Sunday, 29 April 2007

A busy couple of days

The last couple of days have been a rush. I had planned to leave work early on Thursday, to get organised and away early on Friday for the drive up to the West Country, but typical of things in local government (which for my sins, I have the privilege to work in) I was called upon at the last minute to produce a pointless paper exercise. This meant that when I got home from work at nearly 7pm, I had the start of a headache and a total loss of energy. So I ate a big bowl of my patent homemade vegetable soup and went to bed early.

Up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning (thankfully without the headache), I cleaned out the rabbit hutch and run (doesn't need much cleaning - our two bunnies are quite the cleanest rabbits you could wish for - they are perfectly litter trained, and no trouble at all), did washing, ironing, cleaned the house from top to bottom and shopped for favourite and manageable meals for AS who has college on Friday and didn't want to make the journey to Bath and Bristol. I am learning to give him a bit more freedom and let him stay home if I go away overnight. As big as he is, it is very hard to leave him on his own, particularly knowing that I am a three hour drive away. It is amazing to me that I can do this at all, when he was a toddler and didn't (or couldn't speak) I never knew that he could be as independent as he is. Being autistic is not something you can measure, and some people might not even notice that he is different. He doesn't have any "Rain Man" skills (unless you count encyclopaedic knowledge of Transformers!) and he struggles with the concept that he has any kind of special needs. He daily claims his right to self-determination and it gets easier every time to give him the chance to prove that he can look after himself. His most enormous step was taking the train to Colchester - alone! Now it is a daily journey for him - including the long walk to the station (although he can catch a train the bus is out of the question - there are too many pitfalls and he doesn't want to even try).

So with my amazing son taken care of, I set off for Bath to see my amazing daughter. I picked her up from the University, we grabbed a bite to eat and I left her at the stage door where she has a chorus part in an amateur production of Hello Dolly. She loves musical theatre so much, and has been involved with a local group at home since she was about 10. During her first year at university, she missed it so much she just had to find a group in Bath to join and so she auditioned with Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society and was really thrilled to join the chorus. She loves dancing (she is in the Latin and Ballroom Club at University) and music, particularly from the shows. Although she loves the theatre, she is also very conscious of exams rapidly approaching, so next week she'll be back with the books!

I paid a flying visit to my sister in Bristol (at 6.00am Saturday!). We went to walk her dogs in the local park - but found a rave still in full swing. Neither the police or the local council were particularly interested when she phoned them, and the drum and bass line could still be heard at 9.00am when I left. I am SO glad I don't live in a city any more....

Mum and I then went to have lunch with AD in Bath and then to the theatre for the matinee. It was a lovely show (though if I am honest, I am not a huge fan of musicals, despite supporting my offspring on many occasions, and even taking her to the odd West End production - I did fall asleep once in Les Miserables to her everlasting embarrassment!). The costumes were lovely, and the dance routines were spectacular. I actually had a hard time recognising my own daughter what with the big Edwardian hats, wigs and stage makeup!

Then back to Mum's (with Mum singing Hello Dolly the whole way home) to load up my car with half the contents of her shed - we are giving away all her old garden tools, a manual typewriter and assorted other items on Freecycle and to a charity that takes tools to Africa. Then I drove home and was back around 10.30pm to find amazing son was absolutely relaxed about being alone for 36 hours. I shouldn't have worried. He'd baked himself a batch of cookies (from a packet mix - I am working on teaching him how to follow a recipe and this is the first step - following the instructions on the box) and even washed up some the dishes! (The slightly burnt baking tray was left for me).

Today, I plan to put my feet up for a couple of hours and finish my current read, Mr Golightly's Holiday by Salley Vickers, before I mow the lawn and tidy up the front garden.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Like a lot of other people, I am trying really hard to reduce my "carbon footprint". I do all the usual recycling - paper, glass, cans etc. Most vegetable waste and peelings goes straight into the compost bin, or if suitable we feed them to the rabbits (though they are quite picky eaters!). All our lightbulbs are low energy (except the ones that operate on a dimmer switch). I'm lucky enough to be able to cycle to my office (though I do have to drive all round the county for meetings and am really conscious of those miles - Essex is a big county). I always take my own shopping bags with me - I used to use the "Bag for Life" type all the time, but am moving towards non plastic - I have about 8 calico bags, but am planning to make some more heavy duty ones out of remnants of upholstery fabric for heavier items. I try to buy food with less packaging. I'm the annoying person in the office who goes round other people's desks turning off their fans, lights, printers etc when they've gone home. Sad - I know.

