Saturday, 24 September 2011

Sunday 18th September 11

Woken by my children being inconsiderately noisy.  Good to be back.

So, no lie in and had a reasonable morning and got myself ready around midday to go to work, up in Poppleton.

It took about half an hour to cycle there... including checking out if the sweet chestnuts were fruiting already (nothing on the ground, yet!) and I got there in good time to set up and get changed.

The show went well, just my normal routine, until I did something very silly.  Occasionally when I get on my unicycle for the first time at the end of the show, I deliberately ride towards a door (which, if I've done my risk assessment properly, I've checked beforehand!) and as I approach it, I strike it with the hand the audience can't see and pretend to bang my head on the door.  I then unicycle backwards, or turn to look at the audience and hold my head, or some comical activity designed to entertain and get a response.  This time, I rode towards the door, hit it with my hand, but, stupidly, on a glass pane.... which shattered, cutting my wrist where it joins my hand, and my thumb, just superficially.  The main cut started bleeding immediately.  However, after a short halt, to put some tissue on the cut, which I held on with my other hand, I quickly finished the show, with the 4 wheeler unicycle and two wheeler, and a few participants having a go on the four-wheeler.

The kids went for their birthday tea and some adults helped me by getting a plaster for the cut, and a cuppa, and sweeping up the glass and covering the broken pane with a taped-on sheet of paper.  I did the balloon show without a problem, and after this I signed the accident book, leaving a note saying that I was willing to pay for the repair.

So, an accident-free cycle home and then a bit of fuss from Gill when I did get there, her going into 'nurse mode' and putting home made steristrips on, and a good plaster.  The cut was quite deep as it bled quite a lot, even under the plaster.  Gill said that if I'd had gone straight to A+E, they would probably stitched it, but with the fairly long gap, I'd missed the err, 'window of opportunity' ho ho ho.....

Friday, 23 September 2011

Saturday 17th September 11, Basingstoke Green Fair

A packed day, with a 4 hour stint at Basingstoke Green Fair.  I used my mobile phone alarm for the first time ever, to wake me up at 7.30, then went to have a bowl of Serena-style cereal and then we were off, in Serena's car, to the station and then she was taking her son swimming.

I got a slightly earlier train than expected, a London Underground service, which took me into a connection on the Bakerloo line.  I'd been given a connection to go from Marylebone to Basingstoke, but when I got to Marylebone, they said I needed to go to Waterloo.  My other connection was from Paddington, quite close to Marylebone, so I thought I'd give that a try... and fortunately there was a train going to Reading from there at 10am which I just caught, which connected well with a Basingstoke train which got me in there just after 11am.  Phew, glad I didn't heed the Waterloo advice!

I soon found my way West out of the station to the 'Victory Roundabout' on Churchill Way, which I went under, to get to Victory Park and very soon I saw Brookvale Village Hall with stalls setting up outside, and a plethora of scarecrows propped up and tied to various things.

I found Cal, my contact (Malcolm MacInnes), and we talked through the format of the day... he wanted me to do Meet and Greet on the unicycle for an hour, then a talk on composting at 1, then a Fiddlesticks static show at 2, followed by balloon modelling and participation in the procession at 4pm.  There was some debate about the best place for my show; in the end we plumped for three spaces in the car park, which we kept vacant using a row of chairs.

Everything went reasonably well... apart from the composting talk which, like the talk from Basingstoke Transition Network, didn't pull a crowd.  However, I did have several good one-to-one conversations about the subject, and was able to provide each person with some suggestions about how to improve their composting situation.  I enjoyed chatting to Martin from the local Transition group, which is just 6 months old, and has already got plans for a renewable energy co-op, and photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Village Hall.

My circus show had a small audience, and a rainstorm which slowly threatened, so I zoomed through it and finished just as the rain set in.  I packed up and went into the village hall and competed with Morris Dancers with my balloon animal giveaways being a bit more popular amongst the under 10s.  I enjoyed meeting the Deputy Mayor, Martin Biermann,and his excitable wife Chansophia, the friendly Town Crier David Craner, the local MP Maria Miller, and a hardworking gaggle of volunteers, one of whom, Serena, recognised me from UK Aware.

Suddenly it was 4pm and the place gradually emptied and stalls were taken down, and I filled in some paperwork for Cal, which should enable the Brookvale Community Association to release a cheque and send it my way.  As soon as this was sorted, I walked back to the town centre, and wandered round a supermarket to find some food for the journey back home and walked up to the station, where thee was still 50 minutes to wait  for my train.

On the train, there were a large group got on at Reading who were very noisy and merry after being at Newbury Races, and delighted to find out that I could do them some balloon animals.  I did some hats too... it was riotous, and I (and other passengers, I'm sure) were happy to see them get off relatively soon.  Then I met a young performance poet called Anna McCrory heading up to Manchester to do a poetry slam tomorrow,  and I enjoyed finding out about her.

The rest of the journey was relatively quiet.... except after Chesterfield we came into Sheffield via Totley and Dore, and had a bit of a slow journey along that line as there were children on the tracks, apparently.

But got home on the dot of 11pm and came home swiftly, glad to see family, tried not to go to bed too late as work tomorrow.

Friday 16th September 11

A really lovely day, quite a slow one, doing nothing very hurried or busy.  I enjoyed breakfast with Serena (Weetabix and Cheerios) and her delightful and engaging 3 year old son. After this I popped along to Tescos on my unicycle to get a few bits and bobs for lunch, to go with the bread that Serena had got.... hommous, sun-dried tomatoes and olives, a cucumber, and a single bottle of pear cider for the evening.  Over lunch I was introduced to the delights of 'Rosie and Jim' on video, which is a series for children based on life on a canal boat.  Topical, and actually very well made and clever.  Both Serena and her little boy are fans of this.... and I might be a convert too!

