30 November 2013

On being old

Thirty-seven is not old! I can imagine a large percentage of the readers of this blog indignantly saying just that when they read the title of this post. And whoever thinks this indeed is right, of course. But one judges by comparison. And when I moved to York I was immediately welcomed within the circle of the first-year PhD students. And they are the best friends to have! But I am more than 1.5 times as old as almost all of them. And that makes me sometimes consider age.

Does age matter? Well yes, one changes with age. Is there something wrong with having friends of a rampantly different age? No. Does it sometimes complicate things? Yes. For instance; sometimes I have to be boring and old and leave a pub at a reasonable time; not only does my body react to alcohol a bit more than it did some 15 years ago, but I also feel the breath of time in my neck. Life’s too short to spend a morning hung-over! And I am quite aware of my contract being rather short; I need to get myself another job. I have to publish, to network, to develop my science communication skills! And in order to do that I can’t squander too much time in a pub, and I sure can’t squander my time by feeling miserable in bed until 2PM. And I’m not saying my York friends are a bunch of party animals with total disregard for the future; one of them already has a postdoc-like working schedule, with late evenings and working weekends and all. But overall I notice I sometimes can’t keep up with the social life.

Sometimes it’s not them running ahead, but allowing me to slow down; I am a middle-aged woman living like a glorified student. And people of my age often float into a world of mortgages, children, lease cars and whatnot. And I don’t want to go there (yet?) and it’s nice to have friends that feel the same way. And proper grown-ups with permanent jobs and good salaries also often fall into two traps; one is of taking things for granted, and the other is the sense of entitlement. My uncertainty about the future already quite deals with the first one, and I don’t think I’m too susceptible to the second, but having lots of friends on the bottom rung of Academia helps keep things in perspective.

Age is not only how much time you’ve had to develop your career, or how hung-over seven pints make you.  It also gives you time for contemplation. And I sure benefit from thinking things over. When I look at my mid-twenties friends, I sometimes compare them with my younger self. And I think every single one of them is more balanced than I was at that age. I much prefer being 37 to being 24. As far as I am concerned, things just keep getting better! I have matured mentally, but I still look like a twenty-something (which regularly annoys me) and I’m a stronger runner than I ever was (if I may average out the last few years), so I don’t suffer from the effects of aging one hears a lot of complaining about. I only get the benefits! And what else did I get? Lovely friends! What more could one wish for. Oh yes, that next job...

26 November 2013

Wales with the PCG

I go to South Wales to cave with the Yorkies, and I go to North Wales to cave with the Plymouthians. That doesn’t make particularly much sense but it is the way it is! I like North Wales a lot, with its big slate mines and amazing Snowdonian landscapes. And when the PCG would travel north to go there I saw a nice opportunity to catch up. And Hugh saw that even more; he only lives 2 hours from Mt Snowdon. So on a Friday I left work early, biked to the station with my enormously heavy backpack containing all my caving kit to the station, and conquered a seat. In Liverpool I found Hugh and his car, and off we were! We had planned to eat on the road, but we missed all the potential venues until we approached Llanberis, our goal, so we phoned ahead. The others turned out to be in a curry restaurant, so we joined. It was good to see everybody again!

After dinner we went to the hut and made ourselves comfortable. Rick distributed copies of his newest tome “Devon Great Consols – a mine of mines” – most of us had ordered a copy. (Scroll down on this page for a look) DGC is indeed a mine of mines! We also tried to decide on where we would go the next day; there were some people eager to do Cwmorthin, and some preferred a lead mine Rick came up with. I had visited the former only in September, so I was keen on something new. So lead it would be! None of us had been there, but we had a good grid reference. So the next morning, after a planet-sized breakfast, we jumped into two cars and were on our way. 

We find the parking lot without problems, and then also found the entrance with ease. So in we went! The idea was to go in, and then soon drop down to the next level down, so we walked along the level. We could often see a gaping lode above us. And below us. I wondered if we were delicately balancing on a false floor in between, but research afterwards showed they were two different lodes, and we were walking on rock most of the time. Good! What was less good was that by the time we reached the first opportunity to drop down we lost the first man. Alex had a knee injury, and the clambering over collapses proved too much for his damaged physique. So he turned around, and we moved on. The level just went and went and went! Several times we thought we’d reached the end, but most of these times we had just encountered a collapse one could manoeuvre past. 

