25 November 2009

Caving, the muddy way!

Caving can't always be a walk in the park like last week. It's not all about sophisticatedly conversing while leasurely sauntering in the general direction of a pint-sized mine, dug in such a way that those with some crouching talent can walk all the way in, while the waste products of Mother Earth cling to nothing other than boots and gaiters. No! One has not properly started caving until the stage of sliding, crawling, sloshing, and climbing has been reached! And my second trip in the worthy company of the Plymouth Caving Group offered just that.

Our goal was the Pridhamsleigh drip stone cave, very close to Kingswood, where we had been the week before. This time I got a lift from Neil, an equally new participant of PCG trips as me, and, as it happens, a lawyer specialised in litigation, and a reader of the blog. Evidently I have nothing but good to mention on the topic of this distinguished gentleman. We arrived in good time at the designated place, which was as adorned with gale-battered, and this time also rain-swept, trees outlined against a dark English sky as last week. I wrestled myself into my brand new, squeaky clean caving outfit, consisting of waders up to my armpits, and a new waterproof jacket (the old one was in repair due to a defect zip, something the Iceland Snieuwhoppers may have foreseen). I was confident the strong smell of new rubber and gore-tex would not linger around me for long. And indeed! The waders are not made of breatheable material (I am fairly certain that's the term that's used; it sounds, however, profoundly wrong... "breathing" does too. Unidirectionally water-permeable?), so the sole reaching of the cave entrance already resulted in competing odours. And there the real fun could start!

The cave is a well-known, well-visited dripstone cave, which means no stalactite has remained intact, but its defaced beauty was still impressive to my not yet spoiled eye. In we went! It's clear the dazzlingly many tunnels and rooms are well-travelled, but this does not mean they are necessarily easy to negotiate. Thanks to my modest size I could get quite far with crouching and crawling. Not fast enough, though; at one point I lost track of the people before me, and just assumed something pertaining to the route they would have followed. Of course I guessed wrong. Dangerously I was the second last person in line, with only Neil behind me. It may not be in lawyers' natures to go around assuming away without verification, something about which I may want to shroud myself in tactical silence regarding to what extent that trait is found in micropalaeontologists; anyway, he found the group back in no time.

I got used to this fairly unfamiliar terrain soon. It's good to get so close to geology! And in some places where the wet, slippery surfaces were steep, my rock climbing abilities, albeit limited, came in handy as well. And this time the caving got stereotypical: there was ample sliding on your belly, headfirst wrestling through narrow openings, gooing on your back through the mud... I liked it!

I was quite happy with my waders, which proved their merit as many rooms in this cave are partially flooded. I was sure my jacket would not be recogniseable as brand new after this trip! And at some point my headlight slid off my helmet, right into thigh deep water, but it was chivalrously retrieved by Richard, the leader of this trip, and it fortunately did not stop radiating light.

The atmosphere among the cavers is rather unusual, by the way. Now it's autumn we gather in the dark, maybe exchange names, and then go. You end up in the bowels of the earth, crawling on your belly in the mud, with people you hardly know the names of, and hardly have seen the faces of; most of the time everybody has his (I was again the only female) headlamp on, as these tend to be blinding. But all takes place in some relaxed atmosphere that does not indicate anything unusual. And the PCG contains people of all kinds of walks of life, with a penchant for going underground as the only common denominator.

By the time we all looked remarkably similar it was time to go back. The air got fresher, and soon we were standing outside again. The rain seemed to helpfully try to restore us to our original colours, but that was fairly in vain. In the dark I got back into my quick dry pants and soldiers' boots, and thought that rendered me very presentable. The light in the car, though, already informed me that that was a fairly optimistic assumption. And coming home, and coming across a mirror, I burst out laughing. I had figured I would have some mud smudging on my face, but the troglodyte face that leered at me was a bit beyond my expectations. I had gotten really close with geology! And I can't wait to go again!

