31 July 2013

Cycle race

Next year, the Tour de France will allegedly start in York. I'm not excited about that at all! If I want to look at people on bicycles I'll look around me during my commute. Plenty of them! Some rather fast as well. But on my way back from the moors I wasn't given any chance; a policeman (or a race official) on a motorbike gestured me (and all the other drivers) off the road. There was a bicycle race coming! So what can you do. I got out, got my camera ready and almost failed to see the horizontal lines whizzing past that must have been the only observable manifestation of the first two cyclists. And then the peloton followed! As they were going downhill they were gone in a jiffy, and I could continue my journey home. Even though I enjoyed watching that, I've seen enough road racing for the rest of the year now!

The road's not ours!

Bicycle race passing past my modest car

30 July 2013

Onto the Moors

I decided it was time to visit the North York Moors. And this time stay at the surface! I had received books with "walks on the North York Moors" as leaving presents (thanks gentlemen!) and it was about time I tried one. So I picked one that wasn't too far away and had some proper moorland in it as a first, and off I went!

In unknown terrain you never know how seriously you should take the paths on the map (the booklet uses bits of OS map). Quite soon I realised I had missed the first junction. Not to worry; I could just get back onto the route with a small detour, but it showed I may have underestimated the unassumingness of the tracks that made up the route. It would happen again!

It started in rolling fields

I soon crossed the Rye

A while later the same thing happened. Another small detour. And soon after it happened again - this time I went back and found the tiny rabbit-track that I was supposed to take. But by that time I had completely buggered my average speed!

Barren moorland beyond the fields

At some point, in the woods, the path just disappeared. I decided to head straight ahead; I knew I would hit the moorland that way, and on the moors you can see paths a bit further ahead. And it worked out! But the path was on the "wrong" side of the hill. By now I'd been walking for three hours, and I realised I still needed to keep some feet credibility, as that night I would go dancing. So I cut the route short and went back to my car by the fastest route. And it was even faster than I anticipated; I bumped into a Moors ranger who offered to drive me the last mile or so. Very nice!

Back over the Rye

Nice purple Moorland!

The road back to civilisation

Altogether it was a modest introduction to the Moors, but one has to start somewhere! And next time I'll be more observant when it comes to the small tracks. They are the most charming, after all!

29 July 2013

Microscope new and improved

We were supposed to have a microscope waiting for us upon coming to York. But it didn't work out that way. It took almost two months, but now I have a microscope that does what it should do! The microscope that was delivered didn't allow for the work we need to do, as I pointed out here. So the chap who installed it came back, with two boxes full of objectives and oculars. We could take our pick!

We decided on a configuration with a moving nozzle that can hold two oculars, and have one moderately powerful one for rummaging through samples, and one very powerful one for staring the forams straight into their pores. Unfortunately, we couldn't keep these parts; they were demonstration models. But three weeks later the parts had arrived, and the man was back to screw the whole hing together. So now I can start for real! And it's lovely to be able to look at these forams  up close and personal. I wonder how many of my old identifications I will now recognize as wrong, as I can see everything so much clearer now!

The microscope, version 1.2! Notice the double ocular, and the working space underneath the ocular that is in use here.

What you see with low magnification

Small compilation of how you can see the foram you can just see in the open space in the middle on the picture above

26 July 2013

Breaking rocks

The weather forecast showed rain. Rain and digging in a cave don't always go together.You don't want to be at the far end of a crawl when you suddenly notice the water is rising around you. Would I get my second chance at digging this week? The answer turned out to be yes.

We gathered at the usual place, pottered around a bit, extensively discussed the weather, ate a sandwich, and in the end managed to make a decision; two extra watery chaps would use the drought that was expected to end that evening to check out a well that led to a cavern. There were some cave divers interested in exploring this, but first it needed to be assessed if they would reasonably expected to be able to get in. And the water levels now would be at their lowest! The rest, which was then only three of us,would go in, see what the explosion last week had done, clear out the mess, and try a bit of rock-breaking elsewhere. I had been lured in by talk of demolition! And those who came later would join Matt.

