Saturday, 18 December 2010

Greenacre Times - Winter 2010

The latest edition is out!

Mr Greenacres is back with a plea to stop the total conversion to digital radio with the resultant unnecessary scrapping of perfectly good radios.

Rosie Canning tells us about the Mass Observation Project, which started in the 30s and is still used as a snapshot of today’s British society.

The past is featured with a look back to Finchley’s Harry Beck - the man who designed the iconic Tube map, then we look to the future with technology to generate our own electricity.

Read the case for preserving green spaces in Finchley and find out what happens to the contents of our recycling boxes.

And last but not least, read the account of the third Greenacre Bicycle Rally.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Mrs Greenacres Goes Upcycling

There is something of a revival going on. My recent forays to the wool and haberdashery shops have seen an upsurge in both goods and customers. Although I miss Grout’s in Palmers Green which closed a few years ago, I find other shops are now stocking a wider range of haberdashery items. Sewing and knitting are making a comeback. They’re trendy again. Making and adapting your own clothes is still unusual enough to be ‘cool’ although once it was commonplace to sew and knit and never was that more important than during the war when everything was rationed.

Clothes rationing began on 1st June 1941 and people were allocated 66 clothing coupons a year which equated to one outfit. This was reduced to 36 by the end of clothes rationing in 1949. The famous Make Do and Mend wartime campaign encouraged women to mend clothes and make clothes out of other material. Numerous leaflets and patterns were produced to give instructions and ideas. The scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett had a new outfit made from the curtains would be repeated during the 40s, along with dresses made from parachute silk, and coats from blankets. If you weren’t very skilled yourself there were dressmakers who could cut up an adult’s worn out coat and produce a perfectly good child’s coat from the least worn pieces. Old woollen jumpers with a hole or two were unravelled and knitted up again. It wasn’t called recycling but that is exactly what it was.

After the war, rationing was still in place and the need for economy and avoiding waste was still the order of the day. When I was a child at infant school in the 1950s one of our lessons was knitting. How I hated it; the yarn, a kind of soft cotton string, getting grubbier each time I strove to force it round those slippery needles in an attempt to make a dish-cloth for my mother. I remember it to this day. My effort was a misshapen excuse for a cloth with several holes that appeared mysteriously in the uneven stocking stitch but it was used nevertheless. After all my mother wouldn‘t dream of wasting it. It seemed to me the thing went on for years but that might be my memory playing tricks. That skill of knitting has lasted me a lifetime.

My grandmother was always busy making things. She used to knit our socks which had to be held up with garters made out of elastic. I must admit I was very pleased when I had my first shop socks, because I’m sorry to say those homemade socks seemed second best to me. During the war my grandmother had knitted socks for servicemen using Beehive and Paton’s 4-ply wool. She still had some left over in dull colours like khaki and grey. I hope those servicemen were more appreciative than I was.

But one thing I did like was her rugs. My favourite was the rug in my grandmother’s house in front of the sitting room fire. Thick and soft I could wriggle my toes right in to it. She had made it along with many others. She would bring the canvas, wool and special rug hook to our house when she visited and would sit in the evenings making them. My mother made them too and each of our bedrooms had her little rugs over the cold lino which was very welcome to our feet on freezing winter mornings. My grandmother’s rugs were usually patterned with flowery designs while my mother’s were much more modern with geometric designs and bold blocks of colour. I made one too using the leftover scraps of wool in a rather appalling jumble of colours. I believe it is still in our loft because Mr Greenacres would never let me put it down in our house as the colours offended his sensibilities.

It was still common in the 50s to see embroidered tray cloths, crocheted doilies and antimacassars (note to younger readers - for the backs of armchairs to prevent hair oil from staining the chair!) and these would often have been made by children as school projects. Sewing was taught in both my junior school and secondary school - not that either of my teachers were impressed with my efforts but I remember some of the girls produced beautiful clothes including my sister who continued to make her own clothes to a very professional standard for many years.

I don’t know when sewing went out of vogue in schools - and was reinvented along with woodwork as Design and Technology - but it seems as if a couple of generations missed out on the basic skills to sew. Perhaps it will come back into fashion on the school curriculum called Green Studies.

