28 February 2018


I'd never picketed before! But my plan was to go to the main building, the strike hub, on Thursday and see what would happen. But then an email came through saying there would be an SOS picket line and I reconsidered. SOS is a lot closer! And I assumed the people at the main building would send me there anyway. Going directly would cut out the middleman.

When I got to SOS I saw four people linger at the edge of the car park in front of 'my' building. That must be them! And they were. They were all from different schools. They were nice! But it was a bit of an overly quiet picket. Hardly anyone passed!

Some cars drove past without turning into the car park. Some people did, but mostly PhD students and support staff. Only four members of academic staff passed! They probably weren't union members. And two PhD students came out to talk to us. They supported us! It felt a bit strange to stand there in the sunshine, waving placards at pretty much nobody.

 The picketers are checking strike updates on their phones

After a while we decided to walk around our little campus to see if there was a better place to stand. Between the buildings was probably better; people parking on the other side and going into one of the other buildings would barely see us! But by then we had been there for a while. I had stuff to do in Bangor too, so I left. I don't think the others stayed much longer!

The next day I came to SOS again. It was a cold morning so I had a down jacket and long johns on. There was nobody there! And as I hadn't come via the main building I didn't have any placards or flyers. Oh well. I did see someone waving at me; it turned out to be Sarah, who was just about to leave for the main building. I considered joining, but decided to stay. They may send me back anyway! And maybe someone would show up in the meantime.

I looked for a good place in the sun. I saw a slate wall and thought I may sit on it. Hopping on, though, I heard an unnerving tearing sound. I had torn my down jacket in two places on the sharp rock! Oh dear.

I positioned myself elsewhere and took the newspaper out. I had brought something to read for just such an occasion! I was a bit of a sorry picket line. Some people had a chat on the way in. That way I found out how the Thursdaynighters had spent their night after we'd left them the night before (blog post to come). And I found out one of the cake competition contestants!

Later the Head of School popped by. He was supportive of the strike but thought I was a bit of an underwhelming picket line. He was right, of course! He told tales of his earlier exploits in similar situations, with being manhandled away from the main building and all. A bit more convincing! But well, I'm new to this. He also said he didn't think the full 14 days would be needed; I really hope he's right!

After some two hours I had had enough. I went home! And struggled a bit to do stuff that needed dong the rest of the day. I has worn myself out a bit earlier in the week!

27 February 2018

The Father

Which father, one may ask? Not mine, fortunately. (Mine’s turning 80 today though; happy birthday Wim!) I had seen announcements for a Welsh language play that would come to Pontio, and I thought I'd give it a go. It came with a discussion for Welsh learners beforehand. I booked myself a ticket on the front row for both occasions.

The day approached. It was a busy time (with a strike coming up and all) and I wasn't actually looking forward to it. What didn't help either was that I first got a batch of emails saying my original ticket wasn't valid and here were new ones, and then another batch saying they had reconsidered giving out front row seats and I was relegated to somewhere further back. I would have to get my even newer ticket on the day! What a faff. And then work was so hectic I decided to work through the discussion for learners. I wanted to go into the first strike day with a cleanish slate! I also realised I had left my glasses in my car, which was at the garage for a MOT. A front seat doesn't require any, but now I was probably quite at the back!

When I got to Pontio, got my ticket and sat down, I saw I wasn't that far back It would be alright! And soon my new Welsh-speaking colleague walked in and sat beside me. That wasn't her seat, but it was free, and this was nicer. Good! Let it all begin.

So what was the play all about? Well, the Father. A man with Alzheimer who doesn't realise he has it, and thinks everyone around him is losing the plot. It starts with his daughter storming in, being angry with him as he has been threatening to a nurse sent to help him. He doesn't remember a thing about being menacing. He does know he thinks she is a thief as his watch is missing. His daughter suggests he looks in the kitchen, and hey presto, of course that's where the watch is. But he still doesn't need any help!

The play goes on, with changes being made in his house, his daughter sometimes having a husband and sometimes not, sometimes moving to London and sometimes not, and he is quite confused. What the actual situation is we don't quite know either; we see most through his eyes.

The situation doe snot improve. He loses his grip on reality even more, and it turns out his daughter really does move to London. He is put in a home. It's heartbreaking. But you can see the daughter can't cope with it anymore.

I could see my colleague hurting beside me. Her father has Alzheimer! It was hard enough for me to watch, but for her it must have been a lot worse. We talked about it a bit, also with Dani from my Welsh class who was in the audience too. It was a sad play, it came at a busy time, but in the end I was glad I had come! It was beautifully done...

