Sunday, 21 November 2010

By George Davina! Where did you get that hat?

Well it's a bllimmin' good job I'm slap bang in the middle of my "Buy Nothing New" month as I could have easily found myself in a bidding war last night with Davina McCall for one of Boy George's trademark hats.  With a starting bid of £200, it was very tempting to raise my hand in a cheeky manner during the after-dinner auction at the fundraising event known as Platform 12.

The evening was hosted by the very lovely Davina, on behalf of Focus12, the drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity of which she is a patron.   The gorgeous pink Philip Treacy hat donated by Boy George was just one of many lots and raffle prizes on offer to raise some much-needed cash.

Based in Bury St Edmunds, Focus12 supports people who suffer from addictions often at their most desperate times of need and last night it was hard not to be moved by the personal accounts of two former addicts, whose fate would clearly have been so much different without the help of the charity and its Chief Executive Chip Somers. Focus12 has helped them to rebuild their lives from a point of despair to one where they can proudly enjoy "normal" family life again, something that most of us take for granted.  It was so easy to see how the organisation has made such a huge difference, giving a second chance to those who really need the charity's support. The Platform12 event was held to raise awareness of the charity's work as well raise funds and it brought together a whole host of trustees, supporters, celebrities and people who Focus12 has helped over the years since it launched in 1997.

Of course, I kid myself that I could have afforded the beautiful pink flash of celebrity millinery, or that I would have got away with even winking my intention to bid with my husband close by.  With the lot fetching much more than he might allow, I didn't dare raise my hand.  After an entertaining set of bids, Davina was the lucky winner of the hat and thanks to the power of social-media, her winning bid was reported by the man himself from backstage at his concert in Rotterdam.
Twitter: Boy George " @thisisdavina Bought my hat at a charity auction for the Focus12 charity, good cause, top woman, goddess in fact!"

Blonde bombshells Abi Roberts & Tracey Smith
I may have missed out on a tweet from upon high, but our table made its mark elsewhere in the bidding wars, with my gorgeous and very funny pal, singer\songwriter and stand-up comic Abi Roberts successfully winning a day out at Westminster with Dr Dan Poulter MPIt was indeed a surprise last minute entry, but she most certainly got her man and I can't help wondering who will be the most entertained during the tour. I have a sneaky feeling that the honourable gentleman will enjoy being Abi's guide as much as she'll enjoy the visit.  Here she is celebrating her bidding coup with the Queen of Downshifting, Tracey Smith, who herself was in the mood for celebration with news that she's about to start shooting her new TV series, The Great Downshift

But the best news of all was that Focus12 raised almost £30,000 from the fundraising event, thanks to the wonderful donations, the keen bidders and raffle ticket sales. With serious cuts in government funding, this money can be nothing but a valuable contribution to fund the charity's excellent work.

And last but certainly not least, huge congratulations go to Sarah Stamp, the charity's event organiser for pulling together an amazing evening.  Thanks Sarah, it was a privilege to support Focus12 last night.....and er....should Boy George fancy donating one of his other hats to another good cause...please send him in this direction won't you!

Now after such a late night, I feel the urge to head for the kettle for a much needed  "morning after the night before" cup of tea.  I think a slap-up brucnch might be in order too.  Now while I go off and potter in the kitchen if you're inspired to raise funds for Focus12, you can find out more about the charity and ways in which you can help at the website

Added 23/11/2010 - the brilliant guests who joined me on the table.

 In this photo L-R: The very gorgeous and totally clever Nadine, friend, teacher and govenor extraordinaire; Adrian aka husband of mine, clever sod and strategic thinker; Roger Wright; Dawn Kelly and  Martin Kelly (Roger can regularly be seen treading the boards of the West End as the leading man in many a blockbuster show, including Thriller and The Lion King.  Dawn and Martin are more your "behind the scenes" professionals, responsible for a vast array of BAFTA nominated and winning productions (and will be producing Tracey's fabulous new show too).

And more thanks go to Gareth Hughes, Jennifer Howze, Abi Roberts and Tracey Smith.  As director of photography Gareth will soon be working with Tracey, Dawn and Martin in their up-and-coming project. Many of my blogging friends will also recognise journalist and blogger Jen as one of the co-founders of Cybermummy.  Of course, Abi and and Tracey need no further introduction, except that Tracey is a trustee of NACOA, the National Association of Children of Alcoholics and having grown up with an alcohol dependent mother whom she loved dearly has every empathy for the work of Focus12 and the folk that they work hard to help.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The hole in the wall

For those who have switched from watching paint dry to following the story about my cavity wall insulation, the good news is that after much investigation we are indeed the proud owners of a pre-insulated home.

