30 September 2018

The landing is almost ready for the plasterer

The floor had been done, the old fireplace had been pulled out. The ceiling had come down, Roelof had given the beams one layer of oil. With Jitske I had pulled off the wallpaper. The electrician had changed the wires. Work was moving on!

When I got the steamer back I removed the more resistant bits of newspaper. And I gave the beams another layer of oil. Will two layer do? I hope so! Applying it from the floor is OK but it's a bit of a faff to apply it above the staircase, balancing on a ladder.

The room is still waiting for its hearth to be lifted (it seems to legally have to be above the level of the floor), and for the log burner to be installed. And it's waiting for the plumber to remove the radiator (easy for when you're removing wallpaper and then painting). I tried it myself but it leaked beyond what I thought was reasonable! It already was a radiator I was a bit worried about.

If the plasterer can come before the stove man and the plumber I will let him. What's a bit of wallpaper behind a leaky radiator in the greater scheme of things! And let's just hope that oil will be enough. I still have to do the second layer in the living room! But that will be easier; the beams are smoother and there is no great big hole in the floor.

It's currently not quite sure when the plumber and plasterer can come. But there is work for them!

29 September 2018

Term starts like a whirlwind

You know exactly when it'll hit! But it still hits hard. In the weeks before term starts you tend to be inundated with last-minute things to do. We had last minute dissertation students, there were MSc dissertations that needed marking, and the Welcome Week demanded attention. There were forms to fill in you didn't realise needed filling in, and a module fell out of the sky. That last thing was a bit weird. What turned out to have happened was that there was a 4th year module that I took over from my departing colleague a few years ago, which also came in a 3rd year version. That was optional for, I suppose, everybody, so I had only ever taught it to the 4th years. And now suddenly there were 7 people registered on the 3rd year version. And the 3rd years get the same lectures, but different assessment. You can't expect them to perform at the level of the 4th years! And as that module had theoretically existed for years, nobody had thought of that it would be new to me. So suddenly a colleague walked into my office saying we should sort these assessments. Excuse me, assessment of what? So then suddenly we had to sort that. I don't think the university likes it if modules are online with not much information in them. But well, this one fell out of the sky the week before term. That's what happens then!

And then term time itself hit. In the end I hadn't managed to prepare my lectures beforehand! I had to do that one by one just before I delivered them. Not ideal! But these I have done before, so I can. I do still change them; sometimes I think the narrative is not sufficiently clear, sometimes I cut out some things of which I decide it's a not quite necessary in an already busy lecture, sometimes I need to update them because new research has been published. That sort of stuff! Ad the lectures come thick and fast.

Another change was that, inspired by the Access Anglesey field trip, I now email all my students with dyslexia or anxiety or whatnot in advance to see if they need any further explanation or any adjustment beyond what has already been centrally sorted. It's good and it's been appreciated, but it takes quite some organising too!

The week went like the clappers. When I got an email from David about the ThursdayNight trip that would happen the next day I was a bit shocked. That meant it was already Wednesday! I had hardly noticed it. But well, better for time to fly than to drag on! Academic year 2018-19, here I am!

28 September 2018

Revisiting the fortress

A week or two before I had visited the nearby hillfort. But it had been dark by the time I got there! But on a Saturday, after almost a day of chores, I decided to revisit it (before diner, this time) to get soem fresh air and see the thing better. And I did! It was lovely. Architecturally it's lost its shine; not much more than a wall keeping sheep in is left, but it's still circling this modest hilltop. A nice little walk! 

 The fortress on its hilltop

A handsome bovine 

Another handsome bovine poses with the fortress (from another angle)

Sunny fields under slate-grey skies

27 September 2018

Too many apples

I mentioned my apples are ripe! They are very nice. Crisp and fresh. But if my apples are ripe, other apples are too. Phil also has a tree in his garden, and it is prolific. He dropped a big bag of apples of at my door. I ate some; they are nice (but not so nice as mine, as Phil himself admits), but there were way too many of them to eat like that. And I wouldn't get to eat my own! I had to think of something else.

