28 April 2017

Knee pads sorted for now

I know this is already the umpteenth time I write about knee pads, but these things matter. I wrote about making a new set after the old set fell apart; then I mentioned the new ones already started to come undone and that I had made a start with fitting a new hard(ish) outer layer on them. Thanks to some more work on all of them, including during the AGM of the cave rescue team, they are now both up to date. And they will wear out all the time, but it's good to start a period of wear and tear (hopefully; there had been no digging the previous week) from a position of having two good pairs. I will be able to keep up! Doing some re-stitching doesn't cost a lot of time. And I have one leather pad that has been slightly pre-formed, and which had little gullies burned into it with a hot gimlet, and now I'll see if that one is more comfortable due to the shape, and lasts longer due to the stitching being embedded. If so I know what to do if I need to put new outer layers on! I already have leather waiting...

The two pairs of knee protectors; the second one from the top has the elaborate leather pad

27 April 2017

Rescue practice

It was that time again! The AGM of the cave rescue team. And we always do some training first. We tend to do some communications, some first aid, and some rigging. Useful! I had only just done a first aid course but you remember things better when you practice them. First aiders really love acronyms (remember your Dr. ABC, your AVPU, your FAST, your FISH SHAPED?) but the lady who taught this sessions used different ones, and I think I'll stick to the ones from the first aid course. One set of acronyms is enough! And the practical differences tend to be minimal. It was a pleasant session, as the people are nice and we could do it outside, on the grass. It was excellent weather!

The rigging was useful! I rigged my first Z-rig in 2009, but given we never get call-outs I don't practice such things outside cave rescue training and we only have a few per year. I need all of them! So I needed reminding of how you do it. We also practiced a releasable deviation. That will come in handy! In the unlikely case we ever get a real call-out, that is...

26 April 2017

Weekend run

I had such a good plan! But it went wrong. I wanted to see the slate mine I had seen from a distance before Easter. The map it is on, though, does not show the whole way. I thought I'd get there on my satnav. I forgot I bought a lorry satnav, as it was cheaper. The tiny road I wanted to drive down is probably too small for a lorry. My satnav got me to the right village from the main road, but sent me straight back to said main road from there. What? I didn't have a map so I just drove in what seemed like the right direction, hoping to end up on the map in the end. I did, but not in the right place! But I ended up in a beautiful place anyway, and just had a run there. I had ended up at Llyn Cwm Dulyn, a very nice reservoir. I set off in a tank top and shorts; that was a bit cold as the logical way was up, and on hilltops it is windy. It was alright, though! And very very quiet. On sunny Saturdays there are plenty of areas in Snowdonia that are very busy.

I ran to the hilltop, or rather, I half walked and half ran up; then I half ran and half walked down. I had a sandwich and some tea at the car, and then I ran a little more on the road. At least that was a bit more consistent running! But then it was time to go home. I had stuff to do!

View from where I parked the car; the cwm in the distance contains the reservoir

The reservoir

Summery selfie

View from the top

25 April 2017


Two years ago we had a through trip in the mine opposite the one we have our digs in. We couldn't enjoy it for very long! The bottleneck in the route collapsed again. David and Paul had had a look at it since, and David was keen to go back and try again to unblock it. As Miles was otherwise engaged this week, and there therefore wasn't any digging going on, I was there too. We first went into the bottom to look at the blockage from below. Didn't look too good! And the place is rather wet so you don't want to linger there.

Phil looks at the blockage from below

We were with six people; quite a lot for a place like that. I went up and had a look; then David suggested I go down again and make place for another person. I ended up having a chat with Phil in the chamber while the other men were bashing away at the blockage. They made progress, but not enough to get through!

We then went up to approach the blockage from the other side. That is a bit of a way. There David was a bit cautious; he figured a lot of the rocks there were perched precariously above the hole and could roll down any second. Staying away doesn't unblock a blockage, though, so we had to chance it anyway. I stayed in the background; I had had a headache all day and wasn't particularly keen. And standing in places David deems dangerous gets you yelled at, and I find that unpleasant enough when I don't have a headache. I drank tea and watched the men work!

Phil jumped in and tried to move a big rock that was in the way. With some clobbering-off of pesky edges of the rock, and levering with a convenient piece of rails we had found, we managed to roll it over into a better position. Then we tried to use the rail to drop the blocking rocks down the hole but that didn't work. And time was ticking away! I was keen to go home, but that tends not to mean much to the others. Luckily Simon was tired too. We left it and went back! I initially went the wrong way, which didn't do anything for my mood (David and Phil had seen me set off but Phil thought it was on purpose and David had whispered I was going the wrong way, which he erroneously believed I would had heard). Oh well. We got out eventually, and got home. We should go back some day soon.

 David getting rid of some edge that was in the way.

We might see if one more session with the rails will do the job; otherwise we should get Miles involved, as he leases this mine too, and can just come in and blow up the blocking rocks by means of a normal day in the office. It would be nice to have that through trip back!

24 April 2017

TV ostracised

Last summer I suddenly noticed I hadn't watched television for a while. I quite liked it that way; since then, I have only watched one and a half episode of Planet Earth II (if you have a TV anyway, this is something you might as well watch) and one programme on S4C, as I had to watch something as homework for Welsh class. That was it. I'm not going to keep paying for a license fee if I only want to watch three programmes per year. I can cut these out too! So I have decided to let go of it. I think I'll keep the TV for now as that means I can still organise a film night (not that that happens very often), but maybe in the long run the entire TV will just go. Who needs one!