Mind you, it took a survey arranged by the Energy Saving Trust on my behalf to reach this conclusion. I had contacted the original building company, who didn't know what they had installed at the time, but confirmed that it would most definitely be insulated by cavity wall filling or some other thing called  a void! 

A.... VOID?  I'm still no clearer on that one, but it sounds like a synonym for cavity to me  They might as well have called it a hole  Of course we could have delicately balanced ourselves in the loft to tease out a sneaky peek, but with the reputation that precedes me I would have probably ended up with my foot through the ceiling.  So I decided to call out to the experts instead.

Without any further ado, a representative from the Mark Group turned up today, drilled a hole in the wall, and investigated the state of our cavity, using the survey lens pictured above.  It really was as easy as that and took no more than 10 minutes.  The verdict was, it's a well packed wall...hoorah!

So, with the cavity wall insulation verified, I'm now pondering what other steps I could take for Baglady's Living ASAP pledge programme.  Well, I did plant up a batch of spring bulbs the other day, instead of waiting to buy them in pots during March.  I wonder if that counts?   At least they'll look cheery and I'm happy I've saved us plenty of pounds too. 

Anyway, back to sorting out holes in the wall. More information about cavity wall insulation is available here or at the Energy Saving Trust website. Further details about Baglady's ASAP (as SUSTAINABLY as possible) pledge  programme can be found at

Monday, 1 November 2010

Shopping Therapy

After an expensive month of birthday celebrations, half-term holidays and very random treats, I am back on my laptop pondering the opportunity to go cold turkey and take a real break from spending.  Some people might think I'm totally bonkers....with it being November and the run up to Christmas and all that.  But for me it's the perfect time to promise myself that with the exception of food for the family and essential toiletries, I will not buy anything new throughout November.

Over the last few years I've become pretty good at avoiding the temptation to splash out on all forms of  consumer crap but I'm aware that in recent months I've thrown more than a few pounds down the drain on stuff that I might not have missed

So given that November 27th is officially BUY NOTHING DAY, I thought that I might as well get into practice and kick off my pledge this afternoon.  It'll be good for my bank balance and my pledge to live more sustainably.   It's just a shame I didn't think about it earlier, I'd have saved myself a trip into town this morning as well as £14.00 on a child's tennis that I found in a sale.  I really should have advertised a request on Freecycle or at least put a shout out at my local bartering group.  

Oh well, I'll be better prepared next time and with the silly season ready to hit in full force, at least I'm feeling more relaxed that I won't be caught up in it.  I'm just looking forward to emerging again in December, ready to enjoy the more simple aspects of the festive season.

Anyway, if you want to join me in this money-saving challenge and share the idea with your friends, more information about Buy Nothing Day can be found at

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Helping the Treehouse Appeal for a new children's hospice: Ashes-to-Ashes script up for auction

This week I had the overwhelming experience of visiting our local children's hospice in Ipswich. It was their open day and as you can expect, I didn't leave without a tear in my eye.  None of us ever want to face the prospect of our children dying and visiting a place where this is a reality can't help but tug at the heartstrings.

Don't get me wrong, the hospice which is run by EACH isn't a sad place.  The atmosphere in the converted bungalow was indeed a happy one and the positivity of the staff shone through as they told us how the hospice is used for short respite breaks, specialist play activities, music therapy and end-of-life care and treatment.  As well as helping the children who have life-threatening conditions, the team also supports their parents and siblings through counselling services.  It also organises fun activities and events where family members can meet families in the hospice's care.

For the children, the hospice is a fun place to be and staff make it feel homely, with a dining room, living room, bedrooms and a beautiful garden.  However, it is clear that they don't have enough space. The music room doubles up as the parents' bedroom, the sensory room is also used as a bedroom and most of the rooms in the house also have to serve as meeting space.  More importantly, when a child visits the hospice for end-of-life care, all other on-site services have to be put on hold.  Although families understand, this isn't how it should be.

Thanks to an amazing fundraising campaign, which is supported by BBC Radio Suffolk and the East Anglian Daily Times, EACH is now well on their way to raising the money needed to help the Ipswich hospice move into a new larger home.  Launched this year, the campaign known as the Treehouse Appeal has already raised £1.5million.  However, it needs to raise the same amount again to pay for a purpose built hospice that will give them everything the children and families need.

It has been a fabulous campaign, which has inspired people all across East Anglia to take part in parachute jumps, organise fundraising events, enter sponsored walks, runs and bike rides.  One of the Radio Suffolk presenters, Lesley Dolphin, is even attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

I must admit that with all this physical exercise going on, I am feeling a bit guilty that I haven't yet got off my backside to exert my muscles.

