then had to spend quite a bit of time tidying this mess up. They were mainly Green Alkanet, which is a bit of a weed in our garden. I quite often pull a load up as it's good bulk for the compost heap, but I like some left as they are good for bees too. The smashed up plants I pulled up to compost, but the long tap root is difficult to remove and it always grows back. But smashed plants aren't good to look at.

So I also cleared up lots of plastic sacks, so it was a mainly tidying day.

I had a big pile of ground elder for tea, with the rems of the nutloaf and some noodles and stir-fried veggies, including the last Shiitake mushroom off the oak log in the garden.

In the evening I had a quite a lot of assorted admin to do, with Naked Bike Ride stuff, York in Transition stuff, and more. I enjoyed Countryfile as it featured a nice chap growing loads of Shiitake in Welsh woods.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Saturday 15th May 10

Quite a busy day, starting with getting to St Nicks for 10am to welcome Pete Redwood, who had come all the way from Hunmanby near Scarborough to present an introduction to EcoCell.

The Christian Ecology Link originally started out as a group within the Ecology Party, (which became the Green Party) but it soon became independent of any political party and is also non-denominational, not aligned to any particular church. EcoCell has been developed as a CD, a series of files which cover the basics of greening one's life (energy, resources, waste, water, etc) and has a section for a facilitator and a section for the 'congregation member', as it is aimed at churches. There is a section in the CD which has a religious element, but this can be skipped if not wanted, and I found the sample workshop very accessible.

The event had about 10 people there, some Quakers, a gentleman new to York whom i liked very much, several people I knew already, and a woman from Hong Kong who arrived late. The intro lasted about an hour, after which John Brierley took most of the visitors out onto the reserve for a tour.

At about 1pm, I was able to get off, and I paid a quick visit to the St Nicks compost heap with a donation, and home for a very quick lunch, as at 2pm there was a rally in Kings Square about voting reform... Take Back Parliament. This was organised by the student group 'People and Planet' so there were loads of students there, but some of us oldies too!

Hugh Bayley spoke, as did Christian Vassie, Green Councillor Dave Taylor, a politics lecturer and the chap from People and Planet.

Then we marched through the streets, arriving back at Kings Square within the hour.

I came home and got busy in the garden... more of the usual but also preparing for putting in some raised beds next to the relatively new fence in the orchard.

In the evening I made a facebook page for my friend Dawn's fundraising run in aid of the Dr Hadwen Trust on 22nd May.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Friday 14th May 10

A much more relaxing day than yesterday. I was woken up at 8 to cut my youngest son's fingernails, and I came down for breakfast and went on the computer for half an hour but went back to bed and slept til 1pm... I must have needed it.

I felt a lot better for that and had a positive day, despite not getting my website work done again! I have set myself a deadline though.

But I did do some website work... I got Gill to take a head and shoulders photo of me, which I think looks sober enough for the intended use.

I did assorted jobs in the house until our eldest got home, then cycled down to Country Fresh and Alligator to do my compost pick ups. I took a photo of my mate Richard outside his shop (ok, his brother's shop!):
Then I went to the Cemetery to take some photos for the website... and got there just as it closed at 4.30. What bad timing... I didn't know it shut so early.

I'll have to try to fit in a visit there over the weekend.

I spent an hour in the garden and at 6pm, Vicky came round. I'd advertised the RHS Plantfinder book on Freecycle... my lovely Auntie had given it to me, but I've no space on the bookshelves and it's not really a book that I would use, as it's about all the different plant varieties and which nurseries stock them. I got about 6 replies, and one of them was Vicky, who is the Clerk of the Planning Panel, and she's just joined Freecycle, and said she would find the list of plants very useful for her work, which is helping an architect make the paper plans better, with landscape elements... including planting schemes.

So Vicky got the book... not the other very deserving enquirers. She said hello to the family and then had a wander down the garden. I gave her a couple of climbing pea bean plants, as she's just making a raised veg bed......

I had tea, a rice-based dish with chopped-up vegan hot dog sausages in, from Rakesh. I watched Gardener's World.

Then I went out again to feed a load of pruned-off branches through the shredder and put a woody layer on the current heap. Came in just before 10, as a facebook friend Sean, who organises the Manchester World Naked Cycle Ride said he'd be on TV, on 'Opinionated' which is a dire programme which I'll never watch again. It was a very brief interview anyway, no film or photos.

Enjoyed Jools Holland as usual, and the LCD Soundsystem, and chopped up another load of fruit for drying.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Thursday 13th May 10

A very busy day, with three meetings and a potentially relaxing gig... with me as an audience member!

My first appointment was with a group called York Probus, who are a group of retired ex-professional 'gentlemen' who meet once or twice a month to go on a visit, have a talk, experience companionship. They meet at a pub on the Shipton Road, gathering at 9.45 with a speaker at 10.15 til 11, then a beer in the bar. They had a bit of business first, and 'wired me for sound' so I was amplified, and introduced me

I started with a few minutes introducing myself, then moved onto resource depletion and explained about Hubbert's peak, and what peak oil actually means and how the post-peak situation might pan out. Then I went onto the results of all this oil use... CO2 levels in the atmosphere rising from a pre Industrial Revolution level of 280parts per million, to today's 390, with many scientists saying a safe level for a habitable Planet is 350ppm. I explained a bit about the predicted direct results of too much greenhouse (sea level rise, bigger, more frequent storms, floods, droughts, species extinction) and the indirect result of some of these things, including migration, changing patterns of disease, famine. Then we got onto what the talk was supposed to be about: 'The Green Way Forward' (their title, not mine!) which included info about personal changes such as diet, renewable energy, lower carbon energy, reducing resource use, personal carbon trading/rationing, localisation. And I mentioned political solutions, tech solutions, community solutions, intergovernmental solutions.

