30 June 2018

Trying to eat maize meal

When I moved into the new house, I found the kitchen and the freezer still containing all sorts of foodstuffs. I chucked away whatever looked iffy (opened jars), kept what would last forever, and gave the content of the freezer to Jenny, who in turn gave it to her pig Smot. Smot seems to be very happy with the situation!

Some of the stuff that lasted forever was maize-based; it turned out Rose had been gluten intolerant. But what to do with maize meal? I decided to one night treat it like instant potato mash. It was acceptable, but not something I would buy maize meal for myself. Then I tried to make maize flatbread. I mixed the maize with oil, salt and some spices, and kneaded it. It was very crumbly and (as Google had recommended) I added some wheat flour to make it stick better. I then made it into a flatbread shape and plonked it in the frying pan.

The result, again, was acceptable, but not something I would buy maize meal for myself. But the bag is getting emptier! I say one or two more of these experiments and I've finished it. And then I have a bag of polenta to deal with! I assume it's not particularly different...

I was hoping I would find some way of using that would be really nice! But that might still happen...

My attempt at maize flatbread

29 June 2018

Improve the view

When I bought the house the garden had a nice view on the river. But then it became spring. A tree on the river bank got so leafy it blocks a lot of the view! And I found out nobody owns that land, or feels the need to deal with it. So I will have to! So one nice Saturday I brought down my saw and started having a go. It was a multi-trunked tree! I think it had eight trunks. And I started by cutting down 5. I figured I shouldn't cut down everything in one go, as I also need to process the wood! That means: getting the leaves and twigs off, make them small, and put them in the garden waste bin. Then cut the bigger wood into firewood and put it in the garage to dry.

I took trunk by trunk to the front of the house where I dealt with them. It all fit in the bin! So far. And the view is already a lot clearer! But I think I will now pause a bit as I also need that bin for other stuff (cubic meters of bramble waste!). But the other trunks will come down too. And then I can see more of the river! And there's a smaller tree behind it, but I'll decide if I want to do something about that too once the first tree is down. Stay tuned!

The much smaller tree (see original here)

Four of the cut-off trunks


27 June 2018

Information under the wallpaper

When you pull off wallpaper you might find things! So far I hadn't, but when I started in the landing I found two notes. One, I think, says 'John & Glynis 2/1/77 - 4/1/77 + Simon'. I admit the scribbles don't clearly say 'John' but the neighbour had already mentioned that before Rose, there was a couple called John & Glynis living in the house, and the writing did seem to clearly say 'Glynis'. One fills in. And when he saw the graffiti he mentioned they had a son called Simon. I'm not sure what exactly they were doing that involved writing on the wall, but it's nice it's still there! Another note seems to say 'plastering today 27 July 79'. That is not written on the plastering! But on some white stuff on top. I can't make total sense of it, but the neighbour confirmed it had been about 1977 that they had had the extension built, and that it may have taken them two years to finish the decorating. I'll try to keep the writing there! Although covered by paint. And I may add my own!

 plastering today 27 July 79?

   John & Glynis 2/1/77 - 4/1/77 + Simon?

26 June 2018

Dig: ups and downs

I hadn't been in the dig two Thursdays in a row. I was keen to see how our last round of blasting had gone! The previous round hadn't done much; I hoped this one would have. On the longest day of the year we gathered and went in. And this time the blast had done something, but still less than I had hoped. I chucked the rubble down and checked how much more I could crowbar down. Then I asked Miles to have a look. He first checked out what the lower regions were doing; there were some rocks coming down from somewhere. But where? And why?

He came up. He was wondering about one rock that looked like stuff was leaning on it. He prodded it and it moved. But he was afraid it would bring stuff down! We did the old trick of placing a crowbar in there, tying a rope to it, and pull it from a safe distance. It worked! In two attempts. So he went up to see what it had done. He managed to throw the rock down but it did knock his ankle. Oh dear!

When he came down I saw what rock it was that was moving, and thereby throwing stuff down. It seemed innocuous! So we ignored it. And it was already time to head out so we did. I dislodged a small rock on the way down, which hit Miles: this wasn't his day! Luckily it was a smallie.

