Friday, 9 May 2014

Amusing York City Council fail

On Good Friday York City Council refuse collection people failed to empty our bin. My husband phoned them that day to complain but it was Good Friday so no-one was there and there was no way to leave a message. Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday followed with no opportunity to complain so on Tuesday I sent the Council this message:

Sent: 2014-04-22 15:37:23.383 
Subject: Last Friday 
When the bin collection was done last Friday our bin wasn't emptied for some reason. How do I get this rectified? 
Cheers Viv 

This is the response I received today - 17 days later - 11 working days because there was another bank holiday Monday in there.

Dear Viv 
Thank you for your e-mail and I apologise for the delay in replying. If your bin was not collected it does need to be reported within 24 hours either via e-mail or by telephone 01904 551551 and if it is a missed collection by the crew we can ask them to return for the bin. 
Kind Regards 
York Customer Centre 

As you can tell I was not amused. My husband did phone on the day and I emailed on the first working day after the failed collection. If I had sent an email on the Friday no-one would have read it and as it was it took them 11 working days to respond to point out my failure. Anyway here is my response. Childish I know but seriously York City Council...

My husband tried to report it on the day but you were closed because it was bank holiday Friday. Oh and you were closed Saturday, Sunday, oh and Monday. During that time there was no facility to leave a message!!! So nice to know it takes you this long to respond and that you are no help whatsoever. If you look at the date I sent you the message it was the first day you were open after you not dealing with my bin!!!!!!!! Total fail. Maybe you can make it up to me by replacing my recycling bin which has been nicked, without charge. Probably not though.

As of today - Monday 19th May - I have had no response.  That is 5/6 working days since I sent the above email on the 9th.

Despite the below twitter reply from York Council (May 19th) I am still awaiting a respsonse - date 11th July 2014

CityofYork - Hi @vckidd we have passed the details of your query on to the team and have asked that someone contacts you as soon as possible. Thanks.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

My "Help-Yourself" Garden

Ryan has been helping me with gardening again and today we organically came across a cunning plan for utilising the space at the front of my house.  You see, where Ryan is standing in this photo, there used to be a planter.  It wasn't getting enough rain and I (being a serious non-green-fingered person) failed to water it.  So Ryan and I hatched a plan that we would move the planter to somewhere more conducive to getting rained upon.  Sounds simple but there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done along the way.

This is the planter making its way to it's new home.  And along the way we had to saw wood, move logs, get ds to stand on the contents of the green bin so we could fit more stuff into it, photograph frogs (see below), watch hot air balloons go overhead (see photos below), sweep the path, relocate one of the clumps of comfrey from the planter to the back garden, move more logs, move other logs to the back garden and clean the car (which had nothing to do with the cunning plan).  And whilst all this was being done their were vague ideas being discussed of making the planter a herb planter and transplating some of the plants from the raised bed next to the front wall so that that too contained only edible plants.

And from these discussions came an idea of sharing this produce with my neighbours and friends.  And so the help-yourself front garden was born.
The great thing was that during the day whilst tidying the front garden (I wish I had taken a proper before photo so you could ahev seen how untidy it was) we came across black plastic sheeting from when we had the woodburning stove installed.  This will be perfect for creating a pallet-based vertical garden system.

I also got around to cutting up our Christmas tree and that kindly donated by a neighbour for us to burn.  That donated Christmas tree generated another idea for the "help-yourself" garden in that as well as being able to help-yourself to some of the yummy edibles, maybe it could also be a "help-yourself" in donating unwanted trees, wood, and maybe even spare plants to others.
Anyway here is the planter in its new home next to the raised bed. Both beds are going to be planted with wholly edible foods over the next few months and hopefully a fuller system of raised plant pots with various yummies will sit in front of both beds.

There is space under the planter for unwanted wood and people will be invited to drop of wood if they want.

Dd is already designing some signs explaining the concept and there are also ideas for putting out information leaflets for what is being grown as well as recipe ideas.  All this from needing to move the planter to somewhere were it would get more water because I am too forgetful to water it.

