Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Tuesday 31st January 12

A thoughtful day, not feeling 100% positive about myself... it's not a feeling I'm that used to, and recognise it from when I've done something silly or reprehensible.

However, I kept busy, and went to buy bread before lunch.  I cycled back through Hull Road Park to look at the plot which Marie Birbeck from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust told us about last night.  The plot had been 'done' with a chainsaw gang and there were a few smallish logs on the ground from an elm tree which had been trimmed.  I spoke to a gardener who said that he'd be really happy if I took the logs, as he thought that they were going to be taken away by the chainsaw people.

So I loaded up the trailer and took a load home, and went back with an empty trailer twice.  Later in the day I chopped all this up and split it... elm does not split easily, especially when dry, so doing it whilst green is the best option.  I also split a few more bits of the giant logs delivered last week, and did some stacking too.

I unwrapped the 'hotbin' composter which was delivered yesterday morning.  I now see how it keeps the materials so warm; it is made of an expanded plastic, looking a bit like expanded polystyrene but the much tougher expanded polypropylene.  So the claim that the walls are 96% air I now understand.  I'll start using it later this week.

I cycled up to see Carolyn, who wanted to offload some sacks of leaves my way, and to ask my opinion about a tree which one of her neighbours might want trimming or removing.  I persuaded her to leave the tree for a bit, but offered to do a bit of pruning work.  Also I learned about her electric trip-switch in case she calls on me to rescue her from her lift which she occasionally gets stuck in.

I also visited Debbie over the road and heard about her short trip up to see her folks and I'm glad she's still getting on with Philip, who's back from seeing his parents in the West Country.

I heard a chainsaw down the road and it was a chap trying to chop up the big Beech trunk in the garden just over Milson Grove.  I spoke to him and he suggested I speak to the householder, who's name is Paula, and she said, yes, I could have some of the wood.  The chap attempting to do the log seemed really happy for me to take the job on, so later I contacted Ian, my chainsawing friend, and asked him if he'd help me, or if I could pay him to make the trunk into rounds.... There's a lot of wood there, way over a tonne I'd say.  I do hope he can help.

I finished the day feeling a lot more positive.

Monday 30th January 12

Quite a mixed day... some of it was taken up with dealing with the aftermath of a post I put on facebook without thinking of the consequences.  It was a photo of what is colloquially known as a 'ladyboy'; a person, usually from a far-eastern country such as Thailand, who was born male and has chosen to live as a woman, a situation known as 'transgender'.  I have several transgender friends and therefore I should have known better to share a picture which used an image to get some cheap humour. I got several comments from friends and people I know who were horrified by what I'd done. There were other comments from people who thought it was hilarious.  This only enraged the offended group more.  Others chimed in and said that the Politically Correct crew were over-reacting. The response to this was a claim that trans people suffered more bullying and attacks than any other identifiable group in society, and many trans people commit suicide. I apologised for any offence given and hoped that some good might have come of the discussion, that people might have learned some facts about transgender people.  I have certainly learned to think before sharing things, and to stop and think if it might be offensive.  I don't mind discussing controversial subjects, but I don't set out to upset people... unless I want to deliberately upset people, of course.  The picture was later removed by facebook from everyone's walls who had shared it, probably because of complaints.

More of the day was taken up with organising the York in Transition Energy Event on March 10th, inviting renewable energy installers to come and have a stall.  I rang at least 8 different organisations.

I also got a welcome phone call from The Phone Co-op who said they thought I was spending too much on my phone bill, and that they thought I could, should, change my tariff. How nice of them!

Sunday 29th January 12

A nondescript morning but had been asked to provide balloon entertainment at a social event in Leeds, at A Nation of Shopkeepers from about 1pm.  So I went over on the train and arrived on the dot of 1.  My friend from Manchester, Simon, had come over and we chatted, before Alexa, the main organiser, turned up, and we managed to commandeer a couple of sofas and several chairs, moving a table to enable us all to sit together.

I had some good chats with a chap called Ben, who had a shared interest in compost toilets and green funerals, and his wife Lea who was very nice too.  There was Edafe and Mercedes, Bluebell and Riley, plus about another 10 people who I didn't get to know names of. The balloon models were appreciated, I think most people had a go and it added to the fun.

I left at 5pm and was home by 6.30, having stopped off at a logpile with my trailer, and I had rice for tea, did an enormous pile of washing up and prepared two racks of apples for drying.

Saturday 28th January 12

Another good day.  A good lie-in after the ridiculously late night.  But up in plenty of time to be ready for my Fiddlesticks gig at 3, at the Clifton Methodist Church, a new venue for me.