When we came out it was still light. But that will soon be over! Luckily I like autumn too.

25 June 2018

Trying to learn to teach in Welsh

The Welsh Government wants one million people to speak Welsh by 2050. And one of the ways in which they are encouraging people to use (and not lose!) their language is by encouraging them to do (part of) their education in Welsh. So if you do, you get some money back. And we tend to have some two or so per cohort who do. And it's all up to my colleague Dei, who is the only member of academic staff who's a fluent Welsh speaker. And I want to add myself to that list! If he ever goes on a sabbatical or something, I could take over. But I don't feel ready yet. In fact, I feel like my Welsh is stalling. When can I use it? When I talk to Dei (no overly often), when I talk to some of the support staff (even less), when I go climbing (also not overly often I admit), and when I do my grocery shopping (when I say little more than 'hello' and 'there you are' and 'thanks' and 'bye'). So I need to work on this to get to the required level!

Jenny, my Tutor, was already on my case. She gave my name to a lady called Siân from the Canolfan Bedwyr, who support staff with such things. We agreed to meet and we had a chat on what she could do for me. I said I'd like to get practice lecturing and doing tutorials in Welsh. She had already arranged lecturing practice with three other academics (one of which had been in the same Welsh class so I knew him), and it was agreed that I would join them if my timetable allowed.

Regarding the tutorial we agreed I would prepare a tutorial, and she would be my tutees! Or at least pretend to. I do a spiel on plagiarism (llên-ladrad in Welsh) to my real tutees so I figured I translate that and go through it with her. It's tricky but it's fun! And it is interesting to find words for scientific terms in Welsh. The article I used as an example is about ice shelf retreat. My dictionary knows what an ice shelf is, but a grounding line? Not even the Canolfan Bedwyr website knows that! We'll see how I fare. I'm sure Siân won't know either as she is in an entirely different line of work!

 What do I think about the whole scheme of encouraging people to study in Welsh? Well, I like it, of course! I think it's weird, and not in a good way, that this country barely speaks its own language. But I'm not sure what the financial incentive will do. I suppose the idea is that Welsh kids tend to learn Welsh in school, but when they leave school the risk is that they don't use it anymore, and lose their skills. If they get paid to continue in Welsh and they do they will retain the language! But I suppose it will be the native language speakers that will take up the offer, not the learners. And I still think it's good that anyone can choose to do their education in their native language (said the Dutch woman who was mainly educated in English), and if that happens maybe that will help keep Welsh alive in the middle of society. But for me it would actually be better if it's the learner category that is attracted by the scheme: if it is Welsh nationalists they will probably think my Welsh isn't good enough. If they are kids who learned Welsh in school and continue for financial reasons, that would make it easier; they probably won't mind my non-fluent Welsh, and might even prefer it to the rapid fire of a native speaker. But this is getting ahead of things. Let's first have some practice!

23 June 2018

Staffing Open Days

Without students no university. Attracting new students is vitally important for any school! Open days are one of the ways of attracting them. And normally we have lots of peer guides to make these open days run smoothly. But the last time I sent the email out asking them to register for it, hardly any responded. Oh dear! I think this is due to the students generally going back to their parents over the summer. As soon as the exams are over they skedaddle! You can't blame them. But it left us with a problem. We have two open days over the summer. Now what?

We sent out a message to all postgraduates (MSc and PhD students). And all staff. We went properly scattergun! And it worked; after the Head of School added his voice to mine (not before, unfortunately) enough people came out of the woodwork. I hope it will go well! The thing is that peer guides are generally doing their MSc themselves, so they know what it's like to be a fresher at Ocean Sciences. But now we have lots of people with all walks of life! Lots who did their BSc somewhere else entirely, both inside and far outside the UK, and only have been here for a year. And a MSc is quite different from a BSc here! For instance, the BSc students are almost entirely taught in Bangor, while the MScs are almost entirely taught in Menai Bridge. Oh well! I'm sure all will do an amazing job! But it does show there's a flaw in the Peer Guide system. We sorted it now, but maybe we should think about how to tackle this in the future. A bit iffy to have to rely, in summer, on people who are generally away in summer!