However, what I have done is somehow managed to blag a rare signed script for the last ever episode of the Ashes-to-Ashes series, featuring signatures from Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes and all the regular cast.

And I'm very excited as this is being auctioned at BBC Radio Suffolk, live on air tomorrow morning, where the winning bid will be donated to the Treehouse Appeal.

Of course, it would be great if this could raise as much funds as possible, so do please tell any fans you might know and ask them to listen to the James Hazell Show from 9.00 Friday morning, when the auction is going to be launched by none other than Philip Glenister who played DCI Gene Hunt.  Even if you're outside Suffolk, you can still listen in online at  Anyone wishing to place a bid should call the studio on 01473 212121.

I can't wait to find out how much the script raises and if it beats my expectations, I'll probably be so excited that I'll dress up as Father Christmas and join in this year's Santa Run.

This is such a worthwhile cause and more information about the Treehouse Appeal and how else you can help can be found at the project's fundraising page:


1/11/2010...Apologies for the belated updated, but I'm pleased to share the news that the script auction raised a MASSIVE £750 thanks to the fabulous enthusiasm and media magic of James Hazell and Philip Glenister.  It really was amazing!

Monday, 11 October 2010

My cavity wall insulation is still debatable

Really how blimmin' hard is it to work out if you've got cavity wall insulation?

Having avoided it for years for fear of having to tidy all the rooms in the house - not realising of course that they're insulated from the outside - I only started to look into it last week as part of my ASAP pledge. And although I'd rather be doing far more exciting things like the washing up, I'm on a mission to get this thing sorted.  After all, according to the Energy Saving Trust around 30% of heating can be be lost through the walls of an uninsulated home, so it's well worth the effort!

But before I decided to bother a company that specialises in such matters I thought I'd call our housebuilder to enquire whether they'd installed cavity wall insulation when they built the house seven years ago. Of course, I might have remembered myself if I hadn't been too busy at the time counting the number of halogen ceiling lights we wanted to have fitted in the new build.

"I don't know." said the man at the end of the phone when I called the Taylor Wimpey office.

"Can you find out?" I replied.

"Yes, we'll ring you back." came the uninterested reply.

That was two weeks ago and I haven't heard anything since. I rang again last week, spoke to someone else and got the same reply.  How can it have taken so long for a housebuilder to find the answer? Surely even a computer could say Yes or No. They must have known at the time, whether through policy or building regulations.

I feel like I've hit a brick wall.

However, this is only a small brick wall compared to some that others have faced recently.  While I'm busy debating whether I've got cavity wall insulation, a friend of mine who pitched a sustainable programme idea to a national broadcaster found herself being told by a defiant commissioning editor that "Climate change is debatable".

Now that's some brick wall indeed.   As a non-expert on these matters, I simply hope that those who say it is debatable actually use it to open a debate rather than close it.

But for now I'm looking at the smaller picture at home and knowing that cavity wall insulation save us fuel usage and money, well that has to be a winning strategy all round.   And after avoiding it for months, I'm now more determined than ever to get it sorted, even if it comes to drilling a hole in the wall.

Now where did I put that drill....

Monday, 27 September 2010

Keeping Warm ASAP style

Just when I was about to pop into Wibbling Wools and order a new hat, old Baglady of Northern Ireland pops up and asks how I'm getting on with my ASAP pledge!

Well... there's nothing like one's conscience ringing you on the mobile when you're about to indulge in a new piece of winter headgear as a result of the old one being accidentally ruined in the washing machine.  As I stood chatting to Baglady on my phone, I held the old hat in my other hand.  Bought from here just a year ago, it was now so small it could only fit a child.  But it was the only woolly hat that has suited me (ever), hence, I was on a mission to get it replaced ASAP before the autumn sets in. Now that's really organised in my book!

But my idea of ASAP was not what Baglady had in mind.  And buying things as quickly as possible was not the pledge that I'd made back in the summer when she launched her ASAP pledges at Baglady Productions.

No!  Those pledges were about living As SUSTAINABLY As Possible.  And  being conscious of the waste stream that results from manufacturing and the energy used in production and transportation, my pledge then had been to think carefully about everything I bought and whether I actually needed it...i.e. no longer buying anything that I didn't really need, so that the world's resources and our money didn't go to waste.

So, nothing like being caught out eh...on the brink of entering one of my favourite Bury St Edmunds shops to splash some cash on something new.  It was just like having my husband turn up at my heel, just as I'm pulling out a credit card.

