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...

12 October 2019

Windy day in the field

Every year we go into the field with the second year's students. We used to take them to both the mountains and the beach. But this year I wanted to do something different.

The idea was we reconstructed the direction of an ice body in two places; using striations in the mountains, where the environment is largely erosional; and using till fabric at the beach, where the environment is largely depositional. Striations are the scratches a glacier can leave in bedrock by scraping rocks over it. Till fabric is the preferred orientation of clasts in till which result from the clasts rotating to align themselves into the direction in which the sediment is deformed.

Traditionally, the students did a lot better in the striation part. There they hopefully discover that there are two generations of striations to be found in that area; one set from the Last Glacial Maximum that goes in the direction of the ridge with the Pyg Track on it, and one from the Younger Dryas that just follows the valley topography. (And no I don't fear next cohort of students will read this and take advantage of the information. As matter of fact, we hand it to them anyway. But that isn't necessarily enough!)

On the beach, they are supposed to notice that even though the topographic gradient dips north, the clasts are aligned east-west. That's because the local glacier got diverted by an ice stream coming down the Irish Sea. But they never get that! They tend to end up with data that shows them aligned north-south. I suspect this is bias; they want that to be true so that's all they see. And it's interesting to see they often have the ice go south instead of north. That really isn't very likely! And that may be a combination of expecting the clasts to be aligned north-south, but having forgotten to have any expectations on which way they would dip.

The thing is, the lectures don't even go into till fabrics. And I don't want it to! There already is so much. So I decided to ditch the beach part. That would make the trip half a day only. Is a bit less trying! And I figured the results would be better. So a half day it would be!

Two days beforehand, on a Sunday, I got a message form my colleague Lynda that the road to Pen-y-Pass, where we park, was closed. Oh dear! That Monday I investigated and indeed; on the Gwynedd County website it said the road between Nant Peris and Pen-y-Gwryd would be closed. Oh dear! That means parking at the latter location and walking up. Google Maps figured it would be half an hour. But we only had the students from 9AM to 1PM and that included the drive! Which is longer to Pen-y-Gwryd! So we would probably have a very short time at the actual site. Oh dear!

The students would come by bus. We would have David in a department vehicle, as we wanted to have back-up in case someone would get injured or something and have to turn back. So we made a plan: David would pick me up, we would check the situation out, and try to report back to Lynda in the bus. And so we did! We saw the road was actually open between Pen-y-Gwryd and Pen-y-Pass. Great! But we had no phone signal. We drove back to Pen-y-Gwryd and waited for the bus. We told the driver he could actually park at Pen-y-Pass! And so he did.

One there we got everybody together, distributed gear, and started to walk up. It was a blustery day! When we got up I did my usual spiel: find a patch of striations (just one, otherwise the location map becomes too complicated), have us check if you are in any doubt if they are striations, measure them, put your location on the location map, and then see what other groups have done as you have to work with their data too. And they were off!

Lynda, our assisting PhD student Katie and I walked around to see if all was well. Did they find striations, did they not mistake other lineations for striations, did they measure them correctly? And when it looked like the first groups were done I settled down with the location map so students could come and indicate their location.

When all groups were done I did a debrief. What directions had people found? Was that in the same direction as the valley? Yes it was! Was any other direction found? Yes! One group had a direction towards the ridge. So that must have been a different ice body! Then I suggested the students go and have a look. They had to write up the whole data set! So if there were two generations of striations it would be best if they had seen that. They looked at me in incomprehension. I was baffled. Really? They all started off downhill. But then at the last minute I was glad to see they all veered off anyway, to the magic site with two sets. It was a bit of a weird one; it was only just on my map. None of us staff had ventured all that way. And we got there, and there were no striations there. Oh dear! They had mistaken cleavage for striations. That was a disappointment! But what can one do. It was time to go. We walked down. I hoped there were more students who had found the one rare direction, but had either not noticed it didn't follow the valley, or had been too shy to speak up. That's far from unthinkable! So we went back to the cars, and collected the clipboards, data sheets and compasses. And went back to Bangor! Where I could fling the data into excel, and see what they had found. Hopefully more than they realised themselves!

