Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Monday 30th May 11 Poppleton Children's Sports Day

I had a really good start to the day, a phone call from my friend who'd been in crisis last night telling me that things were better this morning.  I was very relieved to hear this.

I got myself slowly ready to go to work.  I left soon after 12 with my full kit, minus feathers which are useless outside.  I cycled through town and up Boroughbridge Road and stopped briefly at Shannons to deliver some WNBR leaflets. Then on to Poppleton for the annual 'do' which is really well organised, the Poppleton Children's Sports Day.  I found one of the organisers and explained that because it was raining, I'd be a bit restricted with my activities, just unicycling and balloon modelling.

I went to see the plant stall first and bought two courgette plants and 3 tomatoes, costing just £2.  Then I quickly went to get changed and immediately got busy, unicycling round at first then walking round and making balloon models for anyone who wanted them.

During the last half hour it stopped raining and I was able to do some devilsticking, but during the day I must have made nearly 100 balloon animals.  I even taught a young magician how to do a basic dog!

I overshot my 4pm 'official finish' time by over half an hour and went to pick up my payment and then got changed, and was home by 5.15.

I had tea and then did a bit more work in the garden, planted two sweetcorn and pulled a load of weeds out in the front, and pruned some encroaching shrubs in the shared alleyway.

So a busy day, hard work in the poor weather but a success anyway.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Sunday 29th May 11

A lovely day with a leisurely late start. I didn't do much til after Gardener's Question time, when I went outside to do some real gardening of my own.

I first spent quite a while cutting back a load of shrubs which form a boundary between ours and next door... it's not really a hedge, more a border with assorted small trees, brambles, ground elder, Vinca and Alkanet.  I ripped and cut loads out, including a large Hebe which died over winter.

This made space for me to get to the back of the raised bed where I replaced a bean wigwam which had been in 2 years and was getting brittle. I wired together 3 long branches and made another.  Then I planted out quite a few of the Pea Beans in toilet rolls, two plants per leg of the wigwam.  I also planted out 9 curly kale plants, 6 sweetcorn, and got a load of seedling American Land Cress and Perpetual Spinach put in the pots they vacated and I'll either sell them down at Country Fresh or at some charity event.

So I was happy to have got some planting done.  In the evening I signed up to use eBay as I have a few things to sell, and spent some time getting a free business card deal together.  The company even offer an online version.

A very late evening as one of my friends was in crisis and I spent some time on the phone, after 2am.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Saturday 28th May 11 The Crucible at The Theatre Royal

A good day, I woke at 9.30 and had a fairly lazy morning, watching YouTube videos of Gil Scott Heron, Rest In Peace, and thinking about an artwork that I'd like Dexter to do, based on a list of words from my first 40 years. Explored word clouds and typography.  Oh, and a little bit in the garden and chopped up a bit of fruit.

But my main appointment was at 1pm at David's, for lunch with him and Lotte. I'd received a message during the morning about the Green Day at York Minster, so I went early to say hello to assorted friends... Mark and Bernie at Bikerescue, Kate on the Rowntree Park stall, Jenny Hartland, and Ben from Freecycle, others from York Rotters and St Nicks.

I couldn't spend long there as I needed to visit the shop on Stonegate to explain about the bill for cleaning the inspection chamber, and then on to David's.  The owners of the Stonegate gun and knife shop wee OK, didn't attack me.  The chap said that he'd find out the ownership of the lane behind his yard, which he thought was a shared ownership. I'll go in next week to find out what he's decided.

Lotte had made a thing she called a tortilla.but I would have called a Spanish Omlette.  It was chunks of potato, asparagus and peas in a load of whisked egg... cooked in a circle like a quiche (although I suppose quiche can be in any shape!) which is what I originally thought it was.  We had this with some slices of ciabatta bread.

For 2pm we headed down Stonegate, saying hello to Purpleman, and went to the Theatre Royal.  We made ourselves known to the staff... as we needed to be taken round the back to get to the Theatre in the Round Stage.  We waited, David bought a programme and I read it.  I knew nothing about The Crucible, but the programme was a basic introduction to the Salem Witch Trials, which I did know a little bit about.

A lovely lady took us to the rear entrance which is wheelchair accessible and our seats were right on the edge of the stage.  I was very impressed with the production; it was very well done.  The story, especially at the end, left me thinking about injustice and the ridiculousness of religion and dogma.  At the end I was quite shocked and emotional.

It finished at 5.30 and I took David home, made him some tea (OK, microwaved a meal!) and we worked out my May hours.  He felt like going out so I took him to City Screen where he met a nice couple from London whilst I was getting him a coffee. We didn't stay long, went back, he gave me my cheque and I cycled home, getting in at 8pm.

I had difficulty loading and playing the little films I'd made with the headcam, although the position on the cables on my handlebars is better.  The sound and images don't match, with the images going slower than the acoustic track.  Also, the files no longer load onto the computer as I'm allegedly missing some sort of codec and it closes down on me.  BUT I can go to 'My Computer', click on Removable Disc E and find them there, and then copy them to a file in My Videos.  So, do-able but not brilliant.

A peaceful evening, with a really rubbish film on TV which I didn't understand.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Friday 27th May 11

Up quite early as Gill went to school to do her stint in the shop, and I got up as I didn't want to go back to sleep and miss my 10am appointment in town.  I made up my muesli and got myself awake... rang the Council bod at 9.30 and then cycled down to town.

I tried putting my little camera in a different place... clipped onto the brake cables on my handlebars.  I was glad to have the camera this time as a car driver pulled out on me, forcing me to stop.  I told her she was being recorded and I got her registration.  To her credit, she realised she had pulled out too far and stopped, so that I could have swerved out into the road to get past her... but that would have been dangerous if another road user had been following me.

I got to David's with no further problems and went to see if the gate to the yard with the full inspection chamber was open... it had been bolted last night and it still was.  The Council chaps arrived and saw that they needed their van to be in Stonegate not Grape Lane, so I waited there until the van appeared.... I spotted a friend from Heslington and I asked if she knew about Barley Hall.  She didn't so I showed her and she was delighted.

The sewer van came and the shop still wasn't open so the Council chap got a step ladder and hoisted himself over the wall and unlocked the gate which was just bolted.  The inspection chamber was full, and the crust on top indicated it had been like that for months.  This was therefore the cause of the pool of water in the cellar, as water can soak through ordinary bricks.  The chaps used a couple of plungers to unblock the drain and within seconds it all disappeared.  Job done, or indeed, jobbies gone!

I signed a sheet of paper which means the Council will demand £96, but the chaps told me to claim it back from the shop owner as the drain was on his property.

I went to tell David the good news about the unblocked drain, and then went to see the shop owner (the owner will be there tomorrow) and the Theatre Royal, about access for wheelchairs tomorrow, and the Council to ask about a structural engineer to inspect the steel joist which is corroded at the wet end, and might, or might not, need shoring up.  I was given a phone number to try later, as the person wasn't in.

Eventually I came home, via Country Fresh and a nice big trailer full of compost materials.

During the afternoon I tried to work out how to solve the router problem.  The job wasn't made any easier by the paid-for 24 hours of BT Fon repeatedly going off, and the signal disappearing.  Very frustrating.

Neither our son, responsible for the router difficulty, or I could work out what to do.  But Gill, whilst down at the Steiner School, chatted about it to Jim Semlyen, who said either find a male to male connector to link the router to the computer, or take it to the computer shop over the road.  So I started to get the router untangled to take it over the road... and found a male to male lead dangling from the back of it, not attached to anything on the free end.  My son immediately knew what to do and plugged it into the laptop he uses and within a couple of minutes had switched it back to WPA from WEP which he'd switched it to yesterday, wirelessly, so causing the wireless connection between the router and laptops to fail.

So, success.... well, some success, as my email wouldn't work, initially, but when Simon came and sat next to me, it started to work again... his 'computer-literate aura', perhaps.  Gill was very pleased with how we'd both dealt with this, in a calm and practical manner.

I phoned one of the engineers that had worked on some Council projects and he agreed to come and look at the cellar next week.

I dealt with a small backlog of emails and then went outside to put a pile of stuff on the heaps.  Tea was noodles.... very tasty.... and then I went back out to do more work in the garden, ended up doing some weeding, pulling docks out and more ground elder.

A good day, constructive and seemed to get quite a bit done.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Thursday 26th May 11

Oh, up FAR too early for someone who goes to bed so late!!!  However, Gill couldn't face cycling to school this morning as she'd run out of painkillers and was in great pain.  So she woke me at 8 and asked me if I could cycle in and she'd fetch him back this afternoon when I'm at work.

So I took the opportunity to visit a number of cycle shops with the World Naked Bike Ride flyers.  However, before this I asked the school if they'd like me to shred their decorations from the Fair... a large pile of branches and foliage.  They were happy with this and I said I'd bring my shredder in soon.  I put WNBR flyers on some of the adult bikes parked at the Steiner school.  Then I went to Alligator and left some flyers there, then Cycle Heaven who were also happy to have some, then I cycled across town to Bob Trotters and asked about bike hire for the WNBR weekend, and they took some flyers.  Here I switched on my helmet cam to do another test, and cycled up to Heworth to Cycle Street to give them flyers.  Then I went to buy bread and came home.

