19 October 2019

Lliwedd mine

Some weeks ago I had gone for a walk with my colleague Kate. And that had been fab! So we had both been travelling but were now back, and we had decided that provided an opportunity to do something similar. But this time, we would only use half a day. On Saturday I was busy with other things, and on Sunday the weather forecast said lots of rain in the morning but a fairly dry afternoon. So we needed a shortish but nice trip. I suggested Lliwedd mine. I had suggested to the Cornish to go there but they had already been there. Now Kate and I could see for ourselves!

We met up on a layby near the start of the Watkin path. And got started! It still rained, but the advantage of that was that there weren't many people around and there had been parking space. And we set off! Luckily this kind of landscape is beautiful in the rain.

It was also a blessing to walk with a woman, and specifically a woman who spends a lot of time surrounded by men! When I mentioned the remark Mick had made the Thursday before, she didn't need any more explanation; she immediately said something like 'ah, and then you called it out, and then you were the bad guy, and the men didn't quite see what had been so problematic about what he had said in the first place'. Spot on! So lovely to not have to wade through treacle to explain how such things work. A bit sad, though, that this is so bloody evident to the first women you talk to. Probably to any woman. But we were no there to ponder that.

View near the start of the walk

We were just walking up until where we expected the junction to be. And it wasn't there! Only then did we get the map out and have a look. We had overshot considerably! Oh dear. But no worries; we just went back down. And found the junction. On we went!

The bridge near the junction

The path just beyond the bridge

The landscape was lovely. The weather a bit variable! It was supposed to stop raining at about three and it did. Great! We even got some sun. And after not too much time we saw something that looked like spoil. Would this be our mine? And it was! And there the path stops. It must have been the path over which the produce of the mine was transported. And that the miners used too!

The Watkin path reflects the first rays of sun

First traces of the mine

We admired the spoil heaps and the waterfalls that probably were a bit more ubiquitous than normal. And we saw an adit! But it was quite wet so we didn't want to go in. Instead we started our way up; we knew the actual mine was higher up on the hill. So we started a slog up the spoil heap. And soon we came to the first sign of the actual stope. I had expected to be very limited, but this place went down to the centre of the world! It was very impressive. But we were not equipped to go in. If we want to do a proper explore we have to one day go back with drills and ropes and whatnot! 

For now we restricted ourselves to a cup of tea in a slightly sheltered spot. It had started raining again! That wasn't ideal but there are worse things. And then we went onwards.


The adit in the lower left corner

The stope! 

We followed the stope all the way up the hill. It was impressive! And it kept being rather inaccessible by people who didn't have ropes and such. And it kept being rather wet. Waterfalls coming in from all directions! And the landscape was lovely. The going was not always easy; some bits were so steep I went down on all fours. But we got there.

When we reached the top we had to come back. We decided we would try to avoid the spoil. It's difficult to come down very steep scree without falling over or twisting your ankle or something like that. We tried the soggy grassy slope. And we got so far but had to go back to the scree at some point. But it was OK! And we got back to the path. And from there the rain stayed away and we had a lovely walk down. 

It had been a good trip! Good company, beautiful landscapes, and a great mine! Yes we now had to hang out quite some soggy gear but that's a small price to pay!

18 October 2019

Painting the kitchen

All the prep work had been done. It was time to paint the kitchen! Or at least, the two prepped walls. So on a Saturday morning I set to work! And it went well. Most of it with a roller, and the edges with a brush. And when I had done both I could pretty much start the first one again. And it only took two coats! And in the early afternoon it was all done! So in the evening I took the masking tape off, removed the newspapers, put the radiator shelf back and hung up a few pictures. And the kitchen looked so much better! Albeit a bit pale. In the other rooms I had no problem with the magnolia and white combination. On the ground floor that was because of the ceiling beams, and in the top floor probably because the rooms are quite narrow. The kitchen isn't! So after some pondering a bit I figured maybe I should paint the ceiling yellow. But that's a bit deeper down on the to do list. And I still have the third wall to do! But I am quite chuffed with these two walls!

 Pristine wall! 