Matt scurried off to check the effect of last week's detonation, and I followed Sparky, who was as good as his word, and took me to some hole that gave passage to a rift that so far didn't go anywhere. The idea was to enlarge the rift and dig the mud out of the silted-up bit further on. And I know what digging mud looks like, but now I would get to see rock breaking in action. And do it myself!

It turns out to go like this: you drill a hole in the rock, in such a way that you think you might profit from natural weaknesses. Then you push in two pea-sized cartridges. When they are in, you cover that part of the rock with some rubber mat or something of that kind, and stick a long pin through that, into the hole. If you then try to stand back, and whack the pin with a mallet, the cartridges detonate and you have created some more weakness in the rock. The rubber mat should protect you from flying bits of rock. Getting a chisel out then finishes the job.

Sparky demonstrated once. Then it was my turn! I wasn't much of a talent; the drill hole was so narrow I struggled to push the cartridges all the way in. But with Sparky's help they ended up in the right place. Time for whacking! Not easy, as we were in a confined space, and maneuvering your body in such a way that you are out of the way (in case the metal pin flies out!), can swing the mallet, and can see what you do is not easy. The last aspect was a challenge anyway; there were goggles present, but by the time I got to wear them, we had smeared them with mud so much I could barely see though. And ear muffs would have been nice, but there were none.

After the BANG I managed to chisel off a piece of rock I think was approximately 7x40x40 cm big. Not bad for a first try! Then it was Sparky's turn again, and then the drill was needed elsewhere. I got quite some climbing and crawling practice ferrying equipment around.

With the drill gone, Sparky proceeded to dig sticky mud from the far end of the rift. I tried to dump it all in the hole below us, but given that my only tool was a crowbar, that was a modest success. After having become one big lump of mud with the surroundings, the spade included, I chickened out. I had the feeling it was beer o'clock, anyway. Sparky willingly took my place, and suggested I'd check how the others were getting on. So I did! They were making progress on the other side. But were about done. I had been right, it was beer o'clock! So I called to Sparky and clambered out. When I reached the top of the rift I suddenly heard an unexpected voice; "careful with the ladder!". I looked at the ladder, which wasn't the same anymore as it had been when I clambered down, and looked up, where I saw an unexpectedly clean Gary. He must have come late, and replaced the ladder! I reflected for a bit on the difference between us, and was strengthened in my resolution to go and have a wash in the river. I was only infinitesimally less muddy than the previous time!

I had had a spiffing time. In a world where health and safety rule supreme, it is great to crawl down dodgy, filthy, narrow holes, and wield power tools, whack things, and blow things up in a dark and confined space. Next week again please?

25 July 2013

Love to ride

The UK isn't a land of cyclists. But it is a land with cyclists. And some of these cyclists, organized under the moniker "Love to Ride", want to MAKE it a land of cyclists. And they have some initiative going; "the Cycle Challenge". It's a national thing you can subscribe to as a company or other body. The idea is to get more people on a bicycle, and also more often. And they use competition to boost enthusiasm. 
The University of York accepted the challenge, and so did the Environment Department. So everybody within these institutions was encouraged to jump on their bikes for at least ten minutes as often as possible. And the body with the highest percentages of participants would win (within their category; the university didn't have to compete with the cornershop with its three employees). I'm not sure if you got points for total distance covered, or percentage of new bikers; whether you were new to it was registered too. I didn't ride a fathom more than I otherwise would have, but I was still the department's #2. And I can now reveal that in the first three weeks of July, I rode 132.8 miles, burnt an estimated 4914 Calories, and saved an estimated 43 kg of CO2 by not driving.

