31 July 2018

Making a start in the Knotweed war

I had been wondering about my knotweed. It's not doing any harm, but it made my mortgage lender wonder seriously if they should provide the mortgage. It's clearly a serious matter! One day I might want to sell this house. Not anytime soon, but still. By the time I do there should be no knotweed anymore! But what to do about it?

Should I try to make Natural Resources Wales deal with it? They're not keen. It's not their land; it's nobody's land. And I suppose they have got their budget cut like all other government-funded bodies.

Should I pay the bloke Rose had on board to do it? Not sure; he clearly didn't get rid of it.

Should I pay some official knotweed removal company to do it? These can be very, very expensive.

And what would the NRW, or this bloke called Eric, or an official company really do? Probably spray or inject with Round-up. It seems to be the thing to do. I am against spraying; the poison would get into the river. So injecting then. But couldn't I do that myself?

When Marieke was here she suggested we start trying to do something about it, so we spent sometime googling. And in the end we decided I just buy an injection set and tackle it myself. Rose had left me a big container of Round-up! And the injector wouldn't arrive until she would be gone but at least the plan was there.

And then it arrived! But well, life got in the way, so I hadn't done anything yet when Wim and Joke arrived (as I keep saying: more about that in a later post!). Typical! The same as the whole sawing down trees business. So when Wim and Joke decided to spend  a day helping me with the house, and Wim attacked the trees, Joke went off on a knotweed killing spree. She liked injecting stuff, she said. And off she went.

She did manage to bend several needles. I hope I manage to avoid that when I give it a go! It's not as if you can buy knotweed needles in every cornershop...

The idea of injecting the plants, btw, is that the poison gets into the roots, as it is these you want to get rid of. So it's not like the leaves immediately start to droop. You pretty much only know how well you've done after seeing how much comes up the next year! So I'll have to wait. I might in the meantime attack the clump that stands upriver; it's quite far from my house, but when I have the kit anyway, I may as well use it. That way I can finally be of use to my ever helpful neighbour!

My killing machine

Joke with the killing machine, and Wim with the saw

30 July 2018

Take the excess wood off

The ceiling beams in my landing had all sorts of extra bits of wood nailed to them. No idea why! But as all that is now visible, it had to go. So I got onto my step ladder one Satuday and had a go. These Victorians do rather good nails! As in, they stay put really well. They do tend to get a bit brittle, though, in my experience. I pulled most of the bent-over bits off! But with sufficient violence you can then prise the bit of wood over the remains of the nail. I managed to get it all off! More firewood, I presume. And the ceiling is one step closer to being finished!

On this stretch of beam you can just see the ghosts of three unneccessary wood bits

One piece was nailed against the planks, not the beams

When it was all off! 

29 July 2018

More trees to firewood

When I had removed the ash tree that isn't an ash tree (the neighbour says it's a sycamore, but it doesn't have flaky bark; after some pondering I think I just mistranslated 'esdoorn'. It's a maple!) I had seen there were more trees standing around there. One was actually a sneaky extra trunk of the maple that had grown horizontally along the ground for a bit, and thereby escaped my attention. But not for long! And one is a hawthorn (according to the neighbour), and there was an oak, and something unidentified tree that probably actually IS an ash. I figured I'd leave the hawthorn for now, but the rest had to go to improve my view.

On a Saturday I went down and took down the maple trunk with my trusted saw. It is what I have seen referred to as a plane saw, and I fear it's not really a good one. So the sawing is a bit of a pain! But the trunk wasn't thick. And the oak also succumbed to my inadequate saw. Then I had a look at the ash. It was so thick I didn't want to do it with the saw I had! So I left that for now.

When I mentioned it to the nighbour, he lent me his bow saw. But I didn't get round to using it until Wim and Joke appeared (again; more on that in a separate blog post). Wim felt like taking the ash down. And he did! In not much time. And cut it into firewood.

I now only have the hawthorn left. I might keep it! It's a nice tree, and they tend not to grow too big. And if I ever reconsider I can always cut it down then! But at least the view is a lot less impeded now!

The only tree on this side left standing!

No more satellite dish

When I bought the house I already figured I would take the dish off the facade. It's an ugly thing! And I don't use them, as I don't watch TV. But other things had more priority.