Friday 27th January 12

I woke early, at about 7.30, and got up then as I had a fair bit to do if I was going to go out later.

I lit the back room stove and Gill took the kids to school and did her stint at the shop.  I washed up and tried to work out what I am doing over the weekend.  I have a booking for tomorrow afternoon, but I was fairly sure that I had something booked for Sunday, as I'd been invited to a social in Leeds and had then taken a Fiddlesticks booking which I thought had meant that I couldn't go to that.  However, thinking about it today, I realise that I'd taken the Saturday booking and somehow my disorganised brain had transposed it to Sunday.  The paperwork says Saturday.  I have no paperwork for anything on Sunday, so I may be able to go to Leeds, as hoped.

I am on a Facebook group called Kingston Orchard Project and one of the prime-movers, Anna Kwilecka, asked me f I had any apple trees she could have grafting material from.  I told her about the Bramleys and she asked if I could send some scion material.. basically twigs which she'll graft onto the root stock she's got.  So I went and trimmed a few twigs and put them in a padded envelope, with a few pea beans, yam tubercles and pear leather, and took them to the post office and put an overnight postage on them.  I have no idea if they'll be OK or not... but I can send some more if she wants.

I then went to do a Green Party leaflet delivery on Heslington Road. This took an hour, and I got back just after Gill got in and I had lunch after her, at about 1.30.  Then I got  ready to go to town to sort out the LETS bank account signatories and pay the Good Energy bills for the year ahead, which I do by electronic transfer.  I couldn't do the LETS account stuff as I hadn't got all the details, so it's just as well I went to check it at the bank first, rather than send it off and have it sent back to me to complete.  I got to the station just a bit too late for the 3.26 so I got the 3.41.  I changed at Manchester Piccadilly and got a Stockport train, and Janie met me there.

We'd debated whether to go by train to Liverpool or whether she would drive.  The negatives about the train were that the gallery was some way from the nearest station and although the connections were good getting there, on the way back, the hourly train at 10ish would get into Manchester with only 3 minutes to spare before the last Train to Marple, and if we got the 9ish train,we'd have to walk 20 minutes to the further station as there wasn't a service from the one 10 minutes away.  There were more frequent and later trains back to Stockport, but there was no free parking there, and  that would set Janie back £10 just to leave the car there.  So, all in all, we decided to drive to Liverpool, 40 miles, and park next to the gallery and then we'd be able to leave when we wanted.

However, the trip from Stockport to the M62 turn off the M60 Manchester Ring Road took nearly an hour, as it was really jammed with too much traffic.  Something I'm not used to.  The motorway into Liverpool was a lot less crowded and I'd memorised the route using Googlemaps, and this impressed Janie who doesn't have a good sense of direction and doesn't read maps.  I got us there without a hitch, no problem.  In fact, I was quite impressed too!

So, we went to The Gallery for the Private Viewing (opening night) of the annual Erotic Art Exhibition by the Association of Erotic Artists.  It is no secret amongst those who know me that I have a deep appreciation of erotica and a healthy interest in sexuality, orientation, kink and the like, despite my being a 'boring vanilla hetero' compared to some of the people I've met. One person I really admire from this world is Tuppy Owens, an advocate for sex workers and access to a sex life for disabled people (see Outsiders) .  I was really thrilled (no, wrong word) really happy to eventually meet her here.  This was probably the highlight of my evening. 

Janie and I first looked round all the paintings, photographs and sculptures, and one 'installation' which was an extremely still woman lying down with assorted objects placed on or next to her.  I liked a few very colourful pieces but nothing really got me very excited, in any sense of the word.

There were several live performances, Len Gifford doing a body cast of a woman's buttocks, using a blue algae-based substance which dries to a rubbery texture (used to take casts of mouths apparently) and plaster of Paris which almost defeated him as he couldn't open the tub!  Then there was a very athletic and eventually naked pole-dancer called Edie, and a bondage demonstration by the transgender 'Boykitten' and their 'dom'.  The most exotic act was Mouse who did some amazing things which I can't describe here.  Anyone with a nervous disposition or blinkered approach to life should not click on her website.

One other nice memory was meeting a couple called Kate and Tony, who were both somewhat taken aback by the proceedings but great to talk to.  They'd come to support their friend Fiona who owns the gallery.  Janie and I couldn't stay for the after-party as I needed to get back home on the train, and I didn't fancy the one which left Stockport after midnight.  The journey back was very quick, motorway all the way and she dropped me off at the station at 10.40 and I was in Manchester by 11. I waited in the lounge area above Platform 13 for the York train. There was a woman sleeping on the seats, and I woke her up as there was a train leaving in 5 minutes, and I asked her which train she was waiting for. Her name was Jenny and she had a lovely voice... and was very pleased she was able to get the last train home to Liverpool, rather than sleep in the station overnight. She would have missed it otherwise.