Then it was 'over to you' and the first off the mark was a retired banker (!) who launched into 'we don't know if CC is natural or human induced' and 'individual actions are futile' and 'that volcano produced more CO2 than several year's worth of human emissions... I was glad to have memorised the correct estimated figures for that to shoot him down on that, making his other arguments look a bit crap. There were several other deniers but also some 'agreers' which was reassuring.

I could have continued for a lot longer, as could the audience I think... but we had to stop. There was a vote of thanks afterwards, and the old chap doing that told me that I had presented the most challenging talk they'd ever had (I'm proud of that!) and although he didn't feel any wiser, he did have a lot to think about! YES!!!

I had a coffee with a few of them in the bar afterwards, and chatted/argued for an hour... and they told me most people have a quick drink and are gone in 20 minutes, so I'd lasted much longer than they expected! They had done a collection basket and this ended up with £55 in it, which is destined to be given to York in Transition.

I decided to pop in on my new friend Jenny, who had some compost off me and wanted to write me a cheque for that. I really like her company... I could have stayed there all afternoon but I had to get back for lunch and my second meeting at 2.30. But I briefly popped into see Dylan at Miller's Yard to pick up his orange skins and coffee grounds (what a mix!) and then home via Freshways who only had a small amount for me.

A very quick lunch and immediately back on my bike to go to South Bank to Millthorpe School. This was through Freecycle... a teacher involved in the special needs class had asked for gardening materials.. and I'd replied, not sure exactly what, but offering help and compost, no doubt! She is wanting to do some raised beds or planters, and wanted to engage my 'expertise' which I told her was not as much as some of the gardeners I knew, but she seemed determined to keep me involved, and what I have to do now is send her lots of information about assorted composting equipment, planters, nurseries, and sources of information. She's working on a funding bid, and if she gets this, she said she'll pay me as a consultant!

From here I cycled swiftly over to St Nicks to attend the 3.30 York Rotters Management meeting. this was a really good meeting, as we reviewed the past year's work. On most areas, we exceeded our targets. We looked through some research that the Council commissioned, which showed that 55% of York residents had heard of York Rotters, and 12% of these had used our services in some way... which means that about 6% of people in York have used our services... a considerable number, if true! So, that was a very upbeat meeting and I'm really glad that Sara the recycling officer is back with us, after maternity leave.

I got back home quite near to 6pm, and settled down for a quiet hour, had tea, but at 7, had to go out again! My old friend Rakesh is standing for election with the Co-op Board, and he had asked me to be his proposer. So I cycled along to the Rowntrees part of town and spent a bit of time with him, signed the papers, and at 8, went to the Clarence St Working Men's Club, where I thought the CarFree Cities Fundraiser was taking place. But it wasn't. I realised it was at the Lawrence St Working Men's Club, duh! So I cycled all the way back to my side of town, parked my bike and paid my fiver to sit and listen to Helgi's band 'Hot Fudge' who were very good (I enjoyed listening to the female lead guitarist and singer), and a band I didn't like as much, Standard Fare. I read lots of Permaculture magazine, but had a few good chats to Kate, Dave, Rory, Ginevra, Owen, Graham and others.

Home by 11.30. Knackered but very happy.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wednesday 12th May 10

Well, an interesting day. The morning went quickly, dealing with emails and doing the first washing up of the day. I totally understand why people choose to have machines which take care of this chore. But I do the washing up in mainly wood-heated water, and now, if the stove isn't hot, solar-heated water to dissolve the grease and food residues. I'm very good at washing up in very limited water too... I'm not wasteful, as you'd expect... especially as I'm paying for it!

So, lunch at 1pm, as usual, and then at 1.45 a booked-in visit from Freecycling Julie, who offered a large tree root on Freecycle a few days ago, which I asked for and she offered it to me. When I was at her tidy garden, I asked her whether she composted, as I didn't see a compost bin. She told me she was about to get one from her mother, so I said that if she'd like any help installing it, I'd be happy to help.

So today she came with her fella, Justin, and they came in and saw the stove and dried fruit, then came down the garden to see the assorted compost systems. We collected some worms and I gave them a sack of twiggy bits for the base of their new heap. They left to go and do something else, and invited me to come round at 3.30 to help install the bin.

This meant that no-one would be in when our eldest was due to come home, so we put a little note on the door telling him to come round the back, where there's a hidden key to the back door.

