30 April 2019

Part of the Welsh A level done

The first bit is done! For my A level exam, the main bit of which is done in June, I have to send in three files in April. Two are recorded conversations, and the third is a brief blurb about myself, to help the oral examiner in June to think of something to talk about. And I have sent it all off!

The conversations were organised with some difficulty; I had lined up Jenny, and a lady from Chemistry who had set up one of our Open Days (the Chemistry department is being closed so the chemists now pop up in unlikely jobs). I didn't want to bother with this while term was still so busy, so after I had reached the Easter break I started to deal with this. For the discussion with Jenny I had to read a book. And I managed to do that during the time the university was closed over Easter. And a few days later I would have the discussion! So that was OK.

I don't think I'll post a separate review of the book; how many people who read this read books in Welsh? But I liked it! It was very interesting. You follow a woman called Pegi from the age of six to her death in her eighties. And you see her sometimes through her own eyes but mostly through the eyes of her neighbour, mother, grandparents, son, friend, vicar, and so on. You get a rather varied view that way. And it illustrates so well people are such different people to different others, based on their own experiences. And you see people trying to get rid of the damaging parts of their upbringing but never really managing to not hand some of it on to the next generation.

When I mailed the Chemistry lady, though, she bailed out. She did suggest someone else, but that was someone I had never met. It helps to have spoken with someone before! If not, you might find out too late they have an incomprehensible Caernarfon accent or something like that. So I asked my colleague Stella instead! And she was willing. On Thursday I got an email from here; she was back from having been gone and suggested meeting tomorrow at three. Good for me!

That day I saw at about 4pm I had a text message from her asking if all was well. Oh dear. Was there some confusion? I looked back at our email exchange and saw she had sent that mail at one in the morning. So that same day, according to my mail tool! But the day before according to her! Her tomorrow was my today. Oh dear. But I called her and we changed it to the next morning. In Bangor. Phew!

From then on all went well! I met up with Stella, did an OK conversation, and the file was correctly saved. And in the afternoon the same worked with Jenny. Not sure how good it is; the previous time I had to submit a recording it was the only part of the exam I failed. I hope this is better! Later at home I finished the blurb, and on Monday it all went off to the tutor. And then it's time to do a bit of revision for the rest of the exam in June!

29 April 2019

Digging again

The last time I blogged about digging was in October! We have been working on the project since, but not very often, and it became difficult to write about it. We are rather stuck in a difficult patch and progress is slow! So I risk writing 'we were uncomfortably crowbarring rocks for a while and made incremental progress' every time. That's not very engaging! But we went again, after months of not doing so, and I thought it was at least worth mentioning it. And guess what! We were uncomfortably crowbarring rocks for a while and made incremental progress.

It was a slightly more social event than normal; the ThursdayNighters would continue their project in the mine across the river. And we gathered at the same time! And Miles is a sociable chap so he offered anyone who wanted it a lift up, and that meant waiting until everyone was ready. That tends to be a faffy process with the ThursdayNighters. In the end not many actually accepted the lift, but Mick did and that's good as his physical state is worrying. And then we each went our own ways! 

Will we be back soon? I don't know! I am timetabled until rather late the week after, but after that work shouldn't really get in the way very much anymore. Then there is me ThursdayNighting; that won't stop. And then there's Miles; he's busy with his own work, and he sometimes has some health issues that get in the way. I hope that will be resolved!  So we will have to see! I can do with a breakthrough... it's been a while!

28 April 2019

Look for the wrong mine

When I had been walking around in the valleys above the village I had seen something that looked like a tiny little mine on a steep slope. It looked strange! What a remote and uncomfortable place to start a mine. But it that was what it was it clearly hadn't been much of a success.

Then we went walking in Cwm Bychan. When I got onto the mining website to upload my pictures I saw there were two Cwm Bychan mines; one copper and one slate; we had visited the copper specimen. I was curious and looked at the information on the slate one. And it was in the valleys above Bethesda! Was it the one I had seen? I decided to go and have a look.

On the last day of the University Easter Break I decided to go for it. I set off and got there in about 1.5 hours. Not bad! The mine was very insignificant but now at least it's well-documented. And while I was at it I also took some pictures of the quarry where I had seen the raven babies with Monique.

When I came home again I saw this mine wasn't Cwm Bychan at all, That was n the side valley higher up! Oh dear. This had been Ochrfwsoglog, a lovely name, meaning 'mossy side'. And in the riverbed itself there seemed to be another small quarry. I really should go back. check out the quarry in the river, and finally visit that enigmatic Cwm Bychan mine! I have a feeling it may beat Ochrfwsoglog in insignificance, but it's nice to have a specific goal!

Just outside the village

View with sheepfolds

The mine! (full screen view needed)

View from the spoil heap

The other mine on the way back

27 April 2019

Cwm Bychan with the ThursdayNighters

It wasn't a Thursday at all! But it was Easter weekend and people had spare time. And Mick had suggested scampering up Cwm Bychan and looking at the levels there. And I like Cwm Bychan! I had been there with my dad and stepmom. But then we had not explored the levels there (evidently). Now we would! To a certain extent. I had done enough lugging stuff around the previous day so I didn't want to bring wellies or the likes. I brought a helmet + light, and gloves, and some warm clothes, and that was just supposed to be enough.

I drove to Edwyn. He was getting rid of a pannier rack and pannier, and if I teamed up with him I could have a look at them. I intended to fit my bike with such as it's a bit of a pain to carry everything on your back. I threw the bike in the back of the car as that would be the best way to check for compatibility!

When we had doen the bike stuff we set off. We met David at Sigyn (we were doing a two-vehicle trick, so we didn't have to walk a loop) and together set off to Nantmor. There we met Mick and Don. Mick was in contemplative spirit! His health wasn't good, even by his standards. Oh dear. Don was feeling the years but was cheerful as ever.

We set off. It's a beautiful route! And the weather was lovely. Soon we got to the aerial ropeway. And we started to look into adits! They were rather wet, though, and nobody was keen to get soaking feet. So much for exploring.

