Tom Steinberg popped into Demos last night and was chatting about how HearFromYourMP is growing surely but steadily without any publicity. The idea is that when 50 people sign up for a particular constiuency, a message will be sent to the MP asking if they want to use the email list that’s been generated for a discussion.

I signed up a little while ago but just noticed that you can see how many people have signed up in your constituency and, well, Carshalton and Wallington isn’t doing very well. We’re on 4. I’m going to see if I can encourage a few friends…

About Time

I spent a wonderful evening yesterday chatting about a new book that my former colleagues at Forum for the Future have put together called About Time. Loads of interesting links to the project I’m working on next year in London in partnership with the Long Now Foundation (who, incidentally, have just unveiled the next version of the 10,000 year clock).

As we were talking about the effect of speed on our lives, I couldn’t help thinking about a bit of Mostly Harmless where Arthur Dent ends up on a planet called Lamuella:

“The days were just a little over twenty-five hours long, which basically meant an extra hour in bed every single day and, of course, having regularly to reset his watch, which Arthur rather enjoyed doing.

He also felt at home with the number of suns and moons which Lamuella had — one of each — as opposed to some of the planets he’d fetched up on from time to time which had had ridiculous numbers of them.

The planet orbited its single sun every three hundred days, which was a good number because it meant the year didn’t drag by. The moon orbited Lamuella just over nine times a year, which meant that a month was a little over thirty days, which was absolutely perfect because it gave you a little more time to get things done in. It was not merely reassuringly like Earth, it was actually rather an improvement.”

A Sunday in Harrow

I spent my Sunday at the UK’s fist Open Budget in Harrow in north west London seeing how things worked. Polly Billington of the BBC’s Today programme was there too and put together this really nice package about what happened.

I wish Matthew Parris (who speaks in the discussion after the package) had come along. His muddled garble of rentaquotes showed no understanding of what actually took place.

I’ll post more thoughts soon.

BedZED Blog — October 2005

BedZED is just over three years old now. Clematis, rose and golden hop plants are beginning to hide some of the metal and brick and making the place look a bit more lived in. It’s aging well I think and I still get a kick out of the architecture — especially on perfect blue-skied days like today. The low sun gives the whole place a warm orange glow as it reflects off the brickwork.

A Japanese delegation is having a look around. I was just hanging out my washing when I noticed I was being filmed. I just hope it wasn’t for primetime.

So I suppose the good news about BedZED is that there’s no real news. It hasn’t turned into a disaster. It isn’t a white elephant that nobody wants to live in — quite the opposite, properties seem to shift fairly quickly when they do come onto the market. It seems to tootle along quite happily with little innovations gradually adding to the sense of community.

For example we now have an email group as well as a BedZED newsletter. There are regular yoga classes starting up and on a more impressive level Bill Dunster is planning on opening up a renewables shop on site where you can turn up and buy solar panels or mini wind turbines off the shelf.

My only complaint would be that the Friday evening bring-your-own bar has become a bit less frequent but I think I might try and get that up and running again as I’m hopefully going to work from home a bit more in the future.

It was interesting watching the Stirling Prize on telly last weekend to see how mainstream sustainability now is in the architecture world. The FT also ran a supplement at the weekend about sustainable housing… although theirs was at the (how can I put it?) upper end of the housing market.

I think BedZED has definitely been part of the shift towards acceptability of sustainability (it was nominated for the Stirling in 2003). The problem, of course, is the ‘volume’ house builders who seem to be doing everything possible to avoid putting sustainability into practice. And at a time when the Government is pushing for hundreds of thousands of new homes in the south east, that’s very worrying.

Them, us and Segways

One of the more surreal moments of Labour Party conference last week was emerging from security into the area in front of the Brighton Centre to see three people going round in circles on Segways. For those of you not familiar with ‘ginger’, it’s a two wheel gyroscope enabled human transporter. I once had a go on one at Stanford University and didn’t fall off (unlike one person). For some reason they always make me giggle. I mean, what’s the point?

If I was being cruel I could ask the same about Labour Party conference as a whole. I realised this year more than last that it’s a place of strict divides and categories. What type of pass you have; who’s up, who’s down; whether you’re on the list or not. Everything is carefully managed to make sure there’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’.

I’m usually on the outside and I’m certainly not important enough to get invited to the good parties. This year the only one I got into was hosted by The Telegraph which was full of men with unfortunate haircuts and pinstripe suits. The wine was awful and I left after about five minutes.