And next year? I will book more time so we are not in trouble when the road closes, and we'll have more time to check the various group sites. I will have to somehow get the students to see them all! I'll have to ponder how. Make them sketch them all? For part of the grade? I'll have to ponder that. I'm determined to make them get out of this trip what is in there! 

Students on a striated rock

Pixel-sized groups of students in impressive landscape

11 October 2019

More eco-friendly lifestyle changes

I do my best to avoid plastic packaging! With food shopping that is quite doable; the Londis sells quite some vegetables packaging-free, and Waitrose isn't bad either. And we may have lost the bring-your-own-tupperwares shop, but we still have the package-things-in-potato-starch shop. And I had made my period waste-free. But my dental hygiene was still dominated by 20th century materials. Plastic toothbrush, toothpaste in plastic, floss in plastic. It was time to address that too! So at some point I ordered a bit of a starter package: bamboo toothbrush, glass jar of toothpaste, floss in a lot less plastic than my usual stuff. And now I need to try it out! I ordered the children's toothbrush as I like my brush heads small. I have all my wisdom teeth and I find that if you try to clean these with too big a brush, you end up retching.

So how do I like it?
The toothpaste tasted OK and did the job but it didn't have fluoride in. (It also failed entirely to foam; that is unfortunate.) And I want the fluoride. I like my teeth! So I didn't order more (it had been a very small jar) but instead got me toothpaste tablets in a tin. They had fluoride! And they were OK. Still not as foamy as traditional toothpaste but good enough. The toothbrush was fine too; the handle was a bit short (it being a children's model) but that is a discomfort I can live with. And I like my floss wide (more ribbon than string) but that too is a discomfort I can live with. So I don't think I'll be looking back here either. This won't be waste-free but a lot more waste-low!

10 October 2019

Finally: another ugly edge hidden

In winter I had been busy hiding the rough edges that had appeared from underneath the ceiling. I had discovered the magic abilities of mouldings; you just nail them to whatever you want to hide, paint them a camouflage colour, and le voilà: it suddenly all looks good again. I had managed to hide some relics of the plasterboard ceiling, but there was still an ugly edge peeking out from underneath the plasterboard of the bedroom wall. It showed the sides of the bedroom floorboards, but not in a good way. So I had let this slip a bit down the to do list but finally got around to it. I sawed a piece of moulding to size, painted it, and the next day nailed it into position. It looks so tidy now! And only I will notice as nobody else will know what it hides. But that's good enough for me!

Old pic from February; notice the blank moulding at the bottom and no moulding on top

The situation now!

09 October 2019


I was a bit apprehensive. Everyone said plastering was difficult! But I had this partial wall that really needed it. I really had to give it a go. On a Tuesday morning I popped to the local DIY shop to get supplies. I figured I’d just go on my commuter bike, get the stuff, dump it at home, get my work bag and bike away. 

All was well with the trowel and the PVA (for sealing the plasterboard) I needed, and the extra polyfilla I was buying. But then the plaster. The smallest bag they had was 25 kg! And I was on my 7 kg road bike with pannier! Oh dear. But I was committed now. I put the bag in the pannier bag and hoped for the best. I walked the bike home! It was very unbalanced. I suppose it would have been better to have had some elastic straps. Then I could have put it on top of the pannier and the whole thing would have been less unbalanced! I got home. First hurdle taken! 

The first thing was to apply a layer of PVA. That's easily done! And that would be the sealing layer. A bonding layer would have to be done just before the plastering as it would have to be still wet. 

I figured I should do the plastering early on the day, so there would be time for disaster management! So on a Saturday morning I mixed my plaster. When it was done I added a layer of PVA to assist the bonding of the plaster to the wall. And off I was! I quickly noticed the first pitfall; if you let your trowel stick to the plaster (as in, not keep it at a slight angle) you can only pull it off with violence, thereby creating some sort of artex effect. Oh well! Easily smoothed out. 

 PVA layer applied: check!

I did make an awful mess. And you have to be careful with what you do with it! Take it off with a cloth and then rinse out the cloth under a tap risks clogging up the drains. 

