Monday, 31 January 2011

Sunday 30th January 11

I got up fairly early wondering if I had a gig today; I'd written 'Goole?' in my diary but no details.  I hadn't got a booking letter... well I don't think I had anyway.  But I did half expect a phone call saying 'see you at 2pm then' or somesuch!

Fortunately this didn't happen and I was able to spend the day doing useful things at home. So first thing I lit the back room stove and watched Country Tracks and did the washing up.  The newly empty bowl allowed me to sort through a carrier bag full of pretty manky tomatoes, thrown out by the two retailers.  I washed them and cut out the bad bits... which ended up as over half of the bag full.  However... I collected a large colander full of trimmed tomatoes.  I used a reject onion, a bought potato, a stick of celery, and fried these up first, then added the tomatoes, chopped with scissors.  I stewed this gently on the stove for several hours, and will tomorrow season it and 'whizz' it to a smooth soup.

After lunch I did some work outside... I gathered together a load of twiggy bits, trimmed off sticks and branches, and hedge trimmings, and shredded them as I needed some woody stuff for the composting.  I cut back some old brambles and fed those through the shredder too.  I didn't get a chance to put the stuff on any of the heaps though, as I remembered that Mandy Waggett had invited me to collect a load of wood she'd sorted out of her garage (and put on Freecycle) so I went round with some paper sacks to load it up, and filled the trailer and two sacks.

Gill made tea... the left over butterbean and veg stew with some extra bits, and a topping of mashed potato and sweet potato, so a sort of cottage pie.

I went out after this and brought another trailer full of logs home, and decided to call it a day.  But then I sorted out a load of nails and ironwork pulled out of the grate, and put this for recycling (I take it to Hazel Court) and stripped a bit of copper wire, and shelled some pumpkin seeds too.  As usual, I didn't start winding down til about 2am, well after The Sky at Night.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Saturday 29th January 11

Well I got a lie-in til 10 which was nice, and I planned to go the York Juggling Convention, known as Chocfest. However, I knew that I wouldn't be able to get there til after lunch, as I'd got a few things to do first.  One of the things was to visit a Freecycler called Gary, who works for Andrew Page Ltd at the Raylor Centre on James St, who had offered some pallets, and invited me to go and collect between 10 and midday today. 

So I did that first, and came back with 5 pallets carefully balanced on my trailer, and then Gill asked me to take our eldest to Fulford, to Candy and Eugene's as he's friends with their son.  So we cycled over there, and I had a coffee and chat with the grown-ups before coming home... and I found a large log so I brought that back with me.

I decided that my planned day out to Chocfest wasn't going to happen, but this would mean that I could go to see Anneliese's performance at the Unitarian Chapel. It would also mean that I could chop up the pallets, and some other wood, and continue to build the woodpile next to the front door.  I also visited Country Fresh and Freshways, and met Ivana who was intending to go to the Cabaret Show at Chocfest.  I was tempted to go, but it cost something, so now as we're facing super-austerity here due to the cost of the Steiner School, I decided to go to see Anneliese's show as it was free, and part of the annual Residents' Festival.

So, tea was a butterbean stew that Gill and I had made between us... I'd soaked the beans and cooked them, and prepared a home grown squash and pre-cooked that.  Gill added other veggies, and it was a delicious stew!

And so to town for 7.30; I got to the Chapel on St Saviourgate at 7.15 and was pleased to see my friend Adrian Lovett, who attends the Unitarian Church, and other friends Debra, Keith, Marian, and of course Anneliese, who then performed a whole bunch of poems about the news of 2010.  I really enjoyed this. 

Afterwards I had a glass of wine and some crisps, and chatted to a nice woman called Marnie.  I got home just before 10pm, and helped move the boys towards bed-time, washed up, put apples to dry on the stove, and watched a few videos on Daily Motion.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Friday 28th January 11

A much better morning.  And therefore a better day... despite spending most of it doing paperwork!  Gill and I finished off our financial declaration for the Steiner School... we had to work out our gross income, then all our household bills, and other unavoidable costs, such as my Fiddlesticks advertising and travel.  The amount of 'available money' left gives the school the guide as to how much the fee (or donation as they put it) should be.  So, despite our saving money by not having a car, by being really careful with our electricity and gas use, we're going to have a lean few years ahead, because of the large chunk needed to pay for our youngest's education.

I also worked on my CV, which had been requested by a potential employer, and was really happy to get that finished. 

I took the Steiner School paperwork into the school before chucking out time, and Judy checked it over and I agreed (and signed) the annual fee, and agreed to pay a third of this at the beginning of each term.  As I was handing the forms into the office, I asked about the help that's needed in the school that most parents offer.  I said I'd be happiest doing garden-type stuff, and was told that there was a 'gardening teacher' but also a parent called Christine who did most of it.  At that moment, Christine walked past, so the office person stopped her and I introduced myself.  I'll have a meeting with her next week to see what sorts of things need doing.

Then our boyo appeared, I unlocked his bike and we slowly cycled home.  I found some pruned branches and brought a few home.  When we got back, I spent a bit of time with loppers filling a couple of potato sacks with cut sticks... they dry well in these paper sacks, and I use this size of stick for kindling.

Just before dark I popped round to see Tim Jones to pick up the second load of sticks from his garden, and he invited me in for a cuppa, and I met his wife and two daughters. I made a balloon animal for them both. Tim paid me for the half-day's work on Monday.  I now have a large pile of logs and sticks to chop up... again!

A bit later, after tea, I cycled down to Heslington with our other son so he could do his computer graphics lesson with Simon.  I cycled back home via a pile of branches recently pruned back, and got home in time for some washing up and then another cycle back to pick him up again.  I've no idea how many miles I've cycled today but it seems like quite a lot.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Thursday 27th January 11

Well the day started really badly; I was going to cycle to school with our youngest but it didn't happen, left me feeling like a completely rubbish Dad.  Gill took him in, and also collected him at the end of the school day.

I had a compost order so I took two medium sacks of unriddled compost in my trailer to St Nicks, participated in the Rotters meeting and then went to deliver the compost to Bronwen, who has converted a bit of lawn into a growing area.  She's a LETS member so I'll get paid Yorkys.

After lunch I went round to Debbie, as agreed yesterday, with the bag of 'Green Light' leaflets... the regular Green Party communication which I deliver... and Debbie always enjoys the walk round too; it usually takes about an hour.

When I got in I did a bit of wood management, and started rebuilding the logpile on the left of the front door (looking out of the house).  When Gill got in she told me about going into Archbishop Holgate's School to pick up various things left by our youngest, and to deliver the letter saying he was now no longer a pupil there.  She spoke to someone there and heard about a recent incident where one child was stamping on the head of another and there were Police and an ambulance, with the victim going to hospital.  We know we've done the right thing taking our boys out as we don't want either of them ending up injured.

We had pasta for tea, plus broccoli and carrot, but the pasta was overcooked and it was really soft and I didn't like it.  I cannot remember not liking something we've cooked for ages... maybe since I tried to eat a stinkhorn mushroom 'egg' which are allegedly edible but utterly disgusting.  I did eat the pasta but I only did so as I didn't want to waste it.

