20 April 2015

Visit by sister: new tradition?

Last year, in spring, my sister was between jobs. That means: time! She decided to come visit me before her new job would kick in. But the job market is volatile: this new contract turned out to not make it past the first year. So she had time again! And she would visit me again, almost exactly a year later. I'm not suggesting it's good to pursue such short employments (although there are more jobs to choose from for my sister, so she doesn't tend tot have to move house if she changes employer, so for her it's less disruptive) but I would be the last one to deny the benefits of this process. I used my rather calm Easter to get the spare room ready for her, and to get some work done so I wouldn't feel bad about taking a day off.

She would arrive in Manchester in the morning, and in Bangor in the early afternoon, but it was foggy in Amsterdam, so all of that got delayed. I almost made a full working day! Finally I got the message she was in the train from Chester. I came pick her up.

After dumping her bag and viewing my house we had a drink in the garden. And then it was already dinner time! We tried the local Italian in vain, and ended in Dylan's; quite a good place to have been. And by the end of the meal we were up to date on the important stuff. Family, jobs, health; the works. And then the night was over. The next day we wanted to go into the mountains, and one had best get up early if one wants that, especially in a weekend!

We had hoped to do some proper high stuff, but we looked at the forecast and at the conditions outside, and decided to ditch that plan and stay lower. And so we did! We decided to park in Capel Curig and walk north from there, past Llyn Crafnant. We intended to just loop around it and back to the car, but the forestry roads were a bit confusing and we got a view on Llyn Geirionydd for free. The weather was a bit windy, but it was bright and nice, and it was a nice walk! We had a drink in the Pinnacle Cafe afterwards and then we were on our way. Past the shop, so we could cook. Which we did. And we very wildly managed 2/3 of a bottle of wine before we called it a day. Another early morning was looming!

 Pictures of sister in nice landscape

The next morning we left early to get to our trusted venue Cwmorthin. We would have breakfast in the Lakeside Cafe and then have a scamper underground. I went for cottage pie; you can't have a heavy enough breakfast on a day like that. We chatted a bit, and flirted with Don's dog, and then we were off. We changed into our kits; I had used my old kit, my current kit and my spare kit for when the current stuff falls apart into two complete kits. I had even washed the lot so whichever bits of kit my sister would choose, they would be presentable. My washed suit (which Petra wore) and the new one I wore attracted a lot of attention. Bright colours! No mud! We were ready; time to walk the slope!

Phil had thought of a route, but he had had to back out of the trip. We started on that way anyway. Petra asked many questions, I redirected them to the men (oh dear, have to brush up on my mining knowledge), and David kept her updated regarding where on the map we were. We also popped down to a chamber where we had been some time earlier, wondering if there was something to see in a bit we had failed to explore that time. David and Edwyn explored and we sat around. I was starting to worry my sister would be bored.

We went on. Via some detours we made our way to the chamber with the lights; there we had some lunch. I asked my sister what she thought of the level of physical challenge so far; we had done some manways and ladders and scrambles and collapses. But she wasn't impressed yet! The men were thinking of going into a very inhospitable part of the mine and lug heavy stuff around, but I wasn't keen; I preferred to do some of Miles' fun routes with traverses and ziplines and whatnot. And that is what we did!

We headed for the corkscrew. I figured it might provide a bit more excitement than anything so far. And Petra was up for it! David lead the way, Petra followed, and then I and Edwyn closed the ranks. The rest disappeared. The route goes up a steep slab first, over artificial steps, and then the steps go along the slab, to end in a traverse along jagged rock. Petra was OK on the slab, but not so happy on the traverse. She struggled. Should we go back? But she wouldn't hear of it, and after some attempts she got past the difficult bit. On her first day underground! The next challenge she laughed at; a traverse that wasn't too difficult but which was much more exposed. She didn't care. Then there was the scamper on the beam of the bridge; that was scarier than before, as David went first, and he used both beams. That meant putting lateral forces on them, rather than normal ones, and that made them wobble worryingly. But the rest of us just shuffled along on the one beam. Felt solid!

Slightly blurry picture of Petra just after the corkscrew, still in a harness

Underground sisters!

The next piece of kit was a zipline, but Petra had had enough of excitement. While Edwyn tried it, we walked around. A bit further on we found the others, and while David and Edwyn then took the zipline-festooned route out, the rest of us went the "normal" way. And soon we were out! We would go for curry afterwards, but the curry house wasn't open yet, so we first had coffee and tea at Mick's place. The curry was nice. Then it was time to get home. I had to lecture 9AM the next morning!

The last day together started with that lecture. Petra had suggested she attend it. I shouldn't admit to this perhaps, as she doesn't pay tuition fees, but well, I said it'd be OK. Normally I have a good look through them before I set off, but with Petra being here that had been a 10 min exercise. Oh well. It wasn't the best one for a guest; I didn't start at the beginning, I didn't end at the end, it was largely nicked from my predecessor and I hadn't rehearsed it. Oh well, she had a book! After the lecture we went for a coffee in town. After the coffee we had a walk around. I had told her not to keep her expectations too high, as Bangor is a dull town, but she wanted to judge for herself.

When we were back we skyped her family. Five days away is a lot for children! They weren't so keen on the idea they would be asleep by the time she would resurface the next day, but what can you do. It was sweet to see the difference between the youngest ones who were so excited they were falling over themselves to get close to the camera, and the deep-voiced, monosyllabic almost-teenager who seemed keen to keep the conversation to minimum duration. Children grow up!

Then I really needed to do the last sizable run before the marathon. I suggested we drive to Newborough Forest, where I would run around a bit while she takes a walk, visiting Llanddwyn Island. And so we did! It was a bit windy but otherwise nice. But it was as good as dinnertime, and Petra had expressed the wish to visit a pub before heading back. Well that can be arranged! I decided the pubbiest pub around was the Four Crosses, so we went there. And stayed for dinner. And thus ended our last evening together!

The next morning I dropped her off at the railway station. And that was it! I hoped she had a good time. And I'll soon hear about where she'll next end up working! And next month I'm in the Netherlands so I'll see her again. I think Wales made a good impression! And we are properly back up to date with what occupies the other's mind...

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