21 June 2018

Laugharne: the final days

Katrien had decided there was no need for us (the geophysicists and me) to drive back on Sunday; by Saturday, our job would be done, and we could just as well go home. So after the day of surveying I had one more day of showing the students forams, and then the day of coring, and that would be it.

The second day of foram work went well as well! The tides were a bit awful so I would have to go into the field really early or really late. And as the technicians were extra busy too due to the shortened period (with similar amounts of work), they would come out of the field rather late, and so we would eat rather late. Sometimes dinner wasn't planned until half past nine! And that means not being able to go to bed early, and I don't function very well on little sleep. So I decided to go into the field late rather than early on the second day too! And the students were still keen and hard-working.

We even had dinner at a reasonable time, for achange. The drawback was that that meant we could reasonably go to the pub. I tend to not go there at all! But now I was running low on excuses. It it nice to mingle with the students. Except that the only student in the pub were working up their data. No mingling ensued! But I still ended up in bed later (and with more alcohol in my system) than on the other Laugharne days (let alone 'normal' days). I was tired the next day!

The coring day had some ups and downs. When we arrived on the scene the technicians had set up already, as they are used to do. But they looked resigned! It turned out there was an issue with the percussion drill. Oh dear. They tried to core anyway; after some fruitless efforts suddenly the drill came back to life, and drilled a barrel into the ground as if it was butter. Great! We thought. We jacked the thing out again, only to find the show hadn't come up. It had sheared clean off! And with the shoe, the cutter and the liner were gone too. The men managed to dig the liner out, but this barrel couldn't be used anymore. Luckily, they had a spare.

Trying the percussion drill

 They tried again. This time the whole thing came up! Great! But when we took the shoe off, we saw the thread had almost come off on this barrel too. Oh dear! You can't core without a barrel. So we had only one core section. On a good day, we get six! And in addition, it had started raining.

Weather deteriorating; mood staying fine!

Dei and Katrien did their geophysics thing while we pondered our options. We would just have them describe this section, but it might be better to break for lunch first. And so we did! We went to Laugharne proper and had a hot lunch. We wouldn't get hot dinner that day!

When we got back the sun was out again. Good! So we had the first group describe the core section. With only one to go around, they could go into quite some detail. I teamed up with Jaco for it, as he does description of modern sediments in the field, and he could now remind them of what they had seen. Was some of what they saw in the core the fossil remains of one of the environments they had seen at the surface?

 Core description (only one section, but what can one do)

Altogether, it took quite a while for all students to have done a description. The geophysicists were done earlier! We wrapped up and that was it. We drove back to the cottages; we didn't have enough drivers for Dei. Katrien and me scooting off now. We each drove a different vehicle back! I drove on the satnav, which sent me over the minutest country roads, so that took forever. Fortunately I had a nice student in my car so we had a good chat.

Back in the cottage we had some tea and a bite to eat, and too much discussion about the next episode of Laugharne, but shortly after six we set off. I had packed my bags and cleaned my cottage before going into the field that day. And at about ten I was home. I was tired! But I would have a whole Sunday to myself!

19 June 2018

Laugharne new style: surveying

Originally, I would travel up with the geophysicists on the Wednesday, then do my foram work on Thursday and Friday, then do core descriptions on the Saturday, and travel back on Sunday. Things went differently! Dei, the one geophysicist, had an interview for a position in the College of Natural Science on the Thursday. He would have to drive back for it! So he couldn't do his thing that day, and asked if we could swap. We could! I could do Wednesday and Friday. With my reduced assignment, I could fit it on a day that would start after the drive up. So I did! And then I thought I would have the Thursday off. Not so much! That day the students would survey a lot of transects across the estuary. They do that every year, so they can see if anything changes, and if yes, then what. Quite cool! But Suzie, who organises the whole field trip, wanted me to join the surveying. If I would, I would be able to supervise the surveying the year after. I needed to know what they did and how they did it! The last time I surveyed with that sort of equipment was eight years ago. One forgets!