I watched a TV programme on 'The Human Planet' about people living in the Arctic, and then went out to a Green Party party, launching Caleb Wooding's candidacy in Heslington Ward for the May Local Elections.  I met lots of interesting people, most of them had seen me speak at the sit-in, or had met me before, but tonight I got a chance to get to know them better.  Lovely.  I came back after midnight.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Wednesday 26th January 11

A paperwork morning; I'd found a missing booking letter in my diary/journal whilst looking for the info for the RSA Harrogate event, so I penned a reply and cycled it over to the Malton Road area.  I popped in on John Bibby too, whilst I was in the area, and he invited me to chop up a big log he's had outside his house for years.  I'll do that when he invites me to go and spend the day doing it.

Then bombed into town to pay in a composting cheque and pay our annual gas and electricity bills.  I came home via Country Fresh and said hi to Richard and got home in time for lunch.

After lunch I got the second bike sorted out, so our eldest could cycle down to the Steiner School with me, get some exercise, and I'd take the youngest's bike on my trailer (he went to school in a taxi with Gill) and we'd cycle back.  This worked well... there were no problems getting there and coming back was even easier.  I picked up a pallet on the way back and when home, did a bit of chainsawing to chop up this and another pallet, and chop some logs too.  Did some stacking until it started to rain.

Gill got an offer of a ticket to see The King's Speech with Melody, so I got the children sorted for bed.

Still feeling emotional about Mozaz, but pleased to see his friend Sam has set up a website in his memory, with it's first purpose to help co-ordinate his funeral.

Gill came back having enjoyed the film and had a good night out, and used the day rover bus ticket she got when returning from the Steiner School this morning.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tuesday 25th January 11

Gill woke me at 8 with a dilemma about our youngest and school, as he wasn't very well, and was wondering what to do re school and a dentist appointment at 4ish... her frustration about various things boiled over and she gave me an earful about the mess in the garden that I'm responsible for, so I got up immediately and did 2 hours clearing up before breakfast at 10.  I do wish I was tidier.  I am productive but untidy.  I will try to remain productive but be less messy.

I didn't manage to get the garden completely tidy, and I had a succession of phone calls, a couple of which were really good and positive, about work in the summer, quite a few were to do with advertising, and one was a bit sad... I'd agreed to do a summer gala in North Cave, which is a short hop away from Brough railway station.  The organiser had asked me to find out my train times and we'd confirm the following week.  Well I found out that train times for the summer aren't published yet, but I knew I'd be able to get there, even if it meant an early start on a Sunday and a change at Doncaster.  So today we spoke and she was so apologetic, as the committee of 18 (yes, a committee of EIGHTEEN!) had outvoted her, saying they were worried that I wouldn't be able to get there because of using public transport.  This is I think a first. 

I got a message from Richard inviting me down to do a pick up.  I groaned but later did go and collect.  I got a cheque in the post for 30 sacks of compost supplied to Edible York last year, which is really good, and a phone call from a LETS member asking for a delivery of two sacks, which I'll take round on Thursday after the Rotters meeting.

The day slid by quickly, and before I knew it, it was time for me to get ready to go to the station to go to Harrogate for the RSA meeting launching the Harrogate Community Enterprise Hub.  I met Chris James on the train, a fellow Fellow, as it were, and we talked about peak oil and assorted serious subjects, and he told me about his project Inspired Youth.

We walked up to Cafe Culture from Hornbeam Park station, and watched the presentation about this project.  The basic idea is to provide a structure and place for mentors to be able to meet 'mentees', ie people wanting to start a business or a project being able to have the benefit of some already successful business people, entrepreneurs etc. 

I did have all the details of the speakers on a 'running order' piece of paper but I've stupidly left it behind, so I may or may not be able to post links to the websites.  I'd like to as some of the projects were very inspiring.

Came back on the 9pm train, and on the way home from the station collected a large number of thrown away bedding plants and polyanthus, put aside by County Fresh instead of tipping them all into the bin.

When I got home and went onto facebook, I was extremely saddened, devastated even, to see about the death of Mark 'Mozaz' Wallis, one of Sheffield's most well known anarchists, whom I was very fond of.  I knew I liked him but it's only when you lose someone and the tears flow and flow that you realise how much you cared.  He developed some kind of infection, possibly following flu or a respiratory illness, and died in hospital on the 23rd.

However, my friend Ann posted wedding photos of Keith Jackman and his long term partner Aree, out in Thailand.  This cheered me up a bit.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Monday 24th Janurary 11

Up early as a busy day ahead.  I'd arranged to go and help Tim Jones, the local vicar on Tang Hall Lane, with processing a pile of garden trimmings.  I put my electric shredder in my trailer and he found his extension lead so we could use it on a concrete pad.  Tim had done a lot of garden clearing, pruning galore, so the pile of shreddables was a lot bigger than I'd remembered.  But this also meant that I had a bigger pile of sticks out of the deal! 

However, I had to leave there at 10.30 as at 11 I wanted to be at Stella Rawson's funeral.  I went home to get changed into tidy clothes, and Gill informed me that some friends/colleagues from St Nicks had rang asking where the funeral was.  I hadn't discussed this with Gill so she wasn't able to tell them.  However, after the funeral, I spoke to them and they'd googled her name and come up with my blog post which I'd deliberately put the details of when and where the funeral was.  I was pleased about this.

So, anyway, poor Stella's funeral.  The 'back story' is really sad; she'd had a weight problem for a long time and was determined to reduce it, but dieting hadn't worked so she'd opted to have a gastric band put in, to limit what she could comfortably eat.  She suffered complications, and after several weeks, passed away.  I didn't know Stella well, although I'd met her several times when working with Robin on his solar panel installation and when he'd showed me his super woodstove which runs his central heating.  I feel most sorry for the children.  Losing your Mummy must be really hard to cope with.

The church was packed but I did find a place.  Stella was very involved with the church so it was a normal Christian funeral.  As usual, the best bit of the event was where family and friends say a few words about the person, as that gives you a much better idea of their life.  Stella was very well liked, loved, respected and valued.  It really is a terrible loss.  Afterwards, the close family went to the Crematorium, and other guests went to a buffet lunch... I came home as I needed to get back to Tim's to finish off the shredding.

There wasn't much more to do, so we cleared up and then had a coffee and chat for an hour, covering diverse subjects including Aspergers, counselling, several mutual friends, chimney balloons and more!

But, once again, I had to get away as I wanted to be in Newcastle by 5.30.  I'd been invited to the launch event of the Cultural Partnership between the RSA and Northumbria University.  I managed to get to the station for about 4.45 and there was soon a train heading North, scheduled to take an hour.  When in Newcastle I decided to get a taxi to the venue.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunday 23rd January 11

A good day which started with a lie-in and then Country Tracks on telly with my breakfast branflakes and muesli.  I spent some time researching my evening tomorrow, an RSA meeting in Newcastle.  This doesn't start til 5.30, which means I will be able to attend Stella Rawson's funeral at 11am at Holy Trinity Church in Heworth, on the corner of Melrosegate and East Parade. 