Even if you couldn’t make clothes, everyone could mend clothes. Everyone - including men - could sew on a button and all women could thread a needle to repair a split seam. Many could darn a hole in a jumper or a sock - some so expertly that the original blemish was no longer visible - but how many bother to attempt such a thing these days? You might argue that it’s easier to throw it out and buy something new, but I beg to differ. Those patches on the elbows of Mr Greenacres’s sweaters? They’re covering the holes where he’s worn them out. We’d be throwing out jumpers at the rate of knots otherwise.

The advent of cheap clothes is partially responsible for our profligacy - many clothes don’t last long these days but no-one cares because they’re out of fashion - so last year - already. We can buy items of clothing for the cost of a birthday card so no wonder they’re tossed aside so readily just like those cards. When clothes cost a significant part of people’s income as they did years ago they looked after them. Cheap clothes don’t beg to be looked after but the cost of cheap clothing is still high. Someone, somewhere is making those clothes for a pittance, often in appalling conditions, and the ever increasing to need to produce ten garments where once one would have done, is using the earth’s resources at an unsustainable rate. Tossing them in to landfill is not the solution. It makes sense on several levels to keep your clothes working for you. But you don’t have to make do and mend as my mother and grandmother did, because you live in the twenty-first century. You can upcycle.

Take an old dress or skirt, add a bit of trimming or appliqué and it can live all over again. A tired looking white blouse can be dyed and with some new colour co-ordinated buttons you have an upcycled garment. A top with a frayed neckline? Add a satin or velvet ribbon trim. For a hole in an awkward spot where a patch would look silly, simply add a number of colour co-ordinated or contrasting felt or crocheted motifs, with one covering the blemish and hey presto another upcycled garment.

It’s not just clothes - practically anything can be upcycled. How many of you remember your student digs featuring a Mateus Rose bottle with a candle stuck in it with the wax dripping down it as an integral part of the whole thing. That was upcycling!

I remember my friends and I had a craze for paper jewellery, some time in the 60s I suppose. Not as bad as it sounds. We would take pages from glossy magazines (Honey was a favourite) and cut long thin triangles from the coloured pages and starting at the wide end we would roll them as tightly as we could, and with the last inch glued carefully we would end up with a slightly oval shaped long bead. By making different triangle shapes we could end up with different size and shaped multi coloured beads. Strung on strong cotton several ropes of these made great cheap fun jewellery. The better quality paper produced some beads that drew quite a bit of admiration! We also used to make our own paper flowers because of course we were sure to wear flowers in our hair!

Years ago Mr Greenacres and I rescued an office chair from a skip. It was basically sound but the upholstery was ripped. He revamped the metal work with spray paint and I reupholstered the seat and backrest . No special skills were needed. It’s been in use ever since.

So before you throw it out, stop and think. Recycle or upcycle? I’m not sure I’m quite up to wearing a skirt made from an umbrella but believe me it’s being done, but making and adapting clothes and accessories or furniture can be a source of creative pride as well as good for our pockets and the environment. Now where are my knitting needles?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Peak Oil by Rosie Canning

Globally we now discover only 1 barrel of oil for every 6 we use.

Oil is a finite resource its production is starting to decline whilst demand keeps on rising, pushing prices up.

Peak oil is about the end of cheap and plentiful oil which has fuelled the growth of industrial economies.

Besides transport and heating, our food is currently heavily dependent on oil and gas – for fertilisers and pesticides, irrigation, storage and distribution.

You may wonder what Peak Oil and Transition Towns have in common. Well, Transition Towns is a movement that aims to equip communities for the dual challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil.

Most people now know what Climate Change is but fewer people are aware of Peak Oil. This is because Governments and the oil industry (and often the two are inexorably linked) are trying to play down the peak and subsequent scarcity of oil.

Today, the world is experiencing a step change in the rate of growth in energy demand owing to rising populations and economic development. After 2015, easily accessible supplies of oil and gas probably will no longer keep up with demand…Although Shell does not subscribe to the peak oil theory, the truth is that the readily accessible sources of conventional oil are being depleted, particularly outside the Middle East.
(Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive of Shell, Jan 2008)

This seems to be something of a paradox. On the one hand Shell are saying that conventional oil is running out but on the other hand they do not subscribe to the Peak Oil theory. This is because Shell is referring to unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands; ‘…like a sort of iron-oil, but it’s hard to mine, has to be cooked to get the oil out of the sand, and the whole process is dirty, takes a lot of water and energy. It’s hugely expensive and the rate they can be exploited is very slow.’ (GT Sep 2007) And what is the reason oil companies are turning to unconven-tional methods of accessing oil? Quite obviously the conventional stuff has reached its peak and is running out. So although Shell and other oil companies will initially mine these sands, I wonder how long it will be before the shareholders jump the sinking oil-rig? Presumably when their dividends stop paying out and when that happens NOBODY will bother to continue mining tar sands. People like Jeroen can der Veer, now retired, are telling us the truth but trying to veil their admissions with weak denial.

