Last week I could have gone to my bank and arranged to borrow a modest sum in order to put double glazing in my living room. (Which is the coldest part of the house.)
However I held off, knowing that the Green Deal was starting up, in the hope that it would offer me a better proposition. Interest rates for borrowing are very high at the moment.
Now in the ministerial letter and accompanying information released by DECC today, I learn that if I want to take advantage of the green deal, I will have to sign up to a 30 year loan, at market rates. I will be sharply penalised if I pay this loan back early. In order to get the loan I will have to submit to various inspections, all of which I will have to pay for within the cost of the works. I will have to accept the views of petty officials as to what products I use and which installers to go with.
Can anybody tell me how this might be more efficient or cost effective, than just organising it myself? If they can, I should very much like to hear from them.
The critical factor is that no home owner is going to submit to a government scheme unless its cheaper or more flexible. What madness has infected DECC his time?
Oh and by the way, the scheme doesn't start yet, so if by some fluke of human madness it does prove popular the Government itself admits that insulation companies will experience a dangerous drop in orders, while we wait for the legislation to wend it's way through parliament.
I haven't read the small print yet, but if I've even half understood it, these much awaited policies might end up being like our drought measures. Too little and far too late.
The unusual climate we are experiencing right now is due to global warming. It's due to our co2 emissions, which must urgently be reduced. How on earth can we achieve our targets with policies like these? How on earth are we going to be able to save our earth?
Were the Jubilee Celebrations a success? How significant was the bad weather?
People who queued in the rain, watched in the rain and walked home in the rain might have been able to congratulate themselves on their British bulldog grit. But if we do it agin what changes should we make?
The real lesson is that large spaces do not make the best arenas for pagents. The most exciting parade I've ever witnessed is the Semana Santa in Lorca, in the south of Spain. This runs for about a kilometre or two along the narrow main street of the city, which is flanked on both sides by appartment blocks, each side being about eight stories high. They place temporary seating on each side of the street, and you have to get tickets to view. However thousands of people can get a seat, and of course every balcony of the appartments is packed. (There's no queuing needed. it's just like getting a ticket to the opera.)
As this image so colourfully demonstrates, they race down the street in dangerous horse drawn carriages, parade racheros on dancing steeds and massed bands of hooded monks, throng to the sound of horns, antique blunderbusses and drums. The buildings ricochet with the sound. You are right in the thick of the parade, almost swept up by the throng and definitely frightened when the dancing horses goes through their paces.
What makes it all work so well, is the constraint of the space. That is, I think, why the Mall concert worked so well. Someone actually sat down and designed the Buck House Arena - a chap called Robbie Williams I gather - who cut his teeth designing stage sets for pop bands. What he realised is that external space seems smaller than internal space. So that when you want to stage any sort of performance out of doors you have to constrain the space, not expand it.
Just think of the most famous public spectacle of all, the Palio, that surges through the narrow streets of Siena every summer. Its fast, its constrained, its colourful, noisy and it's a horse race. Perhaps Her Majesty, with her well known penchance for the sport of kings, might have preferred something like that?
When I was a young business woman I belonged to a woman's networking organisation. I joined almost by chance, but over the years the support that I received from other women was exceptional. Looking back, it was a boon to my career and to my self-confidence. The aspect that really helped was the mentoring I received. I got to meet a series of strong and supportive women, most of whom were older than me. They'd been there-done that and, sometimes, made the mistakes, so that I didn't have to.
Over ten years ago Karen, (not her real name) came to me when she was having trouble as a young manager. Fortunately her employer was willing to invest some time and money, so that I could shadow her in meetings and then afterwards we could discuss how the meeting had gone. I would offer support and suggest ways of getting a better result. It gave Karen the confidence to change her career track, and get a better job. That mentoring resulted in a friendship - Karen and I still exchange emails, or meet for coffee.
I'm currently mentoring a number of young women in the construction industry. Most of them want to be able to plan their careers, but are uncertain how to go about this. We're working on looking forward with confidence and imagination, rather than looking backwards.
The recession is making life hard for everyone, but statistically women seem to have come off the worst. In February this year the government's unemployment figures revealed that women were losing their jobs at a disproportionately greater rate than men. There are now over 1.1M women unemployed, that's the highest it has been for twenty five years.
Also, some employers seem to be taking it out on women. Recently I've heard some very troubling accounts of bullying in the workplace and in some cases a complete disregard for the employment laws. Sadly it seems to be women who are taking the brunt and who don't know how to deal with such issues.