I had uneventful rides, so I deleted the videos I made, but I'm not sure my bike helmet is the right place for the camera.  I might try to mount it on the handlebars.  I then had a session of removing videos I've downloaded, to make space on my disc for any future videos....

So, lunch, and tried to get on with some paperwork but mainly failed.

I had my next appointment at 4, down at David's, It was with a chap from Yorkshire Water, who came out to listen for water leaks.  There is a little patch of moisture on one wall of his cellar and it might be a mains water leak.  So I showed him the leak and he had a listen to the wall, and then the RSJ beam with a very simple device, a metal stick with a point at one end and an earpiece on the other.  Water leaks have a telltale sound which is transmitted through pipes and other materials.  He described the tiny amount of water on the wall as a 'seep' rather than a leak!

We went on a wander round to look for 'stopcocks' and water meters. These have taps which the listening device can be placed on, and on one, with a water meter, there was a slow continuous passage of water, indicating a leak.  However, it seemed unlikely that the leak attached to this meter was affecting David's property.  After a good thorough look around, the Yorkshire Water chap concluded that the leak/seep was so small, and the source of it so difficult to find, that nothing further could be done.  He suggested that sorting out the other problem might make a difference.  I went back in to tell David the news and rang Brian at the Council about the full sewer/inspection chamber which I think is causing the other water ingress.  Brian asked if he could send some chaps down immediately?  Well, this sounded good, and within half an hour, they arrived.

I showed them the pool of water in the cellar and they said they'd like to check the inspection chamber... but unfortunately it was past 5.30pm and the shop had closed and locked it's yard door.  I spoke to Brian and he said he'd meet me tomorrow at 10am.

I cycled home and had a race with some racing or touring cyclists.  They were just a bit quicker than me.

When I got back, I had a quick peep at the robin's nest in the woodpile, and the eggs have hatched.  How lovely!

I put on my laptop and asked if the WiFi had been switched off.  There was a loud wail from the front room.  Our eldest had been trying to connect his Nintendo DS to the WiFi and been getting an error code.  He looked on the website for Nintendo DS and it suggested switching the WiFi Router settings.  He thought he's try it for a few minutes, to see if the game he wanted to play became accessible.  Unfortunately, this rendered the WiFi unusable... from my laptop too!

I did a bit of compost heap management but at 7.30, Gill rang me on my mobile(!) and said Sue was here, as she'd asked for more dried fruit and I'd said yes to this evening.  So I came in and washed my hands and got a kilo of mixed dried fruit for her.

After tea, my son and I walked round to Ben's, who wasn't there.  We rang Simon, who was busy.  I really needed to go online so I paid £5 to BT Fon to get 24 hours access to the internet.

I had quite a bit to do, but also kept the stove going to try to dry the banana and orange leather (final tray-full)  and did washing up.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wednesday 25th May 11

Well a somewhat frustrating day but some good bits.  I was woken before 9 by what sounded like gunshots but I worked out was a nail gun or similar being used on a house nearby.  So I got up as it's impossible to snooze through repeated loud bangs.

Gill took our youngest to school.  I did some work with my dried fruit leather... labour intensive but the only way to deal with the problem that the banana and orange leather is drying nicely but sticking to the sheet I put under it.  Both the tray with the plastic bag and the tray with some allegedly 'non-stick' aluminium had the fruit leather sticking to it, and really difficult to peel off.  But I managed to peel and tear some off and was able to fashion it into a little ball, which I put on a plate to dry, as a 'sweetie' type thing.  I did a plateful of little banana and orange balls before I went out.

I'd said to Sue that I'd come and check out her fence area before saying whether I'd be able to make the pallets I sourced for her into a fence.  So I decided to try out the helmet camera again and I got it going before I left and just left it going all the while, even when exploring Sue's garden.  In order to do anything with the fence which needs replacing in some areas and re-instating in others, a large amount of stuff will have to be removed.  I offered to do some sorting out for her before we either do the fence ourselves, or get someone else in to do the fence.

I called in on Robin on the way back and had a coffee with him and his Mum who was helping out.  We had some good conversations but at 12.45 I left, doing another film.  When I got in, I tried to download the material I'd recorded, but my laptop told me that I didn't have enough disc space, and I was unable to watch the first film, the one with Sue's garden, so I deleted it, but the one from Robin's to home was OK... but the camera was angled towards the road too much so lots of footage of tarmac.  I deleted that too.

After lunch I did another test film, a 5 minute walk down the garden, which I was able to upload , and put on facebook to show my friend Anzir, who's considering buying something similar.  I sorted out our train tickets for our holiday down to St Austell... and the way back.  I was pleased with the advance ticket price, as it all worked out as just £22.50 per person per journey, which I think is good value.

I did more banana balls.  I spent some nice times in the garden, weeding a raised bed and pulling out more ground elder. I did another big wash up. I splayed out the pineapple slices into the 'angel' shape I like to cut them into.  I popped over to see Debbie as she'd asked me to go and see her, but she was watching some sort of Murder Mystery thing so I didn't stay long.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Tuesday 24th May 11

Woke fairly late and didn't get gong very quickly. However, did do a load of washing up and sorted out the big pile of dried fruit which has built up.  I need to do a 'red pepper paprika' make soon, as I've got several jars full of dried sweet red pepper slices, which I'll render into dust in the liquidiser and knock through a fine sieve, the bigger lumps are good for stews and the powder is lovely for soup.

I jarred up 2 big jars of apples and one of pineapple.  I chopped up 3 pineapples out of 8 which were thrown away and came my way.  I peeled some banana and orange leather off it's plastic bag backing in a baking tray and made a load of little balls out of this, as it's very sticky and I think it'll dry better in spheres. They are now drying on a plate on the drying rack.

Later I potted up two tomato plants, ones from Country Fresh, and put them into their final large planters.  I also potted up the cucumber plant, and some climbing beans.  I did a little bit of composting work, and earthed up the potatoes..

Gill wasn't feeling brilliant so I went to the Co-op for her and got some bits and pieces. Later in the evening I liquidised some bananas and added them to the remaining reduced orange juice and put the resultant slop to dry.

So a fairly non-eventful day.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Monday 23rd May 11

A pretty static day doing various things on the computer and in the kitchen, but nothing of note until I went to find a spare 'Can Of Worms' wormery which I bought over a year ago along with a Compostumbler (I think!) and has sat unused all that time.

Mark from BikeRescue had asked me if he could have some info about 'indoor composting' and I suggested a wormery, and said I had a spare one, which he was only too happy to make me an offer for.  So I got some finished worm compost and quite a lot of mature worms and worm eggs, and loaded that up onto my bike trailer.

I had earlier sorted out a makeshift helmet mount for the little camera that Anna got me... I half wedged it behind the styling on my helmet, and tied it in with a pipe cleaner.  So I switched it on before I left the house, and filmed my 14 minute journey down to the Bike Hub.  I switched off there and installed the wormery, and one of the people there helped me take it upstairs.  Mark wasn't there, but had left instructions for payment.

From here I cycled round to David's, as I was due to start work at 5.  The plumber, Graham, was already working, investigating where the moisture in the cellar was coming from.  Pauline, his other PA, was there too and we all had a bit of an explore, visiting the nearby cellar under the York Medical Society and dental practice, and popping into several shops on Stonegate to see if we could work out whether there was a cellar next door to David's cellar.

Graham will sort out the water from David's soil pipe, and I'll get the Council people along to deal with the incoming sewerage from the sewer that Graham showed me, which looked quite full, if not blocked.  I'm pretty sure that the main problem is not a Yorkshire Water problem, however, they are coming on Thursday to listen for leaks.

David was very happy with what his team is doing.  He didn't feel like going out for a coffee, but I suggested he had a walk with his walking frame.  We walked along Stonegate to St Helen's Square, and to St Helen's Church where there was a book sale being sorted out.  As usual, David knew some of the organisers.

We then went back and I prepared his tea.  As he ate his, I had the salad and sandwich which Gill had prepared for me. I left at 7pm.  I went straight down to The Seahorse for the last meeting of the World Naked Bike Ride organisers.  There were a couple of older gents in the Parlour who were good for a bit of banter, then Tony and Hugh came and we had a very productive meeting dealing with the publicity, route... especially the problem junctions and re-grouping areas.  I had two pints of cider.  So much for trying to lose my cider-belly before the ride!

Home towards 11pm, and did another mammoth session on the laptop, messaging assorted folks with mainly YWNBR stuff.

Enjoyed the news of the volcanic ash cloud which I hope will stop flights, and was saddened to learn about mega-tornadoes which have killed people in the USA.  Glad though that some people are asking whether it might possibly be connected to increased atmospheric temperatures.... they are slowly catching on, I think!

And, I downloaded the film from the helmet camera, and although it was noisy because of the high wind, it was a good film. I'll post one to facebook when it's less windy and noisy.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sunday 22nd May 11

A very hard-working day but a real goodie! I got up at a fairly normal time and did my usual thing of breakfast and laptop, and I lit the stove so that I could have a shave and bath before work.

