30 January 2018

Viewing the house again

I wanted to see the house again! I had had a rather quick look the first time around. But now that I was considering buying it I needed an idea of how much work it needed. And I wanted to know if I would be as enamoured with it the second time around.

I was greeted by Rose, the owner, and an estate agent. This time Rose stayed in the kitchen and I went around with the estate agent. This time I looked at all the walls; did any wallpaper need stripping? Did anything need repainting? I also looked at the floors. Did they need renewal? I like wooden floors but the are expensive. And in the lounge, the carpet looked fine, and was a fine colour, so I probably leave that as is. The master bedroom needs another floor, though! It has cork now, and I don't like it. And that room borders on a landing with somewhat dubious floor; carpet tiles here, come carpet cut-offs (that were too small) there. Extend that new floor! Wood, I think.

The two hearths should be opened up I think; they must have been massive in the past. Pubs are like that! And then I need two wood burners. Or maybe one? Open fire in the other one? Not sure yet. But not this tiling!

I also don't like the top two doors but that's not urgent. Replacing wallpaper once you've moved in is a pain; replacing a door isn't! So that can wait.

Rose also confirmed I would have the same parking agreement with the adjacent chapel-turned-music-venue. Excellent! And she would take the cat with her. I can see why! But I have already googled the nearby pet shelters so I suppose that when the time is right they could pair me up with a suitable moggy. And then we can lie in front of the wood burner together!

29 January 2018

Not digging

I thought I would be digging! But then a message from Miles arrived. Stuff was not going as planned at work, and he thought he might not manage to come out digging. Later he confirmed that. A pity! But that meant I could come with the Thursdaynighters. And that probably meant being in bed considerably later, but it would be nice to see them again. We would go to some mine not too far from Cwm and have a Simon-lead wander!

I first went for a second viewing of my favourite house. Then I went on. I knew I would be a bit early at the gathering place but that was alright, I had my Welsh homework with me. But when I got there, a lot of the others were already there! No need for the homework.

Simon was the last to appear. We piled into two vehicles and drove on, closer to the entrance, where parking was tight. And there Simon left us! He was a bit under the weather and decided to go home. Oh dear. Oh well; we would go without him. We walked up in intermittent moonlight, but before we got underground it started raining quite forcefully. Oh dear.

We got in. Dry again! And we decided to do and find a steep passage the men had found earlier, and put a handline in. There are water hoses through the place, and we used one of those. It worked! Then we went on a bit of a scamper. Paul did his own thing and appeared now and then.

At some point we came to a flooded bit. David stuck a torch into the water. We could see a whole level below! That was nice. David and Ed teamed up to take a picture of it. Success!

Then we went on. A lot of scampering followed. Finally we came out! A bit late for me, but not particularly late for the Thursdaynighters. The men wanted to go to the nearest takeaway, but as I had come from a viewing and was in my own car, I could skip that. I went home! And it had been nice to be out with the old gang again!

28 January 2018

Welsh in the workplace

Last year I couldn't do my Welsh A level. This year I can't either! It's scheduled in the same week each year, and that is the same week as our Laugharne fieldwork. But Jenny suggested I could do something else; there are the 'Welsh in the workplace' qualifications, and she suggested I do one of these. They go up to at least level six. She suggested I start at five. And she tends to be able to guess what I'm capable of so I agreed. She explained I would have to talk with one colleague about one relevant topic of my choosing, and then talk to them on the phone. Then another colleague would come into the office to talk about something I wouldn't know of in advance. And I would have to talk to a tutor, and I would get a call from HR about something or other. All would get recorded. I roped in Dei, the most usual suspect, and he was willing. I suggested our salty sea dog Big Gwynne as the person to walk in.

When the day approached Jenny told me she had problems contacting Gwynne, but I found Ian, our head technician, and he was willing and available. Good!

On the day itself I heard Bethan, one of the tutors, approach. It's always nice to see her! We had a little chat and then Dei came in. We talked about me potentially taking over some of his dissertation students. It went well! Then he went away and I phoned him. We talked a bit more about a new fieldwork module. It sounds lovely! Both conversations ran for longer than needed as we had so much to say.

Then we brought in Ian, who spoke of several fieldworks. That was nice too! Then I spoke on the phone to the HR woman and had a chat with Bethan. All was sorted within the hour. And it had been a pleasure! And I finally got to talk about the dissertation topic with Dei; I had suggested it but he had been too busy to do anything with that suggestion. Or even remember it. Everybody wins!

Next week I'll hear if I've passed! I do think so to be honest, it went well...

27 January 2018

Successful weekend before term starts

I was a bit tense at the end of the last week before the lectures started. I had been spending most of my time marking! I had made sure the Blackboard site of my module was online, but that didn't mean I had prepared the lectures. And I had stuff to organise for my tutorials. And I had to prepare a report for a meeting. I knew that on Monday I would have time, but Tuesday would be entirely consumed by scheduled activities. I wanted to have stuff done before the week started!

On Friday I prepared for my tutorial before I went home. I had dinner with me so it was OK! And then the weekend started. First there was the viewing. Then the rest of the weekend started.

On Saturday I prepared the first lecture, and on Sunday the second. Enough for one week! And I started on marking. The latter was exams, so that's paper; that was done comfortably on the sofa. Nice! And the weather was quite shite anyway.

 Gas fire on, candles lit: excellent circumstances for marking! The wine only came out afterwards, BTW!

I also managed to repair my digging knee pads and  a pair of socks, give myself a haircut, do car maintenance, update the blog, think about finances, ask advice from Phil regarding what kind of tradesperson can do the things I might want done in the house I may buy, go for a run, phone my mum, do my Welsh homework, and prepare for a Welsh in the Workplace qualification I want to try and acquire on Wednesday. Not a weekend with a lot of fun, but surely a weekend that took the strain of the start of term!