I would join Suzie and her students, Charlie and Freddie, on what was known as line 4. We walked to the start of the line and started the survey. Suzie showed the students (and me). We we on the salt marsh; it was on the eroding side of the estuary, so it ended in a steep cliff. From the bottom of the cliff to the channel was steep, short and muddy. The channel looked big, deep, and fast! Oh dear.

We did a measurement on the channel edge and then it was time to try and cross. Suzie and Freddie would cross, and Charlie would take a measurement of the elevation on the other bank, and then we would cross too. So the two got into the channel. It got deep quickly! And then Freddie slipped and fell over, and was immediately swept away. Oh dear! He swam back to shore, and Suzie decided we should see if we could cross somewhere else. Freddie checked the contents of his bag (no damage worth mentioning) while Suzie slopped upstream through the mud.

Charlie taking notes while holding the surveying pole

Starting to cross the channel

She came back. It was as bad elsewhere! We would have to wait for the tide to go even further out. But I was scheduled to come out of the field early; a student had to go to the railway station, and I was the designated driver. Suzie figured maybe I should bring the girl a bit earlier, and then be back to pick Suzie and the students up a bit early too; it was rather windy, and there was a risk of them getting cold. So I was off, after having only surveyed a few meters. Oh well! I drove back, found the girl, waited for her to get ready, drove her to the railway station, and drove back to where I had come from. I saw some dots on the other side of the estuary; I figured that was them! I headed towards them. But after a while I saw dots on my side of the estuary too. That might be them instead! And it was. So no heroic river crossings for me! I brought Suzie back to the cottages (the students went in another vehicle) and that was my surveying adventure.

In the evening I tried to do some work (I have to review a book) and I helped Suzie with dinner. She hadn't sat down the whole day! She was cooking for nine while simultaneously teaching the students either Excel or Matlab. She's some sort of superwoman! But one that tends to be shattered at the end of the fieldtrip.

We ate late, as the technicians weren't back any earlier, and immediately after dinner I went to bed. In a way, a successful day!

18 June 2018

Laugharne new style: the first day

With the university apparently being continuously out of money there is continuous pressure to cut costs. And a 10 day residential field course is then the first place one would look. All that transport, all that accommodation! So it was decided that it should be only a week long. That's cheaper! But that means what we teach there has to be toned down. And as I am the biggest user of time, it was my stuff that had to be reduced.

I used to take the students into the field in the morning, to take surface samples in the salt marsh. Back at the cottages they would process the samples and put them in the oven to dry. Then after lunch they would be back to analyse them. They would pick 100 forams and identify them to species level. That takes a while! And I could take six students per day max. Otherwise it wouldn't fit into the improvised lab! If you then have high student numbers (our max is 39) you have to do many days. And you hope feverishly you have days with fewer than six students, as it's nice to be able to have at least a tiny amount of room to breathe.

Now I was given two days in total. In this case, it means I needed to do eight students per day, as we had a year with anomalously low student numbers. Eight is still a lot! I had to do it in the bigger cottage where we eat together. We could set up enough microscopes there. But you can't do the 'identify 100 forams' thing with so many students so I had made a plan (based on an idea of Katrien, who would have been in charge if my contract would not have been extended) that involved data from an earlier year, and the students only drawing the forams. That would only take a few hours!

Aside from what I did quite a lot of the field trip had stayed the same. It is quite nice; you get into the field every day, you get to know the students, you get to know your colleagues a lot better as you pretty much live together, and it's all very pleasant. And this year it was neither a wash-out nor a heat wave! So that was great.

The plans had been made, but now we had to actually do it. The first day was a bit weird; firstly, I had overslept; I woke up at the hour I should have met the people I would travel up with. I jumped into my clothes, threw my bags in the car and was off. No time to make a coffee! Luckily we had quite some margin. I met them, was given some stick (which I deserved) for being late, and off we went. We arrived in good time. There was time to bring the bags to the cottage, have a series of coffees, and get the microscopes ready. The cottage that used to be the microfossil lab, that I would still sleep in, now was some filtering lab. And a computer lab for Matlab and Excel purposes.