After lunch I serviced my youngest son's bike, as it needed oiling and a puncture repaired.  I also cut the front privet hedge, as we've used up all the logs which are usually stacked next to it so it's accessible, so 20 minutes with the shears and it was looking a bit less shaggy.  The very cold weather has taken off many of the leaves, so I'm looking forward to it growing again as it looks dreadful.

I visited Richard down at Country Fresh and discussed whether I could get a lift to London for the Falling Spikes gig at the beginning of February, and Rich thinks I could get a lift back but not down there, as a couple of people are going down with them but not coming back.  This probably makes it unlikely that I'll go.  But there are more local gigs planned.

I did a bit of chainsawing, some pallets, a few recently acquired logs, but not much as Gill came out and told me I was being loud and some time ago I'd agreed with a religious neighbour down the road that I wouldn't split logs on a Sunday.  Well I wasn't splitting logs, but the chainsaw on the pallet was fairly loud.

Later I went on a foraging expedition and came back with 4 pallets and a few logs.

When the children were asleep we filled in the forms for the Steiner School, as they need to know our income and expenditure, to work out how much the donation is that we should give.  This was complicated but I think we got most of the information together.  Now we need to photocopy loads of it to present to them.  I don't like paperwork.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Saturday 22nd January 11

Got up early because of a phone call... various calls then made to sort out a visit to the Jorvik Viking centre, but as there are assorted kids unwell, this was postponed til February.

I remembered that yesterday I had read my meters and had a long phone call with Good Energy, and got all the household energy use logged, so I added that info to yesterday's blog post.  This is 'concrete proof' that we use quite a bit less electricity and gas than many other households. 

I had a fairly quiet morning as I was working this afternoon so I didn't want to get messed up or smelly. In fact I didn't bother to get dressed, until I put on my Fiddlesticks costume after 2.30pm.

My gig was at 3.30pm at Fulford Social Hall, two children celebrating their fifth birthday, and about 30 other children and between 20 and 30 parents.  The parents had agreed that I'd just do the circus show/workshop and that it would be aimed at the younger children, so I made the show funny and silly rather than focusing on the science or the workshops.  It worked well and I held their attention for 55 minutes.  There was one adult and one teenager who participated and got involved,  and I thanked them afterwards as I always value that sort of input. 

On the way home I found a discarded pallet and balanced that on top of my unicycles on the trailer and gingerly cycled home with that.  There were others I could collect too.

Gill had seasoned the tomato soup I made a day or two ago, and we had that plus a quiche and some of yesterday's pasta made into a salad.

I kept the stoves going, washed up, watched telly, dealt with emails and facebook stuff... a fairly normal evening in the house.

Friday 21st January 11

Up early but I'd have liked a lie-in, but as Gill was taking our youngest to school, I got up and ensured that our home-educated child got to Maria's on time for his science lesson with her.  Once Gill came back, I went to the bread shop for £4 worth of yesterbake bread (2 big loaves, 4 bags of assorted rolls, 4 iced spirals and 2 bags of flapjack offcuts) and I posted a big parcel of home made dried fruit to Tracey Smith, in swap for her book 'The Book of Rubbish Ideas' which she sent to me to review here!  I haven't started reading it yet, but hope to get around to it soon.

I also read our gas and electricity meters, as I'd received a gas bill and the last two readings were estimates.  I buy both gas and electricity from Good Energy, which supplies 100% renewable electricity, and the gas bill helps pay ROCs to people with solar panels.  The way I pay my bills is to pay a whole year annually in advance, and this means I can easily work out our annual consumption.  So, over the past 12 months, this household of 4 people has used 65 cubic metres of gas, which equates to 726kwh, and cost £65, with £40 standing charge... so our annual gas bill is £111.61.  We use more electricity than gas, 2009kwh last year, which is 5.5kw per day.  The national average is 10 to 28kw/day I was told.  This makes our annual electricity bill £342.84.  I will pay by bank transfer next week.

I enjoyed lunch, and after this bagged up some very well rotted (and dry and powdery!) compost from a rotating barrel tumbler.  It will need riddling but the majority of it is really lovely stuff.

Gill had already gone down to town by bus and then out to the Steiner School, and was awaiting an interview with the class teacher and anther staff member.  I cycled down, getting there just in time for the 3.45 interview.  It seems that our boy has settled in to this new school well, and has made friends and is already pretty well integrated into his class.  We need to fill in a form and work out our gross income to work out our financial contribution, but this should be relatively simple.  We were away by 5pm, Gill and Junior got the bus and I cycled quickly home and put the oven on, as Gill rang and said she'd bought oven chips in Iceland.  We don't have chips very often... maybe once a month, but now and again it's quick and easy.

At 6.45 I took our eldest down to Heslington for his computer graphics lesson.  I picked up 2 loads of wood in the intervening hour and then walked back with him after 8.

I'd been invited to a party this evening but I decided to stay in, and was glad I did as my authority was welcomed when some behaviour happened which merited intervention.    So another busy and full day.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Thursday 20th January 11

Up early, as Gill got up at 6ish and I asked her to wake me up at 8, but I couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up at 7.30 and had a shave and a bath, as I wanted to be very presentable today.

Gill took our youngest off to the Steiner School in a taxi at 8.30, and I set our eldest a task to do, some English language work to do, and at 9.10 I cycled off to the Steiner School for their enquirers day.  This is part of the process of deciding whether our youngest will become a pupil there.

Gill had been chatting in the cafe, and when I arrived, one of my friends was there and she told us about her children at the school, and how happy they were.  Then the enquirers sat in a circle and had two teachers introduced us to the school, the ethos, the school year, and the school day, especially for the youngest in the school, as most of the enquirers were there with very young children, including one 9 week old baby with parents thinking about which school he would go to, nice and early.

Soon we went on a tour of the school, starting with the 6 year olds in Year 1 (we just observed the kindergarten kids through windows off the corridor) and in each class we saw what they were doing, for instance how mathematics was being taught, poetry, zoology, two classes performed a song for us and when we got to the class our son is in, they showed us an interesting 'eurythmy style' method of looking at social interaction based on geometry.  The class demonstrated this and then asked the visitors to join in.  It was great fun!

But by now it was 11am and although Gill was able to stay on for the question and answer session, I had to cycle back and take our eldest on the bus to Rawcliffe Pavillion, for a gathering of the 'YorkDistrict' home educators.  I got some lunch together and then on the No. 6 bus. we discussed about nouns, proper nouns, collective nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, interjections, expletives, assorted punctuation and more!  The long bus journey was soon over.  The event was a general meeting, not the 'Chess/Bored' meeting which sometimes happens, and there were quite a few younger children there so it was quite noisy.  We had our sandwiches and my lad had a game of chess with another boy... a close game, which our son just won.  Then I had a game with him, and he comprehensively beat me... the first time he's beaten me, and he felt really good about this.  Towards 3pm we gathered up our stuff... I took away a large crisp packet full of teabags and plate scrapings for composting.