I went to see Julie and Justin, and Julie had already dug a bit of a trench, as I suggested, to allow the 220 litre bin to be pushed down into the soil a bit. Justin found some chicken wire and cut it to a good size, and we installed the bin, which is as rodent-proof as a compost bin can get. Then the twiggy bits and worms were put in, and Julie had saved a couple of days worth of food scraps and paper, so they went in too. I am very happy that I've helped another household start reducing their waste footprint. And I think Julie is a potential Master Composter, as she wants to do the York Rotters training. They gave me some wood offcuts and ordered some compost and dried fruit.

I cycled home and the boys were in, and Gill ushered me into the back room to tell me something. As she'd been coming down the road, she'd seen a man on a push-bike turn into our shared driveway. When she got there a couple of minutes later, the bike was thrown down near our front door. Gill let our youngest in and put her bike into the hall, and he came out of the back room saying that there was a man in the conservatory. Gill told him to go in the front room and she'd deal with it.

As she was in the kitchen about to unlock the back door, he was facing away and looking around. When she put the key in the door, he turned around and when she opened the door, she said "Can I help you?" He replied politely that he was sorry to have frightened her and was looking for T***** R****, to which Gill said she'd never heard of that person and he didn't live here, and that she wasn't frightened. He said that he'd better go, and turned to go back out of the conservatory. Gill said, come through the house, and could he pull the conservatory outer door shut please. She asked again, who was he looking for, and he said the same name. She was firm and polite, and took control of the situation. He apologised again for causing alarm, and left.

A bit later, Gill was in the conservatory and asked me if I'd moved a box of wine glasses (which I'd found in a skip a few months ago) and, no, I hadn't, so our uninvited visitor must have. It was then that I suggested we ring the police and report what had happened. They were very interested, especially when Gill said the name of the person he was allegedly searching for. This name was well-known to the police. They asked us not to use the conservatory as they would dust it for fingerprints. So a bit later, two very sweet and young Community Support Officer girlies came round and took Gill's story, and then at 11pm, two 'real' police came to interview her, and warn us to be more careful with security. We told both our neighbours about what had happened. As nothing had been taken, they decided not to check for fingerprints.

So, an interesting day, not all of it nice though.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Tuesday 11th May 10

A pretty quiet day in many ways. I did a lot of housework and some work on the computer, sliced up two pineapples and 8 kiwi fruit for drying, and did some compost heap management, a bit of chainsawing, some riddling, and bagging up of the clay soil from the wall excavations. Oh, and I installed this year's bean poles, some rescued long branches which I decided not to chop for firewood, as I thought ahead to their possible use.

I went to the Co-op in the afternoon, as Gill asked me to, and popped into a friend who is preparing to conquer her alcoholism, she hopes! I'm going to give her some support next week when she starts going through her detox. She will need a lot of strength and good luck. I went to the Co-op shop and then decided to go and visit Freshways... I didn't go yesterday which is when they do a big stock rotation and throw out an average of 40kg of fruit and veg. So I went there and picked it up (they'd put it round the back) and met a friendly student called Geeta, whom I know from the People and Planet Allotment. She'd gone to Freshways to buy candles... so I said, "I can give you some if you want.... as I've got bags of them in the loft, left over from assorted skip-diving."

So she came back and I found about 10 different candles for her and then took her on a tour down the garden to see the trees (all in bloom and at their prettiest) the Shiitake mushrooms, and the composting and recycling, etc. I think she enjoyed the visit. I enjoyed her visit, it feels good to give stuff unexpectedly!

An equally quiet evening. Tea was foraged sweet chestnuts (dried one Autumn, and then soaked and boiled), home grown Shiitake, rescued onion, and a bought tomato all cooked up together, with a toastie with blue cheese and black olive paste in it. Tasty stuff! Also had a nice Googletalk conversation with my Canadian friend/colleague Rory and made plans for a visit next month to Manchester, for the Spencer Tunick exhibition and the World Naked Bike Ride.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Monday 10th May 10

I got up in time to say bye to the kids.

Then it was paperwork time... I finally managed to get some admin done which I've been avoiding for a while, and posted it off. Went to the bread shop for a large bag of 'Yesterbake' rescued bread... this was baked on Saturday, not sold on that day, and available at quarter price today.

I did a lot more dried fruit, some washing up, a bit of outdoor gardening (OK, composting, I confess!), and some pallet smashing.

Then I tried an experimental tomato planting experiment, inspired by Tracey Smith.

How to do Upside Down Tomato Plants with Tracey Smith from Tracey Smith on Vimeo.
I had rescued 3 large plastic milk bottles last night from someone's recycling on Thief Lane (!), the biggest sort, and washed them out with hot water off the stove. Then today I cut off the bottoms with scissors and carefully filled the first few centimetres around the pouring hole with home made seed compost (not too rich) and then above that, richer soil. I laid this on it's side, and carefully made a small hole in the seed compost. Then I took a side shoot off a tumbler tomato and inserted it into the compost. I'm hoping that these will root and then be able to be hung up. I did this with two bottles and two side shoots, each less than 2 cm long. Then I took the mother plant, squashed the root ball and cut the milk exit-hole a bit to allow the insertion of the root ball... and then I put a load of compost mix in the bottle around the roots. I'd made some holes in the base of the bottle (the top, if upside-down) and used re-used string from potato sacks to make a hanging device... and then hung this in the conservatory. I expect the big one to do fine, but don't know about the cuttings.