26 February 2018

Before the strike

A strike, what to do with it? Well, join it, the answer turned out to be. The Monday before the strike those considering striking within SOS met up to talk about it. I was glad! I was a bit lost, as the previous post indicated already. But the meeting made me decide I would at least join the first two days of the strike. I wasn't quite sure about the details of the pension cuts that were the sticking point; it seemed bad pensions are just a sign of the times, but then again, it seemed the universities were overdoing it, and that's hardly unexpected. And well, one is a member of the union or one isn't. That's what happens with democracy; sometimes things get decided you're not sure of, and then you may as well roll with it. I don't mean to say you should always accept everything that is voted for democratically, but in this case I could stand with the strikers. So there I was! At least for the beginning. The idea of strikes is, after all, that everyone hopes they will be cut short as the issue concerned is resolved. And I also was reassured selective striking was not frowned upon. One reason for breaking strike would be financial; not everyone can lose two-thirds of a monthly salary. (Someone stated the obvious that 14 days of strike is not two weeks, but 2.8 working week.) And we have colleagues who are married to other union members and two fully striking adults would be a bit much for family finances!

Another reason could be that you have to prepare your non-strike days. I have a student conference coming up! That's on a non-strike day. But having that happen also means it has to be prepared. That will have to be done on a strike day!

A third reason is that the idea of the strike is that work just doesn't get done. Lecture just won't be delivered, tutorial meetings not held. But it would be naive to assume work won't be piling up. I have a big pile of working to do! I can hardly not do it. I can hardly do one fourth of it (we get a month to complete marking work, but this month will have a lot fewer days). So it wil have to be done. If I don't do any of it on strike days I'll be working myself a burnout after the strike. I'm not up for that!

My colleagues turned out to have similar concerns. Some will cherry-pick strike days with the most impact. I might do the same, and nobody found that treasonous. So being a scab on days where nobody would notice you striking seems not to come with the stigma it must have done 117 years ago.

Not working on Thursday and Friday (and maybe not the three working days after that) did mean I wanted to get some stuff done. I had marking work to do, and I wanted to have that ready before I went off. During the strike the next batch would come in. But that took some ploughing on! There were things getting in the way all the time. And on Wednesday we had an open day, so I had to be informative to parents of prospective students for several hours. It got hectic! And on Wednesday Night I would be away (blog post to follow) so I had to be done pretty much at the end of Wednesday working hours. That was quite a dash! I sent off my marking to be moderated when I was supposed to already have left, and after I got home I sent the moderation form out that I had forgot to include. Then I was tired! I actually looked forward to a bit of striking after all that...

25 February 2018

TV has its use

I thought I'd get rid of my old TV! Until I realised a TV is a monitor. I sometimes do computer work at home, on my laptop, and doing that I always miss the set-up I have at work, with two monitors. So I sourced a cable, and plugged the TV into the laptop. And it works! I now know why the TV was cheap; the image quality is not particularly high. I never noticed when it still was a TV. But well, it does a job! You can have more windows open without things getting in each other's way. And it's a logical step after repurposing a phone as a stereo! I'm happy with this set-up. What else can I use for something it wasn't intended for?

The setup (before I had adjusted image size on the TV)

24 February 2018

Back to the coastal path

My time on Anglesey is coming to an end! I figured that I should continue with my coastal runs now I still live close by.  I looked at the map to see where I had ended last time but wasn't quite sure. I decided to drive to a lay-by somewhere between Porthllechog and Cemaes and start from there.

When driving through Porthllechog I saw two lifters. I took them in! It turned out to be a Spanish archaeologist (I think she was Spanish, anyway, base don her accent) and what might have been her boyfriend. They were headed for Holyhead but they were happy for me to drop them off in Cemaes. I said goodbye and turned back.

I parked up and started running. Soon I realised I had done that bit before! Oh dear. That's what you get when you don't prepare properly. And maybe these Cemaes hitchhikers had been a hint from God! Trying to tell me to not start that far back. But it was a lovely day; why not keep going.
As it had been dry recently I was on my road shows. Bad idea! I slithered all over the place. But what a place it was. And before I knew it I saw the place where I had turned around the previous time. Now I went on! I passed a funny structure on a headland, and then came to an old brickwork (not the prominent one a bit further back) where a small group of walkers was having a break. They also had an old dog! Which wanted cuddles. I am quite easy to convince to provide these.

At the brickworks I could have gone back tot he road but I decided to go on. Seemed to make more sense! I decided to run to a good place to get back to the road, which turned out to be Llanbadrig, and then run back along the road. That way I would get some actual running done!

I was a bit sluggish running back; maybe that had something to do with food. It was 13:15 when I hit the road! I hadn't had lunch yet. But it was a nice run on a tiny road. I only encountered one car! And at least I now have a very recognisable starting point for next time. Llanbadrig even has a parking lot!

Done this bit before!

And this bit

 The brickworks

 The small tower on the other headland

23 February 2018

No more cake

It was that time again, I was called up to bake for the Ocean Sciences Cake Competition. It's always a bit of a faff! But a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. I did what I tend to do and googled a recipe. Sometimes people put vegetables in their cakes, and I like that, so I decided to google courgette cake. I found a recipe for a cake that involved both courgette and avocado and thought I'd go for it. So I did! As usual I had to bake it on Wednesday evening as on Thursday evenings I'm away. It started with the vegetables. I had a an aggressively green batter! Which turned into dough with the addition of flour. The cakes ended up golden brown. On Friday morning I added icing (I don't like icing, but these cakes needed something to look more glamorous) and off I was.