I was all washed and lovely by midday, and due to be at Museum Gardens by 1pm, for the annual Colitis and Crohn's fundraising walk, which has entertainment available for when the sponsored walkers return from their 3 miles around York.  There was a good band  which I enjoyed devilsticking to, and I did a load of unicycling round, hopping off at intervals to make balloon models for assorted children. At 2pm, the band had a break and I was asked by my handler, my friend John Gray, to try out a radio mic, which is something I'm not really used to.

However, it worked well, and I needed it as the audience stretched up the grassy bank quite a way. The strong wind would have made my voice, strong though it is, pretty inaudible for the 'back row'. I sped through the show, doing most of my activities but keeping it to about half an hour.

We finished at 3pm as all the walkers had returned.  There was an estimate that £10,000 had been raised.

I cycled home, and had a fairly short time before my second appointment, with David at 6pm.  However, I did make time to go down to Country Fresh and pick up a trailer full of resources which would have otherwise gone to landfill.

David wanted me to sort out his radios and tune one into Radio 4 (the one on the right of his bed) and one into Radio 3 (on the left) and he also asked me how to work his Pure DAB radio, which I couldn't work out but promised to research on the 'net for him.  We then went out to City Screen and met a nice couple, both Council employees, but as usual we didn't stay a long time, and I took him home to make his tea, and I got off at 8.10.

I had half an hour in the garden, loading up today's stuff into the Compostumbler and the current sit and wait pile.

A quiet evening, the highlight of which was getting my headcamera fixed to my bike helmet, and watching one of my favourite films, Inside I'm Dancing.  I found the info about the Pure Sonus 1xt radio very easily and will show David how to work his radio soon.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Saturday 21st May 11

Gill left fairly early to go to the Steiner School Spring Fair with our youngest, who has a stint on the Year 6 Cake Stall and at 1.30, a Maypole Dance Show. Gill took loads of cakes in for the stall, and she'd also volunteered to do some tidying and other things.

Our eldest doesn't like crowds or too much noise so he wasn't going; so I stayed with him at home.  At 9.20 I was woken by a phone call from the daughter of a well known local entertainer, who does close-up magic.who had managed to cut the end of his finger off and couldn't therefore work.  She was hoping that she'd be able to find a replacement entertainer for tomorrow at 1pm.  Well I was very sympathetic but couldn't do the work as I already have a gig tomorrow afternoon.  I gave her my agent's number.  I also rang my friend Stephen who is a puppeteer and suggested he might contact her.

We had a really good morning, lunch and early afternoon.  After lunch we did some shredding together, and after Gill came home and I was cutting the front hedge, one of his friends came round, so he had a good day.  I did a load of weeding.... Ground Elder mainly.  This doesn't need shredding as it's quite soft, but I collected all the hedge trimmings together in a builders sack and put them through the shredder as many of them were woody, and the shears I use to cut the hedge don't chop the stalks small like some powered hedge trimmers do.

As I was going out with David at 6.30, and it was likely to be a late evening, I had tea before I went out, pasta salad with a leafy coleslaw and two dolmades.

David had booked me to take him to St Michael-le-Belfrey to hear the Yorkshire Bach Choir, so i got changed into some tidy clothes (not shorts!) and cycled down.  We set out at about 7 and there was a space for wheelchair users.  I chatted to a lovely old lady from Sheffield called Celia who had a great sense of humour, not bad for 81 years old.  The choir was good... 44 singing, one on an organ/keyboard, and one playing a theorbo, which I'd not seen before, or at least, never heard the name of it.  I really enjoyed the choir.... I liked it that between songs they moved around and changed places, even for one piece three of them went and stood quite a way away from the rest, which made quite a good effect.  The only problem was that I understood none of it.... it was, I think, all in Latin.

David enjoyed himself immensely and was very pleased to have been able to attend.  We got back to his place just before 10 and I got him some food and sat with him and ha a drink before going... I got home at 11pm. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Friday 20th May 11

A good day.... Woke at 8.30 as Gill was going to the school to help in the shop, so I got up and made sure our eldest was OK, and doing his maths and then reading his book on how to do computer animation.

I did quite a bit on the computer, and had yet more phone calls.... I made a phone call to the person who had sold the helmet camera to my sister, and explained what had happened when I plugged it in yesterday, and then I said I'd like to go through the process with him.  This time it worked perfectly... the red light came on this time, and the blue light blinked, indicating it was charging from my USB port on my laptop.  I messaged Anna to tell her that it seemed to be working.

I also spent quite a bit of time peeling oranges... I'd got a large number from the compostables collection, so I decided to do an experiment.  I dreamed up an orange and banana fruit leather.  The first job was to wash about 30 oranges, tangerines etc, and to peel them.  Then I chopped them up and removed seeds and the worst of the pithy bits.  Later in the evening, I liquidised the orange chunks and strained off the juice, reduced it on the stove to remove some of the water, and added this thickened orange juice to the 10 or so bananas I'd got.  This made a wonderful fruity soup, which I put into two drying trays.

In the afternoon, I worked out how to use it and made a very short film, which I posted to facebook and tagged Anna and thanked her. I look forward to using it whilst cycling... maybe catch some bad drivers!

I got my post.... TWO cheques!  Great!  I went to pick up our little un and on the way I bought two cucumbers and two peppers for the Steiner School Fair, which is tomorrow, and then delivered 5 bags of compost to Owen, put my cheques in, transferred some money to our bank account so I can get train tickets for later in the summer, and then off down to the school.

We had a good cycle home and I then spent a short time chopping up some sticks given to me for kindling... but actually were better for composting.

For tea, had some sweet potato, squash and roast potatoes, baked beans, bit of salad and half a small tin of dolmades, one of my favourite foods.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Thursday 19th May 11

A mixed day, with some boring bits, exciting bits, slightly annoyed bits and happy chilled bits.

So, up at about 9 and I spent the whole morning doing assorted paperwork.  I'm very slow at this.  I also had several phone calls, one booking Professor Fiddlesticks for Spofforth Gala and another booking for a charity event to raise money for building an extension (I think!) to an orphanage in Uganda.  I was really torn with this one,as it's on the same evening as the Manchester World Naked Bike Ride, which I really enjoyed last year, but the charity event looks good.  It is in the style of the  'Generation Game'; a 1970's TV programme where teams of participants did various games, including getting taught by an expert how to do something and then doing it, and the expert judging their efforts.  So I'll be the balloon modelling expert and teacher.... Yup, sounds like fun, different sort of fun to the WNBR.  They persuaded me with a small fee... again, I was torn, as I'd have liked to do it for nothing, but I was told that I was exactly what they wanted, and as I'm missing one of my favourite annual events, I don't feel quite so bad saying yes to this.

I'd got enough paperwork done to go to town and get a cheque out and post that to where it needed to be, and to get another one and bring it home as I haven't sorted the envelope for that, and get some money out to pay our first 2 months of Council Tax this year.  I went to Library Square to pay this but was told that it was only at St Leonard's Place where I could pay cash.  So there I also asked about water ingress into ancient cellars.  I spoke to someone from Environmental Health on the phone, who suggested talking to a drainage expert at the EcoDepot.

I said I'd go to the EcoDepot within the hour.  I called in on Miller's Yard, but Dylan wasn't there, but I did take 2 sacks of biodegradables.  The drainage expert, Brian, told me about the history of the area (drainage-wise!) and advised me to get Yorkshire Water out first.

When I came in, I rang them and got an appointment.  I think David will be pleased.

I visited Country Fresh, picked up 2 sacks of stuff, plus 20 potato sacks which I'll put on Freecycle.  I came back home and spent some time loading materials into the Compostumbler and the sit and wait heap.

I came in for a plate of pasta and our eldest decided that he wanted to go with me to the new 'thinking person's cabaret', Bright Club, which this month was at the Black Swan.  I'd enquired about it's suitability for young teens, and yes, it is OK.  So we set out a bit before 7pm, through St Nicks where I spotted a beautiful male pheasant. Our son had never seen one before and was entranced!  As we approached the Black Swan, we crossed over to see the Edible York Raised Bed, and Bill Eve was doing some weeding!  Good to see him.

The Bright Club was in the downstairs room, and it was crowded and smelled of fish and chips.  My son couldn't cope with the smell, crowd and darkness so we went.  I was a bit annoyed but continued chatting on the way back, but as soon as we reached home, I shot off on my bike to the York in Transition meeting at Peter's house, where I slowly forgot the traumas of attempting to be a good parent, and cheered up.  We had a good meeting.  I gave myself jobs to do.  Here I can be effective, useful, successful.  We had the meeting outside, sitting around Peter's washing machine drum fire-pit, which was good.  Tomas and Eleanor arrived, and had brought a small bottle of cider, as if they knew I'd be there and needing something.  I was so grateful!