Walking to the top of the aerial ropeway in the sun 

We also looked in the stope above the big spoil heap (by the standards of the valley). That was quite big! We should come back with drills and bolts and SRT kit and whatnot. Now we had nothing. But we walked on. We saw a few more adits or almost-adits. One was wet too! But you could see the end of the wet bit. That was tempting! I decided to go for it. I swapped my boots for my sandals and braved the cold. It hurt! But I got through. I took some pics inside. Then I had to go back the way I came. Ouch!

The stope

 The adit I explored in my sandals

I changed back and we walked on. We got to the bit beyond the pass where there is a lot of mining stuff around. I clambered up to a stope there too. Then we went onwards to find a level we had seen from a distance. But we got separated! Edwyn, Mick and me lost David and Don. After a while we saw them in the distance. We let them do the exploring. I was feeling my feet! A relic from the previous day.

A big flat space with mine waste near the pass

We rejoined and headed down towards where the car was parked. There was a hole in the hill somewhere there we wanted to see. But where was it? And would we have enough daylight? It was getting dark now! David saw a spoil heap and headed for it through the shrubs. And then reconsidered. But we went on, and Edwyn and I tried again a bit further on. He was ahead. I saw a hole in the ground he had walked past (I thought on purpose; it turned out he hadn't seen it) and couldn't resist crawling in. It went! More stopes. And more reasons to go back with kit. But we shouldn't linger; the others hadn't followed and were waiting for us.

 More stope!

In the dark we walked back to Edwyn's car. He drove us back to Nantmor, where the other cars were. And then we headed home! And I was in bed almost at normal bedtime. It had been nice! A nice walk, the luxury of two vehicles, good company, and some enticing exploring prospects (in random order). I like this Easter stuff!

Install the stereo

I've lived in this house for a year now! A tiny but more than a year, to be precise. And my stereo hadn't left its box yet. It was about time it did!

I had decided it could live in a cupboard in the living room, out of sight. So I put it there! And put a CD in to test. (Under the Pink by Tori Amos, since you ask). And it didn't work. I didn't know why. I decided to pull the cables out again and try anew. I couldn't detect me doing anything differently but now it worked! And that's good; now I can play music. I have a radio in that room but the signal is a bit iffy and sometimes you just can't listen comfortably. Now I have an alternative!

At the moment the speakers are standing on the ground. I have no problem with that in itself but they look out of place. Maybe I should keep them in the cupboard while I'm not using them. Or maybe cover them with something that stops you seeing them but doesn't stop you hearing them! Watch this space.
And now I also should move my CDs down. Yes I still have CDs. I have tried a few times to move on from that technology but without much success. I have a small, fairly old iPod (ten years old!) but I'm currently not sure where it is. I had bought a bigger one but it had ceased working. Then I had used my Samsung phone for a while, until I started using it as a phone. That required a whole new approach though, as it wasn't an apple and didn't run iTunes.

I intend to find my old iPod back. And when it's time to upgrade my phone, I might strip a lot of apps from my old phone and plonk a lot of music on it and then use it full-time as a carrier of music. That will be another six months or so! But I have something now. It will do!

Work in progress


26 April 2019

Big Easter walk

One of the reasons I bought the house I bought was that you could walk the Carneddau from its front door. But I had lived in it for a year and no Carnedd had been touched by my feet! But now that I had reached this second Easter (the first was taken up by moving house) I had the time. And the weather was going to be nice! And I know you can go into the mountains in any weather but it's just not as pleasant with bad weather, and bad weather also tends to mean low visibility, and what is the point of being at 1km height if you can't see a thing. So after two days of pottering around I heaved my bag onto my shoulders and set off. I had already gone in this direction twice; once with Roelof (but that was meant to be a short walk) and once later, but on a day that turned out to be a bit too windy and me a bit too tired. Now it would happen!

Because of other things needing doing too I only left at 10:45. I set off through Gerlan, into the moorland, and then onto Mynydd Du. It was warm and sunny! I was wearing my hiking dress and a reassuring layer of sunscreen. And sunglasses. I saw one family in the distance; otherwise I had the mountain to myself. And I sat down for tea and bara brith before reaching Cwm Moch; that's what out get for setting off so late. But not an awful lot later I was at Foel Meirch and thereby further on this walk than ever before. And you could tell I was approaching the Carneddau. I started seeing lots of (ant-sized, for now) people in the distance. I think most people park up at Ogwen Cottage and walk up Pen yr Ole Wen! There was also a group of children with an adult coming my way. They struggled a bit with the snow patches that had started appearing.

When I got to Carnedd Dafydd there were quite some more people there. But well, the Saturday of the Easter weekend in the sun! If it's not busy-ish then, when would it be. I sat down for lunch. And enjoyed the views, as far as the haze would let me! It had been hazy for days; when I was in Rhos-on-Sea, it seemed like the Great Orme had vanished. That's quite a level of haziness! And it wasn't that bad now but still, beyond the next mountain ridge you could see little.

View on the valleys of the Caseg and Ffrydlas from above

Having climbed almost a kilometer I now had done most of the hard work. It was now time to walk leisurely above the Black Ladders! They were very pretty with a snowy edge. I had the group of children right behind me; that didn't do much for the serenity of the walk, so when I had Llugwy Reservoir in view I sat down for some more tea and let them pass. That helped!

Looking Scandinavian near the top!

Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders)

 View on Llugwy Reservoir
I got to Carnedd Llewellyn in peace. I drank even more tea and then continued towards Foel Frach. Immediately I was on my own again! Would most of the people go down a Braich? I don't think they go down yr Elen; as I've never seen any indication there is a path down from there. But it was fine with me!

The landscape beyond Carnedd Llewellyn was dreamy and smooth. And it looked decidedly different from when we had gone here on a Swamphike! I got to Foel Frach and drank some more tea (I was running low by then). And went on, past Carnedd Gwenllian, and towards Bera Bach. I was bagging Carneddau in a way, but my feet were getting tired and I figured I had better just aim straight home from there. So I skirted y Drosgl and headed for Gyrn Wigau. And aimed home. I was now quite keen on having a shower, and putting my feet up.