Exciting though.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Women's Magazine

I recently went to Wales for a course so had a 1-change train trip.  I get quite excited when I get to go on the train and have limited distractions I can take with me and it is my one opportunity to peruse the magazine isle at the train station newsagents (normally WHSmith.)  Not being a regular train traveller I seem to have a memory problem in that I always forget the short-lived excitement of getting a puzzle book or a magazine because they don't have either the ones that I want.  I am a kakuro fan and most of the japanese puzzle books at suduko and I am a craft fan and there are NO craft magazines that you can purchase at station newsagents.  This trip I decided that I would actually count what magazines I could get as a 'typical' woman, if there is a such a thing!!

Beauty magazines – you know, the ones designed to help you make yourself as attractive as every other woman mostly showing you famous woman who have experts and the time to make themselves that beautiful → at least 10.  I was reminded of someone telling me how much time it takes for an average star to get ready for any red carpet event.  It's a long time and I mean a LONG time.  Let's be honest most of us don't have that amount of time so these magazines are just designed to much us feel crap about ourselves or at the very least inferior.

Exercise and weigh loss magazines – you know, the ones designed to help you make yourself as fit and healthy as every other woman.  Slightly better than the beauty magazines because they often feature 'real' women, they are still sending a message that you could or should be thinner, healthier, eating something different to what you are (often with an out-dated diet that is one size fits all because we are all the same or at least we should all try to be.)  The message is if you only tried a bit harder or had more willpower you too could be perfect or at least a helluva lot better than you are now.  There were at least 8 of these magazines so I least I could choose which diet or exercise regime I could beat myself up with!!

And then I have saved the worse to last.  There were at least 20 gossip magazines which I could choose from telling me who was wearing what dress, who was splitting up from whom, who was pregnant with who's baby and other such information.  These magazines are full of beautiful women, who again have the staff, time, money to spend on looking fab, or of women who were beautiful but let themselves slip; or who are beautiful but made the mistake of wearing the “wrong” clothes or could be more beautiful if only they would put on some more make-up.  There is a crossover with these magazines and the beauty ones but this category are much more underhand about what is or isn't beautiful.

Well strangely enough I did not want to waste £s on any of these.  I wanted to have a look at the craft magazines: the knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing, creative-type glossies.  Unfortunately there weren't any of those so instead I saved my money and wrote this and when I have finished this I will continue reading Charles Eisenstien's book “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible” and sigh at the irony of how Charles mentions that the “all of our external institutions reflect our basic perceptions of the world, our invisible ideologies and belief systems.”  Basically, there are no craft magazines at train station newsagents because no-one wants to buy them.  People want to buy the other magazines to look outside of themselves to discover who they are.  The problem is it isn't making us any happier as is evident by a $4 billion dieting industry and this vicious cycle of beauty, gossip and health magazines.

Monday, 7 April 2014

More poems

I am trying to get all my poems from Facebook and get them here on my blog instead.  Look here for other poems, but here are some more.

Human Experience is not a test
Can you assess my state of happiness?
Can you score it out of five?
Can you really pass or fail a test
That tells if you're truly alive?
Is joy a quantifiable trait?
Can you plot it on a graph?
Do you score a special funny point
Every time you laugh?
Is empathy a transferable skill?
Can others give feedback?
Telling you if there are traits
In which they think you lack?
I don't think you can pass an exam
In love or contemplation
I don't think you can get an NVQ
In passion or in meditation
Hope cannot be learnt from a book
Grace cannot be easily taught
Peace cannot be summed up in lesson
Just because you think it ought
You cannot have a kindness target
That everyone must reach
The attainment of gentleness
Is not something you can teach
The fruits of spirit and soul
Need space and time to grow
They cannot be cultivated in league tables
Or seen in "tell and show"
Spirit cannot be marked and scored
Even if you wanted to
Because human experience is not an exam
ONLY YOU can A* you