A bike seen in the Yorkshire Museum of Farming
The University did well in this; they took the 2nd place within York, in the category 500+ staff. And as this challenge has an environmental purpose, one would assume the Environment Department would do rather well. But not quite, actually! We competed in the 20-49 staff category, and we were only 24th. And within the departments of the University, regardless of size, we were beaten by bodies such as the Centre For Reviews And Dissemination, and the Centre For English Language Teaching. But the number one was the Stockholm Environment Institute, so something environmental after all! It's not just lip service...

24 July 2013

First Yorkshire mines!

Since having joined the YCC I had been down three caves. I missed mines! So when suddenly a call appeared on the YCC forum, of a guy who wanted to take some people down some mine, I didn't know how fast I should express my interest. And I wasn't the only one; Matt and Gary were coming too. That meant I could hitch a ride, and didn't have to drive 1.5 hr in a hot car without being able to open the windows (the electric windows don't open anymore, and it's not the fuse! And if it isn't the fuse, it seems to be hard to repair.)

Looking out of the window I got my first glance of the Moors. It looked nice! We stopped in a cute village, where lots of people in boiler suits indicated this was the right spot. We met Andy, the ringleader, and the others. We quickly changed, and off we were, headed for Booze! And yes that is capitalized on purpose. We were heading for Booze mine, near the village of Booze! An interesting omen regarding my career as a Yorkshire miner. It was a very small slate mine. I was really happy to see the familiar blasted walls of a mine next to me! And this place was clearly frequently visited; when I reached beyond the beaten path, I was amazed by the entire floor being covered in canine foot prints. Had a fox decided to make this mine his home? An esoteric choice!

The entrance of Booze mine;  my first Yorkshire mine!

 Its interior

 The canine footprints all over the floor

Time for some posing with nice flowstone. Pic by Gary.

 Three headlights and a model. Pic by Gary.

After this mine it was time for lunch. Matt threw me a sandwich. I hadn't expected that, but never underestimate his catering instinct! What a man. And it was even nice to sit in the sun, which wasn't particularly powerful this day; quite a difference with preceding weeks.

After lunch we went on with a core group; some three men had only come for the Booze and left. We went up the hill, to explore the valley of a small stream. The whole valley was pockmarked with mine remnants like nothing on Earth! It was quite nice. The little stream had more mine spoils to transport than it could shake a stick at. The resulting landscape was quite special!

 Onwards through the Dales!

 The area from the air: notice the heavy mine scarring!

 Lots of sediment; not very much else

We went into another adit. I had the impression mines here were rather small and straightforward. Only one level in both these places! A next place confirmed that, but offered a challenge anyway. Andy explained he had only found this entrance last week, and didn't know what was in it. But he suggested it might be wet. When Gary looked in he said "you MUST be kidding!". He wasn't. Soon Andy was up to his waist in water, making interesting sounds. No time later the rest of es (except some wise people staying at the surface) were doing the same. The water was freezing! And the adit showed no sign of coming to an end.

We walked on, reflecting on the physiological effects of such water temperature. And the adit went on and on. After what seemed an an eternity we saw big boulders in the water. The end? No; almost. You could climb over the boulders and proceed a little bit further. It ended in what seemed to be a small stope down. Gary took some pictures; my education as flash monkey came in handy here.And then we headed back, as fast as we could. We were all numb from the waist down!

We climbed back up onto the hillslope, to the next mine. That was a crawling case. And next we went past a water wheel pit, to a well in a field of fern. It lead into workings, but it was so silted up you couldn't pass. We went back to the water wheel pit; there was another entrance, too small to get into. The men dug away at it for a while, but without tools they wouldn't get too far. So we went on to two more mines. And then it was beer O'clock! Except that it wasn't; everybody seemed to go their own way, so we chose to be home in time for dinner over having a pint. And we'd had Booze, anyway...

A water wheel pit

Trying to drain an adit

All miners gathering at the last entrance, under the watchful eye of a slightly ominous sheep

23 July 2013

Derwent Valley Light Railway

There was a sign in the supermarket. It announced the 100th anniversary of above railway. I had never heard of it, but it sounded nice! And I had nothing else planned that Saturday, so that was easy.