Very green batter!

Golden cakes

The icing ready to be added

My rival turned out to be a lovely Madeira cake. When I tasted it I knew I would lose! And that's fine, I'm not a keen baker but I will try for a good cause.

I was eating my cake with some colleagues. One at some point one of them stood up to go. He still had some of my cake left! He wrapped it into some kitchen towel and I wondered if he was keeping it for later. He said He'd throw it away. And then he realised the baking is anonymous, and I may very well have baked it! I saw him sweat. Oh well. It wasn't all that good! It was slightly dry. Probably because I had been worried (considering the ingredients) it would be rather wet.

Later the email came through; indeed I had lost. Oh well! I had hoped for that, even though I always do try to make a good cake. I think practice makes perfect! And I don't practice. I'll do my bit eating and donating for the rest of the competition!

22 February 2018

Talking about Paris myself

Two years ago I first listened to a guest lecture by a lady from our own Law school in the Climate and Climate Change module. It was very interesting! I tend to only look at things from the science perspective; looking at it from the law point of view is a novelty.

Last year I became module leader, but not until after Paul had prepared the way. My contract would start too late for me to do the planning myself! And Tara, the law lady, was still in it.

This academic year I found out pretty close to Christmas I would teach the module again. I quickly mailed the guest lecturers! But Tara mailed back that she couldn't do it this year. I decided that it was too interesting to not have the lecture, so I had to do it myself. I got Tara's old lectures to use as a foundation, and then I had to read up on the topic myself!

The perspective has now shifted a bit back to science, of course. I hope it's still as interesting! And doing the up to date literature study made me pretty much as pessimistic as I was last year. We need something stronger than Paris! But the ink of the agreement is barely dry. We will probably have to make do!

 From: World Resources Institute

21 February 2018

Dig update

I'm running out of blogpost titles! Maybe I should keep this one as a general one. Although that makes it hard to find back specific events. Anyway; we were back in the dig again. We had a ready-drilled slab to deal with! And we also had quite a snazzy blasting wire we wanted to feed through the rubble. We had never really taken the time to put a blasting wire in a sensible place; we tended to just feed it through where we would go along ourselves. That's also the way we throw rocks down! So we kept damaging it. We had to stop that.

I was up first. The rock indeed was ready to be charged! And after doing that we did feed the wire down. That was more faff than I had imagined! It tends to coil and refuse to be fed through narrow passages. But we got it done. So then we could test it out! And it worked. It will now probably work fine for a very long time!

After the blast I went up to see what it had done. The slab was smaller but still quite big. I shoved it down the slab but left it there; maybe we should use a breaker to make it a bit smaller before we chuck it down. The two rocks behind it also needed some persuasion; one was wedged, but I managed to pry it loose. They are ready to come down! And then we can go and support the big slab! But not tonight; Miles had to be home fairly early and we needed to leave. To be continued...

20 February 2018

Having the house surveyed

My mortgage provider thinks the house (and the ground it stands on) are a fine security for my mortgage. I want to know a bit more about it! So I hired a surveyor myself. And he suggested he'd have a look at the house, and then at the end I would show up so he could show me things. That sounded fine!

I drove up on a sunny day. When I parked up I saw a bloke with a ladder. That must be Stephen, the Surveyor! And it was. He immediately showed me around. He said the inside was fine. No complaints! But he pointed out a few aspects of the outside that probably would need work in some decades time. The drystone walls that demarcate the garden were doing a bit of bulging and losing rocks. A wall needed painting. The extension had a few cracks in the wall and might need underpinning in the long run.

Things he didn't like at all were the garage roof. It's felt the tooth of time! And he didn't like the rendering on one side of the house. It sounded hollow, he said. It had to be replaced! Oh dear. He estimated that would be £2500-3000. Hm!

We then went in for a cup of tea with Rose. We discussed things a bit! She said she had had the other wall re-rendered not too long ago, and the guy who had done it didn't think the other wall needed attention too. She gave me his number. We also discussed the garden, and a guy who mows the lawn (Rose has a slightly dodgy back), and such things. And all the paperwork the solicitors throw at us. 

Stephen then left, and I chatted a bit more with Rose. I will have to think about that rendering! Maybe the surveyor is being overly cautious. And she told me the pub the house once was was called the Territorial Arms. I soon googled it: nothing! But it's nice to know.

I expect the report soon. Stephen will also report back to the estate agent and they probably will pass it on to the solicitor and the mortgage lender. We'll see! And I'll phone Gary the roofer...

Look at the 'sold' sign on the wall!

18 February 2018

Upcoming strike

I've never striked in my life! I only became a member of the union in Bangor. But now I am a member, and there is a strike coming up. An enormous big fat one! The unions don't like what the universities are doing with our pensions. I admit I haven't read upon the details, but it looks like they are indeed at peril. I was a bit too busy being grateful I had a job to start with to consider my pension too much! But then the union does that in my place, and you can't avoid it. Not that avoiding informing yourself on your pension is such a good thing to start with.

