31 August 2018

Visit by Roelof

When I last visited the Netherlands, Roelof was away. When I had just returned, he sent me a message. When would I be in the contry? It turned out he was supposed to travel twice in a row, but had cancelled the second trip, and was now wondering if that meant he would not miss my visit after all. But he had! But then he phoned. Would I think it a good idea if he popped by to Wales instead? And of course I did!

He would arrive quite soon after Jitske's visit, but that was OK, as it was still August and the pressure wasn't on yet. On a Friday he texted me he had started travelling from Manchester Airport. I made sure I was home before he was, and soon I saw an unknown car pull up. He had arrived!

He was very keen to see the house. And he liked it! He saw the devastation in the living room and understood there was still a lot of work to do, but he saw the potential, and he was impressed by the garden. Especially the view, of course. And we had a cup of tea!

I suggested we might pop out for a small walk that very day, and he was up for it. I didn't want to go far so I suggested the same walk I had suggested to my dad: along Afon Llafar, towards the Ysgolion Duon. And he thought it was a good idea. It didn't continue to seem that, as still on the road through Gerlan it was hammering down like there was no tomorrow, but things got better and soon we were standing in the wide nothing outside town. It was great! And we decided to not walk through the valley, but on the ridge. The views were amazing!

View with sheep

We didn't go all too far as we had to cook dinner. It had been nice though! And we would have plenty of opportunity for more in the coming days.

The next day we did something I'd been wanting to do for a wile: walk a loop around Penrhyn Quarry. We went up in Cwm Ceunant, and at the mine just kept climbing. It rained a bit, but we knew it would get better. And we had to bushwhack a bit (we wanted to have lunch in the cwm so we went off the path) so it wasn't all comfortable but we were in no hurry.

Once we got to the ridge we walked to the promontory just above the take-off point of the big zipwire there. The views over the quarry were lovely! And then we walked back along the edge. There isn't a path going all the way around, so we ended up bushwhacking a bit more, but I think it was worth it. As a Bethesda citizen I think you need to have walked all around!

Taking off a jumper because the sun is coming out

View in SW direction

Penrhyn Quarry (the active bit)

That night we went out for dinner; we chose Tyn-y-Coed in Capel Curig. The pub was full so we had to eat in the hotel bit, which isn't anywhere as atmospheric, but we felt like greasy pub food and they delivered. And I had two regional pints! And we chatted even more than we normally do. We could reflect on a lot. We've been knowing each other for 25 years!

Sunday the weather would be awful so we would work in the house. I figured we might need to do stuff with the ceiling in the landing. I figured I might want plasterboard between the beams there too, but that required them to be treated. But what to do: clean it and treat it, or treat it right away? I had taken two bits of wood, which were exactly as dirty as the beams as they had been attached to it, out of the garage so I could try both options. And a LOT of stuff came off! But that didn't mean it looked any better when oiled. We would just oil as is. Or rather; Roelof would. I would start with the second coat of the beams of the living room.

The dirt that came off the wood...

Roelof oils the ceiling

Getting the high gloss paint off

I got distracted a bit by the beam closest to the staircase. My father had already figured out it was put in later than the other beams. And it had been recycled from elsewhere. There were three issues with it! On one side, it was covered in plasterboard. On the other side, it was covered in high gloss paint. And between the beam and the bannister had been the ceiling. What remained now was plasterboard, and a slat that somehow had to go. But how to get rid of it without taking the entire bannister apart?

I decided I needed to make a decision now, as the plasterer couldn't start plastering until ALL beams were prepared. No use having two layers of oil on all other beams if this one beam hadn't been treated at all! So all had to go except the beam: paint, plasterboards, slats, and any wallpaper and limewash between plasterboard and wood. Quite some work!

I sort of got it all done, prying off the plasterbord, chiselling off the slat and sanding off the paint. Unpleasant work but satisfying! The wallpaper has to wait until I get the steamer back. And now the whole living room is dusty as anything again but well, such is life.