I enjoyed Gill's mushroom omlette and asparagus, and then went to Ben's for a LETS meeting... actually a seminar to learn about the new YorkLETS website, which is really good. Ben talked us through what the non-logged-in visitor would see, what a logged-in member would see, and how to use the site. Then he explained about the different levels of access... member, committee member, administrator, and we had a go at uploading the newsletter, doing things to peoples' accounts and doing some trading. Magic... this makes LETS come right into the 21st Century and is a lot more user-friendly. And I enjoyed Jill's home-made ickle cakes... yummy!

Home at about 10pm, to do assorted computery-based activities until my usual bed-time of well past 1am.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Sunday 9th May 10

Gill woke me with a question.. do you want the good news or the bad news?

The good news was that she'd done a bit of tidying up and had found the envelope which had contained the birthday card from my Auntie Lizzie. I hadn't found the cheque for £25. The bad news?

It wouldn't pay for the cost of a new microwave oven... our old one had finally stopped working. This was the microwave that I got when I arrived in York in 1987, so it's had virtually daily use (in fact, several times a day as we do our hot drinks in it, or did) for 23 years. Not bad. RIP Electrolux Mealmaker.

So I posted two messages on Freecycle... one offering the broken microwave (well, you never know!) and one asking for a replacement.

A relaxed day ensued, although it seemed like I spent most of it at the kitchen sink! But I was delighted to get an email from Chrissie, offering me her unwanted microwave. I replied and later she rang me to arrange collection, this evening. Wow!

I was still in the house when Gill took the boys into town so I listened to Gardeners Question Time and did things with fruit, paperwork, computer. But I went outside once I couldn't do any more washing up, and took some compostables down the garden and loaded up another layer. I found some exotic looking yellow-topped fungi growing from the sawdust in the sacks... lovely!

Then at about 4pm I cycled down to Country Fresh to do a pick up and get edibles. I came home via Freshways and they had 2 sacks for me too. I feel another hot heap coming on!

I came in at 6.45 and ate the final slice of yesterday's veg pie, cold.... delicious. Then at 7.10 I bombed over to Dringhouses to collect the microwave, which is very small, compared to the enormous 1980s model. But it works and we are very pleased. Nice one Chrissie. Gill was dancing round the kitchen singing with happiness. Good ol' Freecycle! And Chrissie had got it from the British Heart Foundation second-hand shop, so it's 3rd hand! I like re-use!

As there had been no takers for the broken microwave, I started taking the door off; it will make an unusual planter, on it's side with the aperture uppermost. More reuse. Bob Flowerdew would be proud of me!

So, a good day.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Saturday 8th May 10 - St Nicks 10th Anniversary

Gill woke me at 10 and reminded me that I was due to go to St Nicks today. I quickly got ready in my smart clothes as I had two things to do today, one of which at least meant that I should be reasonably tidy.

Gill loaded up all the buns she made last night into three containers, and the big cake onto a foil-covered tray, in a fruit box, covered with a bag, and I loaded all this into my trailer.

I cycled very slowly to St Nicks to ensure that the trailer didn't jump around and mess up the icing... Gill had made a pond with vegetation and a frog on the top of the cake, and every bun had '10' on the top.

The centre was already busy, lots of stuff being got ready, and I was immediately press-ganged into helping carry a large picnic table out to the play area, where all the stalls were getting prepared... the National Trust, York LETS, Edible York, Brunswick Organic Nursery, OPAL and several others.

I chatted to various people, was especially glad to see Keely, the first York Rotters project officer, who has been out of circulation for a while. But there were lots of other of my friends and contacts there, too many to list here, even if I could remember all of them!

Sometime after 11am, the welcoming and presentations started and I listened to these... until about 11.55 when I had to get going to Clifton to the Bootham Junior School, for the Quaker Meeting in memoriam of Dinah Peryer, with whom I worked on the Alternatives to Violence Project maybe 10 years ago. My old friend Maggie phoned me last week and told me about Dinah's memorial, and invited me to go with her. So we'd agreed to meet at the traffic lights on Rawcliffe Lane at 12.15, prior to the memorial service starting at 12.30.

We met up and walked up to the school, where Dinah was a Governor. It was a typical Quaker meeting, with the chairs arranged around the perimeter f the room and when we were all seated, some quiet music (probably something that Dinah liked) and then the 'hostess' (I don't know the correct term) said a few words and then there was more silence, until someone else stood up and shared a memory, or an anecdote about Dinah. I wanted to pass on the message from one of the mainstays of the AVP group, that Dinah's contribution was valued. I was the third person to stand up and speak, explaining that the current AVPers were meeting today and several people who might have wished to be at the memorial were unable to, due to the meeting timetabled-in many months ago.

I really like this form of memorial. I would like something like this myself, when the time comes, despite not being a Quaker. I learned about little bits of Dinah's life, and was moved by some of the stories. The quiet times between the speakers give time to think about the person in question, and dwell on memories, and I remembered about the work I did in Dinah and David's garden, and the laying of the floor in their kitchen.

There were sandwiches and scones to follow, and coffee, but I wanted to get back to St Nicks so I didn't hang around. Maggie wanted to come to the St Nicks do as well... so I suggested she had a lift on my bike crossbar. She looked incredulous but is pretty game for anything, and after a few questions, agreed. Half way there she swapped to sitting on the pannier rack, and getting to the Environment Centre was quick and easy... I chose the cycle track as the safest route.