Now I'm starting to pay back that sage advice I received when I was young, by doing more mentoring myself. I can help people write or re-write their CV's, help them through interview nerves, or discuss workplace problems. If you are undecided about where to go next, having trouble at work, or just uncertain about your career track, they I can help you decide.
I won't push you in one direction or another, just gently help you find your own compass bearing in a world when there are so many things that can set us off course.
If you would like to be mentored, I charge £50.00 per 50minute session. I normally recommend a series of four, six or eight sessions. I'm a follower of Gestalt physiology, which considers the whole person and uses creativity and imaginative exercises to help solve problems. But do not be confused, I am a mentor and a life coach, not a physiologist.
I can meet you on neutral territory, like a cafe, or you can come to my home and office in Great Titchfield Street W1, just five minutes from Oxford Circus.
All consultations are in the strictest confidence.
In the first instance call or email for a first appointment, which lasts 25 minutes and costs £25.00.
It was 9th January this year when I first launched my Roof Top Veg Plot on an unsuspecting blogosphere. It was the end of February before it was warm enough to get outside and start the reconstruction works on my rooftop. Today, in early June on a balmy afternoon, having eaten the first of the sugar-snap peas for lunch, I realise that this is what it was all about.
The garden looks a picture today. I've got curly lettuces, strong tomatoes in the growhouse and runner beans about to run wild - all in just six inches of soil. (More about soil depth later. )
On the down side Chinese leaves, onions, beet and endive lettuces have all gone to seed and the second crop of radishes have refused to bulb. However I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm just heaving out anything that seeds and replanting.
When I started reading The Square Foot Gardening books I knew that it could not possibly be true. I knew that if you could grow all veg known to man in six inches of soil and within a tight square foot cube, then farmers wouldn't bother with fields!
So what tips have I learned?
Water, Water, Water
Fortunately we have had a wet spring, but in small containers you can forget the adage, one big drench a week. In the potager I need to water everyday and often twice a day, even when it rains!
And despite the fact that I'm growing in a brand new compost mix, I'm now starting to feed weekly as well.
Think Potager - not Prairy
The real revelation came to me as I was searching the Internet for plant spacing. I came across the French potager en carré movement - and that's been revelatory. Trust the French to have been doing this for ages and to have got a bit more sophisticated than the Yanks.
I suppose that it goes without saying that in small spaces it's best to use small varieties, but it's taken me a while to twig. Also of course if you plant out two seedling, one in a big space and confine the other, the cramped cousin will grow smaller. However the titch is also more likely to crop more quickly and produce tastier, if smaller veg.
This means that choice of cultivars or varieties is much more important to me, than the average allotment grower. For example, I'm growing Paris Market 5 carrots, which are small and round as well as Annabel radishes, which are also very fast growing, as red as ruby lipstick and, yes you've guessed it, small and round. Is it a coincidence that both these varieties sound French?
Specials not Mains
Stands to reason then that with limited space I should go for special things. So I've planted four different tubs of early potatoes and I have a sneaking suspicion that they are almost ready.
I've grown a whole mélange of different salad crops and for about a month now we've been eating every lunch time salad from our garden. In fact, we have been getting at least one full and interesting bowl of salad a day, and still it's difficult to keep up!
Another tip for the intrepid potager is to eat the whole plant. My first plantings of Mizuna and Rocket (planted indoors back in January) have both gone to seed, but the flowers, as well as attracting insects, are just as delightful in salads as the leaves. Because the produce is fresh, there is far less wastage than with supermarket produce.
Size isn't Everything
My Pak Choi went to seed because I was waiting for the heads to get bigger! Another lesson learned. In a confined space they won't grow as big as on the supermarket shelf, so pick a day or two earlier - don't wait too long.
Sow, Sow and Sow Again
I've become quite a fan of succession sewing. Sometimes a sewing will not produce. For example my radishes. But I just sewed another sprinkle of seeds elsewhere and this third crop is plumping nicely. Similarly I've had excellent results with the small crinkly lettuce Salad Bowl, which I've got now in red and green and at various stages of growth.
Some of this veg crop looks as good as it tasted, but I've planted the odd companion, in order to brighten up the beds. Edible flowers like nasturtiums should look great. In other places I've chosen veg varieties which sport good flowers. For example, the runner beans are Red Emperor, which will, I hope give me and the bees an eyeful of zingy red flowers some time soon. This strategy has certainly started to attract wildlife. Despite the fact that I'm five floors up, there is generally a bee of some type buzzing around when the sun's out and I've been spotting the first ladybirds this week. I even spied a cabbage white butterfly the other day. (Now I thought that we'd be too high for them at least!)