Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Post National Gathering (by Lottie)

In the end I didn't acquire talent, because I couldn't go to Manchester. But what I hear from Sven, who did go, is this.

It was our third National Gathering; six weeks ago we applied for membership. Our application didn't make it into the agenda, so we couldn't be reviewed by the other co-ops beforehand, and so we're not members of Radical Routes. But we're going to reapply, and lots of us are enthusiastic about getting to the next meeting.

I also hear that the food was amazing! I wish I could have gone. Maybe I can convince Sven to blog about the gathering!

Friday, 12 November 2010

The National Gathering (by Lottie)


I'm scared. The National Gathering in Manchester is just a week away, and I hear there will be a talent show. My two talents that I can think of are knitting and owning a cat who likes to climb in the fridge and/or eat vegetarian bacon. MUST. ACQUIRE. TALENT.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Littlest Golem

Hello again -

We've been a bit quiet for a few weeks, but with very good reason. Our seventh Golem has finally arrived in the world, and we're all just a little bit excited - and thus distracted from even co-op-y goodness- about it.

So, in the way that birth announcements are usually phrased, I shall give you the details. Finn Frederick Andrew Buddle-Kay was born on November 4th 2010 at 3:56pm, weighing 7lb 9oz.

He's very hairy, and not just on his head. He has a very sweet dimple in his chin, and it's hilarious when he hiccups. He only likes sleeping in his rainbow blanket, kindly knitted by Joe. Sometimes he does jazz hands in his sleep. These are the tiny things we have been enjoying in the 6 days since he was born, and that's why you haven't had any blog posts;-)

I'm not sure how anyone gets through the first days with a newborn (especially post c-section) without a herd of golems to help out. I've been fed and had things carried about for me, and Finn has been the receptor of an almost non-stop stream of cuddles since he got home on Saturday. There is seldom not someone else about to help by holding him, which makes an enormous difference. He's had a few outings in his sling, which have been very successful, but it's marvelous knowing there are so many adults around who care about him so much. It feels like he's truly a co-op baby:-)

Today we had a visitor from Random Camel, the lovely Gemma. She had a few hours in Swansea between a ferry and a train, and called in to Golem HQ for breakfast. Lloyd and Joe had to rush off for lectures, but it was lovely to be visited by someone and to start feeling like more of a proper co-op.

There was some baby snuggling, and some exciting co-op talk, and I think it brought it back to us that there are other things to do in life than stare at newborns - although that's important too. Hopefully we will soon be back in the swing of meetings and looking for houses, only this time it'll be knowing who the 7th golem is :-D

I'm off to give the wee one some grub, and hopefully to have a nap, and to generally revel in his newness.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Social change this week (by Lottie)

I've been working on this new webcomic, which is a bit polyamorous and genderly interesting. I'll share a link when I've got a few more comics up; I hope to do another today. I also went to a great skill-sharing, crafty get-together with some of the Transition Crafts people, and I went to a Bi Swansea meeting, and a Golem meeting. Then there was shopping, cooking and cleaning up for the co-op. So not as much as usual, but more out-and-about things.

This week I am ill with this evil cold that's floating about, and I'm also going to Paris, so goodness knows how I'll make my 16 hours...!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Joy of Meetings (by Hannah)

I don't know how many hours I've done this week which could count towards my social change quota, but  I do know that they have virtually all been in meetings.

Social change again (by Lottie)

Helloo, :)

This week for social change I've done 17 of my 16 hours thusly:

The last of the tiny hats, various co-op meetings, leaflets and publicity for loanstock, going to view a house, and shopping and cleaning up and cooking for the co-op. I've also been ensconced in co-ordinating the co-op for a Suma bulk order thingy, which is going quite well.

Hurrah! Not very radical, but a bit radical.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Learning from experience (by Lottie)

Today we went to have a look around the property we love so much, and because the academic year has started the rooms were full of students. We could only look around two of the eight bedrooms, and the students have signed contracts to stay in the property until June 2011. Not ideal, as tenants must be members of the co-op, so we couldn't let them stay there and pay us rent until June either.

So what we've learned is, before we view a house, to ask the estate agent to confirm with the vendor that the house is empty or can be empty right away. Twice now we've arrived at a house to have a look around, only to be told by the estate agent that the house is occupied!

We're not ruling it out right away, but it certainly looks like we won't be moving house any time soon.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Golems - or "So why are you called the Golem Housing Co-op anyway?"

Well its a bit of a long story.

We're forming a co-operative because we don't like the idea of a house being an asset. We don't care about how much the thing is worth in 10 years time - we just want somewhere to live. We'd be pretty committed to this idea regardless, but the current state of the housing market in the UK seems to be emphasising our point. House prices are too high. The reasons they are too high are numerous - we're a densely populated island, we have strict planning laws and a shortage of land. But the big one driving all of this is speculation. If a house is seen as an asset then its value as a useful item is irrelevant to how much it costs. People will keep on paying ridiculous prices for houses so long as they think that in the future somebody will pay even more. Though fortunately this may be finally changing.