I cycled to the Seahorse Hotel to book the little room for the Cosy Homes project meeting.  Good to meet an old friend, Jan, whom I worked with in Pizzaland in the 1980s!  Then came home to settle down to doing more dried apple, washing up. chat on facebook with other Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome people, wrote blog and got to bed after 3.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Wednesday 18th May 11

Despite going to bed at 3am last night, I got up before 8 and cycled our little-un into school, and I took a pair of secateurs and a builders bag, as I had said that I'd do some gardening to Dave Fryer, and he'd suggested pruning out some low-growing roses and other shrubs... prickly ones low down needed removing to reduce the possibility of a child getting scratched and prickled.

I found some sycamore saplings which I removed, and a whole bunch of nettles, and quite a bit of other stuff... including rose suckers.  I chopped it all up and took it through the school in the builders bag and investigated the compost heap I created before Easter.  Over the holiday someone had put a whole load of quite thick ivy and other climbers on it, whole, and then covered this with a thick layer of grass clippings.  Composting fail.

I had to redo the heap, pulling the ivy etc up, breaking up the thick layer of grass clippings and cutting the ivy into shorter lengths.  I hope that whomsoever did this bit of 'lazy gardening' won't do the same again.  Maybe I'll offer a composting workshop and share the knowledge that stuff needs to be cut up and mixed in order to rot down well.

I spent a couple of hours doing the gardening stuff (and also helping move stage block boards from downstairs up to the Eurythmy room) and then got fed up... and tired, so I came home, but via Alligator and picked up a trailer-load of biodegradables.

I did some sedentary stuff at home, before and after lunch, but before collecting our son again, I went to the building society and paid in two cheques.  I collected some fruit and veg scraps from Country Fresh and took them to the Steiner school to add to their rather dry compost heap, to act as an activator.  Next time I go in I'll take a garden fork and give the pile a good stir.  There's a mature pile too, which needs riddling.  I'm wondering which riddle to take in to deal with this.  I'd quite like to take the motorised one, which would do it quickly and painlessly, but not sure how it would transport.

We got home easily and I then got on with a bit of outside stuff, another load into the Compostumbler and I watered the beans and tomatoes in the conservatory.

Gill made a pile of rice and veg for tea which was simple and filling.  I set off soon after for the Green Party meeting in the Guildhall, the 'post election' meeting, with analysis of how we did.  Although we didn't increase the numbers of Councillors, we came second in Micklegate, Guildhall and Clifton, and did well in other places too.  It was a good meeting, but I was pleased to get away at 9.30.  I did pick up a pallet on the way home though....

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Tuesday 17th May 11

Oops, overslept, and woke at 9.33, realising I had agreed to meet Tony at 9.45 outside Alligators.  I washed, dressed, got a cereal bar and a banana and jumped on my bike.... and got to Alligators only a few minutes late.

We'd got an appointment at the Police Station to talk through the World Naked Bike Ride risk assessment.  The Police in North Yorkshire have a policy not to do any traffic management, so our 'how to reduce risk' section, which included references to 'police escort' didn't go down too well, but we included it as it was the obvious way to make the ride safer.  However, in the end, the officer who saw us gave us two possible ways to deal with the junctions and the problem of the peloton getting split.

So I regarded the meeting as a reasonable success, and Tony and I had a brief chat afterwards before I cycled into town to deal with David's water ingress problem.  I arranged to meet up with someone who uses the space under David's flat, to see where the water had got in recently, just to confirm which wall had the problem.  I then went to see David who had Richard with him, and Richard's friend John.  Gill messaged me; she'd brought the bike lock key into town so I could pick up our youngest at 3.30.  She popped in to see David, as she hadn't seen where he lives, or met him.  I was pleased they've now met.

I then took David to St Martin's Church, on Coney Street, next to City Screen, to hear the lunchtime organ concert, today being performed by Robert Sharpe, who's the Director of Music at York Minster.  The organ was a simple one, no foot pedals, and the pieces played included some Camidge, J.S. Bach, John Stanley and Mozart.  I enjoyed Samuel Wesley's 'Hornpipe' most, I think, but found all the pieces very simple (ie a keyboard played with one pair of hands), a bit boring and a bit comical.  The sound of the organ reminded me of steam-powered fairground organs.  But there was nothing I disliked, and I'd be happy to take him again; indeed, I am booked to do so! David enjoyed it very much, I was glad to learn.

I took him to Browns with Richard and John, and they met with Carolyn.  I went back to David's flat and met the person who has access to the space under it, so i could see the offending wall.  This will help me describe the situation to the Environmental Health when I speak to them.  I went back to Browns and John bought be a sandwich and coffee.

I had a quick look around the cellar with Richard and we found another source of moisture from the soil pipe from the upstairs toilet.  That can be fixed fairly easily, I think.

I then got off to go to the Steiner School to pick up our son and 3 outers of soya milk.  And a log on the way home.  Our son pedalled so hard on one section on the way home that he broke his chain.  We phoned Cycleworks to find if they could do it.... no, had to wait til Thursday.  We phoned Cycle Heaven and yes, they could do it in half an hour.  I loaded up his bike onto my trailer and took it to Cycle Heaven; Ash sorted it in 5 minutes and didn't charge me much.  I love Cycle Heaven, it's the best bike shop in York.

I got home and did a bit of chainsawing... some nice offcuts rescued from a skip recently.  Then I came in and flopped.  What a day!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Monday 16th May 11

Rose at the respectable time of 9am and got busy with I'm not sure what until about 11 when I went round to the bread shop to buy Yesterbake.

I did some bits and bobs in the garden, including chopping up the last of the ash branches delivered by Mark the gardener, and the usual housework.  At 4pm I headed off for a meeting at El Piano with a friend of a friend called Vicky, who worked for a local magazine last year, and is preparing to launch a new magazine and website in August.  She wanted to see if I was willing to contribute to their 'green' and ethical living section, either as a columnist/blogger or as some sort of consultant... I'm not sure.  I think the conversation we had was a 'getting to know you' session, a 'scoping' meeting.

At 6 I went to see David, who wasn't feeling like going out, but was happy that I'd bought 6 small screws to rehang two wardrobe sliding doors, which I did, successfully, with the help of some matchsticks to make the existing holes tighter.  I also dealt with the picture lighting stuff and think that just one picture light needs either repairing or replacing.

Another thing which has been worrying David is the levels of moisture in the cellar.  So I went to investigate and found two areas which need 'seeing to'.  I'll be dealing with these over the next few days, and getting Environmental Health involved.

I got his food to him and one or two other things, and left early at 7.40. I came home via Freshways which had some good fruity stuff for me, and I took that down the garden before having tea, which was a bit of nutloaf (the last bit), a bread roll and a bowl of DELICIOUS tomato soup made last night by me!

And a fairly normal evening ensued, various phone calls and emails and facebook conversations.  Enjoyed a TV programme on the problems with some unscrupulous recycling companies and electronic waste.

One of the highlights today was finding that a robin has built a nest in the current logpile, in a little gap overlooking the front garden right next to our front door.  There are 5 or 6 little eggs in the nest.  So I'm now going to take any fuel we need from the other side whilst these eggs hatch and the robins fledge and leave.  I love it when robins nest in funny places.... memories of one nesting in the garage a few years back.

When I came to publish my blog, something had gone wrong with the internet connection and I went to bed before publishing, which I did as soon as possible on Tuesday.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Sunday 15th May 11

I slept in late, which was lovely. I didn't get dressed til after midday.  I half-listened to Gardener's Question Time on Radio 4.  Gill went to the Co-op for soya milk as we've run out of our Suma order supply, but forgot to get goats cheese so I went to get that for her.  On the way back I picked up some branches that John and Elizabeth emailed me about, and I was shown their huge rabbit and we chatted about beans, slugs and comfrey.  I also collected some pallets from a neighbour who had asked me to recycle them.

I did a pick-up from Country Fresh; Richard was just leaving as he had a gig this evening, so Martin sorted me out with 4 boxes of compostables, which included a big pile of tomatoes.

I did some work in the garden, unloading the Compostumbler and refilling it, and doing some weeding in the area which I hope to make into a raised bed.

Last thing, whilst making tomato soup, I watched On A Clear Day, a really good 'feelgood flick' about a man's attempt to swim the Channel.

I'm wondering if I am just a 'night owl' or have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. My sleep patterns match the description in this really well, but I'm lucky that my lack of a regular 9-5 work and a wife who sleeps in the evening and gets up at 6am means that it isn't much of a problem.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Saturday 14th May 11

A mostly slow and relaxed day.  I got up at about 9 and had breakfast and went on the computer.  I had no appointments until 6pm.

Sometime before 11am, Mike R rang and asked if he could drop by and pick up his air rifle I asked for on Freecycle last Autumn. In the end, I never got to use it against the squirrels which were destroying my nut crop, as it wasn't really safe to use in the back garden, as stray pellets could end up going into a neighbour's property.  I got my live trap soon after, which is much more controllable.  So he collected it, and brought some unwanted and unused metal plant supports for us.

I planted more seeds... some tromboncino squash, and purple climbing beans, and watered the existing seedlings.  Over lunch I researched several things for David on the internet... battery-operated LED picture lights, and whether his TV is digital or not.