The gated entrance

The level with its rails 

A movable ore chute we found - I had never seen anything like that.

Along the way, we also found a ladderway up. I checked it out; the ladders were a bit rickety but it was worth risking that. On top I found a winch, a crane-like construction, and an enormous flatrod. Amazing! But there were people waiting for me below, so I took two hurried pictured and went back down. 
A slightly hazy picture of the winch and the flatrod

Near the end we also found a ladderway down; this just went and went. Sixty metres deeper we hit the lower level, but it was largely flooded. We weren’t too keen to spend the limited time we had (we had Alex waiting for us!) wading through deep cold water, so we went back up. On the way back the others tried the ladderway up too; I used the time to do some photography. 

Self portrait 1

 Self portrait 2

As we had all been wearing full SRT kit, and were lugging ropes around, we decided to drop down to the lower level where we had left Alex after all. The pitch lead to a steep rubble slope, and down to a next pitch. When Hugh went down I saw the rope rubbing, and decided to stay above. We had to get back out soon anyway! When Richard came back up I saw the rubbing only happened when the person in the rope was almost down, so I could have dropped safely. Oh well! Next time. 

 An abandoned waggon

We struggled back up the rubble slope, and went out. A bit later we found Alex asleep in his car. That was good; those who are asleep aren’t bored. The next stop was Pete’s Eats, where we all (except Dave who was feeling woozy) had a hearty meal, after which we retreated to the hut and exchanged stories. 

Another item on the agenda was tweaking newest Dave’s SRT kit so as to make it easier for him to work it. We started out trying to make his foot loop the right length, but later we found out that there were bigger issues; a convenient beam he could hang from showed that if he hangs in his ascender and doesn’t hold on to anything with his hands, he hangs upside down. Oh dear! That would indeed make rope work rather tricky. A lot of faffing later he was hanging more or less diagonal. Not perfect yet but doable. Result!

The next day I wanted to be home in time for the next ceilidh – Abi would be playing! But that meant preferably getting the 15.22 train from Liverpool. And thus leaving Llanberis around 1PM. That does not leave a long day for underground antics! We decided to go with the injury crew, who would visit “the Electric Mountain”; a hydropower plant hidden inside the mountain that holds Dinorwic slate mine, and nowadays the National Slate Museum. It was a bit of a disappointment as far as I was concerned; you got the same information fed about four times, while only seeing a limited part of the plant. And one can imagine one doesn’t want tourist swarming an entire power plant, but at least the level of repetition could have been a bit lower. And then it was already time to say goodbye! Who knows, maybe the southerners come up north more often…

21 November 2013

Back to Norfolk

What a 93-year-old farmer doesn’t know about his land is not worth knowing. In April 2012 we had gone to Norfolk to scrutinize interglacial sediments we knew, from literature, were there. We had found a plethora. But upon coming back and evaluating the results more questions popped up. We had found a freshwater peat overlain by a marine clay; the moment the land got flooded frozen in time. But we found that only in the lower part of the area. Had we found it at its highest point? Or would it be possible to trace it further up the slope? What was between two crucial boreholes? What was below the peat? We knew we wouldn’t be able to answer all these questions with the equipment we had so far used, so we decided to come back with heavier stuff. And some professionals to work it.