23 November 2009

Evasive people are bastards

People who don’t say what they mean are hopeless, and to blame for most communication issues in the world. Blunt honesty is the answer! And talking right through people is a nasty habit and the only right thing to do is letting people finish.
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Almost, anyway. Unfortunately, life is never that straightforward. I swapped books with Sanja when she was here, and one of the books I got was a book about conversation style. It sounded interesting! I finished it before the weekend was over. And it looks very dubious, but it’s worth the while.

What does the author discuss? Basically, interpersonal styles in talking. Sometimes as basic as that different cultures (and that can easily be regional) have different subconscious concepts on how long a pause has to be in order to signal that the speaker is finished. Put two people together that have different (and equally valid) ideas on that, and you’re almost certain that one finds the other impolite and the other finds the one timid, and they won’t get along. Or that some people make, and expect, regular “mmm”-sounds and the likes, to indicate that they are listening, and that there are people who produce, and expect, silence as a same indication, and other people assume “mmm”-sounds signal agreement. Needless to say that can go wrong too if you combine such different people.

A more fundamental thing was that she also discussed information in the content of the words, and information in everything else. And the context. And whatnot. There were transcripts of discussions in it, between one person communicating by words and the other by everything else. And they refused to see the other side. So frustrating! But so recognisable! In a certain sense, I understand both sides; after all, I am a woman, so I have some innate talent for over-interpreting other people’s (generally men’s) words, often into something hurtful. And refusing to unambiguously say what it was I am after. But I saw the problems involved with that, and have learned to communicate with words. And if the other party does that too it works out wonderfully! But if the other party hears commands or reproaches or whatnot which just aren’t there, and beats about the bush concerning their own desires, it still goes wrong. And knowing that people can do that does not mean you know what it is they’re not saying, or what it is they’re hearing in your words. Drives me mad sometimes!

The book does not offer much of a solution unfortunately. You can’t just ask these evasive people what they want because they won’t tell you, and asking “do you just say that because it’s a polite thing to say, or do you mean it?” is not going to do the job either. So somehow you’re frustratingly left to try to interpret what the other really means. And history has seen so many examples of that going horribly wrong. How many marriages have stranded on such things going completely pear shaped? I tend to still think saying what you think is, overall, a better strategy. My way is the way!

It was a very educative book. It was a bit like talking to my sister about such topics. Having to admit that maybe you’re trying to do the right thing, but that maybe you do it completely and utterly wrong, and that the people you would like to blame so much are just as right (or wrong) as you are yourself. Painful, but useful, too. I can recommend it to anyone! And I’ll keep on struggling with the above mentioned issue, but for instance the pause thing is something I may very well use to everybody’s advantage soon…

22 November 2009

A splendid sunday walk for two gentlemen and a lady

A gentleman who was spending his last days in the non-possession of a Tweed jacket, a cane, a dog, and knickerbockers was honoured by the visist of an old friend, whom he wanted to show his near future abode in the calm, serene, traditional countryside. And of course a lady in rustling colonial dress was needed to complete this picturesque scene. So under the slate-grey Victorian skies the chosen gathered at the most inviting railway station in the west country, being Plymouth. The charming threesome entered the steam train, and slowly but steadily made their way through the rolling hills of Devon and Cornwall, until the Dickensian chimneys of Gunnislake heralded the approach of their destination.

Who were these elegant creatures? Of course I here relate to no others than Roland, Veit and my humble self. And perhaps Roland is not entirely inclined to adorn himself with the above mentioned paraphernalia, and perhaps I was actually wearing modern quick-dry pants, the train was propelled by electricity and not steam power, and it even goes so far as to that Roland probably got gazumped in the buying of the house, so what we set out to view may have been what he'd lost, but beside these inaccuracies the description is impeccable.

The weather was nicely autumnal, and so was the scenery. It could not be a very physically demanding walk, as Veit is a human geographer, and these are fairly frail, but he prevailed. We walked to the house of Roland's choice, and then to the pub of his choice (the presence of this pub may have influenced his preference for the house), where we did not hesitate to drape our foreign behinds onto the ancient benches, and relish a good English lunch accompanied by good English ales and ciders. One could spend a november sunday in worse ways.