During the day I met Serena's son's Dad, Julian, and one of Serena's best friends, Mike, and her long term best friend, Jeff.  It was really good to see the sort of community she lives in... quite tight-knit, where people know about each other, help each other, and trust each other.... for instance, any  strangers coming into the community are observed, and may be interrogated, partly because making a boat secure is not that easy.

I had a nice chat with Mike, and his friend Jane, whilst Serena had a quiet few minutes with Julian, burying a chicken which had died.  Then I helped Julian shift a trailer-load of topsoil, which he'd rescued from a skip and was going to use to raise the level of his canalside land. Then, Mike, Serena and Julian, all of whom have unicycles but cannot ride them, came down to the car park which had a good smooth surface and a sturdy fence to hold onto, and I gave them a unicycle lesson.... mainly theory, but some practical help too.  This was fun... and then another boat-dweller arrived, Ben, and proceeded to jump on and ride every unicycle apart from mine (it was too tall, and the height can't be changed after so many years in one position)... but he's been riding unicycles since he was a child, so he was actually better than me.

A group of us went out to a 'Harvester' pub for a meal.  The vegetarian selection was poor and overpriced but there was an option to have as much salad from the salad bar as you wanted, so I had two visits to that.

Serena and I didn't have a late night as we had an early start the next day... but she did put her stove on, to take the chill off the boat, and I enjoyed seeing her stove working.   I really enjoyed today, as we didn't have to go anywhere or have set things to do.  My life has a lot of 'having to be somewhere' at specific times, so it was a treat just to float around (literally!) and slow down.  Pity I couldn't stay a bit longer....

Thursday 15th September 11, York to Rickmansworth

Up fairly early and slowly and chaotically got my stuff together for my trip to Rickmansworth and Basingstoke.  I got the stove lit, and later had a bath and washed my hair.  I collected a few apples, pears and nuts together as a thank you present for my hostess for the next couple of days.  I made sure I had all my performance stuff, plus balloons, my last bag so I'll have to order some more.

At about 11.30 I set out to town to catch the midday train to Stevenage, which is exactly 2 hours away, so I had my sandwich on the train, and put my computer on so I could get on with deleting emails, as my inbox is permanently congested and any time I can get to weed it is really good.  I was pleased with this trip as the advance ticket was especially cheap, just £9 for the single journey. 

Once in Stevenage I found the bus station and the bus to take me over to Luton.  I decided on an all-day Rover ticket, costing £8.  I thought this would probably save me money, as the 50 minute journey to Luton was £3.70 and therefore the nearly 2 hour trip to Rickmansworth would possibly be twice that, although the driver in Stevenage didn't know.  In Luton there was quite a wait, but eventually the 321 service came and a very friendly driver took us down to Watford and on to Ricky.  I chatted a bit with a woman who must have been in her early 60s who was listening to dub reggae on her personal hifi and reading Oscar Wilde, and heading back to her 'lovely Rasta Man'.  I love public transport!  You just wouldn't meet such a variety of characters if you were cooped up in a tiny metal box all by yourself.

Serena was waiting in the station car park in her little car..... and we again just managed to fit all my weird-shaped gear into it, the last item going in on top of me.  She called in on a supermarket before going home... her boat doesn't have a lot of storage space, so she needed to get a few bits and bobs.  I'd bought my tea whilst the bus was stopped in Watford, so she didn't have to get anything for me really, although I was glad of the coffee and soya milk.  The fruit went down well... Serena's 3 year old son especially liked the James Grieve apple.

Serena's son's Dad Julian lives on a narrowboat, but he also has a 7 or 8 metre launch or cruiser which is kitted out to be able to be lived in... but it's not being used, so Serena had spent quite a bit of time cleaning it and getting it ready for me to sleep in.  This was my first ever night on board a boat.  I had a really comfortable night, very cosy, tucked into the bow or prow of this little vessel.

Wednesday 14th September 11

Well a good day... spent the morning with our eldest son who was off school, watching a really interesting video, explaining how to understand annual percentage growth rates and the exponential curve.  We both really enjoyed it, and I feel it is an important concept to understand if you class yourself as 'green', or use the word 'sustainable', or enjoy a bit of maths, or are involved in public policy.  It renewed my belief in having a zero growth economy.  It is truly the only way we're going to get through the next few decades.  It also features the work of one of my favourite oil scientists, M. King Hubbert.

I'm looking for resources with which to illustrate my Cafe Scientifique presentation on 5th October, which is titled 'Climate Change, Peak Oil, Sex and Death'.  I need to make a Linux equivalent of a 'powerpoint' and I'm not too sure how to do it....

In the evening I visited Helen and Phil round the corner to talk them through using the apple press which has found it's way from Brunswick Organic Nursery to its next group who want to use it.  They are getting together with a few friends and want to make cider.

Tuesday 13th September 11

Quite an exhausting day.  I had a platelets appointment at 10.50 so I cycled down to the station to get the 9.53 bus to Seacroft.  I used the new entrance to the station, the one between the river and Leeman Road, which avoids the potentially dangerous roads around the station front.  The only disadvantage is that there's no bike racks around that North end of the station, and I had to walk and scoot down to the other end, along the platform.

However, it is still a better way to get into the station.  I like it.  I went to the bus stop and minutes later, had my £6 return to Leeds and began to read my NewScientist.  But at one of the next stops, my old friend John Redpath, who used to be the Town Cryer of York, got on, and we sat together.  I was pleased to be able to have a conversation with him, as after the Peace Festival, several people said to me that I should be a town cryer, as my voice would easily allow me to do it. He gave me several tips and suggestions about how I could approach becoming the town cryer, if I wanted to!

We were soon on the outskirts of Leeds and I got off at Seacroft, and walked back to the Blood Donor Centre.  I was swiftly processed and on the platelet machine, and this time the needle didn't go through my vein, but properly into it, and I was able to donate 3 units of platelets in 77 minutes... a bit slower than the previous donations, but still 3 units, when most people give only 2.  I like being a superdonor!

