20 July 2019

Fail entirely to climb in the Ogwen Valley

I wasn't sure how long I would want to be at the graduation reception. Graduation was on a Monday, so it clashed a bit with our club climbing evening. I did think the graduation reception had priority! This is a unique day for the graduating students. I can climb every week. So I  had let the club know I wasn't sure if I would be there, and I might be late, and I would travel independently (no car-sharing this time). But I had seen enough fairly soon so I got home, changed, and drove on to Gwern Gof Uchaf where we would be. But there were no cars. Weird.That meant there were no climbers. But I decided to walk to the crag anyway; maybe they had hovered there? And at least I would be somewhere pretty to eat my sarnies.

I had my dinner on the rock. The view was nice! But then I went back. But when I drove past Gwern Gof Isaf I saw a familiar vehicle. It was Glyn's rather recognisable van! So there were here! Somewhere here.

My dinner location

I decided to stop and look for them. I walked up the public footpath. And then I saw two little figurines on Tryfan Bach! But how to get there? I bushwhacked a bit. And then I heard my name. It was Eirian! One of the climbers. She was just on her way back to the car. She had only come for some fresh air and the view, she said. But she said the path she was coming down on lead past the bottom of the crag. So I went on. And I saw Glyn and Kamal. And the vanishing figure of Ika high up on the slab.

Pretty path towards where the climbers could be

Ika on the crest of the rock

It's a strange crag. It's not very steep at all! I suppose one could scramble it. And it was an area of trad routes, and long ones at that. We didn't have long enough ropes so it was a multi-pitcher for us! And that is an awful lot of faff. Glyn, Kamal and Olivia had just done a route and would do another one just now. They said they could lead and second it and throw a rope down for me, so I could climb too.  Kamal set off. I went up to see if I could scramble along beside him.

Looking down from the scramble up

I went a fair way but I didn't think it looked safe enough to get all the way to the top. I went down again. Kamal was at the top and Glyn started seconding. I got my shoes and harness on; hopefully I would climb soon! But Glyn had to get up to the top of the first pitch, Kamal had to lead on to the top and create a belay, then Glyn had to follow.... it took forever. And then they had to get the rope down to me. Just throwing it down didn't work on a slope like this! The rope just lay on the route, out of reach. They tried again with a bag. That was better! But didn't quite get there either. I wondered if I could scramble to it from the side, but t was difficult to communicate with the chaps out of sight at the top. And it was getting late. And the midges were coming out. So when I saw them pull the bag back up I just let them. No climbing for me today!

Small climbers at bottom of slab

I went down to Eifion and Tony. The others had already left. The men were thinking of a scramble out, but when they felt the midges they decided against. Together we left. Altogether not a very satisfying evening, but I had had dinner with a view, saw some of my friends, and seen Tryfan Bach, which had fascinated me from a distance for years. So it could have been a lot worse! Even though the bushwhacking had left me with a tick (duly removed once home). Next week I won't be climbing, and I hope things go better the week after that!

19 July 2019

Summer Graduation

I had been to a winter graduation once. If you're either on a research contract, or these ad hoc contracts of only a term or so. you don't tend to feel involved enough to go to events like these. But I'm permanent now, and the students who graduate now have been taught by me from the very beginning. So I intend to attend them all! It's nice to see them all robed up and smiling. And I imagine it's nice for them to see lots of their staff to make the effort to be there.

I was early robing up. I got a different robe than last time! I suppose it doesn't matter what they give me. I read some articles until the others arrived and we got into formation. I was glad my robe wasn't overly warm as it was a blazing day! I also had made sure I wore a strappy dress underneath. As little as respectfully possible! And I felt for the men in their suits.

The gown of the day

Gathering in the Council chamber

We got ready and walked in. I ended up on the front row, close to, but generally unobstructed by, the vice-chancellor. And the whole thing is televised. Oh dear! I would have to be at my best behaviour. No picking my nose or yawning or looking bored or any of that! But it's not too difficult; I get carried away by the excitement of the students who parade past to be congratulated by vice-chancellor and chancellor.

At then end there were some special honours handed out. One was for the lady who runs the Sea Zoo here on Anglesey and who did her MSc at the School of Ocean Sciences; she won 'alumnus of the year'. Luckily no posthumous degrees or honours this time! The ceremony lasted some hour and a half. Enough time for everybody in a gown (that's both students and staff!) to get way too hot. It started to smell a bit of overheating people. Oh dear! And then we paraded out. Then the students came out and we could congratulate our own students. Nice! But it was hot outside too, of course. We decided to ditch our gowns and go for a drink. And so we did.

Merriment in the courtyard

There was more merriment there. And I was introduced to the family of one of our former master students. His wife was doing a PhD here so the whole family was in North Wales, even though they were all Tanzanian. And they had given their youngest daughter, who was born here, a Welsh name! That was sweet. And other students spoke of their new jobs or ongoing education.

I hope all new graduates will look back on their time in Bangor, and on this day, with satisfaction! And that many may follow...

18 July 2019

Indoor perks of gardening

Before I cut the grass I picked some flowers that were growing in it. And when I cut the Buddleia to keep the road clear for the neighbour's car (and the occasional other car that goes there) I kept some of the flowers. So now I have flowers in kitchen, living room and bedroom! Very nice...