On the 11.21 train to York I chatted to a young lass called Anna who dozed most of the way, and she left her expensive-looking mobile phone on the train when she tumbled out at Leeds, so I went to the door and yelled at her to come and get it off me.  Another good deed!

The train got in at 1.20 as it had been sent on a diversion due to overnight working on the line.  Gill was awake and watching a film, I was really pleased to see her. 

Thursday 26th January 12

Up early as had been invited to go to Malton for lunch with my friend Antonella.  However, I had a bit to do first at home, and set off at 11, got back home about 4 in time to get the front room warm for the boys to use this evening.

During the evening I was trying to sort out whether to go to Liverpool tomorrow, and if so, how.  But, I had a dreadful attack of the sneezes and felt really snotty and grotty, so whether I'm able to go to the exhibition tomorrow remains to be seen.

Wednesday 25th January 12

A really good day, seemed to get a lot done, despite a late start, with Gill waking me up when she got in from delivering the kids to school.  She'd also popped into a city centre shop and returned some clothes she bought in October but they didn't fit, and they, amazingly took them back.  She was very pleased.

I had my breakfast and read my emails.  I got one from a representative of HotBin Composting, whom I responded to yesterday via a facebook advert.  I asked a few questions on their facebook page and told them I was interested in their product for York Rotters. I like the look of the bin as it's insulated (the plastic walls are full of air bubbles), has integral thermometers and is made in Northampton, UK.  They agreed to send a trial bin to me.... I asked whether they'd like to have it seen by loads of people (at St Nicks) or be used a lot (by me in my garden).  I was very happy to hear that they wanted to send me one AND one to St Nicks.  I look forward to trialling mine.  They seem like nice people.

Then I had lunch and sorted out a bit more stuff about the forthcoming weekend's activities, and then cycled to Fulford to see a friend, an old lady called Margaret, who frequently has squirrels bury walnuts in her garden, and they germinate... but she doesn't want walnut trees in her garden.  She'd asked me to come and dig up one sapling, about 70cm high, and an oak tree seedling... maybe 2 years old, and 20cm high, and I'd checked with St Nicks whether they wanted them, which they did.

On the way I met Valerie, the really lovely lollipop lady at Lord Deramore's, and she said she was moving as she and her husband had bought a place near Ripon, I think, and she'd be leaving her job at half term.  I am happy for her but will miss her as she's such a nice person.  I hope we can keep in touch.

So I dug up the unwanted tree seedlings and put them in a plastic bag and cycled over towards St Nicks, going via Heslington Road.  I saw lights on at Country Fresh, and so I popped my head in and said hello.  There were 4 Asian gents there, and I asked if they were taking the shop on... and great news, they are re-opening it as a greengrocers!!!! Excellent!  I told them about my previous relationship with Country Fresh and suggested that I'd be interested in continuing the situation.  They seemed happy to see me and invited me to pop in on Monday.

I called into Hazel Court to dispose of a load of plastic bottles in their recycling banks and some ferrous scrap into their metal skip. No hassle taking the stuff up to the top by bike.  Glad they're being sensible these days.

And on to St Nicks where Jonathan the Education chappie took the trees off my hands, and said he'd heel them in and plant them tomorrow, on the Mosque side of the nature reserve.

And so to home, where I had an hour before cycling down to town to work for David, who was keen to go to City Screen for a coffee and a read of The Times, before going back home to have his microwaved meal and prune juice.  I left at 7.45 and came home via a logpile.

A relaxed evening with an avocado sandwich and two veggie sausages, some telly and the computer.  Yup, a really good day.

Tuesday 24th January 12

A very quiet day, nearly all of it inside.  I got up late and did a bit of washing up and emailing, cycled round to the chemist to pick up a prescription, on Gill's bike (haven't been out on mine for 3 days!) and finally got my tax return done.

I halved, cored, peeled and sliced another load of apples and filled the drying racks yet again... I've been invited to provide a load of jars for a student market in February, so I'm preparing for that.

But a sedentary day, not the sort of bouncy day I prefer.

