30 September 2016

Repair the car with a pencil sharpener

One windy day I was loading up the car with climbing gear. Suddenly the panel on the inside of the boot flew into my face. What the heck? I didn't have time to sort this out, so I stuffed it in the back, and ignored it for now.

I realised this was a delayed result for an attempt with David to make my rear window wiper work. In order to get to the little motor powering this, that panel has to come off. And the clips keeping it in place are small, grey, and easily lost. We had probably indeed lost a few, and imperfectly put the panel back. And the powerful Welsh wind had got underneath it. With spectacular results!

I figured I needed more clips. One would think that eBay would be full of them. EBay has everything, and my car is one of the most common models around. But no! Nothing! Nor could I find them elsewhere. In the end I ordered some clips for Citroen Berlingos, hoping that would do. They didn't come. I had to email the seller; they sent me another set. And when they finally came I had to conclude they were too big. Bugger!

The clips, though, are plastic. One can make plastic things smaller. I decided to try a pencil sharpener on one of them. I tried to push it into the hole after a session: it fit! And it's not much work. I did as many as I had missing original clips. Minutes later the panel was properly fastened again! A good thought; it's autumn now, and Welsh autumn can be decidedly gusty. And a panel like that can hit your face rather hard I can tell you!




29 September 2016

More bang in the dig

The second week in a row I was on the parking lot below Cwm, hearing a noisy engine approach. It was one of Miles' vehicles; I jumped in, got the key for the gate, jumped out, let him through, and jumped in again. Up we went! The previous time I had given him a hand installing some wiring. This time he had said the task was clearing up more of the rubble from last Thursday's detonation; what he meant was we'd blow more things up.

When we got in he told me to go ahead. I suggested I'd go and get our wrecking bar as I figured we'd need it.The previous time he'd used a drill bit for the job; not such a good idea! And so I did. We had a bit of a prod but then he decided which rocks to blow up this time. That meant: drilling holes, placing the charges, filling the holes up with filler, and connecting the wires to the detonation wire. This time I was more actively involved; I drilled one of the holes, and paid attention when he connected it all up. We then had to wait a while for the filler to dry; that time handily doubled as a tea break.

After the bang we went to see what it had done. Lots! One rock was simply not there anymore. Two had their heads blown off. And just when we were prodding things, we heard voices. Much later than expected, David appeared. And soon afterwards, so did Paul and Mick. David really loves making rocks fall down; he suggested we needed something longer than a breaker bar. I went and got some scaff and off he went. Miles loves explosives, David loves prodding loose rocks, and I love scampering around, so we were all very happy! And the dig started to look very promising! I the end I wanted to crawl in where before it had been too dangerous, but there was one rock in the way. Miles handed me the breaker and I made it smaller; then I went in. It goes a fair way! It will need some clearing. A task for next time! I'm very excited!

 Looking at the state of things

Miles was about to head out, and I decided to go with him. The others would probably stay longer than i wanted! I had left home at 8AM and it was time to go home and make dinner. I figured Miles would need some time to tidy up so I scampered to the other dig, where Paul seemed to be making good progress. I said goodbye; we were a bit ships passing in the night! But the next Thursday would probably sort that. I was back quick enough to help Miles get his bag through the collapse (he doesn't like squeezes, and bags always make things a lot worse). Up and out we went! I hope the next trip will be there again; my hands are itching to remove some loos rubble from that narrow passage...

28 September 2016

Trying a new sport

I have no time for a new sport! I already climb on Monday, learn Welsh on Tuesday and Wednesday, and go underground on Thursdays, and then I have a day job and a household to run. And my running to keep up. So the last thing I need is a new sport. But then I got an email, pointing out that there would be an Outdoor Festival, where one was encouraged to try new sports. And diving was one of the sports.

I have always thought diving sounded great. I just wasn't sure if it would be for me. I remembered having to dive plastic donuts from the bottom of the swimming pool in my home town as a child. All Dutch kids need to learn to swim! And not just get from one side of the pool to the other, but also things such as going deep down. I never liked the feeling on my ears. Some people don't dive because they never get used to it. And some people get disoriented in the apparent weightlessness of the water; where is up? So I thought this was the chance to at least get a taste.

