31 May 2018

Rescue training

We would have a rescue training in a cave! That is a bit unusual here in North Wales. But I don't mind caves!

I shared a ride with Edwyn. David and Ed travelled together. And we got to Ogof Nadolig (near Cilcain) to find a small crowd. Not a big turnout this time!

At the parking lot. All pictures by Gethin

The scenario was that someone had fallen down an aven and probably broken a leg. We would have to get him out. There was some confusion regarding whether we needed any SRT kit. He was at the bottom of the pitch; would we have to descend to him? Before it became clear we would get to the bottom of the aven and meet no more pitches we were already down, many of us in SRT kit. As a casualty carer I was in the advance party, together with Heather, the other casualty carer, and Edwyn. Onwards we went!

At the entrance

Found the casualty!

We got to where our imaginary casualty was. We struggled a bit with what to document! Was this casualty conscious and breathing? Hard to tell! We made it up until a team member, Paul, appeared; he would be the casualty. That made things easier! It also made out notes somewhat erratic but well, in a real-life scenario, people don't materialise out of thin air.

We splinted the guy up, and decided to put him in a stretcher. He was unconscious! And we started lugging him out. Luckily we could drag him. That's easier than carrying! But the passage was so low he only just fit underneath the ceiling in some places, all bundled up into the stretcher.

Trying to get him out

When we got him to the entrance pitch a lunch break was announced, so we got Paul out. I had left my lunch in Edwyn's car, and I wasn't the only one to have left it in the parking lot, so with a group we walked back. Edwyn took the alternative route.

Edwyn's route was a bit long! I had to wait a bit to get to my sandwiches. Oh well. And I had clearly forgot to bring two out of my three flasks. Oh dear. We went back. Now the plan was to have people do things they hadn't done yet, so some went down to this time put Gethin in a stretcher in order to see if we could lift him out. Would he fit around the corner? And I had a go at the new communication device. It worked! I had been promised a more modern system since my debut at cave rescue, and now, finally it was there. But as this was the first time we used it we did use an old field telephone as a backup!

We rigged a Z-rig to hoist Gethin out, and got working. It was a bit of faff! Some of the angles were uncomfortable. And he only just fit. I think he had to twist his legs into funny angles to make it work! If we ever need to get someone out through that entrance we need to remove the entrance construction. Or have the fore brigade do it for us.

Then we were done. We packed up, carried everything back, and changed back into our civilian outfits. We had a debrief, and then we were good to go. David mentioned he wanted to go into a mine afterwards; would anyone care to join? I didn't; I was parched after having had only one flask of tea, and I figured my feet had done enough traipsing around in wellies. And I had stuff to do. Edwyn and I drove back! It had been a good training. I think I got my head around a releasable deviation!

30 May 2018

More ceilings to do

I have spent a lot of time on my living room ceiling! But that is only the beginning. I knew I would also want to get rid of the plasterboard in the landing. Phil is lined up to help me with it. But then the electrician popped by. He will need to have access to the electricity cables! And where are these? In the ceiling! And in the extension, which is last century and does not look Victorian whether it has ceiling beams or not, the ceiling is the only way. In the rest of the house, he could get to the cables by lifting some floorboards. But the extension has a flat roof. So then there really is no choice! So after living room and landing, I will also have to at least cut a strip out of the ceilings in the hall, bathroom and master bedroom. And if you have to take out a strip, you may as well take the whole thing down. I have my work cut out!

I'm not so sure about the kitchen and storage area yet. These are old so certainly have nice beamed ceilings, but would I go through that trouble? The storage is storage. Of course beauty has value anywhere, but it does not have priority everywhere. And the kitchen looks rather modern. And any room looks better with beams, but again, they don't have priority everywhere. Maybe some day after I have retired or something!