 Cooling down my feet

Feet in the snow, face in the sun! 

I got back into the village with no water to spare. I still had food left! And I had been carrying all kinds of clothes I hadn't needed. But better safe than sorry.

I got home, hit the shower, grabbed a beer and a newspaper and made myself comfortable. Later I heated up some food I had ready in the fridge. I wasn't much use anymore the rest of the day but I had had an epic day in the mountains! It had been great!

25 April 2019

Walnut tree wakes up

About a month and a half ago I had planted two walnut trees. And I had kept a bit of a apprehensive eye on them since! The idea is to plant them before they wake up for spring, so that they seem dormant for a while is normal. But the rest of the garden (and the wider world) had most certainly woken up in the weeks since and I was getting a bit nervous. Would they come to life? Or would they not survive the whole rigmarole of being dug up in Kent, sent to Wales, and then planted in my garden? But they are now making leaves! They are alive! They are still sticks but the hardest bit is over! I hope I have actual trees in a few years. And walnuts!

24 April 2019

Paint the stairs

My mother is planning to visit! That's exciting. But it also means I have stuff to do. She loves gardens and gardening, and I have a huge and lovely garden, so we both expect her to be in there quite a lot. But my mother isn't overly stable on her feet, and my garden is below the house. To be accessed via stairs that are wood for the top half and slate for the bottom half. When it rains, both wood and slate get very slippery. And only the wood bit has a railing! So I needed to sort something out.

I had put anti-slip tape on the wood quite early on, but that's a bit of a temporary measure. Phil had suggested stretched metal meshing. And the local DIY shop sold that! I admit that means I was tackling the easiest problem first, but well, one has to start somewhere. I took the old tape off. But the stairs looked like they needed some paint. And that should then be done first! So I got a pot of wood paint Rose had left me out of the garage and set to work. And at the end I had a beautifully brown set of stairs! And then I can apply my first metal mesh and see how that goes. But the good thing is too that when you paint stairs, you look at them, and that has given me ideas for the big issue: putting up railings for the lower part of the stairs. That's the big work! And it should be thought through before starting.

There is a chance it won't rain while my mother is here, and only when they're wet are the stairs slippery, but well, I use them when they're wet! So maybe I so far have only pleased myself. But watch this space. That railing will materialise!

The state of the wood beforehand

And afterwards!

23 April 2019

Lug scaffolding into Wrysgan

The previous week I had not been Thursday Nighting because Monique was here. The week before I had only made it to the entrance. The week before I had been in an exam feedback session until so late I couldn't come out underground. I hadn't done any proper Thursday Night underground faffing, be it in the dig or elsewhere, for a while. But now I could again! And we would be lugging scaff up a steep slope so all extra hands were appreciated.

We were making progress on a long-term project in there; there is a through-trip in Wrysgan, but with a tricky bit in it. It's a bit unstable, and we would not recommend people to go there as it is. But we had been thinking of shoring it up for a while, and now we would actually make a start with that.

When I got to the parking lot I saw David and Phil. David looked mischievous. He said he had done the work already! He had dropped the scaff off as far as he could drive it. Miles had left the gate open for him, and he had been so early he had already done it before anyone else showed up!

The others arrived. Lots of them! Edwyn, Jason, Kate (not Bob) with two friends, Ed and Simon. And Miles! I didn't expect him to show up there as he was supposed to be in Cwm. But then again, if Miles says he'll be in Cwm the whole day he often won't get there until 6. So that he drove up rather than down to meet us was not that strange! And he had been in the area earlier on, and had then left the gate open for David.

As David was in his Landie, and it's quite an unusual car, and the TN are car people, quite soon the bonnet came up and a horde of men was staring down into the engine. Typical!

I had packed the usual: hat, gloves, knee pads, sarnies, fruit, tea, and in this case, SRT kit. We would want to bring the scaff to where it was needed, which was up one slab. One needs SRT kit for that! But then Ed said we would probably only have time to bring it to the hole, and not for putting it in position. Two people hauling would be enough. He had brought his SRT kit but didn't expect to use it. Then I took mine out of my bag! No need to drag that fruitlessly up the hill. 

As we had two big Landies we did the easy thing and drove (or were driven) up. We found the scaff and starting to carry it up. The first people carried their poles to some bit halfway up and then went back to get more. We had more scaff than people! But I was a bit at the back so I figured by the time I would get to the bottom all scaff would be gone, so I went on to the top. By then my shoulder felt uncomfortable! On the way we had met three people with a handsome dog. And when I walked down to get an extra pole from the stock halfway up I saw one of these people come towards me with a scaff pole! That was sweet of him.

I carried another pole up and then all was at the entrance. Time to put on our hats! Then we carried it all to the bottom of the slope. We were a well-oiled war machine! But that did mean we might have more time than we thought. Edwyn had already left for some reason. Miles left fairly soon too; de didn't have SRT kit with him and would be of little use after the lugging stage was over (he's good at lugging!). Phil and Ed scurried up the slope. Jason offered to lead Kate, her friends, and Simon to the other side of the wormhole (the unstable passage). David and I attached the poles on by one to the rope so Phil and Ed could haul them up. But once that was done David put on his SRT kit, and I was a bit useless! But that was OK because I was still very tired and didn't mind an early night. It was something like nine when I left but it takes a while to get back to the cars, and then there's the drive.

The next day I gathered the others had made some good progress after I left. I don't think it's all done yet but this must have been the crux of the work! Soon there should be a spiffing custom-made through trip! Cool!

22 April 2019

Bring your sewing machine to a seaside resort

When the university closed for Easter I knew I would finally have time for all sorts of things. I went to the recycling centre to chuck away my old radiators, I put one good radiator on Freecycle, I had a coffee in the garden, I went to buy some groceries and turned them into what passes for a dal (dahl?) in my kitchen (that's more complicated cooking than I normally do!), did loads more of such chores, and phoned a sewing machine repair place. I had already found out mine was faulty previous summer, but only now had I felt the rest to actually try to do something about it. It would be good to have it, to sort out my curtain situation! And I had googled if there were people around that could repair these things, and to my surprise there were. One near Llandudno and one in Cemaes. And Llandudno is closer! And when I phoned the place, the lady who answered suggested I bring it in right away. Eh, OK! Why not! It's Easter. I got into the car and drove east.