But at least one thing's for sure, I really did need that scrumptious purple hat especially as the weather was about to get blimmin' chilly!  So, I hadn't failed my pledge. And the hat was hand-knitted by someone down the road, with wool that could be repurposed elsewhere and probably just a teabag or two from a knitter's break, which hopefully would have gone into the compost!

Of course don't get me wrong.  Baglady isn't some old nag from across the water, who wags her finger at me to make sure that I'm keeping up with the "Greens".

Instead her style is more like a gentle doyenne, often oddly dressed in a sea of carrier bags, preaching not, but kindly offering wisdom and encouragement for anyone who wants to take up more sustainable habits.

I might not have been entirely successful with my original pledge - measured by recently palming off a couple of hardly-worn summer purchases to a couple of good friends.  However, having watched the No Impact Man movie recently I seem to have found my groove again and am up for seeing how far I can go with Baglady's ASAP pledge system.

So, I've decided to  have a good think about real differences I can make in our little average household and put into practice some ideas that have been buzzing around my head for a wee while.

It shouldn't be hard, especially as there's one particular issue that  immediately comes to mind, which is the blimmin' temperature on the homefront.  It's only September but it's so chilly indoors that my ears are colder than a penguin's bottom.

But before I automatically crank up the thermostat I know there are certain options to explore to help conserve energy this autumn, like cavity wall insulation for instance.

Exciting isn't it.  Let me repeat it again.... cavity wall insulation!  Hmmm, it's as interesting as watching paint dry.

Of course neither my husband or I know whether we've got it.  And despite it now sounding like an emergency dental treatment, I've never felt the urgency to find out, even though I know you can get grants for it.

So, I'll leave you now while I make a few calls to investigate.

I'd better put my woolly hat on though....I know I'm staying indoors but still, I may be some time!

More information about the ASAP pledge system can be found at

Monday, 13 September 2010

No Impact Man and other thoughts

Goodness know how I ended up hosting a Q&A session at the local screening of No Impact Man last week, but it certainly felt like a surreal milestone in what has become a very peculiar period of my life.

Although presented as The Rubbish Diet blogger and billed as a local "expert", for those who don't know, behind the social-media garb I am simply an ordinary housewife still struggling to equate how my family, with its "old world values",  fits into this "new world" of peak oil and its need for carbon reduction, ethical consumption and simpler living.   As a result, I know some of my friends regard me as a nutter, yet others openly share the same issues or at least an intrigue in the subject matter.   And for that I am very much relieved and thankful they were in the audience last week.

For anyone who hasn't seen No Impact Man, in summary, it's a movie about Colin Beavan and his experiment to engage his family in a twelve-month challenge to reduce their impact on the environment, by finding ways to live more sustainably. They don't venture off into the wilds to live in a yurt and raise sheep, but function from a high rise apartment block in New York, commiting themselves to a year of buying nothing except food, switching to local produce, producing zero waste, getting involved with the local community and finally switching off the electricity.

Now that's what I call an extreme lifestyle makeover.

Like other eco-bloggers with extreme sounding projects, Colin Beavan has been highly criticised by many individuals, including some environmental writers who felt that his high profile project went too far in the drive for sustainability, as well as those critics who believed he was meddling with the "American Way" and its diet of consumer growth.  One of the ironies of this project is indeed that his wife, Michelle, was a writer for US publication Business Week, which promotes the latest trends in the technology and innovation that help drive the American Way, a point made on-film by one of Beavan's friends.  Naturally others have criticised that the sole purpose of the project was simply that Beavan, already an established author, could secure a contract to write another book.

Well, he probably has pushed sustainability further than most families would accept.  And yes, his writing really could meddle with the American Way, threatening the happiness of capitalists, but only if everyone did it of course (see first point).  And it is true, Colin Beavan did plan to write a book based on his experience.

However, whether you're eco or not, or indeed someone with a grudge that he got a book-deal (and a movie), I wouldn't let any of that get in the way of watching the film and drawing your own conclusions.   It is really worth it to debate ways in which you can downsize aspects of No Impact Man to apply to your own lifestyle far away from New York, especially in an age where other practicalities may drive change as opposed to eco flag-flying.  Take the impact on their health for instance.  By simply changing their diet and cycling more, the family admitted to being much healthier and fitter. 

But if you are a green crusader, please don't get absorbed by a pile of guilt should you feel that you haven't done enough by comparision.  And don't get uptight in thinking their extreme action may get in the way of the more mainstream green message.   Only the few can manage extremism for whatever reasons those may be, and since finishing the No Impact experiment, Colin Beavan and his family, having learned much more about themselves, have ditched the stuff that was too inconvenient but kept the sustainable habits that made a positive difference to their busy city lives.

