autonomous futures

Stuck in the middle of institutional medicine & schooling
April 8, 2008, 4:53 pm
Filed under: reflective log

It started on Wednesday March 27th when I went for a haircut.  The hairdresser found two bald patches that I had failed to notice.  He said it looked like alopecia and was probably due to stress.  I knew I was stressed, but I thought I’d been doing quite a good job of keeping up with everything – so long as nothing in my schedule was thrown out of whack it would all work out.  Apparently my body didn’t agree and had decided to try physically manifesting the stress so I’d notice.  Still, things needed to get done so I made an appointment to see a doctor and kept on going.

The next evening completely destroyed my tenuous hold on things.  Playing a game at a drumming rehearsal, a friend fell on me and we both fell on my left wrist.  Swollen, bruised and sore, I couldn’t even hold a pen properly.  Xrays were done and I was assured it was only soft tissue damage.  Just give it time, ice it and take ibuprofen regularly.

But I didn’t have time.  The pain was making it difficult to sleep, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t write and I could only type one handed.  Suddenly everything was overwhelming and seemed completely impossible.  I was angry at myself for getting hurt and didn’t know what I was going to do about the essays I was supposed to be writing or the gathering I was supposed to be organising.  And then there was my rent…

I wrote an email to Paul letting him know that I thought I would need an extension.  He told me that would be fine with a doctor’s note.

Meanwhile, there was the doctor.  First I told him about my bald patches and he told me about a barrage of tests he would run, though it was unlikely anything would turn up.  It could be one other thing, but he didn’t think I was the type to have it: syphilis.  The man delegated to get to the bottom of this mystery didn’t think I looked like the kind of girl to contract syphilis so he wasn’t going to test me!  Even though he was already sending my blood work to the lab!

Next it was my hand.  I told him I hadn’t been able to write or type and had essays due.  I’d been to Accident and Emergency, but it was just soft tissue.  Ibuprofen, he declared, and told me to keep using it despite the pain.

Still without the doctor’s note needed and having lost almost a week of work on my essay, I broke down.  What the hell was I supposed to do?  Here I was trying to write an essay about the many failures of institutional schooling and the potential of alternatives, filling my brain with the likes of Ivan Illich and Paulo Friere, whilst simultaneously trying to adhere to rigid university deadlines.  I wanted to be doing the work.  I was trying.  But unless I could convince some random doctor to declare me ill, I would be punished with late penalties.  It was very different than the DIY health message promoted by Becs a few weeks earlier.  Autonomy?  Self-empowerment?  Self-management?  Not so much.

A few days later I went back to the office to get the results of the blood work.  First, my hand.   I had done what he said and tried to keep working, but after a day taking notes in the library the bruising along the side of my arm had increased and my range of motion had lessened.  He looked surprised, as if he thought I had been exaggerating or something, admitting it must be worse than it seemed.  Are you sure you’re taking the ibuprofen?  Yes.

And then onto the bald patches.  The tests came back fine.  No thyroid problem, not anemic, et cetera.  “You think it could be stress? ” he asks, and I start crying tears of frustration.  Finally he’s prompted to write a letter:

Miss Stephens has asked me to write to you to confirm that she has been attending the University Health Service here in Edinburgh as a result of a stress related condition.

Clearly you will have an overview of this student’s academic performance but if it has fallen below that expected I am sure you would wish to take the above into consideration.

I wonder how much my stress levels increased due to this whole debacle?


Photos from the gathering
April 7, 2008, 9:47 pm
Filed under: implementation

Here are a few photos from the gathering.  Only from setup and the party as it would have been quite inappropriate to try and get photos during the meeting itself.

Welcome desk:

Compost and recycling:

Kids space during day, crash space at night:

kids space

A well stocked bar:

Late into Saturday evening:

late into the evening...