I got to Rhos-on-Sea (my navigation skills were impeccable), parked up, and walked into the shop and was immediately recognised from the machine in my hand. I handed it over to the engineer (he looked like he did this to supplement his pension) and was advised to let him have a look and come back in half an hour. Well, I can do that! I wandered towards the sea and figured I'd find a cafe or something there. And I did! An ice cream parlour, to be precise. It was a bit difficult to buy a cone (I ordered a cone with two scoops, but initially got a cone with one scoop for the price of two cones with one scoop each, and when I managed to communicate I wanted a cone with two scoops they wanted to charge me for two of these; I don't think I ever struggled so much buying some ice cream!) but I managed and sat down with my book. It's holiday! And I am eating black current ice cream at the seaside. And I wasn't feeling frustrated or impatient or any of that. Excellent!

When I got back the situation wasn't very clear. I would have to leave my sewing machine there for a week to let the (clearly part-time) engineer figure out exactly what was wrong with it. I hope he can fix it! It's a good machine when it allows me to make the decisions. And it could help me with dresses and curtains and whatnot for years to come!


Bad picture of book, ice cream and seaside

Low tide

21 April 2019

Made it to Easter

This would be a busy academic year. I had my usual teaching, and then three new modules on top. And I had to organise a series of Open Days. So I knew I would have to run on all cylinders! I got through the first semester. That ended in a lot of marking. I paused that when I went to the Netherlands, but there I fell ill. When I got back and felt better I had to go back to marking. I didn't get much time off that way! And when the marking was done the second semester hit. And it hit hard. I knew it would! I was always just ahead of things. I prefer preparing for things (lectures, practicals, whatnot) a week in advance, if not more. But I rarely prepared for things further ahead than the next day. I managed to keep all the plates in the air, but ideally I would have had a look at these plates, see if they needed repair or replacement, or maybe I needed to work with balls or poi or whatnot instead. No time for that!

When the student presentations had been I knew the pressure was off. I had a few good days with Monique! But I still had a big pile of marking. I managed to finish that before the University closed for Easter. And I finished the first draft of my 'Lecturer 2 form'. And then I saw Jenny in the pub. I was very tired but satisfied; I would now just go home and have a few days off! And I wouldn't think too much of work for a while! I had been looking forward to this. A lot! And now I had got there!

20 April 2019

Ask for money

I'm rich! I bought a house without problems. A rather big one. All thanks to my salary. And I sort of assumed that salary would stay the same. The expectation is that in the long run, junior lecturers turn into senior lecturers (which in turn can become readers, etc) but due to the University's financial situation that process was temporarily halted. I also figured that would be a long way off for me anyway. Firstly; I've only had this contract for less than 1.5 years, and secondly, I had so much new teaching on my plate I had no time to work on any promotion criteria, like innovating my teaching or publishing about pedagogical topics. But then I got an email. Would I apply for becoming a lecturer 2? I seem to currently be a lecturer 1. I had no idea. But the thing is that you get a small pay rise every year (I assume they think more experience should be rewarded), and as long as you stay in the same pay scale that's fine, but if you have to jump from one pay scale to the next you have to apply for it. And it seemed I had indeed reached the end of the pay scale. Probably because they don't count from the start of my contract having become permanent; they probably started counting when I became a lecturer, which was a year earlier. And these pay rises don't count as promotions so they are not stopped.

I had to look up what these pay scales mean. That didn't help much. Pay scales turn out to overlap! In theory they could give me a pay drop while putting me in a higher pay scale. No idea what the rationale is. And the numbers were before tax and that's not the money you get into your account. So even if I get this (presumed) raise I don't know what the actual effect will be!

I must say I was hesitant to fill out the form. It's not as if the university gets more money from outside to pay me more. It will come off the same budget! Should I get more when we have this awful issue of having to teach twice the students with a lot less staff compared to a few years back? But I remembered an equality event recently, during which I was unhappy with the figures of how many women manage to progress past the postdoc stage, and especially past junior lecturer. If that upsets me I should make sure I apply for a promotion when I'm asked to do so! I will never become Senior Lecturer if I can't even stomach becoming a Lecturer 2. So I set to work. And now it's on the desk of the Head of School and he's going to have a look at it; he may suggest some changes. And he has to write a report to say I should indeed get that rise. So we'll see what happens next. But I've taken the first step! Watch this space!

18 April 2019

Finish the shed

When Monique left, there was still a fair amount of day left. And I knew what to do! She had indicated she was sad we hadn't finished the shed. So now I should! As far as possible without drill. So I set to work!

Properly fixing the roof was harder than I thought; you have to aim the screws well but you can't see what you're doing. That was a fair amount of trial and error; guess where the screw goes, screw it through the roof, run inside to see if it is heading for a beam, take it out if not, try again, fill up the hole, and move to the next one. And you can't really have the step ladder next to the shed.

Then it was time to put the felt on. It was a big slab! A bit bigger than needed. I cut it in half as indicated and put the first slab on the roof. That went smooth! I hammered it in place. And did the second slab.

Starting on the felt

Then it was time to put some battens in place. That was a bit weird; there wasn't necessarily a logical place to put the screws. Some trial and error was again exercised. And then they were put in! Now I am supposed to put decorative bits of wood in the top of the gable ends but that requires a drill. It will have to wait! But that's OK. It had suddenly become 7PM and I was tired. I was keen to get off my feet and sort some dinner out!

But I now have a roofed shed! I am happy. I will also have to anchor it as the craziest things blow away in this climate (my conservatory is a replacement for one that indeed blew away) but the bulk of the work is now done! Hurray!

Pretty much finished!