After this enjoyable interval we proceeded over the scenic public footpaths, along Cotehele House and the Tamar, to Calstock, where we had to wait a certain period of time for the train, which inspired us to inspect yet another public house, and chose one at which door stood a well-dressed Englishman with a pipe, welcoming "his lovelies" in. And lovely we were. And lovely we promenaded to the railway station when the time was right, and watched the approach of the bright lights of the big city, the terminal point of our day travels. A day well spent! And let us now leave the  fate of the location of Roland's domicile in the hands of the Lord. Perhaps He will be merciful...

19 November 2009


Fun stuff for Norwegians! And norwegophones. Or whatever you call people who master that beautiful language.

I was recently doing something tedious, and in order to refresh my brain I decided to look at, why not, some Norwegian children’s television. No not Pompel og Pilt. Modern stuff!
At the glacier course on Lyngen there was one participant, Erlend, who always managed to enliven any conversation with theatrical antics and witty comments. On the way back I heard he was, by profession, a TV show host. Of a children’s show about animals. I was not surprised! And it was his program I decided to have a look at, on internet. It’s a local show, so many beautiful shots of Tromsø and surroundings, as the episode from May 13th, that had a large item about two sisters and their horses, the latter of which very decoratively cavort through the deep Troms snow...

The guy looks quite different in crampons, Gore-Tex and a helmet, and with an ice axe in his hand… but he’s good at what he does! All you ever wanted to know about north-Norwegian childrens’ TV and never dared ask.

I by the way wanted to decorate this posting with a nice screendump, but NRK has evidently protected their website against such antics...

18 November 2009

Caving: like at day at the office!

Picture strange people in unusual outfits post-apocalyptically staggering through a dark, howling forest, with the sole aim of sloshing through the sickly orange muds of an abandoned uranium mine. A bit more radioactive than swamp science, but apart from that, quite the same, really!

This time it was actually going to happen. My caving debut! The first possible occasion I had that stomach bug, the next time it was cancelled, the third time I was on fieldwork... but this time it all came together. Dave, the chairman of the group, picked me up, also gathered another caver named Dave, and off we went to the meeting point near Buckfastleigh. We found a bunch of impatient types, many of them already clad in very credible waterproofs! And these lead the way to the start of the path. I got out of the car, and realised immediately that this was a good way of spending a tuesday evening. The night was mild of temperature, but fierce of wind, something to which the high pines paid tribute. Around me unfolded a scene of stripping males: many cavers appear to prefer to change on the spot. Understandably, when you think of it. I was advised to leave my bag in the car: it was going to be a short trip. Half an hour walk in, short while in the cave, 45 minutes back (uphill, this time). So we set off!

It was a nice walk through the dark forest. But it turned somewhat absurd when Chris, the organiser, at some random point suddenly looked down from the path onto an infathomable and steep slope, and said: it's here! Just down this slope, over the stream, and you're there! That proved somewhat more complicated than it sounded. We clambered down, many of us on wellies that are not well-adapted to steep slopes in wet November forests, negotiated the stream, got lost, were repeatedly placed somewhere while Chris, who seems to make this trip alone in the dark more often, went out scouting. Only one more vertical slope, and lo! The mine.

The inconspicuous and innocent entrance

One should expect the careful Brits to have gated and locked a uranium mine... it was known that radon had been accumulating in it. But it was just a gaping hole in the slope face, inviting any unsuspecting passer-by in! We did not let that invitation unanswered. And it felt like work, wading through mud in a humid environment. Luckily I like my job.

Notice the nice statigraphy of my clothes; the lower 15 cm is cave sediments, overlain by half a meter of salt marsh mud...


It was a very small mine, penetrating only a few tens of metres into the rock, but it was a beauty. The unusual mineralogy of the area had resulted in strange colours and patterns. All around the cameras came out! The actual mineral the mine was about was pitchblende. Nerds will recognise that as the mineral that enabled Marie Curie to discover radioactivity. And it's black, but we found amazing shades of green, yellow and orange too.