I biked along a cycle path I had come to appreciate; it's nice and green, and quiet, and pretty long. It had the looks of an old railway line. Some research afterwards makes me assume I was actually biking on the old Derwent Valley Rail track... a nice way of getting to the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, which is the home of the Derwent Valley Light Railway society, and the goal of my journey.

I was welcomed by two men in hi-viz. They pointed cars in the direction of vacant parking spaces. They seemed utterly astonished by the appearance of a bike. It had only been half an hour, and I live on the other side of town! About as far as you can live within York. Oh well. They identified a fence I could lock my bike to.

The first thing I did was take a ride on the steam train. It can't go very far! But it was nice. And ther was an old Ford rail bus trundling around too. And some locomotive from Bristol was quietely leaking to itself on a piece of rails.

Me in the steam train!

The resident locomotive

The charming Ford bus

But there was more to see; it was a museum of farming, after all! They had all sorts of old equipment. The cattle-gelding kit was enough to make on shudder. More uplifting was th epropaganda for the Woman's Land Army. I had never heard of it, but it made sense it was there! With the men at the front and supply lines cut, women were needed to grow all the food they could!

You can't not have a collection of ploughs in a farming museum.

The cutest tractor there is - I want one!

And there's even more than that: the museum even boasts on a reconstructed Viking village, and a Roman fortress. And a nature route. And lots more. Still only enough to keep me busy for 2 hours, but it had been nice hours! And it had shown me a bit more local history. You can't have enough of that! A bicycle path is nicer if you know, for instance, that it has supplied nearby RAF airfield during the war, which went unnoticed because the track, by then some 30 years old, was overgrown with weed and not visible from the air...

22 July 2013

University of York 50 years

If you have your birthday, you have a celebration. Unless you are York uni; then you have hundreds. They turned 50 this year, and they were not letting that go past unnoticed. There had been countless many occasions already, but this day there was a garden party for staff. In the middle of the heatwave. And the university might be very young, but it is located on the terrain of a monumental mansion that is much older. And it provides a nice backdrop that breathes an Oxbridgish atmosphere! York has been invited into the Russell Group; they sure live up to the image!

The party getting started; it did get quite crowded later!

21 July 2013

Digging in the Moors

Coming home too late on a Tuesday night, with about a kilo of mud in my hair! It was an integral part of my time in the southwest. When I moved north, I found the YCC does its trips mainly in the weekends. So that’s good for how fresh I appear in my office on Wednesday morning. But there was more. They may indeed do their trips in the weekend, but they do their digs on Tuesday night! Only a small subsample of YCC, and in collaboration with another caving club. And not just any other caving club; Rick’s old club! So I thought it would be worth having a look there.

And the first weeks I had other things on my mind. But in a week where I did not have any other evening activities I figured I could chance it. It did mean coming to work by car; it would take too much time to bike home from work and then set off from there. Did I mention I do not like driving? I did it anyway. Term was over, so there was plenty of space on the parking lot. And at the end of the working day I got back in. Unfortunately, by now the car had turned into an oven. But what can one do. 

An hour later I had found the venue without issues. I decided to park at the road rather than the track; that’s easier. I got into my kit, and walked down. To my surprise I saw movement at the cars of the others! They weren’t underground yet. I thought they would have been for an hour already!

I met the other cavers; they seemed glad to see me. Maybe someone who comes with Rick’s recommendations is always welcome! And soon we went underground. It started with a narrow rift. And a small tunnel and another rift. And then the fun started! Then there was quite some belly-crawling. First through mud. Then through slop. Then it got a bit better; it was high enough to crawl on your knees. We brought a big steel bar down, for poking rocks. Is that a good idea? Of course!

When we came to a chamber big enough to stand Gary went ahead with the end of an entire reel of electrical wire. I made sure it unwound tidily. I was a bit baffled by all of this; why were we doing this? But all would become clear. 