Gill and I cooked tea together.  We made a nutloaf with old bread, peanut butter, thrown away spring onions and red pepper plus a bought onion and mushroom.  I also picked some nettle tops from the garden and chopped those up and put them in.  Moistened with egg and red wine, seasoned with herbs and bouillon, and turned into a greased dish and lined with sesame seeds.  This made a fab meal, the children loved it.

I went to work at 5.30, and took David to The Last Drop Inn where we met Carolyn and Geoff, and we had a good chat and laugh, but the pub was quite noisy for David who has hearing aids.  I took him back home and we sorted out some lighting issues.  I changed a fuse, tested light bulbs.  David has a large collection of incandescent bulbs, but he uses CFLs too, and now, a picture light with LEDs.  I made his tea and got away at 8.20.

Home to a nutloaf and cold pasta salad, and a quiet evening with some washing up, preparing apple for drying, watching some TV with Gill.  

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Friday 13th May 11

A bit of a frustrating day, blog-wise, as I was keen to send my Mass Observation post to the website recording the day, but Blogger was down all day, and had lost my post, and was just showing Wednesday's as the last one.  However, I got on with various other things.

One of the things was to get a sack of riddled compost for Kay, and to fill a sack of unriddled out of a compost bin of finished 'raw' compost for her, and load my trailer.

I got a reply from a freecycler saying yes to the microwave.  He'll collect tonight.

I had an early lunch  and at 1pm got going to Kay's in Holgate.  This delivery took a much shorter time than expected, and I arrived at the station to catch my bus at 1.45.... and my bus was 2.38.  But there was an earlier bus, which passed Seacroft Hospital so I caught that.

As I arrived in Leeds it started to rain heavily so on my  short walk to the blood donor centre, I got quite wet. They were happy to deal with me despite my being earlier than expected. I read the standard donor forms and signed the consent, then had another nurse explain about the platelet donation.  I was told that the normal range of platelets in blood was 150,000 to 400,000 per mm3, the average being 200,000 to 250,000.  My count was 370,000 which was why I'd been invited to donate.  Most people donate 2 units in a session lasting between an hour and 90 minutes, but they reckoned I'd be able to give 3 units. If they extract platelets from donated blood, they need 4 units of blood to make one unit of platelets.  They explained about the anticoagulant added to the blood, and the possible side effects.  I signed up to donate.

I was connected up to the machine and it started a cycle of extracting a volume of blood, passing it through a centrifuge to separate red blood cells from the plasma and platelets, and then returned the blood.  I was connected up for an hour, when the machine signalled I'd done... 3 units in 57 minutes.  The nurses were delighted.  They encouraged me to come back in a month.  Whilst having a cuppa afterwards, I got chatting to a chap called John who was an experienced platelet donor, and he lived in York so gave me a lift back to the Tadcaster Road between Tesco and the Cross Keys on St Helen's Road.  I walked into town, taking 20 minutes, and then cycled home, feeling good that I was a special platelet donor. Each time I donate, I'll get two points on my donor record, which so far is 26 units of blood plus today's two units of platelets.  Even though I gave three, I still only get two units on my donor card.

I got in sometime after 6pm and lit the stove, and Gill made me some tea.  The Freecycler collected the microwave.  I had a fairly relaxing evening.... blogger eventually came back and I was able to submit my Mass Observation post.  I didn't get to bed til after 2am.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Thursday 12th May 11 'Mass Observation Day'

Today is Mass Observation Day.  I am using my blog, http://lowcarbonlifestyle.blogspot.com/ as my method of recording my day and I'll be publishing it at intervals throughout the day with latest updates.

If anyone wants to take part, here are the instructions about what to do and where to send your electronic diary.

Woke at 8.30 to the sound of my youngest son laughing, before he was put in a taxi and went to school.
I had my bowl of branflakes, home-made muesli with crunchy granola and soya milk, and Gill asked if I wanted to watch the news, and she put the telly on.  I put on my laptop and replied to an email from Kay about delivering compost, and got a notification about a Linkedin message about Grocery and Supermarket waste composting which I added a comment to. I started this blog post.

I had 11 notifications on facebook and then my facebook friend Phil wanted to chat about the forthcoming World Naked Bike Ride.  I checked my answerphone messages and rang one of them back to sort out a Professor Fiddlesticks appearance later this summer.  I went to get dressed soon after 10am.

I lit the woodstove from the embers from last night; we have two Clearview Stoves, both smokefree and very efficient.  We use them to heat water (on top) and at the moment I'm drying red pepper and pineapple, all from thrown-away stuff which I get for composting (and drying, making soup, etc!)

I got my electric chainsaw and tried to do a bit more of the huge logpile which is outside our front, so we can keep the stoves going next winter.  But a concrete mixer lorry arrived; our neighbour Ken is building an Orangery and he's laying the floor.  He'd got a small team of helpers and I offered my wheelbarrow to one of them who hadn't got one... but she was the 'Supervisor' and so Ken said I could help if I wanted to.  I asked him if he'd like me to help, he said yes.  So I spent the next hour helping move 4.3 tonnes of concrete from Ashbridge and chatting to John the delivery man about all sorts of things... the carbon footprint of concrete, bike trailers, our mutual friends and contacts.  I came in at 12.30 to put my teeshirt in soak as it had got tiny flecks of cement on it, and as it's one of my favourites (with Jimi Hendrix on it) I didn't want it to be spoiled.

I made a coffee and decided to have lunch, as I've a York Rotters meeting at 2pm.

For lunch I had my usual organic crunchy no salt peanut butter plus Marmite sandwich, in granary bread, and a dairy-free mayo and avocado sandwich.  I had some 'freegan' crisps, rescued from a bin (but nothing wrong with them, just after their sell-by date), and I had my coffee afterwards.  I watched the BBC One O Clock News and was pleased to see the item about the new wind turbine mast factory in Chepstow.  Whilst having lunch, I usually go online and today I sorted out my itinerary tomorrow... I'm going to take two sacks of compost to Kay before leaving my bike and trailer at the station and getting on a bus to Leeds.  I'm a regular blood donor, and last month was invited to donate platelets.  This can only happen at either Seacroft Hospital (on the bus route) or in the centre of Leeds (accessible by train) so, because of the cost (£6 return) I chose the Seacroft.  So that's tomorrow sorted.

At 1.50pm I cycled down to St Nicks for the York Rotters management meeting.  This was a short one, just under an hour, and I got back at 3pm, and after a quick coffee, got my wellies on again to do more tidying in the front.  I'd had a delivery from my gardener friend Mark, who'd taken down an Ash tree and if he'd taken it to the Council recycling depot, it would have cost him to put it in the green waste skip.  But I'm (nearly) always happy to accept logs.... but I had a lot of tidying and sorting to do.

Gill came back with the boys, she'd taken our home educated son to town to buy a diabolo, as he's been using mine (thinking I didn't know about it) and then she went on to collect our other son who's at the Steiner School.  I did more chainsawing and then went round the back and planted 30 borlotti beans in toilet roll tubes.  Thanks to Glenn for giving me these seeds yesterday.

Then I got washed and ready to go to my care work, which is at 6pm.  I got to David's house, in the centre of York, at five to six and we discussed the doors on his wardrobe which need their hanger/rollers re-attaching, so he asked me to buy some screws to do this with, on Saturday when I'm next working.  He's also had his recycling box delivered (I contacted St Nicks, which do the City Centre collection) and so I sorted out a large pile of newspapers which he (or one of his PAs) had thrown in the dustbin.  David wanted to go to City Screen for a coffee, so I got his wheelchair ready and he walked downstairs and out of his yard, and I took him along Stonegate, St Helen's Square and Coney Street.  David gave me his membership card and a fiver, and I got him a filter coffee and myself a mocha.

After this, and a few short conversations, we visited the loo and then made our way back to his place... and he wanted to have a go with his walking frame.  He is keen to get back into better shape after his illness, so he did a 'round the block', doing Stonegate, Petergate, Deangate, Minster Gates and back to Stonegate and home.  I prepared his meal... basically a microwaved 'ready meal', but with a few extras on it, such as garlic mayo and spicy onion chutney.  One of his other carers had observed that his microwave was a bit rusty and she couldn't get it to work properly (I think she just needed to centre the revolving plate more carefully) so he'd said chuck it out and buy another.  I said I'd get his old one recycled in one way or another.

At 8 I left, with my bike trailer full of a sack of shredded paper (for my compost heap), the microwave, some drinks cartons, which aren't included in the recycling collection, but I can cycle round to the Hazel Court recycling depot with all our soya milk cartons once a month or so. And some batteries which also shouldn't be landfilled, but recycled.

I whizzed home with the wind behind me, and witnessed an appalling bit of driving with a fellow cyclist nearly getting knocked off by a car driver.  Makes me think I should get a little gadget camera which goes on cycle helmets and can download up to 2 hours of film and sound to a computer.  They're not that expensive, I saw one advertised recently online... but can't find it now.

When I got back, my neighbour Ken told me that someone had been snooping round the back of his house, looking through a window and leaving footprints on the still moist concrete.  He warned me to be aware that there were opportunists around, and to keep doors locked.