26 January 2018

Time to think money

Choosing a house is one thing; choosing how to pay for it is another. It's been a long time since I had to worry about money! I remember I was pretty skint in my first year in Amsterdam, but that was in 1993. And as my PhD overran and I wasn't paid for a while, I was skint again at the end of that, in 2007. I remember having to borrow some money from Roelof (who had a regular job) to get to my first paycheck! But as my first postdoc job was in Norway, as soon as that paycheck arrived I was sorted. Since then I haven't been unemployed for appreciable periods of time. And my wages tended to go down rather than up, but as long as they didn't run out altogether I was OK. I don't have a very expensive life!

But now I wanted to know how much money I wanted to plonk into a deposit. And how much would I want to spend per month? I did a small check; I looked at my bank statements for the last 8 months and checked how much money was left over each month. It varied a bit, of course! It looked like I have cheap months and expensive months, but both result in a net saving. Taking the lower saving and adding it to what I currently pay in rent left me with what I think would be good to pay each month (correcting for a house insurance, possibly increased council tax, increased fuel costs, etc). And I wondered how much money I should keep in my bank account. I mean, I can't empty it out! I need to pay a surveyor and a mortgage advisor and stamp duty and a removal company and whatnot. And I will want a faster bicycle! With narrow tyres! And I may want to do some small improvements on the house. And there will be costs I haven't thought of  yet. Oh and I will probably want to get a different car, but that doesn't have to be much of a cost, as I am sure I can flog the current one for not much less than I would buy another one for. I want something smaller! It will get more to do so I don't want a car that's unnecessarily big and heavy. When I bought it it lugged four Thursdaynighters plus kit to Tanygrisiau all the time, but these days are over! But anyway, I think I've done the math regarding a mortgage. Time for a second viewing maybe?

25 January 2018

Yes I know, another viewing, it gets dull

I make sure I get alerts when houses of my preferred size and price category come onto the market in my search area. Generally these alerts don't make my hearts race. I am, when you think of it, quite specific about what I want! But you can't really feed all your wishes into Rightmove. But then one cottage came up. It looked lovely, it was at the bottom of the valley, and it was cheap. Worth seeing!

I went on Saturday morning. It was raining! The valley looked gloomy, but that's a look it wears well. I walked up the row of houses. They're not even on a street! There is a path in front of the houses, and a small one at the back, and that's it. Parking is on a layby nearby. I easily found the right house and knocked. A friendly-looking lady opened. She showed me around. It was such a snug little house! The ground floor was living room, kitchen and bathroom; all looked both really well-maintained but also still like the cottage it was. A nice balance between keeping the soul but also keeping it well!

Stairs led to a mezzanine level (high enough for me to stand, but for anyone considerably taller it wouldn't work) which doubled as a second bedroom. Only in the middle was it high enough to stand! And off that was a 'proper' bedroom; the same size, but with a door. A hobbit door! It was all extremely cute but also very small. You couldn't put a cupboard in either room!

The lady also showed me the garden, with its wood storage, bike shed, tool shed (formerly the outdoor toilet) and the external office/ hobby room. The garden was gorgeous, even in January. And the extra room was clearly what a house like that needs! I was all impressed.

Back indoors the woman's husband appeared as well. He was full of enthusiasm; he had done it all up himself! All of it! And he had reason to be proud of himself. We chatted a bit until the next viewers appeared. They were more local; it was a couple of which the woman lived in Bethesda and the man in Waunfawr. They were also looking for their first home to buy! They were nice too. Some bilingual chat followed.

When the other viewers went outside to see the garden I left. I was all in love with the house! I'm sure I could pare down my belongings to make it fit. But I went home, had a coffee and a ponder, and slowly I came back to Earth. I figured I would need a house that's practical. Where you don't have to stay on top of things all the time because you have some room to spread out. I often come home late and tired! Often, my kitchen table is impeccable early on in the week, and entirely covered by stuff later on. And then in the weekend I have some time to sort it out again. In this house, I'm not sure you could have a kitchen table. And if so, you need to keep it tidy! So after a few hours of cooling down my love for the house on the river re-emerged on top. Time to do some number crunching!

24 January 2018

Exams - and then lectures

I managed to get my Palaeoceanography exams marked quickly. By Thursday they were in Lynda's pigeon hole, ready for her to moderate them! But one pile is out of your hands and the other arrived. First I got the small task of marking my part of a shared module. I only had one question in it, and it was optional. Not many students had chosen it! So that was quickly sorted.

Friday, though, was the exam of the glaciology module. That would be a big pile again! And it's a smaller exam; the students do 5 short answer questions and 2 essay questions; about 70% of these are mine and the rest is someone else's to mark. And the palaeoceanography exam was 10 short answer questions and 2 essay questions; 100% of them mine! These students also get 3 hours instead of 2. So this was a bigger cohort but it's less work nonetheless.

PJ Hall, where the exam took place

That exam took me to Friday 4PM. After signing them out and biking back I could start another things. Such as: getting ready for the start of term! With all that marking, lecture preparation hasn't really happened. My first lecture is on Monday morning! Hm. Well the weather forecast for Sunday isn't very good. Weekend lecture prep here I come!

23 January 2018

Digging: it's worse than it looked

I've been keen on making a breakthrough for ages! It's such a good feeling to crawl through a gap for the first time and see terrain nobody has seen for a hundred years. But we were stuck where we were, since forever. But the previous time we'd blown some rock up, and maybe now we could make some progress! I was keen.