17 April 2019

Monique visit: walk and museum

I had been on a walk with Monique before! But now we could go from the front door. That's lovely! And we decided to go into the valley with the leat above it. I had walked there before, but that had been over two years ago! And it looked different now, as it was spring. We would just see how far we would go!

I lost the path trying to cross the valley made by Afon Ffrydlas. I seem to do that about 50% of the time! But we managed. And soon we were at the pretty sheepfold in the saddle of the ridge. And then the valley on the other side opened up! It was beautiful. It was a bit of a cold day with a stiff wind but the sun was shining! And showed no sign of stopping that.

Into Cwm Caseg

The quarry

When we walked along the little quarry I saw a raven fly up. And then I spotted the nest! With two baby ravens. Cute.

We walked on and when we reached the sheep fold, we stopped for lunch. That was nice! We just looked at the various horses around on the hillside. And then we went on. The official path stopped but there was still something we could follow. We decided to call it a day at a tiny little sheep fold (which looked like the ruins of a house from a distance) and turn back.

We walked the direct route back. We had walked out via Tan-y-Foel as that's the quickest way of getting out of town. But we didn't mind a bit of town on the way back. That would even allow us to do some food shopping! It was a relaxed scamper back. Monique isn't used to long walks, especially not on hills, and there was no reason to complicate things!

We managed a bit of sitting outside in the sun and then we did our usual evening routine. And the next day we would only have half! Monique didn't want another walk so we opted for the National Slate Museum. That's always nice! But when I asked her to help me drive the scenic route there she wondered why I wouldn't drive over Bus Stop Quarry. Then she saw there is a path down there to the museum, but not a way for cars to go. And then she suggested we just park up and walk the rest. That's 200m down! And then back up again. Who had said she didn't want a walk? But we went with it! And it went well.

We saw the intro film, and the slate splitting. Then we visited the cottages (the one from 1901 Bethesda got my undivided attention, as you can imagine) and went for a bowl of soup. And then it was time to walk back up the hill! And that went well. No aching muscles protested enough to get in the way! And we even had some time to spare. I suggested we walk into the quarry (it's not far from where the car was parked) and drink a cup of tea there. So we did! But then our time was coming to an end.

The slate museum

Having a cup of tea (and an apple) on the outskirts of Dinorwic

I drove us to the railway station. Monique commented on that she had thought in advance this would be a long stay! It wasn't. It flew by! But she was already talking about coming back. And what we'd do then!

16 April 2019

Monique visit: building a shed

Monique would come to admire my house! I looked forward to that. I knew that when I would reach the Easter break I would get some space to breathe. And she came a few days later. I picked her up from the station and took her home. First I showed her the house! Of course. She liked it. And then I needed to fill her up with tea and food. She had been travelling since the morning! And we had a lot of catching up to do. After food and buckets of tea and lots of words it was bedtime!

The next day we first had to pop to the farmshop as I was running low on bread. And while we were at it, we walked past the local dragon too. It was a wood carving that had appeared a few months earlier. I had only seen it from the car!

The dragon

I also had to pop by in Bangor. One of my old York friends, Louise, was now at Gloucester university, and on a fieldwork with the students in the area. They had settled down in town for lunch and we would join them! It was great to see her. And I hope she'll come visit! And I should visit her!

When we went home we set out to build my garden shed. I had figured this may be the time! It's fun if you do it together. And Monique was up for it! So we lugged all the components to the garden, and some tools, and set to work. Together we did well! We followed the instructions and rather fast, a structure appeared. Some of it was a right faff. I started screwing two panels together and didn't do well. You had to be close to the side, which means you have no space for either the drill or your hand. And it's hard to apply force. I lost the skin on my knuckle! But I got the screw out again and tried under a better angle. That worked. No more skin was lost.

Using the drill helped, but quite soon it wouldn't rotate in reverse. And then it didn't want to go forward either! My trusted drill! I bought that from my first wage. And it was supposed to last me forever! But we were lucky; the neighbour leaned out of the window to see what the commotion was, and offered to lend us his drill. That helped!

Slowly the structure got four walls and a roof. But time flew by! And I wanted to have time to sit in the garden and have a drink. Monique agreed. So we left the shed with the roof only mildly fixed, and without roof felt. I could finish that on my own!

As before, after dinner there was only time for nattering and drinking tea. Then it was bedtime! Monique gets up very early normally so even with the one hour time difference she got tired before me, and got up at approximately the same time.

The day after would be the most beautiful, so we would go for a walk then; that requires a blogpost of its own!

The almost-finished shed!

15 April 2019

Ellis & Messina

When you do taxonomy work, it helps to have some reference material to fall back on. At the Norwegian Polar Institute, where I started doing work like that, I had some books. And as there are tens of thousands of species, sometimes these books weren't enough; but then there was Tromsø University, and that had a subscription to an online catalogue: Ellis & Messina. That has all the original descriptions. And some are illustrated while others are not, and some are in English while others are not, but it has more forams than you can shake a stick at. That was very useful!

When I worked in Plymouth, the technology was a bit less advanced. We had books, and if we needed more we could go to the geologists; one of the professors there had the paper version of Ellis end Messina. That was an entire book cupboard full of volumes, and not a puny one like mine, but a proper, wall-wide one. Big!

In Menai Bridge we had books and a reference collection (a collection of actual forams) until James left. And then things become a bit improvised! And then, luckily, we found a new collaboration with a commercial company down the road that does a lot of micropalaeontology. They have all the kit!

And then an email came in. That company had the Ellis & Messina catalogue. But they were going to get the online subscription! So they didn't need the paper version anymore. They didn't want to bin it; were we, as Bangor University, interested? Sure we are!

I thought a bit about it and figured I am probably the only one in the university doing these things., We don't have a geology department; at geography they don't do forams. So I presume the library wouldn't be too keen to spend so much space on something so esoteric. So it will have to be me!

I now have the task to clear out all my shelving, and clear out other furniture, and get more shelving, and then, in the end, hopefully I can fit the whole thing in my office. I am excited! I am ready again for some foram science! And yes it takes up all the space I have (and then some) but blimey, I have Ellis & Messina!