Although I felt the pressure of term and house I peeled a fair number of them, and made them into compote. It was very nice! And it took three meals to eat it. And then i still had most of the apples left. I had to make another batch! I made sure to do the peeling when there was something especially interesting on the radio. I think compote is about the quickest stuff you can make!

The next time I saw Phil he brought me more apples. These i took to work to give them to David. He likes apples! And he regrets not having planted an apple tree when he bought his house...

26 September 2018

Rewiring done

I was scampering through the university on the eve of the new term when I got a text message from the electrician. He had moved the house from the old system to the new one. Great! When I got home I saw that the old wiring had been removed. And I tried the new light switches! It worked! It was great. There were some blips; on Saturday I checked everything and sent a list to Mark of things I thought weren't quite sorted yet. But the bulk of the work is clearly done! And that means it's ready for the plumber (who doesn't have time yet, but hopefully soon will). And then the plasterer!

I also plonked some old lampshades I had inherited from Rose back on the bare bulbs. And I installed a new shade in the kitchen! It had come with an industrial striplight which I wasn't keen on. Mark had removed it! And that had resulted in an ugly scar on the ceiling but I will get to that. Putting the new shade there made me feel good! It does make a difference. I will go and buy one for the storage space too; that had a striplight as well! But not anymore. The other lamps can wait for a bit.

Only new wires along the living room ceiling! 

 The landing looks even better!

When, back in May, I got the quote from the electrician I got a bit nervous. These people don't come cheap. But I had contacted him for work in April, got the quote late May, and he only finished the work in late September, so I didn't have to pay it particularly soon. But he's done now. I am enjoying the plethora of sockets, and the additional light switch that makes my journey to the bedroom in the evening nicer. And the house is a lot safer now!

Paying the bill was a big chunk out of my bank account but thanks to parental support I'm not worried about that! Bring on the plumber and plasterer, even though what I'll ask them to do is increasing all the time. I tried to remove a radiator for the plasterer and I couldn't, so that'll go onto the list of the plumber's work. And with the electrician adding lots of sockets he also made extra holes in the wall the plasterer has to fill!

And when these are done then I need to get me a painter! If I do to all myself it will take forever. And then I can ask the joiner to come back for the floors! And some more work...

25 September 2018

Last dissertation students before the new year hits

Welcome Week has already started, and lectures start on Monday. But we still had two dissertation students to sort out.They have to do a presentation too. My colleague Katrien was making arrangements. The best time for her was Friday, but that also was the very, very last day grades could be submitted. So we planned it in the morning! My own student had gone to Cornwall so he would do it over Skype. He would be first!

The technology worked. It was great! You can have a split screen, with both your presentation and your head. Pretty good! He did talk for too long though; we had to stop him. He was talking about deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules, what environmental damage that does, but also to what extent it can help replace combustion engine cars with electric vehicles, and thus help lower CO2 emissions. Interesting stuff!

File:Konkrecje manganowe.jpg
Polymetallic nodules

The other student ended up (due to circumstances) presenting on the afternoon. She talked about the influence of a potential tidal lagoon near Rhyl on sediment transport and such. Also interesting! But once she was done we had to pretty much run away and submit her grades. And as well run back to our desks to do last preparations for the new term that was nigh... we actually don't want to be dealing with dissertation students of the past year so close to the new year anymore! But these were lucky. They got it done!

File:Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station 01.png
A tidal lagoon, this one far away. Pic by 핑크로즈

24 September 2018

Slow progress in the dig

Digs are a bit like the evolution theory of punctuated equilibrium. Nothing happens for a long long time, and then something happens, and everything changes, and after that nothing happens for a long long time again. We're in one of those nothing happens periods! We're just chipping away at a rather dense bit. Getting rid of one rock feels like a big victory but then there's a gazillion still waiting. But if we just keep going we will get to a period of change again.

This week it didn't help I was a bit late; I couldn't peel myself away from work any earlier! We did lug the drill up, but it felt like we only had minutes with it before it was time to go out again. The angle at which we have to work is also rather awkward, so even getting the breaker in position is a faff. And I was also hungry so even in that short time I wanted a sandwich break. Doesn't help! But well. We have time. Digging has become a lot more relaxed since I got a permanent job!