Agenda and facilitation hassle
March 30, 2008, 8:04 pm
Filed under: reflective log

Oli, Tilly, Sophie TP, Mel and I had a meeting on Saturday to start working on the agenda. We ended up being there for about seven hours. Most of the difficulty stemmed from the fact that almost no one has bothered to send in proper proposals.

We knew that site group wanted a couple of hours and would take care of it themselves (great), there was a rumour that workshops wanted to do something, some scant details on budget proposals for a variety of working groups/projects and a mystery proposal from a closed mass action group. We had very few of the details necessary to work out the best order to do things or how long each session should last.

Also looming large was the threat of everything going off the rails due to a series of disagreements and an emergency meeting between the biofuels group and the networking group. After near disaster, the two groups had agreed for biofuels to do their own publicity instead of networking giving ‘equal weight’ to both. So, biofuels would now need a budget for publicity and this would need to be explained to the gathering without getting into the contentious and messy details (which had already been hashed out over email and through a series of other meetings).

The plan is to explain the barebones of the networking/biofuels debacle in the context of the request for a new budget. Of course, this means taking finance decisions to the main group which can also be scary. On the other hand, it’s good for new people to have an idea of how financial stuff is sorted and we expect there to be quite a lot of new people at the gathering.

For now, we’re going with this and frantically sending off emails to different groups, begging for more details. It’s pretty much impossible to plan the facilitation until we have more information. This is incredibly frustrating as there are loads of logistical things to be done. We’ve worked really hard at staying on top of things and now it feels like we’re behind because no one else has their stuff together.

Agenda for the Glasgow Climate Camp Gathering
March 30, 2008, 6:50 pm
Filed under: implementation

The agenda is finally finished for the gathering next weekend. It has been a long and frustrating process, but here it is:

Agenda: Climate Camp Gathering April 5-6 2008, Glasgow

Saturday April 6th

10.30am – Intro to consensus/meetings for new folks
Facilitators: Shannon and Rose

11am START

11.00– Welcome & housekeeping
Facilitators: Tilly and Sophie TP

11.15– Where we’re at: Summary of decisions from Nottingham gathering
Facilitators: Mel and Shannon

11.30 – Site group handover
Facilitators: Site group


14.30– Action updates: review of Fossil Fools Day & looking to future days of action
Facilitators: Beth and Oli

15.00– Mass action proposals & discussion
Facilitators: Mel and Oli


17.30 – Researcher’s proposal
Facilitators: Beth and Sophie TP

17.40 – Police liaison feedback/handover
Facilitators: Beth and Sophie TP

18.00 – Finance proposals
– process group budget
– caravan group budget
– biofuels group budget
– networking group budget
– activist tat collective contract
Facilitators: Shannon and Lucy


Sunday April 6th

10.00 – Housekeeping
Facilitator: Shannon

10.10 – Workshops brainstorm
Facilitator: Sophie (Leeds)

10.40 – Introduction to working groups
Facilitators: Rose, Beth and Sophie TP

11.10 – Working group time


14.00 – Working group time

15.00 – Working group feedback
Facilitators: Oli and Tilly

16.30 – Cycle rack (otherwise known as the ‘parking lot’!)
time for other issues that come up over the weekend
Facilitators: to be decided

17.40 – Location for June gathering and announcements
Facilitator: Lucy


Climate Camp photo exhibit
March 27, 2008, 7:57 pm
Filed under: implementation

After some technical difficulties, this is attempt #3 at this post.  I’ll keep it short this time.

Look!  I put the Climate Camp photo exhibit up in the Forest today:

Getting it to Edinburgh meant escaping a training session in Manchester for a quick jaunt to Sheffield and back.  Of course, when I planned all this I didn’t know the exhibit is stored in what might be the most awkward and heavy carrying cases ever created.

Somehow I made it home with everything intact.  The exhibit will be up alongside posters advertising the Glasgow gathering until next weekend.  Another part of our attempt to get new Scottish folks involved in organising and attending the camp.