Then one day I decided to go for it anyway. I plonked the ladder against the house and had a wiggle. Of course the nuts wer rather rusty! That means you have to use a lot of force. While standing on a ladder. Hm. So I decided to take one easily undone bolt out, then put in a bolt with hanger, attach  myself to it, and then try again. But the neighbour walked past, saw me be difficult, and offered to give me a hand. He is a retired house painter; he's spent half his life on ladders. He had the bloody thing off in no time!

The house looks a lot better now! One trip to the recycle centre and there's hardly a trace left of the ugly thing. Great!

27 July 2018

Surprise concert

There are advantages and disadvantages to living next door to a cultural centre. The good thing is, of course, that if you want culture you don't have to travel far for it. I had already been to a play and a film (which I did not blog about - oh dear). And Dilwyn, the manager, keeps telling me to come to all the gigs. I'm not much of a gig person! I'd rather go to bed early.

Dilwyn is a nice chap, but that is not the only reason why he keeps inviting me (for free, even); he is worried about the noise levels. The hall isn't very well sound-insulated. So I can often enjoy the music inside my house. Or perhaps hear it without enjoying it. The neightbour says that Rose had a habit of storming up there in her dressing gown to tell them to turn the music down. Dilwyn senses a new era! If he can keep me in the hall during concerts I can't complain about them. So far I haven't taken up his offers.

When I had bumped into him recently he told me about a gig by a bunch of Congolese septagenerians on the day Wim and Joke would arrive. I told his I figured I would thus have other things to do. He just invited all three of us! But Wim and Joke (more on their visit in separate blog posts) weren't keen. We had a nice cup of tea and they went to their accommodation.

A bit later there was a knock at the door. Dilwyn! With a noise meter. And a charming smile. WOuld I come see the end of the concert? And I thought 'why not' as the music sounded good. So I followed him! He asked me what I wanted to drink, and fetched me a Glaslyn. And I went in! And the band was amazing! Very catchy music, and they had marvellous dance moves too. And the room was full, and almost everybody was dancing. They had to crowd in their hands! Who would have thought. I was glad I went! This was great, and I should go more often, and support the local cultural scene! And the bands that bring the vibe. Whatever unexpected band that will be next time!

26 July 2018

Recce-ing for the new fieldwork

Anglesey is internationally recognised for its fascinating geology. And we, as the school of Ocean Sciences, are based on Anglesey. So why are we not making more of it? We decided we should. So this autumn we will run a new fieldwork module for the 1st years. But that also means we should get organised quickly! So with those on the cards to teach this module, and here some guests, we would use three days to have a recce.

The first day we had the four instructors: Dei, Jaco, Suzie and me. And a guy called Garry who had, I think, been a geology lecturer but had now moved to an administrative role. And two work experience students from nearby secondary schools.

We went to Lligwy beach, as Devonian Old Red Sandstone is exposed there. Garry knew a lot about it. It was great! Then we went to Llanbadrig, near the church, as there should be Precambrian melange exposed there. Melange is basically lots of different lithologies in random order; you get them in subduction zones. All sorts of things get sucked into the oceanic trench, and not necessarily in order. Bits just fall down! Or get squeezed out. And the melange indeed was there, but it wasn't very easy to see. We then tried to find stromatolites in a nearby limestone quarry. The limestone was one of the random blobs of lithology that had ended up in the trench. We didn't find them. So we think we'll skip Llanbadrig, but we'll certainly go to Lligwy Beach.

Garry and Dei admiring the ORS

Llanbadrig Church

The quarry from a distance

The next day we went to Porthwen; that had melange too. (In addition to a nice brickworks). This time we didn't have Garry, or Suzie, but we did have our old dean Colin. He is a treasure trove of knowledge too! When we walked up we saw the white blobs sticking out of the otherwise flattish landscape. The flat bits were schist; the blobs would mostly be quartzite, as it's very hard, but there was a rumour of marble blobs too. We bushwhacked like there was no tomorrow but we didn't find the marble. 

Then we walked on to where you could see Ordovician conglomerates lying unconformably on the quartzite. You're likely to find that really cool if you're a geo-nerd! Porthwen it will be, for the Precambrian. We then tagged on a trip to Rhosneigr, for Precambrian granite, and some more Ordovician clastics. We had to wrestle our way past horses and Hornfels, but we got our granites! The oldest in situ rocks on Anglesey. The granite doesn't come from the trench.