I did more work in the garden before the light went completely, including putting maybe 100kg of greengrocers unsold and unwanted fruit and veg on one of my big compost heaps, sandwiched between two sacks of woodchip, which like greengrocers throw-outs is in plentiful supply if you know where to find it!  I also did a bit of weeding, a perrennial nuisance called Ground Elder, which although edible, spreads and takes over. I put it in the compost, as my heaps get hot and nothing can survive this.

I found a blackbird had got into my live trap which I set to catch rats.  I released it.  I like 'live traps' as when I used rat traps which snapped shut, I caught a few birds and even a frog once, as well as the intended prey.  I wasn't happy with this, so now use a wire cage trap.  If I get a rat, they are easy to kill, although I still don't understand why I quite like, and tolerate mice, but if I spot a rat, I immediately set the trap. I don't actually like killing rats, but if my neighbour sees one, he always tells me and seemingly blames it on me as I have lots of compost heaps, and I do occasionally get one burrowing in, but if this happens, I just turn the heap and they don't like the disturbance, and they move on.

I tested David's old microwave and it worked.  I put it on Freecycle, and hope someone will make use of it.  Gill had made a leek and cheese sauce with slices of sweet potato, so I had that, followed by a coffee.  I watched Chris Packham on TV, with his Coastal nature programme.

Much later, at midnight, I went for a little cycle ride to go and check out a skip I'd spotted earlier.  I also visited a supermarket which leaves me their fruit and veg waste.  On the way back I saw my friend Jamie, walking back from town.  He's been looking after his wife for some time as she's had cancer.  I asked how things were at home... and he told me that she'd died on Monday, and his family had come to York to see him, and he was in a daze.  I said how sorry I was to hear this, but he said that it was a release as she was not in pain any more. 

Whenever I hear of a death, I'm reminded how short life is, and how important it is to use every day fully and not waste time.  I try to pack as much in as possible, and do as much 'good' as possible, and consume as little as possible.  I think today has been a pretty standard day for me, except I've written about it in more detail than usual. 

I donate my 12th May diary to the Mass Observation Archive. I consent to it being made publicly available as part of the Archive and assign my copyright in the diary to the Mass Observation Archive Trustees so that it can be reproduced in full or in part on websites, in publications and in broadcasts as approved by the Trustees.

Wednesday 11th May 11

A good day as my old friend Glenn came over from Scarborough, mainly to collect some compost worms for his new wormery.  However, his visit coincided with a tour of St Nicks Fields and Environment Centre that my new friend Peter Tatham had booked.  Peter had arranged to come over with a bunch of his colleagues from his gardening project in Bradford, so I suggested to Glenn that he might like to join us.

Before Glenn came I lit the stove as one of our boys needs a bath this evening, and I also had a thrown-away pineapple which needed rescuing, so I sliced that up in the usual way and put it on the rack for drying.  Glenn texted and said he'd be here at 10.30 but that time came and went so I rang St Nicks to ask if he'd gone there instead of here.... which he had.  I bombed down there on my bike and 10 minutes later, Peter and his group arrived.

Ivana led the tour.  We started off with a hot drink in the centre, and we heard the history of the site and how the centre came to be built.  She described the various design features which make the centre use fewer resources than an ordinary building, and some of the activities that happen there.  I learned something new.... the rainwater harvesting system is not providing enough water for the centre.  This is due to a combination of factors.... there are far more people using the centre than originally envisaged, the 1500 litre tank is not big enough, and the roof too small to provide, and crucially, there's been several very dry periods with not enough rain to refill the tank.  So on several occasions, a hose has been used to fill up the tank.  But this isn't a sustainable solution, so a decision has been made to connect the centre to the mains water.  The other news is that when a huge Syccamore tree was pollarded to increase the amount of wind available to the wind turbine, there was a storm and a strong gust damaged a part of the turbine, rendering it useless.  And as it's 10 years old, the repacement part is not 'off the shelf' and is having to be manufactured specially.  What a nuisance!

We then had a walk around the nature reserve.  Glenn is a bird expert and spotted quite a few things including a Whitethroat. At the end of the tour, Glenn drove to our house and I cycled back, and we went for a walk to Tang Hall Lane to collect a prescription and buy bread.

We had lunch and then wandered down the garden to collect the worms I'd collected yesterday.  He gave me some Borlotti beans and I swapped them for some Pea Beans which I'm growing in toilet rolls.

He got off and I did a bit more wood management.

Gill made a tea based on noodles and veg in the wok, I helped a little bit, preparing some of the vegetables.  I then set out for Green Drinks at the Three Legged Mare, which I had to go to as I'm one of the admins for the group and Tom, the other one, wasn't able to go.  I met my old friend Fez or Ferret outside the York Arms and we chatted for a bit.... memories of  his old band the Suicidal Flowers.

However, I had to wait for other Green Drinks people... but no one came for the best part of an hour... but it was good to see folks when they did!

I came home via the cycle path and St Nicks.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Tuesday 10th May 11

Well a funny old day.... Up early, something to do with taking a child to school but he didn't go in the end.  I removed myself from the situation, and got busy in the front garden, sawing and splitting the Ash logs left by Mark.  I also did a little bit of work in the back garden, but not much.

I had quite a bit of time indoors too, sorting out the Student Loan stuff and a whole load of gigs in York libraries over the summer, which I'm looking forward to.

I'd agreed to go and see Helen at 4.30 in El Piano, as she'd been at her regular Tuesday workshop, and we had some great chats, as usual.  Helen also had something for me... my only birthday present this year, a book by David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame, about his cycling adventures, called Bicycle Diaries, which looks like a really good read. Thank you Helen.

We parted at about 6 and I cycled straight up to Tang Hall Library for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel, which was interesting as the Council have agreed something called an Article 4 Direction, which means, if it's agreed, that if a home owner wants to change the use of the house from an ordinary residence to a 'House In Multiple Occupation' or HMO, they'll have to apply for planning permission.  An HMO is a house or flat with 3 or more tenants who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.  The best definition I've found of an HMO is here. This will mean that the numbers of houses being converted into student homes might be slowed down, as it might be possible, if Article 4 is agreed, to refuse planning permission for the change.  I will be writing to the Council to support this Direction, as so many local residents have told me that they are worried by the number of student houses constantly being converted.

I got back home at about 7.30 and did a bit more work outside, before coming in for some soup (out of a tin) and a sandwich.  

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Monday 9th May 11

Up fairly early and started with assorted admin/paperwork/phoning type activities.

But before lunch, Gillian from around the corner came round and asked if I still wanted the pile of bricks that she and Tony, her husband who died a few weeks back, had accumulated and stored.  Well yes, I did, as I want to make a raised bed at the bottom part of the garden, but don't want the soil to touch the fence it'll be up against.  So I need a low wall up against the fence, not touching it, to allow an air gap, but close enough to allow crops to grow up the fence whilst their roots are in the nice soil I'll fill the bed with.

So I collected nearly 300 bricks in I don't know how many wheelbarrow trips.  I also spent some time with Gillian, whom I'm very fond of... she needed to talk about Tony and share her feelings of loss.  They'd been married for 47 years.

So I came in for a late lunch at about 2pm and did some more computery stuff, and then some wood management out the front.  However, it started to rain, and then thunder, and then hail, so I came in.  I needed to go to my GP too, at 5.30, so I went as soon as the weather would allow and got there on the dot of 5.30.  My leg still hurts after breaking my ankle last year and my scalp eczema doesn't get cleared up by the cream I've been prescribed, so I'm getting an eczema removal liquid, and was given a form for an X-ray to see if my ankle has healed properly.

I went from here to Sainsburys to get Marmite, and then on to David's to do my two hours of care work.  He asked to be taken to Waitrose, which he hadn't been to, so I pushed him all the way there and around it several times, and he found a few things he wanted. We came back a different way, via the Peaseholm Green Edible York raised beds... and I spotted some bindweed, which will need to be removed or it will take over.

I did a bit of DIY back at David's, putting up a battery-powered LED picture light, using Gill's rechargeable drill. It wasn't the easiest of jobs.

I prepared his evening meal and got away soon after 8.

Mark Windmill, my gardener friend, had kindly delivered a load of Ash logs from a project he'd been working on.  I tidied some of them up before having my tea.  A quiet evening and not too late to bed....

Monday, 9 May 2011

Sunday 8th May 11

Got up reasonably early, despite going to bed at 4am or about that.  And a good day, sorting out the pile of wood at the front of the house mainly, but I also visited Country Fresh and collected a god big job-lot of compostables, plus some groceries.

At 5.30 I headed down to town for my care work with David, and he'd been invited to meet Geoff at The Habit, so I took him there and we chatted and drank coffee, and chatted with a chap from the Green Chemistry department at the University.   We didn't stay long and went past the Minster back to Stonegate, where we chatted with Trevor Rooney and another chap whom I met with a bunch of political activists on our drive, who also greeted David warmly.  However, neither of us could remember his name...