Kitchen coordination for Glasgow Climate Camp gathering
March 21, 2008, 10:17 pm
Filed under: implementation

This week I’ve been working to get food related things sorted for the gathering.  Here’s how it looks:

Green City order = approx £271.50

  • soya milk (24L) – 2 x smprnsa – £25

  • tea – 440 – tebroetb – £10.50

  • coffee – 500g instant – coinclia – £12.65

  • sugar (1.5kg) – 2x1kg – stsugoe – £4.40

  • margarine (2kg) – masusoyb – £4.25

  • jam – 2 x 6x284g cherry/berry – fsmechbo – £15.20

  • peanut butter – 3kg – nbcpwsoa – £13.10

  • museli – 2x3kg – bcdeluxd – £8.30

  • porridge – 2x3kg – oaporogd – £7.60

  • bread (10 loaves) —

total (without bread) = £101

  • soup stock – 900g – ffbouoa – £9.10

  • vegan mayonnaise – 2.5kg – maypla – £7.70

  • sesame seeds – 1kg – sesesoe – £2.40

  • pumpkin seeds – 1kg = sepumoe – £3.15

  • sunflower seeds – 1kg – sesunoe – £2.30

  • couscous – 3kg – gpcouod – £5.40 (maybe only need 1)

  • sunflower oil – 3L – oisunca – £3.75 (not organic)

  • xv olive oil – 3L – oiolihaa – £12.75 (not ogranic)

  • cashews – 1kg – nucasle – £4.50 (not organic)

  • balsamic vinegar – vivinbca – £6.75 (could get cheap oil elsewhere?)

total = approx £63.30

  • kidney beans – 2x3kg – bprkbod – £8

  • chickpeas – 2x3kg – bpchiod – £8.80

  • chopped tomatoes 2 x 6×2.5kg – totomcha – £19.40

  • tomato puree – 6x1kg – topuroba – £12.55

  • tvp – 3kg – metvnmid – £6.40

  • pasta – 12x500g penne – pawpenlb – £10.35

  • rice (long grain brown) – 10kg – ribsgoc – £11.75

  • creamed coconut milk – 12x200g – cmcocobb – £8.00

  • red lentils – 3kg – bplenrod – £4.60

  • canned corn – 12x326g – cvswcor – £7.95

total = approx £92.20

  • med madras curry powder – 1kg – hbcurm – £2.95

  • garam masala – 1kg – hbgara – £2.90

  • ground coriander – 1kg – hbcorg – £2.65

  • mixed herbs – 500g – hbmixh – £2.95

  • paprika – 1kg – hbpap – £3.50

total = approx £15

BOOZE (not included in overall totals)

  • organic golden promise ale – 4x8x500ml – abgolpro = £51.60 (sell @ £2.30 – cost £1.61)

Grow Wild order: = approx £180

  • 20kg carrots

  • 25 mini cucumbers

  • 25kg potatoes

  • 10kg onions

  • 6kg broccoli

  • 5kg green pepper

  • 3kg white mushrooms

  • 10kg white cabbage

  • 10 heads red cabbage

  • 24 heads lettuce

  • 11kg apples

  • (approx 15kg veg/meal)

  • 6 heads lettuce/meal

To buy from green grocer:

  • garlic (15 bulbs)

  • coriander (8 bunches)

  • lemon juice

  • parsley (3 bunches)

  • mustard

  • cumin

  • chilli powder

  • soya sauce (1L)

  • salt

  • pepper

total = approx £20-25

From home:

  • cinnamon

  • raisins

  • bay leaves

  • flour

  • marjoram

From Forest:

  • 5kg leeks – £14

  • onions – £5

  • yeast flakes – £1.50

  • rooibos tea – £3

  • lemon and ginger tea x 2 = £2

  • extra creamed coconut x5 = £2.50

  • 6 heads lettuce?

total = approx £28

TOTAL = approx £469.50

**Skipping missions for bread!!!! Approximately 40 loaves needed.


Friday dinner – Shannon (+ help??)