We'd missed the compost bin drumming but there were lots of other things going on... and I managed to get the last slice of Gill's cake... delicious. I bought some squash plants from the Brunswick stall, and chatted to several other stall holders. I wrote a Haiku. I introduced my friend Debbie to John to talk about planting a tree in memory of the other Debbie. I had a go on a static bike to heat a kettle. As the event drew to a close, Maggie and I chatted and she accepted my offer of a hot drink at home... she really wanted to see Gill again, so I took her on my bike back home. An hour later she went to the No. 6 bus stop to get back to her side of town. I visited the Co-op to get cereals and various other bits.

Between about 6.30 and 8pm I listened to my Green/broadcaster friend Tracey Smith on Apple Radio, on the web, and didn't 'do' Dr. Who, but did have a good few goes on Scrabble on facebook and chatted to a number of friends.

Later, Gill and I had a 'real' game of Scrabble, which I just won.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Friday 7th May 10 Election Count

A very memorable day!!!

I had an exciting night at the election count at Oaklands Sports Centre, now rebranded as 'Energize'. Firstly there was a wait as the count wasn't going to start until all the ballot boxes were in. There were two counts, York Central and York Outer, with the hall split into two halves. Sometime after midnight the first boxes were tipped out onto the tables, starting with number 1, and then working through to the low 60s with the Central count, as this was the constituency I was interested in, as the Greens didn't stand in York Outer.

The first job was to check whether the number of ballot papers matched the tally on the sheets taken by the officials in the polling stations. So the ballots were sorted into bundles of 50 for easy counting. This allowed us to look at particular polling disrticts to see what the balance was, so as the ballots were unfolded and put on the pile, I noted whether it was UKIP (hardly any) Hugh Bayley the sitting Labour MP (lots) our man Andy Chase, (just a few) the racist BNP (even fewer) Christian Vassie for the Lib Dems (quite a few but not as many as Labour), Eddie Vee the Loony Elvis Impersonator (virtually none) and Susan Wade Weeks the 'Greenest Tory in the land' (similar numbers to the Lib Dems). I used the 'four-bar gate with a fifth cross-bar' method of tallying. This initial tally told us that Hugh Bayley would retain the seat. It also 'worked' as on one table, a counter put 51 in one pile by accident, and the ballots were rejected as it didn't match the numbers on the sheet. The wads of 50 were recounted and the error found.

All the ballot boxes and postal votes were counted before the second stage of the process. This was where the bundles of 50 were sorted into the 7 candidates. Here, the observers' job was to watch very carefully to see that the right ballot papers were going into the correct pile. It is easy to make a mistake, faced with thousands of forms to sort. I pointed out several errors, where a sorter put a ballot paper in the wrong pile, so close and astute observation is really important. At this stage, the spoilt ballot papers are weeded out. There were a few with no mark whatsoever, and a few with a cross against more than one candidate, or all of them! Some ballots had the mark in the area of their candidate, but not in the box where it should be... for instance, one had the number on the left circled rather than a cross or tick in the box on the right. There were waved at the officer who was collecting the piles of ballots, and she decided whether it was a valid vote, or needed to be seen by the candidates for a decision. There were also quite a few ballots I saw with messages to the candidates, including one with the 'CRASS' anarchy logo scrawled across, and another saying 'I cannot vote for any of you'', and another with a lot of pictograms of male genitalia against the 3 main parties and the UKIP and BNP (not the Greens though!!!) and several others. These are put in a 'spoilt ballot' pile and the candidates check them to see they are indeed spoilt. There were a few with 'difficult to decide' marks, where perhaps the voter first put the cross in the wrong place and scrubbed it out and put it in the intended place. These are shown to the candidates and they decide if it is a spoilt ballot or 'belongs' to one candidate. There are usually over 100 spoilt ballots in an election of this size.

After all the ballots for each candidate are put together, they are put back on the table and counted into bundles of 50, for the final count. The counter makes a bundle of 50, and then swaps with their colleague who also counts it, so each bundle is counted twice. During this counting, usually with a rubber thimble, any incorrectly placed ballots might also be spotted, as all the crosses should be in the same place.

Finally, the bundles of 50 are all put together under the candidate's name and it is easy to count them for the final result. All this took about 5 hours, and the announcement was just before 5am.

The results were Bayley 18,573; Wade Weeks 12,122; Vassie 11,694; Chase 1,669; BNP 1,171; UKIP 1,100 and Eddie Vee just 154. There was a 61% turnout.

After the results were announced Bayley did his acceptance speech, with lots of thank yous for the staff, his team, his wife and lots of others, and all the other candidates spoke briefly.

Then we were done. I cycled home and got in just before 6am. I put the telly on and had a bowl of cereal. Within the hour, the result from Brighton Pavillion came in, and the news I'd been waiting to hear for some time... that Caroline Lucas had won the seat... our first Green Member of Parliament!!! A historic day, a joyous day. The interweb lit up with messages of joy and congratulations. I was quite emotional.