When Gary was at the end we followed him. The passage, which was another long stretch of belly-crawling, ended in a boulder choke. You could see through the boulders: the passage went on! Interesting! You could also feel a draught coming through. This was the goal: get through this choke. Matt decided to see if he could remove some blocks, and stabilise others, by doing some energetic prodding with the big pole. We couldn’t see what he was doing; we were hiding in the passage. But we could hear it. A bit unnerving. And we were idle; I had expected, and prepared for, hauling buckets of mud out. I wasn’t wearing enough for sitting still in this draughty cave! 

Waiting in the passage while Matt pokes rocks. And finding a tear in a boiler suit.

When he was done we all had a look; there were two boulders that were still in the way. The plan was to blow them up next time. And that was what the wire was for: ignition! You want to do that from a distance. I don’t think you would get rocks on your head if you’d detonate from the tunnel, but I have some idea what it would do to your eardrums. 

When that was decided we headed back. Matt and I went into some very tight side passage on the way; there was a chamber at the end of it. This had only been discovered some two weeks ago! It was difficult to get there, but at least the belly-crawling warms you up a bit. 

By the time I reached the rift again I felt like I weighed about twice what I normally weigh. All that mud, with pebbles, that stuck to me! And I was tired and thirsty. I wasn’t particularly fast climbing back up. But I did get up, and for the first time since the start of this heat wave I was glad to come out into the heat. 

 The effect of a river

Most men just got out of their kit and headed for the pub. I had heard there was a river nearby; that seems quite a good idea! Matt was willing to show the way. I went in as a mud golem, and I came out as a woman. Very nice! I got into my civilian clothes and headed for the pub. All the men were already there. I thought I’d get me a beer, but no; they insisted on getting me one. Very nice! There was banter, there were chips, there was beer. And then I decided to go home. It was another hour driving! And once at home I had to take a shower; in spite of the river, I still had about a kilo of mud in my hair. And then it was bedtime. And I was hooked; I sure want to come again next week!

19 July 2013


On my first day in York I had my set of keys copied (I don't trust myself with only one set). It takes a few minutes; I spent that time wandering onto the adjacent market, and decided to buy some herbs. Makes the house look nice, and might be eaten too! And it turned out to be a good choice. My bay leaf plant is only being pretty, which it is good at, but the basil, mint, rosemary and thyme (there’s a song in that!) do have their nutritional value appreciated. I am a lazy cook, who only on rare occasion strays beyond the trusted realm of pepper and salt, but having herbs in reach in the window sill does help. The basil ends up in pasta and on cheese-tomato-basil sandwiches, the rosemary ends up in mashed potato and quiches, and the thyme ends up on fried eggs and on goat’s cheese. Spiffing!

The mint is good for tea; I have a “brundail” mint and a “garden mint” and they have both already been used. It’s good I have two; I could easily drink a mint plant to death. And Corinne mentioned you can make tea of basil as well, so even though the poor plant is already under stress because of its popularity in my lunch box, I tried that too. And indeed, it works! And these days I also grow my own lettuce. They sell the stuff in pots, and that’s the best way. I’m turning into a cook-cum-gardener, after having been a townie herbless chef! I think it’s a good thing...

Useful weekend

The last three weekends I had spent in Amsterdam at a wedding, with Hugh, and in the Forest of Dean, respectively. Not much time for doing the boring things that keep a household going! But this weekend was relatively empty. I had Lionel and Corinne over on Friday evening, and saw them again at the airfield on Saturday, after which I scooted off to the BBQ, but between waving my guests goodbye and seeing them again, and on the Sunday, I managed to do my shopping, the laundry, buy underwear, postcards, maps of the Moors and Dales, new running shows, a hook for the bathroom door, a new mud guard and plant pots; mount the mud guard and a map holder on my bike, change a tire, oil the chain, adjust the brakes, repair a duvet cover and my desk, mount the hook, read the paper, tweak my cowtails, maintain my hair, write two postcards, scrutinize my car fuses, and write 9 blog posts. Not bad! It might not be very adventurous but I need a weekend like that once in a while...