I met Tasha in Swaffham. It would only be the two of us; Antony had commitments and Roland struggled with his back. And then, of course, the drill team. We caught up over a pint and dinner; the next morning, all would kick off.
We met at Manor Farm; our prime drilling location. We knew good cores had been taken there, but the material had not been preserved. We had not tried to core there ourselves; we knew there was an aquifer in the subsurface, right about where the interesting sediments were. We were not keen on having a blow-out, and that would be something professional drillers would be able to prevent. Was the idea. They knew about it….
 Tasha, Mr Wilson, and Tim the chief driller
Once on the farm we met the farmer, or rather, one of the famers; Mr Wilson, who was 93 years old, and though no longer in charge of the farm, clearly still very actively contributing to it. We also met the drillers; two young chaps called Tim and John. Mr Wilson showed us where the old drill hole was, and where we could drill too. So the drillers magically transformed their trailer to a quadrupod drill rig, and got started. But later Mr Wilson brought in a picture of the blow-out that had alerted earlier drillers to the existence of the aquifer. He strongly advised us not to repeat that. And when an Englishman strongly advises against something, that is about the same as a Dutchman telling you he’d kill you if you even thought about that. And the drillers were prepared for some groundwater, but not for a force like that! So we decided to only drill to shallow depth. It’s not what we had come for, but we didn’t have permission yet to access our second site. So what can you do? 

 Turning a trailer into a drill rig
We tried a few other locations on the farm, coring by hand, still looking for the clay that would have the peat below, but only got sand. Mr Wilson kept zipping by in his car to see how we were getting along, and to give us additional advice. What a 93-year-old farmer doesn’t know about his land is not worth knowing. It greatly helped us understand the local geology, although that means understanding that it was very patchy, and quite hit-and-miss. But we figured we had, almost by accident, already found the best coring locations last time; we only had not always managed to core deep enough. But luckily, permission to get to our next site came in! So we called it a day, and agreed to pack up the next day, while they key to the site was fetched, and then go on at the second site. One of the farm workers offered to show us the way to the next site over the farm, and while he was at it, he also offered us potatoes, and cabbage, and leek, and kale… so sweet! We went home with enough veggies to last us the rest of the fieldwork. And then some.

 Extracting the core from the liner isn't easy
The next day the men packed up the drill site in no time. And equally quick they set up at the next site. Off we were! We hoped to get through the glacial sands into the clay within a few metres, but core after core came up only with sand. Sloppy sand. The borehole kept collapsing, the chaps had to hammer more and more casing down, and it took forever. We were starting to fear we may have ventured too far; would we even find clay? We couldn’t re-core where we had been before, as that was near a badger set, and these are protected. But then, metres lower than expected, the clay appeared. Lots of clay. Clay as far as the eye could see! Then we started to worry again; would we find the peat? It wasn’t where we expected it. It wasn’t a metre lower. Nor two, or three. Then, suddenly, when Tasha and I were sitting in the car sheltering from the wind, we got the “thumbs up” from Tim. We rolled out of the car and scampered over; had we indeed hit peat? And we had! Five metres deeper than it had been in the old borehole, which was only some 50 m further south. All worries were gone. Happily we sampled the transition. And we got through on the other side, where we found sand. So we could stop there. 

Taking down the drill rig on a crisp morning
Bringing in a coring team is a lot more expensive than having a coring team, already on site, go on for a bit, so we decided to see if we could find out what was below the sand. But that was for another day. We went home. Back to our potatoes and kale! We had a nice quite evening. Fieldwork with Tasha is like that; we are a good team. We acknowledge and respect each other’s idiosyncrasies and tend to run a rather smooth household. And the cottage was nice! I’ve done enough fieldworks with people yelling at each other to really appreciate  doing fieldwork only with people that get along well. 

Arty picture of the drill rig against a beautiful sunset

 What it's all about - a sediment core, topped up with warm wax, which will provide a airtight seal
The next day we would try to get through the sand. Tim and John hammered some more caving down, as the sand was wet and kept collapsing. By the time we had to stop we still had only hauled up sand. We knew that sometimes. That sand can be ten metres thick, as we knew from BGS borehole data. No use to keep pursuing that. We had a break in the sunshine, and then the men set out to take the core hammer apart, and pull the casing out. 

Hammering the casing down a bit further - with heavy equipment

Pulling the casing out sounds simple. But with coring, be it by hand, with a road drill, or with a rig, the pulling out is always harder than the hammering in. So they pulled. And pulled. And pulled. Nothing happened.  We started worrying again, but as had been the case a few times before this week, it all worked out. And that meant we could go home. Tasha was keen to do so, for family reasons. She took the cores with her, as York has hardly any sample storage space. Soon I'll come up to Durham so we can open them, and see for the first time what we've actually brought up!

