Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sunday 27th November 11

I had a good long sleep, til after 10, but got up and watched some of Country Tracks and had a shower and got slowly ready for work.

I set off after lunch to go to a birthday party in Clifton Moor, so I cycled down to James Street and then onto the cycle track to Wigginton Road, up to the Bumper Castle and over to the Community Centre on Rivelin Way... in about 25 minutes.

The party went really well, the 7 year old boy and his friends had a good time and I was pleased that his Mum had booked the space for 2 1/2 hours, so there was no hurrying and I even had time at the end to make a teddy bear and a Weeble, which I don't usually do in my balloon show.

I came home an even quicker way, along Water End into Clifton and then straight through town and home in 20 minutes!

I had a peaceful evening, enjoyed a baked potato and the mushrooms I picked on Thursday, which I cooked and bunged in the fridge.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Saturday 26th November 11, Leeds Summat

An intense and full and busy and awesome day, and one that's taken AGES to write up!

I'd wondered about going to the Leeds Summat for some time, and decided last night that I would go... even though it entailed a very early start.  I unhitched my trailer and left it at home (trailers aren't allowed on trains) and cycled to the station to get the 8.25, which got in just before 9am.  It only took me 5 minutes to cycle up to the University from Leeds station, and I found the venue, the Student Union building, very easily.  I haven't been there for years.

I had a float around and chatted with a young politics student before the opening at 10am, had a coffee and a croissant and went to the Riley Smith Hall.  I was pleased to meet my friend Justin Rowlatt, the journalist who became 'Ethical Man' for a year.  He and his wife have family in Leeds.

He was on stage for the opening session, along with Rommie Smith, a poet, Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds and ex Environment Minister, a trainee barrister called Maryam Mir, a chap from Land Securities called Gerald Jennings, Maurice Glasman, a Labour Peer, and a local activist, Nic Greenan.  The host or chair was Harry Gration the TV presenter.  Between them they introduced the Summat, which was framed with the recent 'Arab Spring', the Occupy movement, the recent riots (which didn't happen in Leeds due partly to some intervention from youth leaders), and the 200th anniversary of the Luddite Uprising.

There was a wide ranging discussion, which identified a key cause of the problems, which we think is inequality.  Maybe there should be a maximum wage?  Land ownership is another massive issue, another sort of inequality.  Justin identified that he thought that there was a lot of ideological baggage in the green movement, and he is pro-nuclear power, and pro-genetically modified organisms.  He told us that there are a lot of positive things happening, as he's just come back from the Amazon rainforest, and seen how that moves are afoot to stop (or at least slow) the deforestation.  However, time was against us and that session ended, and I went to the next thing I was interested in.

This was an introduction to the Enneagram, which is a way of analysing one's personality. I've been interested in exploring personality traits for a long time, partly because I have an unusual one, and in some areas, I'm quite extreme and this has caused some problems and clashes. My favourite was the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicators, but I'd never heard about Enneagram.  All the participants stood around a large diagram laid out on the floor, with the 9 different personality types, Challenger, Peacemaker, etc etc, and a couple of chaps explained how it worked and what the various things meant and how it could be used.  I was fairly interested, and might explore it further.

However, the next session was really good; I chose to go and see Mary from Incredible Edible Todmorden talk and show her slides.  I am, like many, very inspired by this project, and indeed, it has inspired the formation of Edible York.  It was good to hear one of the founders talk us through the project.

Then I went to a session called Activism and Social Change in the main hall, with Justin Rowlatt, Peter Tatchell the veteran human rights activist, Khadijah Ibrahim founder of Leeds Young Authors, Benny Wenda from Free West Papua, and at least one other.  I particularly enjoyed hearing about Tatchell's 'citizen's arrest' of Robert Mugabe, and the overall message of this session was believe in yourself, listen to others and learn from others.

Finally, there was a session hosted by Green Drinks Leeds, which also resulted in a few good conversations.

In the evening I cycled over to a different venue nearby, and there was a bit of live music and some good food, and I met my old friend Louie, whom I've known for years and years from festivals. He was there with his daughter, and I was really glad to see him as he's a very jolly fellow.  I didn't spend a long time at the evening gig, and cycled back to the station and got back to York at about midnight.

This post took months to complete as I have so much happening in my life, not helped by computer breakdowns and still writing a daily post.  However, I do like to publish in sequence, so once this post is made public, I'll post a whole load more in batches, which were days with a bit less happening and less to write about.  I may even catch up and publish the day's blog on the day it happened, like I did for a long time....