23 September 2018

Book about the strike

It was the longest industrial dispute in British history. Almost the entire 2800 man strong workforce went on strike. The long strike forced any buyers of slate to think either of other suppliers or choose different materials, so the North Welsh slate industry never recovered. Neither did Bethesda. And now I live there. And the strike is still tangible here.

I'd read a fictional account of the Big Strike. But there is a work of non-fiction available too! I had heard of it, but forgot about it as well. Until I found it in my dad's holiday cottage. I couldn't read it before they vacated it again, but I got me a copy of my own. And read it with interest!

The book contains articles a reporter, Charles Sheridan Smith, sent to Bethesda from London, published. As it is they only provide snippets of information; no overview of the situation. And the snippets are informative but do leave you wanting more.

It is difficult to read with modern eyes, though. Time has fortunately changed! Smith keeps picturing the quarrymen as worthy and noble but also as simple and inarticulate. I'm not sure if he's being awful to the Welsh or to the working class, or the combination of both, but either way, it is rather jarring. And a perfect window into the times, as I suppose his views were rather widespread. It's good that times change! Although one could hardly claim that prejudice against the Welsh or the working class is no more.

At the end of the book some other documents are enclosed. It starts with a letter from the solicitor of the quarry owner to the newspaper that had published Smith's work. He is going in for libel or defamation or something like that. And I noticed he uses the same law firm as I did! Oh dear oh dear. I know it's worse I am a traitor, aka a bradwr (or bradyr as Smith calls it) for breaking strike, but I also used a firm that fought on the wrong side. I'm not being very good at being a Bethesda citizen!

21 September 2018

The freshers are coming

It's almost Welcome Week (WW), the new students are coming! Most freshers will live in halls, and halls allow you to move in in the weekend before WW. That means that is when the bulk of students arrive. The Peer Guides are there to meet them and make them feel welcome. And take them to the pub.

I decided to bike to a nearby cluster of Halls to have a look myself. The bloke who does the central coordination of the Peer Guides, Julian, would be there too. And the atmosphere was great! It helped that it was sunny; I bike around in a T-shirt, and saw all these parents unloading cars full of stuff, and carrying it to the halls with their teenage offspring. Such a momentous day in their lives! There were peer guides (recognisable from the printed T-shirts) everywhere, ans there was music, and a BBQ, and people throwing a rugby ball around, and whatnot. I sort of got the spirit again myself! It's 25 years ago for me, and I didn't move into halls, and my parents didn't bring me, and everything was different, but still; it was the first day of the rest of my life, as the cliche goes. It was a very exciting week! And I still have friends I made then!

I did bump into Julian, and had a chat. All seemed to be going OK! And I also saw two of my Head Peer Guides, who are in charge. Everything was under control!

Good vibes at Ffridd site 

On Monday I would be the one to welcome them to the School of Ocean Sciences (well, after the Head of School, that is). I had printed information for them and made a powerpoint (or rather, adapted it from the year before). And then I bumped into David who said I was chairing the whole thing from 10:30 to 14:15. Eh, OK! Hadn't quite realised that was my job but that's easily done. 

Towards the end of the day all staff appeared to have lunch with their tutees. Including me! I have eight this year, and they all seemed nice. As usual, it was a mix of those that will talk all the time and those you have to drag every word out of. But it'll work out! I look forward to working with this lot this year!

David (the Head of School) welcomes the freshers

20 September 2018

Improving the office

When I moved into my new office I decided I should make it fit my needs. One need is very basic; I want to be sufficiently warm in there. In my old office, I tended to have to wear two pairs of trousers on Monday and Tuesday in winter, as only by Wednesday would the heating have caught up with the sheer cold that would have invaded the office over the weekend. The culprits (I am convinced) were two single pane windows. I blocked one with cardboard; the other one was essential for light and view do I left that. And this new office has only one single pane window, and has as many radiators as the old one in spite of being about half the size, but still. I have become rather resentful towards single pane windows! So I decided to do something more substantial than taping cardboard over it.