I was almost done when I realised it was already 3PM and we hadn't had lunch. (We had had coffee with bara brith though; hence not being hungry at the usual time.) We had run low on bread, too. I suggested going to the farm shop; they sell good bread (but would they at 3pm?). We went, didn't like the bread, and had a pasty with salad there and then. Nice! And we decided we could go for a walk afterwards as the weather had cleared up. We decided to go and admire Aber Falls. So we went to Abergwyngregyn, parked at the usual place and started walking, They were beautiful! And we walked the long way back. Very nice!

The waterfall

Smiling Roelof

Both waterfalls from a distance

 View on Anglesey and Puffin Island

On the way back we stopped at the shop. We needed dinner! And Roelof decided to make a cheesecake. He actually dragged me to the cheese aisle! That never happened before. There's a first time for quite many things!

I cooked pasta while Roleof made the cheesecake. The latter is an elaborate process, so we had to do a fair amount of drinking tea and chatting in between the cake tweaking. Nice!

The next day we would go for a walk again, but again it was raining in the morning so we sat it out while still tweaking the cake (Roelof wasn't satisfied with yesterday's results), and then went off to walk the Crimpiau and the Creigiau Gleision. They had been recommended to me by the climbing blokes when we had done a walk nearby. And it was a bit windy and rainy and the view disappeared sometimes, but it was nice! And as usual, the weather got better in the course of the day. It was a nice walk!
Looking into Dyffryn Mymbyr (left) and Dyffryn Ogwen (right) at the same time

Onto the Crimpiau

 The view as it disappeared at some point

We got home, and had some cake. Of course it was great! We had dinner too. And then it was bedtime.

The Tuesday, Roleof would drive back to the airport. But he didn't fly until the early evening so we had time for one last walk! And even though we both felt a bit lazy, we went for it. But only a small one. A little loop past Rachub to Bwlch-ym-Mhwll-le. And then back higher on the slope of Moel Faban. Nice!

Then it was time to eat plums, eat more cake, have Roelof pack, and hug him goodbye. It was sad he went but it had been a great visit! And he thought so too! Maybe he'll be back. I hope so!

29 August 2018

Tackling big slabs in the dig

What seemed like a hundred years ago we had decided we needed the breaker to make progress in the dig. And finally we got back to it, breaker and all! Miles is better with breakers; the machine is quite heavy, and when it's used as a drill I tend to manoeuvre myself into a position in which I not only hold it in my hands but also plant a shoulder or gut or foot against it ti help push. That's feasible, as you hold still! But as a breaker you move the bit around. That takes forever if you always have to rally another body part for help! But Miles doesn't need extra body parts; he is strong enough to work that thing with his hands only. So he went ahead with the breaker.

It takes Miles a bit to get up to the top, so in the meantime I did some tidying up at the bottom. We throw so much stuff down that we make the entrance of the dig smaller and smaller and smaller.. Sometimes we need to reverse that process! I made a small start. When I thought Miles must be at the top I scampered after him.

There's a big rock there, split into slabs, and it's very big but cracked at the back. With sufficient force you can pry the slabs apart and break them off at the crack, and that way slowly peel off the entire rock. And miles set to work! Soon he had a rock out that was a bit auxiliary (the other rock leaned a bit on it, and then the top of the actual rock had its turn. And he got it down! Without ending up underneath it. But now we had to chuck it down. And the passage is narrow...

I came up to have a look. I chopped off a small bit myself, but in general I'm more for manoeuvering rocks as they are, rather than break them up first. Not always a good idea, but well, worth the try. I climbed over it and tried to push it down. Of course it got stuck! I didn't worry too much as I could still get past, but we had to get rid of it. Miles came back up and together we broke it up so much I could then finally chuck it down after all. And have a look at what's behind it! And that looks scarier than I remembered from when I had reached over the slab and felt my way around, but well, we've dealt with scary situations before. We'll manage! We're making progress. Let's see what we can do next time!

Back at the car I had another cup of tea. It was full moon and very beautiful! And dry. The place is magic in moonlight!

27 August 2018

Haunted machine

I have a sewing machine! I've had it for a long time. We are not always friends; I am not very good with it so I often end up with the thread turning itself into knots. But it is a very useful thing to have when I manage to work it well.