As usual, I was the first one up. I first attacked a rock that had already been loose the previous time. I had it down soon! With its mate! And I had a bit of a prod on the side. The wall is awful and I tried to bring some loose bits down. Unfortunately, it has lots of these! Soon the whole place was clogged. But Miles appeared, so we had a cleaning out session. I slid stuff down and he stacked it near. He didn't want to chuck it down; we had a firing line going down, and we kept damaging it by throwing stuff on it. We should stop that!

Rocks that were too big to handle easily Miles broke up. We did several rounds of bringing things down and then stacking them away! At some point, all that was safe to move was down. I had a bit of a look at the situation. It looked challenging! I like second opinions, so Miles came all the way up too. He didn't like it too much either. But we've been there before! Just keep going. Sooner or later it will give.

The problem is a bit that we thought the ceiling stepped up about a meter; that leaves you with a meter of rubble above your head. That's bad enough. But it turns out to be more than that! God knows how much we have vertically above our heads! But we will proceed. Sooner or later the ceiling will go back sloping away at some 35 degrees. We'll just have to keep pushing!

When Miles went down he undid the firing line, and I pulled it up. When he was safe I chucked a lot of the rock he had stacked down. Better get rid of it! But by then it was time to come out. Into the freshly fallen hail! That seems to be standard these days. But days are getting longer and spring must be on its way. We'll be back to try to make our way up!

22 January 2018

Exciting viewing

I like the house! Tan-y-Foel, Pentre Castell, eat our heart out! I went to see the house at the river. I like it because it has these lovely river views, and it is just commutable by bike. The disadvantages I knew of were: it's too big, it's the most expensive one I've viewed, and it's right next to the river with all associated climate change risks involved.

I went there, knocked on the door, and was accosted by a lady who walked around from the kitchen door. That happens all the time too with my house! I don't use the front door. Anyway. She was nice! And she showed me in. And I liked the house! The kitchen is quite new and quite nice but nothing all too special, but the lady told me it had been the beer cellar of the pub this building had once been. And it was only accessible via a hatch, but now it had a staircase. That came up in what had been the bar (of course). Which now had stairs! This means it was a strange space. I like strange spaces!

She showed me the rest of the house. Yes it is big! But the individual room aren't, really. The master bedroom is about the same size as the one I have now. The rest is smaller! And the lounge is small and snug. And there are two fireplaces!

There also was a cat. The lady explained it was  a stray she had taken in a few months ago. It had never left. Maybe it'll stay with the house! I'm not sure if she would want to take it with her. It is a cute cat! A big-eyed lady tabby with a stumpy tail and a plaintive voice.

The not so good thing about the house is that only one room has a good view. The rest looks the wrong way! The river side is lovely, but on the opposite side is an old chapel that is now a music venue, and the garage. The garage comes with the house; it had been public toilets! That's quite funny. To the side is a wall and above that is a parking lot. I was hoping to do things like cutting cabbage and brushing my teeth with a view, but then I have to do it in the bedroom! Not very practical.

Another thing is that it needs a bit of attention. An outside wall needs a coat of paint, the garden is half dead, some of the kitchen cupboards have the outer plastic layer coming off the hardboard underneath. And I'll have to find the balance between coughing up as big a deposit as I can, while having some money left to sort that sort of stuff! And I suppose I need to be ready for unexpected expenses. House owners have those! And I will want a slightly speedier bike if I want to do this long commute on a regular basis. And moving house is not free. I think the time has come to empty my Norwegian bank account. I have a permanent job now, it's not likely I'll move back to Norway!

Anyway. After the river house I went to see a house higher on the hill. It's fine! It has a great view from every window. And it costs as good as nothing. But that hill! I will never commute on bike if I have to battle my way up there after biking all the way to Bethesda. So it's nice but not equally nice. And of course it's a nice thought I would be able to pay off that mortgage in less than ten years, but cheapness isn't really a reason to move somewhere. Not unless you have to. If I buy the river house I will finally have something that I can spent that rather comfortable lecturer's salary on!

And I will see another house in the weekend. Also dirt cheap, and this one is extremely cute! But not so practical; it's not even on a road. Parking will be awkward! And it may be very cute itself, but the view might be less so. We'll see! In the meantime, I'll ponder mortgages!

21 January 2018

Less caffeine

I have become pickier with regards to what I consume in the recent years. I barely drink anymore, and I am more stubborn in refusing to eat what I don't recognise as food (which often clashes with what the Thursdaynighters would like). But I still drank quite some coffee. I had tried to figure out years ago if I drink too much of it. I'm not too worried about it, but it started to feel a bit odd to drink a substance like caffeine with abandon when otherwise I am so cautious. I had decided to try decaf. And as I am a creature of habit it took a while before I thought of taking the step, but now I bought myself a tub. And I decided to make my first mug of the day a traditional coffee, and then the rest decaf. So far so good!

20 January 2018

Another sneaky look at a house

After the walk with the climbing club I peeled off the A5 at the start of Bethesda. I wanted to check a possible running route! And the spot where I had parked years earlier to run through Nant Ffrancon from there would be a good place to start from for this endeavour too. I had seen there was a bridge over the river quite close to the interesting house, with a path going straight from there to the road to Tregarth, and another path that followed the curve of the river. I wanted to try these. Straight above the road is the bicycle path to Ogwen Cottage; from there you're laughing! And I was wondering if I could get another glimpse at the house.

I soon found the curvy path. It was lovely! Would make a great morning running route. And I got to the bridge. I walked to the house again. Didn't see much I hadn't seen before, so I went back to the bridge, crossed it, and followed the straight path back to the road (with an extra excursion to the closest you can legally get to the house on the other side of the river). Nice!

Potential running route?