So will I strike? Will I strike the whole period? Will I just sit at home and secretly do the work anyway? I don't know! The problem is that it is the entire education sector that the unions want to put pressure on. And the only way through which I can do that is through putting pressure on the students. But it's nothing to do with them! It feels wrong to disadvantage them. But I can't really disadvantage anyone else.

So now what? I know that in the long run I am better off with a good pension, but it's difficult to now not focus on the short term. My options now are: strike. That means: missing lectures by my fellow teaching staff on Climate and Climate Change, missing meetings on changing teaching, miss a CV clinic for students I had promised, miss several student events where I am supposed to convince them all to fill out the National Student Survey (it's important in this country!), miss my own tutorial in the Communicating Science module, miss one or more meeting with my personal tutees, miss meetings with my dissertation student, miss a Board of Studies meeting, miss exam feedback sessions, miss a practical, miss Jeff's seminar, and God knows what else ends up being planned there in the meantime. It's not even so much as my Climate and Climate Change module will not have any contact hours by me in that period. Oh and I can't mark my students' essays either, of course! Or prepare for upcoming teaching. And upcoming other tasks (to do with Peer Guides, for instance). At least not then. The work will have to be done anyway. And it also means I lose half a monthly wage in a time that's the most expensive one I have ever lived through, what with the house and all. So I disappoint my students, get no money and end up with twice the work after the strike. Doesn't sound nice!

Or I turn scab. I can, of course. But having immersed myself in Welsh culture has made crystal clear that's not the done thing around here. Remember the big quarrymen's strikes! These are very far from forgotten around here. And the stigma of scab (bradwr, or cynffonnwr, in Welsh) is very alive. When I mentioned the strike to my Climate and Climate Change students they were not upset about teaching perhaps not taking place, but one student immediately pointed out I cannot turn scab. And especially when moving to Bethesda! Oh dear. What to do?

I can also do something in between; not go to work but secretly work at home. But working for no money with poor facilities and doused in shame doesn't sound too attractive either.

I think that's the problem with being academic staff. So open to exploitation as the idea of striking is so fraught with difficulties! Watch this space...

17 February 2018

Another Welsh book down!

I clearly don't have the same taste as my Welsh teacher. We had worked through a literature-themed chapter in Welsh class, and Elwyn had mentioned two books in particular: firstly, 'Un nos olau leuad', which was considered the best Welsh book ever. I find that quite believable! But he also advertised 'Fydd, Gobaith, Cariad', which he said was his personal favourite ever. Well worth the try! And it's quite thick (nearly 350 pages) so it would take a while.

I've finished it now, many months later. I'm not very impressed! I found the characters a bit one-dimensional. It deals with a socially awkward young man, and his bully brother. The former still lives at home at a fairly advanced age. And then his parents take his grandfather in; the chap is in poor health and they don't like the idea of him living in a care home.

You get this story line in parallel with another story line, a few years later, when the same young man is released from prison. He has nowhere to go to; his brother is still a bully and his parents have died in the meantime. He wanders to the cemetery where they are buried, and falls asleep there. In the morning he is found by the cemetery caretaker, who offers him temporary residence in the cemetery shed.

You then get the two stories leapfrogging each other. The author keeps it unmentioned until the very end why he was in prison in the first place, but the signs are there quite early on. I saw it coming from a mile away. And I didn't find the interactions with the guy and his brother, after the main character's release, very convincing. And his relationship with the caretaker goes a bit cartoonish too. The only named women are the guy's mother and sister-in-law, and they don't really come off the page either. Oh well! I have finished it now. And I have got some solid Welsh practice. I'm sure I can give the book to someone else in my class!

16 February 2018

Onto a mountain

The previous weekend hadn't really brought rest. It had been great to go up a mountain with the Cornish, but I had gone into the week without feeling I was ready for it. And I had kept running! By the time it was Saturday I was tired but still behind. I had lecture to prepare! And lots of paper work to do with the house. So on Saturday I did a quick run in the rain and then got down to business. But I got home at about four in the afternoon, feeling like the worst was over. So I was glad I had suggested to our American guest academic to go for a walk. He had admitted that he sometimes felt a bit alone during the weekends. His family are coming soon, but this weekend he would still be on his own! And there was something in it for me too of course; not only because I like a walk in the mountains, especially in good company, but it would also force me to not sit staring at a screen for a while.

I picked him up from home. We had coffee while looking at the map; I had thought up two different walks, depending on what Jeff felt like. He went for the one onto Mynydd Mawr. Nice! So we set off, and parked at the end of y Fron. Then we walked up past a small slate mine. I figured he should see one from close up! He's in Wales now.

The weather was a bit grey but otherwise OK. Soon we walked onto the path onto the mountain. When we got higher the views went more spectacular and the ground underfoot more frozen. Near the top it started to blow a hoolie. It was hard to take pictures! But the view was worth trying anyway. We decided to continue to the ridge above Drws-y-Coed. Some bits there were quiet, but near where we decided to turn around (above Rhyd Ddu) we were almost blown over. We didn't linger!