In front of that window stood a noticeboard. One of those old-fashioned ones. It was big enough to cover the window and then some! So I decided I would fix insulation material (in the shape of the window) to the inside, cover it with white material to make it less obvious that that was what I had done, and then add fixings to keep the noticeboard firmly fastened (but removable) to the window. And that is a bit of a noisy job so I came in on a Saturday to do it. I had already put insulation there; I had chosen a roll of woolly stuff made from recycled plastic. And I had bench covering for making it look tidy.

I placed the fixings and drew the shape of the window on the board. I then cut the insulation material to size. I had been wondering how to fix the stuff; I had been thinking of very long screws, but I wasn't sure if metally sticky-outy bits would be a good idea. So I decided to drill holes in the board and pretty much sew it on. So I did! I didn't have a big needle with me, or suitable thread, so I brought one the following Monday.  And finished it! Including the neat covering in white material so it's not conspicuous from the street I felt the need to do this work. It's done before the real cold hits!  And then I am sure one pair of trousers will be enough. Even on Monday. But in summer I can just put the noticeboard away and enjoy the extra light. I can have it all!

Work in progress

Covering the insulation material with neat-looking white stuff
Another need I have is a bit more specific; my office will often contain two bicycles. I keep one there for in case I drive to work but have to lecture in Bangor. I can just use that bike if I don't come in on one, and as well, not be afraid of it being stolen as it's not a very good, expensive, or glamorous bike. But it gets me there! But I also park my new road bike in the office if that's my transport in; it's good and expensive and I don't want to leave it outside in the wind and the rain. There is a bicycle park thingy with cage walls and a roof, and I could find out how I get the key for it, but that does not provide the level of protection against the elements I would like. And my office does! But having two bikes stand around takes up a lot of space, so I wanted to mount them on the wall to tuck them out of the way a bit. That was easily done! Bring it on in the new year!

The Menai Bridge to Bangor bike hanging; there's space for the Bethesda to Menai Bridge bike.

And both!

19 September 2018

Evening walk

It was a Friday with lovely weather and I decided I should take advantage of living in such a lovely area. After dinner (I came home hungry) and the dishes I decided to go look for a fortress I had seen on the map, and in the distance. I figured it was now just another field enclosure, but still. I walked up! The sun set a bit quicker than I had hoped so I couldn't take pictures of the rather cool walls on top of a little hill, but I enjoyed my little rambling. And I walked back in the complete dark! I was gone less than an hour, but I had been quite away from everything. Very nice! And I'll go back to that fortress in daylight...

The last picture I could take

18 September 2018

CELT conference

Just before the academic year kicks off, there is always the annual Teaching and Learning Conference, and this year was no exception. I went. It was interesting! One thing that struck me was that there were talks in Welsh. I hadn't seen that before! But as everyone knows not the whole audience will understand that, there was synchronous translation available. I thought it was good that these things happen!

There also was a bloke showing software that translates your lecture in English (or French or whatever) in real time to Welsh. Not quite perfectly though; that was quite funny.

Not everything was about language; there was a good talk from a lady from the Student Union about how to develop your curriculum in collaboration with the students. She had some very good points. There was a lot about inclusion and representation too.

Another thing that stood out was that there were two representatives from the software we use for our teaching. All our modules have a website, and that also is where the students submit all their work. It's pretty important! And they were showcasing the new version that is expected to come out next summer. The room was rather excited! It's important that sort of stuff works well. We need to use it every day; it had better be the best it can be.

Altogether it was worth it! You always pick up some good practical tips, and some food for thought. Time to use it all in the new academic year...

Lady giving talk in Welsh; the lady with the sheet of paper in front of her face is doing the synchronous translation, trying to talk only into the microphone and not the room

Showcasing the new version of Blackboard

17 September 2018

Plums out, appels in

The plum season is over; apple season has started! When I only could find four small plums for my lunch I added some apples. They are ripe! And they taste good. They are smaller than what you buy in a shop but that's OK; I can just eat more of them. And there are many on the tree; I will be able to do ad hoc snacking from my own garden for a while now I'm sure. And apples last better than plums. I'm sure I can keep some after the tree has given all up! Very nice!