Peak Oil does not have to be catastrophic and it could ultimately help to reduce the effects of Climate Change. However we do have to think about the consequences of less oil or in fact no oil.

What would this mean in our everyday lives?

o No more gas guzzling cars – hurrah?
o No more plastic packaging – hurrah?
o No more plastic credit cards – hurrah?
o No more food miles – hurrah?
o No more air travel – hurrah?

There are many other areas of our lives that would be affected; the clothing industry, national transport infrastructures, food in general and of course energy. Would we really be happy about all these changes?

If oil ran out over night it would be disastrous and even life-threatening especially for those sick and vulnerable people who rely on transport, energy and medicine to keep them well. But I’m sure that many of us could adapt if necessary even pedal a bike if we had to and eventually services would have to become localised.

What would this post-oil town look like? Ideally we would have local food growing gardens, allotments and community spaces. Food waste would be automatically used for compost. We’d all turn to our mothers and grandmothers and ask them to teach us how to sew, knit or crochet. We’d all learn how to fit solar panels. We’d bring back trams and wouldn’t those rickshaws we see in central London suddenly become invaluable. Of course we mustn’t forget the men, our fathers and grandfathers would get those old hand tools out of their sheds and show us how to hand-build houses and furniture. And presumably we’d start looking into natural products, say soap, toothpaste, handcream etc and even have groups that went foraging in the forests, woods and hedgerows.

All in all it could be quite an enjoyable and exciting time – as an added bonus a sustainable economy would grow naturally from the various groups that would form – food; clothing; transport; energy; housing and education. The disappointment experienced by the throwaway society would become a thing of the past and life would have value and meaning once again. Of course if we’re not prepared for the changes that Peal Oil and Climate Change will naturally bring about, the adjustment could take some time but this is where the good news steps in. Some people, some villages, some towns, some countries are already getting prepared for a future, for a life, without oil – a low carbon, local, sustainable lifestyle.

And many of these people are members of Transition Towns. As of January 2010, there were 275 communities recognised as official Transition Towns in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile. While referred to as 'towns' (Totnes), the communities involved range from villages (Kinsale), through council districts (Penwith) to cities and city boroughs (Brixton). And added to these are the hundreds of communities that are mulling things over; thinking about becoming a Transition Town, having meetings, showing films, setting up groups.

In the summer of 2009 a UK Local Authority decided to include all their staff in the responsibility for tackling the community’s carbon footprint and dealing with the potential effects of climate change and Peak Oil. That Local Authority was Taunton Deane Borough Council in Somerset. Over a period of three months, over 350 staff and 26 Councillors attended eleven half day workshops, led by volunteers from Taunton Transition Town. Plumbers, planners, environmental health officers and car park attendants mixed with senior strategy officers, carpenters, Councillors and tree surgeons. On no other occasion had the people who make up this organisation come together in this way. They have created a “Localised” culture and infrastructure, capable of withstanding upheavals in the wider world that are likely to occur as a result of our changing climate and increasingly expensive and insecure oil and gas supplies.

So how does one set about building a Transition Town? I believe it is a little like a tiny snowball rolling down a snowy hill and as it gathers momentum, it starts to grow, getting larger and larger. Just recently the Greenacre Project held one of its eco film clubs and decided to launch, Greenacre Transition Finchley – this comprises of:
o Greenacre Times
o Greenacre Film Club
o Greenacre Bicyle Rally
o Greenacre Writers – Finish That Novel
o Greenacre Writers – Short Story Group
o Greenacre Writers – Life Writing
o Greenacre Writers – Creative Writing Workshops
o Greenacre Toolbank
o Greenacre Eco Art Exhibition
o Greenacre Green Spaces Forum (Spring 2010)
o Greenacre Tree Trust (Autumn 2010)

So, we already have some useful groups that are in the process of growing organically. I also know a very nice lady in East Finchley who is part of a guerilla gardening group – if we think about a post-oil society with lots of hungry people – wouldn’t it be fantastic to pop down to your local green space to pick some fruit or vegetables. Maybe this Guerilla Gardening Group (GGG) might like to become part of Transition Finchley.