Trial holes in various ceilings

29 May 2018

Dig update

Time for a session in the dig again! The last time, we had done a blast just before we left. It's always nice to start by having a look at how well that went! And so we did. One of the blasts hadn't really worked. The others had! I could clear out a fair amount of stuff. But then we had to decide what to blast next. And after some deliberation we chose a rock that seemed to have a fair amount of stuff leaning on it. We were a bit nervous about one specific rock. Miles suggested propping it up with a piece of rebar, and I did so, to the best of my abilities. Then I drilled a hole. It was too short! I got the drill into position for a better-placed hole but I was in such an awkward position I had to use my head to push the drill. I asked Miles if he could give it a go. He did!

After a while I heard disconcerting sounds. The rock had come down! Luckily, most of its weight was taken by the rebar, and most of the rest by Miles' helmet. So no actual harm done! But it was scary nonetheless. He managed to throw the rock down, charge the hole, and come down. We had some tea while we waited for the resin to dry and then we blasted. So next time we'll have one of those sessions again that starts with cleaning up after a blast!

28 May 2018

The house: a review after the first weeks

It's only last month I moved in! When I write this, at least. Doesn't time fly! It feels I have lived here forever. So what is the verdict so far? How has my life changed?

To summarise: I love it! It's great to live in a beautiful house in a historic village at the foot of a slate quarry and in the foothills of the mountains. No regrets! But what has changed?

My commute is a lot longer now. I am enjoying it! In atypical week, I bike it three times and drive it twice. It's 15km (over the bike route at least) and ~200m down and ~100m up going to work, and, of course, the other way around coming back. It takes a fair amount of time, and I think the 3-2 balance is about right. But it is such a lovely commute! Going to work it starts very quick (the downhill bit), and then I bike back up on a quiet road, and then end up on the big road. It's quickest.

The way back is uphill on the big road, then carefully down the quiet road as it has speed bumps and bad asphalt, and I am now on a bike with narrow tyres. Then I scale another small hill and then I'm on the cycle path for the rest of the time. And it's on the way back I get to see the landscape. On the way out I go so fast I have to be too alert on scampering dogs and such!  But uphill one has more time. I do feel, though, quite often that it's weird to be on that path as it seems I was only there an instant before. But I think that will fade!

The commute also means I sweat more. I wonder if I should have clothes at work, and have a shower when I get in. I worry about about smelling sweaty! And I also end up showering more often in the evening rather than the morning. And I have to wash my clothes more often. And I now only run once a week, in the weekend. I do want to keep running! But during the week I can't really afford to spend more time on exercise.

The house is a lot bigger and I cover all three floors, and I am a bit of a scatterbrain, so I end up scampering up and down stairs a lot. But that's OK!

Having the garden is lovely. I know I'm not a talented gardener, but I think I have things under control. And it's great to be able to just sit in your own garden and recharge! Beautiful landscapes lift my spirit, and now I have one at my disposal. And slowly it is starting to look less neglected. I have for now focussed my attention on three raised beds: one I try to use as a vegetable bed, but it's not impressive yet. The radishes came up, and I think I saw some Brussels sprouts, but there is no sign yet of carrots, leeks or potatoes. Oh dear! Then there is my succulent bed, and that's doing really well, and I have a 'miscellaneous' bed. That is a bit hit and miss! It has three fuchsias and they're doing well. And some plants of which I'm not sure yet if they will thrive. And the other beds are pretty much how Rose left them, bar some family pruning.

I have barely started to enjoy the beautiful area, as I spend all my free time on the house. But even walking back from the local shop and seeing the mountains loom in the background is lovely. And I will get out some day! I hope to live here for a fair while. The hills won't go away!