"My Wings" poem
19 March 2010

My wings enfold me and I sigh
A tear drops slowly and I cry
I look straight down and all I see
Is my sea of tears and they're drowning me
My wings are heavy, a tear-soaked burden
I don't want to feel this, of that I'm certain
Wings are meant to be freeing and light
They should be magical, an instrument of flight
But my bad mood has taken hold
And my wings are completely soaked and cold
All my self doubts come crashing in
And all my worries they begin
To suffocate and trap my feelings
Stifle me and stop me breathing
I have to stop, adjust my perspective
To halt the turmoil and over-reactive
Dark side mumblings that float around me
Clouding focus and deadening me
So I look back up and see my wings
These beautiful, feathery, golden things
They can be magic, light and free
If only I can stop and truly see
That my gifts are numerous like the feathers
They can cause problems and feel like tethers
Or I can count them as a blessing
Try to use them and keep learning
Practice outside my comfort zone
My gifts and qualities to hone
Like a fledgling bird's first flight
Keep on trying with all my might
So I am grounded with my wings
With the freedom flying brings
A lofty escape from oughts and shoulds
An ethereal release to maybes and coulds
My wings spread out and I am free
The wind blows around and it lifts me
Perspective changes as I climb higher
Things seem smaller and not so dire
I feel grounded in the air
A contradiction but I don't care
My arms are open, a wide embrace
And I soar higher in my space
I circle and let out a joyous scream
Envisage my life as my perfect dream
Where my gifts and soul fly together
Not as burdens or a tether
When I feel low or feel like crying
My wings can stretch and keep me flying
And if I need a hug or to cry
I can do that as I fly

 I am my Masterpiece (moving forwards in giant small steps)
I don't know where that title came from but I am sticking with it!!!
31 January 2010

I sit quietly with myself
My spirit is here
I see through the sadness
And my purpose is clear
I will continue to ponder
Work out my issues
Battle to my core
I may need some tissues!
There will be sadness and sobbing
Doubts and reflection
But also joy and dancing
Time to be and meditation
Searching and enthusing
I am here to be me
Consciously work towards
The best me I can be
I may need a short break
When my sadness need space
But will always resume searching
At my own pace
I won't beat myself up
For these lapses of contentment
It's all a learning experience
Not needless entrapment
So here I sit quietly
Changing and growing
Small steps, giant leaps
New behaviours a-sowing
Acceptance, forgiveness
Justified grumpiness
Wholesome, loving
Intuitive faithfulness
Unique, special
I am one of a kind
Emotional, spiritual
Not just a mind
My poems are my language
My body, my shrine
My writing, my rhythm
That beats out in time
So pick up your sticks
Come drum with me
Let's dance and be merry
And be the best we can be

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Pretty stuff made for York Incredible Edible Bike Rides

There are a series of Incredible Edible Bike Rides planned for York to coincide with the Tour De France - read more about them on Facebook here.  To make these rides more fun Ryan, my kids and I decided to make some fun hama bead things related to growing fruit and veg and the Tour De France.  Here are the results:
  Here is a yellow carrot Here is ds's interpretation of a marigold and Ryan's version of a flowering chive

Here is ds's interpretation of alpine strawberries and carrots

Here is ds's interpretation of a marigold and Ryan's version of lavender

Here are all the things that were made as if they were in the ground.  From the left there are:
alpine strawberries, carrots, alpine strawberries, yellow carrots, lavender, carrot, chamomile, carrot, pea, swiss chard, yellow carrots, chive and a deformed carrot!!

Here is then the full lot of what was produced by ds, dd and Ryan.  Ds made the bike in the colours of the French flag as well as the TIM logo which can be seen below next to the actual logo.  Dd made the Minion and horse.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

January Juicy Jewels

Let's start with a wonderful example of how we are so down on ourselves about our appearance and not being good enough - watch here.  Notice how the women describe themselves in negative terms but describe others in positive terms.

Fantastic beach art - view here.

Watch a free diver spend four minutes holding his breath and diving into an abyss.