When we got the bus, I was delighted to see my old friend John Huggins, whom I've known for over 20 years, but haven't bumped into for a couple of years.  He was looking really well, and is a few months away from retiring.  He got off at the Theatre Royal and I then resumed chatting with my boyo.

So, a successful and interesting day, but I was knackered, so after tea, I decided to have an hour's kip before going out to the City Screen to see the new Talking Heads film, with a live link interview with David Byrne afterwards.  But when I got up at 8pm, I decided not to go, but to stay in with the family and enjoy a couple of good tv programmes instead. I'm sure I'll get to see the film sometime.

I also froze several batches of the tomato/onion base I made a day or two ago, and made the rest into soup.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Wednesday 19th January 11

Oh a late start... not surprising due to the late finish yesterday.  I should try to get out of this nocturnal habit!

However, once I was up I had a reasonable day, although I missed meeting Oddny who was (maybe) visiting York to see the Quilting Museum, and I'd forgotten that she was visiting until lunchtime today so I bombed down to the Museum, arriving about 15 minutes before the time she said she'd be leaving... but she wasn't there.  Ho hum.  I picked up some sticks on the way home and when I got in, my eldest took a break from school work and helped me chop them up and stack them in fruit boxes, and then carry some bigger logs round the back to stack them.  I do enjoy it when he helps!

I did quite a bit inside today, various email-based things, sorting out some future meetings, putting things in the diary, and had a phone call about the Waste Food Feast which might be gaining momentum.

At about 5 I cycled off in the lovely pink sunset to Country Fresh and got some fruit and veg for us, some bits and bobs for Debbie, and had a laugh with Shirley who was itching to get off work as her football team had a big match this evening.  I picked up a good load of recyclables too.

I tried not to have a late night.  Not sure I succeeded...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tuesday 18th January 11

Another good day. Got a lot done. Up early and got busy outside the front to tidy up a bit, chainsawing a pallet and some recently acquired branches.  Also started stacking a new next-to-the-front door pile.

Gill went to the library with our eldest and I got a message from Nick, who wanted to come and pick up some riddled compost for his gardening work.  There was also talk of growing mushrooms on logs.

So he arrived just in time for a hommous sandwich and then we went down the garden and he picked up about 6 carrier bags of riddled compost.  He's bought a load of inoculated dowels from Adrian at Gourmet Woodland Mushrooms, of a native Yorkshire Oyster mushroom, so I gave him two recently felled Ash logs which I hope will make a good host.  I think he's going to give me one of them back with dowels in it. I will supply him with more logs as and when they become available!

So he left at 2pm and I got on with more work, digging out a compost heap into sacks, and then doing the same with a builder's bag, which I need to have empty as another compost heap needs turning/emptying as there's signs of life in the base, and I want them not to get too settled!

I came in as it got dark and put the tomato soup on the stove.  Gill made toasties.  This evening this meal tasted just perfect... the boys both enjoyed the soup and complemented me on it. I did a few apples still looking fine from the garden which had just been left in the preserving pan in the conservatory, put them for drying, and then later, got 5 free onions and a large carrier bag full of tomatoes and made a preserving pan nearly full of tomato and onion 'base'... which I think we'll freeze most of.  It can be used for soup, pasta sauce, nutloaves, all sorts.  This is the first time I've made so much, but it's because of the large number of over-ripe tomatoes thrown out by Freshways. 

So, a productive day.  But a late finish, just after 3am.  This is when I'm at my best, though.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Monday 17th January 11

Not too bad a day on the whole.  I spent most of the morning sorting my messy piles of paperwork, basically trying to find a booking letter which has mysteriously disappeared.  However, I did sort out loads of envelopes, tearing out the plastic windows and putting the rest for composting or lighting the stove.  I got a big pile of recyclable paper which went in the recycle bin and sorted out various documents to store for my business records.  The missing letter did not materialise.

After lunch I popped round to see the local vicar, Tim Jones, who had asked me to go and see his compost bin and give him advice.  I said I'd go and see it and tell him what needed doing, with the possibility of going again to sort it out.  I get on with him, I like his sense of humour, and I expect to go and work in his garden next week and do some pruning, shredding and compost heap deconstruction and reconstruction...

Then I cycled into town to put in a cheque, pay a bill and get some cash out.  We'd got a post card form the Post Office saying there was a letter for Gill with a £1.38 bill to pay on it, so I went to pick that up.  On the way back I popped into the alterations shop on Walmgate as my bum-bag had a broken zip, and I wanted to know how much it would cost to replace it.  The guy in there took one look at it, and said he'd mend it.  10 seconds later, don't know how he did it, but it was a fully functioning zip again!  Wow.  I gave him a pound coin.

Came back via Freshways who had two huge bags of gunk for me.  One sack had split so I asked for a new bin bag and I made the two sacks into three to enable me to get them home.  However, there were a lot of slightly over-ripe tomatoes so when I got in, I set to and created a big pan of soup on the woodstove.  Four onions, thrown away as they had manky outer skins, about 20 large tomatoes and a small potato.  I brought it to the boil, simmered it and will whizz it tomorrow, and add bouillon and herbs.  Yum!

A relaxing evening with Gill, enjoyed some good telly and companionship.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Sunday 16th January 11

A generally relaxing day, with a late and slow start, watching Country Tracks on the box and chatting with Gill.  But then my planned evening was thrown into disarray.  I was going to meet my new facebook friend Faye at City Screen and get a ticket to see Peeping Tom, a film made 50 years ago, and a bit of a landmark in the history of cinema.  But she sent me a message saying she had decided to stay in as her husband was due home after a short break... and I asked her if I could buy her ticket off her. 

So, I said I'd cycle over and collect that later, and I did an hour's work outside which was lovely.  Then in for a late lunch and Gardener's Question Time, and after this I got on my bike and went over to South Bank.  I was pleased to see Faye in person as we've chatted on facebook, and both her and her husband Trent seem like nice and interesting people.  Faye was playing with her cute little 3 year old son, who eventually overcame his shyness and we played a bit.  Then her 2 year old woke, but he didn't overcome his shyness before I had to go.  Faye gave me the ticket, wouldn't accept any money so I promised a bag of dried fruit and some balloon animals as and when we meet again.

From Faye's I cycled on to Miller's Yard and picked up 4 sacks of oranges and one sack of plastic bottles to  recycle.  And a quick cycle home, picking up some long lanky pruned branches on the way home.

Gill had added to my stew and so I had a plate of that and soon after 7, got ready to head down to City Screen to see Peeping Tom.  I hadn't done any research other than what was on the invite page on facebook, ie it was an early study of voyeurism and warped sexuality, not something I'm overly interested in, but interested enough to consider seeing the film.

I enjoyed the film and will write a brief review later.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Saturday 15th January 11

I got up early as I wanted to attend the York in Transition Christmas Presents Swap at St Nicks, which started at 10am.  On the way I found a bunch of bright yellow 'Winter Mushroom' or Enokitake, Flammulina velupites.  I picked about a dozen, all quite small.

I was pleased to go as I met some good people and did two 'mini-tours' for people new to St Nicks, and I explained about the old landfill site, the beginnings of the nature reserve, the John Lally Wood, passive solar design, the two types of solar panel, green roof, rainwater harvesting, compost toilets and more.  I really love showing people round! 