When we got back to David's, he wanted to have another go with his wheeled walking frame, and we did a 'round the block' walk.  Then I put his evening meal together and did a bit of sorting stuff out, and got away for 8pm.

Later, I got a message from Hann, who wanted to have a break from the goings-on in the shared house, so I agreed to meet between our houses and we both came back here, and had an hour's animated conversation whilst I prepared red pepper for drying.  We walked back together after midnight and I then cycled home, head full of new concepts and ideas.  Good stuff!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Saturday 7th May 11

A slow day, had several visitors though, Loony's mother and a friend, delivering a sofa and two chairs, and her ex partner and 3 year old daughter, who stayed when he went, and then her father and his partner, and a friend/home helper person, Gemma I think... but no-one else came to her housewarming, but glad some did!  I did do quite a bit of balloon modelling, Gemma was good and Loony and her little daughter had a go too.

I got the bus into Bristol at 6 and my train left on time at 8.30, got into Birmingham at 10ish, I left there at 10.30 and got into Manchester Piccadilly after midnight, and then walked in the rain across the City centre to Victoria, where I had a good hour's devilsticking before the 1.55am train left for York.  Got into York at 3.30, home and soaking wet at 4, amazed at all the lovely birthday greetings that came through facebook (and a few on email) and didn't get to bed until nearly 5.

Friday 6th May 11

Another busy day, mainly at the count and then a train journey.

The counting of votes was due to take place today, and what is now 'Energise' but I and everyone else in York calls Oaklands Sports Centre.  The entrance ticket said 9.30 but there were so many people wanting to get in, and having to get their round-the -neck tags saying 'Candidate' or 'Counting Agent' or 'Guest', that the count didn't really get going until nearly 10am.

The first job was to separate the Referendum grey coloured papers from the white Council Election papers, and this wasn't really a process which allowed any of the party workers to get any information.  This happens at the next stage, where individual ballot boxes, which are numbered, have their ballot papers counted and put in bundles of 50, and this number tallied with the number of people who came into the polling station to vote.  At this stage, it is possible to do a count of the numbers of ticks or crosses on the ballot paper and see what the voting patterns were in specific geographical areas, as each ballot box serves a part of the ward.  This is easiest in areas with just one Councillor, ie one vote.  However, it gets more difficult where there are two or three Councillors and you are allowed up to that number of votes.  So in Hull Road Ward, where there are two Councillors, there were two crosses on most ballots, and it was less easy to see what the outcome of the poll would be.  

So, although some of our party activists were busy scribbling down as many of the details they could during this initial count, I couldn't follow it and there wasn't a party activist giving instructions about what to do.  So I just watched the person counting and counted as well, to check they were getting it right!  I really didn't need to do this as each bundle of 50 is recounted by another person and initialled by them as well.  The referendum ballots were counted too, and bundled up into 50s, and this second lot of counting extended the whole business considerably.  At about 10am, Kirsten England, the Chief Executive of the City of York Council said she thought they'd be able to finish the job in a couple of hours, but the first result wasn't announced til 4pm!

So, after the numbers of ballots were tallied with the people who turned up to vote, the Council seat ballots from each ward were sorted into those papers where the voter had voted for both or all three of the same party, and mixed or single votes.  The 'block votes' were then counted and checked, and each candidate had their votes noted.  Then the mixed and single votes papers were dealt with, by a pair of counters, one reading out the names on the ballot, one by one, and the other with a tally sheet with all the candidates' names on and rows of very small boxes to the right of their names for putting a tiny line through or a cross in, rows of 10 and columns of 5, so each big box when full would add up to 50 votes.  This part of the operation was very important to watch, especially with one of the counters, who by chance happened to be a Council officer whom I really don't get on with as they've been rude, unhelpful and unprofessional with me in the past.  Several people noticed that this person was making mistakes, and complained, so when done, this operation was checked by  another group of counters.  All this took MUCH longer than initially planned, or desired.

However, the results started coming in, and one of the most exciting was in Acomb Ward, where the Lib Dem leader of the council, whom I think is a dinosaur who ought to have been put out to grass long ago, and his second in command, whom I think has been weak politically but is a nice guy whom I'm fond of, lost their seats.  The cheer from the gathered opposition was huge, my cheer was only for the passing of Steve Galloway, not Andrew Waller.  When the Hull Road Ward results came in, I wasn't elected either.  That's politics. 

The other interesting result was that in another ward to the west of York, Anna Semlyen was voted in.  She's been a Green supporter for a long time but was incensed by the unilateral decision by Steve Galloway to say no to a city-wide 20 mile an hour limit in built-up areas, and joined the Labour Party, and has been elected.  I now predict a few years of exciting politics.... I predict that Anna will 'make waves' and put a lot of energy into what she wants to do; I hope she remembers that she's representing the citizens in her ward and a good Councillor gets to know the area (if they don't live there, which she doesn't) and the people there.  I wish her, and the other new Councillors, and the re-elected ones, a good four years, and hope they can move the City of York to a more sustainable, lower carbon, fairer, more equal society.  One day I hope to get elected, in MY ward, for the party I've agreed with for all my adult life, and be a really hard-working Councillor.  Maybe next time?  It is, as always, up to the local voters.

As soon as our results were announced, I got my stuff and cycled briskly off, as at 6.24 I had to be on a train to Bristol.  I got back at 5 and Sue was talking to Gill on the doorstep, having collected an 'emergency' bag of dried fruit for her latest long drive.  I hadn't got any time to chat as I had less than hour to get myself ready and packed and off to the station.  This I of course I managed to do.

The train left on time and all the way to Birmingham I started working though over 100 unread emails from one of the lists I subscribe to, and once read, I deleted most of them.  However, there were still about 60 left, which I thought I might get through between Birmingham and Bristol.  But, no, I met a really nice chap on the platform waiting for the Bristol train, which was 40 minutes late, and we talked about Credit Unions, high street loan companies, how to conduct successful relationships, and much much more.  He got off at Parkway and I at Temple Meads 5 minutes later.  My friend Loony was waiting for me, and as the train was late, we'd missed the bus so we had to get a taxi.  She's got a new flat recently and is having a housewarming  party tomorrow, which is one reason why she's invited me down, to provide some entertainment.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Thursday 5th May 11 Council Elections and AV Referendum

A really busy and well organised day, hardly a minute to spare.

I got up at 7, breakfasted, and put all my circus and balloon stuff in the trailer and panniers, and set off at 8.10, first to place my votes (voting for myself and Luke Capps, the other Green candidate, and YES in the AV Referendum) and then on to Huntington, Strensall, Sherriff Hutton and to the bottom of Terrington Bank, a really steep hill.  This 14.5 mile cycle took one hour ten minutes.  The last half mile, up the bank and into Terrington, took 15 minutes.

I'd been booked by the tiny C of E primary school in Terrington, with their sister school Foston.  The idea was that I'd perform in the village hall.  However, as the election was taking up the village hall, Terrington asked the nearby private Prep school if they could use their new sports hall.  The prep school said yes... but could they add a class of children too.  So, I had 70 children, aged 3 to about 7.

I was taken down to the venue and got the hall right for the gig, with drapes pulled across the walls to reduce echo, and one area curtained off to create a performance space.  I got changed, blew up balloons for the afternoon gig, and waited for my audience.

The show went really well... although it overran, as one group were late, so I couldn't do the unicycle workshop at the end.  But it was a good show.  The children and teachers loved it.  I went back to the small school for lunch, but soon back to the venue to continue blowing up 70+ balloons.

The second show also went well, despite the children being young and lots of them.  I was finished by 2.10, and quickly got changed and loaded up to return, stopping briefly to give in an invoice to the school to trigger payment.

The trip back was slower, despite having more downhill, as it was into the wind.  It took me an hour and a half, getting in at 4.10.

I had a few minutes sit-down and then at 4.45, I set out for St Lawrence's Church to be a Green Party 'teller', collecting poll numbers so that voters who had promised to vote Green could be contacted before the polls closed if they had forgotten to vote. I chatted with the Labour Party teller Lesley, who was very pleasant. In the two hours we were there we had over 100 voters come in... the post working-day rush.

So, I was relieved at 7pm by Alison, and I cycled home.  Gill had prepared a plate of pasta.  At 7.45 I cycled off to David's as he had booked me to take him to vote at 8pm.

I walked him over to Marygate where he placed his votes, and back to his house.  I left him at 9.30 and walked along Stonegate to the Yorkshire Terrier where a group of Green Party folks were due to gather.  Stewart was already there, and soon another 10 or so joined us.  I had TWO bottles of Pear Cider, which is a lot for me... I usually stick to just one.  But a good finish to the day.

I look forward to the count tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Wednesday 4th May 11

Woken by my eldest who had knocked something onto the floor in the kitchen and it had smashed, so I gingerly found the broom and swept it up into a tidy pile which allowed breakfast activities to continue safely.

After I'd had my breakfast I dealt with a range of paperwork and admin type things, and at about midday, went to see if Debbie would be able to help do the eve-of-poll Green Party leaflet round which we often do together. She wasn't well so I did the round myself.  It only took an hour but then I had a long chat with my physicist friend Adrian about political matters.