18 July 2013

Aussie BBQ

Every department needs a social instigator. Geography in Plymouth had Jon. Environment in York has a guy called Bryce. He’s the one likely to send emails around rallying people for a trip to the pub. And he’s an Aussie, so he thrives in the heat wave that’s currently chastising the country, and he likes BBQ’s (did I already mention I’m fond of national stereotypes?). And he’s not the only one; associated with the department is also a compatriot of his called Cara. And they sent out a call for a BBQ! I accepted. It was very nice. We were only with 6 people (of 4 different nationalities) but it was good. And after the actual BBQ she introduced us to some daft Finno-Australian version of ten point bowling: Klop! For those who want to know all about it there is to know: watch this. For those who can do with less detail: it’s some sort of bowling in which you put the pegs back up where they ended up after having been knocked over, so they spread out. And not all pegs are worth the some. That was fun too! And it is also nice and familiar to have Aussies around...

Bryce and Cara in their natural habitat


17 July 2013

Visit Lionel and Corinne

It took me 7 hours to drive from Plymouth to York. I know many people would do it faster (like people who have a cigarette lighter in their car, and who can drive on satnav all the way), but it remains a long drive. How many people would come visit me so far away?

My first southern visitor was going north anyway; that helps. Lionel’s girlfriend Corinne has lived in Yorkshire for many years, and she still has many friends here. And they were coming up to visit them. And they would visit me, too! I looked forward to that.

They’d come on Friday. I worked until 16.45, rode home, and prepared an elaborate meal in much haste, as they were due at 18.00. And then they arrived, in the summer heat. I showed them their room and the rest of the house. I’m glad they were impressed! And they impressed me too; they had brought a coolbox with chilled white wine! That had priority over food. We drank the wine in the courtyard, catching up. And then we went indoors for dinner. By dinner table has been inaugurated!

After dinner we went back to the courtyard. It was still a very hot evening, and outside one at least gets a breeze. And we made plans for the next day; they would first do some necessary shopping, and then go to an air field where a special “Bücker Jungmann” gathering was taking place. That made perfect sense, as Corinne is a stunt pilot. I had never heard of the things but they seem to be very special. Suddenly she said I should come; she would be catching up with all sorts of people Lionel didn’t know, and he could do with someone to hang out with himself. And I’d never been to such an air field, let alone an air show! So I accepted the invitation.

It felt daft to get into my car with the non-opening windows on a day that would hit >30°C, but that was what it took. After an hour of being boiled I reached the airfield. At the gate, it only took Corinne’s name to get in. And she and Lionel (he’s already become quite knowledgeable on the topic) showed me around. Small airplanes as far as the eye can see! And in turn they went into the air to perform low fly-overs, loopings, and more stomach-churning stunts. There were some old-timer cars, too! It was very nice. And I learned quite a lot about planes.

 This was what it was all about: the Bücker Jungmanns!

There were nice cars too

 The pilots showed off with all sorts of aerobatics

Some pilots first had some work to do

 This was my favourite plane: the "bumblebee"!

 Lionel, Corinne and me posing with a Jungmann

Something else there was a lot of there was sun. I got a bit baked! So after some 1.5 hours I said goodbye, and got back into my furnace-disguised-as-a-car. Back in York I did see some small planes in the air: would that be ones I’d seen earlier?

Lionel and Corinne said they’d visit again next time they’d come up north. I hope they indeed do!

Nice colleagues

When I came to Plymouth, I was quickly adopted by a bunch of PhD students. It’s nice to have a social group to belong to from the beginning! But unfortunately, in Plymouth, these PhD students were almost all set to go to Germany, Exeter, and New Zealand, so growing social roots wasn’t easy. It’s better in York! I was almost immediately greeted by the sea level folk, who are part of a larger group of friends that also involves policy, conservation, and ice people. A lovely bunch! And last week one had his birthday. We celebrated in the pub. The non-birthday lot had smuggled in a caterpillar-shaped chocolate cake as a present. It was a lovely evening! I’m privileged to be friends with people like that. I hope I can enjoy that for a while longer...

