Friday, 18 February 2011

Giving up hope

Today was the day I was asked to go and meet my minders (= my NHS employers, the representatives of whom were two men in suits) to discuss my greencare activities (= use of the yurt from which we have been banned). Suitably impressed with the implied gravity of the situation, I made arrangements to miss a meeting in London and be there, come what may.

The facts of the matter are simple:
  • my NHS employer is not willing to collaborate with the greencare project
  • returning to the yurt might be possible when somebody in the next tier of management reviews the H&S, governance and liability documents which were submitted four weeks ago
  • It must be recorded in the clinical records of all individuals that it is my clinical opinion that they have the mental capacity to give free and informed consent to participating in the greencare activities
I could write and rant about the implications of this rather sad upshot - but for the moment will just mull it over, it's hard to know whether to be depressed or furious - but at least I still feel that I have the luxury of that choice. I might post some thoughts here about why the NHS is not nowadays fit-for-purpose for delivering any meaningful innovation or creativity in mental health care...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Yurt Attack

I'm aware I have been a bit gloomy about the yurt, and how everything to do with it has been going wrong. So here is a piece that David, our Green Man, has written for the Ecominds funders, who are administering our lottery grant:

‘Putting up your yurt is a simple task that will take between 2 and 4 Hours’!  Oh yes.   Having taken 3 Saturdays of staff working with service users to prepare a cob floor for the yurt we decided it was time to move, the yurt was being erected.   The floor was not finished but every task takes at least twice as long as planned, especially when you are doing something for the first time, learning from a book!    The floor would be OK until spring, it would not dry in winter.

We had a competent team, with someone who had erected a yurt previously to lead us.   OK so it is a big Yurt (21’) but getting the skeleton erected itself took 5 hours.   It was finding the right poles, strapping them together, erecting the roof.    By the time the inner linen was in place the day was drawing in, time for home.   Monday morning it was great to see the roof supports dangling in the air, they could be discarded.      Thursday lashed with sleety rain, panic, linen should not be left exposed to the forces.   The sleet was lashing as two staff got the linen off the skeleton to frozen hands & a heavy heart the following week.   A wet linen cover was transported to the project Chair’s house for Christmas, much to the joy of his wife!      Was the skeleton OK to leave uncovered?    NO said the Yurt builder, NO, NO, NO.   The wood would swell & may snap if left unprotected in the cold, wet winter.   Next chance, the Saturday we decided we would get the canvas outer over the skeleton.   There were two staff & two service users turned up.   After debate we agreed, just the canvas, the linen & felt protection could wait, essentials were needed..   That took 4 hours & when we had got it finished we realised, it was inside out!   Oh well at least it covered the skeleton.   Monday saw our group members move the wood burner & light a fire which soon warmed cold bodies & started to try out the Yurt.  Service users had a place they could call their own, it was not finished but the pride in having your own place shone through, this was their Yurt.    Even without the protective felt the Yurt was surprisingly warm in the cold winter weather, fine for meetings and therapy.

The whole procedure must be carried out again in the spring, but at least we might have some idea what we are doing, perhaps!

We had fun (looking back on it) & made many mistakes erecting a Yurt.   It was meant to take 4 hours max., so far after 16 hours we know what to do & have a skeleton to place the cover on.    At the moment the wooden skeleton is covered by the outer canvas, but having erected this we realised the canvas is inside out!    We now have some idea, mistakes are an excellent learning tool, how to erect the yurt.  As warmer weather arrives & spring blooms we will be able to take the canvas off & place the linen, felt & canvas on the skeleton.
Despite only have canvas protection once the wood burner was lit the Yurt soon became comfortably warm, smoke billowing from the chimney.   It might not be finished but there is a glow of service user ownership, this is their Yurt for their project, ownership is a very strong motivating force.

Our yurt's first smoke

Thursday, 3 February 2011

CIty farm, here we come?

Better news today.

There is a council-owned site, in a particularly run-down area of Slough, that we have been to see as a possible place to build our greencare project. Nothing is certain as yet, but it is by collaborating with a local authority-run project who deal with the same emotional problems as we do – only as ‘troubled families’ rather than as ‘troubled individuals’.

It has plenty of room indoors for our therapy groups, has space for the yurt to go for the greencare part, enough garden for a lot of horticulture (and maybe even chickens and GEESE), and does not have any of the whiff of a municipal, or corporate, or medical space.

Oh boy – wouldn’t it give fantastic opportunities for really joined-up services if this came off. Watch this space.