The other side of the river: the black car is parked next to the neighbour's house

I did wonder, though, what that river would do on a wet day. Googling 'flooding Bethesda' didn't bring up anything untowards. And Natural Resources Wales does indicate a flood risk but it doesn't seem excessive. I might have to knock on the neighbours' door to ask them about it! The past few years have seen some atrocious weather; if it hasn't flooded then it is not likely to flood too often. I'm dreaming again...

House where the black star is. From https://naturalresources.wales/evidence-and-data/maps/long-term-flood-risk/?lang=en

18 January 2018

Walk with the climbing club

We're not really a climbing club! We hike too. And Simon, one of the bellwethers of the club, was feeling the pull of the mountains. So he sent out a call; anyone up for a walk on Sunday? And I was! I was looking forward to a while weekend off.

The night before I checked the email (that Eifion had sent; that way it would be bilingual) as I couldn't remember if it said to meet at 9.30 or 10. But then I noticed it said both! It had one time in the Welsh version and the other in the English version. Oh dear. I sent him a text and an email asking which one it was, and went to bed.

The following morning I saw a text from Simon: it was 9.30. OK! I drove down. I parked further up the road; there was a rock there I wanted to photograph as it was geologically interesting. So I did! Then I walked up. I met the others, including Alfie, the dog. He was exceptionally glad to see Eifion. Sweet! He is an enthusiastic youngster. Alfie, that is. There were six of us, and soon we were ready to go!

We did the low route, clockwise. It's not far but it's nice! And the weather was too. And Alfie was ecstatically happy. And I got to practice my Welsh; Simon was the only non-Welsh-speaker! And I did some of my geology spiel. I had been asked before if I could do that for the club. It got a bit embarrassing as Simon had had to learn a lot of stuff for his Mountain Leader qualification, and he was doing his spiel too, but he got everything just wrong. And I tried to be as nice and polite as I could but I did want to correct him. No use spreading wrong information! I don't think Simon minded.

 The way up
Looking at the head of the valley

Walking back

When we were done Simon suggested having coffee in the sun. We didn't know exactly where to get it but we decided to drive up the old road back to Bethesda, and stop somewhere convenient. And we did! After negotiating ponies, sheep and dogs and even another car on the road, we found a spot. We drank coffee and planned the next walk. I look forward to it already!

17 January 2018

Another viewing

On the first working day of the year I did two viewings. But that didn't mean I had found myself a house! I did another one on the Friday. But that didn't lead to a decision either. So what's wrong with them all?

The Llanberis house is very small, it may be damp, it has an awkward garden, it's in the middle of the tourist area, it's far from work and it doesn't have parking. But the environment is SO beautiful! And it's extremely snug.

The Tan-y-Foel house has no access to the garden other than through the house, and the front is right on the street. The house is cute but not anywhere as cute as the Llanberis one. The environment is lovely! But the commute would be rather challenging on bike.

The house in Rachub is in an ugly street and it looks in the not-so-pretty direction. A lot of logistic hassle and no view!

So it was a case of keeping looking. I saw another one on Rightmove. It was a slightly strange one; it had no outside pictures. So which one was it? It's not quite true the markers on the website are accurate down to the very building. It was an old cottage, in Gerlan so surrounded by newer buildings. A garden was mentioned. And I thought I could see the garden had its own entrance. I booked a viewing! So on Saturday I drove to Gerlan.

I was a bit early so I decided to drive past another one that had caught my eye. One right on the river bank! The view onto the river is amazing! With nothing really on the other side. Just fields and trees. And the house is too big for me, but, it has an amazing view! It means that even when you're busy and you only eat, sleep, commute and work, you see beauty. I'm not sure from which rooms you have that view but it should be possible to see the view while brushing your teeth or making sandwiches. And that's important! And if you have time to actually get out of the house, well, Nant Ffrancon is not far, nor are the hills above Rachub and Gerlan! And it has parking. I will surely drive to work sometimes! It's more than an hour on bicycle. Home, that is; to work is more downhill so a bit quicker.

 View of the river from nearby the house

 View of the river looking upstream

I then had an outside look at a house nearby the house I was going to see from the inside. It was cheap, and one of those on the hill, which has only a blind wall uphill, and the front of the house is on the downhill side. To get to it you need to walk down a small alleyway that goes past the fronts, with the gardens on the other side. This house had a view on Penrhyn Quarry! From a garden with no privacy whatsoever. Pros and cons! And on the inside (according to the pictures) it needs a lot of work but I would have lots of money for that if I'd buy it. I suppose one can just park in the street. Wide enough!
The garden of the cheap house

I then went to the house I had the viewing. A nice lady opened the door of the house next door to the one I thought it was. Oh dear! Oh well, I got there now. I walked in. It looked different from on the pictures; the furniture had gone. It turned out to have been her mother who had lived here, but she had died. It was a cute house! But very polished. All the raw stone well-rendered. A remote-controlled gas fire instead of a log burner. Deep carpets in light colours. Everything was quite perfect! A bit too perfect for me. But well, one can make a house one's own I suppose.

It's the one on the right

She showed me the garden; that needed some work. But it was very secluded, and had a little bit of view over the mountains. It was big enough to put a parking space in there! And it had a shed.

We chatted a bit and then I went on my way. I wasn't sure! It hadn't set my heart aflutter. But it was nice. Hmm. Anyway; I had decided to drive past several other houses, to figure out if I wanted viewings there. Sometimes seeing it from the outside is enough! So I then went to Tregarth (really good location commute-wise) but the house didn't float my boat at all. No nice views, and the garden didn't look exciting either. Not one for a viewing!

Off then to St Anns Bethesda. There was a bit of a tangential cottage there: expensive, and with a damp problem. And seeing it I wasn't impressed; it looked depressing, and the view wasn't particularly good in spite of it being on quite a hill. Not one for a viewing!