19 November 2013

Aesthetica Short Film Festival

When I moved to York I hoped for lots of movie houses. Plymouth has one, and it's bigger; about 260.000 people instead of York's 200.000 (I looked it up!), but Plymouth is a naval base while York has been a cultural centre for centuries. Tromsø only has 60.000 inhabitants and it also has a movie house. In Amsterdam I didn't realise how spoiled I was!

When I was walking through town with my parents I noticed a banner. A film festival! A Short film festival, but still. I got excited! And I immediately mailed the people from the film club, and a few others that might be interested, to make sure they were aware of this, and to see if other people wanted to come too. And soon after I bought me a passepartout.

Screenings started on Friday. After work I set of with Roman of the film club to see our first movies. He had requested comedy, as he said life provided enough drama as it is. So comedy it was! It wasn't that good actually, so I decided to see some drama afterwards anyway. That wasn't that good either. Not a good start! But there were many more genres to try, and not only that; there were many venues to try. Not only the cinema is on on the festival; several museums have joined, and several monumental buildings, and a clothing shop and an art gallery and a cafe; many of these places I hadn't been, and was keen to see. So the next day I was ready at 10. The venues were great, and the films got a lot better. I froze to the seat in the Mansion House, which played a role in Blood and Chocolate; I listened to the rain falling on the thin slate roof of Micklegate Bar; I saw documentaries from the long, wooden tables of the Barley Hall; I sank down in the comfy chairs of the 9-seater cinema hidden in the clothing shop. I saw documentaries about female killers and ageing Germans, music videos of Mt Wolf and Bat for Lashes, drama about Finnish nightclub shoot-outs and Israeli poets, comedy about casting and failed dates, animation on deserted floating cities and big white fluffy creatures, art films about female drag queens and Japanese winter, experimental films about dancing urbanisation in Hong Kong, and lots lots lots more. To get an idea of the variety, do check the trailer on the festival website.

The courtyard of one of the venues: St William's College, in heavy rain

Maybe even more glamorous: the Mansion House

Most of it I saw alone, but I did team up a few times with some film-loving colleagues. That was nice! I even ended the whole festival by having a beer with one of our lab technicians and his biologist girlfriend in one of the ancient and quirky pubs that had been on my to do list for a long timeThe usual suspects had tried to take me there before, but it had always been too busy. Now I've finally seen it!

The film I think I liked best was a short drama about a Chinese widower and his little daughter who live illegally in France: Hsu Ji derriere l'ecran. The father gets exploited by a lady as a labourer who works in way too dangerous conditions, and she is in the process of ensnaring the girl for labour too. All very bleak and serious! But then three characters step out of the silent slapstick film she is watching, and not only wreak a lot of havoc, but also come to her aid. And then there is also the cartoon walrus that steps out of the book she is reading, and starts wandering around. So the dad even dies, but the film does not become depressing. It's a genuinely strange film! But very endearing.

Another impressive (though very short) film I saw in the category music videos can be seen online: I recommend it! Magma, by Dvein.

I didn't get particularly much done this weekend other than watching films. But now I've had my kick and can live on that for quite a while. I don't think I'll still be in York for the 2014 edition!

18 November 2013

No kidney for Matt

I still have two kidneys. And it might stay that way for a while. After about 2.5 months I received the outcomes of the tests done to find out if I would be a good donor for a little kid who has to make do without kidneys. And I'm not. I know the chance was slim, but it was worth finding out for certain. And I could still give one kidney away to someone else; there are more people who make do without, and I might be a good match for one of those. But with my contract already expiring in less than ten months, this may not be the moment to engage in heavy surgery. I need a future for myself too! But given that it took 2.5 months to find out if I was a suitable donor for Matthew, it may take forever to find out if I am a suitable donor for anyone in the UK. So I might have that process started. And then we'll see!