The picture the company sent me of their catalogue

13 April 2019

Improvised curtains

I had put up curtains when my bedroom had carpet. But they were just normal curtains. And this bedroom faces roughly south. It's important to keep the sun out properly! I started noticing the sun peeped past the curtains just before the clocks changed. It got light early! So I decided I needed another layer. In the previous house, I had an extra layer of blackout material underneath the curtain. Closer to the glass, so less chance of light getting past. That worked a treat! And I still had that piece of cloth. Could that save me?

I got a break as then daylight saving time kicked in, and it suddenly wasn't light just that early. I took that time to act! I measured the window in the door, and the actual window next to it, and I saw my old piece of blackout was big enough for both. So I cut it in two! And improvised hems with pins. And just hung them, from pieces of string, in the window/door frame. It's not overly pretty (but you won't see that, as it only makes sense to have them closed when the traditional curtains are closed too), and it's rather preliminary, but it will do for now. I think I'll leave it like this until I have solved my sewing machine issues. I have figured out there are repair services in the vicinity; I need to find out if my machine can be repaired, and if not, I should probably get another one. A simple one. This is just long stretches of straight-ahead stitching; I won't do that by hand if I don't have to! I could even bring the pinned stuff to a local repair service. We have one near my office! Although I wouldn't do that for a while; I don't want to take it off for more than a day until the days shorten again in autumn.

I have more black-out lying ready for the other window. Soon I will put that up too! And then I have a nicely dark bedroom. And I am sure that will also help it keep cool in summer. It can be a bit of an oven in there!

The improvised blacked-out window!

11 April 2019

Free solo

I had seen on posters that the film 'Free Solo' would come to Neuadd Ogwen. And it looked interesting! As anyone who has ever climbed anything I am familiar with the name Alex Honnold and what it stands for. In case you never dangle from anything; he is a very, very good climber famous for climbing without a rope. I knew he had free-climbed the most imposing possible climb in the world: el Capitan in Yosemite. I therefore also knew he had survived. But I wanted to see more about it! So I decided that I deserved a  break after the dissertation talks and would go and see that. And I did!

It was worth it. Just that you know he did it doesn't make you stop wonder about how he did it. And how they filmed it! I didn't know they had. And you get an idea of his life. It's an unusual one!

He turned out to be a bit of a socially awkward chap. It was strongly suggested, but not spelled out, that he was somewhere on the autistic spectrum. And it seemed he was just happiest climbing. Especially without a rope. His mother seemed to accept that. I think she'll survive him. And the rest of the world thinks that too. Must be hard!

He also had a girlfriend at the time of the filming. And that got a lot of attention! But I suppose it mattered. For one; no man is an island. She's part of his life so is part of the film. His van (in which he lives) plays quite a role too! And it also affected the climbing; quite soon in the film, she belays him, but does it wrong, and drops him. Strangely enough, Honnold seems to have managed to stay injury-free all the way until that incident. It's quite brave to confess on camera you dropped anyone, but especially someone as famous as Alex Honnold! Later he falls again, not through a fault of hers, but Honnold himself wonders if she has affected his mindset. But he climbs through all the injuries. As he would...

The relationship is a bit weird too; it all starts with her giving him her number at a book signing. Seems like she was more into the myth than into the man! But then when they hook up she is upset he prioritises climbing, even though he knows it may kill him. But the climbing IS the myth.

Another thing that made me wonder was that the only role of the girlfriend is being a girlfriend. She does not seem to have a life of her own! And maybe that's exactly the way it was; I was wondering, though, if she actually does (who knows, maybe she translates Coptic literature into English when the cameras aren't rolling) but the film crew isn't interested. But his mother's job features. And well, given she seemed to be in it for the myth, then maybe that was just the way it was. It would match the other film I saw about a strange and very famous man on the spectrum, Gary Numan. His wife had decided as a schoolgirl she didn't need a career or an education; she would marry Gary Numan. And she did, and lived happily ever after!

You also see him practice in beautiful landscapes all over the place. And you see him recover from his injuries, doing very modest indoor climbs. And you see him practice on the real thing. Man that's scary. You know he'll live, but imagine doing such scary moves so high above the ground, without a rope, and after having already climbed non-stop for hours! Not my cup of tea.

When he decides on a day for the big climb he tries to hide it from his girlfriend, but she figures it out anyway. She's not happy! He goes off to do it anyway, of course, but quite soon he bails out. That is not quite what he had planned, but the camera crew is relieved to see the cameras in his face don't make him push on against his instincts.

He tries again, of course, and this time he makes sure his girlfriend is out of the way. And it is suggested he tells nobody what exact day it will be. You see the film crew spot him on the wall and start filming. I seem to remember there is footage of him setting off, though; did they know after all? Or was this just a reenactment, added in later? But he scampers up the wall and the camera crew get in position. Some on the ground with big telelenses; some others position themselves along the route. They have to be fast! Hmm, I am starting to think they knew all along. He did that climb in less than 4 hours; how do you get into position in time if you have no warning? There's not much footage from close-up but they do catch him at a particularly difficult bit we've seen him practice on before.

You also see the camera crew sometimes not being able to watch! I can imagine. We in the cinema knew he would survive; they didn't back then. And they were especially scared he would fall off and die due to a mistake by them. Drop a rock on him, get in the way, distract him; that sort of stuff.

Then you see him do the final tens of meters and he's at the top. He did it! And it IS a rare feat. He phones his girlfriend (clumsily) and walks down. And hugs the camera crew. And then goes to his van to do pull-ups on his fingerboard. As you do!

What will he do next? He would almost have to free-climb Olympus Mons without aids to top this...

10 April 2019

Dissertation conference

The day came! I had printed out the conference booklets (per day and per room), the feedback sheets, the marking sheets, the room numbers; I had picked up the laptops and projector and card-scanning devices. I had fielded the inevitable last-minute questions by students. It was time to have the actual event!