The mine being small, and not very healthy, we left soon. The geiger counter did record some elevated levels at a pile of mine waste, but nothing worrying on us. It had been a lovely debut! Now we only had to get back to the cars. Something that was not easy on all of us: Dave was somewhat out of shape, which shows itself on these slopes that we now had to stagger up, and chairman Dave (Cave Dave, in my phone), who had been troubled by a neck injury for months, had stepped into an unseen hole in the mine, which had made things worse. He had to do quite some stretching on the road to make it back. But we all made it, and five of us even into a nearby inn, for some evaluative chatting. And then a shower and bed!

Many of the guys (I was the only girl) have such strong headlights you don't need to use your flash...

Chris looks for Pitchblende, helped by a geiger counter, outside the mine

I think I'll have a great time with this group! In the inn I handed over a subscription form and a cheque. It's official, I'm a caver now!

16 November 2009

Bikes in the kitchen

When I came home sunday I found a note on my door. A note! What would that be? It turned out to speak of heroic deeds! One of my neighbours had noticed a suspect figure faffing with my bikes, and addressed this villain. The villain knew what evildoers are supposed to do in such case, and ran. The neighbour then placed my bikes in the corridor. And, evidently, told me of this through that note. A hero! Saved my bikes! But now I won't let them stand outside anymore. I'm glad I have a sizeable kitchen. Even though it's a pain to manouvre the bulky bikes into it... but if that's what it takes then that's what I'll do!

It was, by the way, a very topical scene. Recently a movie was released here in the UK that deals with the havoc "hoodies" wreak on the British streets. It has drawn lots of attention. And this failed bike thief was of course also donned in the garment after which they are neamed...

15 November 2009

Still a guest!

If one entertains guests who have dashed around more than 100 degrees latitude with little rest one gets time to read about English history while they sleep soundly on a pile of sheep skins. In an, unexpectedly, sunbathed living room! Since my return to Plymouth the weather had consistently been complete crap. Not anymore!

After another lazy breakfast we set out to see town. A first stop was the waterfront. It was not raining anymore, but the wind was strong, which led to the waves breaking on the shore in a way one could look at for hours. We also tried to visit the lighthouse (it was closed), and wandered over the Hoe, and did all these tourist things, which felt extra touristic as it was holidayesque weather and we were talking Norwegian, which made me feel like a real tourist too. Bring out the cameras! It was really nice.

One never manages to catch the really spectacular waves on camera. But they can be imagined!

Being in England we of course had to have tea somewhere. We found a lovely venue, with grandmotherly dishware and lots of royalty on the walls. Excellent! I also had been looking for a good opportunity to see the ruined church at Charles Cross. It was bombed in WWII, and left that way, a bit like the Gedächtniskirche. Its standing in the middle of a very busy roundabout, so it takes some speed and comtempt for death to get there, but then you get a good undisturbed look. A strange ruin; the church is only a few hundred years old, but it was built to look old from the beginning... anyway, we made it across without accidents, and also back.

Flowery table cloths, flowery cups, Mary Queen of Scots, and a good friend. What more could one want!

I showed Sanja the campus too, where we could conveniently check train time tables. Then we should eat before we would go to the Barbican Theatre, and we settled for a seafrnt pub. I looked forward to the theare! We cued up with the other expectant visitors. I saw many people with different tickets tough. And the theatre is not that big. Furthermor our tickets said "level minus two", while were wer standing at stairs going up. I decided to ask a theatre employee. He looked at my ticket as if it was in Chinese. And then asked me "are you aware that there are two Barbican theatres in England? And the other one is in London..." I felt so stupid! I had just googled "Barbican Theatre" and ordered tickets online... and that had gone embarrasingly wrong... no culture this time!

We decided to go have a gin in the distillery (it's a real nice building! Guests would logically want to go there), and there having a look at what movies would be shown in the Arts Centre. But we were refused at the door... we were not members (that probably only matters on a saturday) and we were not properly dressed, the bouncer said. We had to be "casual" (I thought I was!) and not dressed like (dramatic pause) ... _this_ (very significant intonation). This was going all wrong! By then we had forgotten the possibility of a movie, and went to Mount Batten, simply because it's fun to take the water taxi. And then, after some cider, bacjk the same way, and then home, where we enjoyed some last questionable Portuguese booze before retiring again.