Watch the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy's film Enough is Enough here.  It is the based on the book 'Enough is Enough' by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill.  It is a book about the need for a new kind of economy.  Due to the overuse of the earth's finite resources and excessive consumption failing to improve our lives Dietz and O'Neill give us a realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth. "They explore specific strategies to conserve natural resources, stabilize population, reduce inequality, fix the financial system, create jobs, and more – all with the aim of maximizing long-term well-being instead of short-term profits."

Silliness that resulted in 3 men being charged with removing food due for landfill from an Iceland skip.  Read here.  Luckily after much petition signing the case was dropped by the CPS.

Ashton Kutcher's Teen Choice Awards sppech - watch here or read the good bits here -
"I wanted to share [some] things [which] I think helped me be here today. So, it’s really 3 things. The first thing is about opportunity. The second thing is about being sexy. And the third thing is about living life.

So first opportunity. I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13 I had my first job with my Dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job in a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job, and every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.

Number two. Being sexy. The sexiest thing in the entire world, is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less, so don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.

The third thing is something that I just re-learned when I was making this movie about Steve Jobs. And Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get in too much trouble, and maybe get an education and get a job and make some money and have a family.

But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people who are no smarter than you, and you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life. Don’t live one, build one. Find your opportunities, and always be sexy."

Scary music video where a woman gets photo-shopped throughout the video.  Watch here.

An interesting article about why phonics don't work - read here.

Five foods that are costing the earth - read here but if you don't want to, they are bluefin tuna (bluefin populations don't stand up to heavy fishing pressure), conventional coffee (substantial use of herbicides, pesticides, etc.), factory-farmed beef (replacing tropical forest for corn and soy to feed the cows), genetically modified corn (violates many sustainable boundaries) and palm oil (rainforest destruction).

Great fake underground signs - see here.

Fantastic artist - she does charcoal with her whole body - see here - it's amazing.

Fab acrobatic gymnastic routine - see here.

Look at the state of the world through pictures of where different children around the world sleep.

Mapping emotions of the body - see here - happiness and love look pretty good.

"He doesn't wear shoes, doesn't wear shoes and brushes his teeth with a pine cone" - read about Mike Dodge who lives in a rainforest here.

family dynamics

Love Letter to My Daughter
(which I composed in the car on the way to a meeting this morning)

It’s me who doesn't see the beautiful person that you are
And the growing potential you have to be a kind and loving star
It’s me who doesn't see all the wondrous gifts you have
And all the quirky things you do to make other people laugh
It’s me who’s frosted glasses mean I cannot clearly see
The marvellous, eccentric person standing right in front of me
I need to take off those glasses and make sure I get a proper view
Of the person who stands before me, the very special you
I'm sorry that I sometimes yell at you – squashing your authentic self
Instead of nurturing those unique traits that add to your true wealth
I'm sorry that you feel that I love your brother more than you
Because you think I am more like him and daddy is more like you
Maybe sometimes that is what I show you and that is my fault and not yours
So here is my promise to you – a mother-daughter relationship clause
I will try to take the time to see you for the unique person that you are
And try to help you continue to be a kind, loving, authentic star

I have been having a hard time recently with connecting with my dd.  She’s an amazing, eccentric, quirky, beautiful, funny, joyful, caring, sharing, helpful 9 yo.  She is also very, very different to my ds whom I seem to be on the same wavelength with and so that makes the times when dd is pessimistic, unhelpful, a bit whiny, stubborn and a bit mean, more of a problem because those are not traits I would ascribe to my ds and they are traits which I find challenging especially when I am not in a good place myself.  

I love both my children unconditionally but I have to admit I do sometimes find it a lot easier to like my ds than my dd and I feel awful saying that.  And that got me thinking – why do I feel awful saying that?  When I quizzed my daughter about whether she understood, and therefore, “got on with” daddy more than me she said yes and I can totally understand why.  They have a similar outlook on life the same as ds and I do.  What I want to do though is make sure that my dd knows that I love her as much as I do my ds and that will never, never change.  I also want her to know that in life there are people who you are going to “get on with” more than others and that is ok too.  