One had to list a top three of desired sports; I also ticked mountain biking and setting up top rope. But I got the diving! I was excited. I drove up rather early, registered, and sat down for a coffee. It was busy, so I had to join some people. I ended up in the company of some women who were about to do some Celtic rowing (no, me neither) and paddle boarding, and one who would dive as well. They were really nice!

Then we all got to our sport. Me and Gill (the other diver woman) were lead to the pool. We changed into something appropriate and went in. We were assigned an instructor each. Mine told me to put on flippers and goggles. The flippers threw me! They have no purchase on the floor of the pool, and it's hard to stay upright if you're not used to it. Oh dear! But the goggles were fine, and so was the aqualung. The instructor gave me the signals and down we went. Breathing under water is quite a nice change! We just pootled around a bit, practiced getting the neutral buoyancy just right, which is interesting as your buoyancy changes with every breath you take. The instructor said he was impressed with how easy I seemed to find it, but he may say that to everyone. Anyway; my time was up; my next trip was to a room where a lady did some talking about diving. Then my programme was done!


I had decided to go to our digs after the diving; I was a fair way in that direction anyway, and Miles would be there, and David too, but later. I went back to the coffee room to eat my sandwiches before driving on. There I met my ladies again; that was nice! And they were interested in my underground shenanigans; they might one day come with me!

But for the diving: will I go do that? Not anywhere soon, that's clear. But were I to accept a job somewhere without mines and caves, and with water to dive in, I very well might! I still don't know what my ears would think as the pool was too shallow to find out, but it's worth to give it a try... once I'm less busy!

27 September 2016

Two mines in one night

Sometimes one is in luck! This week we had to decide where to go underground. There are many options. One of them was: back to our dig. Another was: go back to a mine the others had done when I was in the Netherlands, as David had left some items there, and hoped to get them back. There were more, but then he also bought a breaker, and wanted to try it out. He bought it for the dig! And the mine in which he had left stuff was close to our dig, so it was decided to do them both. Some would go straight to the dig, and others would first go to Conglog, the other mine. I saw my chance of catching up on Conglog, as I had never been! I like new places.

We distributed the stuff (the breaker, a drill, a pickaxe, and whatnot) and headed to Cwm. I had the key and let people in; David and Mick went ahead. I locked them in and together with Simon I followed. Mick made sure we saw where the entrance was. He decided to try and drain the adit; the water was above welly depth, which he didn't like. Simon stayed with him. I went in, looking for David. He did not only want to retrieve his stuff, but also re-rig a pitch. Hence the drill! He was still drilling when I came in, so I decided to explore a bit. David had mentioned there was yet another pitch in there! That sounded good.

I think I saw the whole place. Small but nice! And I found the pitch. It didn't lead to very much but if I see a rope I want to climb it. It was fun! And when I came back to David he was just coming down. When he was down I quickly went up, looked around, and went down again. We had another mine to go into!

An ominous piece of slate that one day must have fallen out of the ceiling. Pic by David.

Rails in good nick. Pic by Simon

Cart; pic by Simon

We knew Miles would be there too, working on his dig. When we got to the level where the digging takes place we bumped into Paul who warned us Miles was about to blow stuff up. Just in time! It was going to be a big explosion, and Paul wanted us to know about it, and not, for instance, be in the middle of the pitch down and then jump out of our skin.
We could see from Miles' enormous smile it was indeed going to be a big one. I put my fingers in my ears. Glad I did! It was QUITE a bang. Miles wanted to go in first to see what it had done, for reasons of safety, but we were close behind. He turned out to have lowered a big slab I had been worried about. We needed to see what we could bring down now. More needed to go! It didn't look all too improved yet. But Miles has more explosives where that came from. We would have to keep chipping away at it! 