Monday 23rd January 12

Up early and got busy doing things... breakfast, emails..... and then there was a knock on the front door.  It was the head groundsman from St Johns College, with two gardeners, and their flat-bed truck with 3 HUGE slices of tree on.... asking me if I'd like them?   I jumped at the chance, and said I'd be out in 30 seconds to help.  Each lump was the buttressed base of a big lime tree.... a couple of weeks ago the college took down dozens of them, thinning the row of mature limes on Lord Mayors Walk by removing every other one.

So, each one took all four of us to lift, and I asked for them to be put in a place where I wouldn't need to try to move them.  The other trees had been taken to a field near Dunnington, where someone at the college was a happy recipient, and the amount of wood would probably keep his stoves going for decades!

A bit later, I tried to split one of the rounds just with my maul... but the wood is slightly spongy and it didn't respond at all.  So I chainsawed them into quarters, and then bashed these with the splitting maul, which worked.

I also did some clearing up in the conservatory, taking several trays of squishy pears out, and ready to take down the garden to the new compost heap.  I put another couple of layers on, but have more to take down tomorrow.

Gill had a hospital appointment to see if her arthritis can be dealt with, so I made a pasta and sauce (on the woodstove of course!) and Gill was pleased with this when she got in.

I did some 'house admin': sorting out our energy bills. I had read the gas and electricity meters on Saturday and phoned Good Energy and left a lengthy message but I phoned them today because they hadn't got back to me.  Based on meter readings on 21st January 2011 and last Saturday, 23rd January 2012, we have used 56 cubic metres of gas - 626 kwh, or 1.71 kwh/day.  Based on this consumption for last year, next year's bill is £107.94.  We use far more electricity, 1938 kwh, or 5.3 kwh/day, and Good Energy will charge us £362.62 for next year's consumption.  So, our annual energy bills are £470, which for a family of 4 is pretty low, although I'd like them to be lower! I will pay these bills by bank transfer soon.

Oh!  I got a postal delivery... of two bike tyres, not wanted anymore by my facebook friend Graeme, who has replaced his bike and had two new tyres spare.  One has a kevlar anti-puncture lining.  He didn't want anything for them, just the postage of £4.41; I sent him £5 via PayPal.

So, a good day, plenty of activity outside and plenty of 'work' inside!

Sunday 22nd January 12

Basically, a quiet day in.

Oh, apart from 5 times when the bullying nearby-neighbour managed to set off his house alarm.  Apparently he was doing some electrical work in the house (on a Sunday!!!) and this kept on tripping his burglar alarm.  I nearly went round to tell him to shut it up but didn't.  It was fun thinking about what I could have said... but of course, I am always as polite as pie to him, despite him being quite offensive towards me.

However, I did do a couple of hours down the garden, digging out the air-raid shelter compost bin and putting the contents, minus some of the inevitable plastic bits and bobs which went in a bin bag, and a few unrotted sticks and peach stones which got saved and went straight in the bottom of the newly vacated bin.  I put a load of tough brambles in the base, which helped hold the flattened cardboard boxes against the corrugated iron sides.  I always line my compost heaps with cardboard as it helps insulate them, and eventually the card rots down too.  I got a load of guinea pig hay, straw, newspaper and droppings on top of the brambles and then a couple of sacks of shredded Christmas tree and pine stuff from the front garden tree. That should make a good base for the regular input from Freshways and Alligator.

Later, I really enjoyed watching a film on Channel 4 called 127 Hours, about a chap who becomes trapped in the middle of nowhere by a falling boulder and has to cut his own arm off to free himself.  An exceptionally well-made film, in my opinion, and despite the gory nature of some of it, I really enjoyed it.

Last thing (well, after midnight) I had a good deep and very hot bath, as I'd put both cans on the stove.  Good to have a 'deep clean' now and again!

Saturday 21st January 12

An enjoyable day, as no 'agenda' or timetable or appointments.

However, I was quite busy, did quite a bit of log stacking, including another split-round which I stacked in its original shape, in the logpile next to the front door for its final drying before the stove gets it.... it makes the pile look arty and nice.

And I did some chainsawing and splitting too.... not much, about half an hour.

Gill went to town to get assorted kids clothes and ended up getting a bra, hat and boots for herself.  She was really pleased as she rarely buys anything for herself.

I took our meter-readings for The Carbon Account, and sent a message to my friends on The Carbon Account suggesting that they updated their graph...and two of them messaged me and told me off!  Oh dear, I'm not always that good a communicator, and I certainly didn't mean to upset anyone.

Friday 20th January 12

Kinda mixed day, felt tired for quite a bit of it, but hardly surprising after a bad night's sleep and a very busy day.  I did however do at least two lots of washing up, jarred up two jars of apple rings and cycled round to the chemist to pick up a prescription for one of the boys.

