31 January 2019


On Thursday I came home and everything had changed. The painter had started for real on the extension! And I had wanted to make a clear distinction between the original house and the addition; demure colours in the old house and clanging colours in the added bit. And clanging it was!

I had gone for orange, yellow and turquoise, and it's hard capturing these colours after dark on a compact camera but you get the idea! It cheers me up. And it does keep you well aware of what part of the house you are in! And it's not all done; the orange doesn't cover well so needs more coats, and the turquoise needs some touching up too, but the essence is there. Great!

The orange hallway and yellow bathroom behind it

All three colours in one pic

The bathroom looks a lot better now!

It looks green on this pic but that's OK

30 January 2019

The actual field day at Parys Mountain

A few days after our recce we took the actual students into the field, to Parys Mountain. We were a small group! And it went well. The students were interested and engaged. Jaco learned a lot (he's a sedimentologist so doesn't ponder hydrothermal activity very often) and we had brought David as a photographer. 

Admiring the Big Pit. Pic by David

Jaco in the Big Pit

Black Smoker deposits. Pic by David

When we were done looking at the geology we continued admiring the industrial heritage at the site. And it was good we had David; normally he keeps to the background if he joins a trip as a photographer, but this time he had such a wealth of knowledge about the place he broke his habit and pitched in. Cool!

The engine house

Next time we will on a beach again, but I think I will miss that one as I'm lecturing. Oh well! This trip had been good!

29 January 2019

New Welsh class - or is it?

A new class has started! But is it a Welsh class? It is advertised as such, but it is called 'local history'. And during the first class it became clear quite a lot of those attending were native speakers. They were just in it for the history! So it basically was a bloke who had printed out bits of old newspaper he had found and which he found interesting, and discussed them with us. Most were actually in English! Probably because most newspapers just were English. At least he discussed them in Welsh. He did write a few words on a whiteboard, but altogether it didn't feel like a language class at all. But that's OK! By listening to him I am practising my listening skills, and he does encourage input from the floor, so I get to say something now and then too. But not anywhere as much as I did in the traditional courses! But it's interesting. I'll keep going! I think next time he will talk about tramps, gypsies and folk like that. With his material stemming from pre-PC times. I don't think a particularly flattering picture will be painted!

28 January 2019

Another Welsh exam

 It's not as if I have nothing to do. But Jenny is keen to add Welsh exams to my to do list. I had done a 'Welsh in the workplace' exam some year ago; that had been level 5. She figured it was time to do level 6. The highest available level! And she had planned it for before the lectures started. And the week before (it would be a Monday) I went hunting for Welsh speakers willing to help. They have to walk in and talk about work, and a tutor records that and marks it. And you have to phone a few people. And there is some written work involved. And for level 6, I had to do some mentoring of other Welsh learners. But not much!

That Monday it didn't happen; one of my Welsh speakers was ill, and no potential replacement walked into the building on time. We postponed it a week! And that very day there was a beginners' class in Menai Bridge; that would be a nice opportunity for some mentoring.

At 3PM a tutor called Elen appeared. We had a small chat first! And then I phoned my first Welsh-speaking colleague: Aled, a technician. We don't tend to have much to talk about as he works with our boats, and I don't use these, but we could just make it up. I used the project we have in mind with a company up the road to ask about taking grab samples from one of our smaller boats. That worked well! And once I know what we actually need I can ask again. This was just about being able to talk about it.

Then we asked Sophie in. And this time we had something real to talk about! She is a sea level researcher, and had mentioned in my presence she wanted to give a lecture in the not too distant future. I had a sea level lecture lined up! I was perfectly happy for her to deliver that. And we agreed on it! Great! We first talked about the general idea, and then I phoned her back to agree on a date and time. Perfect!

Then I phoned a lady from Canolfan Bedwyr, who happens to also be in my climbing club (I haven't climbed in months! Oh dear!) and that was nice. And then it was time to go to the beginners' class! Elen taught that so that worked out well. And it wasn't busy; only two ladies. Sophie (another one) and Siobhan. They're nice! And this way Elen and I could do practice exercises with one person each. I think it worked well!

When the hour was over I showed Elen the balcony of the building we were in; the views are amazing, and she hadn't been. She was impressed! And then left.