Slate quarry and Nantlle Ridge

Bucolic bliss (and slate)

 Me on top of Mynydd Mawr

View into Drws-y-Coed

 The path towards Rhyd Ddu from the top of Mynydd Mawr

Jeff mananges to not get blown away 

We had some coffee and tea at a quiet spot, and then legged it back over the top. Now we were facing the wind! So I had lots of tears in my eyes. But it got easier when we got further down. We had to turn around and sit out one hail storm as the hailstones in our eyes wasn't very nice.

When we got back to the car Jeff suggested going for lunch. I suggested the Anglesey Arms in Caernarfon. They did Sunday roast there! The most British thing we could eat. So we did! It was nice. And being very full I dropped Jeff back home. There was still enough Sunday left to do some chores! And go to bed early. I wanted to start the next week fresher than the last one...

15 February 2018

Back to the beach with the students

One of the first things I did when my previous contract started was going to the beach with Lynda to support students logging glacial sediments. The beach we visited, Lleiniog, has eroding sea cliffs that show amazing glacial and glacio-lacustrine and/or glaciofluvial sediments.

Like last year, we went there the day before, to delineate the specific profiles we wanted them to log. And like last year, it was awful weather. But like last year, the actual day it was nice!

The recce

I drove on my own; Lynda and Jeff, our American guest, came with the students. I hammered labels into the cliff face identifying the various sections. Then I fetched hardhats, trowels, rulers and clipboards for the students while Lynda did the initial spiel. The we were off!

One student was extremely interested in pretty much everything. Rocks, shells, plants, whatnot. That's great! And quite a few quite nicely went on with things. They appreciated the amazing sediments. We have tills and delta foresets and one thing that's probably and ice wedge. All of this was deposited by an ice stream, and a fast one at that, that filled the entire Irish Sea. It reached the shelf edge, hundreds of kilometers away. Imagine that! And there is black stuff in the crossbedding. It looks like charcoal, but where would you get that from at the depth of an ice age? It probably is coal from nearby coal seams. Very cool!

As it was on the day!

 The mainland in the distance
Students taking the long view

 Lynda does the debrief

No all students agreed; there are always a few that don't know what they're doing and not even want to know. Oh well! But the morning went fine!

For lunch we went back to Beaumaris. The cafe we used to have lunch in didn't exist anymore, but we found a nice tea room further on. It was really snug! And we warmed up a bit.

 Teh tea room we had lunch in

The afternoon group seemed to be a bit less engaged; they were more eager than the first batch to get things over with. But Lynda kept them well in check, even though her voice was faltering.

When she did her debrief, Jeff and I tried to recover the labels But they had been hammered in comprehensively, so that wasn't a sinecure! But Jeff managed even the hardest ones with good palaeolithic technology. And then we had the students dump their hardhats and other materials in my car, and we each went our way! A successful day. And then I had a few hours for lecture prep. The other modules don't wait!

14 February 2018

Dig and drill

It was an unusual night in the dig! We would get visitors, but like last time, we wouldn't. The Thursdaynighters would go in the direction of the dig to give Ed some SRT practice. But like the week before, he had to drop out! Oh dear. But it was a bit late to reschedule. The others would go anyway.

As I knew I would be getting back earlier I drove separately. It was awful weather! When I got to the parking lot I saw David's Landrover. He joined me in my car for comfort. He wasn't too positive about the night! He knew he only expected Jason, but he wasn't sure if he'd show up. I suggested he join us in the dig if it would be just him, but he suggested he'd go home then. Oh dear! Nobody likes the dig. But headlights appeared. Jason was here!

We changed. I did that in the back of my car. That required emptying it from my bicycle that was in there due to circumstances. We plonked it in the back of the Landrover! David and Jason changed in Jason's van. Then we walked up. It still was awful weather! And Jason and David had decided to go elsewhere.

David legged it up the hill. Then he stopped! It turned out he was trying to get ahead so far he could take a breather. Oh dear. That didn't work. He suggested I go ahead. I did! No need to linger in weather like this.

When I got to the Dig I found a slightly confused Miles. He expected throngs! Not just me. But that was what he had to make do with. And that worked!

I decided to first have a look in the 'old' part of the dig, to see if there was some scaff there. There was! One pole and whatever was needed to fix it in position. Success!

When I got up the the actual dig I expected to start measuring how long the pole would have to be but had forgot about the barn-doorish slab in the way. We had to sort that first! I retrieved the drill from Miles, slithered past the slab, sat on top of it, and started drilling. The first hole didn't work. The second was OK! And the third too. But then I tried to fill them and found out they were too shallow. But I couldn't fit the longer drill bit plus drill on top. Oh dear! Miles had come up, and wondered what the state of things was, when the rocks I sat on started shifting down. Oh dear. Now the drill bit was jammed! Not the first time we jam a bit. I didn't manage to release it, but then Miles gave it a try. He was more successful! Not only did he get the bit back, but he managed to lay the slab flat, so we could easily drill the holes a bit deeper.

By that time it was almost time to go home. We'd started a bit late, after all! And we'll sort that slab out next time.