I also started getting messages of birthday congratulation, as it's my birthday today. I couldn't have wished for a better present than Caroline's win.

I stayed up til the boys came down before going to school, and then retired to bed. However, there was a phone call at 11 which woke me up (the car hire company, worse luck!), and I then stayed up til about 2.30 when I went to bed for another two and a half hours.

I did a very short stint in the garden but there was another phone call which brought me back in. But it was a booking for the summer Fair for the Madhyamaka Centre, which was nice.

Gill made a pizza and baked a butternut squash. A nice birthday tea. She also made a cake for the St Nicks 10th Anniversary tomorrow and a pile of buns, each with '10' in icing on the top.

A very memorable and enjoyable day.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Thursday 6th May 10, Election Day

Gill got me up at 7 as I'd agreed to go and stand outside a polling station at 8am. I got there at 7.45 as it only too me 15 minutes to cycle across Low Moor and over Millennium Bridge to St Chad's Church Hall. The Green Party 'door smiler' told me that in the first 40 minutes of voting, there had been 80 voters! I took the Green rosette and did 2 hours of 'door smiling'. We don't take poll numbers, as this is to find people who have promised to vote for a party, but then haven't turned up at the polling station, so that in the last couple of hours of the poll, the party activists can go and ask the voter if they have voted, and even invite them to have a ride in a car to the polling station. The Green Party stand outside polling stations mainly to remind people that we have a candidate... and with the hope that by doing so, we might get a few more votes!

After this, I went to see Pauline. I changed into my usual scruffy clothes there (I was tidy for the polling station!) and had a coffee and chat, then sawed up some scrap wood for her.

I called in on Country Fresh on the way home and bought some fruit and veg, and picked up a small sack of biodegradables. Freshways also only had a small sack.

After lunch I picked up a prescription for Gill and voted. The polling station was busy.

Then I had a few quiet hours, before the children came home, did a bit of paperwork, and then at 4 went down to town again for my annual check-up at the optician. I have Glaucoma in the family so I have a 10% chance of getting this, so I have my eyes checked regularly.

On the way into town, though, I had an accident, a collision with a car which stopped suddenly in front of me. I was on a left-turning corner and a car on the outside of me started to pull in to the left, which would have trapped me. Now I could have applied my brakes sharply and stopped, or I could have accelerated away from the danger. I chose the latter... but the car in front then stopped suddenly and I went into the back of it, scratching the paintwork. I banged my groin on my crossbar and my tri-bars were pushed up, but the bike wasn't damaged. The passenger in the cat was quite upset though... shocked, and I calmed her down and explained what had happened and gave her my contact details, as the accident was partly my fault. She told me it was a hire car and she'd bought extra insurance for it, so I don't know whether I'll get the bill or not.

Fortunately, my eyesight is fine, so far! Maybe I could do with a 'road-sense judgement' test!!!

Came home via Country Fresh where Rich gave me a lot of dryable fruit and I gave him some dried fruit as a thank you.

I had tea soon after coming home (linguini and a tomato/veg thing) and did some more writing.

Soon after 9 I got myself ready to cycle over to Acomb to attend the count. I won't be back until the wee early hours, and will probably stay up to see the outcome of the election.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Wednesday 5th May 10

Gill woke me at 9 asking if I was supposed to be doing anything this morning... my only diary date was that between 11 and 12, Stewart from Freecycle was cycling down from Huntington to pick up 5kg of brown chapatti flour... donated by Freshways, not sure why, as the best before date is 10th May 2010, so it's in date. But we'll never get through 25kg, so I advertised it on Freecycle and got four requests, which is 5kg each, as we'll hang on to some. I've never made chapattis but am going to have a go. Stewart told me how easy it was.

I did some housework and spent time with Gill, had lunch and then at 1.45 met my neighbour outside the front because my Freecycle request for wall capping materials had been answered by the daughter of a woman in Holgate, Julie, who was happy for us to take away some capping tiles. So, we drove in his huge car over to St Paul's Square and found the guest-house car park.

The capping 'blocks' were huge! They might look OK on the wall, but if not, they could also be really useful as planters (in a group of four) or as a retaining wall for a raised bed. The car, despite being a monster, would only take 10 or 12 of them, so the first lot went and I stayed and moved others, cleaned them up and sorted them into good ones for wall capping, ie without damage. There were more than three loads worth, but we took just three, leaving quite a lot for Julie to use for holding back a terrace or for planters.

I got back after 4pm and helped unload. A good haul, let's hope they get used for something worthwhile!

I had tea... the last of yesterday's nutloaf, and a hard-boiled egg sandwich, using an out of date egg which I reclaimed form somewhere, and two boiled carrots.

After tea I popped over the road to a friend who's a drinker, who has collected a load of aluminium cider cans for me... I squashed them all and put them in a bin liner, ready to be taken to the metal merchant and sold.

Then towards 7pm I set off down to St Nicks where Sandra Geere was doing a talk on gardening in small spaces. I was pleased to meet my friends Nick, Tracy and Anneliese as well as the expected St Nicks regulars Ivana, Jean and Catherine, plus Catherine's mum Susan, and a new person Melanie. A reasonable turnout. I enjoyed the talk, and contributed to it a bit but tried to keep my gob shut as much as I could. I was inspired to do more growing. I am more of a composter than a grower, but I should try harder to have more food plants.