 The house in St Anns Bethesda, seen from the public footpath that goes right past it

Onwards back to Llanberis fro another look. I first had a look at Dolbadarn Castle as it's nice. And it is! And again I was struck by how beautiful the surroundings are. But I looked again at the garden. I let myself in! And I noticed a few things. One: the cottage was even more crouched down in the hill than I remembered. Two: there was no hedge or anything between this garden and that of the chapel. Three: in the back it actually is big enough for a garden shed. And you would have space for some chairs! Four: the B&B has nicked a corner of the garden. I have the title plan, I could see they appropriated a part that's not theirs! The cheeks. I still see how beautiful it is but the flaws are becoming clearer too.

Dolbadarn Castle

Looking towards Pen-y-Pass from the tower

The respective gardens of the chapel (right), the cottage (middle) and the B&B next door (left)

The house is built into the hill to quite some extent

Next stop: Waunfawr. It's a bit far from everything, but I was curious. It was in the middle of nowhere! But when I found the property in question I didn't like it too much. Barely a hill to be seen! Another one off the list.

Last stop: Bethel. Nice and close to Bangor, but no hill nearby. There was a very cute cottage for sale though. With a cute garden! When I got to it some other people were lingering around. They had a viewing booked! And they were OK with me tagging along. Nice of them! And it was cute. But the environment was boring. I don't want to live somewhere boring again!

That was it! Most of them are off the list. But the ones in and near Bethesda are still in the running. One day I will have to decide! If only the Bethel cottage had been standing (for its price, preferably) at the location of the riverbank house. I'd have put an offer in now!

16 January 2018


It was the end of the module. The exam! And then it was over. The first time I did the Palaeoceanography module; the only module that is only mine. I hoped it would go well! I had got a fair number of questions from students beforehand. A fair number was clearly preparing thoroughly!

I rode over fairly early. I didn't know this exam room. But it was indicated very well! It was in the old part of the university main building. It was a nice room! With a view. And it was very hot in there.

The exam room

 The view from the exam room

The lady who would scan the students' cards and take their attendance slips (don't ask) and the chap who would be waiting outside, guarding the students' bags and coats (they're not supposed to take them in) and available to guide students to the loo if necessary, appeared soon. They were nice! And by ten minutes to two we let the students in. There was some confusion; some students walked in only to realise they were in the wrong room, so they needed their attendance slips back. But then we could start!

All went without incident. The students got writing and I tried to read a draft BRITICE manuscript. The first student was out after 40 minutes. Not a good sign! But what can you do. Most students left early; only one was left in the last fifteen minutes. He's a thorough chap! Then time was up.

The attendance lady checked I had all the exams and then released them to me. I'd just bike them to my office. It fit in the bag!

I first went to the loo; after three hours not excessive. And in the corridor the loos were in, there were two Eisteddfod chairs! Quite cool.

Snazzy Eisteddfod chair

When I walked back I bumped into a colleague. also back from invigilating. He wanted to know how many students I had at the end. Well, just one. He thought that was awful. Surely you would use every minute given! I disagreed. If they give you three hours for it I'm sure it can comfortably done in less. The full three hours would be for people who write slowly, or perfectionists who make amazing diagrams, or something. I tended to walk away from exams well before the end time! You use two hours to write what you know. Then you can use another hour to waffle away, but how is that a good thing? We clearly had quite different views on this kind of thing.

Next week I'll see how it was done! I hope well!

15 January 2018

Old wine in new bags: the mine version

The Thursdaynighters had a new project. They had come across an adit of a mine we visit more often that we didn't know  about. They had gone in! And found a winze that lead somewhere. Somewhere else in the mine, one assumes! But the winze was full of things getting in the way, things threatening to come down, and cold water. So they had spent some time trying solve the water issue and making the place passable. They hadn't been all the way down yet! And now I would join them.

We got kitted up and went to the adit. Simon, David and me went there; Mick and Paul went elsewhere to see if they could drain a different level a bit. They didn't like how high the water was!

We went in and soon I saw what all the fuss was about. David volunteered to go down first and try to do a bit more work. But he needed help from us above; he needed us to send him things down and such. But he was in a winze with water coming down it. It makes communication difficult! And after a while he announced he was getting cold and wet and wanted to come up again.

I went down next, and continued the work a bit. I could now see what David had been talking about! I could also see the floor. But while I was trying to secure things I heard voices. Mick and Paul had joined us! So when I was done I went back up. I knew David was wet and cold, and I figured Mick and Paul were bored, so it seemed the reasonable thing to do.

It was true that David was wet and cold, and so were Mick and Paul, but David's spirits weren't affected. Nor were Simon's! Simon now went down, approved of the work done, and went all the way down. David couldn't wait to join. I thought about it, thought at how tired I was from the past few days, and decided all three of us going down would take too long. I'd wait!

There was some shouting from below and I wasn't sure what it all meant; one thing I understood was that they wanted the end of the rope down. It had a figure of eight in. They sounded urgent, and I'm still a bit twitchy about getting shouted at, so I just chucked it when the men shouted for it and tugged at the rope. Bad idea!

When the voices faded away I made myself comfortable, switched off my light and closed my eyes. I could doze until they came back! This took longer than I thought. I figured they may be able to go 10m in one direction, and 20 in the other, but that was clearly not the case. The voices stayed silent for a while! Until I heard one from the level I was in. Strange! Had Paul got bored orsomething? But it was David! He explained they had decided to come out of the lower level they had dropped into, and walked back around the outside. And why not! So now we could de-rig. Which was a faff. The figure of eight had got stuck! So I went down the rope again, and freed it. I managed to entangle the rope with myself and with another rope and with whatever else there was in that winze, but I got out with all the rope. Success! And time to go back to the vehicles,where Paul and Mick were!