So as well all of the other benefits of setting up a co-op, one really good ancillary effect is taking a house out of this crazy speculative market. This house will never need to be bought or sold again. It can go on being a housing co-op until its no longer a house. Plus, once the mortgage is paid off, the money made from rent can be used to buy more houses, to transform them from assets to homes. We like to think of it as a socially conscious, very slow revolution.

Now I'm going to take a bit of time out from talking politics, to tell you about Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett writes about the discworld, a semi-comic fantasy world where all the mythical creatures you can think of are real, and are looking for jobs. The golems of discworld however, are property. As virtually indestructable beings made of clay, from ancient times, their ownership has been passed on for far longer than anyone can remember. The golems for the most part seem to accept their lot in life, existing primarily to work. Then one day a man buys a golem, and gives that golem his own receipt.

After some initial ill-thought out destruction vested upon his former owner's business premises, the now free golem seeks employment. Seeing as he is a large clay statue, he has no need of his wages, and so saves them until he has raised enough to buy another golem, and another. Soon there are dozens of free golems, all working not for their own benefit, but to extend the freedom of their race. A truly socially conscious revolution. If they are property, what stops them from buying themselves out of the market?

Well, if it works for golems, why not for houses?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Leaflet: We has it. (by Lottie)


So today me and Sven wrote up a leaflet telling people about loanstock, why we want it and how much it helps us. Here it is on Google Docs ; though the format is a bit different, it gets the message across quite well. If you feel inspired to print it off and give it to friends who might be interested, please go ahead! ;) We've put posters and leaflets in our Environment Centre and the Dylan Thomas Centre.

We also checked out the Nationwide Building Society account for organisations, and it was pretty limited. Our search for environmentally-minded, co-op savvy solicitors hasn't advanced far yet. As Hannah mentioned, we'll surely have more news for you after our next meeting!


Busy Bees (by Hannah)

Everything's gone into overdrive here, since we discovered that a house that we liked but could previously not afford is now going at auction. Last night our planned Secondary Rules workshop (click here for an insight into the idea of Secondary Rules) was usurped by a four hour planning meeting, in which I learnt more about the process of buying a house than I ever expected to know. Impressively, I found the whole thing fascinating, especially once we'd written a timeline and thuswise made sense of it all. There is so much for us all to learn.

The process may be complex, but the beauty of working as a co-op is that people can take on roles most suited to themselves, and there is always extra support available for tricky jobs. Sven had two volunteers to help with creating the loanstock flyer, and though Lloyd was happy to work on the provisional business plan by himself, there are two volunteers to help him if he feels that he needs it. Me and Lloyd's mission today was to research potential bank accounts with the Co-operative Bank. Sven and Lottie were dispatched to Nationwide, as some co-op members bank with them and we wanted to ensure we had several options. I haven't heard the Nationwide feedback yet, but I was pleased to discover that the Co-op Bank has a special bank account for co-ops. This is perhaps unsurprising, as they are a co-op themselves, but they will not give mortgages to housing co-ops, so before we went along I wasn't 100% convinced they'd be able to help us. We'll be deciding which to go for at a future meeting.

We all came away from the meeting with jobs to do, and I'm sure there will be more progress and exciting news before the week is out :-)

Monday, 11 October 2010

House. House house house.

Just a little update to let you, dear followers, know that we have found a prospective house. Number 1 Oaklands Terrace is our new belle, and a beauty she is at that. At £165,000 she is not a cheap date, and we will have to make the money appear pretty fast as she will be going to auction on the 17th of November. But there is a viable chance that we will be able to do this. Which is pretty exciting.

If only enthusiasm were currency...

On that note, if any of you dear readers would like to add to our loanstock then please have a peek at the 'Loanstock' section (which I am currently building) to see how and why.

Keep safe, have fun.

Mattie Rose

Social Change this week (by Lottie)

I probably won't blog every week, but anyway. I've been keeping track of my social change stuff, and it's quite weighted in the tiny hat direction. Voila:

18 tiny hats: 14 hours.
Housing co-op meeting: 1 hour.
Shopping, cooking and cleaning up from cooking co-op: 3 hours.
A random act of kindness online: 30 mins.

Total: 18.5 hours.

Soon the tiny hat challenge will be over, so I'll be forced to find other activities! Probably a good thing...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Cost of Cooking (by Lottie)

For me, the cooking co-op is a really life-changing system. Energy-wise, I have CFS, so walking around the corner a few days a week for a good home-cooked meal is a huge difference from shopping, preparing, cooking, eating and clearing up after a meal. Not to mention there's less risk of the burns, cuts and other general hazards of food preparation that are a daily occurrence for someone whose brain and body don't work as well as they should!

But if it weren't for that, I would still be very enthusiastic about the cooking co-op, and I'll tell you for why. I am constantly broke, and the cooking co-op saves me bucketloads of pennies.

