Friday, 16 December 2011

So This Is Christmas And What Have You Done?

That’s a good question. What have I done? More precisely, what have I done in the year since starting this Green Dad blog?

Here’s the first post.

I pretty much stand by it. I wouldn’t give up the messiness of parenthood for anything. Although one crucial point needs updating. Namely where I said I wasn’t a member of a political party.

Not long after starting the blog I realised we were in for an interesting Holyrood election (the polls back then suggested Labour would regain control from the SNP) and it was clear to me whoever took the big seat in Bute House I’d rather they had Greens whispering sweet nothings in their ear than Libdems or Tories. So along with a like minded pal I joined the party.

They say a week’s a long time in politics but blimey Einstein was on the money when he made his theory about time being relative. A week may be long but a year seems like a split second. How come?

All will become clear. At this stage all I can say is in the space of twelve months I’ve gone from not being in the party to heading for the heart of it and for the heart of Scottish politics. It involved a big decision recently with the blessing of Wife-features and soon she, I and Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed will be flitting.

We’ll be sad to leave behind the Brighton of the North - in particular the olde worlde charms like early closing on a Wednesday, the black and white weekly newspaper with no web presence and the determination among natives to give directions to tourists using romantic landmarks such as ‘the sewerage bridge’ and ‘the maggot’.

Seriously, the Sunniest Town in Scotland is a gem and I do feel very emotional about our departure. It’s a hell of a creative place. This year saw the passing of the great yet modest Ken Ramage, creator of the jazz festival which I hope is resurrected here. My old pal Swinton-features did some looney tunes stuff with a bingo hall and a filmhouse on wheels which a bunch of us then emulated and made permanent by creating Cinema Nairn.

And something tells me it will take an army of bouncers to prevent me from making a bee-line for the home baking tent at next year’s Nairn Show.

A lot’s happened in the past year - Toddler’s gone through more changes in personality than a well fed and watered Gremlin. But in a nice way. Being a dad is great and Nairn’s been a great place to be one.

And of course there’s the ‘allopman’ as TWMBO calls it. Our experimental patch of mud ten metres by ten metres will soon have a new keeper. Wife-features is planning to leave behind a map showing what we planted and where. (Non green-fingered readers should note rotation of crops is important.)

I’ll do my best to maintain the Green Dad blog and don’t forget I’m on Twitter: @greendadtwit.

Actually, looking back, maintaining the blog was one of my new year resolutions at the end of 2010.

As for the others?

Better public transport? I’ve lobbed by tuppenceworth into the Rail2014 consultation. Have you? The SNP government seem to think it’s a good idea for us to stand longer and pay more. I’ve asked for free wi-fi and more space for bikes on trains. I am a dreamer.

Battle the numpties? I’ve kept an eye out for sensible wind farm developments and written letters of support, challenging the NIMBYs to put forward an alternative rather than the usual hysteria and myths.

Recycling? Nice one Highland Council for introducing a blue bin.

Put on a jumper? Today I wore two as the temperature didn’t get above freezing.

Wrapping paper? I recently learned a friend uses pillow cases tied with ribbon when gifting at Christmas. Genius!

Blog? This is it and I’ll do my best to keep at it.

Now, let’s get ready to move. Packing up a house while keeping a toddler calm over Christmas? Piece of cake, I’m sure…

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Green Dad Christmas Appeal : Help The Daily Mail

Please give generously to the Green Dad Christmas Appeal. Think of those poor unfortunate souls at the Daily Mail who have difficulty interpreting simple documents and adding basic sums.

Let's raise some funds to give them the primary school education they clearly missed out on.

The appeal has been prompted by their latest hilariously inept attempt at spreading myths about renewable energy.

Here it is.

The headline says "Electricity bills to rocket by 25% because of 'green' targets, says Government".

It references a report by the Committee on Climate Change. (Which isn't 'government'.) The report is available here.

As you can see there is no such claim about 25 per cent. In fact it says 16 per cent of the increase in bills in the past six years can be attributed to green measures including energy efficiency. 84 per cent was due to wholesale costs, distribution and the fact the government has ramped up VAT.

The committee's own headline explains quite clearly the rising cost of gas is what's driving up bills. Surely proof we need to switch to renewables sooner rather than be afraid of them?

Meantime I suggest you chuck your Daily Mail on the fire. It'll create a carbon emission but one that's morally justified.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It Was Acceptable In The Eighties

Super fun video by Friends of the Earth Scotland about a serious subject. Get ready to jack your body, as I believe the expression goes...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

When’s A Bypass Not A Bypass?

When it’s a “trunk link road link”.