View from Crimea Pass early in the morning

The cottage and its new use

I was also again sharing the cottage with Tasha and her two dogs. They remembered me! And remembered I am easily persuaded to give them cuddles. Every time I went to or from the cottage I suffered death by love! That was great. 

When we went into the field I did my usual spiel. It went well! The students were interested and the weather was great. The tide was fine too. When we got back from the field I sieved one sample as an example; then I sent everyone away for lunch. And myself too!

The microscope work went well too. I had imagined some sort of musical chairs; have a sample per microscope, and have the students just move one microscope up every, say, 20 minutes. But the students suggested they just exchange samples. That was a good idea! They could leave their microscope set up to their demands, and it also meant they could swap as and when they were ready for it.

In a few hours they were done. I was happy with the new set-up! There was one student who was drawing the drawings I had provided rather than the forams themselves, but otherwise, all went well. A successful day! And I was tired but that was to be expected after a day that started at 4:45 (it should have been 3:50). I was now confident the rest of the trip would be fine too!

17 June 2018

Civilised on a Thursday Night

The previous week, I spent my Thursday Night upside down and in an uncomfortable position drilling holes in rocks in an uninviting corner of an abandoned slate mine. That's normal! This week was different. It was the end of the academic year, we had the External Examiners sweating away on assessing our curriculum, and their work was coming to an end. The School would take them for dinner, and I was invited. So I went!

I thought I had been invited as one of the examiners is Bill Austin, who is a foraminifera man who I had met before in St Andrews when I had been there on tephra business, and for proper foraminifera reasons. But he wasn't coming! He is from North Wales so if he's around he has more important people to meet. But the others, Paul and Dave, were there, as well as the David, the Head of School; Hilary, the exam officer; and Martin, who will take over from Hilary when she retires this summer.

It was a bit strange to be eating nice food in Dylan's on a Thursday night! But it was nice. The externals are nice chaps and the locals are nice too. And I am a bit of a basic cook, so eating in a fancy restaurant once in a while is a nice break from habit. And I do get to dine with Martin every year in Laugharne, but I never dine with David or Hilary.

A disadvantage was that I decided to go on my slow bike; I didn't want to leave the fast one outside for hours, and I didn't want to walk back to the office to retrieve a bike either. And a fairly heavy meal with wine to go with it isn't the best preparation for a bike ride! So I was home a bit late. But not as late as I often am on a typical Thursday Night...

NB this post got left behind! It pertains to Thursday the 7th and would probably have been posted on the 12th if all had gone as usual...

Rare climbing

I hadn't been climbing much recently! One night I had an appointment with the plumber, and one day I had some work stuff going on late and it would have been a right hurry to make it. So it had been three weeks! But I could make it out again. We would go to Gwern Gof Isaf. I had been there before, in August 2016, but that never made it to the blog. It was a hot day in Menai Bridge, so I expected sunburn and midges, but when I got to the campsite it was very windy. Soon I was wearing long trousers and a jacket! Who would have thought. And no midge was to be seen.

The crag with Tryfan in the background

Tony (who we hadn't seen for a while) and Eifion rigged two pitches. When the first was ready, Janet tried to climb it. It wasn't easy! I think it was 'Bulge'. Then the second was ready and I tried that; that was more doable. Not sure what this one was; Canol? Llech?

Janet (left) and me trying the routes. Pic by Eifion

Eirian and Charlotte tried it too but weren't feeling it. They weren't all that keen on the Bulge either. So while the men were trad climbing around the corner, Janet and I swapped routes. Then the men reappeared.

They didn't like how the rope caught on the easier of the routes; it gets stuck in the crack. They both just did the Bulge while I de-rigged the other route. Then I could take all out! It hadn't been a long climbing night, and I had only done two routes, but the company was good, the weather lovely, and no midge to be seen. No complaints!

Eifion on the Bulge

 Almost there!