Some bushwhacking while looking for nice outcrops

Amlwch, and a grass fire, in the distance

Colin is slightly confused by a horse. Dei checks the BGS app.

Black mudstones on Rhosneigr beach; click for big version so you can see the sandstone layers. 

The last day it was only me, Dei and the schoolboys. The latter were from Welsh schools so we did the entire day in Welsh! That was cool. We went to Llanddwyn Island. I'd been there soon after coming to Wales, and then several times later too. It's very pretty, and has again lots of Precambrian stuff. This time we had pillow lavas!

Pillow lavas near Llandwyn. Points for who can spot Dei.

Pretty plants

Llanddwyn never fails to charm

Geologically irrelevant but artistic mussles 

We saw great rocks again; this time with dykes cutting through. We had lunch on the tip of the peninsula. Which was unfortunate for me, as I had left my lunch in our vehicle! The previous days we had always eaten near the car. But Llanddwyn is different. Luckily, Dei was willing to share his lunch with me! 

After Llanddwyn we tried to find some nearby late Carboniferous, but we didn't find them spectacular enough for the fieldtrip. Then we looked at the blueschist the Marquess of Anglesey stands on. And then we went back! 

We will have to do more recces. We now have the Precambrian and the Devonian covered, but what about the Cambrian and Carboniferous? But it's clear this module could get rather marvellous!

Dr Li

I tend to have lunch with whatever people reside in the office obliquely below me. It's a tradition that somehow started! And it's nice. The inhabitants change but the new ones are always friendly.

There used to be a Chinese woman in there: Jingnan. And of course she was nice! But  she worked hard, and finished her PhD thesis. I had the honour of proof-reading one of her chapters.  And then went back to China. She had to; visa reasons!

She would come back for her graduation. And her ex-office mates had organised a dinner for her. And I went! It was good to see her again.

She now works for a commercial company, and has something to do with forecasting typhoons. A worthy cause! But it sounded like hard work. But now she wasn't thinking about that; she was with us, celebrating her achievements!

25 July 2018

Scott Snowdonia 10k

I haven't raced for ages. I suppose I was distracted! And I even haven't run much recently. After suddenly having a rather long commute I ditched my pre-work run. I mean, there's only so much time one wants to spend on exercise. One has to hold down a day job too! So I ended up only running once a week. And not necessarily very far.

When I was hunting for houses I was initially rather infatuated by a little cottage on the outskirts of Llanberis. And it got so far I decided to register for the Scott Snowdonia 10k 2018 as it may be on my doorstep. Waiting to find out whether I would actually end up with that house seemed unwise; it tends to get sold out. But well, it's a nice race, so no harm done if I would end up somewhere entirely different!

I picked up my race number the day before. Much better than the previous time, when I had to get it on the day, but hours before the start! On the day itself I got into my running kit, pinned on the race number, and got into my car. Just in case I had my bike in the boot. Llanberis is awful for parking, and it would be extra bad with this race going on! It's not just the 10k; they have a half marathon, full marathon and an ultra on the same day. I may not manage to park near the start!

I tried to park on one of the big car parks but it was full. I then drove out of town, intending to just park it at the first opportunity, and bike back. And the first opportunity was in front of the aforementioned cottage! It had a 'sold' sign in the garden now. Cool!

I biked back and bumped into the start of the half marathon. We would only start half an hour later! I thought our start was 10:00 but it was 10:15. I could have had 15 mins more in my house! Oh well. I lay down on the grass and contemplated life.

Then the start happened. Off we were! We ran out of town. It was steeper than I had remembered! I took it easy. I was badly trained! But it was a great day for a race; very dry underfoot, and although a bit hot it wasn't too bad. I was on my rather worn road shoes so I would have been hopeless on mud.

At the start

The sweaty bloke in the red shorts and the black leggings carries a French flag! It helped; later that day the French would win the World cup. 

No, I don't know what that motorcycle is doing there either. 

Heading for Llanberis again 

Official race pic

The first part went rather fast; in my mind, anyway. It was nice too; the views were stunning! And the return to Llanberis was over the road this time; the previous time we had had to wrestle through a field of ferns. Not now! And then we were off across the valley and up on the other side. That's known as the vertical 1k. And it is steep! Most of it is stairs. Most people (at least at my position in the race) walked. Me too. And I was happy I had water with me. I drank quite a lot! But it was hardly my good idea; bringing water was compulsory.