Inverness, queen of the Highland fleshpots, has boomed in recent years with gargantuan amounts of suburban sprawl. A “Southern Distributor Road” was created linking the Inshes roundabout (near the A9, Police HQ, supermarket, business park and Raigmore Hospital) with these Brookside (does anyone remember the soap that begat Hollyoaks?) style estates, skirting the south side of the city and eventually ending at a roundabout on the Dores road.

That roundabout on the Dores road for years featured an optimistic turn off dead end suggesting further development towards the River Ness was planned. So far another Tesco has popped up.
Highland Council are consulting yet again on plans to extend the distributor road - sorry, trunk link road - across the river and the Caledonian Canal and connect with the A82 road to Lochaber. They’re calling it the West Link. The Inverness Courier has even run regular articles on the issue with the strapline: Build the Bypass. The Courier and others in the media keep referring to it being ‘long awaited’ and how it will ‘cut congestion’.

But as the council’s planning chief confirmed this week, it’s not a bypass. It’s purely to enable further suburban sprawl development. And of course evidence elsewhere shows if you build more roads you get more congestion.

Scottish Government aren’t offering a bean as they don’t see it being of strategic importance. The stats support this view. Only a third of the traffic on the A82 in Inverness is through-traffic. In other words the vast majority of the traffic causing congestion in the city centre is local. Surely the answer is to cut the congestion, ie reduce car use perhaps by investing in decent public transport or cycle routes? This would have the added benefit of reducing people’s fuel costs, cutting air pollution, making streets around our schools safer and maybe helping some folk get a bit of exercise. But sadly, no, that’s not an option the council have considered.

Instead they want to spend tens of millions of pounds of Highland Council tax-payers’ cash on a road that isn’t a bypass, isn’t of strategic importance and is purely to help developers who aren’t short of a bob or two. I can think of better uses for my money! Can you?

A Christmas Tree In The House? Are You Crackers?

Toddler recently watched the Christmas lights being switched on in the Brighton of the North. She loved it.

But when I asked if she was looking forward to us getting a tree in the house and decorating it she looked at me as if I had two heads.

I asked if she remembered last Christmas (she was 1 and a half). Not really. I explained she helped Wife-features and I decorate the tree. Nope, don’t recall.

Again I suggest we’ll be getting a tree for the house. No, daddy, don’t be silly. Trees go outside!

If I was really Green I’d love this - the sustainable way of enjoying Christmas is surely not to bother having a tree never mind choosing between plastic and an FSC approved real thing.

But heck I like a tree. Where else are my daughter and my missus going to put my presents?

We’re Building A Library In The Cellar

It’s a rite of passage. The messing up by a child of something important to an adult. I bet you have your own examples.
Wife-features and I had been blessed with mostly angelic behaviour till recently. Our luck has officially run out.

Last weekend as we prepared for Toddler’s first long train trip (two hours to Castle Greyskull aka Aberdeen) it seemed a book given to our little angel had quickly disappeared. Upon quizzing Toddler says it’s under the floor. This of course makes no sense. But she’s insistent.

In our dining room we have floorboards and there are some paper thin gaps. Ah. Paper thin. You see where this is heading.

I locate the one loose bit of board we have for accessing cables and pipes and take a photo. That’s what you see on this page. Bottom left. A sad and lonely book. No hope of retrieval. It will be discovered like a Blue Peter time capsule when our Victorian terrace is bulldozed in 50 years to make way for an additional on-ramp for the Nairn bypass.

No great shakes. But Toddler topped this the other night.

Wife-features and I were having an intelligent grown-up conversation. At which point my internal alarm began to ring. Normally we don’t have time or energy and it wasn’t quite bath time/bedtime yet. Uh oh.
Toddler appeared in the hallway at this point looking like a ghost. Clarted in white gunk. Sudocrem. The antidote to nappy rash. I dashed to her bedroom. Sudocrem in the carpet. The antidote to clean carpet. Arg.

Old wives apparently recommend covering the greasy splodge with brown paper and ironing it to absorb it. I was half tempted to throw white wine and salt on it or some sort of solution involving vinegar and lemon juice. (Can you tell a few years ago on days off I watched back to back episodes of How Clean Is Your House?)

Instead some anthrax-style chemicals were sourced and the carpet was given a good scrubbing. There’s a pale patch so I’ll probably give it another go just to be sure. Toddler is sorry, apparently. I’m pleased to say both WF and I remained calm. The wee lass is only two and a half. My worry though is now she’s set the bar so high what’s next?

In discussion today with Green Gran it seems I still have “top trumps” when it comes to the kid-wrecks-adult-thing.

I reckon I was about five or six years old. I was outside our house happily playing. I looked up after hearing my dad yelling and could see him barrelling towards me with a purple face and a mouth as round and as big as a hula hoop.

What was I doing?

Nothing. Honestly.

Well, apart from sitting on top of our Renault 4 spreading gravel on the roof.

Where does Toddler get her cheeky streak from I wonder?