18 June 2021

First night away since the cat came

 I intend to go do a multi-day hike later this summer. But I have a cat now! And then going away can be an issue. I figured the best thing to do would be to just leave her at home. That's a familiar environment! And I'm not supposed to stay away for too long. And we intend to visit my house halfway the hike when we pass it anyway. But I haven't been away much since I got her! I decided I needed to get her used to it. And it would be nice anyway to pack my bag and just head into the hills once in a while. I live in an amazing area after all!

One sunny weekend I decided it or time to start this process. I would just leave a bit later in the day on the Saturday. That meant I wouldn't be gone for all too long, but I should probably start mild anyway. I was in two minds about going before or after dinner, but in the end I decided on after dinner. I threw my bag into the car and set off. I had decided on some track I had crossed on a run some months ago. And I figured that as it was already about 6 PM, it should be possible to park, even on a sunny Saturday like this. And it was correct! I parked on a layby effortlessly. And then I was off, into the sunshine.

I started on a public footpath. I had previously been there with Kate, walking Moel Siabod. But now I turned left at some point. The first thing I did was cross an old incline. And that set the scene; really soon the mining relics came thick and fast. A row of houses, spoil heaps, a mill; and, of course, a pit. I was having a blast!

The old incline; I suppose you only see it in full screen mode. Moel Siabod in the background.

 The houses

overview of houses, spoil heaps and an aquaduct

the pit

looking back at the spoil heaps from the road

The road was comfortable to walk on and very beautiful. Along the way I gained a view over the valley; in the depths I could see the camping there. I was glad I was up here! On my own.

At some point I came to the crossing with the road I had run on. I had decided to go right there. There was a lake a bit uphill from that road. I thought it would be worth checking that out. I might get a swim in! And I had never seen it. I was only some 10 miles from home, and then seeing a new lake would be cool. So I just headed up the hill. And after a while it came into view! It didn't necessarily look promising; it might be a bit swampy! But I wanted to check it out. I had to cross two streams, one of which indeed was in a bit of a swamp, but after that the ground was firm. I saw possibilities! And I figured I could pitch on a bump; firm ground, long sun, good views. And neither the stream (for drinking water) nor the lake (for swimming) were far away. I went for it! I pitched my tent. And when it stood I realised the disadvantage of this location; there were ticks everywhere. I don't like ticks!

The lake (or reservoir, rather) looked like an infinity pool!

I decided to keep a very close eye out, get my swim in soon, and then wear lots of clothing to keep the ticks out. There were midges as well! So I grabbed what I needed and headed for the lake. The water was lovely! In my experience is that midges don't actually come looking for prey above water. I've even experienced that in Scotland. So I had a nice time!

When I was done swimming I changed into long trousers, and stuffed my trousers into my socks. I also zipped up my jumper. But back at the tent things had improved. There was a bit of a breeze and there was no midge to be seen! This was lovely. I had a cup of tea and read the bit in my book. I also just sat back and stared at the beautiful clouds and the beautiful hills. This was the life!

Lovely swim

The evening views. I was pretty much looking into Dyffryn Mymbyr.

Then from one moment to the next the midges were back, with a vengeance. I had already brushed my teeth, so I went to the loo like the clappers and then dived into my tent. I was safe now! I just read a bit more until it was bed time. And I slept well.

When I woke up the next morning I got out of the tent, I realised the midges had beaten me to it. I had hoped they were an evening thing! Clearly not. I took down the tent in no time, threw my stuff into the bag, and legged it. After a while I tried a scenic hilltop possible breakfast spot, but after a few minutes the midges found me there too. So I moved on!

I went back to the spoil heaps. Would that be a good spot? It was a bit on the edge. I decided to move on. But when I got to the incline I decided it was good enough. I sat down and got the stove out. It would be really nice to do the last small bit of the walk back to the car with breakfast in my stomach! And I can't say the midges left me alone entirely, but they were quite bearable. It was nice! And I noticed a tick; I removed it there and then.

From there I was back at the car in no time, and it wasn't much of a drive. And when I got home the cat was greeting me. It looked like she had missed me but she was fine! And that was exactly the intention. 
Now the only things I needed to do was unpack my bag, and do another tick check! I found two more. Next time I should not pitch my tent until I have roamed around a bit in bare legs to check for ticks, I suppose. And if I see some swampy ground nearby, maybe I should move on, as that might have been where all these midges came from! Although experience tells me they can strike pretty much anywhere. Anyway; stuff to keep in mind when I leave the lovely cat for two nights!

My "I don't like midges" face

It was a scenic spot, though!

17 June 2021

Not being hospitable to wasps this year

 Two years ago I saw some wasps were building a ping-pong ball-sized nest in my garden shed. I thought "I'm sure we all can get along" and left it there. After all, it was only small! But it didn't stay small. After not too much time it was the size of a melon. And nothing ever went wrong; I was not stung, and neither was anybody else in my garden. But it was a little bit disconcerting! So when my neighbour alerted me to having seen wasps go into the shed again, I had a look. When I noticed they had indeed built a nest, and it was already the size of a tennis ball, I decided to take action. I was not being hospitable this time! I hope my sister will be able to visit later this season, and she won't be keen on a wasp nest in the garden. I'm sure they will have time to find another place to go. I have now already smashed it three times. I hope that at some point they get the message and go somewhere else!

The old nest left and the new one on the right

the wasps are not giving up!