I am also bad with the edges; I tend to cheat and do these with a palet knife. The end justifies the means! But in the end I got all covered. And cleaned up. 

The first splodges

After the first layer; notice the plaster everywhere! 

While waiting for the first coat to dry I pulled some more wallpaper from the other wall. Big holes in the old plastering appeared! Maybe I needed to do something with that too. 

When I started on the second coat, the plaster had thickened a bit. It actually made it easier! Maybe next time I should start a bit thicker. This time I barely made a mess! So when the coat was on I only needed a few minutes to tidy up and then I could admire my work. A professional plasterer would hate the look of it but for me it was great! I don’t like my walls smooth anyway. It will do! 

I then decided to use the left-over plaster for a quick repair of the holes in the plaster of the other wall. And what was left then went into a plastic bag for disposal.


So now I could tidy up, and wait for it to dry! And once it is dry I can paint it. And I think not much later I can do the back wall. And then things go fast! Then it's a case of moving the furniture off the side wall and do that one too.

Is that it then? Well, no, the ceiling can do with a coat of paint too, but I am hesitant about that. Painting ceilings is a pain! But would the painter come over for just one ceiling? And I suppose I can do it myself but then you need to do the entire kitchen. I mean, the ceiling is above everything, evidently! So none of this only doing one side of the kitchen and being able to just keep using the other sides. And I would need to first wash it. It's got a big fat nicotine layer on it! And after washing it it'd need a special layer to keep the nicotine (no way I could wash it all off) from showing through the paint. Sounds like a lot of work! I could see that end up on the lower end of the to do list. And somewhere near the bottom is 'do something about the kitchen in general'. The kitchen cupboards have lots of nicotine staining in them too. And the doors are ugly. It's MDF with a plastic coating! Not pretty. And on some of the doors the coating is coming off. So one day I'll have to do something about that too. But that's really a long term plan! And for now I'm just excited about ending the rule of both mint green and wallpaper in this house...

08 October 2019

Progress in the dig

I was a bit nervous! The dig is in a difficult state. But it often is, and we always get away with it. I hoped we would manage to make some progress. The previous time we had set off two charges and it would be interesting to see what that had done.

When we walked from the adjacent chamber to the start of the dig I turned around to say something to Miles. And my eye fell on some scribbles on the wall. Cool! We have been coming here for three years; how could we not have spotted this? It was some kind of calculation. I quickly took a picture!

The scribbles

I was up first. And I saw the blasts had caused a lot of rubble! So I shouted down to Miles that he should stay clear while I threw it all away. And when I had thrown the worst away except one big one that couldn't fit down the hole as it was. We needed to make that smaller first!

Miles came up and started on splitting the big rock. And smashing the slabs he chipped off. I pulled rocks out of the wall; the blasts had loosened quite some stuff. I had to stack the bits off to keep them out of Miles' way. And together we made quite some progress! The big slab became lots of small bits and vanished. I pulled a lot out of the wall; quite some was quite big too, and needed to be split first too. And all that in the end vanished down the hole too. We threw so much down! Miles said we only had a few inches of clearance at the bottom of the vertical bit but I trusted he was exaggerating.

Towards the end, one of the big slabs that had been standing diagonally started to move. Scary! But it couldn't go anywhere. It just calmly lowered itself until it ended up resting on another rock. We would have to get rid of this the next time! It's in the way a bit. But we have made so much more space to move now! And that's good. That means you can be in various places while trying to dig up. And not necessarily directly underneath what you are prodding! Especially important is that there is more space to be underneath the solid ceiling to be and hide. I feel a bit more optimistic now! Bring on a next session...

What it looks like now

07 October 2019

On my way to another qualification

I'm now a member of the CCC! So I can go and take more qualifications. Jenny, my Welsh tutor, keeps kicking me in the bum, encouraging me to do more. And it's good! It's fun, it looks good on my CV, and it's another reason to engage with Welsh as I still don't have much every-day practice.

So what is it now? The Tystysgryf Sgiliau Iaith (certificate of language skills); a qualification aimed at people in universities and the NHS. It's not past of the school curriculum; it's really a professional qualification. It's externally examined.