Friday, 10 February 2012

Friday 25th November 11

Quite a good day, the most productive part was the York in Transition Thermal Imaging Camera meeting at Andreas' house in the evening.

As for what else happened, well it was so mundane and ordinary that I couldn't even be bothered to write about it!!!

Thursday 24th November 11 Hedge Laying

For maybe 20 years, one of the many things in my list of 'I'd like to try' was hedge laying... a way of pruning and managing a field boundary which rejuvenates the vegetation, and looks attractive, and makes it 'stock-proof', ie sheep and cattle cannot get though it.  Well, today I had my chance!

However, it meant visiting a place I have boycotted since it got built: The McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Centre, which was built on the site of the old Naburn Hospital, and the site of my first Non Violent Direct Action, trying to prevent an out-of-town shopping centre being built.  Part of this site was an old orchard, and fortunately, although hundreds of trees were cut down to build shops and car parking, the orchard escaped.  More recently, there were plans to build a garden centre over the orchard area, but the community who valued these trees rose up and stopped the development.  McArthur Glen has entrusted the orchard to Fulford Community Orchard.

So the Southern edge of the orchard is a belt of trees and an old overgrown hawthorn hedge, with some of the trees making this hedge having trunks up to 20cm across... not the best size for trying to lay at 90 degrees to the way they naturally grow.  I arrived at 9.30 and some BTCV volunteers were taking tools towards the hedge, and Paul, the leader took us through the basics, what the tools were, a brief health and safety talk, and then he put me with an experienced hedge layer, who showed me how he did it.

The hedge had already been thinned out a bit, and the tops taken off, so the height was perhaps 4 to 5 metres, and some of the dead wood removed.  The method was to make a horizontal cut with a bow saw quite near the ground, and then to cut away above this with a billhook, making a sloping cut, to allow the top of the plant to be carefully bent over to near horizontal, where it rests on the last one laid down.  The important part is there needs to be a little bit of bark hinge connecting the now horizontal part with the roots, so it can keep growing and be a living hedge.  However, these old plants had quite brittle stems as they were old, and some broke off as they were carefully bent over.  But this is OK really, as they are staked into place with the still living stems, and other cut wood put in too, to make a 'dead hedge', filling in the gaps and making the hedge more solid. I found using the billhook quite difficult, as it's a two-handed tool, and I'm used to using a machete, which is one-handed.  But we got our stretch done, and I was really pleased with this.

I left at about 2.30, as I wanted to collect some fungi I'd seen on the way in; I got a good bag full of shaggy ink caps, which have a wonderful delicate flavour, one of my favourite mushrooms.

I got in just before 4pm and had an hour and a half before going out to work for David... we went to City Screen and he caught up with a newspaper, and I met up with my friends Jonathan and Trish.

Wednesday 23rd November 11

Well today I was due to go to donate platelets at Seacroft Hospital in Leeds... I took pears to Scoop, and spotted the preparation on Walmgate Stray to burn the big pile of brushwood which had been piled up since summer when the new fence was put in, and I'd asked the Council not to burn, but to leave as a wildlife resource.  As I cycled down to Scoop, at about 9.30 the little bulldozer was being taken out of a trailer behind a tractor, and as I cycled past again, the workmen were setting fire to the big pile of brash.  This is bad practice; if having a bonfire, it is far better to move the material to be burnt to an area near the storage pile, which may very well have got wildlife living in it.  The fire should have material added to it from the initial pile, but on Walmgate Stray, the big pile was torched in a very lazy and uncaring manner.  I was quite angry, and started composing a letter complaining about this.

I cycled on to the train station to get a bus. I had a bit of a drippy nose, but thought this might be an allergy, rather than a cold, so I decided it was OK to donate.

I donated 3 units of platelets in 67 minutes. I didn't feel that brilliant during the donation, and the staff asked me if I was well enough to donate.  However, I do get a runny nose fairly often, and have done since childhood.

Bus back, came home, flopped, and went for a lie down.

However, I needed to collect the unsold pears from Scoop, and then there was a seminar on sustainable development, organised by the University International Development Society.  The speaker was Professor Piran White, Deputy Head at the Environment Department.  It was a good overview about what sustainable development entailed.

Later, I wrote to the Press about the Council's bonfire, and copied in Andy D'Agorne, who'd been party to the discussion earlier this year.