When we came out it was dry. Very nice! So we duly put the bike back into the car as I could happily change outside. On the way back I drove past 'my' house as I wanted to know how high the river would get on a day like this. And it wasn't noticeably higher than the previous time. Good!

I was still home not too much after 11PM. The guys wouldn't be back at the cars before midnight! I was glad I had been digging...

13 February 2018

Random post with handsome boat

When you buy a house you need a solicitor. I went with the one my mortgage advisor recommended. Does that mean I am vulnerable to being manipulated? She could recommend one for all sorts of reasons. But I am struggling to just do my day job; I don't also want to have to do thorough searches on who is a good solicitor around here. Anyway; so I got me a solicitor, and she wants to do a regular exchange of documents. Mail can do that but sometimes it's better to show up in person. And it turns out she is based in an old port building!

Penrhyn Quarry, which is about to pretty much become my neighbour, had its own little port to ship out the roofing slates. And that port is now only used for pleasure boats, so a lot of what you see is plastic boats that just don't set my heart a-flutter, but when I had to be there anyway I did go and have a look at it. And that was nice! I found a beautiful old pilot boat next to a locally famous public toilet, and a nice old rusty crane. These guys at least have taste in where they put their offices!

 The old crane
The pretty pilot boat; the  round building next to it is a historic public toilet

12 February 2018

A house: the paperwork

When you make an offer on a house you trigger an avalanche of paperwork! I've been reading, filling out, handing back, and receiving forms of all kinds. Mortgage offers, title deeds, insurance quotes, environmental assessments, whatnot. It's a bit trying at times; I'm not at home in the matter, and after a long day in the office you don't necessarily want to go home only to read a pile of documents in legalese. But if it gets me into a lovely house I'll do it! So I'm stumbling along. Fortunately I have some adult friends who can sometimes give me advice. Stay tuned!

11 February 2018

Wintery scenes in the valley

Go up a high hill and you're likely to find snow and frost. But stay in the valley and manage without. It doesn't tend to reach the rolling landscape of Anglesey much! But one day I woke up to find the world white. It was pretty! I had to teach on the mainland, so I biked over to Bangor, camera in pocket. Some nice scenes got captured!

By the time I got home all snow was gone. But when I woke up the next day, there was a heck of a lot more of it. It's a nice and rare event!

Early light on snowy cars

On the way to Bangor

Brambell building looking wintery

The next morning

09 February 2018

With the Cornish onto a hill

On Thursday I went underground. On Friday I scampered from meeting to lecture to seminar. I knew house-related people would be in touch, but I figured I'd deal with that on Saturday.

When Saturday came I was doing my morning exercise routine when the phone rang. It was one of the Cornish guys! They come to Wales every year and clearly, they were around again. They didn't give me much notice! They wondered if I wanted to join them on a hill on Sunday. I had stern (house-related) plans for that day but I can postpone that for the Cornish! It's always good to see them. I used to Saturday to get as much done as I could, and had dinner that night with Jaco, Marjan and our Sabbatical guest Jeff. That was nice! But I was home slightly too late.

The next morning I chucked lots of hiking stuff into a bucket; I didn't know what mountain they had in mind! I had just brought two pairs of boots, and crampons, warm clothes, an ice axe, and food and drink. We would meet at Ogwen Cottage. I got there first, and minutes later I saw a  van pull up. It was them! They had a two-vehicle trip in mind so they suggested I jump in and we'd drive further down the valley. Good! But we made sure to exchange hugs before we set off.

They had a farmer's track in mind that goes up to Llugwy Reservoir. From there a path goes along it and then up the ridge. You're then pretty much ready to scamper to any of the Carneddau and all other peaks there too! The weather was lovely and there was a fresh pack of snow on the mountains. It was lovely! And I was on my clunky boots, and had freshly repaired gaiters and hat, and I had my crampons that I had repaired yonks ago. They would finally get a testing!

The walk up started subtle (although steeper than one may think) and soon we were on the path onwards. It was beautiful! What a great day. I did realise quite soon though that I had forgot my glacier glasses. Oh dear! I immediately had flashbacks from climbing the Mönch quite many years ago. This wasn't good! It turned out that the men didn't have any either, and had considered phoning me to ask if I had any spares. I don't, but at least I would have thought of bringing my own! But some clouds were starting to appear in the blue sky so maybe providence was with me.

Tryfan and Llyn Ogwen looking pretty under a blue sky

 Llugwy Reservoir

We started to meet people coming the other way. One clutch mentioned there was sheet ice ahead. Time to put the crampons on! And it got a bit scrambly too. But that's OK. And suddenly we were on the ridge. From there we had a lovely view into Cwm Eigiau. I pointed out where all the airplane bits were. The men thought these were interesting!

We went on to Carnedd Llewelyn. It was windy there! And by then we were in a white-out. We decided to walk on a bit to some sticky-outy rocks to shelter behind, and there have a sarnie. It was about time!
It gets cold at higher altitude!

Pretty icy structures on grass

 Three intrepid hikers!