I had a bag of crisps, chocolate biscuit and coffee from the Donor Centre for lunch, and got the next bus back.... I felt sleepy and couldn't concentrate on my magazine, and was soon back at the station in York.  I cycled via the Building Society (compost cheque in) and my dentist, who had seemingly forgotten me and not invited me back for a check-up, and Millers Yard (picked up one sack of half oranges) and then home via the cycle path and St Nicks.  When I got in I was surprised to see it was already 3pm, and I was due to collect our youngest at 3.30pm!  I had a quick sandwich and bombed off to Fulford Cross.

I part walked, part cycled with him sitting on the rack, and we were home soon.  I spent an hour relaxing on the computer, before getting ready to go to work for David at 6pm.

We went to City Screen, and met Ceri and Richard, and had some good conversations.  And soon back to put his meal in the microwave and I got away at 7.45, so I could zoom home for my tea, and more pear peeling.

A very busy day, was quite tired during the evening.... but no earlier to bed, sadly!

Monday 12th September 11

A fairly low key day with a lot of hard physical work in the front garden, chainsawing all the remaining pallets and quite a bit of other wood, and stacking it, and a lovely social visit to Anita, who is back from Spain.... and therefore we had a couple of years worth of chat to catch up with.

However, in the morning, I got my phone back... I'd left it in Newark by accident and Lisa had popped it in the post.  Tomorrow I'll put together a donation of assorted dried fruit as a thank you, and send it off in the same padded envelope. 

So, at 3pm, I arrived at Anita's, avoiding two fallen trees in the St Nicks area. We had two coffees and our usual frank and direct conversations. I really like Anita.

I came back via a logpile, Freshways for a big sack of vegetables and 7 loaves of unwanted bread.  When I got back, there was a message from my friend Peter in Bradford, inviting me to ring one of his colleagues as she was looking for an entertainer.  I rang her and talked her through my shows... and she'll get back to me tomorrow with an offer.

I did another hour or more of wooding before tea; Gill had made a really nice pasta, cauliflower and broccoli mix with a cheese sauce.

In the evening I had some interesting facebook conversations and peeled yet more pears for drying.

Sunday 11th September 11

A fairly quiet day, woke at 9.30 and had a slow morning, did quite a bit of fruit prep, and before lunch, cycled down to Country Fresh as Gill wanted some potatoes and I knew there would be quite a bit of compostable stuff for me.

I called in on Debbie and she was in a happy mood, and on the way back I saw Gladys who invited me in for a cup of coffee and to ask me to pick up a load of pears from the tree overhanging her garden.  I didn't really need any more pears but I took 4 bags of them away... most will be composted as they're windfalls and are bruised.

Got back for a late lunch and Gardener's Question Time on Radio 4.

After this I did a bit more sorting in the front garden.... I've done virtually nothing all summer apart from sometimes add to the pile of planks and logs.  So now I have to chop them up and stack.... this will be several days work.

Gill started bottling of the pears I prepared yesterday, by bringing them up to the boil with some sugar in the water, to make a syrup.  I helped with moving the jars when they were hot. One didn't seal properly so we'll have them soon.

So a good day, not hugely exciting or that amazing, but OK.

Saturday 10th September 11

A funny old day as I was planning to go over to Manchester to the regular cafe meet-up I go to, and see friends including Laura, who told me she'd got something for me...  And then I was going to go to Sheffield to the Green Party Conference.

But in the end, I stayed at home... Gill needed me around.

I did a bit of cleaning (not much, I rarely do a lot!) and washing up (I always keep on top of that) and some composting and weeding... I even had an hour of chainsawing and stacking.

But what I did mostly today was pears.  I washed and halved them, cored and peeled, and filled a big saucepan with them, ready to bottle them, and filled all my racks with the rest.  Finished at 2.30 am.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Friday 9th September 11

A good day, although very busy... cycling over to Bishopthorpe Road with my eldest son first thing (8.30am) and then calling in on Country Fresh to pick up compostables.  Richard gave me a bag of green beans which I made into a soup with an onion and a butternut squash, also a 'second' as it had a hole in it, making it unsaleable, but not inedible. For tea, Gill modified the soup by putting half of it into a pan with a tin of tomatoes, cooking it and whizzing it and putting it through a sieve.  The boys liked it, and when I eventually got in, I did too!

So during the day I did a few more pears and a bit of paperwork, until 2pm when I shot out, put in two cheques to my building society, one cheque into the bank, then on to Millers Yard to pick up oranges, and on to Pauline who'd responded to my request for a working toaster, as ours had gone phut.  She also gave me some plates and a lovely saucepan.  The house she manages has new tenants and they want it completely unfurnished.  Her compost bin needs some attention so I'll do that for her soon.

At 3.25 I cycled to Bishy Road to collect our son and we cycled home together, which was nice.  Then soon after 5 I set off for town again to meet up with David and Graham from the Minsters' Rail Campaign, which I've joined and want to help. They want to open a railway between York and Beverley, linking Stamford Bridge, Pocklington and Market Weighton.  This would also probably make it easier to get from Hull to York.  We had a good meeting and I agreed to make a facebook 'page' for the organisation.

Then, just as that meeting was drawing to a close, my new friend J arrived, and we had a good hour and a half chatting about all sorts of things.  Very nice to meet someone new whom I get on with really well. I got in at 9pm.

At 11.30pm I unhitched my trailer and bombed down to town to see the start of the Friday Night Ride To The Coast, which I was considering gong on but realised that my weekend was too busy to do everything.  I cycled with them until we got to our house, where I stopped and watched all 37 of them disappear up towards Hull.

Did more pears and watched News 24.

Thursday 8th September 11

Up early, got the 8.30 train which got into York at 9.23, earlier than timetabled.