I drove to the venue. It was so early the receptionist wasn't there yet, but security was. I got in and had a look at the rooms. None had projectors or laptops! Oh dear. I went back to ask but the bloke at the reception said he's come install them once the receptionist was there. OK! I started to install the ones I had brought. And to my relief, that was done without problems! And by then my colleague and sidekick David appeared with all the paperwork (we were sharing the lugging tasks). We started to made sure every room had the booklets and sheets they needed. And I copied all the presentations onto the laptops.

Then, for some reason, I checked my phone. And saw I had a mail from the caterer! He was ill and couldn't deliver lunch. Or coffee, for that matter. What? How does that work? Rather unprofessional to not have some backup for such occasions. I started to wildly phone around at other caterers. And discuss with David, What would we do? The students would be arriving soon! Many would already be on their way. And they wouldn't have food with them. I sent out a message that there was a problem with the catering and that students who were doing their talks in the afternoon should not come in yet. If I couldn't feed them they should arrive after lunch! And the students who were on in the morning would be allowed to go home for lunch. In the meantime, David finished the set-up.

I was still phoning around and sending messages when a trolley with coffee trundled past. I assumed that was for another group of people in the building with a different caterer. But then it appeared in one of our rooms. What? Where did that come from? The caterer still didn't answer the phone but they now responded to email. Yes they were back on! What the...?

I sent out another message to the students we were back on. Come the whole day! I was still nervous, though; if this bloke could change his mind twice he could do it thrice too. But let's hope for the best!

In the meantime the proceedings had started. All seemed to be well! That was a relief. I sat in a session but I was still bombarded with student messages. Could they still submit their abstract? They had missed the bus and would be late! Could they rectify a typo in their presentation? They were ill! Could they present after the main sessions as presenting in front of a group gave them anxiety? And so forth! I wasn't too focussed on the presentations.

After the coffee break things calmed down a bit and I sat in a session, marking. And then it was lunch time! Would something happen? And just when we were starting to despair it arrived. Great!

After the break I had my own session. I shared it with lots of staff (I had lumped several who each had too few students to fill a whole session) and I had asked someone else to chair. Which he did with panache!

After the talks I sought out my students to personally give them feedback. One was quite happy with how it had gone. Another one wasn't at all! And the third hadn't waited for me and legged it. He seems to not be all too fond of feedback.

By then things were coming to an end. Time to gather the marking sheets from the other staff, and pack up the equipment from our room. And steal all leftover fruit (which wasn't all that much.) I was tired! As expected.

The technology works!

The modestly inspiring view

The next morning I was much more relaxed; I knew the catering was back on, and than the previous day the technology had worked. I arrived a bit later this time (still 7:45) and set up the equipment again. I then got out the Friday's abstract booklets, and made sure the rooms had enough marking- and feedback sheets. And started putting the previous day's marks into excel! Unfortunately I also had to try to convince someone to turn the heating up; it was cold in the rooms and students were presenting in their coats. That was weird! It had been cold the day before but now it was worse. I didn't manage; though; the receptionist was as cold as we were and was trying already to sort the situation out.

When all was well on its way I had some frivolous time and popped downstairs. One of the ThursdayNighters, Simon, rents an office in this building. I went to have a look if he was in! And he was. We had a cup of coffee together and caught up. Very nice! Both of us have a bit of a penchant for not coming underground because of work demands. We don't see each other very often! And we also both bought a house at pretty much the same time and that hadn't improved the situation either.

Then I went back. I put the rest of the marks in. Then it was time to scan the students in! We sort of knew who was there as we know who presents, but it's important to emphasise that we check. If you don't, you risk them all coming only for their own presentation, and them all talking in front of an empty room! That would be sad. I also had to try to keep those whose session had already finished quiet so they wouldn't disrupt the sessions that were still ongoing. And I had been asked to still chase up students for the NSS but I managed to delegate that task to someone else.

After lunch I was in another session, with one of my biological colleagues. As these were his students I chaired the session. And timed it. It was quite interesting! And then we were done.

I then had a chat with the students who were done. They were not entirely happy with the module. But some of that was because of the strange twist universities got themselves into! They have to do their dissertation rather independently. But they complained they don't ever do that and are not up to it! But well, if you make them do work without holding their hands they complain so much you get called into the Head of School's office and are made to introduce hand-holding the students the next year. But if we hold their hands through the dissertation then 1) it would be too heavy a demand on our time and 2) would make the dissertation pretty useless. Can we really send them into the world with a degree that doesn't involve any independent work? But because of how universities are funded, we must dance to the students' music. I don't think we'll increase their amount of independent work anytime soon...

Soon all was done. I packed up what I could pack up. I encouraged the students who were still there to take left-over food home; I don't like food waste. And then I sent David home. I was still waiting for the very last student-supervisor couple who were going through the feedback. I felt like the captain; I would have to be the last to leave the ship! Then finally they were done. And we left. It was too late to bring the equipment back to the university. I went home! A big task was done. I think in the end it was OK; the presentations went well! And that was what was important. And next year it will be easier. Like so many things I did for the first time this year!

09 April 2019

Doing a Phil

This year Easter fell late. So late, actually, that after the Easter break there's only one week of term. I had figured that once I would reach Easter I would be OK! But the last two days before the break I had the infamous students conference. I didn't think I would be going underground on the Thursday night between the two conference days. It is stressful and I have to be at the venue early to set up the laptops and projectors. But when I got home after the first day (more about that in the next post) I figured I could pop to the meeting place (not too far away) and say hello to the others. They would walk to Park, faff a bit, and then go on to Gwaynllifion. I could just peel off after Parc! A tradition initiated years ago by Phil (be it that had been a different mine). 

It was nice to see them. The turnout was amazing! Chris, David, Ed, Jason, Phil, Edwyn, Sharon and Mick. Pretty good! A well-chosen night. And it was even light, thanks to the clocks having changed! It was nice to catch up. And then briskly walk back to the car, drive home, be very impressed by the beauty of the newly snow-covered mountains, cook dinner, and have time to get ready for the next day! Success!