NHS data

GP surgeries hold a lot of data about their patients. And that data is protected. The government, however, wants to make this data available to anyone really, including commercial companies, after only modest anonymization. Not everybody thinks that this is a good idea. I don't think it is! I think the government is overly keen on allowing people who are already rich to get a lot richer using healthcare as a tool. I don't trust the Tories one bit on topics like that. So I opted out! You can. I like my medical details to be the business of myself and my GP…

16 June 2021

Still proofreading

When my job was on the line and I had to think about potential other avenues, I thought about proofreading. And when I was off sick anyway, and could do little other than walking, running and reading, I started reading up on the subject. Later I also registered for an online proofreading course. And that was a slow road to travel down! Initially, I struggled with the fact that it was an online course. Proofreading and RSI don't naturally go together! And some of the course material I could just print out, mark up manually, and scan in again, but some really had to be done digitally. And Adobe Acrobat doesn't communicate well with Dragon!

Later the problem just became that term became busy. It is difficult to squeeze in things next to an already busy job! But I am making progress.

So how is it going so far? I still let things slip through. I had to change from USA symbols to UK ones as I had accidentally learned the former first. I have been complimented on my grammar and spelling, but criticised for my punctuation. I need to improve on that! But that takes time. Which is in short supply.

By now it is coming to the end of the allocated time. I have already got an extension! I need to finish the last two or three exercises fairly soon. So some sunny weekends are partly spent in my office, swotting away. I still think it is an excellent idea to have a plan B ready for when it is needed…

Study material

15 June 2021

Water meter pays off

I got my first overview of my water usage in the mail since having had my water meter installed. I was curious to see what the result was! And I now know I have been using 7 m³ of water in the past six months. Given how much I drink I think that is a fine result. And it is also clearly a lot less than they think I use. The Energy Saving Trust suggests a person uses 142 litres per day; that would be 26 m³ in six months. That is a heck of a lot more! And it already shows in the bill. Before the water meter, I paid £46.54 per month, but that changed to £18 as soon as the water meter was taken into use.  And as I haven't had a hot shower in weeks, I think at the moment my use is even lower. But I have contacted the plumber, so that issue should be resolved at some point. But I intend to keep my water usage low!

14 June 2021

Cave rescue training starts again

I hadn't been training with the rescue team for 1 1/2 years. There had been a cave rescue training been scheduled just before lockdown; unsurprisingly, it had been cancelled. Last July they had to be another one, but that was just when I was in the Netherlands. And there had been two callouts during lockdown; one involving a sheep on the ledge or something; there were already enough people there to sort it. And another one involving an actual person who had fallen down some cliff, but that was when I was still on sick leave with my arms. I didn't think it would be a good idea to go stretcher carrying like that. So now that there was a training scheduled, and I was willing and able to attend it, it was a bit unfamiliar again.

The training was going to be in Cwm, so for the first time in a long while I drove up to that so familiar parking lot. There were a few people there already, but it looked like it was going to be a small group. I got kitted up, and soon we were on our way up. One of the team members asked me if I still went underground with the Thursday nighters. I said I didn't, and had no intention of that ever changing. The one Thursday nighter who was present heard me say that, and immediately claimed the whole situation had nothing to do with him. It did, of course; but that didn't matter now. That evening we were in function as team mates. We went in, and down, to the catwalk. The idea was to rig and SRT pitch there, and send some other people around the catwalk to rig some complicated different rig there. Gethin, who was leading this training, had an idea of trying out a new rig that allows you to diagonally raise and lower people without that becoming complicated at either end of the rig. And so we started! I declined to rig the SRT pitch as it was one of those with anchor points really far out; I didn't think I would have the reach. But once it was rigged I did descend. That was the first time in quite a while! The most interaction I had had with ropes in a fair while was when painting my extension

Some blokes were rigging this elaborate rig. There was another woman, but she was recovering from an injury, so she didn't do any rigging herself. And then it was done! One of the team members was pulled up back to the catwalk, and then back down again. Then we did it again, but with everybody in a different position. This time I was one of the people doing the actual pulling. That is hard work! And the facemask didn't help. But we did it. Then Gethin talked us through our findings, and gave us the choice between going home or lifting a light person up the original SRT pitch. We chose the latter option, and I volunteered as the light person. So I got back up to catwalk level in comfort! Then we went out. It was a sultry evening. I changed back into my civilian gear and drove off. I will see these people again in a month's time; then we have a training combined with the AGM. That's in the east again, so a fair drive, but so be it. It's good to keep one's skills updated!

13 June 2021

Get the underground camera ready

 There was a cave rescue training due. The first one in a long time! And I normally bring a camera. I tend to have a special camera dedicated to underground use. I had had a Lumix for years, which had taken serious battering, and I retired that when the lens had become so scratched the autofocus didn't work anymore. It also had other technological problems. Before that, I had at some point realised the front panel was coming off, which evidently meant it wasn't waterproof anymore. After I dried it out, I made brass brackets that pushed the front and back panel together again. It worked for years after I did that! And since its retirement I had just kept it as a sort of a souvenir.

Not long before the pandemic hit, I had noticed that the same issue was starting to show on the Lumix that was the replacement of my original underground camera. It looks like this is a weak spot of this model! But it was easy to see what the solution would be; I could just use one or more of the brackets of the original camera and place it on this one. It's the same model; it should fit! So when it was clear I was going to go underground again, I had a look at the situation. I got the brackets off the old camera. I could tell the tiny little nuts and bolts had seized up a little bit! But I got everything off. Then of course the job was to get a bracket on the newer camera. I went for the easy route, and used the nuts and bolts that were the least seized up! So it was fairly easy to put them on the new camera. Not entirely easy; the whole setup relies on tens of millimetres, so it is all a bit tight. But I got it done!

Did that mean my camera went underground? Nope; as it had been out of action for a long time, the battery was flat, and I didn't put it in the charger on time. But we have another training next month, and then the revamped camera can make its debut.

The two cameras before the swap

That gap shouldn't be there!

Camera ready for action again! After the battery is charged…