In the afternoon I went for a coffee with Antonella and her daughter and grandson, and came back home via Freshways.

Later, before 6 I cycled into town again to meet David, who hadn't been out all day due to foul weather, and was itching to go to City Screen and meet his friend Elizabeth, who had just come back from Paris where she's been to an art exhibition and was full of tales of Matisse and Picasso. 

Richard Sheils popped in, and amongst other things, told us he was having an art exhibition at City Screen next month.

I took David home and did his meal and came back, collecting a Christmas tree I'd spotted earlier in the day.

Later in the evening, Gill persuaded me to watch Empire of the Sun with her... it was a good film.  She's seen it before and warned me that I'd find some of it upsetting, but it was worth seeing.

Thursday 19th January 12

A really packed and perfect day.  Everything fitted together really well.

I got up just after the boys went to school by taxi and left the house an hour later just after 9am to get a bus sometime before 10.  At the bus stop, something happened which put me in a positive mood for the rest of the day.

I started chatting with a woman who like me was waiting for the bus which was a couple of minutes late.  She was waiting for her mother and they were heading to Leeds.  I told her that I was heading to Seacroft to donate platelets.  She said that I was really lovely to do that, as she had received platelets on several occasions as she had leukaemia. She thanked me for what I was doing.  I nearly cried.

I read some NewScientist on the bus and before long was at Seacroft, a few minutes early.  The donation went normally, 3 units in just over an hour. 

Can't remember if the evening held any highlights.

Wednesday 18th January 12

A pretty good day although I missed a phone call in the morning... the Co-op 'Will-Making' people that I'd asked to ring for a quote rang off just before I got to the phone.  Shame they didn't wait until the answerphone kicked in!

Never mind, it wasn't that important. I don't have the feeling I'm going to pop my clogs just yet. I will ring them sometime.  I got on with the day, Gill had gone to a felting course at the Steiner School and I bumbled around, doing a bit of housework and plenty of Scrabble and other 'net-based stuff.

Gill came back and we had lunch and as she was going to get our eldest at 5.30, I cycled with our youngest's bike to the Steiner School to pick him up, going via Alligator to collect compostables which went on the Steiner School pile to rev it up a bit.

I then did a bit of stuff outside for an hour, and then came in to get ready to go to work, getting to David's at 6.15, made him his meal and then wheeled him to the Friends' Meeting House to the YAYAS (York Architectural and Yorkshire Archaeological Society) meeting, which was on the Backhouse family of York, presented by Penelope Dawson-Brown, President of the Ancient Society of York Florists.

She spoke about 3 generations of the Backhouse family, Quakers who had a nursery in the early 1800s at Toft Green, then moved to Fishergate, then to Holgate. One of them, a James Backhouse, travelled extensively to Australia and S. Africa, spreading Quaker teachings and botanising, collaborating with Hooker, the first curator of Kew. The West Bank nursery was sold in the 1930s to the Hamiltons, who then bequeathed the land to the City of York.   The big house the Backhouses had built overlooking a gigantic rockery, built to resemble the Alps, was knocked down, and the rockery bulldozed into the lakes.  The land was used to build loads of housing, and the open space left became West Bank Park.  There was a wonderful slide-show, of really old photographs, one showing Holgate Windmill in the distance.  This is a bit of York's history which isn't very well known, and I think it probably needs better documentation.

I took David home, we got our diaries up to date with some future work days, and I cycled home via a logpile.

Tuesday 17th January 12

A late start but a productive day after that, as I went to town and got money out of one account to pay off our Council Tax, and two other accounts to pay the Steiner School spring term bill.

I put last night's beetroot in 3 jars and filled them with vinegar, and during the day did the usual tonne of washing up.

I also spent quite a bit of time online, contributing to discussions, arguments, playing Scrabble and sharing links.  Nothing new!

Monday 16th January 12

A very quiet day, although as our youngest didn't go to school as he wasn't feeling well, by the afternoon he was back to normal so we had an hour of science lesson.

I did get out later in the afternoon and build some logpile, making a very attractive looking stack which when I've finished I may get around to taking some photos of, as I incorporated several split rounds in their original round shape.

But most of the day was doing things inside, including cooking potatoes for tea, making coleslaw, and later, boiling a large pan of beetroot and then when done, topping and tailing them and peeling them, prior to pickling some and making soup out of some. This took ages, as I estimate there were about 30 little beetroots to deal with...

Sunday 15th January 12

A very relaxing day.  Well worth not having to write any more about it!