So what do I need to do? It's a two part thing; I have to give a presentation in Welsh about my field of expertise to an audience that then asks questions, and there is an exam. And the exam has three parts; 1) correcting a text in Welsh 2) translating a piece from English to Welsh 3) a free writing exercise. And this time, we do it on computers! And that was a relief; I spent a lot of time in my A level writing exercise counting words so as not to fall outside the word limit. But if you can do it in Word, the counting is done for you! And you can spend all your energy in writing proper Welsh. I had 78% for writing in my A level but here I have to step up! This is not a school exam anymore...

So what do I think? I think the presentation will be fine. I can prepare for that. The finding mistakes will be less fine. It's hard! And then I think the two writing exercises will be good enough. So I think I'll pass! But if I don't, I can try again next year. And if I only fail one (either presentation or exam) I can park the passed bit and only re-do the failed bit the year after. We'll see!

06 October 2019

National College Wales

I'm a member now! They didn't ask any questions. Well, that's not true. They were clearly checking if I really was a Bangor University employee! But other than asking the questions in Welsh, there was no Welsh language check. I suppose that people who don't speak Welsh don't want to be a member of this college.

So what is it? And why did I become I a member?

Y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (as it's really called) is an institute that promotes education in Welsh, basically. So they encourage students to do (some of) their education in Welsh, they encourage universities to facilitate that, they develop modules, etc etc. They're not a separate body; they just have branches in all Welsh universities. My colleague Dei is, of course, a member.

I have recently changed my listing on the Bangor University HR website as able to teach in Welsh. And I want to! When the circumstances are right. But then I had better be a member of the CCC. And as well, once you're a member of the CCC you can do more language qualifications. And I'm always aiming for more Welsh qualifications! So so far my life hasn't quite changed yet from becoming a member, but I am signed up for an external qualification! More about that in another post, though...

Image result for coleg cymraeg cenedlaethol
Documentation from CCC. Left: nr of students that took at least 5 credits in Welsh, right: nr of students that took at least 40 credits in Welsh, through time. An academic year, btw, is 120 credits. Old data; I wonder what things look like now!

05 October 2019

Start work on the kitchen - badly

When I had finished pulling wallpaper in the upstairs room I had a bucket of water and a sponge without a use. Or did I? I brought it to the kitchen to dispose of but decided maybe I shouldn't. The kitchen, after all, now was the last room left with wallpaper I wanted to get rid of! Should I make a start? Maybe that corner above the kettles? I gave it a go.

That wasn't a good idea. I could have known that wall was new! So I pulled the wallpaper straight off the plasterboard. Oh dear. The outside of plasterboard is cardboard. You can't pull well-glued wallpaper off that without damaging it! So now I have a wall that's not mint green and unpleasantly textured anymore, but which hasn't really improved anyway. I'll have to try and plaster it myself! Would be a useful skill to practice. It doesn't have to be tidy. So I'll have to buy a trowel and plaster and some PVA as I need to treat the surface first. And then we'll see! Plastering seems to be very difficult, but there's not much at stake. If you do the electricity yourself and it goes wrong you electrocute yourself or burn the house down. If you get the plastering wrong your wall looks silly! So I'll give it a go. Better, I think, than trying to get the actual plasterer in for just some 1.5 m2 or so...

The tortured wall! Notice the clever distraction with the calendar. 

04 October 2019

Ogwen River Festival

On a Saturday I stepped out of the house to go to the shop, but bumped into the neighbour (and his dog). They turned out to be heading for the park on the other side of the river: it was Ogwen River Festival. I had sort of noticed there was such a thing but I hadn't clocked it was then. So I did my shop run and then went to have a look. And the woods are quite lovely anyway! But now they were extra special. There were works of art and craft dangling in the trees, and there were unusually dressed people about. It was all rather low key! But nice.

I was just admiring one piece of art when I saw that there were belly dancers about to start. The art could wait! And it was quite cool. These ladies were not flawless but it was lovely to watch! And their choice of music was eclectic. When they were done, though, I decided I had seen enough. Quite a nice distraction from chores though! I should pay more attention next year...

The festival went with the times

Waste art

Belly dancers
The woods as they normally are: quite magical too!