16 September 2018

Second round of knotweed poisoning

There is Japanese Knotweed quite close to my garden. There is also a clump closer to the neighbour's garden. It doesn't do any harm but mortgage lenders get nervous because of it. When my father and stepmother visited, the latter volunteered to go out with my knotweed killing contraption to poison it. She did all that stands close to my garden.

I wanted to do the other clump too. I now have the kit; I might as well! Sooner or later the neighbour will want to sell his house, and if not, then whoever deals with his will might. He won't be able to own it forever. And if by that time I have managed to kill the knotweed it would be easier to sell it! And he's been helping me a lot, with DIY advice and lending me kit and such, and offering to put out my bins if I'm away; it's nice to be able to do something back. And as well, if I try different methods on the clumps I can compare what works best. So one sultry evening I stepped out with my murder weapon again.

It's a bit uncomfortable work. You teeter around on smooth rocks put there by the river, and have to wrestle yourself between the stems, and you have to somehow keep track of which ones you have already done, but I think I did it. And now I'll have to wait! The first clump was done in July and the second in September. I also upped the dose a bit as it seemed a bit small. We shall see next year how the next clumps come up! I hope smaller. And then even smaller the year after! And after that...

Murder in action (I hope)

15 September 2018

New gadget

I never used to be much of a solo traveller. I went on holiday on my own once; in Denmark. It was great! But I was on bike so I could bring an awful lot of stuff. I had a 3 person tent at the time, and it was fine to have that to myself. I wasn't bothered by the extra weight and volume! When that tent needed replacement I got me a similar sized one. If I am hiking it of generally with fiends, so then one shares. It was always quite OK to have such a big tent! But now I live in Wales, and I have the most amazing landscapes right at my front door, but as it happens I only sleep out in the wild if I have hiking friends over. I suppose one of the things to keep me back is that on your own, you need to bring a lot. Especially if you have a big tent. Whether you are with three of with one, you still have to bring a stove, fuel and pots and pans! So if you have to carry all of that on your own it gets heavy.

Then Jitske showed up, tent and all. She has a 1 person tent, of course, as she does the wildest mega-hikes on her own. And I had to use the big one! We couldn't leave her tent behind. And Jitske is very strong so it wasn't a problem to carry it, but it was a bit silly. (Although for cooking in the rain it was nice.) So I figured it was time I get me a 1 person tent myself. And I intend to sometimes pack the bag and scoot off on a Friday after work, just walk into one of the nearby valleys, and sleep there. Walk back the next morning. Nothing spectacular, but I am sure it will do a great job detaching your mind from work! I'll be needing it. And of course I can also do proper hikes with it. But just a small escape into an empty valley would already be quite a gain!

I saw a rather snazzy 1 person tent advertised on internet. Second hand, so not too expensive. My guess is that the previous owner became a parent and that upon that shift happening, all the hiking went out of the window! I had bought a lighter sleeping bag last year, so with these two additions I should be able to have a rather light bag. And then I need a moonlit night (pun not intended!) to go and try it out! Will be magic!

14 September 2018

House progress in my absence

When I was on fieldwork I got some very uplifting texts. One came from the electrician: he was almost done! And in order to properly finish it he needed to have a chat with me about how exactly As he had rewired the entire house he would have to shut down the entire system before he could power up the new. And that needs coordination! And maybe we need the plasterer to cover some wires before they go live. He said he needed quite some notice, though; maybe I should just moonshine it myself and have him make it pretty afterwards. I suppose that as soon as the wires are covered and the plaster has dried it’s OK. You probably don’t need the full layer to make it safe! But the electrician and plasterer will know that.

That striplight will go; the new light point is already there

The new switches are in. The old switch is still operational, though, and fixed in a temporary place

Shiny new smoke- and carbon monoxide alarms

I also got a text from the stove installer. He will pop by to start on the hearth! Great! I suppose the stoves are nigh. Which is great! It is getting decidedly autumnal here. Soon it will be rather cold I suspect!