Find the TV

22 April 2017

Easter in the Netherlands

Normally I avoid the Netherlands during Easter! Many of my friends go hiking then. But this year I was late with booking a spring trip, and I am not biblical enough to know off by heart when Easter is, so I accidentally booked my trip slap bang in the middle of it. My main aim in the Netherlands is always my mother, and she doesn't go hiking then, so it wasn't a problem. But I would have a more family-focussed trip this time than usual!

I spent most of the time with my mother. That's always nice! We went to the cheese shop and I tuned a radio for her and I worked on a piece of leather for a knee pad I had brought. And I had brought some work stuff to read. And of course we drank buckets of coffee, tea and wine. Lovely!

 A Rietveld chair had appeared at the Koppelpoort

I also had left running kit at her place last time; so without having to lug bulky shoes to the Netherlands I could go for a run. I ran down memory lane; when I was a small kid, my dad often took my sisters and me to a nearby area with wind-blown dunes. Not the coastal ones (although he did that too, but that was logistically more work) but some which are a relic from the second-last ice age. I ran all the way to them! Not onto them; the loose sand is a pain for running, but it was great to see them again. I hadn't been in so long! There's still something magic about that landscape.

The dunes!

One of the few not hiking was Floor, so we could meet up. We went for dinner in Amsterdam. Train travel between Amersfoort and Amsterdam wasn't possible so I travelled via Utrecht, but hey ho. We met in an Indonesian restaurant I had quickly googled at Manchester Airport. I think it was a good choice! It was in Bos en Lommer, so we avoided any outrageous Easter tourist crowds which would restrict themselves to the centre, and the food was amazing. And Floor had come by train, so he could have a beer. After dinner we walked in the direction of Central Station, and when we passed a pub we decided to go for an extra pint. Or rather, an extra 30cl of beer; this is Amsterdam after all. It was good to catch up! So good I turned out to have the last train home. Oh well. I still came home!

I travelled over station Sloterdijk; not the most scenic part of Amsterdam, but it was sunny

I also popped by my sister, who had just rowed a marathon; she was in bed when I arrived (the rowing had taken place at rather unusual hours) but that was OK; that way I could catch up with her husband and children. My niece now has a harp! And she played me a welcome song. I was touched. When my sister appeared she announced she was fine; no aching muscles to speak of. Good work!

In the evening we went out for dinner with one of our cousins; we try to do a cousin dinner a few times a year, but there are only seven of us in total, so it never gets too crowded. We are spread out over four different countries; two different continents, even. And not everybody is on speaking terms with everybody. And the youngest of seven had just had a child! He has other things on his mind now. Like not letting the family name go extinct. So three out of seven wasn't bad. And as usual it was good!

Cousin dinner with Petra, Sandra and me, posing with our desserts

The next day we had a relaxed breakfast, and when that had gone down a bit I went for another run. My niece offered to come with me! That sounded good. The whole family has running on its mind; every year the town organised a City Run and it had just been. It was still resonating! We set off; she suggested we do her usual loop. Fine with me! Except that my presence seemed to distract her a bit and within minutes we had veered off her usual route. We traversed the entire heather field in all sorts of directions. After a longer run than intended we got back to town. When we reached the houses again I asked if she was OK with me adding a little loop; I wanted to do some distance at 41-year-old speed rather than 10-year-old-speed. She was! So I did half an hour extra and came back satisfied.

That night I went back to my mother. The next morning I would go to my dad, who had been hiking in the Ardennes. I woke up before my mother; I did my exercises and had a shower, hoping she would stir too. I would only have limited time at my dad's! When she still didn't I woke her up. Then we had breakfast together and then I was gone again. I'll be back in ~2.5 months!

My dad came to pick me up from the railway station, and made me some coffee. Then he left again; he had to pick up the elderly lady from a few doors down. So nice, a street in which the people look after each other! Then he came back and we had some lunch. Then we went for a walk. A family process had started of discussing the time between the divorce and us leaving home, and I had some things to say. That went well, except for the violent hailstorm that festooned my words. It was a confusing time; for me it was between the ages of 12 and 17, and that probably is a confusing time anyway, but sharing it with two other confused teenagers and a father to whom parenting doesn't come naturally exacerbates the situation. But we're making progress making sense of it!

And then it was time to go home. All went well! On the airport I did some more work, which would alleviate the post-Easter work rush. Altogether a successful home visit! And I already know when I'll be back...

Reading articles with a backdrop of KLM planes

20 April 2017

Essays as far as the eye can see

No contact hours doen't mean no work. For my fourth year module my twenty students had to write a 4000 word essay each on a climate topic. That's a lot of work to mark! Luckily they are quite interesting, and they even pointed me in the direction of some interesting articles I wasn't aware of. There is a lot to climate and I'm not up to date on all of it!

When I was done with these, I had a left-over first year essay to mark. Then I moved on to the pile of second year essays... These were on fairly arbitrary topics. That went a bit quicker. Most of them are done now. I enjoyed it, but I think I should learn to be a bit faster. I spend too much time on this...

When it's all done I can move on to making assessments, making a new reference collection, and changing the fieldwork assignment (again). And start on organising the entire field trip! That's daunting...