I took a bottle of red wine with mulling spices, a Christmas present which we won't use as we don't drink red wine, and my usual bag of dried pea beans which I'm always happy to give out.  I met my friend Linda, who really likes red wine, and gave her the bottle.  She didn't want mulling spices, so those went on the swap table and were snapped up!  I came away with a jigsaw, a wok stand for the stove and a pair of gloves.  I gave two people some pea beans.

I came home at 12.30, Gill had gone to Scarborough on the train with our eldest and a friend, leaving the youngest at home in York.  I had lunch and spent a bit of time on the computer but then suggested to our lad that he come off his Roblox thingy and do something active.  Amazingly, he agreed and came outside and helped me move a lot of recently split logs from the front to a safe store at the rear of the house.  He kept going whilst I did some chainsawing and splitting.

Later, he asked if he could have the stove lit in the front room... and I talked him through how to do it, provided the raw materials and he did an excellent job, got it laid and lit really well.

I cooked tea... a 100% freegan tea, apart from a tablespoon full of EV olive oil.  I fried 2 onions (ones which had manky outside bits but the majority of the bulb was firm and lovely) and chopped up a small butternut squash which had a bit of damage at the stalk end, easy to chop out, a courgette which had one end going soft, a red pepper and most of 5 tomatoes.  All this got fried up on the front room stove.  I marinaded some out of date tofu (but hermetically sealed and absolutely fine) with garlic, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, and then slow fried them in some free pumpkin oil which dates back to Out Of This World years ago, I think!  I put the mushrooms in with the tofu right at the end, and they just about disappeared.  Enokitake is a very small mushroom!  Then Gill came in and there was a request for pasta, so I boiled that on the stove.  Actually, this pasta was bought too, so not a 100% freegan meal... shame!   But a nice tea, much enjoyed.

I also really enjoyed... to the point of tears, the lovely BBC2 tribute to my favourite and now deceased actor, Pete Postlethwaite. Click here to see this on iPlayer, for the next few days only!

More fruit wrangling this evening, putting pineapple and apple into jars. And washing up, as per bally usual!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Friday 14th January 11

A really good day!  Up bright and early as I had an interview at Archbishop Holgate's School at 9.15 with the Head Teacher.  As Gill was taking our youngest down to the Steiner School, she couldn't come to this meeting.  So, yesterday, our lovely friend Melody had agreed to come to the meeting and represent Gill, and take notes.  In meetings with teachers at her son's school, Melody routinely records the conversation on a dictaphone, so she brought one of those with her, and arrived sometime before 9am so she could walk up with me.

So, we walked up to the school and the Head and the head of Pastoral Care met us and invited us into the office.  However, they weren't happy to have the conversation recorded, saying it was 'confrontational'.  They offered a note-taker and promised to email the notes to me so Gill could read them.   I explained I wanted to set the scene and review what had actually happened to our son over the two years there, and to briefly outline what I felt the problems were within the school, with the only aim to help other pupils (and their families) avoid similar problems.  So, it was a good meeting as I'd started with this positive approach.  Both the teachers offered sincere apologies about what had happened.  They were shocked that the nice policeman who'd visited us about one incident had said that the school didn't want to admit there was a problem with bullying as they'd then have to deal with it.  But in general, it was a good meeting and it is possible that the school may make some changes to improve communication and to hopefully do more to prevent the bullies, and engender a culture of respect and love.  But maybe that's asking a bit much from today's society?

I walked back with Melody feeling happy.  Our boys are happy now they're not in that school.  Melody came home and had some lemon cake that Gill had made specially for her, as a thank you for going this morning.

I then went and did a lot of pruning, and just about finished the loganberries.  I'll need to tie in the canes which will fruit this year.  I did a bit of compost heap adding and a bit of logpile building.  Also visited Richard to get veggies and came home with a large stash of compostables.

In the evening I went down to Heslington with our eldest for his weekly Computer Graphics lesson, and came back via a logpile, cycling back again for 8pm and had a nice walk back.  Our youngest son has had a lovely week at the Steiner School, which is great!

So, a good day and hopefully now things with the children will settle down and our lives will become easier.  I look forward to not needing to mention them in this blog... it isn't about them, it's about how I live a low carbon lifestyle but recently my life has been almost completely overtaken by stuff to do with the difficulties at school.  I feel today has somewhat drawn a line under that.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Thursday 13th January 11

A fairly quiet day although I did quite a bit of chainsawing and chopping in the front.  I'd brought home a load of fairly thin branches with lots of twigs, so these needed some processing with secateurs.  The twigs will be fed through the shredder and will make a woody layer in one or more of my compost heaps, to enable the greengrocer's 'resources' to rot down successfully.  I chopped up the sticks thicker than my finger to make a sack full of kindling, once it is dry.

As for the rest of the day... where did it go?

I really don't know.  I did some paperwork and various other inside activities, dealt with phone calls and emails and facebook messages, children and washing up, stoves and compostables.  Just an average day.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wednesday 12th January 11

Up early as Ali's daughter had to go to school and I was sleeping in the living room, and Ali's PA arrived at 7.30am to get the little girl up.  So I woke to CBBC.

But Ali and I had to get going quite early too.  We had our first PA/Carer and Playworker interview to conduct at 9.45, at the Friends Meeting House in the centre of Sheffield.  One of her existing PAs came with us and we divided up the questions between us.

We interviewed 3 applicants before lunch and went to Blue Moon to eat.  We had a fourth after lunch.  Four really good and different applicants, all of them able to be offered work under Ali's Direct Payments scheme.  This means she and her daughter (who also has care needs) are assessed and allocated a budget which they can spend on care more or less how they want.  But this also means that Ali is responsible for advertising for and recruiting carers, and today was the end of the latest round of that process.

So it was a fruitful day and I came home tired but happy that Ali had got more carers, and her daughter has a playworker who will help her with her needs.  I was happy with a cheque for the hours I'd worked.  And some logs from the journey home. 

And then in the evening I had a good chat with a friend using the new Googletalk voice messaging service, which is a bit like Skype, but perhaps not quite as good quality sound.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tuesday 11th January 11

Up early as one of the boys needed their fingernails cutting.  So, after this a peaceful morning, and I decided to get outside and do some tidying.  However I heard a chainsaw and went looking for it, and found some small branches taken down in Hull Road Park where a new sewerage storage tank is being installed, so I took them, but the chainsaw noise was from elsewhere.

I went in the other direction and tree surgeons were pruning and felling several trees and were happy for me to take 6 or 7 trailer-loads of ash logs before lunch.  Excellent!

Had a good phone conversation with my new facebook friend from Tunbridge Wells, who's a senior policeman.  He'd offered to give me some advice about the chap who's tricked various people out of money.  So now I know that if fraud and dishonest intent can be proved, then it is not a civil matter but a criminal one.  So I'll relay this to the victims I know about and hopefully the man can be stopped from taking advantage of kind-hearted and generous people again.