When I first discovered the No Impact Man blog, in 2008, my own thoughts were that the project was too extreme for my tastes and even now, the extent to which they unplugged from the grid for six months I simply regard as an unecessary step.  However, I acknowledge that they ventured out more and took up new activities which they would never have done if they still had the comforts of electricity at home.  It shows how in some cases you have to experience "giving up" to enjoy the benefits of "taking up".  Even so, that said, I can't quite see any benefits in giving up loo roll, no matter what the argument Colin.  Take up recycled toilet paper maybe, but not ditch it all together.

I see Colin Beavan as a "nouveau vert", one of the many people along with My Zero Waste and Fake Plastic Fish who are beginning to actualise their own motivations for modern eco action and openly share their experiences online using the platform that social media gives them - or rather, "us", if I should include my own musings at The Rubbish Diet.  Often the "nouveau vert" set themselves challenges and goals that can be openly discussed.  They rarely proclaim this is how things should be done, but share their experience in a "By heck, I did it" kind of fashion or a "Well, that didn't quite work did it" type of approach, coupled with knowledge sharing about what does work and why change is important to them.

Aside from the No Impact Man movie and back to the UK, I think Dave Hampton, The Carbon Coach, sums up well the subject of eco-change and the impact it brings.  He recognises that change can only come from within and that "happiness increase" and "damage habit reduction" go together.  He says it may look slow acting, but change can be joyfully contagious and exponential.

But when faced with guilt that you are not doing enough, or indeed that society isn't doing enough, what then?  This can lead to frustration in you and in others and  this is a real issue that affects many people.  It's all about the discrepancy between the practicalities in becoming more sustainable, the guilt for not doing more and the wish to expand beyond an individual's boundaries. In a Facebook update the other week, Dave Hampton seemed to crack it.  And these are his words of wisdom...the same words that I shared with the audience of No Impact Man last week.

"Please ONLY reduce your personal footprint to the extent it makes you and yours authentically HAPPIER!!! Then STOP doing so!
Celebrate and enjoy. 
Pause and witness - all around you - the scenery going a slightly brighter shade of green - with you.
Repeat as necessary for your ongoing happiness."

So now that I've shared that with you,  in the hope it lifts any feelings of eco-guilt,  I'd better get back to the more important task in hand, which today happens to be washing up and mopping the floors...using my reusuable cloths, chemical-free mop and refillable washing up liquid of course.  

You see, you don't need to be an eco-expert to change the world, just a mop and a dishcloth will do at times, in which case I'd better go and find my housewife's apron.


Colin Beavan's blog No Impact Man can be found at   More information about the movie can be found at

Monday, 26 July 2010

A question of convenience.

It all started with the snow.  A blanket of snow covering my car in January.

I waited for it to clear and melt away.  It was too cold to go into town anyway, too inconvenient for my liking, especially when we could make do with what we had in the freezer.  But when the sun shone and the last crystals had melted away, I hopped back into my usual routine, jumping into the driving seat, turning the key, ready to get going again.

But there was nothing. I may have faintly heard a wimp of a "whirr", however it quickly descended into silence.  Not to be thwarted, I locked up the car and popped around the corner to catch the bus.

That evening, my husband gave it the jumpstart it needed and my convenient life was once more in motion, until two weeks later following  another snap of cold weather, I was once-more faced with the same scenario, only this time there was no other alternative option, as I was supposed to be visiting a friend who lived about twenty miles away.  Instead, I came back indoors, put the kettle on and had a ponder. Was this a problem or an opportunity?

My car obviously had a dodgy battery and I should get it fixed, but one of the reasons it was playing up was that I wasn't using the car enough times or for sufficient distances to charge up the battery in the first place.

In a world where oil depletion matters and sustainability counts, maybe, just maybe this little inconvience could be turned into an experiment of need.  So, with a defunct Cannard-mobile, I hung up the keys and started planning, looking for opportunities where I could switch my dependency on four wheels for other alternatives, including my own two feet, the bus that stopped around the corner and the bicycle I kept in the garage.

I knew the bus was convenient for town, leaving every half hour.  Even travelling alone, prices were a bit steep compared to parking fees, but cheap when you compare them to car maintenance and running costs.  It was just a pity that the last bus into town was at 6pm and the last one out at just 6.15pm and the long walk home was remote and dark.

But I commited myself to the challenge, found convenient car-shares to help with getting my children to after-school clubs that were too far to walk, cycle and weren't on bus routes and my husband juggled his routine to cope with other commitments.  Even meetings in remote locations weren't an issue, as all parties involved spoke on the phone instead, cutting out any unnecessary travel or extra time on-site to compensate for lengthy journeys. 