My new friends and colleagues: Abi, Owain, Louise and Tom

16 July 2013

Use of car

My car was bought for the purpose of going to Dartmoor and similar places of natural beauty, and for visiting mines and caves. It did a good job! But after almost two months of York, I haven’t used it for either going to the Moors or the Dales, or for caving purposes. The YCC is a bunch of conscientious car sharers, and my car seems not to be overly popular. I can’t see why. And I haven’t made time to go to Dales or Moors yet; my weekends so far have generally been too full of caving weekends, weddings, visitors or trips to Liverpool. So since I went to the B&Q for the roof for my “bike shed”, which is too large to comfortable transport on bike (I can transport quite some stuff on my bike, but sheet material is tricky. Would function as a sail!) the car had been idle. But recently I saw it still has use! It is an excellent seat for the local cat...

Further decoration

The last time I posted about having put up pictures and decorated the house, I was, in all fairness, only talking about the lounge and diner. The bedrooms are for sleeping in; they had lower priority. But it had to be done some time anyway, and with guests arriving soon it became more urgent. So I had a whole pile of additional pictures printed, and went back to the second-hand shop for an additional pile of frames. And when all that was assembled I went upstairs to have them do their magic there. And I unearthed a series of reprints of ancient maps of the arctic I had bought in Norway (NP employees could buy them at a big discount) and hung them around the house too. I liked the results! I was ready to impress my second batch of overnight guests! And myself, of course. I get to see it most often!

A little southwest-themed corner in the bedroom

Norway above the chest of drawers

Now there are three pictures; better!

15 July 2013

Internet at home

I have a lovely house now. And I try to sometimes be there. And not be in the office. I don’t only go there for work; I also got there to blog and phone my mum and do such things. But it should be possible to do that at home. So far I’d worked with a USB modem; it does give you some internet access, but it’s not great. It was hardly feasible to upload pictures onto the blog, for instance. And quite often the whole page wouldn’t properly load. Time for something better. So I checked rates and reviews online, and chose a new company offering broadband. An appointment was made for installation.

The chap showed up punctually. I thought he’d just plug things into my phone line, but he took a look at it and declared it belonged to the wrong company. But he could install a new one! That sounded nice, but it is a rented house, and I can’t just go and have chaps drill through the wall. Luckily the landlord was easily reached, and welcomed improved infrastructure at no extra cost for himself. So the drill could come out!

 The chap connecting my house to a pole full of spaghetti

Some two hours later the installer left, and I could try out the new configuration. To be honest, I haven’t really figured it out yet! The manual only gives directions for Windows XP and Vista, and my little netbook is still on Windows 7. I looked up what you’re supposed to do then, but it didn’t seem to make sense. I seem to be connected, but internet is still terrible. Just writing and publishing a blog post can take forever, though all the reloading and refreshing and failing to get things working. Maybe I should get a better laptop. Hmm. This is the slippery slope that can end in throwing a lot of money down the drain, isn’t it? And otherwise it’s back to the office in the weekend, which was exactly what I tried to avoid. And then the investment wasn’t very much worth it...

14 July 2013

Slaughter Cave

It was a caving weekend, after all! There WAS some caving on the menu. We would do the above mentioned cave on Sunday. It’s not a long trip, so we would make it out in time to drive all the way back to York.

We drove to a field, and reluctantly got into our kit. It was so warm! But after having crossed the field we would be rewarded by some nice underground coolness. I was keen to try my new light.

The cave starts with a number of fixed ladders, after which you go around a tight corner and get to the only (double) SRT pitch. I wasn’t sure if I had ever done SRT in a cave before, but it’s of course quite the same as in mines.

After the ropework there was a crawl, and then a puddle. Nice! We were still quite hot.