I got the water hot enough for a bath.  The bath was lovely.  I got myself ready to go to Sheffield as Ali has asked me to step in and do a PA session and then help her at new PA interviews tomorrow.

Our youngest came home happy having done woodwork! 

Monday 10th January 11

Up early to help ease our youngest out of the house.  Today was his first day of a two-week trial at the York Steiner School, where we hope there will be a nicer atmosphere than at Archbishop Holgate's where bullying is rife and the school don't admit there's a problem so they don't have to deal with it. 

So, the taxi arrived at 8.15 and 5 minutes later, he and Gill were heading away, in the freezing rain. It was a good idea not to try to cycle there on the first day.  Amazingly, Gill got a bus back into town and then another one straight out and was home by 9. 15.  She got an all day rover ticket as she'd planned to go to the library with our oldest child as part of his home schooling, but actually he wasn't feeling up to it so that didn't happen.  Gill and I were discussing things when there was a phone call at 10.15 from Catherine at York Rotters asking me if I was planning on coming to the Management Group meeting.  Whoops!

So i quickly got dressed and jumped on my bike and got down to the Environment Centre in about 10 minutes.  The meeting was subdued as my colleagues wanted to know what I knew about Stella Rawson, and of course this saddened all of us.  However, we had to get on with the meeting, which was mainly about our work plans for the 2011-2012 financial year, so our talk was of targets and aims, objectives and how to communicate, how to enthuse, persuade even.  We decided to target two wards, which we have data for from a Council survey last year, and we decided to see if we could get the composting rate up by 5% and 3% in those wards, we worked out how many households this would be and how many tonnes of landfill it would prevent, based on DEFRA figures.  It was an excellent meeting for discussion, decisions and successful group working.

I got home at about 1pm and Gill was in the house, not heading for the library as I'd expected.  I had a quick lunch and just before 2, cycled off to see Pauline who'd asked me to help her cut some kindling.  She has been buying logs at £70 a load, but to get them lit, needs kindling.  So I spent about 45 minutes doing that, then it was time for coffee and some good conversations, about all sorts of things, as always with Pauline.

I visited Alligator on the way home, picking up a good load for my compost heaps, and then popped in on Country Fresh where Martin gave me 4 spare pineapples.  Nice!

When I got home, Gill was dancing round looking very pleased... the day at the Steiner School had been very successful and our little one was happy.  HOORAY!  This is a huge weight off our minds.

A fruity evening... carving up pineapple for anyone who wanted it and a load on the stove to dry, and watched a programme on measuring temperature with our eldest, ad I enjoyed Newsnight as I'm very interested in the Kingsnorth collapsed trial and the undercover cop story. 

However, although I heated bathwater, I didn't get as far as a bath so I must have one tomorrow as I'm working tomorrow evening and the next day.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sunday 9th January 11

A quiet day; highlights were cycling down to Country Fresh, visiting Maria on the way back. Returning from Maria's, I spotted a pile of logs in a friend's garden, someone who'd given me logs in the past. As they weren't in, I put a note through their door asking if they'd be happy for me to take the logs.  A bit later, I got a phone call from Linda, my friend, saying that actually they'd purchased a Morso stove and those logs were very much wanted!  I was delighted, as I think some of my green 'stuff' may have rubbed off on them. 

I also got a confirmation of a Fiddlesticks booking at the end of the month, and I did a load more fruit and the usual round of washing up, logpile building and assorted parenting stuff like taking hot water upstairs for a child's bath.  I really enjoyed Gardener's Question Time on Radio 4 as it was from Bradford and included questions about how to grow various tropical things which don't grow well in Bradford.  So a day with not a lot to write about, but a low carbon day nevertheless.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Saturday 8th January 11

I got up early as I wanted to be useful before going out.  So got the stove lit and made a tomato soup with a red onion which had been deep frozen and was a funny texture, but smelled normal and fried in olive oil perfectly normally, plus some big thrown away tomatoes which needed their stem areas cutting out but the rest was fine, and a stick of purchased-at-full-price celery!  I also sorted through the second lot of grapes, blanched the good ones and put them in a tray to dry.

I left the soup cooking on the stove and cycled off to the station, where I'd arranged to meet Jackie, my friend from the Northern Green Gathering who lives out in the wilds of North Yorkshire, who wanted some company.  So she came with me to Manchester to the social group that I sometimes attend.  At Piccadilly we met Janie, and walked down to Night and Day to have a bit of lunch and lively conversations.  I was pleased to see Sean, the organiser of the Manchester World Naked Bike Ride, Christine, one of my facebook Scrabble opponents and her partner Simon, Ian, Ellie, Amy and Stephen, Robert, Simon, Laura and Victoria, and several others who's names I can't recall.  But we had some good conversations and I was glad that Jackie made some friends.  I was very happy to see Janie again, and Sean.

However, Jackie wanted to go to a particular shop called Unicorn but she was so engrossed in conversation that she left it too late... we got on a bus and arrived to find it just closed, with the staff shutting the shop.  Bummer. 

But overall, the day was lovely.  The train trip back was noisy with loads of police dealing with football yobbos.  But there was no hassle really.

I got back in at about 8.30pm, and a bit later, on facebook, read something which has saddened me considerably.  My good friend Robin, who has often commented on this blog with good humour, posted that last night his wife Stella died in hospital, following complications after weight loss surgery in November.  I didn't know Stella very well, I met her about half a dozen times, mostly briefly, but Robin loved her as did their two children.  Very sad news.  My heart goes out to them.  I'm so sorry.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Friday 7th January 11

A fairly quiet day, no particular highlights other than visiting Richard at Country Fresh at about midday, and picking up a load of stuff from him, and then going on to Alligator, as Gill had asked me to get some jelly, and they do a good vegetarian jelly.  I had space for 3 bags of their biodegradable resources, and will collect more on Monday I expect.

I enjoyed some sorting out down the garden... there's still a bit of a backlog, so today's stuff stayed in the wheelbarrow but I loaded up more into the Compostumbler, and filled a couple of sacks of mature compost which a rodent had excavated from the base of one of the last heaps to be sitting on the ground.  Most are now up on top of pallets, to reduce the ability of rodents to nest in the heap.  They can still get in from the top, but a quick poke with the CompostMate means any tunnels collapse and they seek refuge elsewhere.  So this heap will be bagged up and then the pallets raised up off the ground so it's slightly less rodent-friendly.

I had an early tea, at about 6pm, just a bowl of soup plus an avocado sandwich, and at 6.30 walked down to Heslington with our eldest, so he could have his computer graphics lesson with Simon.  I chatted with Melody and shelled pumpkin seeds and read Resource Magazine.  Melody told me she too had heard of a horror story about Andy S. taking advantage of a kind and generous person, and I asked her to pass on the message to this (so far) anonymous person that if she wanted to contact me, I was putting together a dossier to try to get him stopped.  If any of the readers of this blog recognise the character I refer to, and has a story of him borrowing money and not paying it back, or using someone's credit card without permission, please do contact me. 

On the way back home I learned about my son's adventures on Blender, and we talked about animations and some of the things we've enjoyed. 