Then the route finally went downhill again. That was a lot more comfortable than the previous time; now the route was dry and thus not so slippery. And I still don't do the steep bits fast. But at some point the road became not-so-steep and then I could just spend the energy I had left. In the final 100m or so I overtook a lady I had run up with for a fair distance, but who had been faster on the steep downhill bit. And then I finished! With a time of 1:13:21. Two minutes slower than the previous time! Oh dear. And the funny thing was too that my overall position was better than my category position. Are there really fast women over 35 running this race? This only happened twice before: at the Leeds Xmas challenge and my first Penrhyn Parkrun.

Almost at the top now!

View over Llanberis

Done it!

I was glad for the energy drink, bananas and bits of chocolate they had at the finish. And I got me a medal and a shirt. Then I was done! Time to go home and do chores! I think I should register for a few more. It's fun! Even after too little training...

24 July 2018

Trying a different commute

The first time I rode to work, I rode back with my Welsh class mate Sue who suggested a different route. I was trying to keep up with her, it was dark, I lost her somewhere along the way and we ended up doing the last bit on the A5. Not ideal! But recently I wanted to pop by a DIY shop on the way home to buy linseed oil, and that was a good opportunity to retry her route; this time, knowing where I was going, and in daylight.

The bit between the port that was the endpoint of the old railway and the DIY shop is a bit dull as it runs along the main road. But soon after you end up on the old road. It's very, very quiet; in the middle it's blocked for cars, so only pedestrians and bikes go there. And not many of those! It's rather nice. The drawback is that you approach the A55 a bit higher, and then go undeneath anyway, on a clunky concrete road. That's my least favourite bit! But then later you end up on the (quiet) road to Tregarth and it's all very idyllic. It does have some stretches where you are riding on the pavement along the A5; that's not ideal as some bits are badly maintained and mayhold lots of puncture-causing surpises; the imperfect maintenance also leads to nettles and brambles and such sometimes reaching over the path, and biking along the A5 in general is unpleasant. But you get these lovely stretches of empty road! I'll be doing this more often. It even feels like less hard work. Certainly it is slightly shorter!

Thanks Sue, without you I would not easily have come up with this route!

23 July 2018

A strange beam

My ceiling had looked quite logical. It was a plasterboard ceiling with two beams underneath it running across. That is; one beam, and one thing that pretended to be a beam. The pretend beam held a gas pipe. The real beam seemed to have something to do with providing support for the staircase.

When I removed the plasterboard, I also removed the fake beam. The plumber is lined up to move the pipe so it runs along the wall, rather than slap bang through the middle of the room. But the real beam was still there. It had gone underneath the plasterboard, so also underneath the wallpaper. But that was a bit of an issue, as that meant you couldn't easily remove either plasterboard or wallpaper from between the new beam and the old beams.

I wandered if I should just try to cut off the plasterboard and wallpaper straight, and plonk a little decorative wood moulding over it. But it's not easy to do that. You can't really get to it very well! And when I went and had a try, I ended up taking out the entire plasterboard. And I think I'll proceed that way. I may well just add wood moulding afterwards anyway! It looks a bit odd; a varnished beam, then some 1.5 cm, and then a Victorian beam. But we'll see! It's still a bit of a work to remove all of it! And I will have to try to saw off the nails. I won't have to be bored anytime soon!

On the left the gap is cleared; on the right, plasterboard and wallpaper remains

22 July 2018

Trying oil on the ceiling

The ceiling beams have been exposed and washed. But now what? I need to put something on them that makes them look better and makes it easier to get stuff like paint off them. (The plan is to have plasterboard between the beams, and that needs painting.) But what? I did a bit of light googling. The neighbour had recommended varnish, but I thought his beams looked a bit too glossy. I was pondering wax or oil. And the googling made me decide on trying boiled linseed oil. It does the job, is easy to apply, quite affordable and it doesn't give too much shine. So one day I decided to bike home past the Screwfix and buy some.

When I got home I looked for a suitable inconspicuous bit where I could try the stuff out. I settled on a small beam near the fireplace. And applied the oil with the nearest cloth I had available. And I think it looks OK! So I think I'll proceed with it. So the next phase has started!