03 October 2019

Small car repair

When I bought my car it was already scratched. I don't mind! That doesn't affect the car's performance and/or structural integrity. But one day I expected the roofer to come with a trailer and pick up some of the roof waste, and in preparation for that event I parked on the street. That allowed him to park close to the pile of waste! And that was all well but I noticed someone coming down the road, realising it was a dead end, and doing a clumsy three point turn in front of my house. My car wasn't in a good position for that! And later I saw that I had a new scratch, and not only that; the car that had scraped past mine (must have been the clumsy one) had snagged behind the edge of the bumper and pulled it a bit off the metalwork. Oh dear! Still not affecting the car's performance and/or structural integrity. But now it sticks out! And would snag even easier! And that's bad. So I decided to see what I could do about it. And I decided on drilling little holes and tying the two bits together again with some cable ties. I think it works! It's less snaggy now. And I suppose the car is more Margot-esque now...

02 October 2019

Progress in the bedroom

I had made a big start on getting the top bedroom (to be changed into office) ready for painting. But then Laugharne happened, and Welcome Week, and the start of term, and things fell silent again. It's not a big problem; I can just close the door and not see the mess. But it was a rainy weekend and I figured I could spend some time on it again. And so I did!

I pulled all remaining wallpaper off from strips I had started on. And decided that the rest could stay! There was a radiator in the way; no way that I could rip it all off around it. And I don't want to have to remove it. So all wallpaper in strips that are partially covered by the radiator can stay. I'll use filler to hide the seam! And I washed the remaining glue off the wall. And I had a prod at what looked like badly performed filler jobs. That needed redoing! I prodded at the wall and everything that fell out too easily was removed.

And then it was time for filler. I had some Polyfilla left over from before! And a whole new tube. I wanted to do the drillholes with Polyfilla as it's easy to fill them with a tube, as you can squirt the stuff straight in. I also wanted to do the big gaps with it as it's stronger than powder filler. And then the rest with powder filler. But the holes were so big! They ate the entire tube in no time. I'll have to buy more. But it has started! And then soon I'll be able to paint the first wall. I'll start at the wall with the window and work my way around. It's moving! And I already have a marvellous cupboard, and a swept ventilation canal (I did call that chimney sweep). That needs a new cover but that shouldn't be too bad! New office, here I come!

Wallpaper gone!

Most wallpaper here gone too! And what's left can stay. 

01 October 2019

Long Thursday Night trip

There was no digging! Miles was doing stuff with the television crew again. So I went with the ThursdayNighters. And we'd do slate elsewhere. And that often takes quite a while so some were surprised I was up for it. But I was! I hadn't been with the ThursdayNighters since Pantywrach. I think.

David and Paul picked me up. David had been driving lots recently so his car needed a break! And in Blaenau we met the others: Jason, Edwyn, Brian and a new bloke: Ian. He had driven up on a motorbike from Cwm Penmachno! And it was a damp windy day. And it was only a 125 cc bike. He's tough.

We walked up. The weather wasn't too bad! And we went in. Nobody had a very precise idea of where to go but we wanted to do some stretch of the place, guided by the map Ed had made. I had only been in a few times before so I lost my bearing almost immediately. I did recognise most of the things we came past, but from a long time ago. And it isn't my favourite; this mine closed fairly late in the 20th century so a lot of the relics are a bit too modern to my liking. But after a while we did a stretch that I certainly never had done before; we saw lovely stuff! Including an old stairway. It was in quite a state of disrepair, but that also meant it hadn't been tampered with since the mine had closed. And probably not since it had been put there, which was certainly a Victorian event. Special!

Edwyn commented on me being rather quiet and that was true, but I wasn't sure why. I just plodded on! I was a bit hungry, but I managed to eat some sarnies along the way.

After a while we had done the loop and came up again. And went out! It wasn't even that late. And it didn't rain until we got back at the vehicles and wanted to change. Oh well. And I hope to be digging again fairly soon (that breakthrough won't force itself) but it's nice to see the ThursdayNighters too!


They had an electric kettle!!

The staircase

A tempting-looking traverse