A bit later I wrote some text as that was part of the exam too. But I had received incomplete instructions; I had to write several bits of text. The second one ended up a bit low on my to do list! But I got it done on Sunday night. I think I'll pass. And well, if so: on to level 7! That qualification doesn't exist yet but I know they're working on it. And by the time I have that I'm sure they've started on level 8. And in summer there's the A level exam (da's het UK equivalent van VWO CSE!). I hadn't done that yet, as it is in June and then we're always on fieldwork, but as the fieldwork has now moved to September, I no more have an excuse not to do it! Let's have it!

27 January 2019

The painter has started!

It's a bit later then I had expected that the painter finally starts! I hadn't anticipated that taking some ten months. But there we are. I had prepared as well as I could. Not as well as he hoped; he had hoped I would strip the wallpaper from the master bedroom (I had made a start a while ago), but I had not found the time. And Dylan, the painter, doesn't like wallpaper stripping. But then again, who does? But the holes were filled and the rooms as good as empty (the living room and landing, anyway; if these are empty, I need the master bedroom to keep the stuff). And the landing had skirting boards.

On Monday he would be there at eight. But then he texted he would be a bit later. But he showed up! And I showed him what I had done, and what colours I had chosen. And then I gave him a key, went to work, and wondered what I would see when I got home.

And I saw he had started with the newly plastered surfaces! And that made sense; these seem to suck moisture in so they need different treatment from the much older surfaces. The ceilings clearly needed another layer but it was already looking good! And who knows what it'll look like when he makes a bit more progress. Coming home is very spectacular these days!

The living room after day one

 The landing after day one

 The ceiling of the hallway after day one

 The landing after day two

The living room after day two

The master bedroom's wall has been stripped from wallpaper! After day three. 

The landing is pretty much done after day three. 

So is the living room after day three

Wintery scenes

When I woke up one morning I saw the fields on the other side of the river were white! I had not seen them like that. I think it will happen more often but it was special to see for the first time!

I think the white is actually hail; the day before I had had an enormous amount of the stuff fall on my head during my commute. And I knew more had been falling after I came home. So it's not as romantic as snow but it still looks good!

26 January 2019

Beam sorted

Doesn't time fly! I set out to finish a task I thought I had paused recently, but looking it up i realised that had been in summer.

I had decided I should do all the dirty jobs in the living room before the painter would come in. Once he's done I want to have the joiner in there as soon as I can, and then when the floor is in situ I should be able to just furnish the place and use it. And then I don't want to have to do chores that make a mess and require me lugging my working platform through the room.

I used to have a ceiling with one big beam underneath it. But it was a plasterboard ceiling, and it hid the original beams. So when the plasterboard ceiling was removed, I suddenly had Victorian ceiling beams, with one bigger beam below it, with a layer of wallpaper and plasterboard in between. And with some appropriate violence I had managed to remove almost all the plasterboard. Back in summer. But now what? It still looked bad. And I needed to do something about that now.

I had decided I should try to just saw off the nails that had been keeping the plasterboard in place, and then try to remove the wallpaper by flossing the gap with a rag soaked in water with wallpaper remover. And then scrape at it with a putty knife. And then try to get the remaining plaster off with an old toothbrush. It had come off with a hard brush on the rest of the beams; this seemed like the sort of tool that would do it! And it worked rather well. It was a lot of faff but I am content now. Bring on the painter!

Looking rather neat!

25 January 2019

Still getting ready for the painter

I had had a weekend of splotching filler all over the place. But I wasn't done yet! I had forgot the staircase. And the conservatory. And I had to remove some stuff from the bathroom walls, and then fill the holes. And I had to put in place one new bit of skirting board, and fix two in position that had originally just been glued into place. And not all the filler used so far had been sanded down to remove the edges. So I had more to do! And I didn't have the whole weekend for it, with a bit gap taken out of the day on Saturday (the fieldtrip recce). But the good thing was that on the way back from that trip, I popped by a DIY shop and looked at colours. It's not good enough to tell your painter you want 'blue' or 'green'; you have to be more specific. And I decided! I look forward to seeing my vision in reality...