21 July 2018

With great bike should come great pump

As my new bike is a proper road bike, it has narrow rims, and thus it has Presta valves. I haven't had much to do with these before! I tend to prefer Schrader ones, and as long as you ride mountain bikes that's fine. But I did have all required adapter thingies so I figured I should be OK.

I struggled with the valves. On the back wheel I just struggled to get the tyre to pressure. I use my hand pump; I have a floor pump too, but that's made for Dunlop valves, and wasn't adjustable. So I would need two adapters (Presta to Schrader, Schrader to Dunlop) and that didn't sound like a good idea. The front wheel things were worse; I used an adapter there too, but if I tried to remove it after inflating a tyre the adapter would take the valve with it. That's no good! I was wondering what I was doing wrong.

During lunch I was moaning about that I didn't get along with my valves. People started blaming the pump. I suppose I had been blaming myself, but well, sometimes it IS just the tools that are to blame. How are you supposed to get a tyre to 100 psi (which seems to be recommended) with a small hand pump? Jaco showed me his pump. That looked more executive! So after lunch I asked him if I could borrow it. I could, and man did that make a difference. I effortlessly got my tyres back to pressure (I settled for 60 psi; I don't need them really racing hard) and ordered a pump myself. I will keep my hand pump for taking with me; it's small and light, and it does high enough pressure to get you home after having had a puncture. And then I can use the other one for topping up at home! My commute had just become better!

20 July 2018

The electrician makes progress

After that one day the electricians were working in my house I didn't see them again. I knew they were not sure of what to do with the floorboards, but there was a lot more work they could do. These tradespeople! You never know when they come and go.

I did phone my joiner about the floorboards. He came to have a look. He didn't see what the problem was! The living room has modern(ish) chipboard floorboards. If you need to get past them you just saw a hole in them. So I got back to the electrician, telling him to just saw a hole in them. He said OK. The problem seems to be that these boards break quite easily, but they are also quite cheap. If they break, just replace them.

Then I came home on a Friday and the electricians had clearly come back. Lots of cables went where they hadn't before! This is moving. Now I need to get the stove people, the plumber and a plasterer in gear as well, and then all is rolling. The stove people have said they'll be back soon; the plumber had forgot to send me a quote, but when I reminded him twice he did anyway; and I got a number for a plasterer from Phil, which I will call next week as he seems to be on holiday now. I hope it will all progress in the near future! I hope things have calmed down by the time autumn falls...

19 July 2018

Finding the way in Cwm

It was one of those non-digging nights. But it would be Cwm anyway! The Thursdaynighters had acquired a new member recently who I hadn't met yet: Kate, and she was getting ready for starting a job as a trip assistant at Go Below. The trip leader leads the way (what's in a name), but if someone gets scared or has some other reason to come out then the trip assistant has to make that happen. So it's important that they know the way around as well. And as a preparation for the job they get to join trips so they know the route, but learning to find your way around is always more efficient if you navigate yourself. So she had requested that. And we obliged!

There weren't many of us: David, Jason, Brian, Don, Kate and me. We went up and in. And we kept our mouths shut while Kate navigated! We pretended not to know anything. It went well! And sometimes we just explored unusual bits as Kate wanted to know the context as well.

We pretty much did the usual round trip. It was nice, though! And the mine was starting to make a lot more sense to Kate. A good night! And I was home before midnight!

18 July 2018

Into the field with school children

Some time ago I got a request from my colleague Lynda; could I help out when she would be taking  schoolkids around Cwm Idwal? I could. I assumed I would get more information closer to the time.

I phoned her two days in advance. At least I needed to know what time to be where! But more information would be nice. How many children, were they all doing geography A levels, that sort of stuff. Lynda didn't quite know. But at least we had a logistic plan. The coach that would bring them would, of course, come through Bethesda, so it would just stop at the bus stop and pick me up. So I stood there at the agreed time, with my lunch in my bag. And the coach appeared right on time.

In the coach I was filled in on the details. The children were not A level students as we thought, but had just done GCSEs; they were about 15 or 16. We had 23 on the morning, but would have a lot more in the afternoon! And they were from different schools, but all from Cheshire, and they were would be doing all kinds of A levels. They had a whole week at university; they had already visited psychology, for instance. And Welsh. And it was all something to do with a community service scheme in which the children would not only familiarise themselves with universities, but also do charity work and outdoor activities. It sounded cool!