Cooking a meal for myself, something simple and sensible like rice with stir-fried vegetables, costs me about 15-20p in electricity, according to my smartmeter that I got free from British Gas. Cooking for five people costs me about 20-35p for the same meal. Supposing the cooking co-op happens on all five possible days of the week, that means I save that solo-cooking amount on four of the days, in exchange for the five-people-cooking amount on one of the days. This leaves two days of ordinary solo-cookery. Ie:

Monday: Co-op cooks for me, £0.
Tuesday:  Co-op cooks for me, £0.
Wednesday:  Co-op cooks for me, £0.
Thursday:  Co-op cooks for me, £0.
Friday: I cook for the co-op, £0.35
Saturday: Solo cookery, £0.20
Sunday: Solo cookery, £0.20

So in one week, instead of paying [Solo cookery x 7 =] £1.40, I actually pay the above-calculated amount of £0.75, and I save just under half. That's a saving of £2.82 per month, or £33.80 per year. How awesome is that? (It doesn't sound like much, but every penny helps me. 50% of my electricity goes on my fridge and I don't really use it.) And that's just electricity; it's a lot more when you factor in that buying in bulk is cheaper, and when you're cooking for more people there's less food wasted, and less packaging...

I'm not going to calculate the carbon produced, 'cos I think that is a fudging stupid system. That is a long story, but this amusing video goes a little way towards explaining why.

In summary: Start a cooking co-op.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

General Social Change Stuff (by Lottie)


I've been pondering social change, lately. For your co-op to be a member of Radical Routes, each member needs to do 16 hours per week of work towards social change. We're not members yet, though we hope to be soon. So I'm trying to get myself motivated to get the hours done. I've got a piece of paper attached to my kitchen door, where I'll keep a log of how many hours I'm doing and how they're being spent. Generally speaking, here's some of the stuff I do already; it's not very energetic or radical, but I'm working on it. I'm going to blog here about anything really interesting I find, in case you're looking for inspiration.

  • I do some gardening. I grow a few of my own veggies in my 12 x 14 foot raised-bed-like area. Here's some Flickr photos of how it looks when it's tidy and productive! I compost most of my food waste, and a lot of my non-food waste too.
  • I knit a tiny hat every day for Innocent Drinks; for every hat on a smoothie that's sold, 35p goes to the awesome charity Age UK. I blog about it; the deadline approacheth, and I am way behind.
  • I take part in the co-op cooking rota. Every week we all cook once for everyone. At the moment, I am really enjoying learning to cook new dishes. I plan to do a blog post working out how much money this saves.
  • I do lots of little things; I use and talk about my Mooncup, I turn down plastic bags all the time, I recycle everything I can, I make things from other things so I don't have to pay for them, if I have good stuff I don't want I leave it on the side of the road for someone else, I buy only second hand clothes, and when I can I go to various community events.

I have this illness that means I can't get out and do things as much as I'd like, but when I have the energy I take part in protests and rallies for radical change. I like excuses to go to London on the train!

In the near future, I plan to take part in more community events as energy allows, especially sexuality and skillsharing gubbins. I'm very open to craft-related social change ideas and ideas for direct action, so bung your thoughts in the comments if you feel like it.

Thanks for visiting our blog!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Welcome To Our Blog (by Hannah)

Hi there -

We've been talking about setting up a website for some time, and it's been decided that, for now, this is the most straight forward way to do it - so here we are!

The Golem Housing Co-operative is a small, fledgling co-op based in Swansea. At the moment there are 6 adults, and we have a new member on the way in November as I am currently 34 weeks pregnant. We're hoping to be able to buy a house for us all to live in, so that we can provide ourselves with affordable housing. We're also all fans of co-operative living, and have been learning about things such as consensus decision making to help with this.

Currently four of us live together, one lives in the next street and one lives about a 20 minute walk away, but we are doing all that we can to build the sense of community between us until we all live together by doing things like having a cooking rota so that we can eat together most nights, buying food together through a Suma order, and having lots of lovely meetings. :-)

Living in shared housing is often seen as something that people do when they're young, and it's usually presumed to be a stepping stone on the way to renting our own place and eventually buying our own house. This is generally seen as the cultural ideal, but does it always make sense? As a group we enjoy lots of aspects of communal living. We can share costs for bills and repairs. We can all do our bit around the house. Sharing cooking saves energy and makes more efficient use of everyone's time. By sharing space we are making better use of already existing housing, reducing the need to build more. When we need someone to talk to, there's often someone there to have a cup of tea with.

The social, environmental and financial benefits of living together are enormous, and we are hoping to take this to the next level by becoming our own landlords too. This will mean that we can make long-term improvements to the property we live in, and build a stable, long-term community where we can support each other.

This blog is a place for us to write about our journey towards buying a house, building a community, and expanding and sharing our skills and interests. We'd love to hear from anyone interested in housing co-ops, the environment, reskilling, or just about anything else. :-)

Much love,