16 November 2013

Bye Rob, take care

In October he had his viva. In November he flew to Canada for his first job as doctor Rob. I'm proud and happy! He's my first PhD student, and he happens to also be a dear friend. I hope he'll land on his feet there on the other side of the Atlantic. And I'm sure he'll do well!

Before he left he sent Roland and me some presents to remember him by... I got a set of earrings and a pendant, made of snail opercula... I'll wear these with pride! Take care Rob, I'll be thinking of you!

PS for more info on what these are look here

14 November 2013

Back into Jenga

The river is down, the caves are dry! After weeks of doing some digging-for-the-sake-of-digging we could go back into our normal venue Jenga Pot, where we know the digging might actually get us somewhere. For some weeks, there had been so much water down there there was no way we could go down there. But now the coast was clear. Or at least clear-ish. What's prozaically known as "the slops" was still blocked; too much water had brought too much silt in. But we could at least get to it! And clear it out. So we did.
My first task was lie flat on my belly in a narrow tunnel, have drag buckets full of slop pushed in my direction, dragging these out (backwards) and attaching them to a rope. Others would then haul the bucket up and out, empty it, and send it back. But then tactics changed, and Laura tried to burrow straight though, and I became redundant. I went up the rift a bit, and found a new job; Chalky decided the rift was not deep enough and started to send buckets full of slop up on his own initiative. Now it became my job to get them off the rope at the top of the vertical bit, and hand them to Handshake who would send them in the direction of the exit. How many ropes, pulleys and people that took I don't even know; in a cave you rarely have an idea what's beyond the person behind and the person in front of you. But I was impressed by how much of a well-oiled war machine it was! If the place doesn't flood in the meantime we might be able to get through next week. I won't be there, but I keep my fingers crossed! And maybe by the time I get back, we can get all the way to the end again...
The big karabiner to from which I'd unhook the drag buckets

Looking down to where the buckets come from. It's not only foggy, it's also a bit smoky; not only because of the cigarette habits of some of the chaps, but possibly also because there was a fire outside, and some people think it's funny to chuck smoking embers down the shaft...

07 November 2013

Swamphike 2013

Find yourself a wet and soggy destination. Visit it during the wet season. What do you have then? One of the newer traditions of my group of hiking friends. Two years ago we visited Dartmoor in October/November, last year we did the Cairngorms in October, and this year we chose the North York Moors. On Dartmoor we had been wading through paths; normally one would walk on these, but we had chosen such a wet time there often was some four inches of water on them. In Scotland we had been properly rained away. What would this year bring? It would be a short hike, as the company could only be in England for a short while, but a lot can happen in a few days. 

We would have a small group; last year we had Roelof, Erik, Viking, Henco, Maaike, and Hugh, but the first and the last couldn’t make it this year. But five is still a good number. And this time they came by boat! Erik has a snazzy new car that can hold four people plus luggage, and bringing the vehicle would make getting to and from the start point a lot easier. So on a Thursday morning I heard the sound of an engine, which heralded the arrival of my friends! They were a bit startled at having gotten there; it turned out they had left with little preparation, and had wondered when they came off the ferry whether they actually had bothered to bring my address, or my phone number… but it had worked out! 

I made coffee, and we arranged the last bits. Did we have a sensible number of pots and pans? And did we have oil? And a first aid kit? When all was clear we plonked the bags in two cars and drove off. Somewhere around 2PM we parked the cars. And set off. As it was already late we only walked for about a kilometre before we already stopped for lunch. In the sun! That was a first – normally we have our first lunch in the pouring rain. But I can get used to this! Nice to be hanging around with all friends! Especially in a beautiful  landscape. And it was so nice and sunny Erik decided to send provoking texts to big absentee Roelof; a habit he kept all trip through. Only to find out later Roelof’s phone had already been broken for a month…

Starting in the middle of the Moors

Never seen before: first lunch in the sun! 

After lunch we continued along the old railroad, being slightly puzzled by the cat litter-like constructions we saw along the path. The mystery was solved when we reached a pile of plastic bags on a clearing – they contained bird feed! So they were making things a bit easier for the grouse, which we flying up, making their spiffing sounds, all the time. I love that sound! 