So In the end, the actual weekend before the painter would show up (after a week's delay because of family reasons) I was running around like a mad person! But soon the house should be transformed...

 Nasty gaps near the ceiling in the staircase

What it looked like later (yes i know, not very professional, but who will pay attention to this?

The bathroom is starting to look empty

And I did my homework! Colours decided on...

24 January 2019

impromptu field day recce

We had three more days in the field with first-year students on the cards! And one would be in the first week of term. We had to figure out where to go! On Friday I asked Dei. He said he didn't know. Oh dear! He figured we should have a look at the tides as we had two beach locations left, and one inland one. If the tides were high at the wrong time we should go to the inland location, which was Parys Mountain. And we hadn't done a recce there yet! Dei suggested we may have to do that in the weekend. Oh dear! Enough to do already. But well, it has to be done! And he figured he had to do a big walk with the dog anyway. He might do it there! And then I remembered I had a 'Welsh in the Workplace' exam on the Monday, so hanging out with Dei would be the best preparation. So I said we should just do it!

After Dei had gone home I checked the tides. They were very high in the middle of the field day! So it looked like we had no choice. And David reminded me of how sore Millie's paws had been when we had been in summer, so I warned Dei. Oh dear! That meant the end of the dog's involvement.

I got to Parys Mountain a bit early. That gave me a chance to have another look at my Welsh dictionary; I might have to brush up on some specialist terms. Then Dei appeared. Without dog! So we just set of with the two of us. And it was a bit weird; Dei had not only not been looking at the local geology; he had never been to the site at all. From the mine, you can see the places where he has lived the first 21 years of his life. The mine dominates the landscape. And he had never been!

We went to the viewing platform overlooking the big pit. Dei was impressed! I told him what I knew about the place and he checked the book we use as an inexhaustible source of information. Then we went on to where 'black smoker' sediments were exposed, and to the 'central boss' where you could see all the hydrthermal veins that had once fed the black smokers. And we saw the head of the fold. That was pretty much what I knew to show him! And from there we just followed the 'geo-trail' (indicated both in the book and through little signposts) that takes you past all the major industrial relics to be found there. I didn't feel like just going back; it's quite a drive. And we might take the students along the geo-trail as well! And it was quite lovely! And we had a cup of tea at the engine house. And after that we soon were back at the cars. It had been a good recce! And let's hope the students like the place too! And let's hope too that the weather holds...

Pic from inside a calciner, with the windmill in the distance

Dei, the windmill, and some more modern (and functioning) specimens in the valley below...

23 January 2019

Book read

I finished a non-Welsh book! I had brought it from the Netherlands one day; my mother had read it and didn't want to do it again. It was the Greek myths retold by Stephen Fry. I can be a bit sceptical of modern re-tellings but I figured Stephen Fry would honour the originals. And I think he did! He sometimes uses rather modern language, but then again, why would the people in the myths sound old-fashioned. They wouldn't have sounded like that to themselves! So it brought the stories to life, and of course, there were loads of footnotes with explanations of what locations were now called what and what creature or phenomenon had been named after which (demi-)god. It was nice and I was nicely reminded of a lot of myths I either half-remembered, or only sort of had heard of. It was worth it!

22 January 2019

Into Parc

There was a shaft in Parc I had never been through! Some weeks back Edwyn had made the shaft, which I had always just walked past, passable, but I hadn't bothered to go down it. But this week we would be back. Not because of the shaft, but because David wanted to reach a passage he had seen. It would take several ladders to reach. And that shaft would be a fine conduit for them to travel through! But where ladders can go, I can probably go.

I hitched a ride from Phil. We were the first to get there! That gave us the opportunity to have a look at an entrance Phil had seen before (probably walking the dog) when he didn't have light with him. It only went a few meters! Oh well. If it went we would have known about it. We went back down the hill and said hello to David, Paul and Ed who had appeared in the meantime. And we got kitted. Simon, Edwyn, Jason and Garry appeared too. Enough to carry any number of ladders!