Tuesday 22nd November 11

Bit of a lie in, and a fairly relaxed day. I was supposed to take my bike into Cycle Heaven in the morning but I didn't get it together til mid afternoon.

Ash told me that they had this one last Weber hitch left, and their supplier couldn't get any more.  However, I'm not that happy with the Weber trailer hitch, as it wears through (with the hammering I give it!) really quickly... this last one has lasted about a year.  So this one might be the last one that Ash fits, and he showed me another trailer hitch which might be more suitable for my needs.  However, he doesn't know if it comes separately from the trailer that it's attached to!

I left my bike and trailer at Cycle Heaven and walked into town to pay our water bill, get a cheque out for my Leeds Yellow Pages, and put two cheques in.

That didn't take long, so I walked up to see Pauline, who was in, and seemed glad to see me.  We chatted for half an hour and then I walked back to Cycle Heaven, paid for my trailer hitch and cycled home.

Had a quiet evening, didn't do much apart from turn out the pear leather from it's tin onto a non stick sheet to continue drying.

Monday 21st November 11

Slept til after 10, as it was a long weekend and I didn't get to bed til 3am.

I rang Cycle Heaven about the Weber trailer hitch I asked them to get for me, and the chap said there was nothing on my records about asking them to order a trailer hitch.  He said it would be available in a couple of weeks... I protested, and he said he'd speak to the boss and see if things could be sped up.  Later, I got a message on the answerphone to ring them... and apparently they DO have one in stock, and will fit it tomorrow!  Brilliant, but a bit of a heart-stopping moment to think my trailer wouldn't be usable for a fortnight!

I did quite a bit of washing up, and wood stacking, and some composting, and later in the afternoon, because Gill was out, I made a nice tea.  Boiled spuds on one woodstove, fried leeks and onions on the other one.  Put the nearly cooked spuds into the leek/onion with the remains of the tomato soup stuff I made a few days back and has been in the fridge.  This I cooked up with some Marmite water (cleaned out an old jar with hot water) and whilst that was cooking on the stove top, I made a breadcrumb/pumpkin seed/walnut/goats cheese crumble topping, which I put on top and put more grated goats cheese on top.. and 20 minutes in the oven to crisp off the top.  This was ready just as Gill came in with our eldest, and it all went, and was appreciated.

In the evening I cycled round to Edward's for a York in Transition Directors' meeting.  Good to see Barry and Colin too, it was a productive meeting.

Home to jarring up pears and turning out the pear leather, halving, coring and peeling more pears for drying, and answering composting and wormery queries on facebook.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Sunday 20th November 11

A good day, despite a tough gig.  I was roused at 8.45 and dragged myself up and got ready to go to work on the 10.40 train to Hull.  I chatted with a nice Manx couple, now living in York, she a Barrister and he a writer.  They were off to explore Beverley... I was getting off two stops later in Driffield.

There were no taxis at Driffield Station, so I asked a local and he said that there was a taxi firm in the centre, so I walked there only to find a notice on the window with a telephone number.  Glad I had my mobile phone!  I said to the taxi driver who answered that I'd be happy to meet at the train station... he said yes in 10 minutes and I walked back, and he was there waiting for me.

He took me to the other side of Beeford where I'd been invited by the grand-daughter of a 90 year old 'birthday girl' Mary, to entertain at her big family gathering. The venue was wonderful, a huge hall, and shortly after I arrived, and before I got changed, I was asked to press the camera shutter for a group photo or three... with everybody else in the photo, I was the only person available to do the photography.  The camera was on a tripod, which made it very easy.... Then I was provided with food, which was delicious. 

Then it was time for the entertainment.  There were relatively few children, and I always find it more difficult to do a good show if there's less than 15 or 20 audience members.  Also, several of the older children decided it was going to be 'bait the entertainer' day, and did their best to annoy me.  I pushed on with the show, which was enjoyed by some of the children and some grown ups... but it was a difficult gig, at one end of a noisy venue, and a distracted and very 'at home' (ie, NOT on 'best behaviour'!) audience.  I did the balloons too, again, I had been told at the start that I'd do this show immediately after the circus, but then a different person said could I wait until after the speeches, and I had to say that, no, actually, I was being picked up after the balloon show was scheduled to finish so I had to start very soon!  I really like it if the plan goes smoothly, and isn't changed during the event.  Anyway, I gave a balloon teddy bear to the lovely 90 year old, and got myself ready to go... got paid, and went to stand at the end of the drive where I hoped Joanne would pick me up. 