And the village? It is still a bit run-down, probably has been since 1903, but so far my experiences are only good. People aren't noisy or unfriendly, you can have a skip in front of your house and nobody puts things in, and all such things. Recently a lady asked politely of she could sit on the (perfectly public) patch of grass near the river at the end of the street. I picked up a hitchhiker who smelled strongly of booze but he was very polite. The neighbour is a nice man and as long as I am not either in the neighbour's garden or my own, his dog likes me enough to let me pet him (the dog, that is; not the neighbour). And I have now been to Neuadd Ogwen twice and it was good. And sometimes I hear music waft from it but it has never been annoying. And it's very practical to have shops with wide opening hours nearby. I've only been to the supermarkets; as a practical vegetarian one can guess I don't beat a path to the butcher, and there is a general store but I often end up buying the sort of stuff I could buy there from the similar shop in Menai Brige. I've not been to the cafes yet!

I think I found the right balance between commuting distance, proximity to the hills, convenience with regard to local amenities and glorious solitude. I think I did the right thing! Even though this house eats time and money...

26 May 2018

Litter pick on the river bank

One of the perks of this house is its view on the river! But if you look too closely, it doesn't look all too pretty. There’s a lot of litter there! And one fine evening I decided to cut away some brambles to make a passage down, and go down with a big bucket to pick any litter in sight.

The bucket was full soon! But luckily,  by then all accessible litter in sight was gone. I had removed an entire laundry drying rack as well. There's a bike in the river too, but this time I restricted myself to the river bank.

A lot of the litter was recyclable! Lots of plastic bottles. I' sure the next flood will bring a next batch of litter, but for now the place looks quite good!

 Lookin gup to the garden, and looking downstream from the river bank

 The loot, and the litter-free section

 The laundry rack I recovered

25 May 2018

Next step in ceiling work

The plasterboard was down, but that didn't mean the work was done. When Phil left I still had to do the tidying up. Which was quite a work! I first tidied up the big bits and brought them to the recycling centre. Then I wanted to do the smaller bits with pan and brush, but I felt I needed a face mask for that. I bought it but time ran out. But I decided I should not do that quite yet; more needed to come down. First of all, I had to try to get more wallpaper off. A lot of dust would come with it! So cleaning before that was done was silly. Also, I needed to take out a lot of nails, and some auxiliary bits of wood. That also would cause a lot of dust and stuff.

Sometimes I found half an hour to make some progress on that. And during that work I decided I also should take down all the slats that were nailed to the floorboards to give a bit of purchase to the Victorian plasterwork. I would keep them; they had dried for well over a hundred years! They would probably make lovely kindling. But it was yet again a lot of work. That was work for a Saturday. I have to keep moving the step ladder! But I got it done. And when all was down I took my broom and swept the ceiling. Bring it all down before the big clean-up starts!

I was prepared this time
The ceiling after that round of work!

On a hot day I picked up all the wallpaper. And I took all the slats, broke them into workable size and put them in a bucket. Then I went through the entire room with pan and brush. Wearing a dust mask! It wasn't nice work but it made the room look a lot better.

Then I wanted to hoover the whole thing. Rose had left hers. She had told me the 'on' button was jammed and she wasn't sure how much longer it would last. Phil had warned me plaster dust clogs up hoover filters, but this hoover was sacrificial anyway, and it had washable filters. So I went for it anyway! I just made sure to keep an eye on the thing, and on the filter. I think she had already let things get out of hand on the filter front! But it was spring, after a wash it was dry quite quick. And the hoover clearly struggled but it did make a big difference! The place was starting to look a lot better.

The work wasn't done, though. There was still a lot of wallpaper on the beams! That wouldn't come off just like that. The neighbour suggested I try to just soak the wallpaper. It would probably come off. I tried it and wasn't impressed. I got back to the trusted steamer! And that worked a treat. It went rather quick! One disadvantage is that the steam left the wood a bit soft; at one point I was trying to scrape off some extra stubborn wallpaper, until I realised it was the actual wood. Oh dear! But well, it will get sanded anyway.

The floor was so clean! And with that sheet it may stay that way

All the wallpaper's off this section! Only some whitewash left. 

