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Monday, 30 January 2012

off again

My small society is shutting down for almost a week, not Granny duties this time, but a holiday, we are off to the Baltics, Tallinn to be precise, via London and the Leonardo exhibition. So the thermals are packed and the Euros are purchased. This is what volunteers do, push off and enjoy them selves!  However I have done a bit for Fairtrade fortnight today, books taken to one local shop for a window display and another one asked about participating in our local Fairtrade Quiz trail, they said yes; watch this space.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

kippered Coasties and yes the sun did shine

sunshine over Robin Hood's Bay, the view
as we work
How lucky am I. Ravenscar, lots of happy childhood memories, the sun shining and it's my birthday. Tuesday was miserable, today a little better,but yesterday................

Today is a bonfire day with the National Trust., the last Wednesday in the month and Coasties help them out. As landowners in the Park they are one of the Park's partners.

There is a huge pile of brash, undergrowth, trees  and other 'stuff' that was cut last autumn and is now dry enough to burn. Some brash can be left to decompose, but good habitat management means that some must be burnt. The dryness of the wood and the skill of the National Park staff member means that a roaring fire is soon demanding to be fed. There is a stronger wind than we had realised and at times we are engulfed by the smoke, kippering our clothes, our hair and our faces. Much of the stuff is too big to go straight onto the fire, so we lop and saw to make manageable pieces which can then be dragged across the wet grass to the fire.
some of the brash to be burnt,
but not my fleece or gloves!
the heart of the fire

Over lunch I pass round slices of fruit cake. We are doing well today, another Coastie had given us freshly baked scones before we even started!       As we eat the talk turns to travel expenses and  volunteering. There is still concern that the 'highers up' think that we need less back up from the paid staff than we know we do. There is the AGM of the voluntary ranger service, to which I also belong, coming up, we shall have to see what is said there.   It really cannot be stressed too often that this practical kind of volunteering can only work if there is technical back up to support and lead us. On a positive side I read in the local paper that the Park is taking on more apprentices this year, a drop in the ocean for unemployed young people, but a brave move for the Park in 'hard' times.   

Finally all the brash is burnt. We go to help others in the group who are working to make a small local quarry safe to use, much better to use local materials when hard surfacing is required than ship it in from outside. Before we head off home the smouldering fire is checked, it is dying down well and the ground around it is very wet. Another very satisfactory day.

End of the blog for today, I need to finish off the Fairtrade Fortnight mail out to schools and then get them to the post. I also need to empty the kitchen compost bucket, we bought a new huge one and still it fills up!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

everyone housed on a cold wet day, some Fairtrade stuff too

The weather is miserable, cold and wet, so it is with great relief that all five Short Stop referrals are found somewhere for the night. One poor man had spent last night on the streets, the very day he had heard that he could stay in this country for the next three years, not a pleasant way to celebrate. Tonight he is in the home town of the Comic Relief bear, Pudsey. Someone else offered a room for three nights, the guest had stayed before and they knew how sad and desperate he was. Thank you to all our wonderful hosts. They are recruited and trained, as I am by LASSN, The referrals today are from PAFRAS, and the local Red Cross,

As usual I try to multi task. A Fairtrade colleague and I are organising things for Fairtrade fortnight; she does the design of a schools' leaflet, emails it to me to print off, put into envelopes and then post out to local schools. I get the printing done and the envelopes; now as soon as the packs arrive from the Fairtrade Foundation I can post them off. We are also planning a local Fairtrade Quiz trail, the emails and designs whiz to and fro over the ether as she produces leaflets and I comment back. None of this could be done without the internet; I am largely self taught, how I wish I had paid more attention when I was still working and had the opportunity to learn more!

I check the weather forecast for Coasties tomorrow, hurrah it promises dry and even maybe some sun. Wednesdays are often better than the rest of the week, the sun does indeed shine on the righteous. Ravenscar here I come.