David waves a GPS around in spite of knowing exactly where he is, and Edwyn checks his phone for an equally unclear reason

The mountains were so beautiful on the way back I stopped to take a pic

08 April 2019

Challenging morning in the field

We had two mornings in the field booked. One depended on the tide and the other didn't. Generally that works out! You just do the tide-dependent one on the day with the best tide and all will be well. The other one will sort itself! But this year it so happened that both days were bad. We have a chap who regularly has to go to various beaches so we asked him to have a look at the situation and provide advice. He suggested we should do the beach one last! He said it would be OK. And the non-tide-dependent day went very well. Now it was time for the one on the beach!

I had managed to organise enough staff for four groups. Not much to be honest! But one makes do. The students never all show up anyway. And next year we'd have more as it turned out that Jaco, who is teaching on this module, had never been on this trip. We would bring him as an observer this time and then next year he would be able to have a group of his own! And we had a guest lecturer with us. And Kate the caving PhD student who was also only doing it so she would be able to lead a group the year after.

I travelled on the buses with Lynda. And it became clear we only just had enough students to justify two buses! Oh well. Maybe not so bad this year, with little beach and few staff. We reached the beach in question (Red Wharf Bay) and met the other staff. And we saw there was no beach! Hmm. What we sometimes do is walk out on the beach and walk back through the caravan park. This time we'd have to do it the other way around! Oh dear. I'd never done it that way around. We first walked into a cul-de sac in the caravan park. The I figured I should have asked permission for this. Oh dear! Too late now. The n it started raining (but fortunately it stopped almost immediately afterwards). Then we didn't recognise where we normally come off the beach. We just went down the slipway in the end. It does get you to the beach! And there even was some. For a short while. Then we had to resort to clambering over the sea-weedy rocks. Not ideal! But everyone managed.

I had Jaco and Stephen, our guest carbonate sedimentologist. It was nice to have them! Steve was all over the place, scouting things, finding interesting fossils, pointing things out. Jaco was mainly taking notes. And the students were rather responsive! That was great. 

While we were doing our trip the tides slowly dropped. By the time we got to a famous palaeokarst landscape things weren't as bad anymore. And by the time we were back at the parking lot the first bits of beach were starting to show. The groups following us (we were in the lead) had a bit more space to move.

In the end I think we managed it! The students had a good time and I don't think anyone had a serious issue with the slippery rocks. There was some sliding but that was it! And next year I'll think of phoning the caravan park. And we've already picked a day with suitable tides. And we'll have more trained-up staff. All good!

06 April 2019

Sunday walk

I had bought my house especially as it is so marvellously close to the mountains, but I hadn't enjoyed them much at all recently! But in the first weekend after all the Open Days I saw my chance. I went on Sunday. That was an awkward day for a hike, as the clocks had just changed, so it was extra hard to get up early, but the mountains were patient. I decided to go up the path I had done with Roelof on his first day here, but then make a bit of a loop and come back some other (as yet undefined) way. So I did! But it was very windy and I realised I was still tired from the past week so I decided against making the loop too big. I went past on the southern side of the valley. That was nice! The slopes were gentle and the wind not so bothersome and it was all very relaxed. A nice walk! And soon it will be easter and I can do the bigger loop, around the black Ladders!

Almost-empty valley with horses

The pointy rock I visited with Roelof

View into the side valley

Apple-eating break

05 April 2019

Another picture round

I had had tow rounds of hanging up pictures. The initial one, in which I just hung the pictures I already had in fairly arbitrary places that happened to have nails or hooks, and which was part of the move; and the second, when I started drilling into my newly finished walls, and put up an old map. But then it was time to print out some new ones. And put them in some so far empty frames, or frames that really needed something other than what was in them! I had, weeks before, bought some sheets of whatsitcalled, I call it passepartout but the shop used a different name. The stuff you can use to fit a picture in a frame that's a bit bigger. And more recently I had been digging in my collection of pictures and selected some for printing out. I had mainly gone for pictures from York as that period of my life had been documented in pictures but not so much in my house yet; and pics from my Greenland trip. And they had arrived! And now I set out to put some frames, passepartout and pictures together. I started with the Greenland pics for which I had bought compound frames I liked. That went well. Then I did a really big one with the York collage, which would go over my bed. Then I put an old Norway collage in an empty frame and then I had had enough for a while. A lot more work to do but it has started!

04 April 2019

Wardrobe finished, clothes moved

The Saturday after I got the furniture I managed to finish the shelving of the wardrobe. I could move my clothes down! Very handy to have them in my bedroom. And I put bed linen and towels in the chest of drawers. All very organised! I'm still not done with hanging up pictures, and I've only been saved by the change of clocks regarding updating the curtain situation, but otherwise the bedroom is done now! I'm enjoying it.

Clothes packed away out of sight!

Towels stored tidily too! But notice the picture-hanging-up-paraphernalia still littering the place...

03 April 2019

Pilfering a tube

If you have a part of a mine that keeps dropping bits on your head you can put a tube in! That solves the problem. Or if you can't access a mine the usual way but have to dig a new entrance, a tube can keep your entrance from collapsing, as you're probably digging through unconsolidated ground. We'd done that on the North York Moors! And I know Miles and his people had put a tube into a collapse-prone part of the smoke flue, although I haven't seen that myself. So when I saw a piece of tube on the Bethesda rugby field I bike past on a regular basis my interest was raised. It looked like rubbish! We would have a use for it. So after some discussion with David I decided to see if I could have it. On a Saturday I wondered up to the rugby club, but there was noone there. Then I biked past on my commute one evening and saw there was a game on. I popped by!

The barman was a bit surprised but he had no issues with my request. He said that thing had been lingering on the field for some two years. If I had a use for it I could take it! So I walked up to it and rolled it home. That turned some heads. But it's not far and I put it safely into my garage! Not sure where it'll go; the old ThursdayNighter dig has a good spot for it but we wouldn't be able to get the big piece of plastic there. We have another project in Wrysgan but I'm not sure a tube would add to it. As it stands, 'the' dig wouldn't have a use for it. But we'll find something!

Finding a tube on a rugby field; spot the pavilion in the distance

Tube in garage!