12 September 2018

Plum season ends

Before I went on the Access Anglesey fieldtrip, my plum tree was yielding fruit like there was no tomorrow. But then I would be away for over a week! I encouraged the neighbour and Phil to just pop into the garden to get some as otherwise, they might go to waste.

When I got back I spoke to the neighbour again. He said he had indeed got himself another batch! I had given him one earlier as I can't possibly eat all of them on my own. But he said it end of the harvest was nigh. And I had a look. He was right! There wasn't much left. There was a lot of windfall, and the wasps were having a booze-up in it. When I went to fill another pot I didn't manage! It went so fast. I had really been enjoying just eating fruit out of my own garden! But the good thing is: the apple harvest is about to start now...

I didn't get a pot full anymore! 

The wasps are having a ball though.

11 September 2018

Access Anglesey

When I was about to do my first lecture in my first module I thought of the scientific information in my head and how I could turn that into words in a lecture room. I didn’t really think yet about what the variability was of the people in the lecture theatre regarding how they experience the world. But once you get going you notice really fast that your class rooms are full of people who are hindered by anxiety, or who may be autistic and prefer to learn in a quiet environment, or who have any kind of personal ways of doing things. We also have a student in a wheelchair of which we often wonder how we are going to accommodate him on fieldwork. Can we drive him there in a big 4WD? Should we send a drone in to film the environment so he can see it from his living room? All that sort of stuff.

Then we decided to organise a new field module for the freshers. We would show them the geology of Anglesey as it is very interesting. And we started preparing.

Then an email came in; Leeds university (in colaboration with the International Association for Geoscience Diversity, and the associated Diversty in Geoscience UK) was organising a field course for students who struggle, for some reason or another, with ‘regular’ fieldwork. They would go to Anglesey for a week. And they were looking for both participants, and observers. The observers would be there basically to steal all the good ideas and take them back to their own universities. And I had been pondering very much how to cater for students with special needs, and I was quite keen to get some outside ideas on the geology of Anglesey. So I figured out if Bangor was willing to pay me to attend. And at the last minute they did! So I registered and looked forward to it. 

I didn’t start very well. As far as I could tell, they had told us we were welcome at the accommodation from 4PM. No further information. So I just figured I rock up any time. I should have asked! It was a good reminder to myself that I shouldn’t do what I don’t want my students to do. I f I don’t know something (such as when to arrive): just ask. One day I’ll learn! I rocked up when everybody else was having dinner. I joined in. Everyone seemed nice! 

The next morning I got up early and went for a run. I knew the place wasn’t far from the coastal path and I hadn’t run for a while. It was lovely! Such amazing landscape.  After I got back we had breakfast; after breakfast was cleared, sandwich ingredients appeared; we made our own packed lunch. Great! I had been a bit apprehensive about losing all control over my food for an entire week but my worries were unjustified. Breakfast and dinner (veggie for me, but to my delight they reared their own pigs so a lot of the meat the others ate was from happy livestock) were fine too!
With my packed lunch I jumped into one of the vehicles. I ended up with Chris from Ohio (and the IAGD) and Hannah from Glasgow; they were both there too as observers. We went to Parys Mountain. I had been several times, but never scientifically! Now I would find out what this place was about. And it was a lovely day to do that. 

Our accommodation at about 7AM

The rugged coastline in morning light

That first day, the full force of inclusive technology came out; in order to understand the geology, you had to stand on the edge of the big pit and get the overview, but also descend into it and have a closer look. We could all do the former, but we had three wheelchair users and they couldn’t do the latter. So a set of masts was put up, and a tent erected with a laptop and a screen, and the leading geologists were hung full of microphones and walkie-talkies and whatnot. With all that faff it was possible at the top of the pit to see a live feed of the geologists explaining stuff, ask questions, and steer the camera wherever they wanted it. I suppose it was the closest thing to being there yourself you could get! And what was there to get? I knew the place was brimming with hydrothermal activity, but now we had a more detailed explanation. We saw actual deposits of black smoker smoke, and the hydrothermal channels that fed them. Cool!