The next day I brought Sanja to the railway station, and that marked the end of my first weekend with guests in Plymouth. None of it went as expected! But with such guests the expected never happens. Maybe that's half the charm. And my longing for Norway has been cruelly rekindled again, but that may be just a good incentive to soon go there, and not something that should make my life here less pleasant. Anyway. They have both left, the blog is updated, I should go home and get organised again! My bag is still standing where I put it after the Isle of Wight fieldwork, my fridge is full of dubious substances that have been residing there already since before that trip, and I urgently have to do laundry... get my life back in disciplined order again! But with some fresh good memories to chew on...

A guest!

When I was still living in Tromsø I noticed Stuart's penchant for running away to anglophone countries, which at the time was somewhat unfortunate. Circumstance however rules the world, so having moved to an anglophone country myself it suddenly became a blessing. He was bound to show up within the borders of his fatherland in no time! And he did. And decided to also explore the unlikely outback of the west country. My first guest!

He came by car, and has no reputation of a navigation hero to speak of, so I decided to meet him at an unmissable landmark near university. It worked! So after having gotten rid of the car, luggage, the feeling of desiring a shower and the non-availability of bicycles we rode to the Barbican, to have dinner somewhere. I had no food at home, as there had been no opportunity for shopping since the fieldwork. We first went for an aperitif in the Gin Distillery, and then found ourselves a restaurant. Good to have a real chat again! We don't do telephones so when not within earshot any communication is written. And that can be quite extensive as well but it never turns out that way. But now we could talk away. And we did. At some point under the impatient glance of the restaurant employees who wanted to close...

On friday we took it easy. After a lazy breakfast we decided to go to town for business and pleasure. Business as Stuart had to check email. Those with very good memories may remember that my first Plymouth blogposts originated from the Arts Centre, where there was an available computer. And I hoped to dive nose first into culture now Stuart was here, but I had not been able to get theatre tickets for the friday, so going to the movies was another potion. And at the Arts Centre we could find out what films were in rotation. So we could kill two flies with one blow, or whatever the English expression is, by going there. Unfortunately that computer was no longer there, and we did not know what our schedule for the night would be, so that did not work out. Yet what worked out well was a coffee in a cute pub, biking around in the rain, a cider in another pub, checking email in the library, and a jacket potato in yet another pub. And then we went to the post office (more Stuart business) and the JSV, the campus pub, because I thought it would be fun if my Tromsø and Plymouth friends would meet each other. And I think it was! We even enganged in a questionale arcade game based on a dubious TV quiz.

And in the JSV we found out our program for the night. How so? That's a highly unlikely story.

Imagine you have lived in Tromsø, and now live in Plymouth, which is 2287 km away as the crow flies. After a fieldwork you open your mailbox and find a completely unexpected message from a Tromsø friend, inquiring after what you are doing in the weekend, suggesting teaming up, while the sender now sets off to sail around Cape of Good Hope. That wouldn't happen, would it? It did!

It turned out that Sanja had had to dash off to Cape Town in great haste to deliver equipment for an Antarctica expedition. And flew back over Amsterdam, which is only 229 km, 1/10 of the distance Tromsø-Plymouth, away. So she dropped by! And I knew no more than that she would show up in the evening, but not when. In the pub I found out. I inquired if se had had food already, but as time ticked away while we waited for her answer we set out to eat something ourselves, and went to the railway station to pick her up. We there found out that her train was delayed, and she had not eaten yet. So we did some food shopping and were pristinely in time to welcome this surprise guest! Who would have thought, a week ago, that I would be giving Sanja a big hug on Plymouth Railway Station.

Then Plymouth saw the rare sight of a Brit, a Finn and a Dutch girl walking the streets leading along two bicycles and talking Norwegian to each other. We got home, drank litres of tea, fed Sanja, and then it was time to go to bed.