I got back at about 9.30 and all was peaceful at home. Gill had met up with another Freecycler called Jo, who was delighted with her 5kg of chapatti flour.

Washing up, 10pm news on TV, Newsnight, computer, stove. A pretty normal evening.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Tuesday 4th May 10

Up early as lots of protests about school starting today. I wish children didn't have to go to school and could just play. Life might (or might not?) be simpler and more peaceful.

But both boys did go to school today, and I spent most of the day doing housework. Gill did some accounts. I washed up and tidied. I spent some time relaxing and playing Scrabble on facebook, but interspersed with chores.

In the afternoon, I made a nutloaf for tea, which all the family enjoyed. We had it with purple sprouting broccoli from the garden.

At teatime I did a bit of chainsawing, the pallet planks I prepared the other day. I did a bit of weeding too, the raised beds which I hope I'll get some crops into soon. I also did a layer or two of compost in the metal-sided bin, and riddled some leafmould.

In the evening I chatted to Lorna on the phone and found out that she managed to get an invite for both days of the Spencer Tunick event! Even she's not sure how she managed that!

A quiet evening, actually quite a boring evening. Tired.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Monday 3rd May 10

Woke at 11.30 due to my missing a night's sleep yesterday. I had a fairly quiet day, with just one visitor, a Freecycler who asked for some compost for a raised bed and I offered her a free sack... she came round with her enthusiastic little son and had a tour of the composting and left with 5 sacks. She works nearby and said she'd come back for some more, and pay me.

After this, I got a phone call from Rich at Country Fresh and he said he'd just sold the last of the compost I left with him, and could I bring some more please? So I loaded my trailer and panniers with bags of riddled compost and took it all down there. I was happy to take a couple of sacks of material away again, and came home via the St Nicks composting area, which needed some management. I spent just under an hour there.

Gill had made a rice and veg thing for tea, with local asparagus. Lovely.

Then at 7.15 I left for the monthly LETS meeting down at the Seahorse, and Ben and Lynn were there. I felt only half there. But I'm glad I went as I was able to explain the Social Fund concept, which seems to have dropped out of the way that YorkLETS operates, and we should (in my view) re-introduce this as it can be accommodated in the new LETS website, and it's a good thing to have. Also, at the end of the meeting, Ben showed me how to do 'predictive texting' on the mobile phone Gill has given me.

Got home at 10.30 with a pallet on the trailer, donated by a student house who had it put in their front garden as a prank. I put the recycling out as it is collected tomorrow morning.

Got hot water on the stove to wash up and did my usual evening computer-based activities.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Sunday 2nd May 10, Spencer Tunick Installations

What a day... WHAT A DAY!!! The first few hours were spent on the very cold and windy quayside next to The Lowry Exhibition and Arts Centre in Salford, with Tony my friend from Leeds, Jane (from Stockport I think), and several other friendly people.

I'd been sitting down for a while and Lorna appeared. Lorna was responsible for telling me about this event, as she'd previously participated in a couple of Tunick photoshoots in Ireland. She had travelled up with her friend Johan and a nice Irish chap called Tony. I'd not met Johan before and was really pleased to do so as he's a very good friend to Lorna. I went to chat with the three of them, and had a little bit of modelling balloon fun with them before going back to my position in the queue.

The time went quite quickly as there was a lot of good humour and banter in the line, and I had the flask of coffee I'd brought with me at about 2.30am as I was flagging. But at 3 the queue moved and at 3.30, the first batch of 50 were readmitted to the Lowry, and we were right on the end of this group. Jane tagged along with me as she'd come on her own and this was the first time she'd been out to do something like this on her own, without her husband.

I'd filled in my model release form at home and this meant registration was very simple... we gave in the form, were ticked off on a list, and picked up an Ikea bag to put out clothes in and a little bottle of fruit-juice drink. Then there was more waiting. I played with my devilsticks and gave Jane a go... she wasn't too bad for a beginner.

Then we were herded outside to a fleet of waiting coaches and double decked buses... I got to sit in the front top of one of these. We were first taken to a place (Castlefields?) where there is a canal and a bridge, surrounded by a very industrial brick-built landscape, and we were introduced to the artist for the first time. He used a megaphone to talk to us all, and explained that he wanted to try to capture some of the LS Lowry style, with lots of people milling around. So then he asked us to disrobe and then get in position in the place where the photographs were to be taken. I got onto a barge which was in a lock, and wasn't able to walk around much when he asked us to walk around. It was very cold, and whenever the wind blew, there was a pained noise from the assembled masses. The artist yelled instructions at us, telling us not to look at him and the camera, and not to smile. Eventually he had got enough pictures and we got dressed again... i just put my dressing gown on, rather than all my clothes.

Most of us went back to the bus but Tunick wanted people over 60 to stay behind, and then as that didn't get enough people, he yelled out, anyone with grey hair, and he collared some more. Jane and I went to sit on the bus again and waited for our next place... which was back at the Lowry. We hadn't been able to do this at 5.30am as the megaphone and noise would disturb the residents, but we started this one at 7am, and assembled outside the front of the gallery, and did a lot more milling round and 'freezing' so images could be captured. There were more barked instructions, and some people were moved as they had too many tattoos or were too tanned. During this installation, we were asked to bend over, similar to how some of the Lowry figures are hunched over, and someone farted loudly which caused an eruption of laughter. We were so glad to get back in as it was very very cold.