Readers may remember that recently we held an eco film club that included John-Paul Flintoff and Rosie Martin (DIY Couture) talking about making their own clothes. We have a few individuals who are now experimenting with making and adapting clothes, one of whom works in a charity shop and picks up some wonderful bargains. Of course Greenacre Transition Finchley is already way ahead of the game with its transport ideas, the Greenacre Bicycle Rally being just one and of course we musn’t forget our very own Bangladeshi Rickshaw which will be ready and willing to take people on short trips around the borough (mind you, we will need some fit young things for the hills!)

We have our writing groups bringing people in our community together and there are plans for an art group which quite naturally could expand into homemade crafts including paper-making and pottery. And as there are a couple of teachers in our groups, we can also turn our hand to a bit of teaching.

So already we’ve covered:
o Food
o Clothing
o Transport
o Education

That just leaves housing and energy – oh, I forgot to mention: fantastic news, we have a speaker coming up from Brighton to talk about their amazing EARTHSHIP wow wow wow. And of course our very own Mike Gee is a Master Carpenter so that just leaves energy….any alternative energy experts out there? Then come and join Transition Finchley, you would be very very welcome.

I don’t like to write in cliches but from little acorns, oak trees grow - this is the ethos behind Transition Towns. A few people get together form a group and that in turn forms a series of sub groups, all partaking in practical actions to increase community resilience and reduce the carbon footprint ready for the potential threats from Peak Oil, Climate Change and the resulting food shortages.

My advice: don’t be overwhelmed; think acorns; plant a few carrots amongst the spring bulbs this year!

(Peak Oil - taken from an article published in Spring 2010 Greenacre Times)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Greenacre Eco Film Club


Film/Presentation - Earthship Brighton

This was the Low Carbon Trust's first project and was the first Earthship to be built in England. The project was built as a community centre for use by Stanmer Organics, built on a Soil Association accredited site in Brighton. This pioneering demonstration project has evolved over the last six years and enables people to come and experience a cutting edge eco-build and be inspired to respond to climate change in their own ways back at home and work.

Refreshments available.

Mon 26TH April 2010 7.30-9.30pm

Trinity Church Hall, 15 Nether Street, London N12 7NN

Admission by minimum donation £3
For more details:

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A Whiter Shade Of Green - Mr Greenacres Has A Look At The Winter Olympics

Dear friends, never let it be said that your Green Sage doesn’t embrace at least SOME new things. Now here is a very simple modern invention that’s totally brilliant – straight out of the Dragon’s Den. Picture if you will a 2” diameter plastic roller, some 4” long, a bit like a mini paint roller but with the handle in line with the roller body, covered with reams and reams of double sided tape all rolled round and round. You simply peel off a layer of plastic film to reveal a new sticky surface that rolls over soft furnishings and clothes picking up all the dirt and debris in its path – and that includes the dreaded CAT HAIRS.

Now you know, Humphrey is a nature lover, a real out and about little fellow, always following me around the garden or workshop in fair weather but in the depths of a cold, damp, bleak mid-winter he gets terribly bored and moody and tries to get up to all sorts of mischief about the house. One of his favourite winter pastimes is trying to uncover a new secret place for a kip – preferably on some of my clothes if I’m stupid enough to leave them lying about anywhere – he’s even been known to knock a cardboard box off a chair to get on the cushion underneath. Trouble is — beastly grey and white hairs everywhere – YUK! I nickname him the abominable snowman. What a mess – but now I have the answer – roller-bowler-boo to you Humphrey – nasty hairs all stuck to my new roller gizmo.

I’m not too bright eyed and bushy tailed at the moment, chums, even with spring on the way I’m distinctly off colour, all boggle headed and bleary eyed, not on top form at all. True I’ve just recovered from a nasty bout of flu but that’s not it – I’ve been burning the midnight oil, staying up far too late into the small wee hours watching all the thrills and spills of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics on BBC.