16 June 2018

Last hike with the Americans

It had been while since I had seen Jeff, Julie and Eleanor! Life kept getting in the way. But I wanted to see them before they would leave so I suggested the Sunday after the Ceiling day. And they were available!

When they showed up we first had a coffee in the garden. That was nice! The we went to Mynydd Llandygai to pick up a public footpath into the empty land next to the quarry. It was nice!

The path through the quarry has been closed, and we ended up on a sheep trail, and had to bushwhack back to a path. But it was pretty! And nice weather.

The quarry from close up

 The quarry from far away

On the way back we went past the Londis for sandwiches, and had lunch in the garden. I had texted Jeff the day before to say I had had a swim in the river, and that we could all do that after a sweaty walk if we wanted. It wasn't half as hot that day than the day before, but Eleanor had planted the thought of a swim in her head, and it wasn't coming out. She had brought all the paraphernalia! A swimsuit, a swimming cap, even goggles. So we were giving it a try!

She put her foot in the water and thought it was cold. But she wanted to do it! So we went through quite a cycle of her saying she wanted to swim, but that she couldn't do it, and that she thought some spot a few meters on would be better, where she would proclaim that she wanted to swim, but that she couldn't do it, etc etc. But in the end she did it! I made sure I was always downstream of her as the current is quite strong, but all went well! Jeff and Julie weren't up for it. But they made us a cup of tea for afterwards. Nice!

Soon they will be flying back to the states. I will miss them! But who knows. Maybe I'll one day come their way!

15 June 2018

Underneath the garden

On quite a lot of old maps, including the one I placed on the blog, you can see a Mill Race on the map, running parallel to the river, on 'my' side. A mill race is basically a divertion of a natural waterway for hydropower purposes; the idea is that you build a weir, divert the water into a narrow channel so it speeds up, and which then powers a waterwheel. Behind the waterwheel you let your mill race drain back into the waterway it came from. There was no sign anymore of the weir in the river, at least not that I had seen; I had assumed the mill race was gone too. Until I went swimming in the river. And saw a tunnel go underneath my garden. I went back to get boots, trousers, gloves and my helmet to have a look. It was the mill race! It was easily high enough to stand for about five meters. After that, it gets too low to even crawl underneath, at least for a few tens of centimeters. It goes in two directions, even! I didn't see that on any map. It looks like both branches get a bit higher after the initial tight bit!

I had no idea my garden is hollow! I think there may be more lurking underneath. Somewhere landward of the mill race as indicated on the map, small holes appear in my lawn, that look like the topsoil is falling through gaps between the slate it is lying on. Maybe that's the branch going off to the left! Luckily the mill race looks structurally sound. It's quite exciting to have my garden straight on top of such industrial heritage!

A black hole! What's this? 

Above it is my garden

What it looks like on the inside

Looking out 

The mill race (or rather, by the looks of it, only the above-ground part of it) on the map. My house (and that of the neighbour - they're connected) is the J-shaped one to the left of the slate yard

14 June 2018

In the river

Taking down a ceiling is dusty work. Bringing the broken plasterboard to the recycling centre on a scorching hot day is a sweaty job. So after having done both I was in need of some refreshment. But fortunately, I have a river flowing at the bottom of my garden. So I decided to have a dip! And it was great! I felt revived afterwards. I will be doing this more often this summer!

13 June 2018

Next ceiling down

After helping me with The Big Ceiling, Phil was willing to help with the next one, in the landing, too. He appeared in the morning. I had got the room ready! It was empty, except for a ladder, a plank and a tarp. The ladder and the plank were for covering the staircase, and the tarp was for catching all the rubble.

We faffed a bit with the ladder and the plank; in the end we used the plank from the ladder platform. Then we covered everything with the tarp. And then we could start!

The first breach 

This time Phil was only about twice as fast as I was. I suppose that might have been because this plaster board hadn't been plastered; that meant it had less strength, and came off under my weight. We made good progress!

After a while we had a coffee break. Phil had pulled such dusty bits down we couldn't breathe! We had the coffee in the garden; while we were there, the neighbour (not Alan; the one on th eother side) addressed me. It was nice to meet her! She wanted to prune a tree that was growing in my garden and had started to hang its branches in hers. No problem! And she spoke (was) Welsh!