Daz and Mike on the top, with a hint of view

Sometimes a slither of view appeared out of the white-out. That was nice! And we made a plan for the way on. We decided to go back to Carnedd Llewelyn and there decide if we would head for Pen yr Ole Wen, along the river Llugwy, or back the way we came. Daz didn't like the thought of coming down something as steep as Pen yr Ole Wen, and I was wondering if we would safely find our way to the river if we would still be in a white-out then. So we went back the same way! Almost. We popped over the top of Pen yr Helgi Du, and down y Braich. The first bit was very cold as the wind was strong, but soon we got to lower altitudes, the wind abated, the sun came back and we were quite comfortable.

The way down 

Further down: out of the cloud!

Pen yr Helgi Du

Soon we were back at their car! We went to get mine. We couldn't have a coffee in the Ogwen Cafe as it was closed, so we decided to the Joe Brown that used to be the Pinnacle Cafe. But it isn't a cafe anymore! So we went on to cafe Siabod. There we had a beverage and another stare at the map. I showed the men where 'my' house was! And pointed the dam in Cwm Eigiau out. And lots more of that! It was nice. But I was tired and hungry.

We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. It had been a good day! I drove past the 24 hr supermarket but it was closed. Oh dear! I went home, made some emergency food, realised I had left my ice axe in Daz's van, and got back to the chores I still had on my list. I was knackered, badly fed, unprepared for the day to come and ice-axe-less, but it had been a good day!

08 February 2018

Run something other than the standard loop

The last time I blogged about running anything other than a race was in September. That has something to do with that I tend to not blog about running my standard morning loop. And that has been the only thing (except the Bangor 10k) I ran recently. Oh dear!

This weekend I had to pop to Lleiniog, to check if wave erosion might have done something unpleasant with the exposed cliff sections we use for a first year field trip, so I had to drive somewhere anyway, and I finally ran somewhere else!

I first ran as far as I could over the beach to check the cliff sections (it wasn't low water so I couldn't go all the way) and then ran the other way, over a public footpath that goes there. It was nice! In spite of the rain that started falling liberally at the end. I need to spend a lot of time on work and house business these days, but this was a nice escape onto the beach and into the woods!

The beach; notice a square carved out into the cliff, ready for students to make a sediment log

Happy in the woods!

06 February 2018

Welsh in the Workplace: the results

For my 'Welsh in the Workplace level 5' qualification I had to talk to all sorts of people. In Welsh, of course. And Bethan, one of the tutors, recorded it all. The requirements were that I would have five minute conversations, but once you start talking you might get carried away. Most of my conversations were nine minutes. I figured Bethan had some marking on her hands! And she had promised me the results the next week; I hoped to get them quite soon as I was curious. But it took a while!

The email popped into my inbox while I was underground. I saw it at home. I had passed with flying figures! I scored a 93%. Lovely! So well, the road is free for also trying 'Welsh in the Workplace level 6'. Normally, people do that after getting their A-levels, but well, with the exams perennially clashing with our fieldwork, I suppose I might try it before. I'll try to keep practicing! And as one aspect of that I filed a request for my email to not say 'I speak some Welsh' anymore but 'I speak Welsh' (I don't know off by heart if external people see that, though). Not sure if that will have a big effect but one way to find out!

File:Royal Badge of Wales (2008).svg
The Royal Badge of Wales. Image by Sodacan

05 February 2018

Thursdaynighters two weeks in a row!

Originally, everyone would be in Cwm. The Thursdaynighters would do SRT training on some convenient pitch, and perhaps pop by in the digs while they were around anyway. But then Ed, who wanted the SRT training, and Miles, who again had something else on that evening, dropped out. We decided to go somewhere entirely different!

We gathered, changed and walked up. Edwyn had a snazzy plan for a through trip but we got distracted. We headed for a dead-end winze that contained a rather snazzy wheelbarrow. When we got to it, Edwyn scampered up with a rope tied around his waist. It's an Edwyn kind of thing to do! We followed only after he'd rigged said rope. It was a slightly iffy winze. David was first up to photograph the thing, and I came next. Jason and Chris decided that even with a rope they didn't like it. Paul and Jay were somewhere else.

 The wheelbarrow

When we were done with the wheelbarrow we did a bit more scampering around; I had a look at a bit I had never seen before. Nice! We also accidentally found Paul and Jay back. Then it was time to head out! Without Edwyn's funny round trip adventure. I was glad it wasn't awfully late. Digging is exciting, but it's also nice to hang around with the Thursdaynighters!

04 February 2018

Module evaluation

With the exams over it is time to ask the students what they thought of our modules. The results tend to be a blend of disheartening and uplifting. There are always those who love it and those who don't! But it's pretty much our task to look past the noise of personal preference (and the odd unfounded opinion; sometimes you get students complaining about the absence of something that was actually provided but which they didn't notice) and get to the stuff that indeed we should change.