I did that work with a sheet underneath. I suppose I should get a bit tarp out of the garage and use that instead. It's bigger so I don't have to move it around too much! But things have sped up! Good. I suppose I need to sand them then, and then varnish them some way or another, and then they're done. Then a plasterer can come and put plasterboard back - but only between the beams. I suppose it's good to have an extra layer between the floors! And it creates a space where the electricity cables and water pipes can go...

24 May 2018

Slow progress on the bike

Soon after I bought the bike, I ordered a bicycle bell, and mud guards, and a pannier rack, and cycling shoes, and cleats (the thingies with which you attach your shoes to the pedals). It all came! The bell was quickly put in place. The shoes and cleats initially had me a bit puzzled on how exactly to go about things, but that was the next thing that was sorted.

The mud guards were some work; the construction was supposed to just fit, but it didn't; rods had to go through holes but didn't fit; nuts were supposed to keep said rods in place but didn't catch. Hm! I had to file out some of the holes to let the rods through, and I ordered some washers to put under the nuts so they would catch. Not quite how it should be. But the washers came soon. And they did the job! So then I could put the mudguards into position.

 Notice as well the water bottle I found on the roadside

By then I had already tried the shoes and cleats. I had put the pedals on the loosest setting. And put the cleats in the shoes in a sort of standard position: in the middle, pointing straight ahead. And I tried it out on an actual commute. I made sure not to clip in too soon. Would I manage to unclip again? Best not to try on the main road. But I only follow that a few tens of meters. Once I was off I tried clipping and unclipping. Went well!

A bit further on I noticed my feet pointed in a bit. If I'm not clipped in I have my feet pointing straight ahead. I would have to adjust that! And I felt like the cleats should be further forward. And maybe my saddle had to go a few millimeters up.

I didn't really find the clips made such a difference. But then again, I wasn't used to pulling the pedals up yet. So much so that during my first two clipped-in commutes, I found myself (at a point where I have to join a major road during rush hour) unclipping my left foot, putting it down, unclipping my right foot, hooking my shoe underneath the pedal, moving it to its top position, and putting my foot back on it, so I could set off quickly when there would be a gap in the traffic. That is such a pointless thing to do! One day I'll learn. Anyway, the next day I had adjusted the cleats and it was better.

I got to work without problems in my clips. And I thought I had it nailed! But on the way back I wanted to stop to put my lights on. I fluently unclipped my left foot, ready to put it down. But then I lost my balance, and started to keep over to the right. Oh dear! No time to unclip the right foot too. I fell ungracefully to the tarmac. And felt stupid. Luckily I hadn't hurt myself or damaged the bike.

And the pannier rack? I wanted to put that on after I had done the mudguards. Seemed the reasonable thing to do. But  when I unpacked it, I noticed the metal tubing was rather thick. Too thick to fit the panniers! So I will have to send it back and try again. But I will get there with that bike!

23 May 2018

Underground in Cwm Pennant

I had had an eye on Cwm Pennant for a while! I had tried to get there to go for a run once and ended up elsewhere,  I had managed to go running there but had lost my intended route, and I had seen it from the east, north and west. And now an opportunity to see some more of it, some of it underground, arose. Miles was otherwise engaged on a Thursday night and I went with the Thursdaynighters, who were doing two mines in, you guessed it, Cwm Pennant.

I hitched a ride with Ed. It was a beautiful day! And the valley was stunning. Luckily we had a photographer with us. It turned out there were only four of us: David, Ed, Jason and me. We got kitted up! I decided to wear just my outdoor clothes (as I had done the Saturday before) as the night was too warm to wear full caving kit. The men thought otherwise.

David decided to check the length of the rope first. It was supposed to be a long pitch! But the rope was almost 90m so it should be fine. We started up the hill!

All pics by David unless otherwise indicated

Quickly we had found the entrance. David went in, crossed a stope on a plank, and started rigging. We would first drop the pitch, then walk back up, retrieve the rope, and then walk higher up the hill to the mine up there.  When it was rigged David asked if I wanted to go first. That was fine with me!