Pulling down big slabs (and releasing lots of dust)

After coffee we finished the ceiling job. This went so well!

I wondered if I would need insulation between the beams. Phil said I probably didn't. He said thin insulation wouldn't do much, and thick insulation would hide the beams. So I intend to leave this ceiling as is! With the electricity cable tucked away a bit more neatly, though. The unsightly spaghetti we uncovered is not here to stay!

The fnished ceiling! I think that cross beam will have to go too...

After we had pulled everything down we chucked the plasterboard in buckets, put the buckets in my car, and emptied the small bits from the tarp into a bucket too. Sorted! We then swept, hoovered and mopped the floor. It was starting to look again like the joiner had left it!

On request, Phil helped me take out the carpet from the living room, try to get as much dust out as we could, and then put it back. I would take out the buckets to the recycling centre on my own. Phil had to go and pick up his son!

We had only been a few hours! It had been such a productive morning. And this was the dustiest jobs done now! I could go and clean up now. It seemed so futile after the first round of dust-creating; I knew I would do it again. It felt really good to have this job over with! Thanks Phil! I'll come and work in your garden some day soon to repay the favour...

12 June 2018

Garden update

The edible things I planted in the garden aren't doing much. The edible things that were already there are gearing up for a bumper crop, though! I can see the for now still green berries (gooseberries and, I think, red currants) and plums getting ready to ripen, and there are embryonic apples on the tree. I look forward to being able to eat lots of fruit from my own garden! Thanks, Rose!

NB the pictures were taken on June 3rd; it already looks different now! But there's so much happening the blog is lagging a bit behind real life...

Berries of some sort!



These will be apples

And there's also good news on the non-edible front; I planted some succulents rather early on. And they are doing well! They seem to be thriving and spreading. Excellent!

 One of the clumps of succulents that looks rather like it did when I planted it

Its neighbour; it clearly has expansion in mind!

11 June 2018

Book read: mixed verdict

I read a Dutch book again. It was written by some chap who had been living in Syria in the years before the war. I thought that was interesting; a nice balance between an insider and outsider view on a country that would soon develop into a tragic war zone. So I gave it a go!

My opinion is a bit mixed. It was indeed interesting, but the writer pissed me off no end within 50 pages. He describes some bloke is hitting on him, and then he immediately draws the conclusion the guy may well be a paedophile. What?? Since when is homosexuality and paedophilia the same thing? What world does the writer live in?

I did continue. It did stay interesting, but I remained a bit wary. I wasn't too keen on his behaviour towards women either. I know Syria might not be a society in which you can exercise a healthy view on women as citizens, as society as a whole doesn't see them like that; most women are kept well away from him. I thought, though, that this bloke takes things a bit far in the other direction; if he encounters a women anywhere he seems to go straight into sexual pursuit mode, without much further thought. When the secret services tap into that and have some horny woman phone him he initially falls straight into their trap. Surprise, surprise!

And Syria? Well he did give an interesting insight into day-to-day life in these fairly inconspicuous days before the outbreak of the civil war. The religious differences, the view people of different religious persuasions have of each other, the relationship he has with his landlords, how you get things done, and all such things. So do I recommend it? Well, no, I just can't get over his offensive remarks. But if you're not sensitive to such things and you want to read about Syria then do go ahead!

10 June 2018

Roof trouble

I started to make a slot in the ceiling for the electrician. I started in the hall; there I noticed some droplets hanging there. Hm! Leakage? Condensation? It's not good, either way. But fortunately not severe either.

Then I moved to the master bedroom. There I started making a slot too! And I noticd the wallpaper just below the ceiling was loose, so I pulled that off. And quite some plastering came along. Oh dear! That's not good. It looked like there had been water ingress. The plastering had small gullies in! And muck had got between plastering and the underlying stuff. Hm!