The self-plastered wall

The ceiling; nicotine brown with filler white (there used to be an industrial strip light there)

17 October 2019

Trying to salvage a shit night (not) underground

When I woke up on Friday after a particularly unpleasantThursdayNighter trip I noticed I was still upset. I figured I had best try to do something about it. So I went to David's office. We first talked some more pragmatic stuff and then I mentioned what had happened between me and Mick the night before. And he knew everything already! The men had been talking while I wasn't paying attention. He said Mick hadn't meant it, it is just his way of filling a silence. I know that, but I didn't think that excused him. 'It was just a joke' is a phrase that has been used way, way too often to excuse awful misogyny and racism and homophobia (and probably a lot more things). It doesn't stop it being hurtful.

He also said Mick had been very nervous about his upcoming operation, and that that was the reason he wasn't careful with his words. And he said Mick had improved a lot recently! And that he and the other men had tried to slowly but steadily chip away at Mick's behaviour. Mick is a roadie and that job seems to come with built-in offensive language. He said the men not encouraging him was their way of showing disapproval! Well that was subtle. How was I supposed to read their silence (there was some laughter at Mick's 'joke' but indeed, it hadn't been much) as a condemnation? How was I to know they even condemned it if they never supported me? These Brits. There is so much they don’t say. Why don’t they say things like these? It would have been so good to know they, sort of, actually supported me! As apparently saying that you don't think sexual assault is funny, and that you're so upset about it you need to explicitly point your upset out to the perpetrator, isn't enough for these blokes to realise I'm upset, but they do expect me to be very fine-tuned to Mick's state of mind. Yeah thanks.

He also said he hated conflicts and hated being in between. I understand! That’s the story of my life. But I figured they had been so careful with Mick’s feelings they had had no space left for being careful with mine. And as David isn’t really particularly enlightened I used a blunt tool to bring the message home: I asked him if he would have let the remark go if it had been about his daughter. I hate having to use the ‘imagine it’s your daughter’ trope; men should care whether it concerns their own offspring or not! But I think it needed doing. I could see from his face this hit home. So, if it’s not OK if it is your daughter, why is it OK for someone else’s daughter? If you have a daughter, should you have the position that only defending your own is OK? You can't really blame the other 3.5 billion men on the planet for not defending yours if you don't defend theirs!

He also criticised me for being too blunt. I should have spoken to Mick in private, I should have not been so confrontational, as it was I might just have as a result that Mick would just think ‘these bloody women’ and never bother with trying to avoid being hurtful ever again. I figured that maybe he was right but it was also easy for him to say. I had never been supported by the ThursdayNighters! How was I supposed to find exactly the right time and words and whatnot if I was in such a hostile environment? It’s all good and well to expect perfection from me and not very much from Mick when he was surrounded by friends and I was socially isolated. But I don’t think David understood how I had been feeling. 

Additionally, David said Mick was very upset. I was a bit surprised. Yes Mick isn't as indifferent as he tries to pretend he is, but since when do I have that much influence on him? That was probably also the reason we aborted the mission and went to the pub. People were concerned about Mick! Not me, evidently. But I didn’t want Mick to be upset. True, I was glad to hear my message had got home, but I didn’t want him to be miserable. Especially with that operation coming up! So I figured maybe I should send him a message of support. For the operation, that is; not for his words of the evening before. I would want to make clear these are two different things.
I went back to my office and sent a message to Mick. Fairly soon I had one back. With apologies! I appreciated that. And said so. But then it was time to go and go back to my teaching. I had a lecture and a tutorial coming up! 

When I got home that evening I was still miserable. I am not necessarily the fastest in letting the penny drop (I am a scientist; my pennies are supposed to only drop after either serious study of scientific literature, or thorough experimentation) and it had only clocked with me after I’d left David’s office that he had clearly known about the whole event the whole time. AND HADN’T SAID A WORD. So he’d been fretting about Mick all night. And all morning. And not thought of asking me if I was OK? FFS! So if you make an unacceptable remark and get told off for it you deserve all the love and care from your friends. If you are the one to call out the remark you did it the wrong way, the wrong time, the wrong place, and you had to bloody sort yourself out without any support from anybody. I know, this is how it always goes, but it still hurts. So what to do now? I wasn’t sure. That night I couldn’t sleep. 

The next morning I was still miserable. What should I do! Phone David? Phone Phil, who is a friend and probably the most woman-friendly of the whole bunch? Yes he also sometimes says dubious things, but when you talk about it with him he’s supportive. He doesn’t shoot straight into straight white male mode. He listens! Maybe write David a mail? Maybe leave it until Monday? I wasn’t sure. In the end I decided to settle on a mail to David. Maybe it would backfire! I have never really managed to talk something out with David. If he doesn’t see something as a problem you can tell him that you do, but then he shrugs and won’t discuss the matter. So this was risky! But I was very unhappy and figured now it had to happen: vent my spleen, and see how he would respond. Dismiss me as an overreacting woman: then it was time to quit the ThursdayNighters. Actually listen and let the information sink in: then maybe I would finally get an ally. And that would be great! 