It wasn't long before we were once again taken out to the buses and coaches, and we were taken to Manchester Airport to a hangar near the plane spotters car park. The first group to be asked in were the over 45s, and the rest of us waited. Then it was our turn, and we went into the hangar... where Concorde was on show! We were moved into position under the aeroplane and had to squash up quite close.

Then were were taken to the Manchester City ground car park in front of two huge gasometers (gas holders) and Spencer divided us up into about 6 or 7 groups and got us to gather together in those groups, facing in different directions and sometimes bent over. The group I was in was right at the back this time. Then he asked for all the women to go to the double decker buses which had parked in front of some trees, and he got all the women to stand in the windows, I think with just their bottoms showing. However, I was back in the coach at the other end of the car park and wasn't paying much attention. I'll wait for the photos!

The photos that Tunick took today will form an exhibition called Everyday People, which will be on show at The Lowry from June 12th til September 26th. This is kind of lucky as the Manchester World Naked Bike Ride is on the 11th in the evening and I think I'll stay over and go to the opening of the exhibition the next day.

We were taken back to the Lowry, arriving just before 11am.. I went to get washed and dressed, said goodbye to Lorna and her entourage, and walked over to the tram stop to go back to Piccadilly, where I was due to meet Laura at midday. Suddenly Jane drove up and asked Tony and myself if we'd like a lift into the City. We accepted and she dropped us right next to the station. So we were a bit early there, and I decided to have a go at sending a text message to Gill... she had lent me her old phone and taught me how to send a text, so I sent her one saying all was well. I texted Laura too, telling her that I was at the station.

She appeared quite soon, and all three of us walked down to the 'gay village' area where Laura likes a particular eatery, called Via. But it was shut, so we went next door and had a pizza for lunch.

Then we parted company from Tony and Laura took me to find a couple of her favourite shops, both of which were shut. But much to Laura's delight (but not mine!), Primark was open, and she bought I don't know how many tops there for £4 each. We then went for a coffee. We decided to go back to the Canal St area as it's got a lot going on... and there was a gay line dancing thing in the street, and Laura joined in which was great to watch. She isn't afraid to have a go, despite not knowing the moves perfectly. After a bit of sitting and watching and chatting to a friendly old gent, I got my devilsticks out and joined in the spectacle... line dancing in front of the pub and just along the road there was space for me to spin my sticks. I really enjoyed this.

But time was moving on and I told Laura that I'd have to go. She tried to persuade me to go back to her house in Warrington to meet her family, but I declined as I too have a family to go home to, so we walked up to Piccadilly together, and there was a train waiting for me with 5 minutes to spare before going all the way to York. I did some pumpkin seeds on the train, which I'd brought with me just in case there was any spare time. But somewhere along the route a nice chap got on who was doing a MSc in hydrology and we talked about conserving water, droughts, floods, peat bogs and green roofs until Leeds where he got off. I was soon in York, soon home by bike (with a pallet in tow!) and after tea I had an hour in bed before getting up to do my blog and sort emails. Up til 2am.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Saturday 1st May 10

Woke feeling a bit excited as later today I'm heading off to Manchester to (hopefully) take part in an art installation by Spencer Tunick.

I had a busy morning outside once I prized myself out of the house, and then went to Country Fresh, and back to light the stove to get bathwater and tidy myself up.

Enjoyed my bath lots.

Just after 5 I cycled a child back to his parents and then came home, had tea and escaped from Dr Who, by listening to Tracey Smith on Internet Radio.

At 8.30, started getting ready to go to the station......

I got to the station in good time and got an open return for £22, and once on the train I had a really interesting chat with a young man whom I'd overtaken on the bike earlier in town, who was heading back to Huddersfield. He was Paul who works for the Tyndall Centre, and was therefore a great person to converse with. We chatted about how to assign carbon allocations to shipping and aviation, which currently doesn't show in any individual country's carbon emissions. What luck to sit with such a knowledgeable guy!

Tony got on the train at Leeds and he immediately inspected Paul's bike as Tony love bikes, as well as being a naturist and keen on participating with the Tunick installation. Paul got off at Huddersfield and Tony and I chatted about organising the York World Naked Bike Ride and several other subjects.

We got into Manchester soon after 11pm, and took the tram to Harbour City which is the nearest Metro stop to The Lowry. There was another guy who got off the tram who looked like he knew where he was going, so I asked him if he was going to the Lowry, and we walked together across a Dutch-looking metal bridge and to The Lowry, which was still open and people were beginning to accumulate inside as it was very cold and windy outside.

I chatted with some of the people in the group we joined, and as we had over 3 hours to kill, did some balloon modelling which went down very well. I worked with a woman called Jane who had previously done some balloon sculpture and she made a couple of animals. She loved the teddy bear I made.

Sometime after midnight we all went outside as the queue had started to develop, and people were getting chairs down from a terrace so they could sit and wait in the queue... as registration wasn't til 3.30am.