Stuart had erroneously assumed he had told me when he would be leaving. And it was sooner than I thought! He would already leave early next morning to drive to Cambridge. So the whole going to the theatre and the cinema and all these plans did not really work out. But Sanja was quite willing to sniff some culture in his place.

Stuart had promised me to say goodbye before he left, so when I woke up around 9 I thought his plan for leaving early had failed. But he was no longer there! Later I received a message that he had not been able to bring himself to waking me up at such an early hour. Some guests appear abruptly, while others disappear in that manner. Yet it is good to have guests. I hope we'll meet again!

12 November 2009

Isle of Wight

On a friday morning some stranger parked a brand new silvery Ford Mondeo Estate in front of my house and left. So what did I do? I just placed two bags in it and took it, slightly trembling, to university. It was time to go on fieldwork! And the rental company is not allowed to park on campus, so they parked at my place. And I could drive it onto campus for loading up all the gear, something with which I was finished by the time Roland showed up. So we could go! He was wise enough to not have brought his bag, so the trip first took us to his place, where I briefly met his brother. The Dutch take over town!

Off we were. Through Southern England, which I start to appreciate, we drove to Lymington, where we took the ferry. By then the weather got bad; we could not even see the island. The Durham crew, also consisting of a sea level god with a postdoc sidekick, was already there, and we started to get messages about pouring rain and cold fingers and all sorts of interesting phenomenons. So we had another coffee in a comfortable chair...

On the island we found ourselves a shop, bought enough to keep us going through the next day, and went to the house we'd rented. Nobody there. After a while Anthony and Tasha showed up, all muddy and drippy; they had started exploring around with a local archeologist as a guide. Fortunately, the house owners showed up shortly after that, so we could get in, unload the gear, and make ourselves presentable. We would dine in a nearby inn. We had to overcome some unexpected impediments for getting there, but we made it. And enjoyed a good meal with concomitant beverages. We talked ovber the map, making plans, and even acquaintances, as I had never met Anthony before. Everybody else had previously met. Not rarely known each other for years... Next day we would start business.

We got up early, received Lucy the Plymouth student who drove in, and went into the field. Off to Lucy's marsh! It was beautiful, but unfortunately it had been disturbed. So we would not use it. Which left us with the need to explore the whole rest of the island, but first things first: one of the possible marshes was owned by the ministery of defense, so they would first give us a safety briefing. So as soon as we had set up the GPS above Lucy's benchmark we went there. The retired major who briefed us warned us against hardly anything, but showed us some very useful maps of various age. And off we were! Sticking a core in any patch of possible marsh we could find, helped by an old friend of Anthony's, who was a local palynologist. Most marshes were not at all what we were looking for...

The faces already show we were disappointed in this marsh

The Isle of Wight is quite pretty!

Another marsh that looked good but did not meet our scientific demands 

                                                 High water did not stop us from searching

                                                               Really didn't!

                                                                  I'm not joking.

We would have dinner in yet another inn nearby, preceded by having some drinks with Rob, the palynologist, and his family.

The next morning our search happily continued. And we found a marsh we liked! Time was ticking away, so we stuck with it, and set off to check its stratigraphy. All too soon we were off to do that with just the both of us; Roland and Anthony had to go home. Lucy would just retrieve the GPS from her marsh, put it in our car, give us the key back, and leave as well. So we immediately missed the extra length and weight the two gentlemen represented in the coring, but we managed, and ploughed on until it got too dark. The late afternoon was for having a drink with Rob in the inn. A good tradition! This night Tasha was going to have another drink with an old friend, so we went home and quickly started cooking. She just managed to eat half a plate of pasta before the guy came to pick her up.

The weather was not so kind on us that next day

I spent my evening sieving some samples we had taken from a core, to check if the sediments were as good as they had appeared to be. And they were. But by then I was quite tired, so I went to bed, not waiting for Tasha to come back. So far we had shared a bedroom, as at the height of the fieldwork we had 4 bedrooms and 5 people. But now it was only her and me! So I conquered Roland's bedroom, a real master's bedroom with a bathtub in it. And I slept well!