The children seemed not to know what they were in for. They seemed to not have been briefed! Many were in miniskirts and the like. Not many jackets on show! But at least no flip-flops or heels. Lynda was quite miffed at the low level of organisation; she had told to organisers precisely waht she wanted these kids to wear, bring and expect. That information seemed not to have reached them! But well, we had to make do with what we had.

We decided to keep the group intact and just do the trip together. We also had two student guides, and a few organisers. We knew it would be busy in the valley; the university would have another large group in there (of PhD students from all over the country) and there clearly were primary schools in there, and families, and dog walkers, and whatnot.

Lynda and I took turns explaining things about what's to see there regarding the geology and geomorphology. And how it ties in to history. Darwin did fieldwork there! But the group had several really slow people in it and we did go all around the lake, but by doing that we were back at the bus too late. Oh dear!

Getting ready for a selfie

If you have a lake, then use it!

When the bus had left we had lunch on a bench. After a while the people who would lead the PhD students around arrived, and we had a nice chat. It was an unfortunate thing these trips were on the same day! Lynda and I could have done with more staff, but these were all already booked by the other trip. But then the PhD students appeared and our colleagues vanished.

Who didn't vanish were loads of kids who were gathered where we were. I am not keen on groups of children swirling around me, but I was OK; Lynda was suffering a lot more. That doesn't happen to me very often! But at some point they were marched off into a coach of their own and we had peace.

About 15 minutes late our coach arrived. It had some 40 children this time. One of the student guides came out and approached us; it rained, and the students refused to come on the walk! Really? Well if so we could just go home. We were here for them, not for our own amusement! But they changed their minds and came with us. This time we split up. I went counterclockwise and Lynda clockwise. And fortunately, the rain soon stopped.

My afternoon group was a lot quicker than the morning group! We had started half an hour late so we couldn't do the entire trip, but I managed to show them all glacial features, talk to them about Darwin, explain about how the Iapetus ocean was responsible for all the rock there, and for the deformation too. I got to the last Ice Gae and the Younger Dryas. And I pointed out the the Devil's Kitchen has mafic rocks in its centre, and why that is interesting. That was about it! And I delivered my group back at about 3 minutes past 4. And that wasn't too late as neither Lynda's group nor the coach was there yet.

Some of the kids thanked me, which was nice. And the coach driver dropped me off in the village again. It was quite fun, actually! Although there was some typical teenage behaviour going on. But telling people cool things in a beautiful landscape is rather pleasant. And I was glad I had been there; it would have been too much for Lynda to do alone!

17 July 2018

Another heatwave drawback: wasps

It's hot and the garden is drying out! And there are many wildfires. But there was one disadvantage of the weather that I felt a bit more acutely. With this kind of weather I often bike to work in a summer dress. It's too hot for anything else! But these don't offer a lot of protection. And on Tuesday morning I was biking down a slope, deeply bent over my dropped handlebars, when I biked into something. It didn't like the collision and stung. I never saw the creature, so to be honest I'm not sure if it was a wasp, but it seemed the most likely suspect. In a reflex I swept the culprit off my skin and inspected the damage. Not much to see, but all to feel! By the time I got to my office I had a breast enlargement. It was a very unpleasant feeling! And by the evening the swelling was gone, but by Sunday my right breast was still red and itchy. Annoying! And it reminded me of a (non-blogged) incident when I lived in York; then I gut stung on the lip. I'm doing all the standard beauty treatments, it seems!

I suppose more clothes would have saved me. Soon I suppose I'll be wearing them! And then I can bump into creatures with only them suffering the consequences. As some bat I headbutted some time ago might attest to! But I think the bat was alright; I was going uphill at the time. I was glad I was wearing biking glasses though!

16 July 2018

Dull but sociable climbing

We would be going back to Holyhead Mountain. That's nice; I like the place. But there are routes of all kinds of difficulty there. Which would we pick?

When I drove up with Eifion he said there would only be three of us; we expected Simon too, but he didn't want to do anything too difficult. Oh dear! But if there are only three you tend to manage to make it interesting.

When Simon showed up at the parking lot he had his daughter in the car too. And he explained that that wasn't all; her boyfriend had been visiting, and they had just dropped him off at the railway station. But there had been a travel disruption, so Laura (the daughter) would just go back and pick him up again. Then they would join us!