I had been afraid Paul wouldn't have been able to change as his clothes were in David's car, but he appeared all dry and snug. Good! We changed too, ate some of Mick's left-over Christmas chocolate, and went home. A successful night! Would we go back? Possibly! It didn't lead to new terrain, but a new way of getting to known terrain is worth something too...

14 January 2018

A mad dash for the rest of the grades

Teaching has its domino effects! If you spend too much time on one aspect of it, other things suffer. Then you have to work your arse off to catch up. But while you're doing that, other things suffer. So in the new year, I was confronted by a pile of marking that should have been done before Christmas but wasn't. And it was a lot of work! So I sat down and tackled it. I worked late on Friday. And I worked, in my stone cold office, on Saturday. I finished the first pile! Although that didn't mean it was done; one question had to be marked by someone else. And he then also had to moderate it. And he's notoriously busy. Oh dear. And he said he wouldn't have time on Monday; he would be busy organising a School Away Day. And one would guess that away day itself would also keep him away from his marking! But that was out of my hands. I took Sunday off.

On Monday I was back at it; time to attack the second pile. I didn't go climbing; I did marking. On Tuesday we had aforementioned Away Day until 3PM. It was interesting! But afterwards I went back to the office to continue my marking. And in the evening, and I think this was a first, I skipped Welsh class. I did marking.

On Wednesday I did marking. And finished. Just in time for my weekly meeting with Jenny. The next day I was in the office doing other things; it felt good to be able to do lots of things that either I had been feeling bad about putting off, or things that felt more like preparing for the next year rather than catching up with the old. So that was good! But one thing I hadn't managed was get someone to do the moderation that same week. Another notoriously busy moderator! It would have to wait. I did start to get questions in my inbox from students. When would they get their marks? I understood, but well, the situation was what it was.

On Friday, shortly before six, I could release the marks of the first pile. And the students were still alert! I pretty much immediately saw some icons appear that indicated they had had a look at their work. Good!

I hope early next week I can release the second batch! And by then I will also have acquired exam marking...

12 January 2018

Winter walk with the undergroundies

When I visited Phil after my house hunting activities he mentioned he wanted to go for a walk with Chris to have a look at some plane wrecks in Cwm Eigiau. That sounded lovely! And I like that valley. Had only been there twice; the first time during marathon training and the second time on a swamp hike. And I don't have strong feelings about plane wrecks but I don't mind them either. And a walk in good company is better than a walk alone! And the weather forecast for Sunday was lovely.

Phil had mailed me we'd meet at the Pedol pub in Tal-y-Bont at 9, and from there drive to the parking lot in the valley. I would drive up with Edwyn but early in the morning he mailed he was ill. Oh dear! I drove to the Pedol on my own. Nobody there! But Phil had said he might be a bit late.

When he still wasn't there at 9.25 I started phoning and texting. After a while I managed to get through to Mick. They had gone to the parking lot already! Bastards! I had been sitting there for 25 minutes wasting my time. Nothing winds me up like wasting time. I drove up and got there. I got out and told every one of the three men there I hated them. But then we started walking. No use dwelling on it!

It was a beautiful day! We started walking up to the dam, and its breach. (It wasn't built very well and gave in the twenties, killing lots of people.) That just stays impressive. Then we went on. We had a look at the first quarry. It had a rock cannon! I had never heard of that; it seems to be a typically North Welsh thing. And from the name you wouldn't guess it's more a musical instrument than a weapon. (The Wikipedia page doesn't mention it seems they drilled the pattern in such a way the various bangs played a crude tune).

The breach  

The rock cannon; pic by Chris

Looking at a collapsed passage under an incline. Pic by Chris

Past the second quarry (at some distance) we proceeded to the head of the valley. Along the way we had coffee on a rock. Around the corner, the Carneddau were looking beautiful in white! Especially in the sun! We soon found the first airplane engine. And then the second! There were supposed to be more bits on the slope above. We found two. The we walked on; Phil was ahead (surprise) and where he stopped would be lunch.

 The engine!

After lunch we walked on. The views on the wintery higher valley were getting better and better! But the men were a bit distracted; in the stream there were lots of bits of yet another plane. Soon after admiring these we walked around the corner, into the shadow. It got cold! We walked into the wind too. We got up to Llyn Llyffant, to admire the last plane bits. and then started our way back. Chris wanted to walk a different way back, along the isolines on the western side of the valley, so we could pick up the path that came from Dulyn Reservoir. That started fine but we did encounter some unpleasantly swampy bits. Oh well! I was wearing my rather swamp-proof boots.

 The landscape gets wintery

More airplane bits


At the lake. Here Phil is lecturing me about jet engines. Pic by Chris

We were back a bit after four. The sky was already pink! There was some faffing (changing, eating, drinking, defrosting windscreens) and then we were off, down the sometimes very steep road back to Tal-y-Bont. And it was scary! There was ice on the road. I was behind Phil, and at some point I was sliding quite out of control in his direction. He was on equally slippery ground though, so he moved at a similar speed away from me, and nothing unpleasant happened. But I was scared! We went really carefully further down. No further incidents followed. Luckily!

When I got home I was tired. But it had been a very beautiful day!

10 January 2018

Continued house hunting

After the initial burst, it was time to hunt some more! I had been pondering things for days. Is it good to have a small house? It would force me to declutter! And I've been trying to master that art for years. This could be what I need. And the Llanberis house is so cute! But what about the parking? And what would happen to the chapel? Although I think you wouldn't get planning permission to do something drastic in such a touristic and historic location. And what about commuting? Is it better to bike to work and then have no time for other exercise? Or better to drive to work and then exercise in a more varied way? But if driving to work, what if parking gets even harder? And even if I fit in, buying a small house is the cue for all attractive single men to come out of the woodwork, and fitting two people in would be nigh impossible. But one should not adjust one's life to what might happen but what is. If something happens one can deal with it then! Etcetera etcetera.