Cycled briskly over to St Nicks, trying out the new bike access which allows entry into and out of the station onto the little path between Leeman Road and the River, parallel to the Scarborough Line.  I think I like it; if I used this access it would mean using far less busy road and several sets of traffic lights. 

Got to St Nicks early for the York Rotters meeting.

At midday, Geoff and three Brunswick volunteers/employees arrived and I talked them through using my apple press.

Cycled home and had lunch, cycled back to Monkgate for an appointment.

Cycled back home and did my emails, then at 3 got our eldest's bike bungeed onto my trailer and relatively slowly cycled over to Bishy Road to The Stables where he'd had his second day.  We cycled back over the Millennium Bridge.

I did various things in the house until Gill and our youngest got in, then I did a little bit of compost heap management, and came in for tea at about 6.  At 6.30, when I was just finishing my tea, David rang and asked where I was.  Whoops, I'd forgotten!

I zoomed into town and was with him by 6.45.  I took him to City Screen and there we met Carolyn, then Mary Machin and her friend Jill, then Lotte and her sister Alice, then Geoff Beacon turned up!  Such a lovely social time for David!

I took him home at about 9 and made tea for him and shot off by 9.15.

Met Sue Wallace on the way home and had a good conversation with her about Promession and she suggested ways that the Church would find it acceptable.

Wednesday 7th September 11

I had quite a busy day and at 4 got on a train to Newark to go and see Lisa, my friend from London who's just moved house. It only takes an hour to get to Newark, and I didn't have to wait long until Lisa showed up at the station and we walked into Newark, collected her daughter from the after school club, and then had a wander around the town, along the canalised river and eventually back to Lisa's new house.

We had a low-key evening, a bite to eat and some nice conversations.  Lovely to see her again.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Tuesday 6th September 11

Two appointments today.... working for David from 1.30 til 3.30, and an Environment Forum meeting at 4pm.

I stayed in during the morning whilst Gill took our eldest for his first day at The Stables, and quite early, the Suma order arrived. I checked it in and everything apart from Maria's stuff was there.

I took David to Asda, which has replaced Netto.  He bought a select few items and we went back home.

I finished there at 3.30 and went to the library, sorry, 'Explore' and participated in the Environment Forum meeting which was interesting. I shot off at 6pm as I thought I might have a Planning Panel meeting... but when I got to Tang Hall Library, there was no-one else there, so I concluded that I'd made a mistake.

So, home and collapse, quite glad I hadn't got more work to do (apart from drying pears!)

Monday 5th September 11

I woke fairly early and came downstairs for breakfast and emails... but after an hour, felt so headachy and tired that I went back to bed.  I got up for a late lunch, but didn't feel like having much.  I got a phone call from someone who'd been to a Fiddlesticks appearance in a library recently, and she booked me for her 6 year old's birthday party in October. 

A bit later I got out into the garden to put the two sacks of paper plates and waste food into my Compostumbler, which was steaming with lots of wonderful aerobic activity.  I found that one of my small pear trees had gently dropped most of it's pears, so I came up the garden with a very heavy box of them, most of which I'll hope to dry. This spell outdoors helped blow away my hangover (I admit it) and I felt a bit better during the late afternoon.

I'd rescued about 10 vegan hot dog sausages at the end of the Peace Festival, so Gill and I had them for tea, in bread rolls, with pink fir apple potato salad, which is just wonderful!

At 7.15 I cycled down to The Seahorse to the LETS meeting. Melody, Geoff and Kay were there, but it was a short meeting, although I chatted with Geoff afterwards, until Gill rang me and asked if I'd come home to take bathwater upstairs.  So by 9pm I was home, dealing with one son's bathwater, the washing up, and a mountain of pears.

Sunday 4th September 11 York Peace Festival

I got up fairly early as I'd agreed to go down to Rowntree Park and help York Rotters set up.  I got there soon after 10, took nothing with me apart from a couple of large sacks to collect paper plates and waste food, and a bottle of pear cider in case I fancied a drink after my obligations had ended.

St Nicks had just arrived and their tent was up but not pegged in.  I helped a little bit and when they were ready, had a cycle around to say hello to people and see what was up around the park. At 11 I was back at the St Nicks.Rotters stall to do my first hour with them.  This went well, Pat my minder was around, and Ivana and John too, but at midday I went to the main stage to see The Falling Spikes.  I met Richard's mum... she'd never seen her son's band, or heard them.  Randall and Annie dropped by and I sat on their mat to listen to the band, who did a 40 minute set which I really enjoyed.

I then had to get back to the Rotters stall for another hour, after which I'd agreed to do an hour on the Green Party Coconut Shy.  I've never run a coconut shy before, but I really enjoyed it. I made it into a kind of show... and drew people in with my loud voice.  I stayed for 90 minutes and estimate that in that time, made about £60... there were times when there was a queue!

However, I was pleased to be free of the volunteering and enjoyed the Dub Barn Collective, chatting to Vanessa, Sally and Kate, who are also friends from many years ago, and met Jessica, who I vaguely remembered from the late 1980s.  I had a bottle of perry whilst the Dub was on.... made it last a long time, was quite a treat! I enjoyed dancing, and watching others dance.  A really super gig, and the highlight of my day.

The event came to an end at about 6pm, and people started to disappear.  I got my two heavy-duty sacks and started to go through the bins nearest the food stalls, to rescue the paper plates which had been specified by the organisers as the only acceptable plates to use for serving food.  I collected two compacted sackfuls, I estimate about 30kg of plates and waste food, plus a carrier bag of coffee grounds, maybe 5kg.  Great stuff for my Compostumbler! Great it didn't go to landfill.  I didn't have to do any litter picking this year, as Dylan and team had got it organised this time. 

I had been invited to go and see Jennie, back in York to print off her thesis and get it bound, and staying with Peter.   Peter had decided to have a little party and bonfire in her honour.  I popped into the York Beer and Cheese shop near Alligator, and got two small bottles of perry, or 'pear cider' as it seems to have been re-branded.