Pretty much the entire afternoon went into writing blogposts like these and the mail to David. And when I pressed ‘send’ I already felt better. And then all I could do was wait! 

On Sunday I got an email back. He apologised for not mailing back sooner! And he said it was quite something to digest and that he wouldn’t go in detail that day. But he clearly was actually listening! Success!

On Monday I came into his office. We continued the conversation. He said I had made some good points! I'm glad he saw it that way. And he wondered what he thought I should do in the future. And I said it would be great if he could call out misogyny if he encountered it, back me up if it was me calling it out, and keeping an eye on if I was OK after such an event would happen. And I really really hope he would do that outside ThursdayNighter context too! Also supporting women (and men) who would not have explicitly asked him to do so! I'm sure he benefits from rape culture being weeded out. Isn't a better world a good thing for everyone?

So would he now indeed start standing by me? If so, then that awful night was well worth it! A bit of a pity it had needed such drastic measures to get that done but hey ho, an ally is not to be sniffed at. And if he would stand by me then maybe more of the men would have an epiphany and follow suit! It is a sad truth it often is the case that only when a man speaks about misogyny the other men listen. But again, more allies is not to be sniffed at! However they are won over. We’ll see! Something might be changing within in the ThursdayNighters…

16 October 2019

Difficult trip that doesn't even go underground

The weather forecast wasn't very good. But people wanted to go and look at a stope near Parc mine. And I was out of the field early enough! So I joined. And I shared transport with David and Paul. We would also have a new person.

We were the first ones to get to the parking lot. We sat in the car for a while as it rained. No need to get changed! I could hardly get back into Paul's car after having changed into my minging caving suit. Then a car appeared. It turned out to contain the new person: Gareth. We introduced ourselves. David was hoping we would change our minds and go somewhere else; doing a stope would mean standing at the surface getting drenched. We would have to first find it, then find a good way to rig it and then descend one by one and only then would be out of the rain.

Then Edwyn arrived. And Mick and Don. And Garry. Time to finalise plans! Mick really wanted to do this stope. So let's do the stope. We got kitted.

Then the evening turned. Mick, not known for being political correctness turned flesh, made a remark that used sexual assault as a joke. The other men didn't respond. My heart turned cold. I managed a quick 'calm down, Mick' and then the conversation had already moved on. I am never quick enough with these things! But my evening was spoiled. Am I really supposed to go underground with a bunch of men who condone such things? But they had also driven me here. My keys, wallet and phone were in Paul's car. I didn't expect support from this lot. I have called out misogynist shit many times before in this company, but that mainly involved women portrayed as commodities rather than persons, and I never had support from any of the men. They seem to all suffer from straight white male syndrome; if something isn't offensive to a straight white male it is therefore not offensive at all, and anyone who thinks it is is overreacting, can't take a joke, has to just grow thick skin. So the situation would already have been quite disheartening if he had said something like the usual crap, and this was a lot more explicit. And I can't let something like that go. Condone rape culture and you are part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution! And I was miserable now. These people are supposed to be my friends but when it comes to this sort of thing, I am utterly and totally alone. I have had enough shit to not be able to see sexual assault as an academic question. And even if I hadn't! I can't imagine not having enough empathy for other people to not be hurt by this sort of thing. These men read papers; they must have, for instance, read about people like Chanel Miller. Christine Blasey Ford. Chrissy Chambers. And so, so many more. And yes Mick didn't actually commit sexual assault but how can you turn it into a joke when you can't not know how soul-shredding it is? So this needed addressing. But how to go about this? I didn't want to talk to Mick while walking to the stope. If you do that you get interrupted. I had to wait until we would be somewhere for a while.

In the meantime, Jason appeared too. We walked along the road to an almost-vanished path, got very wet, found a hole but one we seemed not to be looking for. Then we walked on, and found a shaft of sorts. We seemed to be there for a bit so I confronted Mick. His response was one of utter indifference. I told him I could do without that kind of attitude and that I would avoid him from then on. Great! Not that I expected him to be all constructive but it had to be said. But such a response didn't make me feel any better, of course. It was also a lot of bullshit as Mick is not the indifferent kind but that is hardly a consolation if you get your hurt thrown back into your face that way. And, of course, none of the other men (there were two more there) didn't say anything. Nothing along the lines of 'you might have a point, sexual assault isn't funny'. So it was confirmed: the ThursdayNighters don't condemn rape culture. Nice.