I’ve seen things I never knew existed or even thought possible. Brand new Olympic sports like snowboarding – with its amazing flying acrobats – or ski-cross where four skiers race each other to the bottom of the course. I’ve learnt about long track and short track ice skating, and curling, I’ve seen the spectacle of 140kph bobsleighs and I must confess I’d never heard of ‘Skeleton Sliding’ before last week. Imagine a miniature sledge appearing to be little bigger than a tea tray – the rider sprints along the top of the course and leaps on, head first, and hurtles down the infamous Whistler Sliding track at speeds of over 80mph. Three cheers for Britain’s Amy Williams who won gold at this little known event – HOORAH!

And whilst we’re on the subject of hoorahs we’d better save some puff for Gregor Robertson, Vancouver’s dynamic and forward thinking young mayor. Since he took office in December 2008, Mayor Robertson has made it his mission to put Vancouver firmly on the map – as the greenest city in North America and to make Vancouver 2010, the first ever carbon neutral Olympic Games.

So what do we know about Vancouver? Capital of British Columbia, located in the far south-west corner of Canada, just 30 miles from the U.S. border, this coastal city was named after British explorer George Vancouver who landed here in the 1790s. Sawmills were opened in 1867 and a logging industry was established in the area. When the railroad came in 1887 it became a trade route to the orient. Today Vancouver is the third largest Metropolitan area in Canada and its eighth largest city. It has a population of 578,000 (less than 10% of London) and has remained very diverse ethnically with 52% of residents not speaking English as a first language. It’s also the birthplace of Greenpeace and a world leader in Hydro-electric power – 90% of electricity comes from renewable sources.

Mayor Robertson has sanctioned the introduction of ‘Vancouver Green Capital’ and says: “We’re saying we’re open for business and the days of Vancouver being seen as a sleepy, laid-back West Coast town are in the past”. Mayor Roberston is a 45 year old former organic farmer who ran the Happy Planet juice company and is also a committed cyclist. His achievements in the city so far are quite remarkable. In February 2009, he launched his ‘Greenest City Initiative’, which includes policies on: Energy Efficiency, Green Economy, Green Jobs, Nature and Green Spaces, Clean Air, Clean Water, Local Food and Protecting Health. He then set about: doubling Vancouver’s cycle infrastructure budget – introducing new cycle lanes including one across a major city bridge, expanding the city’s ‘car free days’, and setting ground breaking standards for electric vehicle charging in new buildings. He put in place several other strategic initiatives including a new Economic Development Strategy for Vancouver and a Low carbon Economic Development Zone in order to promote economic activity and create jobs. “We’ve got cutting-edge businesses, we have the opportunity to lead the world in green technology research and development and we have a dynamic highly educated and creative workforce”. Not bad for the first year in office! And then he began to focus on the forthcoming Winter Olympic Games.

Of course Gregor Robertson can’t do it alone, he’s the leader of a whole green movement. The Vancouver Organising Committee (VANOC) worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for three years to achieve the greenest possible Winter Olympics. Once upon a time the Winter Olympics could be held in a sleepy Alpine village – not so anymore – this world event now attracts over 7000 visiting athletes, coaches and officials and requires a city venue with substantial, hi-tech and sometimes purpose-built facilities. Vancouver is the third games to be held in a major city. Salt Lake City was the venue in 2002 and Turin in 2006. These new games can have a huge environmental impact – villages, stadiums and ice rinks to be built, new roads or rail connections – or worse, whole sections of forest cut down for the construction of ski jumps and bobsled runs. And what happens to all these facilities after the games have finished? So there was quite a challenge in Vancouver to achieve a zero-carbon Winter Olympics. Did they manage it? And if so how?

Well, the starting point was, why build new facilities if we can manage with what we already have? Saves time, money, environmental impact and of course you don’t have to worry if construction work will be finished on time. To this effect it was decided to hold the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in the existing Canadian Football League Stadium, whilst ice hockey events are being staged in its NHL rink, even though the size of the ice does not meet current Olympic standards. Nowadays two massive media centres are required for an Olympic games, one for broadcast and one for print. Both these facilities have been incorporated into the Convention Centre that overlooks the harbour.

Some new construction has taken place, a nine block Olympic village for example, but it has been built to the highest green standards – half the buildings have energy efficient green living roofs, clad with grass, there is a low flush toilet system that uses recycled rainwater, separate bins for compostable waste, and an energy generation unit that converts sewage to power. In fact organisers are claiming it to be a “net zero building” that produces as much power as it consumes. Last month the Vancouver Olympics Athletes Village was awarded its own medal: the highest environmental certification in the world, ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (or LEED) Platinum’. After the Games, the village will become environmentally friendly apartments.