With the heatwave this year, and the forecast of more to come, I am increasing my collection of summer dresses. They're the best thing to wear if it's hot! And I bought a long one, but I thought it didn't give me enough freedom of movement, so I wanted to make the split on one side higher. But then you have to sew the hem. It was just the task for a sewing machine! So for the first time since moving house I brought it out.

I plugged it in and it started sewing. Right away. Oh dear! It's supposed to wait until you press the pedal. I had no idea why it was doing that but I tried it a few times; it was consistent. It was a bit spooky that it would just sew like mad when it had power! I decided to pack it up again and put 'seeing if I can have someone have a look at that' somewhere on my to do list. And then I started stitching the hem by hand. At least the technology of needle and thread is rather reliable!

Old-fashioned needlework

25 August 2018

Trace the house back

I would like to know how old my house is! But it's Victorian and that means a lot of time has passed in which information can get lost. It looks Victorian, and it would logically be younger than Bethesda itself, so younger than the 1823 chapel the village is named after. I had seen it on maps dating from the 1880s. But that was it!

Old map with my house (and that of the neighbour) in red 

Rummaging through the documentation that came with the house didn't push it anything further back. The oldest mention I could find is when it appears in someone's will in 1884, but it could have been around for god knows how long by then. I think only a trip to the archive will have a chance of sorting this out! 

 Mention of the the house in a will executed in1886; another document describes that will was written in 1884.

The rummage did show I should be able to disentangle everything that legally happened to the house since 1884, though; who owned it, and whether it was a lease of a buy, when it changed number (it wasn't always nr 13), when the garden was added to it... that's interesting too! 

The coolest document I have: a deed from 1899

NB When I checked the old maps, I noticed my commute actually straddles two different railroads! It starts on the passenger railway to Bangor, but ends on the quarry railway to the quarry's own harbour. And on that note: the mill race in all likelihood isn't a mill race. The neighour says that runs closer to the river. What I found is therefore more likely to be a sewer! Much less glamorous...

24 August 2018


When I went to University I just picked a degree programme at a University and registered. That was it! But in the UK it's different.

You get predicted A level grades. On the basis of these, you can apply to some five degree programmes at certain Universities. They all have their demands. And then you actually get your A level results. They may be different from what you thought! You may not qualify for some of the degrees you've applied for. Or maybe you qualify for much more than you expected! So then you can go through so-called clearing*; change your mind and start phoning around to universities to see if they will take you on. They may have some unfilled spaces htey are keen to fill, so maybe these demands might be a bit flexible. If they give you an offer you may want to do a bit of a rushed visit there to see if you indeed like it there.

Someone has to do the answering the phone, and showing people around. And I was enlisted! I didn't expect any calls; we don't tend to get that many and was only the back-up phone answerer. I didn't get any. But it's yet another new responsibility, and I had to be prepared. And I showed some late deciders around! Three people and their supporters who came to have a look. They were all registered on Marine Biology so I was glad that one of my biological colleagues, Ian, was willing to help out. He can field questions about the details of the Marine Biology practical, for example!

I am starting to get my head around this strange application procedure. And I hope I managed to sell our school well! I hope I see these three people back in September...

* NB You can also choose to forget all about the applying in the first place, and use clearing as the first resort. It has recently been in the newspapers that an increasingly number of posher parents use clearing to play the system. At the same time, there is criticism on doing the main application procedure based on predicted grades. And there is criticism on the universities jumping through hoops to lure in all students they can get, but at the same time the government is cutting the funding so tuition fees are pretty much their only source of income. And as well, the government want to send half the population to university, even though society has no need for so many graduates. Altogether, it's a bit of a mess, if you ask me!

23 August 2018

The plum season has started

It's been going on for weeks! If I walk around in the garden I tend to do a bit of grazing. Getting some fresh fruit out of your own garden is great! It started with raspberries, then gooseberries, and now the plum tree has started to yield fruit. And they are lovely plums! I was slightly prejudiced against plums as we used to have a plum tree in the garden of my parental house. I lived there for 17 years and I figured I had eaten as many plums as I ever would want in my entire life. But plums come in many varieties and the ones from my own tree taste completely different. So I'm quite enjoying them! And I have already delivered the first batch to the neighbour, as I can't possibly eat all of them myself. Should bring a big tupperware of them to work too! I'm sure some of my colleagues would like them too. They're nice! Thanks Rose; I get a lot more pleasure out of the vegetation I inherited from her than from the ones I planted myself. Although I admit you can grow a lot more in 20 years than in four months!