However want I need to remember is to find a way to re-frame, or deal with, those traits which I find problematic so that they don’t grate as much.  At the same time I want to help my dd to maybe master the time and place where those traits are beneficial and don’t end up annoying or hurting people unduly.  I can totally see times when being whiny and a bit stubborn can be beneficial and even when being mean (maybe in a more constructive way) could actually have a positive outcome.  I cannot do that if I am not seeing the beautiful person my dd is under those characteristics and that is what I have been doing of late.  

As parents we have a huge responsibility to our children because we chose to have them.  My dd didn't choose to be born and also didn't choose to have those character traits that sometimes wind me up.  I have to see and nurture the best in her whatever she does and I need to love her even when I don’t feel like it.  But also I need to steer her to be the best she can be and that can never be done with putting her down or consistently having a go at her.  

I read my dd the above and asked her permission to put it on my blog.  She also said that in return for my trying to do what I have said, she will give me hugs in return.  Who could want for more than that!!

Following on a little later, my dd and I had a chat about stuff and we came up with the idea that she could make a badge that reads “I am upset and will talk about it when I am ready.”  This is because she says that she thinks she can be more annoying or whingey when she feels upset but that she doesn't always want to talk about it then.  We are going to try it and see if it works and she is also going to make one for daddy too!!!

This reminded me of the fact that a while ago dd, ds and I had a major discussion about how dd annoys ds and vice versa.  Dd tried to vocalise that she sometimes feels pressured to say sorry or work out how she feels too quickly in these scenarios.  There is an imago relationship theory about there being a maximiser and minimiser in every relationship (read about it here.)  My dh and I can definitely attest to that.  What is interesting though with our children is that it seems that ds is a maximiser like me  - where everything has to be out in the open and sorted out now (if not sooner) - and dd is a minimiser like my dh - where they need time to mull things over.  It can be a very frustrating dynamic from both sides but I would say more so when 2 maximisers are finding 1 minimiser annoying.  I had forgotten about this so having now written it as a blog post maybe I will be able to remember this minimiser/maximiser stuff and come up with other coping strategies for all of us to live life more harmoniously.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

tyre sand-pit to hugelkultur / mound garden

Deciding what to do with my tractor tyre sandpit today, my friend Ryan came up with the idea of using the tyre as a mound garden for growing squashes, courgettes or asparagus.  

Ryan got the idea from the book "Forest Gardening" by Robert A de J Hart and "The Permaculture Garden" by Graham Bell. Having made that decision we got on with it whilst also clearing the bottom of the garden which is covered in wood for the stove which needs sorting and chopping.

The great thing about this idea was that we could use the trimmings from pruning the massively overgrown hedge as part of this plan as well as some of the sand from the sandpit; some of the rotten logs and kindling from the log-pile and some of the apple tree prunings.  

We could also start emptying our compost bins and use that. So as not to have to totally empty the sandpit we decided to do the conversion in 3 stages. 

The idea of mound gardens originated in China and is used a lot in Germany hence the name 'Hugelkultur' or German Mound   We started by clearing some of the sand to make a trench about one-foot deep.  This spare sand will be mixed with compost in containers and used for growing carrots and other veg.

We then piled up woody material such as small branches, hedge cuttings and apple tree prunings.  This makes a porous core which enables air and water to circulate freely.  
We used rotten logs from the log-pile that were not going to burn well, followed by smaller twigs and then the fresh hedge trimmings.

We covered the hedge trimmings with compost from the compost bins and started the middle section.
Having discovered a big bag of well-rotted chicken poo we decided that could be used as well. So the first two sections got a good dose of chicken manure on top of the hedge trimmings.

This isn't the conventional way that a German Mound is made but in true permaculture-style we used what was easily available at the time.  The worms seemed happy enough!!

We then moved all the sand left in the sandpit on top of the first two sections and started phase three.  Again rotten wood and apple tree prunings made the base.  Followed by hedge trimmings straight from the hedge.

Then compost bin compost and sand to cover the whole lot.  At this point it just looks like the sand-pit we started with earlier in the day until we finished it off with some bagged compost we had lying around in the garden.

Now I just need to get some squashes, courgettes and maybe asparagus seedlings growing so I can transplant them and see what happens.