The challenge became quite addictive, and as the weeks passed I made a mental notch, congratulating ourselves on how well we were all doing as a one car family...until, it was time for the annual MOT, which I'd forgotten about in the excitement of being car-free for over three months.

Did you hear that?  Three whole months.  After a lifestyle that was addicted to the convenience of the car, that was pretty damn good going.

But the time had come when I had to take my motoring responsibilities seriously, get the car retaxed and MOT'd and for that I needed to get it to the garage.

I booked the appointment and when the day arrived my husband gave the car a jumpstart.  He drove it around, but it was sluggish.  Apparently the power steering had locked.  The garage recommended not to drive it in such condition, so I called the AA.  They gave it another jumpstart and left it running a while. The steering was okay by now but to be on the safe side, the very nice man followed me to the garage.

Three months has been the longest I've gone without driving in the seven years we've lived in Bury St Edmunds and to be behind the wheel of the car again did, I admit, give me a sense of freedom that I realised I'd missed.  But even so, I still wondered whether having a usable car might send me back to my old habits.

I was soon to find out.  As the phone range that afternoon, it was the garage seeking authorisation to repair certain parts of the car to get it through its MOT.  I agreed quite happily as they went down the list, until they reached item 4, the brake discs, which had deteriorated badly....apparently through lack of use!

Lack of bloody use!

Suddenly my martyrdom to single-car ownership diminished into the background as I totted up the bill that I was about to pay for LACK OF USE!   Added to that were the many bus tickets that saw me through the cold winter, children included, and their tickets don't come cheap!    Where my compensation for ditching the convenience of the car was once a pat on the back and a warm rosy glow, it was now replaced by a  bloody huge dent in my bank balance!

In a word, I was mortified.  I phoned my husband who had the same relaxing influence as a masseur with a bag of spanners.  He just laughed in the same way as when I'd phoned him years ago to tell him that I'd almost been knocked out or indeed killed by an old wardrobe!

He saw the funny side of it, while I could just feel the tears of "guttedness" and shock roll down my cheeks.

Until then, I had actually considered selling the car, but when faced with an £800 MOT bill, it made me think twice.  To sell it then would have felt like throwing money down the drain.  Despite the joy in the challenge of being car-free for three months, I admit there were some occasions where I missed having the convenience of being able to hop into the car.  My eco halo was beginning to slip.

Instead, I decided to swallow my eco pride, welcome the car back to the neighbourhood with a distinct promise that I would never forget what my experience had taught me.

The car does give me freedom of travel that I wouldn't have otherwise and I have learned not to take that for granted.  Without it, journeys have to be better planned and more considered in line with relevance and convenience and the latter is something that can be easily dismissed by drivers who automatically hop behind the wheel, nipping anywhere and everywhere they wish, just because a vehicle gives the freedom to do so.

Despite enjoying an automobile that is in full working order, I now no longer consider it to be the first and only option for transport.  Even now, I often give a nod in its direction as I head for the bus stop to pop into town.  With the summer here, we're back on our bikes and walking is a lot more pleasant too.  I still drive it off course, after all I don't want to be stung with a bill for lack of use again!  But after a short flurry of regular novelty visits into town, trips are now limited to the odd shopping excursion and visits to friends, doubling up with drop-offs at the recycling point en route or anything else that maximises the needfor the journey.

The convenience of the car, mirrored by the convenience of other alternative forms of transport are certainly things I don't take for granted any more. Being saddle-sore is a real reminder of that fact as are the bruises from the day I accidentally fell into a bus, having being defeated by two heavy bagfulls of market shopping.

I must admit, that particular incident, which was made worse by the accompanying shrieks of my mother, did see me back in the car for the next two weeks, but that was more a question of embarrassment than one of convenience.

I don't call myself an accidental eco-blogger for nothing you know and as I write, I'm still nursing the bruises from my sideways fall during last week's visit to the swimming pool, but that is another story indeed.  All I can say on that, is thank goodness I don't have to travel anywhere by water. 


This blogpost was written for the Big Green Blog Gathering, which is being hosted by organic gardening writer Emma Cooper at  More info can be found at her latest post

Thursday, 22 July 2010

I'm bored and that's not fair!

Oh no, not me, but the two bundles of testosterone that I will be picking up from school later ready to embark on six weeks of school holidays...all based at home in lovely Suffolk.

Already this week alone I've heard those particular utterences of discontent many times over and they haven't even finished school.  With six weeks ahead of us I need a plan, otherwise I'll be joining in myself and that's not fair at all is it. 