It was getting very foggy, but her sat nav thing directed her correctly and she picked me up, and drove me to Scarborough.  The best thing about this journey, apart from chatting with Joanne, of course, whom I'm very fond of, was some HUGE wind turbines looming up in the fog, and my surprise, although it seemed like there was no wind, they were spinning round and I fell in love with wind turbines all over again.

We picked Glenn up who was walking from work to home, and then I chatted with Joanne as Glenn created a delicious meal.  It was lovely to see them again and we had some good conversations.  Glenn took me to Seamer station where I got the train back to York, getting in late and feeling very tired, but happy.

Saturday 19th November 11

A good day, with a lovely and successful gig.  I got up fairly early as Gill had to leave the house in time to get to the Steiner School by 10am, as our youngest wasn't feeling too brilliant, so Gill offered to do his shift on the hot chocolate stall. She'd ordered a taxi as she was too achy to cycle in. But before she went, at 9.40, she plaited my hair.

Our eldest was full of energy and decided to cycle in, leaving at the same time as Gill. I got my bits and bobs together and asked our youngest if he'd like to go to the Advent Fair, either cycling in, or getting a lift on my rack.  He volunteered to cycle in, so at 11.15 we both set off together, me with all my Fiddlesticks stuff.

We parted company at Fulford Road, and he cycled along to the school and I went straight over, to the Millennium Bridge and over Bishy Road, to Tadcaster Road and within 15 minutes, to the Foxwood Community Centre.

It was a very good gig, really enjoyed it... and when I enjoy performing, the audience enjoys it too.  This seems to be the general pattern.

Later, I worked for David, and took him to the Bach Choir at St Michael Le Belfrey.  This choral music was absolutely not my thing, I find it really boring as I don't understand the words, it's religious, and it brings back memories of being taken, often under duress, to classical concerts as a small child.  Fortunately I was taken to a few classical things I liked (Carmina Burana and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra being two I DID like) but I'm afraid tonight's offering was very much David's thing; I gritted my teeth and tried not to fall asleep.  I'm really happy that David loved it. 

Friday 18th November 11

Woken by a huge rumpus so I came downstairs and sat quietly blinking on the couch next to the culprits, and it quietened down, thank goodness.

Gill went to school with our youngest as she was working in the shop, getting it ready for the Advent Fair tomorrow.  I'd agreed to go in from 12 til 2 and chop vegetables in the cafe.  So at 11.30 I closed everything down at home and set off on my bike, popping in to see Gill briefly in the shop before going up to the cafe.  I spent an hour chopping red cabbage, then had a few minutes eating a sandwich and chatting to a nice woman called Pam, and then chopped up 14 big onions, finishing at 1.55.

I came home via Alligator, picked up a trailer load of compostables and another couple of boxes at Country Fresh, and one at Freshways, and got in after 3pm, ready for a coffee!

Thursday 17th November 11

Well a late start and felt a bit grotty, sneezing again.  Cold or allergy, I don't know.

But I had a quiet day, dealt with some paperwork and mid afternoon went to sort out the pear branches I took off the tree overhanging next door, which I chucked over the hedge back into our garden.  I chopped off the smaller twiggy bits with secateurs and fed these into the shredder, and kept any slightly bigger, straight bits for kindling... I'll chop them down to length and bag them up in paper potato sacks, for use in a year or two.

I worked til dusk, and came in and decided to have a nap, and had two hours sleep, getting up again just before 8pm.  Gill had made a nice stew with a cobbler topping, using one of the parsnips given by the allotment woman yesterday.  Lovely.

Wednesday 16th November 11

Woken by shouting.... a bit of a to-do about whether or not to take some dried fruit to school. However, I got up and slowly got myself together and got the pears ready that I need to take to Scoop.

I set out just before 10 with the pears very carefully packed in a box with special moulded cardboard which would hopefully stop them bouncing around and getting damaged.  I'd agreed to help at the People and Planet allotment at 10.30 with my big riddle, as a compost heap needed digging out, so I carefully placed this on the trailer and the pear box on top of this, giving it extra cushioning and suspension!