So what else can I do to make a difference? I have registered with the mail preference service, stuck a sticker on my letter box saying no junk mail, told the post office to stop delivering leaflets (they make a lot of money out of getting the postman to deliver leaflets with the post - but that means it takes him longer to do his rounds!). I've told my credit card companies not to keep sending me credit card cheques (I hate them - it's such a worry that someone could intercept your post and use those cheques and you wouldn't know until your statement arrives). But I still receive lots of mail I don't want. So I have started returning junk mail to the companies that send it to me. You know the type of thing - somehow they know when your car insurance is due for renewal and you get six brochures offering you a "deal"; your credit card company sends you a letter reminding you that you can transfer a balance; your bank or building society writes to offer you a loan at a preferential rate... Everything I get that I don't want I put a sticker on that says "Return to Sender - Junk Mail - Sender: Please remove me from your mailing list - Save Money Reduce Waste Save Trees" and put it back in the letter box.

Gosh - that was a bit "Grumpy Old Women". I'm not normally so grouchy, but I do feel quite strongly about these issues. Other ways I am trying to make a difference: I use Freecycle (local groups can be found at ) to give things away - the idea is to save putting so much stuff into landfill and this helps match up people who have something to give away with people who want it. So far I've given away 5 bikes, a sofa, an artificial Christmas Tree, lots of childrens games and videos, a big mirror, and lots of old garden stuff (plant pots, seed trays etc). I really want to have less stuff so although I read the local notice boards regularly, I don't often ask for anything. I also release books into the wild with Book Crossing

I've been listening to Prof Jeffrey Sachs giving the Reith lectures on Radio 4 but find the scale of the problems he outlines quite terrifying. I feel that all the little things I'm doing to reduce my impact on the environment can't have any effect on all the huge problems the planet is facing - but I can't stand by and do nothing. How can I expect the people in positions of power to take action if I don't do something myself? When I read blogs by other people around the world who are also trying to do their bit, I feel there is some hope for the future. I like this quote attributed to the anthropologist Margaret Mead "Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has". The great thing is that due to the availability of information via the internet, people don't need to even meet each other to get ideas across.

Unrelated comment:
I'm new at this blogging game so I don't know if the etiquette is to reply to comments but I wanted to say thanks for the couple of nice comments I have received. I rarely comment on other people's blogs; though most people seem so nice and friendly, I feel a bit like a person who's gatecrashed a party and tries to join in established conversations between friends. I feel comfortable with continuing to "lurk" but may eventually build up enough confidence to comment and let other people know what I think!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Keeping busy

The work on the garden hasn't been progressing as well as I hoped. After putting up the fence, the next part of the plan was to remove the ugly crazy paved path. Unfortunately, when lifting the slabs I found another (very solid) concrete path underneath. This means a lot more work than I had bargained for; it will involve either breaking it up - which will be very difficult, or altering my plans and paving over the path. My garden is very small, and this will mean a rethink about where the main elements (hard surfaces, planted areas etc) will be. So, it's back to the drawing board.

Not much knitting got done over the past week, but I did get in plenty of reading. This week I have read Small Island by Andrea Levy, The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly, Promise Me by Harlan Coben and have nearly finished Coastliners by Joanne Harris. I have a lot of books on the shelf waiting for their turn, maybe something by Minette Walters or Anita Shreve next. I need a gadget that turns pages so that I can read and knit at the same time....

My daughter is in an amateur production of Hello Dolly at the Theatre Royal in Bath this week - I'm planning to drive up on Friday and to take my mum to see the matinee performance on Saturday, so very little hope of doing anything to the garden this week. I'll have to take a few days off work and make some progress or before you know it the summer will have gone.