 Pic by Ed

I went down, although I quickly realised I wasn't wearing my knee pads. Oh dear! Too lightly dressed. I made sure to be careful at overhangs. I also had forgot my eh, my donkey dick. The device from which you hang your bag on a pitch. If you carry it on your back you might not fit through tight bits! But I went. David was worried about throwing the rope down on the wrong side of some stemples, but he solved that by keeping one half of the rope up there. We would at worst have to pull up half! And throw it down the other side of a stemple. 

The pitch went all over the place. Down, then a bit around, through a gap, past a wooden platform and then a rock platform, then over a scree slope and around the corner into a winze. A bit of a faff! I had to take the bag off for the gap, and I was getting worried I would lose voice contact with the top. There was some discussion about the rope. When I had passed the rock platform I figured I probably needed the other half of the rope too. David released it, but of course, it didn't reach me. I pulled it to try to persuade it down, but that was a bit scary as it send rocks flying down. And it gave a bit but not all the way. I would have had to climb back up to retrieve it! 

I hadn't really put my SRT kit on with care. Everything was in the wrong order! I should know better. So I messily prussicked up and retrieved the rope. Good; I could go down again. The platform did throw stuff at me but I vanished around the corner. And then I touched down. I managed to shout loud enough to David the rope was free. 

I had a little wander into the hillside. I knew the adit wouldn't lead anywhere; indeed, it was a dead end. But now I'd seen it! And it was quite pretty. I then went back to wait for the next person. That was Jason. He came down relieved. He wasn't all too happy with the things that could have fallen on his head! And together we waited for Ed. His was the same story! But we were all down safely. And soon, so was David. We flaked the rope so we minimised the chances of it snagging when we would try to pull it up. Then we went out! The water in the adit overtopped my boots. Oh well.

Towards the dead end; pic by me

Jason waits his turn

Ed touches down; pic by me

The first thing we did was scamper back up the hillside, and walk back in to get the rope back. That worked! It didn't snag. Great! Then we walked out again. I walked my bag to the path that continued up the hill. I didn't intend to carry all that to the next mine! I had my hat on my head and my camera in my pocket. What more does one need? 

I scampered ahead and saw another hole in the ground. Cool! It was a solid SRT job, though, so we wouldn't go in. When David got up he pointed out he knew what was in there. Then we walked a bit higher. The views were amazing! It was a sultry evening and Cwm Pennant is lovely. And it got even better when I saw a waterwheel. Cool! We walked up to it. All of us, in spite of Ed having been overtraining recently, and having a sore knee.

The waterwheel with pump rods, balance bob, and rising main. 

The waterwheel was a beauty! We had a good look. And we sat down for a sandwich. I had left mine (bad planning) but Jason gave me a bit of his pie. And then we walked back! A successful evening!

22 May 2018

Boterkoek for language

I'm not a keen baker. But I'll bake for a good cause! I had baked for the cake competition. But now an email had come through, announcing a multilingual coffee morning. It explained one of the organisations on our campus was supposed to support the Welsh language. Trying to get people to speak Welsh during coffee break is a good idea. I suppose they thought it would not attract enough people, though, so they had then included every other language in the world too. And they had asked for people to bring a delicacy from their country of origin.

When my sister had visited, she gave me all the left-over food in the end. A bit much for a one-person-household to finish! It included a lot of butter. And I had left-over sugar from my cake competition times. And flour. And if you have these three things you pretty much have boterkooek ('buttercake'). I figured I could make one for the coffee morning! It sounded a bit awkward, a bit Britons-try-to-speak-languages, a bit we-need-to-be-seen-to-support-Welsh-but-we're-not-keen, but I figured I should support an initiative like that anyway. So I made the boterkoek!

I made a big one and two smallies as I had a bit too much dough. I brought one to the Thursdaynighter trip! And it was greatly appreciated. Even though it was quite evident how calory-heavy it was. A good sign!