Peter had created a vegan lasagne which was really nice; I was just in time to have some.  I texted Gill to tell her where I was.  I enjoyed chatting with Jennie and Peter, and then Barry turned up, and a colleague of Jennie's.  The most interesting part of the evening, in some ways, was trying out a new form of making bread, by wrapping dough on a green and whittled stick, and cooking this over the embers of the fire.  I did one lump, it was lovely.  I drank both bottles of perry.

I got home before midnight.  Happy.... perhaps a little too happy!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Saturday 3rd September 11

Quite an early start... had been asked to be in Chapel Allerton by 11.30, to be working at midday.  So I worked back and left the house at about 9.15, and got a train bound for Leeds at 9.57, due in at 10.30ish.  This all went smoothly.  I then walked along to Vicar Lane to the bus stop outside the Co-op Bank which I'd found out (by phone this morning) was the place to wait for the Chapel Allerton buses.  I got chatting to two lovely people, who used to live in Chapel Allerton, but now live in another part of Leeds, but who go to the Chapel Allerton Festival every year.  They were in their 80s, and the woman was very chatty and lively, curious about my unicycles and entertainment.

The bus came.  As I queued, the bus driver shook his finger at me through the windscreen.  He said 'no bicycles'.  I politely told him that they weren't bicycles, but in fact unicycles. He was adamant that he wouldn't have them on the bus, and he began to sulk.  Several people, including the 80+ year old couple, chimed in and said things like, 'he's going to a charity gig' and 'they are the tools of his trade', and eventually he, grumbling, let me have a ticket.

The journey didn't last long and the lovely old couple told me when to get ready for the correct stop.  As I left the bus I slipped the driver a pound coin and said 'get yourself a half pint on me'.  He still looked grumpy.

The day got a lot better from here on in.  I found my 'handler', Amy, who talked me through what she wanted me to do.  I did a half-hour very quick run through my show, then a fair bit of unicycle-about and when it got too crowded, some walkabout, and later, a one hour show, followed by more random interaction... mainly giving out balloons.

It all drew to a close at 5pm and I was glad to get on a bus (easily this time) and then walk to the station and come home.  Another tiring day.

Friday 2nd Sepember 11

A rushed start to the day.  Last night Gill had asked what time I needed to get up.  I said how about 7.30 as I should leave the house at 8.30 to be in Pocklington at 9.30 to start work at 10. She set the alarm for 7pm.  Yes. PM.  So the alarm didn't go off. We woke at 8am.  Therefore I had to get breakfast, pack my bike and get going as soon as possible... I left the house at 8.43, and cycled without stopping to Pocklington, which is about 11.5 miles, and this took 65 minutes.  I had time, just, to get changed, slurp a coffee and start my POP Club entertainment on the dot of 10am.  Phew!

So, I had just under 20 youngsters and I did a show with bits and bobs of workshop, then a free-play workshop.  Then it was lunch, followed by more free-play workshop, and then I prepared for the balloon modelling workshop.  It all went really well.  I was ready to go home at 3pm, and took 70 minutes to get home.

Then after a rest I had to sort out the coconut problem.  I'd asked the guys at Freshways if they could sell me a sack of coconuts, for the Green Party coconut shy at the Peace Festival.  They said yes, come and collect on Friday afternoon.  Then yesterday, I'd popped in and said Eugene would be collecting it.  Anyway, when I got in this afternoon, I got a bit of a garbled message about Eugene not getting the coconuts.  So I cycled down there at about 5, hoping to simply pick it up, take it back home, and get back down to David's for 6pm.  But nothing is ever quite that simple.

They had no coconuts in, but knew a chap who did have a sack for sale.  They rang him up, and said I'd be round soon, and gave me his address and phone number scribbled on a slip of paper.  So I followed the address given and ended up in Fulford, knocking on the door of an empty house.  So I used my mobile and rang the chap... he was in Kilburn Road, off Fulford Road, not ON Fulford Road.  I cycled back towards town and found his house.  He was someone I know a little bit... he'd bought the nuts for a coconut shy a week ago an hadn't used them.  I purchased them.  Then I got a phone call.  It was David.  Where was I? I was supposed to be with him at 6pm, and it was now 6.30pm.  Oh dear.

I bombed into town and met up with David who wasn't too bothered about my being late.  We went out to City Screen and had a nice social time, meeting two of his friends.

Eugene came round at 10pm to collect the coconuts.

A long day!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Thursday 1st September 11

Quite a chilled day, did quite a bit of planning for some future events, both Professor Fiddlesticks and my eco-alter-ego, John the fruit press owner.  Quite a bit of emailing and phoning.

I did go down to see Richard at Country Fresh and picked up several sacks and boxes... and then came home to deal with the materials.  I unloaded a cylinder tumbler of finished compost into two plastic sacks and then reloaded the tumbler completely full of fruit and vegetables, plus hay and wood-shavings from the guinea pig bedding.

I gathered some windfall pears and apples to dry on the stove tonight, and picked a few hazelnuts that Gill had missed.

Later in the evening, after celery soup, cous cous and fresh tomatoes still warm off the plant, Melody and her children came round, as we're doing a Suma order soon.

Wednesday 31st August 11

I was woken by Gill who took a phone call from an aggressive woman saying she was from BT, British Telecom, suppliers of telephone services.  I have an advert with The Phone Book and Gill thought it was someone about this, so she brought me the phone and I spoke to the woman.  She asked me if I'd been approached by anyone about moving my BT account to another provider.  I told her that I had an advert with The Phone Book and Yellow Pages, but didn't think anyone had contacted me about these accounts.  She sounded annoyed and asked me who I paid my bill to, my phone bill, and I told her The Phone Co-op.  She said something like 'Oh God' and slammed the phone down.

Not a good way to wake up.  Later, I rang BT, who said yes, there were companies out there purporting to be BT, but they weren't.  BT suggested I complain to my phone provider.