22 August 2018

Jitske rips through the house

I remember one snow hike when we had stopped for the day. We had pitched our tents, but it was cold, and people were doing all sorts to keep warm. There was little chance of us managing to light a fire, but that didn't stop people from gathering firewood. That warms you up as well! Any resulting fire is bonus. And I remember seeing Jitske push over a tree. And why not!

With that imagine in mind, I don't think it surprises anyone that when we had most of the day left after our hike, she was keen to help in the house. And if you then give her a crow bar and point at something saying 'this must go' its time is up. We first did quite some wallpaper stripping (not very heavy work) but then I had her remove the skirting boards, remove all the strange woodwork that was covering the pipes in the doorway, take out another ceiling which I had left in place for now for insulation reasons, and demolish the inside of a cupboard that was kitted out for hanging clothes in, but which I prefer to kit out with planks.

In the meantime I took the nails out of lots of removed bits of wood (both newly produced and having been lying around for a bit) so I could use it for firewood, removed some superfluous beam from the living room, and finished the removing the plasterboard from between old and new ceiling beams.

We stopped for tea in the garden when the sun came out. The view has to be enjoyed! And we had to also, of course, stop for lunch. Jitske would spend hours in the train later that day, so I figured a hot pub lunch would not go amiss. But after lunch she simply continued. We also removed two slate slabs from the garden, and did some pruning and moving plants. And eating plums. The house looks profoundly different now! Great! Let's hope work speeds up a bit now. And I hope she comes back one day to see the finished work! If a house ever is finished...

No wallpaper, no skirting boards!

No plasterboard between the beams.

The beams in th edoorway are now exposed so the plumber can get to them

No ceiling in the hallway

21 August 2018

Hike with Jitske

I think I spent some twenty years hiking with a changing group of Dutch friends. A lot longer than this blog has been running! And hikers hike, with of without me. And so it happened that Jitske (who had been living in the same building as me in my early days in Amsterdam) would guide a trip in South Wales. And she figured that when she would be in the country anyway, she might as well take the train north and hike some more. And visit me!

The plan became that she would walk as much of the Snowdonia Way as she could in the time she had. She would take the train to Machynlleth, where the trail starts, and see how it would go. All routes come in two versions; the low route and the mountain route. Depending on the weather she would choose one or the other.

Her first plan was to meet me in Penrhyndeudraeth. But then she texted; it would be Trawsfynydd. She had taken the mountain route (over Cadair Idris). And there's a bus going there. I thought I'd take the bus on Tuesday night (I needed a day or two of work so as not to get too far behind after my trip to the Netherlands), meet her there, and hike with her until she had to take the train again on Saturday. The weather forecast for Wednesday was awful but well, so be it.

On Tuesday evening I got out of the bus in a sleepy Trawsfynydd. Jitske appeared out of a bus shelter (the local pubs had all closed) and took me to where she had pitched up. That was right at the lake! Very scenic. We pitched my tent, had a cup of tea, and went to bed. Afterwards I figured I hadn't seen her in 2.5 years but after enough hiking you can pick up quite easily again.

The next day we woke up to rain and wind. It was supposed to mainly be bad in the afternoon! Oh well. We crossed the footbridge over the lake and started walking up the other side. It was pretty! Be it a bit damp. And it wasn't rainy all the time; we had a nice coffee break at the lee side of a wall during a dry spell.

My damp tent next to Llyn Trawsfynydd 

Jitske is ready for anything 

Dreamy woods near the dam

At Llyn Tecwyn Uchaf we met a boy walking alone. He said he was on holiday here with his family, but the others were all still in bed, and he had decided to set off alone to enjoy the surroundings. A good idea! We had a nice chat with him. But when we hit the road (we had to cross the Dwyryd and that had to be done on asphalt) we had to go our separate ways.