We set off, carrying the ladders one by one. We got to the top of the shaft and had to rig it. Phil already went down to receive the ladders on the other side. In the meantime, we tied the ladders together. And then lowered them down the shaft. It worked! They didn't snag along the way. Then we had to follow ourselves (those who chose not to go via the ladderway), but it always takes a while to get several people down a shaft. I decided to have some fruit while waiting in the queue. But there was no fruit! I had left it in Phil's car. That miffed me quite a lot. I decided I didn't feel like abseiling the shaft anymore and followed Jason down the ladderway.

When we came down we found only Ed. No ladders, no most people! They had gone ahead. Ed was waiting for Garry, as he was worried he would have a problem getting past the deviation. Jason and I started off for the others. And after a while, saw a light. It was Ed! Oops. Walked in a circle. We tried again, and this time we got to where we wanted to be. The ladders were in position! And people were clearly at the top. That was good work!

Up the ladders to the little passage. Pic by Ed.

It sounded like what was up there was not what David (who had come up with this plan) had hoped. Oh well! As usual. If something goes, someone has explored it!

When the people up there had come down I went up with Jason to have a look. Indeed, it didn't go far! Although the end looked like a collapse, not a proper dead end. It could be diggable! But it is a bit of a faff to get there.

We went down again. Then David, Phil and Simon went up to bolt the place, for in case we did want to come back to dig it. We had a disposable rope with us! In the meantime I had a nice chat with Simon. And a cup of tea. Then Ed went up to rig it. And then Phil came down, ladders and all. Time to pack up and get out!

We got back to the bottom of both shaft and winze below the ladderway. I thought I'd go up, but then changed my mind. I had brought David's drill and bolting kit down, but now he was carrying it himself. That seemed a bit unfair! I offered to take it back but David didn't feel like the faff of unpacking so he kept it. Edwyn started up the winze. I figured I'd go up the shaft. Best to use both passages! Is more efficient. And then I would get to see the shaft after all!

I started my way up. It was a fair way! But it was an OK pitch. And after a while I saw the deviation. I was getting somewhere! And Edwyn had been worried about getting past the deviation on the way up, but his worries were unjustified. Edwyn worrying, that's unusual! Maybe he was ill or something. But I got up and screamed 'rope free'. The others probably already had fixed the ladders to it. So we could start hauling! Even though there were only two of us. Why were there only two of us? The ladderway is a much quicker way up! Oh well.

We started hauling but it was hard. I suggested we wait for more people but Edwyn was being stubborn. And we had the things most of the way up by the time the next person appeared! That was Jason. He gave us a hand. Then Phil appeared, but the ladders were pretty much up by then. Success! And since we didn't expect anybody else to come up the shaft we derigged. And untied the ladders. And carried them out. We were being rather executive!

I had changed into my civilian clothes by 22.30. That's pretty good for a Thursday Night! And I suppose we will be back. I don't mind some ochreous digging!

20 January 2019

Rescue training after a while

The last time I had been out with the rescue team had been in spring. The training sessions since had been when I was not available! And I had completely forgot there was a January session. But well, Welsh hadn't started yet, I can use my Tuesday evenings for such stuff! So we piled into Paul's car and went to Plas-y-Brenin for some hauling training. And there were many of us!

Those in charge of the training decided we should subdivide into groups. Two groups would haul and one would do some first aid. I had done my Casualty Care a while ago, but not practiced since, so I figured I could use some brushing up. Lou, one of the other CasCarers (but one who keeps her skills up to date as she is a member of a surface team), talked some of us again through the initial casualty check. Our PhD student Ed was a willing casualty. We even log-rolled him in a typical confined space! It went well.

When that was done we swapped. I was now part of a bunch of people rigging a Z-rig. It was a bit vague as I wasn't quite sure what we needed to haul from where to where and that doesn't help, but things gradually became clear. And I ended up being hauled! So much for my Z-rigging skills. Then we hauled a chap up and down. And then we would, all together, do an actual stretcher haul (we had just been hauling people by their harnesses). We would haul Paul from the floor to the platform higher up. And putting him in the stretcher worked, and hauling him up worked too, but it proved hard to get him around the corner. A second rope was rigged and I climbed it, so I could attach the feet end of the stretcher to myself and then forcefully prussik up. It worked! We got him up. Then we lowered him again.

Paul got to the ledge - how to get him over?  

I'm up to make Paul tilt, and this was the view

We managed! 