Other venues also have green technology – heat from the curling rinks refrigeration plant is used to warm an aquatics pool, the day lodge at Whistler Olympic Park features an on-site waste water treatment plant and the Whistler Sliding Centre uses heat from the tracks refrigeration system to help heat the buildings. “We feel like we’ve raised the bar’, Robertson said. “Some of these technologies will be a legacy for generations to come that will benefit cities all over the world”.

The Games' green performance will be very carefully monitored and UNEP will produce an ‘Environmental Assessment Report’ later this year but we can already see that the first five days readings showed energy saving methods to have saved 112,700 kilowatt hours – a 16% saving compared to conventional buildings and don’t forget that 90% of power is generated from renewable sources. VANOC is also using the Games to inspire broader awareness and action on climate change solutions. Together UNEP and VANOC launched a ‘Do Your Part’ video contest that called on young people across Canada, aged between 13-24, to produce a short 90 second video or animation clip to show youngsters how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle both during and beyond the 2010 Games. This is part of a wider ‘Vancouver 2010 Sustainability Program’.

Obviously Mayor Robertson has a car and driver at his disposal to whisk him through the Olympic crowds but on most days he can be seen arriving for events on his trusty mountain bike, with the bottoms of his suit trousers tucked into his socks. Mass transit is a key to sustainable travel and much has been done to promote this in Vancouver, for example a day’s worth of free transit travel is included in the price of ticket and there is no spectator parking at the venues. There is also a fleet of hydrogen-powered SUVs and buses for Olympic use. Even the Olympic torch is 90% recyclable and emits minimal greenhouse gases and the Gold, Silver, Bronze medals are made from recycled electronic waste.

There have been concerns that Climate Change has begun to affect the Winter Olympics. Did anyone notice that the temperature in London at the end of February was actually 8ºC lower than Vancouver? Well, they did have problems with the weather, after a long period of unusually warm weather, heavy rain washed 40cm of snow off the slopes and snow had to be imported in by truck and helicopter and kept topped up throughout the event! Organisers insist that the snow emergency only boosted the carbon footprint by less than 1% and they will still meet all their environmental goals.

Another criticism centred on the felling of thousands of trees to make way for a new highway and cross-country skiing trails. The organizers, via private sponsorship, have put in place what they believe to be comprehensive carbon offsetting projects – with at least $3million investment in clean-energy projects. Half gets invested in British Columbia projects such as a cement plant that burns construction debris or a greenhouse heated with wood chips whilst the other half goes to projects around the world.

The travel from the 1.6million spectators the Games will have generated, an estimated total of 268,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases – I dread to think what it would have been if Britain had staged the games!

Mayor Robertson’s goal goes beyond a green Games, he wants to use the Olympics to help develop a new clean-technology industry base around Vancouver – to see the city as a hub for green jobs and sustainable industry – a major player in the seismic shift towards a green economy. He predicts that the new green businesses will “thrive as they roll out their goods and services to other cities that are still playing catch up”.

Wow! What a story and I bet you thought the most exciting thing about the Games was the Great Britain 4-man bobsleigh crashing on turn 13 at nearly 150kph! I can’t help thinking of our very own Mayor here in the Borough of Barnet, who just last year, at the opening ceremony of the 2009 Greenacre Bicycle Rally was politely heckled by a cyclist, “Mr Mayor, can’t we do more for cycling in this borough?” He replied, “Well, what exactly do you want me to do?” When the cyclist speedily said, “How about better cycle training, more cycle stands, or what about some proper dedicated cycle lanes?” our wonderful Mayor replied, “I’ve always been against cycle lanes, because they slow up the traffic.” And all this in front of the press and 169 assembled cycles! Not for nothing is he nick-named Toad of Toad Hall. No green medals for you Mr Toad! And another 3 cheers for Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver B.C., green capital of North America.

No Humphrey, I will not build a cat sliding mud track in the back garden. Come on we’ll have a look at how the bulbs are doing. Keep happy, comprades, Spring is on the way and all the beautiful, beautiful flowers, till next time, adieu mes amis.

(From an article published in the Spring 2010 edition of The Greenacre Times)