So I'm iniitiating the equivalent of a "Swear Box" for the whole summer and every time either boy mumbles those  familiar phrases, they will have to donate 20p pocket money into my collection box....yes MY collection box....all for me...

Now hang on a mo...[scratches head and develops evil grin] this could be a nice little earner if I play my cards right.  And the key is in planning the right kind of activities to fill the holiday.

So what do you think about a daily routine of shoe polishing, or even floor polishing, washing up, dusting, weeding, cleaning out the car, sorting out the chicken poo...oh and the lovely task of repainting the fence.

As well as the chance to put my feet up, that should guarantee me a tidy income indeed.

And I might even thow in a trip to the supermarket if they're lucky.  Ooooh it's beginning to look like a fruitful summer already and I could even add a few more phrases to the list of things I don't want to hear.

Happy holidays everyone.  Hope you have a good one!

Monday, 19 July 2010


So yesterday, I hit 42!  It's a funny age you know, a really big one but not huge enough for a major celebration, more like a "yeah right, nothing to see here, move on" kind of birthday.

Now, the thing about 42 is that for fans of the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, the number represents the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything as calculated by Deep Thought, a huge supercomputer.  Although after seven and a half million years it doesn't yet know the ultimate question.

So in honour of turning 42 this week, I too have come up with some answers, but they're not numbers, more like Cannardisms on my life, my own little universe and a few pieces of everything about me.  But like Deep Thought I too haven't worked out the ultimate question.

The problem is, I only managed 21, so in the bid to get to 42 I'd love you to share your own wisdom in the comments below.  Here's my list to get you cracking.  Everyone can join in, but also I'm tagging a few lovely bloggers including Strawberry Jam Anne, Condo Blues, Jo Beaufoix, The Babbling Mummy, Grumpyoldwoman, Mummydothat and Violet Posy to also dabble in their own moments of Deep Thought.

Anyway, here are my very own Cannardisms to get you rolling...rolling where I don't know, as long as it's not off to the bin.

1. If music be the food of love, let laughter serve up a dessert full of passion.

2. Eccentricity isn't odd, it's just innovation of the mind.

3. "Stop, look & Listen" can help you in more ways than just crossing the road.

4. If you're feeling down, hang up some bunting.

5. If  "to be, or not to be" is the million dollar question, you could always phone a friend.

6. Treat your career like a cake.  Share your deliciousness with those who'll take the time to appreciate you instead of the greedy buggers who will just gobble you up and want two for the price of one!

7. If there's a hole in your bucket turn it into a plant pot!

8. When it's impossible to outrun your kids, sit back and admire their stamina.

9. You can make anyone smile if you try hard enough.

10. If you don't like your body, admire someone else's.

11. Remember, the only person who can think totally like you is you.

12. To achieve unity, you need to respect diversity

13. Nothing grows without nourishment.

14. Satisfaction comes easy if you appreciate what you've got and know what you want.

15. Football is not a game of two halves, it's a micro-economy of supply and demand.

16. Diamonds are forever and so is glass that's buried in landfill.

17. Kids say the funniest things, so write them down and pen a sitcom!

18. When life goes tits-up, smile and do a moonie!

19. Take time to feel sorry for yourself then stop and show empathy for others.

20. If your seeds don't grow where you planted them, don't give up, just look for a sunnier spot next time.

....and last but not least...

21. Always remember, Christmas is just a date and not a deadline!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Five firemen and a blogger

I sat as still as I could behind the steering wheel of the old Rover, staring at the cracked windscreen.  The sun was beating down and I could feel the heat searing my skin through the open window.

"It's okay, I'm holding your head," reassured the firefighter sat in the seat behind me.  His tight grip made me feel more comfortable. I no longer felt that I was alone.

I could hear noises, unusual clanking sounds and voices that I didn't recognise.  Out of the corner of my eye, I was able to make out the crowd that had gathered to watch.  I was nervous and it was beginning to feel like a dream.

Unable to turn around, I realised my state of helplessness, stuck in a wreck of a car waiting to be cut out. Apparently I was lucky that the body of the car was intact and that no mechanical parts had protruded through to the footwell.

Against the unfamiliar sounds of breaking metal, the firefighter behind me spoke like an old friend, with warmth and assurance, envoking my trust as he described what was happening.  As his colleagues removed the car's bodywork with heavy hydraulic tools, my own body was protected by a blanket and shield. Thanks to the careful commentary I felt safe.

"How many of you are there?" I asked, waiting for clues in his voice so I could picture what he looked like.

"Five," he replied.

I could swear my heart skipped a beat.  Suddenly I realised the seriousness of the situation. Five firefighters tasked with ensuring a potential casualty could escape from the car safely and without any life-threatening injury. 