I decided I should also have a look at houses that are reachable via the old railway, which is now a cycling route. On Friday I went to see a house in Rachub. I finally biked the route to Bethesda. I hadn't before! I only know the start of the path due to the Bangor 10k. And that bit looks nice! I have run the stretch after Bethesda, to Ogwen Cottage. That's nice too!

I took 1.5 hours to get there. Even so, I didn't stop for pictures. I figured that if that route would become my commute, I would have opportunity for that anyway! But nice it surely is.

I got to the junction where I would head up the hill to Rachub rather than continue the bicycle path into Bethesda in about an hour from the office. Not bad! But not something you want to do every day either. And now I still had to bike up the hill. That's only a few minutes but they may matter after a working day.

I got to the address but I didn't see the entrance. It didn't look like I hoped it would! I had mistaken the garden side of the house (on the pictures) for the street side. I was wrong! And I couldn't check on Streetview as the Google car hadn't done that street. A neighbour came out of his house and said there was an alleyway to the entrance. I had a look! Everything looked like it went into other people's private gardens. Oh well, the estate agent would know.

The street in which I viewed a house; notice my bike leaning against it in the mid distance

I was a bit early and I went up the hill to look at another property I had seen advertised. It didn't quite float my boat! If it's not better than the Llanberis house there's little point in having a look. And this one was more expensive, and much too big for me. So that one was off.

I walked back and met the estate agent. He showed me around; we went through what had looked like someone else's territory. And the house was nice, and it even had an ancient bike shed, but it was in the middle of a (narrow and not very pretty) street and didn't quite have the same magic feel as the Llanberis place. The house mainly looked at pebble-dashed houses, and the garden looked towards Anglesey. And would I really bike to work a lot? Quite often I'm knackered at the end of the day. Better maybe live somewhere further, and drive, and get your outdoor kicks from a coffee in the garden on days you have no time to get it otherwise!

I biked back along a more direct route. This one was also pretty! And in this direction also quite fast. It looked a bit of an effort in the other direction. But in half an hour I was in Bangor, and in 45 minutes I was back at the office. So logistically this could work on nice days!

Although I didn't like this place I was glad I had explored the route. I should do the same with Llanberis, although it's less urgent. I wouldn't bike from there very often.And I've phones the estate agent with some questions. I'm getting serious!

08 January 2018

Blasting in the dig again

We hadn't blasted in the dig for a hundred years! Well, actually a month or so. But it felt long! But this time we would go in with a smaller drill and try to drill some hard-to-get-to rocks. And we did! Miles first wanted to properly install the horizontal bar he had put in ages ago; it had been just wedged there for a long time. I went up higher to start there. Last time Miles had brought down a rock, or rather, almost down; it was stuck somewhere and he thought it couldn't come down all the way. I wanted to check if that was true. It was! But at least I got it so far down it was in good position to be drilled. And by then Miles appeared. We could drill shotholes! And we did. Three in total. Miles did the third; it was a bit awkward as the rock to drill was a bit hard to get to. He managed anyway! But while drilling he suddenly stopped and said 'well, that's a first'. I had no idea what he talked about. Until I saw him remove the drill, and most of the drill bit still sticking out of the rock. He had broken it! Blimey. 

He pulled the broken bit out and I charged the holes. And had another fight with the resin gun. As usual. Somehow we don't get along! But I did manage in the end. I connected everything up to the speaker wire I had brought, as the relentless throwing down of rocks had done quite some damage to the previous blast wire (decluttering has its advantages), and went down. With the resin gun. Was it me or the gun? If Miles would have trouble with it too it would be the gun. 

We had a drink while waiting for the resin to dry, and then we blasted. It worked! And then I had a look. All three rocks were in bits! We had some clearing out to do. And then the perilous task of pulling out the next batch of rocks in there. One is loose; I was tempted to pull it out on the spot but I knew Miles had to go a bit early so I left it. And the rest; we'll have to see about those later!

06 January 2018

House hunting starts for real

New year, new chances! After some preparations in December I got to actually view properties on the first working day of 2018. It was quite exciting! I would first see the Llanberis property. I got there a few minutes early, and walked around in the direction of Dolbadarn Castle. I'd driven past it many times, and never actually voisited it! And I still didn't as time was running out. But if I buy this property I will get all the opportunity in the world.

I met the estate agent, and with some difficulty he opened the door. I stepped in; it was very cute! It had a lovely fireplace, unfortunately only with a non-functional log burner in it. But one could do something about that. It's clearly old, with thick walls and low doors. And exposed bedrock slate in the corner! How cool is that! And the place is very small; it would be interesting to put everything that I want to put in. And that doesn't have to be all I have now! My current house strikes me as a bit too big. I'm sure I can weed some stuff out and make things fit. Especially if you know where you'll be for the coming years you can get rid of things you otherwise might keep because they may come in handy elsewhere.

The front of the house

Dolbadarn Castle just behind

The house from the back; you can't see it but it must be to the right of the chapel

We also had a look at the garden.That wasn't easy! It is higher than the house, and enclosed in an uninterrupted wall. Strange! And it was entirely overgrown by brambles. I climbed over the wall and started wrestling my way through. Suddenly the pictures started making sense! It was a small patch behind the house, then a narrow path to the rear, where it widened out a bit. It was soggy! But clearly something can be done with this. And you see the castle from there.

We had another look inside and then we went each our way. I decided to go cross the road to check the public footpath there; it may be a good running route. And it looked nice! But then I had to go to Bethesda. Along the way I drove past another house for sale on purpose. That one I didn't like! I drove on.