I looked at the modules I was involved in, mainly at the ones I lead. The one I did for the first time was not as popular as the other one! But that's to be expected. Practice makes perfect, and I hadn't had practice with this one. Furthermore, in the end I struggled to return marking on time and that's a sure way to piss students off. And some of the deadlines were a bit close to deadlines of other modules. But then there were things I didn't know in advance what they would think. Mainly: the group presentations! Which were new.

One students just didn't like group presentations. One student thought it wasn't a good idea to include the presentation topics in the exam. But apart from that, people were enthusiastic! Good! So that can stay. You can't please everyone so the odd student in every cohort who doesn't like group presentations will have to live with this. I'm sure such things occur in working life as well! If both the majority of the students think it's a good idea and I think so too it's a stayer.

For the glaciology module, the strangest thing was that nobody, literally nobody had given us feedback on the online test, which was new. Oh well! We'll just have to do what we think is right.
But some students had some additional points I hadn't thought of, so I can work with these. There's always toom for improvement!

02 February 2018

Dig vertically up

We hadn't been digging on Thursday. Then Miles came up with an idea: dig on Sunday! That sounded good. We knew our main task would be to deal with the rocks above our heads. Most seemed firmly wedged into position, but one was cracking under the weight. That one we were wary of! And we had several plans of attack. Maybe stick a crowbar under it and pull it from a distance. Maybe we could use Miles' pneumatic jack, that we hadn't used yet. Maybe think of a safe way to use explosives!

On the way up I came across a Go Below group coming down. Jason, who lead it, said one of the punters had lost a GoPro on a zipline! The chamber below was not accessible from anywhere else, so two other leaders had to go and abseil down to retrieve it. They could see it, so they knew it was worth it. But when I was telling Miles in the Manager's Office about my house adventures there was a knock on the door; the GoPro hunters! What they thought was the GoPro had turned out to be a glove. They never found the actual camera! That must have been a bummer. But try to find something of that size in a big chamber full of pointy slate.

When we got in I scampered up first, with some polyprop rope. I also brought up a new blast wire; this was armoured, and would last. If we couldn't sort out the rocks we could thread that down via a sensible route! But first things first. While Miles was doing something lower down I had a look at the feasibility of using the pneumatic jack. I figured it could work! But we didn't have the pump on us, so I started trying the crowbar-on-a-string trick. It didn't really work! I brought some small stuff down, bit not the cracked rock.

Then Miles came up. He had another look at the rock for reasons of jacking and crowbarring. My efforts had provided better spaces for the crowbar to go in, so he jammed it in. He asked me to keep the rope at tension while he crawled down, out of harm's way. And then all hell broke loose. The whole shebang came down before he had fully got out of the way! And nothing touched him, but well, it was close. Two seonds earlier and it would have! But luckily, almost being hit by a rock doesn't do damage. But it's a reminder we can't underestimate the mountain!

The fall left things a bit precarious and from time to time, more came down. One big slab had come down like a barn door; behind that we were safe. It was in the way too, though! But things looked a lot safer, and most what came down after the big fall was small fry. Miles fished some slabs from behind the big one and handed them to me. I put them somewhere convenient.

Miles also wanted to test some new gunpowder so he started his way down. I slithered over the barn door, assessed the situation, and brought down all small bits I could reach. The next rock up now was a bg slab; we had earlier mistaken it for the ceiling. It looked fairly safe, but to go past it we would have to blast a bit off. That sounded scary! I figured we might need to put some scaff in place to support it. I think we still have some!

On the way down I removed all rocks that had ended up in the passage and came to see how Miles was getting on. We had to take a usual waiting-for-resin-to dry break and after that, we concluded the new stuff works! Good! But it was time to get out. The next day would be a working day!

01 February 2018

The big decision

I had worked out how much money I wanted to spend on a mortgage. Now I also needed to work out how much of a deposit to put down! Which meant figuring out how much money I needed to keep for doing up the house. Phil had helped me with some ballpark figures. I also phoned the man who had installed Rose's kitchen; he was a joiner and he would know about wooden floors. And probably about who are the good decorators around!

I totted up cost for moving, paperwork, floors, walls, and fireplaces and such, and subtracted that from the money I had in the bank. Result! Then I phoned Rose. When could she move out? She was still living there! But I wanted to be over by Easter. There's a long teaching break then. I wanted to be able to use that for sorting the house out! She was quite flexible; she said she could just put her stuff in storage, and temporarily move in with her partner. So that sounded OK! We just needed to get the paperwork sorted. And since that was clear, and I had done the maths, I knew what I could afford. Rose knew how much she was willing to drop the price. So there and then we agreed a price! I was engulfed in adrenaline. The biggest financial decision I have ever made in my life! Blimey!

We ended the conversation and I phoned the estate agent. I put my offer in! And I knew it would be accepted. The I phoned my mother, still flooded with adrenaline. While I was on the phone with her the estate agent phoned back. I got the voicemail. Could I return the call? I knew what he wanted to tell me.

On Monday I will have a meeting with the mortgage advisor. The ball is rolling! Oh dear! So Exciting! But scary too. It IS a big commitment! But riverhouse, or Bryn Afon to give it its proper name, here I come!