I had four other 'confrontations' today.  Three were whilst on my bike.  I got a phone call from Ash at Cycle Heaven saying he'd fixed the problem.... it was a simple case of the alloy axle getting 'threaded' and the nut coming off.  He'd replaced the alloy axle with a steel one which should be a lot stronger.  And he only charged me a fiver, which was great!  But on the way there, at the bottom of Heslington Road where it crosses Cemetery Road and goes into Kent Street, the lights had gone green and I'd started crossing the junction, as had a bus coming in the opposite direction.  Suddenly a black car with a single male occupant zoomed through, missing me and the bus by a metre or so each.  The driver had just ignored the light which had turned red seconds before.  The bus driver and I looked at each other, incredulous.

After picking up my bike from Cycle Heaven, I cycled away towards town and waited at the junction of the cycle track from Bishopthorpe Road where it meets Bishopgate Street, waited for the lights to go red and stop the traffic so I could cross onto the road.  As I did this, an idiot cyclist jumped the lights and nearly smashed into me.  I accelerated after him and came alongside, yelling at him so he heard over his personal stereo, 'So do traffic lights not apply to you then?'  He almost fell off with surprise but answered back that no they didn't.  I swore at him and accelerated away.  Then, after I'd been to the Building Society and put in my cheque from David, and picked up two small boxes of squashed halved lemons from the lemonade stall, I was cycling down Walmgate and a smallish sporty car overtook me at great speed, perhaps 50mph.  I caught up with the speeder at the Walmgate Bar lights and spoke to him through his open window, asking him why he was going so fast down a narrow urban road.  He came out with some crap about paying his taxes and I parted with a polite 'You were driving far too fast'.  As I cycled up Lawrence St, he appeared in the oncoming traffic, and he leant out of his window and shouted 'I owe you an apology, I've had a bad day'. I was amazed.  He performed another U-turn and when he overtook me this time he waved, so I waved back.  I wasn't expecting that.

My final bit of aggro was online.... I've a close friend who's just started going out with another of my friends, and I'm really supportive of this liaison, I think it's great for them both; in fact, I introduced them to each other! However, I had an online chat with another one of my friends who is quite close to one of the two new lovers.  This person was seemingly quite upset about the new relationship... I couldn't work out if it was a bit of jealousy, or wanting to protect their friend from getting hurt, or just not really understanding the situation the two new lovers are in.  Well I did my best to explain and to try to calm things down, but to no avail, I think.  I was saddened to think that someone was unhappy about two long-term single people finding a bit of company and romance. 

I chatted with one of the organisers of the POP Club in Pocklington about the timings of the gig I'm doing at the end of the week for them.  I think I'll be cycling out.

I made up my muesli and did a bit more dried fruit stuff in the evening.

Tuesday 30th August 11

A lovely long lie-in!

I've been a bit behind in writing a full blog post every day and I genuinely cannot remember what happened today, but suffice to say, I relaxed... but probably did assorted housework, bits and bobs in the garden, some fruit drying, that sort of thing.I know that after the long weekend I had a backlog of emails to deal with.

So, I got through the day just fine.

Monday 29th August 11, Spofforth Gala

Quite an early start.  I got more things... mainly myself, cleaned up, and then went to get my bike, but when I saw that, I decided not to even risk cycling to the station!  So I got a taxi to the station and got the 10.11 to Harrogate.  At Harrogate I got a taxi to Spofforth.  I decided I'd get a taxi more easily from Harrogate than Knaresborough, despite Knaresborough being closer to Spofforth.  Anyway, we had a nice chat, and I got to Spofforth before 11.30, very good timing. 

This gave me space to have a quick wander round the stalls.  I got Gill a present... a box set of watercolours.  I avoided buying some tiramisu which looked very delicious. Then I got changed and on the way out was delighted to see a house martin nest in the porch of the village hall.

I got started just before midday, unicycling round, interacting with people, being foolish but clever.  At 2.30 I did a one-hour show, which went well,after which I did a few balloon models and oversaw workshops.  My taxi came at 4.50 and took me to Knaresborough... more good conversations with the driver.

When I got in to York, I walked to David's... and was accosted by Mark Wallis, who used to be Mr Yellow.  He's selling a large walking globe... did I want it?  I don't think so... transporting it is just one issue!

I got changed at David's and we went for a coffee and met up with a friend of his called Elizabeth, whom I rather liked too.

I walked back towards home with all my gear... and luckily there was a number 10 bus which took me up Hull Road for under £2.

I was exhausted but happy.  Helluvaday!

Sunday 28th August 11, Galtres Festival

I did a 10 til 1 shift with Graham, Mel and their daughter Alyssa. This was a more difficult day as there was a huge amount of rubbish to sort through... but we did, and started filling our third cubic metre of compost bin.  The weather was kinder, with a breeze drying off the mud... but the rutted surface was still difficult to wheel the green bins to and fro, so more help was given by the big tractor with the bucket loader.  Made the job a bit easier... and more fun, as we rode in the bucket too!

Got then their rewards and I had a bit of free time to float around, sorry, trudge through the caking mud, before my show.  I didn't want to do my circus show again, wanted to do the balloons so I took my unicycle, in my costume, and a full bag of 100 balloons, and at about 4pm started to blow up as many as I could fit into the spokes of my wheel whilst sitting on the stage. 

I had a lot of fun with the awaiting audience, inviting them to have a go inflating a balloon.  One girl had the ability... I'd say about 1 in 200 people can do it, and randomly, sometimes it's a child.  This time it was a 10 year old girl. No-one else could do it, including grown-ups, whilst I blew up and tied one after another to prepare for the show and workshop. 