I think that means the connection between old house and extension leaks a tiny little bit. The extension has been there for decades, and the damage is slight; that means the problem can't be big. But I will need to tackle it! So, yet again, more work to do. Or to pay someone else to do. Oh dear!

The plaster turned over; notice the gullies

The slightly damp top of the wall

09 June 2018

Sunday scamper

Between all the ceiling-focussed hours I decided I should go and do a bit of enjoying the environment! So after some obligatory ceiling work I put on some sturdy boots and set off. I wanted to go somewhere I would have a view on the quarry! And I did. It was very nice! I had lunch, staring at the waste tips and little cabins and whatnot. I didn't go very far; I was home 2.5 hours later, but it had been good. A nice dose of landscape magic to recharge, so then I could go back to the grind of house work!

\The tips

Handsome goats

View into the valley from high up

The big tips from above

Little building on tip

Succesful planting (and lack thereof)

One of the first thing I had done when I had a garden was plant vegetables. And after a while, the radishes came up. No sign of the carrots, potatoes, leek, or Brussels sprouts! Oh dear. And then the slugs found the radishes and ate them. So my vegetable raised bed looks convincingly like an empty raised bed.

A bit after the planting the veg I had made one raise bed smaller; it needed to make some space for a path to the gate. So I moved it back a considerable distance, put some extra slate slabs down, and then had some extra empty soil  left over. And I figured that needed to become part of the lawn. And that requires grass! So I bought grass seed and planted it. And that came up! Success! I can grow something!


08 June 2018

Ceiling work for the electrician

The electrician needed access to the ceilings in the extension! And I had better make that happen. So on a sunny Sunday I started with the hallway. After not too much time I had a nice channel for him! And this time I had closed all the doors (except the front door) and put a sheet down, so tidying up afterwards was a doddle. I also started on the master bedroom, but the sun was shining in and it was too hot a job. I left that for a bit! The electrician won't be there all too soon.

The master bedroom is sizeable, and I don't want to put a new ceiling in, so I think I'll just fill the gap with some wood I might have lying around, or something. But the hallway is small; I might very well take the entire plasterboard out and replace it with a piece of flame-retardant MDF. I like wood better but well, what can one say, I suppose it's a good idea to keep the risk of the house going up in flames low. And getting it shouldn't be difficult; there's even a builder's merchant up the road. They probably have stuff like that! I could just go and get it on foot...

The slot in the hallway

Seen from the outside

07 June 2018

Don't sand; wash!

I had tried the sanding machine Rose had left me. Blimey that thing is a beast! It has only one setting: Armageddon. I realised immediately that this might be a sound that would permeate into the neighbour's house. So the next time I saw him I brought the subject up. He had indeed heard it! So I agreed to not do any sanding in the evenings to keep the neighbourly peace. But he came up with another reason not to sand (yet); he suggested I first wash off the whitewash. Just with water. He said I would sand it into the wood if I left it there! And this would be yet another step in the endless ceiling saga, but well, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. And washing is something I can do at all hours!

I got started. As the whitewash hadn't come off with the wallpaper steaming, I thought it would be quite well stuck to the wood. but it wasn't! It came off quite well. And it does make the beams look a lot better! Maybe I don't have to do an awful lot of sanding. And that's good! It's a terrible job. The machine is too powerful and very noisy and the vibrations are unpleasant on the hands and it's very dusty and you need to wear goggles as the dust is awful on your eyes, and you need a dust mask as you don't want to breathe it in either, and I want to cover my hair as otherwise it would accumulate too much dust, and altogether you feel like a bomb disposal expert in the desert heat, and the dust gets into the rest of the house too and it's all very unpleasant. A bit of washing is OK! And the difference is remarkable. I might do a double wash to get these beams as nice as they can be without sanding. And then maybe I don't have to do an awful lot of it!

After one wash they already look a lot better!

Weekly run

I have lived in the new house for almost two months now, and I haven’t put up any running pictures! Unforgivable! Time to redeem myself. 

I now only run once a week. The biking takes too much time! And I have been running variations of the same run; along the bicycle pathtowards Ogwen Cottage. It’s beautiful! And this time I brought a camera. I can get used to this!