From there we made a round trip, with the usual crawling, clambering and splashing. We came to the end, where a dig was clearly still in progress. But we didn’t check it out too much; we wanted to keep this trip shortish. So after having been to the end we went back, had a last refreshing plunge in the puddle (we even saw an albino fish!) we went back up and out. We got out of our caving kit in seconds. And then went for ice cream!

The albino fish

It had not been too much of a spectacular trip, but I had tried out my lamp; after several hours it was still going strong! Very good. And after taking our tents down and driving back, it was already 10PM by the time we were home. It shouldn’t have been any later!

11 July 2013

Canoeing with cavers

Maybe "York Caving Club" is as inaccurate a name as "Plymouth Caving Group". The York bit is quite accurate (I think we had one guy from Whitby with us, the rest were York residents), but we don't only cave. Luckily, we do some mine trips, but we need not even be underground; there was a canoeing trip in the diary! The July trip would take us to the Forest of Dean, where we would do one day of canoeing on the river Wye, and one day of caving. Sounded nice!

As the previous time, one car hoovered up all the Friday-after-work cavers (two chaps had left earlier, and taken all the bulky stuff up so we would fit with five in one car) and drove south. When we got to Rushmore Farm, where we'd stay, our tents were already pitched! Very nice.

Our camp as it looked the next morning

The next morning we had to be at the canoe rental place at a given time, which reduced the amounts of faffing a bit. We made up for that when one car drove to the correct canoe rental, and the other one basically tried all of them before reaching the right one. Then we could get our canoes! And hand over our own vessels: one of the couples had a beautiful self-made canoe, and one of the guys had rescued a river kayak from being chucked away, and was going to try that one out. All of that was then driven upstream to a handy launching spot, from which we would paddle back. And it was the hottest day of the year so far; many sought the coolness of the river! We spent quite some time in the queue before we could launch ours. And then we were off!

 The canoe launching queue

After about 100 meters on the water the buoyancy aids came off and the ciders were opened. The sun shone, the water was calm, the birds were singing, the swans gliding along, it was a nice day. The canoes were well up to the task. Gary in his river kayak struggled a bit; my experience is that these bloody things move to the right when you paddle left, and vice versa, and never really go forward. And I know that's my inexperience, but Gary had similar amounts of that, so he struggled in the same way. Sometimes that led to him suicidally hurling himself in front of a canoe. By accident. But it got better with time; soon he was the fastest.

Laura and Sam very responsibly in buoyancy aids

 Gary throwing himself in front of our canoe

After a while the cider started to have its effect, and we beached to canoes to relieve ourselves. And while we were on the beach anyway, we might as well get into our swimwear (or just strip down to underwear) and jump in for some cooling down. It was nice!

The first is ready for a swim!

Some time later we came to one of the pubs along the route, so we carried the canoes up the bank and set out for a pub lunch. And a pint of lager, to go with all the ciders that had preceded it. This was quite a nice relaxed day! Or at least; it had been so far. When we got back to the boats Gary found that his paddle was no longer there. It had been securely inside the kayak, so it couldn't have washed away. It must have been stolen! Luckily Richard and Nikki had a spare paddle with their fancy canoe, but it was of course a single-bladed one, which is hardly ideal for a kayak. But one has to make do with what one has.

Castle we saw on the way to the pub

We continued. Now Gary was lagging behind a bit. And after a while he indicated he was fed up with propelling himself with inadequate means. So we tied him to the back of the canoe. Which lead to him swirling around the entire breadth of the river. So then we fastened him on the side. That was better! And with this daft canoe-kayak raft we continued to the end. By then most of us had seen quite enough sun for a day (we're cavers, after all). We were fairly happy to get off the water and return to the campsite for a shower. But it had been a great trip! Just a bit sad that one can't seem to leave one's paddle unsupervised. And we were now all so boiled we looked forward to going underground the next day!

Richard and Nikki overcome by the sun