We walked up. Eifion had a route for us all in mind, and Simon wanted to rig a route that was pretty much a scramble for Laura and her chap. The route was longer, but it turned into a proper climb and he wasn't sure the youngsters were up for that. So Simon disappeared, and Eifion lead 'our' route. Then I seconded it. It wasn't very hard! When I was up I had a look how Simon and the by now appeared youngsters were doing. They were still in the middle of things! But we didn't want to de-rig our route, as they may want it later. What to do? I asked Eifion to lower me again. I got my bag with my dinner and my tea in it, and the guide book, and with that I climbed back up. Time for a picnic!

Simon and his relatives on their scramble

After a while Simon called. Were we terribly busy? Well, no. Why? He had realised he wasn't comfortable scrambling back down without a rope. Nor was he comfortable climbing further up. That meant he could only get out of the situation by sacrificing some gear! Which he hoped to avoid. Could we either come and lead the route for him so we could walk off from the top, or walk to the top and rig a top rope for him? Of course we could. We chose the latter option.

We did as requested. Simon de-rigged his own rope and was lowered back down. Then Connor tried the climb, and then Laura. I quickly did the upper bit. Then it was time to go! It had been a nice evening but a bit more challenge would be nice!

15 July 2018

Summer open days

They are done! Our summer Open Days for the year. They are important. But it's hard to get students to man them. And other events threatened to get in the way. And they fell in an awkward period in which the one Open Day organiser was organising his own departure for the US, and the other one was on sabbatical.

The first Open Day of the two, run by the man on sabbatical, was during the onset of Marieke's visit, and at the same time as the Armed Forces Day in Llandudno, which had been predicted to cause traffic jams on the A55. Oh dear. And it was a stressy day! I hope the visitors didn't notice. At least nobody complained about traffic.

The second was run by the man who would have his goodbye do within a week. And it ran well! Blimey I will have to fill his shoes once he's gone. And we always have more visitors in the morning than the afternoon, but this time the difference was very big: 170 in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. But we send the visitors back by bus at 15:30. And at 15:00 the World Cup quarter final with England in started. A coincidence? Not likely...

13 July 2018

Heat wave inspires garden intervention

When I bought the house I figured I would have to rip a lot of vegetation (mainly brambles) out, and do regular lawn mowing, and pruning, and planting new plants, and all sorts of things, but I didn't think I'd have to be watering the plants very much. But some two weeks into a heat wave I decided I had to anyway. I am not going to water the lawn; that will just recover when the rain starts again. It's actually quite convenient that in this drought the grass isn't growing very much. But I have two raised beds I put plants in, and I wanted these to survive. The bed with succulents looked fine but I just wanted to make sure it would keep doing that, and the other bed was showing signs of distress. I hope I'm not too late! I suppose I may have to keep going for a while as this heat wave isn't going anywhere, but that's OK. There is still water in the water butt (which isn't linked to the drains; maybe I should do something about that) and I also have the river. And these few plants don't need all too much!

I think my interventions may have come too late for the plants in pots at the front of the house. A lot of them look dead! I suppose the pot situation makes them more susceptible. Oh well. I might move some to the back garden, declare some dead, and have a general clean-up!

11 July 2018

Tree to firewood

I counted only five annual rings in the ash tree at the end of the garden! It's not much. I think the best firewood is slower growing wood in thicker pieces. But one should appreciate what one has! So when I had cut down the tree I cut the wood in manageable bits and stored them in the garage to dry. I added some bits that resulted from me making some space for my recycling bin, which had had to be yielded by a buddleia next to the kitchen. It's not yet an impressive stock of firewood but well, it's a start! I don't yet have the wood burners but this wood can dry while I wait... And I have a nice, relatively unimpeded view on the river as well!

Not sure if this conveys the absence of ash tree very well

But here it is now!

10 July 2018

Garden starts yielding fruit

We have a fully flung heatwave here! And that's not very comfortable. But for getting your fruit to ripen it's excellent. One of the first things to ripen were the red currants, but the birds got all of these. I had one! And then the gooseberries started to become ripe. It seems the birds in my garden don't like these very much so I can eat them myself at my leisure. And now the raspberries have followed! And they are not eaten anywhere as much as the currants! It's really nice to be able to just forage for some fresh fruit in your garden. And with the plums and apples on the way it's not likely to stop soon!

Lovely big raspberries

I don't know what these are; Marieke uncovered them

The gooseberries, as ripe-looking as they probably will ever look