CATs, Mscs and not being able to spell Machynlleth!

So I got on the train at Levenshulme and arrived, 3 trains and 3 hours later, at Machynlleth. A little town in mid-west wales. Found a few other lost “freshers” (or new-dogs as we would come to be known!) and got a taxi a couple of miles to CAT. So CAT (or the Centre for Alternative Technology) is “an environmental charity aiming to inspire, inform and enable people to live more sustainably”. This is where the course took place although it is actually run through the University of East London. So I’m now a student again!

So I would be attending lectures from Tuesday until Sunday lunchtime, but this is no normal course. The lectures took place in the Straw Bale Theatre (Yes made of straw bales), I was staying about 20 metres away in a Self-Build House with 15 other people right next to a pond and 3 geese. The best bookshop ever was 100 metres away (with so many good books I could spend my life in there). The place is in an abandoned slate quarry and has amazing views, no cars and lots of bird song to wake you up in the morning. A bit different to the normal student environment.
Also we got 3 vegetarian meals cooked for us each day; Full English Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with a glass of wine. Nice! So back to the course…

This unit was concerned with Environment and Energy, Resources, Climate Change, Energy Conservation and Urban Sustainability. A little bit of everything and a general overview of other modules. We were busy from 9am til 8.30pm each day (with lots of food stops and time to lie in the sun!) We also had to do a practical and a write up of the practical to be handed in before we set off on the Sunday. Relatively stressful especially due to the lack of computers – I wrote it but my brain is no longer wired correctly to be able to write in a linear fashion without the luxury of copy/cut/paste.

Unfortunately my camera ran out on the first day so I couldn’t take many photos. But I met loads of great people from all careers and walks of life (although there were a lot of disillusioned IT people!), the whole thing was such an incredible experience its quite hard to describe.

One thing we were told and that resonated with me was that we can’t live in a bubble and pretend that because we are eco-people the rest of the world will somehow just follow. The world doesn’t work like that. We need to work out what makes “them” tick (I.e. why are all those people in Shopping Centres buying things they think they need but probably don’t; coupled with stressful jobs and long hours just to be able to afford the repayments on that stuff?) and how to change the mentality + link that to an environmental position… Difficult.

Oh and there were a few trips to the locals (Welsh pubs seemed like somebody’s front lounge) and a party on the last night with a band consisting of the restaurant workers which was great. Sore head on the Sunday morning and a 4 hour trip back to the “real world”. It’s a very strange divide but somehow I’m going to have to try and bridge it! (+ write an essay/prepare a presentation for November’s session)

[tag]CAT, centre for alternative technology, aees, machynlleth, environment[/tag]

Caught out by time again!

Another month has flown by and I’ve got another year older but it’s all been great!

My birthday weekend (2nd September) was spent supping Champagne at midnight and then drinking with a few mates in town. John and Viv bought me a mango which was the star the of the evening. I finished it the following Tuesday as a refreshing mango shake before work!

Ended up at Razor Stiletto where we saw Mu performing live. Was quite a show. Impossible to describe but quite frenetic. I even managed to sneak upstairs after than and spend a couple of hours in Urban Gorilla. Only downside – all I ate was 2 portions of chips on my birthday!

On Sunday caught up with the folks with a nice feed and saw my old Hall of Residence, Earnshaw, demolished. Just under 10 years since I was there. Boo… 🙁

My London birthday weekend 😉 (9th September!) was spent mainly clubbing. On the Friday we went to Hospitality at Heaven (Next one is 24th November BTW) and ended up sitting in deckchairs by the Thames at 7am… (And me finding places to pose some photos of course!)

Then a long sleep later, drinks, food led us to Fabric til a lot later.. The music was amazing and we met some amazing people! (Yes more staging of photos! Maybe I should do this for a living!)

We somehow ended up at Tate Modern and I have a vague recollection of me and Leanne walking through the galleries in only our socks and carrying one of those oversized roses. I think the tourists liked it!

Last weekend was spent in Sheffield/Manchester and I watched Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth. I know I go on about environmental stuff, but EVERYONE has to watch this film. I DEMAND it!!! Anyway some drinks, a long walk along the (puny manc) Mersey and a visit to an Organic Market. Also drank a £1.50 pint of beer which I didn’t think existed anymore (just in a normal pub)… Found some interesting padlocks and walls as part of my new flickr projects!

Then early on Monday morning I got on the train to take me to Machynlleth and a new phase of my life entirely! (which has to be another post!)…

Blogging By Mail

So a month or so ago I got involved in this Blogging By Mail concept whereby you send a parcel of food off to someone in the world and receive one from someone else! This time it was organised by the Happy Sorceress. I was sending a parcel off to someone in the US and it took me quite a lot of time to decide what would go in!

I wanted some local Sheffield delicacies. which was quite difficult. I spent quite a while reading the posts on this Sheffield Forum thread. Anyway I eventually built up a package. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo before it disappeared but it contained Henderson’s Relish, Local Damson Jam, Green & Blacks’ Chocolate, Yorkshire Tea, Some Teacakes, Organic English Apple Cider, a “Little Book of Yorkshire” and a postcard of a steep hill in Sheffield (of course!). It arrived safely with Danielle of Habeas Brulee last week and she sent me a nice email.

So I arrived back late Sunday evening from the first week of my MSc course (more about that later) to a parcel from Australia which was extremely exciting!

It came from Kathryn Elliot and had loads of cool stuff inside. Firstly some breakfast stuff. Kathryn explained she was a bit of a museli obsessive and this is her home-made secret formula. Also the marmalade is made from oranges from her neighbours garden. Oh to grow oranges in your back garden! Looking forward to my oz breakfast later in the week!

Next was some Chilli Chocolate from Kimberley’s Chocolates near to where Kathryn lives. Definitely had a bit of a kick to it! Plus a Koala chocolate bar which is pretty cool. Oh and some Nobby’s Nuts! I’ll be nibbling on them later at the weekend I reckon.

Next some amazing dried mango which was the first thing to be eaten! Some seeds (Austalian Tomatoes and Silverbeet) which I’m looking forward to trying out growing next year…. Finally some Akadjura which is an aboriginal spice that has been eaten in Central/Western Australia for thousands of years. A Bush Tomato/Spinach and Mushroom Risotto recipe was enclosed which I’m also going to try this weekend.

So that was my first food blogging by post it certainly won’t be the last. I’d like to say thanks to Kathryn again. It’s such a great feeling to get a parcel through the post especially one that has been so well put together. It gave me such a grin on my face on Sunday evening and faith in humanity!!

What an “honest” inflight announcement would be like

Also I’ve been looking for something like this article in the Economist for a while:

“Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.”