My mind started racing, splitting in directions that I could not control.  From relief to respect, my emotions bounced backwards and forwards, finally settling on immense awe for these men whom until now I had taken for granted.   I was witnessing a precison based human rescue machine in action, not just individuals in professional uniform helping me out of a car but a team working to co-ordinated perfection.

With the roof of the car removed, conditions were now safe to lift me out.  I could feel the stiffness of a board that had been inserted behind my back. I closed my eyes as I felt another board push down to the base of my spine.

Very quickly came the command for the initial lift and I felt the first grip on my legs.  For a brief moment I held my breath in anticpation.  Renewed fear flooded my mind and I squeezed my eyes closed even tighter in denial of what was to come. 

"What if they can't lift me?" came the irrational worry coupled with the regret that I'd put on so much weight in recent months.

"For crying out loud, they're bloody firemen. Of course they'll lift you" answered the more rational side of my brain.

My paranoia was suddenly broken by an effiicient but almost embarrassed request to move my knees apart.  As I glanced towards the steering wheel, I recognised that unless I did so, my body could be jammed during the lift.  The last time I'd received such an awkward request was during childbirth. This latest situation shared the same levels of urgency where the only course of action was to swap dignity for feelings of relief.

And it was seconds from all being over.  I closed my eyes once more and in short stages I felt the crew carefully lift my body onto the full length of the board, using their strength combined with gentleness to ease me into a horizontal position, safely and without injury.

It was over!  And I was lucky.  I quickly rose to my feet to shake hands with each firefighter as they received a round of applause from the spectators nearby.

Yes, I was very lucky indeed.  Fortunate not to be a real casualty and honoured to play a part in a situation that I hope is never repeated "for real".

My experience was as a participant in a live demonstration that took place at our local fire station on Saturday and I feel hugely privileged.  I'd been nervous beforehand about being trapped in a small space and relinquishing control during the process, but these short 15 minutes proved that I had nothing to worry about at all.  And although it felt real,  let's face it, being party to a true emergency would have been a whole lot worse.

But in that short time I learned some incredible lessons and gained valuable insight into the work of the men - and of course women - who often put their lives at risk, to save others.  I can certainly say that I am now both enlightened and truly grateful.  The crew who "rescued" me were totally awesome indeed.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Are these the winds of change?

I've been a grumpy old bugger of late, but who could be surprised.  With a husband at high risk of redundancy and the state of the economy, I've preferred the sanctuary of watching the bees enjoy my garden than harping on about rubbish.

Instead of blogging, I've sat staring silently at the lavender and breathing in the scent of the honeysuckle until my peace with the world is broken by the passing traffic or a random man in his motorised paraglider taking regular opportunities to check out the gardens of suburbia.

Then there was the time my husband emerged from the kitchen holding a remnant of unidentifiable plastic crap, asking "where should I put this?" Yes he really did ask in such an inviting fashion.

I wanted to shout in the same way as I've taken to shouting at the TV.

"You can stick it up your..."

But I struggled to find an amusing even if rather predictable cockney rhyming slang to fill the space. With the benefit of internet research and resultant hindsight, I now know I could have replaced that very loud gap with anything from Political Farce to Tijuana Brass with even a touch of Hagen Daas.

After two and a half years of helping others reduce their rubbish why am I still the only one who takes responsibility for domestic waste knowledge management in this house.  I'm convinced I mentioned my delight at our new "hard plastics recycling facilities" many times over, but short of gluing the council leaflet to his glasses, I don't know what to do.

I know we're facing change on the homefront that could have a bigger impact than any of my waste-bashing interests and I accept it's affecting my sanity too.  Don't tell anyone will you but the lady seen emptying all the receipts and tissues from her handbag into a trainline rubbish bin was me.  I only did it so I could look more presentable when meeting strangers in London that day instead of introducing myself as the haphazard specimen that I've become.

But in my favour I did remember to take my familiar refillable coffee cup, much to the annoyance of a very stylish cafe at St Pancras.

"We don't know if we can let you use that," they insisted, when I ordered my latte.

"I'm only trying to reduce your rubbish," I replied

"We'll have to check with our manager, to see if we're allowed"

Thanks to my recent mood, it's not enough that I want to shout at the TV and my husband, I wanted to shout at the staff too! 

I really hope my husband's work is sorted out soon, or this grumpiness might last a bit longer.  Well, change is as good as a rest, so maybe this new blog space will do me good as will the new Almost Average Headquarters into which I will be moving soon.

Yes folks, I've gone and bought myself a shed!  But that is another story indeed.