My balloon show works well with a finite number of people there at the beginning, who see how to twist the balloon into a dog shape (and a few other more complicated shapes) and then are invited to have a go.  However, with people arriving all the time, there is always the chance that a balloon will be given to someone who hasn't seen the beginning and hasn't a clue what to do!  This is what happened but I think I dealt with it reasonably well.

At the end there were a long line of kids who for one reason or another hadn't got a balloon, so I had another half hour of inflating and making models, until I'd done the full 100 balloons.  It was a successful entertainment session.

I had a dilemma for the evening.  I really wanted to see The Falling Spikes, in the Little Top venue.  However, they were on at 11pm. And I had a gig the next day, in Spofforth, which is 18 miles West of York, and not easy to get to by public transport.  To cycle there would take 2 hours, and if I was to get there to start at midday, and go by train and taxi, I'd need to be on the 10.11 train to Harrogate.

My dilemma was that my bike was not in good order.  I might have to walk back to York, which at 15 miles away, would be about 5 hours walk.  So, if I left after the Spikes, and had to walk, I'd get back at maybe 6am.  Not a good start for a busy day in Spofforth.  However, if I left at, say 9pm, and had to walk, I'd be back at 2am, much more manageable for a 10am lift-off.

So as I took down my tent, I deliberated over this dilemma, and began to err on the earlier return.  So I spent my last vouchers, and gave several away, and as The Levellers took to the main stage, I got my payment for the weekend's work and then cycled gently off into the darkness.  I like cycling in the dark.  My dynamo is easy to take off the front wheel and I had several long stretches with no other traffic... of course, when something else approached, I flicked it on, but off again as it passed me.  As I approached Sutton on Forest, I needed to do something to tighten up the wheel, but after that, I cycled steadily all the way back to York, taking about 1 hour 45 minutes to get home, getting in at the same time that the Spikes were due to take to the stage.

I spent some time getting things clean... Gill too helped with this, and got to bed at 2am.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Saturday 27th August 11, Galtres Festival

I did a 10 til 1 shift working with Graham and Mel.  Our role was to take the biodegradable waste and recycle it by stacking it in static pallet bins, lined with cardboard.  Most of the biodegradable stuff was in fact paper plates, soiled with food, and a small amount of other stuff like donuts and pizza crusts. I'm sure that each cubic metre of material will heat up well and compost down pretty well. We didn't take the paper cups as most of them were not compostable; only one outlet had bought proper compostable cups with the compostable symbol on them.
So, we went through the green bins which had been provided for caterers to put waste food in... but unfortunately, most of them had been available for the public to use and had a mix of compostable plates and food, cans and plastics, and assorted other materials.  So we spent quite a bit of time sorting, but we reduced the amount of stuff heading for landfill, and we also sorted out a lot of other recyclables.  We also got extremely muddy.  Moving the green bins through the mud was very difficult, so at times we got lifts in the big tractor shovel which was being used to move bands equipment from backstage to the various performance areas.  This was fun, and speeded up the job.

I got my co-workers their £15 worth of vouchers for their shift, and started planning for my first Fiddlesticks appearance.  I had to get cleaned up, into costume, and then up to the Pash tent to do my show for 4.30pm. I had a shower... bliss.... and then walked with a little trolley borrowed from another camper which was able to carry my box of goodies plus unicycles, and went out of gate 4 (backstage) and up the road (mud-free) and into gate 2 which was nearer the Pash tent arena, so I didn't get TOO muddied up.

My show was tough to pull off.  There was intrusion from the nearby big stage, and the audience weren't all in the Pash tent for my show... many were just sheltering from the rain.  So there was a lot of extraneous noise.  I'm more used to an audience enraptured by my show, and relatively quiet, so my non-amplified voice is easily audible. However, it was a good show, seemed to be well received and there were loads of people wanting to join in... no shortage of volunteers.

So then I was free to have an evening of proper festival, and I ended up in the Arts Barge Marquee with quite a few good conversations, including my friend Sam, and Alison and her daughter Daniella, and music from the Dub Barn Collective, which got me up and dancing.... unusual these days in my mid 40s sobriety.

So, a good and hard-working day at the Galtres Festival.  Well worth being there, despite the awful ground conditions.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Friday 26th August 11, Galtres Festival

The day started off well, with pasties for breakfast!  Soon I got going and got more pallets and started to build the second bin.  I got some cardboard and lined the first one and started to fill it with a few paper plates and assorted biodegradables.  The site got progressively busier and busier, and officially opened to the public at 4pm.

I got my assorted wristbands... one saying I was over 18, so I could buy alcoholic drinks, one saying I had a weekend ticket, the other saying I was a performer and could therefore go to the backstage area where I was camping, and of course, making the compost bins.  I was given 5x £15 beer and food tokens, two for the two days I was working as Professor Fiddlesticks, and three for the three days I was working as a waste management person.  The books of tickets are a good idea, I think.  Each £15 book has 10x £1.50 tokens, which can be exchanged for drinks and food.  So a pint of beer or cider is two tokens, most meals are 2 or 3 tokens, apart from the pizzas which are 4. When the retailer has collected a big pile of these tokens, they can cash them in with the festival organiser, who gives them 80% of their value... with the remaining 20% going to charity.  There are little cabins where the books of tokens can be bought.  I met one caterer who didn't like the 'multiples of £1.50' idea, and about 5 who did.  One caterer had produced their own 50p token to give as change for one meal which they had worked out was worth £2, with the 50p token spendable at their stall. 

It rained and rained.  The site got very muddy. But it was good to be at a festival again.

Today's highlight was the cider and perry tasting.  I can't remember what happened after that.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thursday 25th August 11, Galtres Festival

I spent most of the morning getting ready for going to the Galtres Festival, where I've been asked to do the composting and two Professor Fiddlesticks shows.

I decided to cycle up to the festival, as it's only 15 miles, ie about 90 minutes gentle cycling, even with a trailer full of gear.  Also, the festival bus service doesn't start til Friday when the event starts.  But I wanted to go early as I needed to construct compost bins, using pallets that James said he'd make sure were available and wire and pliers I said I'd take with me.