By then we were hungry and hoped for a pub lunch in Penrhyndeudraeth. Unfortunately, the pub was closed. There were takeaways but they didn't provide seating. We had been on our feet quite a lot! A passing man offered to drive us to the Eric Jones cafe but that would be too far out of the way. We decided to just walk on and eat out normal lunch out of town.

In Penrhyndeudraeth, the steam train made an appearance

We found a railway bridge (of the steam line) under which we had our lunch. And from there we walked on. It rained! And it was windy.We walked to Rhyd, and then on to the road to Croesor. The plan was to walk to the terrain between Croesor and Nantmor and camp there. But by the time we hit the road to Croesor we were tired and the weather was atrocious. We wanted to have another break. Nothing said 'shelter' to us until we saw the chapel of Croesor. (Or course the Croesor cafe was closed). It had a porch where it was dry. We sat down for a bit! And looked at the rain coming past horizontally, and the trees being swept by the wind, and wondered why again we were here. Oh well! We went on.

Jitske walking in nothingness 

We walked out of Croesor and immediately noticed the quiet. There is a copse there! The wind couldn't get to us there and the rain was a lot less cumbersome when it came in vertically. We decided to camp right there. We had walked some 21 km by then, so we were hardly being lazy! We pitched the tents. I went for a wash (there was water everywhere) and then we had dinner. After that Jitske announced she was retiring to her tent to read a book. I lay on my mattress for a second and decided that actually, lying down was lovely. I brushed my teeth and went to bed. It was 9pm!

Mossy camping spot

The next morning I saw we had had a team stand-by; some people were overdue from nearby Croesor mine. Typical! But it soon became clear these people were out, and communication had just not worked well. Better news was that the weather was looking good. We liked that! We decided to hike over Cnicht.

We set off. It was still a bit cold and windy but at least dry. And we climbed Cnicht, and indeed had a view from the top! That's always nice. Below the top we had a coffee break. Then we walked on, through the swampy bit past Llyn yr Adar and Llyn Llagi. We abandoned the official route here; the Snowdonia Way makes a loop to Dolwyddelan, and we didn't quite see the point. We would never get to Bethesda that way! And in the meantime the weather got better. It was even sunny from time to time. And Jitske got to see the top of Snowdon for the first time.

Cnicht: this way! (Pic by Jitske)

Ascending Cnicht 

Summit pic

This view just never gets boring

When we hit the road in the Nantmor valley we sat on for lunch. We were facing asphalt, but we had a fence there! With a gate! Or in other words: a clothes line! We needed that. We hung out tents, clothes, rain covers, and my sleeping bag. It was great! Everything got dry. Our quality of life quite improved.

Dry all the kit!

After lunch we walked on; we were heading for Llyn Gwynant. We might camp at the campsite there. We also might go on to Pen-y-Gwryd as after quite some hiking, Jitske craved some fresh food. We reached the campsite, didn't quite like the look of it, and walked on. All went well so we kept walking. And the old road to the hotel was quite comfortable. Soon we saw the building! We decided to see if we could camp in the field behind. And we found a flattish spot next to a weir in a stream (or in other words: a bathtub), so we went for it. We pitched the tent, each had a bath (it was needed) and headed for the hotel. It served food, but only the three- or five-course meal for guests. But they could fit us in! But food was only being served at 7.30 so we had to sit down for a pint. We had only walked some 16 km, and in good weather, but including Cnicht and the swampy bit behind it had drained us a bit anyway.


Llyn Gwynant 

The Snowdon Horseshoe looks lovely 

 Last stretch (pic by Jitske)

Scenic camping spot

It was quiet, and the bar lady was quite chatty. She had little else to do! Her colleague joined in, and then some actual guests. It was quite nice! And then the gong went for dinner. It was all very posh! Bright white table linen, table silver; the lot. Fun!

We had soup with bread, and then risotto with halloumi (the cook had been willing to improvise something vegetarian for us) with vegetables. And then we managed to cram a rhubarb crumble in. I felt nine months pregnant! We had another cup of tea in the space behind the bar, with the other guests, and then it was bedtime. We hobbled back to the tents and slept like logs!

Fancy dinner!