I wanted to be distracted from my thoughts and climbed over the fence, having a look at his shaft. It looked OK to me but David wasn't having it. We walked on. And came to a stope further on. David had a look  but couldn't quite see without endangering himself. I was already wearing a harness so I attached myself to a sling and had a better look. It didn't look good. I looked straight at a false floor with holes in. Holes big enough for a modestly-sized person, but it looked risky; pass that level and you might get big bits of said floor on your head after you've passed it. So this was a no!

There was another part of that stope. That seemed to go! There was some faffing and some muttering about which trees were solid enough to rig from. I was still keen on being distracted so I just rigged it and lowered myself. Edwyn had had a small look but seen the edge was made of loose stones; we needed a deviation. Edwyn rigged one and off I went.

I could see the stope went! And not just a little bit! So that was good. But the edge Edwyn had been unhappy with was still unstable, in spite of the deviation, and the edge I was at now was threatening to join the fun. I had lots of grape-sized rocks hurtling at me and I figured I wasn't happy going any further. I did a change-over and came back up. I reported back that it went, but that I didn't want to go down without first solving the hurtling rock issue. I suggested we could try to rig a deviation from a tree straight above the hole; if you go vertically down you don't touch the sides and the sides don't touch you! But Edwyn wasn't happy with trees right above the hole. And David started to ask if anybody even wanted to descend. We were all soaking wet! And nobody was overly keen. Neither was I; I just wanted to go home, but that is one of these other desires that doesn't go down well with the ThursdayNighters. And I felt bad about the new bloke; he had come on a damp squib of a trip if we now didn't pursue this lead. But he didn't seem to mind aborting the mission! I wondered if we would ever see him back. We had shown him inter-ThursdayNighter hostility, a drenching, falling rocks and not a second underground. What a great trip! Advertises us well. But we agreed we'd go back to the cars.

We changed, and then went to the pub. It only had fake fires (that didn't even radiate heat) but it would have to make do. We had a drink. I did my usual 'neutrality' thing with Mick; not be unpleasant, but not respond to what they say, not address them, generally ignore them as much as possible without making it obvious. My experience is that people don't notice I do it. And you can imagine I wasn't very talkative anyway!

Luckily it was still quite early when I got home. I needed some sleep after a night like this. And it wasn't over. But I didn't know that yet!

15 October 2019

Rainy day in the field

I had been in the field on Tuesday, and I was going on Thursday too. On Tuesday we had almost been blown out of our clothes; now the forecast was rain. Oh well; fieldwork in October isn't expected to be all sunshine and gentle breezes! And this trip is a bit emotionally charged; the previous time, I felt drowned out by the middle-aged blokes. Would this time be different? I figured I should claim a site and defend it. I hate it when the men do the teaching and the women are only seen to do things like bring up the rear! What sort of message does that give? But it's difficult to change it.

So how did it go? I figured I could claim the pillow lava. Normally, that is our first stop. But this time the forecast was crap and Dei figured it would be better if we would storm out to the very end of the peninsula, and then work our way back. So no pillow lavas first! And one of the men had put dibs on the far site. So we went there. At some point on the beach Jaco hesitated. How to proceed? Over the causeway! So I lead the way. But at the end of the causeway I noticed we had overshot our goal. We had to go back a bit! I told Jaco but he didn't see what I saw. I went anyway as I was sure. Dei appeared and came with me. When he gave the thumbs up to Jaco the latter was convinced. And he brought the students with him. Great! So what a woman says is only valid if it is confirmed by a middle-aged man. There we go again.

Dei and Jaco did that outcrop. And then I must admit I realised I wasn't sure where the next outcrop was. We were doing it in the wrong order and I had only focussed on the pillow lavas and the melange. So I had to hang back. Better preparation is needed next time! Dei and Jaco talked abut the carbonate near the lighthouse. And the next outcrop was another one I hadn't prepared a lot. Jaco did that one. I just took pictures for the website.