After lunch I went round to Debbie's again and asked if she'd got her broken key replaced.  She hadn't as she's been unwell for a few days, so I offered to get the key replaced, if I could.  I went to town to the station to pick up the tickets I bought over the net, one set to go to Bristol this weekend and another set to go down to the Little Green Gathering in July. This is the first time I've got tickets out of a machine.

From here I went to the Credit Union to pick up a cheque to pay for this term at the Steiner School, and I cycled there and paid it in, plus cash to make up the full amount.

I then cycled back with our youngest and once home, popped round to the fix it shop on Lilac Avenue, who do keys.  They were able to put the two halves of the broken key in their machine and cut a new one.  I went back to Debbie's and it fitted, and she was delighted.

As I returned from her, John Bibby was about to unload another job-lot of wood.... some oak fencing, some tree roots, and other bits of tree.  A big messy pile.  It will need a lot of sorting out.  However, it is free heating and would have been burned in a bonfire, or taken to a landfill site, so I'm relatively happy to have it.

I spent an hour doing the smallest bits, cutting twigs from branches and breaking up small lengths of fence plank.  There are some much sturdier timbers to contend with, next week when I have more time.

Gill made a simple pasta tea and then at 6.45 I set out, on foot, with our eldest son, to town to attend the Cafe Scientifique meeting at City Screen, which tonight was all about food and flavours, with a Professor from the University of Hull called John Bradley.  He started with a bit about how the tongue senses tastes and how the olfactory epithelium deals with aromas and fragrances. Because these signals end up in the Hippocampus, there is a connection between emotions and smell, memory and smell, and it's even been found that people with a reduced sense of smell are more prone to depression.  He explained about herbs and spices and volatile molecules, and then the exciting subject of chirality, the way that some molecules are left handed and the same molecule can be right handed.  This has some profound effects on odour molecules... limonene smells like lemons with one enantiomer (shape of molecule) and of oranges with the mirror-image enantiomer. However, another molecule smells like passion fruit with one and like burning rubber with it's mirror image.  Fascinating.  He then finished with a look at combining flavours, such as carrot and coriander (although I prefer carrot and tarragon), caramelised cauliflower and cocoa, banana and parsley.

Following a question and discussion session, we walked home, getting in at about 10pm... a really lovely and interesting night out, with good conversation with my son, especially on the way back.

Lit the stove when I got in and did some more dried fruit and washing up.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Tuesday 3rd May 11

Another good day... I went to the local Thomas The Baker and got a fiver's worth of 'Yesterbake', bread left over from a day or two ago and available at ridiculously low prices.  I got two small loaves, four bags of rolls, four 'naughty spirals' and some cheese straws.  Should keep us going for a few days.  I foresee a nutloaf coming on....

Gill went into town with our eldest, to the library to research oxbow lakes.... are there any in Yorkshire I wonder?  Or have all the mature rivers been so managed, there aren't any?

I went to the Building Society to put in two cheques and get out some cash to pay the Steiner School for this term.  Then I cycled down to the school and collected our youngest.  However, I was pleased to meet someone I've wanted to meet for a bit now, a writer called Kate Ravillious, who has done some cracking pieces for NewScientist.  She has a young daughter who'll be starting at the Steiner School soon... and an 11 week old son, which is why she's not writing at the moment.

Good cycle back with our lad, he's getting a lot better at cycling.  I had a short time at home... did a little bit of wood-management, but at 5.30 set out for town again to go to David's for my care work.  I was pleased to meet his cousin's daughter who helps with his accounts, and Richard, another cousin, is back from France, and it was good to see him too.  David wanted to see where his solicitor's offices were, so we explored Piccadilly, found the office block, and returned and headed to City Screen for a coffee.  We met one of David's friends Chris, who's a Professor at the University, in the Department of Education.

We didn't spend long there, but went back to David's place, where I cooked his tea and sorted him out, and was able to get away for 8pm.  I sped home and watched a really good programme on Channel 5, 'The King's Speech Revealed', followed by The Secret Millionaire on Channel 4, followed by Catfish on More 4, which i found really interesting, being in the 'online, facebook, GoogleMaps' generation!  A really interesting story. Gill watched these with me too, whilst I did more red peppers for drying.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Monday 2nd May 11

Another good day, got up quite early and after breakfast, did some fruit sorting until shortly before 12 when I got some sandwiches together and got 3 sets of devilsticks, and cycled down to May Day in the Park, which I thought was at Clifford's Tower.  I cycled round it a couple of times, went to Boots to get Gill some painkillers, and then cycled round again... no May Day celebrations.  But then had a brainwave, maybe the event was in Tower Gardens.  It was; I'd misread the proposed venue.  Anyway, the event was just four trestle tables and a few rag-tag students and older Socialists, but it grew and by 1pm there must have been about 50 people there, including a small choir with instruments to keep them nearly in tune.

I played with my devilsticks and several other people joined in, borrowing my second and third set and having a go.  I had my sandwiches and chatted with an interesting person with a wonderfully curious name, Hann Bunn, and that made me happy as I really like meeting people... and if they're interesting with a curious name, that's even better!

I left at about 3pm and came home via Country Fresh and Freshways... lots more goodies to process.

I finished potting up the sweetcorn I got from Country Fresh, each one in it's own pot with home-made compost.  I'll plant them out when the danger of frosts has gone... or reduced, at least!

I cut one of the hedges near the house, and removed a bramble which has for years been in the wrong place, so I'll keep on top of it this year and that should work.

In the evening, I had a meal of couscous and pickles, then a cycle down to The Seahorse to the YorkLETS meeting, and it was good to see two prospective members, Carol and Andrew, as well as Sue and Kay, who are existing members.  We had some good chats, mainly about growing food, allotments and how LETS works.  I got a phone call at 9 from Gill asking when I'd be home as our youngest needed a bath and the pan was on the stove, and needed taking upstairs.  I was happy to come home and do this, as the meeting had finished.  Sue dropped by a bit later to view the pallets I'd got her to make a fence with.  She'll collect them tomorrow.

Then, quite late on, I blanched a load of grapes, to make raisins, and jarred-up a load of apple, red pepper and some other odds and ends of fruit, to make space for a large load of red pepper, which I'll use to make sweet red pepper paprika.

(Added on Tuesday) I forgot to say that I got a message from Debbie saying she was in a bit of confusion about how to sort out a problem.  A visitor to her house had snapped off a key in the padlock to her back garden.  She wanted to know if I had any bolt croppers.  Well, I don't, but luckily, I had a potential solution... which worked!  I found that if I knocked the lock against the gate, I could slightly move the key so the broken edge just protruded from the slot by a tiny amount... just enough for my tiny tweezers from my Swiss Army Knife to be able to grasp it and extract it, after several minutes of trying.  The two halves of the broken key should be enough to get a new one made.  

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sunday 1st May 11

Up early despite being very late to bed last night.  Not a bad day... cycled a big load of compost over to Jenny, two sacks of potting medium, one of rich mature riddled.

I delivered 4 carrier bags of container medium to Country Fresh, to see if there was any call for it there.  I bought some sweetcorn seedlings and a cucumber plant.

I was due to go and work for David at 6pm, so I had a bowl of potato and celery soup plus a hommous sandwich before I left. I arrived on time and Linda, one of his friends/cleaners/PAs was there; it was good to chat with her for a bit.  David had been asked if he'd meet Carolyn at 7.15 at The Last Drop Inn, so I took him there and we chatted with a nice couple who have an allotment on Low Moor, and the conversations continued when Carolyn arrived.

We left at 8.10, got home quickly and I warmed up his 'meal for one' and left, clutching my cheque for the past few weeks whilst Richard has been away.  Richard, David's cousin, is back in the UK now, and will probably spend a couple of days a week with David, so I'll probably just have two or three stints with him each week, until Richard goes away again in June.  I finished at 8.30pm, and cycled home via Country Fresh where I picked up 3 boxes of compostables.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Saturday 30th April 11

Another good day, keeping busy and active.  I did quite a bit of work in the garden, finishing off splitting the last of the John Bibby logs, and stacking them under cover in the back garden too.

I did some riddling, as I've another order and need to make up a load of potting compost for the shop.

Mid afternoon I cycled down to Fishergate to deliver some spare Green Party election leaflets to Dave Taylor; it's the first time I've ever been to his house.  Chris, his partner, appeared, and she invited me in for a cuppa but I needed to go to Alligator and sort out their composting... they'd about two week's worth to collect and some of it was very liquidy. Anyhow, I brought a trailer-load home and immediately put it on the latest heap. I also got a tub of dairy-free blueberry Swedish Glace ice cream and a dairy free garlic mayonnaise from Alligator.... a bit of a treat!

Gill made an unusual tea.... a quiche which used slices of bread instead of pastry.  I'm not a huge fan of eggs but it was OK.  I enjoyed the baked beans and potatoes, and the red onion in the quiche.

Later, I did a large pile of washing up and sorted out the pineapple slices I put to dry last night.  I got some grapes today, so I started to go through them to prepare them for blanching and drying.