The next morning I brought the big one in. There already were some bara briths and Welsh cakes. I cut my koek up and handed out slices; there were quite many people there! Not really speaking two (or more) languages, but well, that was what I had expected. I tried to get a bit multilingual myself but there's only so much one can do. The boterkoek went down well, anyway! Good. It vanished entirely. I didn't even have any myself! But I had the day before so that was fine. And it indeed isn't very hard; I can do that again if the need arises! And as well: I've now tried my oven! And it clearly works. All good!

21 May 2018

Outdoor climbing season properly opened

The first time we went climbing outdoors this year we did, as is tradition, a very easy rock. But with that ritual over, we could start for real! This time we would do Castle Inn Quarry. And that's a lot better.

We gathered at Parc Menai, and with 5 of us we squeezed into Eifion's car. On we went! And on Anglesey, it had clouded over, but the quarry was all sunny. I grabbed some ropes and went to the wall I thought we'd climb. I come to climb! Not to stand around on a parking lot and chat. And in no time I had my kit on and was ready to roll. Someone suggested I go with Eirian to a further wall. Fine! We found a route. Let's have it!

Eirian wasn't so sure. What grade was that route? Where was the guide book? I didn't care, it looked feasible. In the end I managed to convince her to just let me have a go. And I brought the rope up! And while she was trying to follow, Janet lead the climb to the left of us. A third route even further left was being done by some unrelated people.

Eirian on the route Janet had lead

The unrelated people left. That meant there was another route available! I said I might want to lead it. Eifion, who had seen it be climbed from quite close up, said there was a difficult bit in the middle. Hm! But the top of the route was quite close to that of the one Janet had just lead. So I suggested I climb that route while carrying a rope up. Once at the top I'd try to shimmy across and put the rope in the anchors! Hey presto, new route. Janet and Eifion were ehm-ing and ah-ing. I thought 'screw that' and got ready to get a rope, when Eirian said she went to go have a look at the others. Could she bring a rope? She didn't. I left the ehm-ing, ran across, got me a rope, and got Eifion to belay me. Finally! Action!

The climb wasn't all too hard. I got to the top with the end of a second rope clipped into my harness. Now I had to get across! Knowing I would swing out considerably if I would fall. I slowly inched closer! And then I could clip the karabiner I had the rope on onto an anchor. Then I clipped the rope through the two karabiners. But how to get the end back down with me? Best, I suppose, to re-clip the karabiner, but by then I wasn't thinking all too straight and I left the karabiner in position, held on to the loop that I had pulled through, and managed in the end to clip that to my cowstails. It would have to do! I shimmied back to the top of my own route and came down. The rope was long enough for this up-down-up configuration! And then Eifion went up and tidied the rigging up. He said the route was easier than the one next to it! I could have probably just lead it. Oh well.

I now did a bit of belaying. Eirian wanted to do the route I had lead. Catrin wanted to do the route Janet had lead. And everyone wanted to do the newest route. And some people were a bit apprehensive.

Then everyone had climbed everything they wanted. We could unrig! It wasn't awfully late. And I had only climbed three routes, but with the funny bring-a-rope-up antics I felt like I had done something anyway. The season is properly open now!

20 May 2018

Small drama in the backyard

I was taking advantage of the fact that when it comes to marking, it doesn't matter where and what time you do it. So I started the week by marking two dissertations in the back garden! And all was well until I heard a person shout. It sounded like a dog owner trying to pursuade their dog to come back. I had a look; I saw a dog happily splashing through the river! It didn't seem inclined to heed its owner's shouts. It was having fun!

It didn't seem to like the rapids behind the house, so it walked around these, and got into the water on the other side. It's deep there! And this dog didn't look like a confident swimmer. Oh dear and such. But the rocks next to this deep bit are steep. The dog didn't manage to clamber out! And it seemed to think the best way to deal with the situation was to just stare plaintively at me. I got all wobbly in the knees!