We also went to our own dig. Paul and David were prodding at things in the ceiling. But time was not waiting and I was glad that at some point they called it a day. With two mines in one evening, it was getting late! But it had been a good night. A new mine, two pitches and then explosives; what more can one want?

Miles's dig, before and after

26 September 2016

Welsh starts again

I've only got two months left on my contract. Where will I be after that? I don't know. Wales? No idea! Were I to leave Wales I'd lose the need for speaking Welsh, and with it, also the ability to do so. But as I don't know where I'll be and it might be Wales, and I will at least be here for some more months, I started the last course of the series. After Wlpan, Pellach and Uwch I'm now doing the "Meistroli" course. The teacher said he thought we'd get through this course in two years. After that, we're on our own! No more courses given, at least not like this. There are courses for people who use Welsh in the workplace and who want to improve their fluency, for instance. It's not as anybody thinks that at the end of Meistroli there is absolutely nothing that can be improved on our language skills. But we should be well equipped for every day life!


More to scan in if I move house!

25 September 2016

Experimental hike on top of a mine

I figured a post about my feet needed pictures of my feet, but my walk trying my new walking technique was actually rather scenic, so the pictures get their own blog post!

 View onto Llyn Cwmorthin from higher up

 View onto the other lake (Tanygrisiau reservoir), with the steam train trundling past

 A look up to bedrock looming over the spoil heaps

 Panoramic view, again over Llyn Cwmorthin

Experiment with feet


I remember hating museums when I was a small kid. They always involved standing still, pottering a bit to the next exhibit, and then standing still again. It hurt! I figured that was normal; everybody else must just have been hiding their pain.

I later found out most people can potter and stand still for extensive periods of time without hurting. Now that would be nice! I wanted that too. I entered the medical circus and was prodded, scanned, injected, electrocuted, and operated on. Nothing worked. Then we went for fighting symptoms: I got orthopaedic soles. That made things a whole lot better. It just meant I had to always walk around on shoes about two sizes too big. 

Fast forward some ten years. I discover running. I run without orthopaedic soles, and pretty much get away with it. If I run far it still hurts, but that's reasonable. But then Istart running on my forefoot. That is a game changer. I can run and run without my feet protesting! Clearly, this way of running somehow avoids the problem I have. I happily run a half marathon without foot issues. Even the full marathon was no problem. So these feet of mine work, if you use them the right way. At speed I can do that, but shouldn’t it be possible at a modest pace? At the least, it’s worth the try.

I'm not sure what the difference is, really; but there are some clues. I have fairly high arches and short toes, so my weight rests on only a small part of my feet: the ball and the heel. Unless I wear soles; these distribute it over the entire foot. But clearly there is another way. Walking (for me) is a rather passive way of moving, while running isn't; I sort of hang in my muscles, rather than leaning on my joints. My toes are actively involved, and I suppose that's what they're for anyway. Could I walk in a more muscular way? Would that be as effective as spreading my weight over my entire foot?

My most often worn shoes, with my foot for comparison; the size difference is caused by the sole on the left

 If I stand still (or sit, in order to take a pic) my toes barely touch the ground

 If I'm on my forefoot my toes get some action!

One day I decided to buy a pair of low hiking shoes in my own size. It was time to try this out! And then, when I knew I would have to be in Blaenau anyway, I decided to go for a walk above the mine, rather than in it. And do I did! 

I tried to walk a bit like I run: on tiptoe. That’s a bit weird at walking pace. I tried to use my toes as much as I could: make these muscles work! And I also tried turning my feet in a bit, as I know I do that when I run. 

Did it work? Well, to a certain extent! It did feel a bit sore, but in the end I spent 80 minutes on my feet, and “a bit sore” is then actually a massive success. I’m going to try this again! It would be so nice to not need these soles. I have very little to lose and all to gain! I suspect it’s using the feet too passively puts too much strain on the joints, a bit like running with a heavy gait puts too much strain on your knees. Make your muscles do the work your joints would otherwise end up doing and you’re laughing! Stay tuned, this experiment is ongoing!