  • pasta (tomato sauce with onion, broccoli, peppers, carrot, tvp)

  • green salad

  • potato salad (with mayo, mustard, onion and parsley)

Saturday breakfast – Tilly

  • porridge (with raisins, cinnamon, some soya milk, maybe apples and seeds)

  • set up museli, breads, spreads, etc

Saturday lunch – Sophie B and Yas

  • carrot and coriander soup

  • spicy veg and coconut soup

  • coleslaw (red cabbage, white cabbage, grated carrot, toasted sesame seeds)

  • green salad (approx 1L dressing for 50ppl – 1 part vinegar to 3-5 part oil)

  • bread

Saturday dinner – Katie and Cathy

  • chilli

  • rice

  • green salad

  • couscous salad

Sunday breakfast – Mel

  • porridge (with raisins, cinnamon, some soya milk and seeds)

  • set up museli, breads, spreads, etc

Sunday lunch – Sam and Oli

  • leek and potato soup

  • lentil soup

  • bean salad (mixed beans with onion, veg, carrots, coriander and vinaigrette)

  • green salad

Sunday dinner – Shannon and Nat

  • satay curry thing

  • couscous salad

  • rice

  • green salad

Monday breakfast – Shannon?

extra cooking people:

  • Rox (Saturday & Sunday lunch)

  • Jon

  • Sophie

The Forest has a bunch of wine and beer leftover from the Festival last August. It is set to expire before this year’s Festival, so we’re going to take it off their hands at slightly below cost. This is good for everyone involved as it means we don’t have to guess at booze quantities and get stuck with a bunch of beer afterwards and the Forest gets some of the money back they spent ordering the beer in the first place. Cairn O’Mohr fruit wine and Fraoch for everyone!

Normally I’m not this methodical when doing food orders. Usually it’s to top up the Forest stock or the first of several big Climate Camp orders. Thus, I don’t need to be exact as there’ll be another order to even things out soon enough. Since we don’t really have anywhere to get rid of extra food afterwards I sat down and calculated everything for 60-70 people. Of course, we also don’t know how many people will turn up, which makes things difficult.

It was also important to keep prices down. We’re asking for a suggested donation of £10 to cover food for the weekend. We’ll cover costs if 50 people turn up, but we really don’t know. I’ve received about 20 RSVPs at the gathering email address, but this is a notoriously unreliable way of judging how many people will come to the gathering. So, now I sit here nervously hoping that we get enough heads through the door to break even but no so many that we run out of food!

Facilitation training success
March 18, 2008, 1:56 pm
Filed under: reflective log

Yesterday was the facilitation training and everything seemed to go well. Rhiannon was really pleased with the turnout (20 people) and was enthusiastic about how the group up here seems to be developing. She also seemed confident that Lucy and I are capable of organising our own facilitation trainings in the future, which was encouraging to hear.

I found the sections I facilitated a bit nerve racking but feel better for having done it. The first section was just an introduction and then an explanation of some key things to keep in mind when giving and receiving constructive criticism. In the afternoon I facilitated an exercise looking at different techniques (fish bowls, spokes councils, go-rounds, spectrum lines, etc). The popular education session came into play here and I was able to input some things I learned during class as well.

It was a very long day as I was up and at the Forest by 8am to prepare lunch. The night before Rhiannon and I prepared flipcharts, divided up the facilitation and came up with examples for different exercises. Lucy came along and helped with shifting everything upstairs, getting tea ready, shifting chairs and photocopying handouts. Miraculously, we started just about on time and stuck to time limits for most of the day.

Afterwards, I cooked dinner for Rhiannon and her partner and we chatted more about movement building in Scotland. I came away feeling good about how things are coming along. It was really nice to have Rhiannon’s outside input as it can be easy to get bogged down and lose perspective when you’re so involved and close to what’s happening.