Pyrite in a quartz matrix. A rock from Parys Mountain seen through my hand lens. 

Trevor films Dan who is explaining the hydrothermal ducts to the people at the edge of the quarry

View back to the people at the edge of the quarry. Notice the fold underneath their feet.

After lunch we did some water sampling in four ponds. Later the students would do measurements on these. Parys Mountain is notorious for its aggressive chemistry; what would we find? And when we had all the samples we needed we went back to the accommodation. We were there about 5pm. Dinner is served at 6pm. Chris wanted to go to the pub. Would we have time enough? We tried! Hannah knew the way from the coastal path, and I knew where the coastal path was. I had run there! But it took us a long time to get there. We had ten minutes to order and down a beer. Oh dear! But we tried. And pretty much made it. We sat in the sun with the beautiful view and it was great! And on the way back we took a more direct route. I had inadvertently added a bit of a loop to our route! So we were back in time for dinner. And then the debrief. 

The next day we went to Red Wharf Bay. I know that place! We take the students there ourselves. But we go there as historical geologists, and these Leeds people are structural geologists and petrologists and they look at things in a different way. They skipped the whole background (where was the land at that time? Where was what? ) and went straight into detail. But what detail! I learned an awful lot about the place. 

 Driving the 4WD with the wheelchair users onto the beach

The weather cleared

We had lunch at the caravan park, and after lunch went to visit the Marquess of Anglesey. He’s famously standing on some Blueschist. That is rock that has been deep inside a subduction zone, but has come back up without being altered since having been that deep. That’s quite rare! Hence the fame of the Marquess. He is standing on a bit of a hill, though, with a small path leading up. Would the wheelchairs be able to get there? First the chap in the electric wheelchair gave it a go. He got there! Then the chap with the muscle-powered wheelchair (with knobbly tyres) gave it a go. He got stuck at a big root. The chap in the electric wheelchair shouted down that if he could find some place to sit someone could drive his wheelchair down and get the other wheelchair users. What a good idea! I could imagine that wheelchair users are a bit protective of their kit, but clearly not this chap. So everyone made it to the outcrop. Success! We looked at the deformation of the rock and called it a day. 

After we came back I had a chat with one of the students who had spoken about what university was like for him as an autist. I figured I could learn something here! So I had asked if he was willing to elaborate. And he was! Very useful. I will immediately implement some of the things he said in the new semester.

The day after was for Lligwy beach. We had gone there too during our preparations. I like the place! We stared at the sandstones and muds and had a good time. The weather was still lovely! And it was getting socially nicer as well as I had got to know people a bit. That always makes a difference.
After Lligwy Bay we did Cemlyn Bay. I had not been there for scientific reasons! I didn’t quite know what to expect. There were phyllites there, and some strange greenstone grit. And there was a beautifully exposed thrust fault. And a seal in the water! But things got complicated. I ended up in a discussion with Ian, another observer; we sort of assume the deformation on Anglesey is generally Silurian. But if you look closely, you see that the Devonian rocks are deformed too. So it must have happened later. But how did that fit in the narrative then? All I thought I knew I had to reconsider. Complicated. But exciting! And I tried to talk lots with the students during the day. I’m here to learn! It turned out we had quite a lot of people on the autism spectrum, and a lady with ADHD, and lots of dyslexia and some dyspraxia and whatnot. I don’t know about everyone. One bloke had been banned from fieldwork by his university. It was cool to see him have a good and academically productive time here! And everybody else too, of course, but for this guy especially it couldn’t be taken for granted.  

 Staring at Old Red Sandstone on Lligwy Bay

 Phyllites and Wylfa power station

When we got back it was again one of those days in which we perhaps could get ten minutes to down a pint in the pub. We were just about to set off, when we were called. It was Ian, who had come by car, and who suggested he drive us. That’s quicker! We took up the offer, and had yet another pint (an alcohol-free one for Ian) in the sun. Nice! We didn’t really have to hurry now we had fast transport.
That night I had to do quite a lot of work emails (as far as I could; internet was very weak at the accommodation) and I of course also had to sort out my notes. It was a busy night! I got to bed tired and decided to set my alarm 45 minutes later than my newly established routine, and ditch my morning run. And the next morning it was very bad weather so I wasn’t sorry. 