The pears arrived at Scoop in perfect condition, and the lovely Phoebe took them off me and I zoomed off, pearless, to the lottie, and found two students there who were more than willing to help dig and riddle the entire heap. We removed loads of 'contraries', mostly bits of plastic, but also wire, spoons, glass and other rubbish.  A neighbouring lottie holder gave us some parsnips, which was kind.  Mature compost often seems to have lots of contraries in it... this is because it is very easy to accidentally put a bit of plastic or some cutlery into the compostables, and then when this rots down and reduces in volume by 90%, the numbers of contraries seem to be 10 times as numerous, and they're easier to see as the mature compost is uniform, and the contraries stick out.  However, this compost was especially bad and full of uncompostable bits.  We did a lot of hand-picking.

I got back home via Country Fresh and in time for lunch.

I had a fairly quiet and frustrating afternoon, trying to work out how I can cheaply get to Bristol, and I can't.  My visit might not happen, or might be put off til after Xmas.

I took David to the Friends Meeting House in the evening for a YAYAS meeting.  Tonight it was a fascinating look at the Magnesium Limestone area of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, and how mapping it shows where the different pre-Roman tribes were, and some information about how they lived.  Ian Roberts, from West Yorkshire Archaeological service, told us about crop marks, barrows, henges, chariot burials, brickwork field patterns, and how quarries are good for archaeologists!  We both enjoyed the talk, as it was new information for both of us.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tuesday 15th November 11

Woken by a phone call, just missed the answer machine, so rang back and quite soon the woman rang back, asking if I was available next Sunday to entertain at her Granny's 90th birthday party in the middle of nowhere in East Yorkshire.  I was available and I said that if the public transport allowed, I could do the gig.

I did a bit of searching on a rail timetables website and found that yes, I could get to Driffield, and I'd get a taxi from there.  The fee offered would easily cover the train and taxi fare, and leave a good fee on top for my business.

Later in the day (before lunch) I did a bit of compost heap loading, including putting a lot of guinea pig bedding onto a new heap, and getting ready to shred the Wisteria. 

And after lunch, that's what I did. I sorted out all the thicker sticks and our eldest chopped them to the right size for bagging up to dry in the garage, and I patiently fed all the thinner stuff and foliage through the quiet shredder, creating about 2/3 of a cubic metre of shreddings, in a builders bag.

Monday 14th November 11

Quite a good day, got a lot of garden work done.  I had left my ladders next door as Marion had asked me if I wouldn't mind taking off a couple of branches off our pear tree which overhang their lawn, and every August their lawn gets covered in fallen pears, making it slippery and attractive to wasps.  Marion is concerned that Dave, her husband, who isn't very steady on his feet, might slip on the pear mush, and their grandchildren get stung by a wasp.

So I took off two lower branches, using the loppers to take off smaller branches and the bow saw to remove the thicker ones.  The biggest was only about 15cm in diameter, so not a big limb.  I took off one smaller branch higher up, and funnily enough the tree looks nicely balanced and by next spring it won't look like any major surgery has taken place.  I shoved all the branches over the hedge and tomorrow I will chop and shred that material.  There's quite a lot of work to do there, but will give me some valuable 'carbon-rich' compostable materials and a bit of stove-fodder.

Then I took down the Wisteria at the front of the house.  Ken, our other neighbour, is worried about a small crack in the concrete of our shared driveway.  He thinks the roots of the Wisteria might have done damage to the drains, and he doesn't like the leaves which fall either.  So these reasons, as well as the plant being very unwilling to flower properly, are why I took it down.  I expect I'll have to take up some concrete to remove the roots, and I think this is when Ken will take up more concrete to check his drain.  I'm not that worried about the drains... there is a drain running from one end of the driveway which goes to the sewer at the back of the house, but this only drains the driveway and isn't critically important.  However, I think that checking it is intact and that water isn't draining into the house foundations is a sensible thing to do.

I finished taking the Wisteria down at about 5pm, so I came in and put some food together.  Gill had gone into town to collect the boys from school and then to go and see Matt Baker arrive in York on his rickshaw.  I had my tea and at 7.10, set off for Priory Street to the North Yorkshire Humanist Group.

This was Tim Stevenson's take on 'Introduction to Humanism'.  I've considered myself a Humanist for some time, without knowing all the details about what it actually is, just the basics.  In a nutshell, Humanism uses science and reason to help us decide what kind of society to work towards.  I enjoyed the meeting and if readers are interested in what Humanism is, this website would be a good place to start.  For me, this makes more sense than anything else I've heard about how to live, plus 'explanations' about why we're here and what it's all about.  The website has a little questionnaire that is easy to answer (it's multiple choice!) and this will tell you whether you're a humanist.