After some dozens of grouse we reached to the little path that would take us down into the valley – our route started on the ridge east of Farndale, go along it, cross over, then go south for a while, then go south again, and then back north to the cars. We stumbled through the reeds and the heather as there was no path, until we came to a nice old tree. We wondered if we should go on from there; it was getting dark, and from the tree it would get steeper and less suitable for pitching tents. So we called it a day! We had walked no less than six kilometres. Maybe even seven. But now it was time to bring the beer out! Henco and Maaike had decided that as we didn’t need much food for only two days, they had plenty of space for some good Belgian beer! And after the beer the whisky came out. And then the stoves, for cooking curly kale. A swamphike classic! Henco tried out his new wood burner, which we decided not to use at it worked a bit too well, so we cooked on old-fashioned whisperlites in the end. And after coffee it was time to go to bed. It had become cold! 

 Henco's wood-burner worked better than expected

The wind and the rain swept the tent, but I had faith all would be well. This tent has seen worse. I did have to defend my place – I shared my tent with Viking, something his wife had festooned with some suspicion. After twenty years! Maybe she’ll trust me by the time I’ve known Viking for 40 years. Note to self: go camping with him in 2033 to find out! 

 Our campsite

In the morning it was bright and sunny. Lovely! We had luxurious breakfast, and set off. Down into Farndale! And out the other side. Before the hike, Viking had wondered if Farndale should perhaps not be avoided as it was so much more civilized than the surrounding moors, but its bucolic bliss made him change his mind. Maaike saw plenty of opportunity to use her plethora of cameras, some of which seemingly work-holed straight from the early Bronze age. She would take analogue pictures, develop and print these herself, and then scan them in in order to share them with us. I see the beauty, but I prefer to plonk them straight onto internet from the memory stick…

Four intrepid hikers


Soon we entered the moorland again, on the other side, and went all the way to the top of the ridge on the other side. It was a broad, even track! Suddenly we travelled at speed. So much so we soon went down into the valley again. And out the other side! All the way the question whether it is better to call a container for things such as tents a “foedraal” or rather the more prosaic “zakje”, kept us entertained. The answer, of course, is that one should never use “stuff” when one could use “paraphernalia” instead; just to pick an English example. 

Unavoidable group picture! Erik, Henco, Viking, Maaike and me. By then it had finally become a bit swamp-like.

At the start of the moorland we had a last lunch. And we were only some three kilometres, as the crow flies, away from the cars, while we had hours to spend still, so we headed south, to have a slightly longer walk. That allowed us a view into Rosedale with it industrial heritage – I loved it! And upon getting back to the cars we ditched the bags, drove to the pub, and then walked for another hour. Very beautiful! And then the pub beckoned. We had hardly deserved a hearty pub meal, but sometimes one should abandon one’s Calvinism and just seize the moment. And once back in York, the drivers could join the exhausting of my beer (and whisky!) stock. 

Pub dinner - and these were only the starters...
Given that I now live in a city worth scrutinizing, we had just that planned for the next day. We saw the Minster, the Shambles, and the city walls. And then it was time to see the inside of a pub for a solid lunch; that would save the travellers having to have expensive and unappetising  ferry-food. And then it was time to stuff all people and bags back into Erik’s car, and wave them goodbye! The end of swamphike 2013, the swamplessest swamphike ever! 

Father-daughter bonding

My stepmother took some pictures when she and my dad were visiting a while ago. And one of them is, I think, the sweetest picture ever taken of me and my dad. So it gets its own blog post!

Father and daughter

05 November 2013


Could anyone have failed to notice that a renowned body like the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level has turned 80 this year? I thought not. I headed to Liverpool to celebrate by means of attending the anniversary conference. I had my poster with me. And was ready for talks by the finest in sea level science; the tide gauge people, the sea level reconstructors (of which I am one), the modellers, the glaciologists (these fluctuations in sea level have to come from somewhere) and the coastal management folk. It was very interesting! And it was a good time to catch up with people from the past, the present and the future. From the distant past came Robin Edwards, whom had been a colleague in my Amsterdam days, from my sea level days came the likes of Jason Kirby, and the delegation from my present was made up of Tasha, Roland and Tom. And who knows who will feature in my future!