A quiet evening... blanched a load of grapes and put them to dry, watched a nice programme about Tom Petty, a musician I don't know a lot about.  Liked his music though...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Thursday 6th January 11

A fairly quiet day... I cycled round to the bread shop to get Yesterbake, and then to the Co-op to get goats milk for the people in the house who like dairy, cereal for me, margarine and paracetamol for the painful people, which today includes me, with a headache.

Stress today helped by a phone call from the school, asking where was our son?  I was absolutely gobsmacked... I'd given in a letter, by hand, yesterday, explaining why he was away before Christmas and why he hadn't gone in yesterday.  The communication within that school is abysmal!  So my head was full of schooling problems... I really don't want to have to deal with this.... the school should be good enough to send our children to without them feeling so much fear they can't go in. 

I usually feel better if I'm doing something outside the house, so I dismembered 4 waste pallets with my chainsaw and pure muscle, pulling the bits of wood apart to make stackable planks and nice long-burning cubes of wood with easy-to-pull-out nails in, once the cube is mostly charcoal.

In the afternoon, Gill had an appointment and I was just settling down for a late lunch when there was a knock at the door and there was my old friend Maggie, whom I haven't seen for ages, with two small dogs on lengths of string!  She said she'd walked up to B+Q for something and had walked past our house and recognised the logpiles.  She put the dogs in the back garden, tied to a bench, and came in for a coffee and chat.  We got to talking about a chap we both know, called Andy S. whom we both called a friend at one time.  However, he stole a bike from Maggie, and he's borrowed a large sum of money from one of my friends and not paid it back.  Maggie told me about someone else who Andy had possibly hoodwinked, so I sent this person a message on facebook to find out more.  What I want to do is to alert the police about this abuser so no-one else suffers in the future.  I'm wondering how to get the message out without being accused of slander/defamation or getting a brick through the window. 

I did a favour for Maggie who had taken out a stainless steel sink from somewhere and had it sitting in her back garden, and she asked me to put it on Freecycle.  By the evening I'd had 4 replies and sent them Maggie's phone number.  So I hope one of them gets it!

Anyway, Maggie stayed quite a long time and so I was unable to work with the boys as I'd planned to, after lunch, to get emails and letters sent off to family members to thank them for Christmas gifts.  However, our eldest didn't need much persuasion to email some thank yous, but letter writing is a completely different thing.  More stress.

Anyway, Gill came back, I did some more work outside til it got dark, and for tea I had a pile of old rice with a pool of pumpkin and parsnip soup in the centre, with some unidentified pickle on the side.

The highlights of the evening were watching a good programme on BBC4 about the brain, and finding an interesting forum called SelfSufficientish, which I joined, and read quite a few posts.  The site is run all or partly by my friend John Headstrong, whom I met whilst getting involved with the (We Love The) Earth Centre thing in spring 2010, and I loved this YouTube video about the Robin Hood Tax which he's put on his blog.

Finally, I was pleased to find out today who the mystery visitor was, with the Internet Service Provider based in Buckingham.  It is the spouse of an old friend whom I've known for a very long time, dealing with insomnia and getting ideas about domestic food and energy security, Transition communities and peak oil.  I'm delighted to have been 'useful' and to have helped an old friend.  So, 'hello' and your message made me smile!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Wednesday 5th January 11

I got up early as it was the first day of term and I had to be around to help.  However, our youngest decided to not try going back to Archbishop Holgate's, and will therefore start a two week trial at the Steiner School next Monday. 

However, as we had not had a reply from the Head, I wrote a letter to him asking him if he'd had it, and if so, he had anything to say about the issues.  I hand delivered this.  Later, we got a phone call saying they hadn't received the first letter.  Gill rang the LEA, and they had been sent a Fax of it, so there are obviously major communication breakdowns at that school.  We'll be invited to an interview there next week, apparently.   I am very angry with the way our children have been treated, and I'm not going to back down and accept that it was all a big mistake.  I believe that the school are denying that they have a problem with bullying as if they admitted to it, they'd be obliged to do something about it.  And that's tough, in a culture which likes bullying behaviour and condones the belittling of people.

So both boys were at home and working, reading, and had a quiet and sedentary day.

I went on the HMRC website and submitted my tax returns.  It took a couple of hours, but ended up with a calculation with them owing me 25 pence.  My earnings have gone right down, so this is the first year I've not had to pay tax for well over a decade.

Got a booking for a Charity Cabaret for mainly retired and elderly folks in February, in Fulford.  Should be interesting... I'll adapt my Woodlands MS Respite Care Centre show for them! 

I made soup for tea... pumpkin and parsnip, as suggested by my dear mother who left a comment on yesterday's post.  I was considering soup but was also considering a nutloaf.  Nutloaf tomorrow... will contain some soup!

At about 6.30, I set off walking into town with our eldest son, to attend the Cafe Scientifique at City Screen.  The talk was by Tim Clarke, from the Department of Electronics at the University of York, and was called 'Control: A Fundamental For Life and Living'.  He's a control engineer, and gave lots of interesting examples of different sorts of controls... from genetic controls with genes being switched on and off, biological controls in homeostasis, keeping our body temperature constant, and biochemical controls, such as insulin and it's role in the management of blood sugar.  It was quite an unusual talk, very wide ranging, from inverted pendulums to flocks of birds through to robots.  For instance, check out this video of the Big Dog Robot.  Really amazing.  At one stage, Tim wanted a volunteer from the audience to demonstrate something, and as there were no other volunteers, I put my hand up.  What he wanted me to do was to balance a stick on my hand... he couldn't have chosen a better person to use, as I was able to not only do it but describe what I was doing.

So, a good talk, I'm not sure I learned a lot of new stuff, but it was good to learn the meme of 'control' and put all these various things into it.  Enjoyed the walk home and the discussions with my son.

My Feedjit widget tells me that over the past couple of days I've had a visitor on here from Buckingham (maybe, it's not always accurate!) who's been poring over this blog, viewing all sorts of links and spending more time than most do here!  Makes me curious!  So hello Person from Buckingham, on Internet Explorer 8.0 and using Windows Vista!  Glad you're exploring!  Do say hello!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Tuesday 4th January 11

A very busy day.  Got up fairly early and added to yesterday's blog, as in the morning I heard news of Pete Postlethwaite's death, and that had been with me all day.  So today, I had quite a lot of reading to do, for this afternoon's Environment Forum meeting.  Barry Otley had asked us to read about Ecosystem Services, which is a way of valuing all sorts of things which don't have a monetary value... such as urban trees, wildflower meadows, or saltwater marsh.  So the value of urban trees, for instance, lies in their ability to absorb some atmospheric pollution, absorb noise, help cool the 'Urban Heat Island Effect', provide fruits/nuts, shade in summer, and if planted along pathways, can help make pleasant cycle and walkways.  Not only this, but having greenery around, such as trees, helps improve mental health and wellbeing.  All of these have been measured and well described.  So I read for about two hours, mainly documents Barry emailed to Environment Forum members. But there's plenty of info on the web, such as wikipedia for starters.

However I had three phone calls for Professor Fiddlesticks bookings, one next week, one at the end of the month, and one in the summer.