That day we would go to Llanddwyn Island. It’s lovely!  We first looked at the pillow lavas there, and then at the melange at the tip of the peninsula. And in the afternoon, the sun came out. Lovely! And when we got back there was plenty of time for the pub. I did not feel much thirst for alcohol after so much pub time already but it’s nice to have some social time and a change of scene. Lots of people joined this time! That was nice.

Animated discussion about rock. Pic by Jan

Llanddwyn Island (with a mast for relaying recordings of teaching to those who couldn't come to the beach)

The next morning I was fresh again for a morning run. I was sharing a room with two other ladies, and one of the other ones tended to go for a run at the exact same time. The third would get out of bed only marginally later, so we were a well-adjusted team. Especially as the similar times of rising were inspiring similar times of going to bed. And it was a bit of a culture shock to share a bedroom, especially for over a week, but it was OK. I sometimes slept with earplugs. 

On Friday we stayed close to home. We were supposed to go to Rhosneigr, that I looked forward to, but that plan had been binned as the organisers thought we would be running out of time. So we were off to the nearby coastguard watchout. This stands on top of some quartzites, which form sequences with pelites. Altogether it’s proximal to distal turbidites. And they are beautifully folded in places! Really like I had never seen it before. 

Waking down to the exposed rocks

And what kind of rocks! 

Selfie with Chris

When we were done looking at them in detail it was time to go back. It was so close some of us wanted to go on foot. I had run pretty much all the way to the watchout so I went along. Not that this bunch can’t find their way along the Coastal Path, but well, one can’t be too sure. It was nice! I lead them the quick way but it turned out they wanted to do the full loop. I didn’t feel like that. I went back and they went on. At the accommodation I found Ian jumping up and down in impatience. He doesn’t drink at all, but he wanted to go to the pub! So I joined him. I thought others would show up later but nobody did. 

The day after would be a day of geological mapping. The students were supposed to do the Rhoscolyn area. Some would go into the field; others would do it indoors via some really snazzy software. I looked forward to that! But the weather was atrocious so everyone stayed inside. But the software was impressive! You could really map the area with it. There were also some petrological microscopes out. I had fun looking at thin sections from the rocks we had seen along the way! I hadn’t done anything with a petrological microscope since, I don’t know, my second year in uni or something. And there were forams in the limestone!

Digital mapping on one table; petrology on the other. Pic by Jan

Phyllite under the microscope

We also did a debrief with all observers. Also included was a companion; students with complex needs sometimes come with one. She had some amazing insights too! 

Later we did a scientific debrief. And a group photo. And then we went to the pub with the biggest crowd so far. It was nice! Quite a lot of students had social anxiety issues and that we got so many to a challenging place like a pub was evidence of the atmosphere of trust and relaxation that had been achieved. Success! 

From the scientific debrief 

 Everybody! (Except Jason who left early). Pic by Ian

I had thought in advance I might scoot off that evening, but I decided against. In for a penny, in for a pound! I could sleep one night more in a room with two others. And then my lovely house would get attention again on Sunday. So I joined the fire that had been lit outside, and I got drawn in (not for the first time) into a complicated jigsaw puzzle challenge. For some reason, there were two near-identical puzzles and the pieces had ended up mixed up. Believe me; it’s quite a task to sort that! 

The next morning I woke up early due to a roommate having to go to the loo at 6:15 so I was out for a run extra early. It was still stunning! And after that it was time to have a shower, pack my stuff, say goodbye to everybody and drive home. It had been a good week! I had learned a lot about the geology of Anglesey, I had learned about using technology to make fieldwork accessible to all, and I had learned about the low-tech changes you can make to let people with a wider variety of neurological states learn stuff about the Earth (or whatever else, for that matter). And on top of that: I had spent a week at a lovely location with lovely people! And now I’ll go back to my day job and try to make a difference…

NB some lovely pics from Ian on Flickr here