 The workshop was held at the Victoria Gallery and Museum; a beautiful venue! Here a nice still life with the queue for coffee during the break...

One of the Three Graces being gracefully lit at night

04 November 2013

Visiting the Dee Estuary

The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level is 80 years old. That asks for a celebration! What is the PSMSL? It's 3.5 people associated with the National Oceanography Centre, who check tide gauge data, make them available, try to make sure more tidal data is recorded, answer questions from the general public, and several other things. It's a valuable institute for everybody who works with, or wants to know about, sea level. I use their data a lot! And I thought a meeting in Liverpool would be nice. So I registered for the PSMSL 80 workshop, and while I was at it I included the field trip that it started with.

We would gather at the Liverpool waterfront. Phil Woodworth of NOC and PSMSL (who has an MBE!) showed us how the waterfront had developed, where the old dock had been, where the old tide gauges were, where the father of tide measurements; William Hutchinson, had lived, and showed us a series of his tide measurements that had been chiseled into the pavement. Very exciting! It's always good to trace what you're doing back into the past.But after that it was time to go into the field. Not too far, though; this was not supposed to be a proper mud-everywhere-fieldwork. So we drove to a pub next to a salt marsh, where Andy Plater told us about the marsh in question. It was very new, and had come into existence due to human interference with the tidal channel that brought the river Dee all the way to Chester. And he talked for at least fifteen minutes before we retreated to the pub for a lunch of over 1.5 hours. One can take a leasurely approach to fieldwork from time to time!

 Phil seems to be pointing out Guy Wöppelmann to everybody in what I think was Canning Dock, while Andy Plater takes a picture

During lunch I was lucky to share a table with illuminati of various career stage; at the head of the table (of course!) was David Pugh, one of the big names in British sea level research (and another decorated man). We also had NOC's Mark Tamisiea, and we had our very own Tasha, and a man who looked more at ease in the blustery English autumn than one might have expected from his nationality; Saudi Yasser Abualnaj, and an almost-finished PhD in tidal modelling; Mark Pickering. It was a stellar configuration!

After lunch, though, we were expected to do at least something to deserve our lunch. Andy and his PhD student Tim Shaw took a core from the marsh, just to show those unfamiliar with such activity what is involved with such things. Non-geographers can ask rather useful questions! Fortunately we were able to answer all in a satisfying way - or at least that was my impression. I would think that, wouldn't I?

 Andy and Tim have taken a rather beautiful core; Phil seems satisfied, but Svetlana Jevrejeva is clearly not convinced yet. Who would have thought!

The last venue was the village of West Kirby, which is in need om some solid sea defenses, and of which Andy pointed out the more and less successful interpretations. And under a nice pink evening sky we climbed back into the coach, and headed back to Liverpool. It hadn't been a very trying field day, but it had sure been enjoyable!

03 November 2013

Liverpool revisited

A conference brought me back to Liverpool. Another opportunity to catch up with Hugh. And another chance at seeing St George's Hall, and the Anglican cathedral. I left home early on Friday, read a master's thesis on the train, and reached Liverpool in time to join the Liverpudlian geography crew having an after-work pint. Very nice! And after that I got to see Hugh's new house - quite an improvement. And quite near the Three Graces. If you live in Liverpool anyway, you may as well be a stone's throw from the best bit!

The next day we did the tourist thing again. We AGAIN failed to get into St George's hall, but we visited the Walker Art Gallery, which was nice, and we saw the Catholic Cathedral (which I didn't like), and finally managed to enter the Anglican Cathedral. It was a nice day! Nice weather too, for most of the day at least. We also tried some pubs, wine bars, and a restaurant. And we had plenty of time to catch up! A lot had changed in the meantime. Next time in York again!

St George's Hall - from the outside. The only side we got to see...

The inside of the Anglican Cathedral

In a wine bar, after all the touristy activities