During the afternoon, Gill went to town to get clothes for the boys, and at 3.30 I headed off to the Guildhall for the Environment Forum meeting, which was very interesting.  It finished at 6pm but I chatted to Dan about Five Thousand, a new initiative which hopes to help jobless people gain skills etc through gardening.  Also chatted with June Tranmer and Edward Harland.

I got home just before 7 and had 3 slices of home grown pumpkin with rice for tea... the pumpkin had started to go off, so I'd rescued it by slicing it and removing the seeds and small area of mould, and roasting the lot in the bottom of the oven whilst something else was cooking.  So I've got another 10 slices of pumpkin to eat!  I'll have to do a family meal and try to hide pumpkin in it!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Monday 3rd January 11

What a comfy bed!  Although Jess's flat was cold, I'd been given two duvets and was therefore nice and warm, and it was a firm mattress so I slept well.

Got up around 10 and had a bowl of Weetabix and a sprinkling of porridge oats with a few bits of dried apple ring broken on top.   Watched YouTube videos, including some blasts from my past, Osibisa and Steve Hillage. I logged in to facebook and saw a friend had posted about the death of Pete Postlethwaite, which made me cry as he was my favourite actor, especially after his wonderful performance in Age of Stupid.  What a shame, he was only 64, and by all accounts a lovely bloke.  This coloured my whole day.

Jess was mending Nomi's handbag which had poorly constructed handles, so Jess was replacing them with several lengths of tough rope and then sewing leather round to make a nice looking handle.  But this meant we didn't leave the flat til well after 11, and I wanted to get the 12.19 train to York so I could be back in time for the opening of the BikeRescue HubStation.  Jess and Nomi were heading over to Leeds to buy material, so they waited for the bus, and I cycled down to the Interchange, which only took about 10 minutes, and I was there in time for the 12.05 train to Leeds.  But I said I'd wait until the later train, but they didn't get to that train so I had that hour quiet enough to read my NewScientist.

However, I met a cyclist with a folded Brompton who was going to the HubStation launch... a volunteer from Sustrans, and friends with my friend Gael.

Once in York I picked up my trailer and then had a toasted sandwich at ?Krunchies and then went to the new HubStation, the latest project from BikeRescue, headed up by Bernie Cullen, whom I have a lot of admiration for. The place was already crowded with York's cycling fraternity, Councillors, dignitaries. The building used to be an electricity sub-station, and in 2006 Bernie requested that the Council let it be used as a Cycling Centre.  It has taken £300,000 and 4 years to get it to what it is now... with space for secure bike storage, repairs, sales of reconditioned bikes, spares and accessories, a cafe, shower, and today, a lovely cake and loads and loads of happy people. One really nice touch is a window which will be permanently used for bike-based art.  It currently has a load of decorated plates in it, and is very pretty. It has been put together by Lu Mason, who I think may be the daughter of Tom Mason, one of my cycling friends who died a few years ago.

I stayed til about 3pm and then came away, I would have liked to take part in the ride through the city but I wanted to get home.  Popped in to Country Fresh on the way home though, and picked up a couple of boxes of compostables.

Back to a happy home, where all was well and our eldest had gone out to a film with friends... coming back having really enjoyed it.  Nice simple tea, and at about 7, I went out to the LETS meeting at the Seahorse... but no-one else turned up apart from two non-member ordinary guys who seemed happy to chat with me until their takeaway next door was ready.  I left at 8.30, cleared up some frosted Nasturtiums from the Edible York raised bed, picked up a pallet and came home. 

Gill was on the phone when I got in, chatting with my old friend Cathryn whom I've known since I was 18.  She is considering replacing her oil-fired central heating with a Dunsley Yorkshire woodburning stove, and wanted my advice or opinion.  Whilst on the phone, Gill suddenly got excited, saying 'Earthquake' but I didn't feel or hear anything.  However, after the phone call had finished, I switched on my laptop and went on facebook... and several other people had felt the tremor.  It was ineed a quake, Gill's third, and smallest.  Her first was in Nort Wales decades ago and it threw her to the ground.  We had one in York a few years ago, which was my first (and only!).  This time, Gill heard the rumble, the crockery on the Delft Rack clink slightly, and felt the tremor.  I was so focused on the phone conversation, I'd not experienced anything.

I rang my Dad at 10pm, to wish him a happy birthday as he's reached 70.  I wanted him to know I've not forgotten him, despite not being in contact for a while.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Sunday 2nd January 11

Not too hurried a start, got the washing up done and made sandwiches so I could have lunch on the train.

Gill wanted me to try to find some soya yoghurt with active acidobifidus or something culture, so I visited Morissons AND Waitrose on my way to town, so if I found what she wanted, I'd cycle back home with the yoghurt.  But no, there wasn't a product available so I went on to the station, locked up my trailer and got a ticket to Bradford. I'd decided the best way to get to Manningham from Bradford Interchange was to use my bike, but as trailers aren't allowed on trains, I left that locked up in York.

Waiting on the platform, I texted Gill with the no yoghurt news.  On the train I chatted with a PhD student called Phil (I think!) who is researching mathematical models of medical conditions in the aging population.  Fascinating stuff.  I love train journeys!  I changed trains at Leeds and then chatted to an Oriental couple from Manchester who were about to explore Bradford, which was only 20 minutes or so from Leeds.

I'd memorised the route from the station to Jess's house, using Googlemaps and Streetview, and I found it very easily.  Nomy was in, Jess had gone to town but was soon back with some provisions for tea.  It was lovely to see them together; I'm the person responsible for introducing them to each other, and now they're a couple, which makes me very happy.

Before tea, we had a game of Scrabble on a homemade Scrabble board, made out of cardboard, and tile racks made of Lego.  How creative Jess is!

Jess cooked a stir fry with noodles which was lovely, followed by ice cream and chocolate sauce.

After this we watched YouTube music videos, and then a great film called Kinky Boots on DVD, which was great, I really enjoyed it.

Saturday 1st January 11

Well a late start as we went to bed at 3am, but had a good day with a bit of logpile stacking, some compost bin filling, pruning brambles, to give me a layer of carbon rich/aeration material, and sorting out stuff for drying.

Later, I had a go at making 'raspapple', as Richard gave me about 9 punnets of raspberries yesterday, which were unsaleable as some of the fruit was going off.  Gill sorted out enough to make a little pie, leaving me the rest... I removed the worst ones and brought the rest up to the boil on the woodstove, and sieved off the juice.  I then put the pulp back on the stove with a bit of water, and after this had come to the boil, sieved it again, giving me a cup of raspberry juice.  Then I got a load of already dried apple rings, which I have a lot of, and in small batches, put them in the juice to soak up a bit of raspberry flavour.  I then put these for redrying on the rack on the stove.

I cut up the banana and cranberry leather which had fully dried... in fact, some bits had got to the crunchy stage, which isn't what I wanted, as it should be leathery.  So I got a jar full of these strips, and some extra bits which didn't fit.  I invited my boys to try these offcuts and got a big thumbs up. 

So a quiet and pleasant day. No hiccups, no hassles, quite productive.