Start tackling yet another raised bed

I have already planted four raised beds. And one mostly. But there is more! I sometimes go and rip out brambles or goose grass as I don't like them. And that way I had emptied big parts of the raised bed against the back wall. I had emptied many buckets of soil from the pile there so I had given it more attention than normal! And then I also pulled out some other obvious weeds. And now the garden waste bin is full, but the bed is starting to look a lot tidier. And I also found out it is actually two separate beds. This one, and the one in the corner with the apple tree in. Hm! That wasn't clear anymore. I'll have to think about whether I emphasise that again, or give in to the realities that they have grown together.

The bed now mainly has one big shrub in it, and then some other nondescript scrubby things, and then some more weed I didn't have space for in the bin, and some things that may be weeds but they are pretty so they can stay. I'll have to find some nice extra shrubs in the garden centre who don't need too much direct sunlight to fill up the space! This garden is starting to look civilised...

The big shrub in the otherwise largely emptied raised bed

17 July 2019

Roof neat, floor not so much

The roof of the garage is tiled! The edges have to be sorted but the bulk of the work is done. That's good! But the not-so-good thing is that the work has resulted in a lot of waste. And the roofers have decided in their wisdom to dump it all just behind the door! And most of that is damaged roof tiles. And balancing over a big pile of those isn't ideal. So I have had trouble getting things out of the garage! The first time I gave it a try I was just balancing on the pile in my office dress when I heard footsteps nearby. That was a bit disconcerting. My garage is not on the way to very much. An unknown face appeared peering in and I asked what the owner was doing there. I was a bit brusque but I felt a bit vulnerable! The man turned out to be living nearby; he was on his way to his garden gate. The only thing that makes you pass my garage other than (the back entrance of) Neuadd Ogwen! That was a bit of an awkward coincidence. Later I saw him again. But then I knew who he was.

That lead to rather long grass. I've done one big mission where I rescued things like the lawnmower and such, and keep them in the conservatory now, but I hope they come and tidy up soon. I'm barely extremely fussy about tidiness but this makes the garage a lot less useful than it can be!

Slightly impeded entrance into the garage

The ceiling looks fine!

Seen from above! The original tiles are all on the left

16 July 2019

Big wasp nest

I had built a shed! Together with Monique. What a good idea, Thought the local wasps. It was only just there when I spotted a wasp (a queen, I suppose) making a ping pong ball-sized nest. Hmm. Wasps. I'm not a big fan! But I am a fan of creatures living peacefully together. I decided to not interfere and let her build it. And she did. And kept building. And one wasp became more wasps. And then it was a very large nest. Sometimes when I come in to get my garden furniture (as that was what it was built for) I disturb them; I suppose it's hard not to, as it is not a particularly sturdy building and walking in makes it shake a bit. Sometimes the wasps become agitated and I beat a hasty retreat. I then wait a bit until they've calmed down before I go in again. So far this has worked! And the wasps do shit quite a lot so I should try to not put the furniture directly below the nest. And I assume nests are one-season structures. If I get through summer without wasp incidents they will be welcome to build another nest next year. But if it becomes cumbersome I will remove any ping pong ball-sized nests next year and hope they'll go elsewhere. The garage, for instance. That had its share of old nests, although these were never bigger than a tennis ball! This one is a respectable melon. Or somewhere else entirely.

15 July 2019

Old-fashioned success in the dig

The last time we had been in the dig was with the camera crew. That was about a month ago! And they had put the pressure on: they wanted to come back later in summer to see our progress. Our progress? Have you any idea how long we have been stuck at this bit? Every time the ceiling goes vertical the work slows down to an almost-halt. It's so difficult to get rid of big scary stuff above your head! But in the end we always manage. Not going at all, though, doesn't help, and circumstances had been getting in Miles' way. But now we were back!

We brought the small drill (we have bits for it in the dig) and got to the top. We hadn't blown up anything in a long time. About a year, actually! Blimey. We didn't quite remember what we still had there by way of explosives. But we found three charges! So we drilled three holes. This went without incident. No holes accidentally drilled all through the rock, for instance! And we hoped for the best.

We blasted it, as usual, from the level below. The sound was very muffled! We have come a long way. I went up on my own. Miles wanted to retrieve something from the level ahead. So I crawled through the gunpowder smoke and was impressed by how successful this had been. The three rocks were gone! What was left was smaller stuff. Now how much of that could come down with some prodding?

One rock was ready to go, but also quite big. I was a bit nervous dealing with that one! I managed to bring it down without incident, using the long metal bar we have, but as soon as it had crashed I was ready to scamper back down. And caught myself. Yes maybe this was enough adrenaline for one night, but the rest wouldn't be so scary! So I crawled back, grabbed the bar again, and set to work. I got quite some more down. But I am not good at waving this heavy bar around (about an inch in diameter) so after a while I put the bar away and pushed all the rubble down the hole. That was a bit of work due to the sheer bulk of the stuff. And when I got down I reported back! I later suggested we bring a thinner bar into the dig to make the prodding easier. You don't need an inch of steel for this! A centimetre will do the job, and will weigh a lot less. I hope we can dislodge a lot of this gunk! And then maybe we have some progress to show the camera crew before the summer is over...