I got to the house at Tan-y-Foel and found a parking space no problem. I met the other estate agent and we went up to the house. It was bigger than I'd thought, and less cosy; it had been done up all spaceous and classy. I like it a bit more unpolished! But it was nice. You couldn't get into the garden other than through the house; I find that a clear disadvantage. You would lug your bike through the house all the time! And your dirty caving stuff. And whatnot. And the location might inspire the use of a moped; on bike it's a bit too time-consuming a commute. But lugging that through the house would really be a pain.

After leaving the house I walked further up the hill; it was beautiful! The landscape immediately opens up. It's a lot of lovely nothing up there. And mines! I'd been nearby before on a walk.

The house from the front (white with green, a bit to the right)

The garden

A few minutes up the hill

Then I turned back. On the way back I would pop by Phil, in his new house. He had a lot of work on his hands too! We chatted about houses and doing them up and such things; meanwhile we drank coffee, ate cheese and were generally swamped with love from the dog.

I then had to go back to the office. I had work to do! And a lot to think about. I liked both houses! Clearly the one in Llanberis was cuter. But also smaller. And in a more versatile environment; you have the valley that holds Llanberis Path on one side, Llyn Padarn on another, Llyn Peris in the other, Nant Peris close by, and Dinorwic a stone's throw away. The other house only has Bethesda on one side and nothing on the other. But the Llanberis house is in the middle of a tourist spot and parking would be awful. Then again, perfect houses don't exist!

I had noticed the next door neighbour (not the chapel) was a B&B. On the way back I thought maybe I shoudl one day bike there, spend the night in the B&B, check out possible running routes, and then bike back. I won't commute by bike a lot if I live that far away, but it would be nice to sometimes do it in summer, and then it's good to know how it's done and how it feels. But once home I realised you can't find that B&B on internet. I decided to drive back and inquire in person! And so I did.

I introduced myself to Carol, who runs the place, and she gave me a cup of tea and told me all she knew about the place. Hers had been a temperance society meeting house, and the for sale one had been the stable. It was damp she said, and not easy to ventilate. And it had Japanese knotweed in the garden. And the chimney had been blocked. And the reason the garden was so inaccessible, she said, was that the people of the chapel had blocked it. It used to have a staircase! It needs one again. She said these chapel people were not very nice. But there were only few people coming to the services, and they were all old, so how long would it be a chapel? It was good to know all these inside bits of information!

Very tired I went home. On the way back I felt like I hadn't been home for a long, long time! It had been some 12 hours only. I had been home extremely much the recent days due to my cold. How strange!

I will keep looking for a while but my thoughts keep going back to the Llanberis house! I think I'll phone the estate agent for more information...

05 January 2018

Music problems solved?

Music used to be tapes (in my world). Then it became CDs. I don't have my tapes, or the ways of playing them, anymore. I still do have my CDs. I do intend to upload them all onto iTunes and do away with them. They don't need to take physical space! And I figured I should play my music in my house in digital format. Some two years ago I had bought a big iPod so I could put all my music on that. It worked for a while! But then the iPod packed in.

I also have an iPhone. Why not use that? Gazillions of people use their phone as their stereo. But I don't want to do that. I want to plug the carrier of music into my stereo, and leave it there. I can then use my phone for phone stuff. I suppose modern people have wireless speakers and then they can do both at the same time, but I don't. Maybe some day. Not now!

Having an iPhone also means people assume you want a new model every five minutes. When my contract was such I was entitled to a new model I didn't want one. My old one still worked! Then I got a phone call: I could get a new phone, or get a cheaper subscription. Well, why would I refuse a cheaper subscription? And they said that with the cheaper subscription came a Samsung phone. Eh, OK. Why not? It gathered dust for a few weeks until I had a brainwave. A Samsung phone is a carrier of music as well! And it's not Apple so it doesn't carry iTunes, but I'm sure I can sort something. I took the easy route and went for a trial Google Play Music subscription.

It worked! Soon Tori Amos was singing through my living room. I will have to download some music for if I don't trust internet to work, and I should make some playlists and such, but that's something you can do in a lost five minutes somewhere. I think I'll be fine! I haven't played much music in my house for a fair while, and sometimes I do want to. I'm back on track!

03 January 2018

Getting ready for more fieldwork

There are rumours going around the school that we want to offer more fieldwork. And more rumours suggest I will have something to do with that. It sounds lovely! And the good thing is: even if it isn't true (which happens with rumours from time to time), I will benefit from preparing for it anyway, as knowing more about the regional geology will increase my enjoyment of it. And I know I will be taking over the Earth, Climate and Evolution module, in which I now only teach (timescale-wise) on the Quaternary, but from next year on I get the entire lifetime of the Earth. And the climbing club has mentioned it would like some geological background with the rocks we climb! So if I read up on what's going on here everyone is happy.

I found a useful book on eBay, and a nice geological map of Anglesey, so I can start finding out more about how these landscapes came to be, and where you can find interesting evidence of it! And if you're feeling quite under the weather, the first thing you can do again is reading a book on the couch!

01 January 2018

Christmas clear-out

I had started this a long time ago! I have too much stuff and I need to do something about it. And it is a process that starts and stops, but with house moving approaching again it was time for a start in this cycle of  (very modern) decluttering.

One category of stuff that should go were my boots I had used with insoles! I don't use insoles anymore so these boots are now too big. And replaced. And they are still in fine shape to be used and enjoyed by someone else.

Now that I know I'll be staying in Wales I also decided to get rid of a winter coat I had bought in Norway. It's not usually cold enough for it in Britain! And I also got some stuff ready for the charity shop. The less I have to move the better it is!

I also intend to cheat a bit: I still have quite some work-related books at home but I should bring them to the office. I won't have to move that very often anymore! Emptyish house here I come!