After that outcrop we sat down for lunch on the pillow lavas. And then at some point when I was still eating, Jaco stood up and started lecturing about these too. So I didn't add anything all day! And that was part my fault. I need to be better prepared and I should bring up the topic with Dei and Jaco. Which is intimidating! Tell men that they are propagating gender stereotypes and that maybe they should help break them is always tricky. You tend to get dismissed! But I think we should make sure we divide the outcrops beforehand, that we make sure we're prepared (but there is more incentive if you have some reason to assume you'll actually get to use that preparation) and that the men don't butt in unless asked. Then we can be of use and taken seriously!

Dei on Melange

Jaco holding forth

Jaco on mudstone and in rain 

Onwards, between lumps of pillow lavas!

Some pretty creatures

14 October 2019

Puncture and two guardian angels

When I moved to Bethesda I did wonder how annoying it would be to have a puncture on the bicycle track in between the two towns! But the first year went fine without. And my first puncture happened at home. But one day I would surely find out. And that day came.

It was autumn and there was a lot of autumnal stuff on the path. Leaves, beech mast, that sort of stuff. And maybe more! I biked through a leafy patch, felt my wheel thud into something solid amidst the leaves, and heard the dreaded hiss. That was it! I had to try and fix this. Luckily it wasn't raining.

I turned the bike upside down and got my repair kit out. Then a lady passed. She shouted at me if I needed help? I said I'd be OK. I had the repair kit! But she offered to help and well, I did appreciate it. So she put her bike down and together we set to work.

Reasonably soon did I have the tyre off. And the hole was easy to find! So I put a patch over it. And then we had to get the tyre back on. That's not so easy. But then I used some force and popped the bead into place! And heard a disconcerting hiss. Oh dear. The eternal issue with that sort of thing. That when popping the tyre back on you pierce the tube! So we had to start again. This hole was also easy to find. And I only had a very large patch left but the lady had a smaller, self-adhesive patch. We put that on! And this time we managed to put the tyre back on without doing damage. I pumped the tyre up again. And then I was ready to continue!

I got to work without problems and hung the bike up in its place. When lunchtime came I checked the tyre; it was still hard. Good!

Then it was time to go to the pub to see Jenny. Time had flown by and I hadn't thought of the puncture for a while. I grabbed the bike and immediately felt the tyre had gone flat again. Crap! Now what? Try and fix it? Walk to the pub? I quickly sent Jenny a message (garbled by predictive text that doesn't understand Welsh) and carried the bike to the pub. Jenny is an avid biker; she would probably be OK fixing it, rather than sitting in the pub! And she was. So we went through the whole process again. The self-adhesive patch hadn't held! Oh dear. I only had one big one left. We put it on.

The plan was to fix the bike, then go inside for our Welsh session, and then check if the tyre was still firm when we would come out. But when we walked in I checked my watch; time was almost up! So instead Jenny offered me a lift. That was very nice! That saved me the risk of having the tyre go flat again somewhere halfway and having to walk home in the dark with the bike and on biking shoes. So it was unfortunate I had a puncture but two lovely people made it not a problem at all!

13 October 2019

Getting rigorous in the kitchen

I had very gently started on pulling down the wallpaper in the kitchen. I thought I might go strip by strip. When the second strip came off, I exposed one of the big holes in the old plaster I had been able to see through the wallpaper. And I had some plaster left over from the wall! So I quickly prepped that hole and filled it, even before the rest of the wallpaper was off.

First strip off

Then I continued with the wallpaper. Quite soon I got to the radiator shelf, and that had to come off. And that means the big disruption has started. So I changed my mind about the strip-by-strip thing. And I went full-on on that specific wall! All decoration came off the wall, and then the wallpaper. And then the wallpaper glue. It was a bit of work! And more big holes in the old plaster appeared.

All wallpaper off! And the holes on the right filled. 

When it was all stripped and cleaned I used an evening I was home relatively early to make a small batch of plaster and fill the holes. I had underestimated how much I would need, so I had to go back to the garage for more powder twice! And I made the batch in an oven dish. I figured a bucket would be too big. And glass should be so smooth plaster doesn't stick to it too well. I hope it's true otherwise I've ruined a perfectly serviceable dish!

All big holes filled.

And now all that needs doing is some minor tidying up with filler, and then painting it! And then I can put the shelf back and the pictures and all that and it will look good again. And then it's time to do the last wall. I'll have to move the furniture away from the wall, hence that I wanted to entirely finish the other wall first. Then I can have things stand near that! I can't wait for my kitchen to also be (almost) done! And then I'll have to ponder the ceiling...