The owner thought he was just being silly, but so consistently so, that she got resigned to having to get wet feet. She rolled up her trousers and waded after the dog. I had to point out where it was; it was hidden from view from most angles other than mine. But she got to him, and unceremoniously lugged him out. Happy ending!

They did a bit of warming up in the sun on the rock, and then they were on their way. Maybe that dog has learned something...

Find the dog! Zooming in required.

Happy end!

19 May 2018

Dissertation marking

It's that time of the year again! When you get a plethora of BSc dissertations to mark. It's a lot of work, but it's fun! Like last year, I was everybody's second marker. As when the dissertation students had picked their topic, my contract had been too short to get any. By the time I was hired permanently everyone was already getting on with it. I tried to steal some from Dei as he had many, and he does the sort of physical topics I would too, but paradoxically he was too busy to hand me any. I ended up with one student of my own, who had requested a different supervisor, but he had medical issues and extensions and had thus not submitted with the rest.

Last year I got a physical pile of work on my desk, but this year we're being all modern and environmentally-friendly and all is digital. I have no actual pile! But quite a lot of work, again. And I'll be reading about all kinds of topics I don't normally read about! I might even do some of that at home...

18 May 2018

The garden

When I was in the Netherlands I was told off a bit for the fact that my blog didn't give a good idea of my garden at all. And I suppose that's true! So on a sunny Sunday I went into the garden and tried to photograph it. And here are the results!

The bit of the garden next to the convervatory; this is the original garden.

From the original garden you go down stairs into what used to be the slate yard

Looking towards the river from the bottom of the stairs

Looking sideways to the downriver neighbours

 Looking obliquely to the hedge that separates mine from my neighbour Alan's garden

 Looking back towards the house from the riverbank

17 May 2018

Theatr Bara Caws with BrĂȘcshit

I had lived in Wales for four years and never seen the famous Bara Caws theatre company. We had discussed them in Welsh class! And I had lived for a month next to Neuadd Ogwen without going in. It was time to change that! I had seen a poster advertising BrĂȘcshit, their 2018 show. Time to go there! And Dani, from my Welsh class, was keen to join Great!

It started at 7.30 so it made sense to first eat. I know Neuadd Ogwen does food, but I wasn't sure how fast, so I offered to cook. And while I was cooking I heard a knock on the door. Dani!

I gave her a quick tour. She loved my view! And when I suggested we eat outside she thought that was a great idea. So I quickly assembled the food and we carried it outside. Dani almost fainted at my view! I think she'll be back.

We had dinner, carried everything in again, and went to the building next door. We found seats at the back. It was already quite busy!

 The stage before it started

Then it started. It was quite clear to me I could only follow it to a very limited extent. Dani did better! She laughed when all the native speakers laughed too. But well, it's good practice, and it's not the most verbal of theater genres. Bara Caws will do more fart jokes than word puns.

The plot was as follows: a lady dairy farmer with two sons has sold off most off the herd and has turned the farm into a health centre. Thanks to Brexit troubles, dairy farming didn't bring in enough money. Not that the health centre is doing so well. A developer is using all methods fair and unfair to try to convince her to sell the entire farm. And of course, that almost works but not quite.

All this plays out with a cow that turns out to be a calculating bull, a talking rat, a floaty yoga teacher, a man who thinks he is all kinds of people, including JFK and Jesus, and a woman who is afraid of ringing phones. There's colonic irrigation, with and without consent. Subtle it is not. Fun it is! (Although I thought the colonic irrigation was taking things a bit far.) It's done by only four actors. Only the farmer plays only one role. Especially actor who plays the man who at some point thinks he's JFK is someone else every two minutes.

I have to listen to Radio Cymru a bit more often I think! Which would involve re-tuning some of my radios. I read Welsh books like the best of them but this was above my level. Oh well. It was fun! And Dani thought so too. She's very good at understanding spoken Welsh. And after the show I was home in about three seconds! The crew was already taking down the stage and loading it into a small lorry so in theory I could have walked out of the back door, and stepped out of the building ten meters from my front door. But I hadn't!