We knew we had lost lots of precious time by reconsidering our site, so we lost none more, and set to work. With necessary telephonic help from Richard, our technician in Plymouth, I set up the surveying gear, and we
went to collect surface samples. And we sampled like lightning! When it got dark we really could look back on a good field day. We manged to get everything back to the car over the pitch dark path, and went home, via a shop that replenished our stocks. More pasta awaited us. And then nothing. We knew we would have to subsample our surface samples, but we were too tired, and went to bed early.

We sampled everywhere; also in not very evident places

The last full field day was for coring! That was easier said then done. We really missed the men. The Plymouth corer has a long handle, something which is mainly practical if you're Roland-sized, but we aren't. We also missed the sheer bulk to jam that thing right into the tough Eocene stuff all our sediment of interest was laying on top of, and which may have helped prevent the softer stuff above it from sliding out of the core gouge. So the sediments kept falling out, stretching, not coming out at all, and engaging in all sorts of such annoying behaviour. If we managed to get a full section we generally had not managed to drill all the way down. Frustrating! And we would not get another day.

Beside the time pressure it was quite an excellent fieldwork. It was a beautiful marsh, with picturesque autumn colours and impressive cloudy skies. Most of the time the weather was quite nice as well. Tasha is a pleasure to work with. Richard was always willing to help me out if I got myself into trouble with the gear. Roland and Anthony were regularly texting advice and encouragements. Rob dropped by almost every day, doping things such as helping us identifying the flora, or just having a chat and bring us apples from his own garden. It would have been so good to have had more time!

We did the best we could, and again packed our stuff in alost total darkness. This time we set off to the inn, where we would have dinner, which we thought we had deserved. Of course we found Rob there with his family. He had turned into our patron saint of sorts. And after dinner the day was again quite over. Another night f deep sleep! The next day we would use for subsampling. I had to have the ferry by 1 o'clock, so the day was short...

Goodbye to the Isle of Wight!

And subsample we did. In the beginning slightly distracted (me at least) by a charming neighbouring cat who gave off the impression that giving him lots of cuddles was a matter of life and death, but he was soon retrieved by his owner. Beside that Tasha and I were a well-oiled war machine again. She labelled the sample tubes, I put the subsamples in, then she packed the car wile I did synchronous sampling and lunch making (less disturbing than it seems), then Tasha vacuumcleaned the place, and then itwas time to leave! We had borrowed all kinds of things from Rob, so we set off to his home to give them back, and have ourselves a quick coffee. He had one of these dream houses that Allard would describe as a Turkish Bazar... with a cute cat as a finishing touch. But I had to leave. We'll have to come back to retrieve more material, and I do hope we'll meet Rob again then!

In beautiful weather I drove to the ferry. Now I had to get home, on my own, without satnav, in unknown terrain. It was bound to go wrong. And itdid, to a certain extent. I knew I would not likely manage to read the printed out instructions on time, in the very urban area on the other side of the ferry. And I didn't. So I ended up on a road that did go west, but unfortunately was littered with traffic lights and other speed-limiting accessories. It took me ages to get to Poole. But there I got onto an acceptably fast road, and would not levae such roads untill reaching university. The first hours that was fun! Beautiful countryside. The acquired taste is kicking in.

Further on it got dark. And became rush hour. And theweather turned to torrential rain. This meant the driving was not as fun anymore, but luckily the road signs easily guide you home. And my brand new car had window wipers that could go extra fast! A very useful gadget. At a slow rush hour traffic light in Plymouth I read that Roland wanted me to just park on the campus, and go to the restaurant where he would eat with his guest. For the earth scientists: Eelco Rohling was in town. That saved me having to unload all the stuff in the crappy weather, and bring the car back to the rental company! Lovely!

When I reached university at 6 Roland and Eelco were still in the pub, so I got a well-deserved pint before we set off to the restaurant. So no rest for the wicked. Right from the mud into networking! But it actually was a great way of ending a fieldwork. And after dinner I walked home quite satisfied. And we'll be back.