Monday, 16 January 2012

my small society spreads its wings

My latest post and a previous one is in the on line edition of the northern Guardian, regionalism rules! How exciting!  and useful I hope for the organisations I volunteer with, and the plight of asylum seekers. Posting this from York library, an invaluable local resource and one provided by an essential local government. As I have posted before volunteering is the spread on the bread, see previous post of 19/11/11.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Indoors stuck to the phone and outdoors with the loppers

Yesterday was Short Stop,, so although my mobile can obviously go outside, my PC to record the data won't, and LASSN need the data to apply for much needed funding. As usual the first, and yesterday all the referrals are from PAFRAS, I now have most of their volunteers' numbers in my phone, so at least I can greet them by name. We may never have met but I like to think of them as friends as well as sort of colleagues. Three guests, as we call the people we help, today; two of them have been with Short Stop before, one several times. The first one I place quite quickly, but then the familiar worry sets in; as phones go to voicemail, possible hosts have people already staying, someone has a sick partner. However, as usual, all three are eventually placed, the kindness of strangers has once again prevailed and no-one who has contacted any of the referring agencies should have been sleeping last night in one of the parks of Leeds. So once again I close down and email my records into the office. Less multi-tasking today, a casserole in the slow cooker, a pile of ironing and a bed changed, oh and back ache from sitting in one position for too long.

Today is something so different, Coasties. We are a bit inland actually, above West Ayton, clearing a bridleway of the usual blackthorn and bramble. We look at the almost completely overgrown path, see the picture below on the left, and as usual wonder if we will ever get it done. However as you can also see it is jackets off and down to work, loppers and bow saws make almost light work of the task, the hardest work is 'loosing' the cut down vegetation. Now this is easy on the coast, we chuck it over the edge (I did once lose a glove doing this), but here we have to find and make gaps in the hedge and put it carefully where it will not get in the local farmer's way. By lunch time we are half way through, as we eat we catch up, and remember how last year's weather was so different to the mildness of today. Our usual Park Ranger is leading us again after a gap, so a sense that the normal routine is back is good. By 3 o'clock the target length of the bridleway is now fit for purpose, although we do wonder how tall the average horse and rider is as we cut down some high stuff. See the right hand picture below for the finished bridleway. We look at the Ranger's photos of our work and are thanked for a job well done., the National Park, like so many similar organisations is increasingly dependent on volunteers for this kind of routine maintenance, and yet because of cuts to the full time staff cannot take on any more volunteers, Big Society or shrinking society?

Fit for a horse?

Jackets off, just
starting work
I won't be posting for two weeks, off on my travels again, friends and then my grandsons. After all that is the point of volunteering, you can stop and start as you please, you can't do that in a 'proper' job, which is why volunteers can't do the essential work in our society. 

No back ache today, too much exercise for that!                                     

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hello, I'm back and it's a Short Stop day

Well a nasty cold wind and pouring rain, not a night to spend on the streets, or even in the bus station, so when PAFRAS make their first referral just after 10am and then two more in quick succession I am worried. As usual it is noisy in their drop in and I struggle to get down all the details.

A couple of our regular hosts are away and to start with my heart sinks,but then very quickly two lovely, lovely people say yes, of course they have a free room tonight. Some more calls go to voicemail and then the third one is placed and the hosts can pick him up in Leeds city centre, no need to struggle with unfamiliar buses. Last summer I made four journeys on local buses in Slovakia, and how I struggled with a strange language, an unfamiliar system and a worry about where to get off. How much harder in the dark and the rain, at least I could see where I was going and I had spare money if I got off in the wrong place, I could even have caught a taxi!

A fourth referral from the Red Cross, I warn them there may be problems, but once again the kindness of strangers manifests its self and I can close down knowing that four more people are warm and dry tonight.

I send my notes into LASSN and put on the heating. They need the notes for their statistics and to help in their bids for much needed funding.

Have I multi tasked today? Of course, some ironing, a bed made up for visitors at the weekend, and, most exciting, some French and Italian train journey research done. Watch this space.

No Coasties tomorrow, yesterday's Bank Holiday means no staff to organise us, a pity as I could do with some exercise, but I do not begrudge them a hard earned holiday, we retired people can have a break when ever we want. That's why we volunteers can't replace the paid people who sort us all out.