I'll keep an eye on what else they have on offer! I hope to see a Welsh film at some point...

16 May 2018

Garreg Fawr with Rick and Lionel

If you drive past Betws Garmon you see a beautiful line of holes in the hill going up diagonally, with associated waste tips and a zigzag path for the miners. And some derelict buildings, like drum houses. That's Garreg Fawr, and I had had it on my to do list for a while.

During some time spent marking in the office, I got an email from my old Southwestern caving mate Rick. That was nice! He said he was coming to North Wales with Lionel and maybe Dave. Was I interested in teaming up? Of course I was!

On Thursday I got a text from Lionel. They were going for a walk in the mountains. But I was at work! I did tell them they could join either the Thursdaynighter trip, or the dig, if they wanted. Their walk was too long to fit an underground trip in afterwards, though. And on Friday I went back to work while they did a trip to a sulphur mine I hadn't yet visited. They had had a blast! But I was available to join them for dinner, in the pizza and pint place in Llanberis.

It was great to see them again! Lionel doesn't change. Rick does a bit; a few years ago he injured his achilles tendon, and that seemed to really put a damper on his mood. I can imagine! It seemed to have been a really crippling injury. But on this trip he had for the first time gone into the mountains again! He felt great about it. And I can imagine! And he always loves a nice mine or quarry.

The next day they planned to do, you guessed it, Garreg Fawr. Excelent! We agreed on a time and place to meet. So after a lovely pizza we each went our own way, knowing the fun had only started.

The next morning in Betws Garmon I saw men in a car waving at me. Rick and Lionel! I seemed to have driven past them already, oblivious, but then again, I don't recognize Lionel's car as he used to have a different one. We parked up and changed. And we decided to walk to the top and do the mine from the top down.

Rick had a terrible cold and struggled a bit walking up the hill, but we all got there. And the views were amazing! And when we got to the top of the mine that looked amazing too. Lionel rigged a rope and we descended. A rope wasn't all too necessary but it's good to have one.

Clambering up the hill

The view

The mine!

The mine was a pillar-and-stall iron mine. Scenic! I hadn't brought a tripod, and photographing places like these from the hip doesn't tend to work too well. But we had a good time!

We managed to get about halfway down without needing a rope again, but we had to go and retrieve the one we had used. We wouldn't use it again; we saw plenty of deep drops, but you could always just walk a bit further down the hill and then find a way to just walk in.

Along the way we also found a raven nest with babies, and a lizard in a level. It was a strange level; it had painted bits of styrofoam in it, and a strange piece of scaff; my guess was that it had been a film set at some point. And a lizard was perched atop one of the pieces, in the eternal shade. We figured he had probably fallen down and was cold now! We carried him (her?) out and put the styrofoam in the sun. I don't know how long it takes a lizard to warm up! But the good thing about a cold lizard is that they make good photography models.

The inside

Window with cobweb

Me with Rick

Me with Lionel

Lionel admires the raven nest (some zooming in required)

 Walking into a stope

 The lizard, once out. Still sluggish though; notice the pesky insect walking right over it.

By the time we had released the lizard we were close to the bottom and a bit mined out. And hungry! I was the only one who had brought lunch. I had eaten some (shared with Rick) but it was time to get to the men's lunch in Lionel's car.

We walked past one low entrance. We saw one that was wet and low and decided to leave it. And then we saw one Rick (initially) couldn't resist. But the water went above critical height, the view wasn't promising and the place stank. We went back! And scampered to the cars.

 The putrid level we abandoned

 Looking back onto the scar of the mine on the hill

We ate some sandwiches and then it was time to separate; Lionel and Rick would go to Caernarfon as there was a food festival on, and I didn't want to join as I had to be home in time to cook dinner for a friend (see later blog post). So we said goodbye! But I hope they will be back! And they hope so too!