I set off at about 3.30pm and got to Huby when my bike suddenly started making an odd noise so I stopped and found the nut on the back axle had fallen off!  I walked the bike on to a safe place to lean it up, and walked back along the road to try to find it.  Which I did.... but when I tried to put it back on, I found the nut had lost its thread and it didn't stay on, and the trailer hitch came off and axle slid out of the other side.  Nightmare!

However, I used some wire to hold things together which meant that I could wheel the bike easily, so I walked the last mile or so to the festival site.  I found James Houston, the 'main man' of the event, a friend of mine whom I've known since the early 1990s when he published an independent newspaper called The Journal.  He explained where the composting was due to happen and told me there were various pallets around on site which I could use.  The composting area was in the backstage area, the performers camping.

So I put my tent up and found my first few pallets, wiring together four vertical sides sitting on a single horizontal base.

Later, a bunch of set-up volunteers and organisers had a communal curry plus slices of fried giant puff ball mushroom.  Gill had provided me with a veg pastie and a cheese and onion pastie, which because of this unexpected meal, I didn't need, so I kept those for breakfast tomorrow.

Wednesday 24th August 11

A fairly quiet day, spent the morning chatting with Gill about this and that, and dealing with some more plums, and doing admin connected with the forthcoming Galtres Festival.

I needed to go and get a cheque out to pay my Yellow Pages advertising, and to put a cheque in, so I loaded my bike with loads of drinks cartons, scrap metal and two old electrical items, to drop off at Hazel Court.

When I got there a new notice had been put up saying 'no cyclists or pedestrians' which I ignored, as I obviously needed to put my recyclables in the correct place. I thought that common sense had prevailed when the previous notice was removed, following my protestations and pointing out that motor-vehicle drivers suddenly became pedestrians once up at the top, walking things to the various recycling banks and skips.  I did my recycling; two things to the WEEE skip, 3 sacks of soya milk cartons (sacks came home with me) and quite a bit of bits of assorted metal.

I cycled into town wondering if I should make a fuss about the new sign.

I went to the Building Society with the cheque to pay in and the info about the one to get out.  Then on the way to the bank to pay the water bill, I got a tap on the shoulder and it was Karen Cannard, who had been doing some filming in Manchester (she's a reduce waste expert) and had decided to see a friend in York.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I did my bill payment, and cycled off to Alligator.  They were having a repaint, but were happy to see me and give me their compostables.

From here, on to Country Fresh for my last pick up for a while from them, and then Freshways.

I did about an hour of shredding... various hedge materials, and lots of dead pear tree branches etc.  Dug out the Compostumbler and started to refill.

Gill did a rice tea which I had at 8pm when I was finished in the garden.  Got to bed before 2am!

Tuesday 23rd August 11

A very full day with two Fiddlesticks gigs.  My first was at St Oswald's School in Fulford at 10am, a show to support the Circus Stars summer reading scheme, followed by a free-play session, which went very well.  I had lunch in that library with Jenny the librarian, whom I liked as she and I shared some music tastes, and Elizabeth, the Council Officer who'd booked me for these series of gigs.

I then cycled over Millennium Bridge to Bishopthorpe Library, where I did another 2 hour session, the one hour routine followed by a more-or-less free-play workshop... although I did start each of these free-play sessions with a catching and throwing game.

So I finished the activities at 3.30 and was cycling back at about 3.50, home via Richard (who's also, like me, looking forward to the Galtres Festival this coming weekend) and home to an empty house at about 4.30pm.

Gill and the boys had gone to see the Harry Potter film, as a birthday treat for our eldest.  I went to pick some plums and windfall apples, and carved up the last of the Jargonelle pears for drying.

The rest of the family appeared, and we had a quiche with lots of halved tiny home grown tomatoes in it, and Gill had also made a cake that she'd tried to get to look like a guinea pig.... but with all the candles in its back, it actually looked like a hedgehog.  It tasted good anyway.

I did quantities of paperwork/admin stuff during the evening, plus washing up and fruit preparation, and went to bed well after 2am.

Monday 22nd August 11

A late start and my first appointment was at 2pm, to go and see Ginny's wormery.  She'd wondered if it was working properly, and had asked me to see if it was OK.

It wasn't OK.  The tap at the bottom was blocked and the contents were saturated and anaerobic and quite unpleasant.  I asked if she had a wheelbarrow and I put all the contents in that, so I could sort out the tap at the bottom.  I dug it out with my hands and there were almost no worms, and yes the tap at the bottom needed blowing through and washing out with clean water.  I put a bit of twiggy matter at the base, on top of the plastic grid, and then gently put handfuls of the partly composted material back in, trying to ensure lots of air spaces to allow adequate drainage.  I added the worms I'd brought with me and found that Ginnie's compost bin was absolutely full of them, so I added some of these too.  Hopefully the bin will now work.

Ginnie had some bits and bobs of wood sitting in an outhouse and she wanted rid of them, so I loaded my trailer up and slowly cycled home.

During the evening I had two meetings to go to.... the Cosy Homes meeting and a planning meeting for the Galtres Festival with Mary Passeri, who's co-ordinating the kids entertainments, it seems.  So I popped in on the Cosy Homes and chatted with Kit, then after 20 minutes, cycled to the Ackhorne where I was pleased to meet Adrian Spendlow and Steve the Drum and later, Catherine the storyteller arrived, plus baby.  The courtyard filled up with a vast number of people who are part of Chilli Bon Bon, a theatrical group composed mainly of people who work at Brunswick Organic Nursery, a supported workplace. 

I filled in my papers that Mary had brought and discussed a few bits and bobs... and then when the Chilli Bon Bon crew threatened to sing, I made a swift exit.  I went back to the Seahorse to see if the Cosy Homes meeting was still happening and it was just finishing.

So a busy day.