The bar lady had said the next day would be dry. We figured we would walk up the Miner's track (the bit north of Pen-y-Gwryd, not the more famous part from Pen-y-Pass) and then walk in northwesterly direction until we would decide it would be a good time to descend into the Ogwen Valley or Nant Ffrancon. But the next morning I had some signal and the weather forecast actually mentioned rain from 2 PM. Oh dear!

We started off, walking up the ridge. When we got there we had a lovely view on Tryfan. We had a coffee break, and went on, but by then it was cold and windy, and was starting to get wet and misty. Glyder Fach was so wet we kitted up in full waterproofs again. And being blown about and balancing on the slippery rock we proceeded to Glyder Fawr. By then we figured that seeing nothing, being cold and wet, and being blown off the ridge wasn't particularly fun. We would head for Devil's Kitchen and come down! Somewhere in a sheltered spot above Llyn y Cwn we had lunch. Then we stumbled down. A lot of people came up, asking us how the ridge was. We told them! Most turned back. We also bumped into several of the Pen-y-Gwryd guests. That was nice!

Horseshoe seen from the other side 

Towards Glyder Fawr 

Looking down on Llyn Cwmffynnon 

Horizontal rain again; downwind of boulders it's dry 

Coming down Devil's kitchen in wind and rain and with a heavy backpack is a bit of a chore so by the time we came down to Ogwen Cottage we had had enough. We had only done 10k but we didn't feel like making that 18km by adding 8km of asphalt! We stuck up our thumbs. Within minutes we were picked up by a forester. Very nice! He brought us pretty much home. A good hike had come to an end!

As good as back in civilisation!

19 August 2018

One climb Monday

We were going back to Holyhead Mountain. You never know what you will get if that happens! On the parking lot I met Glyn and Eifion. More people seemed to be on their way. We went ahead!

Glyn wanted to do a specific route and he immediately tried to rope me in as his wingperson. That should have sounded some alarms! If he wants me then nobody else wants to do it, and there may be a reason for it. But we just walked up. We started at the cliff with Glyn's desired route on it. It didn't look too bad! I suggested I indeed belay him and second the route, as Eifion wanted to go elsewhere and climb other routes with those coming later. That meant he should be able to scoot off when they would appear. Eifion was visibly relieved when I said that. Another sign on the wall!

Simon and his youngest daughter appeared, and together with Eifion they went to another crag. Glyn got ready to start!

It was clearly harder than it looked. He groaned and struggled! That would be interesting. He struggled over the crux and vanished from sight. The route went over an edge so we wouldn't be able see or hear each other for a while (except from when shouting really really loud).

I heard the 'I'm safe' call, and a while later I saw the rope be pulled up. Time for me to get climbing! I had put on my climbing shoes and slung a bag with our walking shoes onto my back. Then I started! The first two meters or so were OK. Then it got hard.

I got to something that wasn't even a crux and struggled. How to get past this bit? I figured I couldn't do it. And I was very low on the rope, so if I managed to get a few decimeters up the bounce in the rope would let me down straight again. Frustrating! But what was the alternative? I couldn't tell Glyn. The others were somewhere far away too. I had to keep trying! So moaning and groaning I tried it along the left, along the right, every way I could think of. And in the very end I managed! Then I was OK for a while. It was still hard, almost every step of the way, but I moved.

Then I got to the crux. By then my muscles were very tired. The same scene as before followed! A lot of moaning and groaning and a million attempts but in the end I got there. And when my head popped up above the edge I heard Glyn's voice. I could see him! And he said it was almost over. And it was.

I did the final (much easier) stretch and joined Glyn. It had taken me almost an hour! It was time to de-rig, change shoes and walk down. It was getting dark so we wanted to get over the boulder field quickly. Once on the path we would see if we could spot the others. But we didn't see anyone! We phoned Eifion and he said they had already buggered off to the cars. The cheeks! So if I really wouldn't have made it they wouldn't have been there to tell Glyn and sort something out. Oh well. I managed! We walked back too.

I was tired and bruised and smelly but I had managed! And Glyn had on-sighted this route he really wanted. So even though we had done only one route it had been a successful night!

Glyn just below the Crux

A tired smile at the first difficult bit

Over the crux! Glyn is in sight.

Glyn tidying up the rope in the sunset