When that was done it was time to get Paul out, get our SRT kit off, and put the kit in the appropriate bags. It had been useful! But getting Paul over the ledge gave us the idea that in the future, we should have an entire training session on getting stretchers around corners. It's hard! And it seems it has sometimes really caused difficult situations in the past. We had better be prepared!

19 January 2019


With January come exams. I have two main modules for which I have an exam. One is entirely mine; it will take a while to mark that. The other one I share with two colleagues, so I only have to answer part of the questions. That one tends to go quite fast! And then there are the exams I only have one question on. And I assume I will be asked to moderate some marking of exams I otherwise have nothing to do with.

The invigilation tends to be quite relaxing. You just sit there. The first half hour the students are not allowed to leave. I tend to read an article, or maybe a library book, or maybe even just a regular novel! In between the looking around; is anyone cheating? Or does someone have a question? Or need more paper? And then when the first people hand in you can start marking. The sooner you start the better! And then the week after, the lectures kick off with a vengeance. I will have no way of having finished then within working hours. I think I see another weekend of work coming up! Even though I also have to wield my filler trowel!

17 January 2019

Getting ready for painter

The painter will just walk in and start painting! I sort of figured. But not quite. I realised I had better prepare. And that meant: fill all the holes and gaps and cracks caused by either the electrician, or screws, or the house sagging a bit. And clean the paint that needs painting over. And such things! It is more work than I thought. Some of the bigger holes can't be filled in one go! And the filler needs to dry in between sessions. And sometimes you have to remove the excess filler. And once you've made the filler you have to finish it; otherwise it just hardens and you have to chuck it. So I make small batches! It took the whole weekend to do most of the work. And then I realised I still had to deal with two skirting boards. And a mirror. And a renegade beam. And the staircase (had forgot to check that). But the painter is delayed and I have yet another weekend. I think I can be ready for him!

My paint tub hasn't seen paint use yet but here it does a job

Where the electric heater used to be

The back wall of the landing; there had been shelves there, and probably a lot more

16 January 2019

Garden tidied up

The garden was a bit neglected when I moved in. And some of the trees were in need of pruning! But it looked like one of those jobs that would take me forever. And I figured it would be better if I had a professional sort it out! And Phil knew one. In December this recommended chap came to have a look, and booked me in for January. And on the set day he duly appeared!

We had another look; they had forgot the finer details of what we had discussed. And then I left them to it! Most work was the crab apple tree, who had grown all over the place. They tidied up the other trees too. And before the morning was over they were done, taking all the cuttings with them. That meant I wasn't getting any firewood out of this but well, one can't have it all. The garden looks a lot more civilised now!

The men at work

The crab apple tree after they were done

14 January 2019

Tackling the bathroom

I hadn't intended to sort out the bathroom anytime soon! But when the painter is coming anyway, he can just as well also do the bathroom. It's mint green, after all, even including the ceiling. But if the painter is in the bathroom I can't use it. So I hope he doesn't spend too much time in there! So it was best if I stripped the wallpaper off myself. And it was very inoffensive wallpaper, but it had featured an electric heater, and that had been disabled. The electrician wouldn't stand for electricity so close to the bath. And when I took it off I could see it had been wallpapered around. So there was a big scar in it. That meant it all had to go!

It turned out to be a double layer! And some funny chewing gum-like layer underneath. It was a lot of work to get it off! Luckily it's only one wall. And I took everything off the wall that was on it, like the medicine cabinet, the towel rack, etc. (except the radiator). That makes it easier for the painter. And for me, stripping the wallpaper.

I did damage the plaster a bit doing that. A few small patches I will be able to fill up with filler, and then some bigger stuff that is a bit worrying. That was right next to the bath! Must have had some water damage. Maybe I should extend the tiling a bit. Rose left some of the tiles used! And they're not very beautiful and in the long run, maybe the whole bathroom should be redone, but that is a later concern. Let's get things up to scratch paint-wise now. Then I can see in some years from now if I want to do more drastic things!

The plasterer had to come back to plaster the staircase. On one side, it was just plasterboard, that had been wallpapered over. And I had pulled the wallpaper down (with help). But painting straight over the plasterboard isn't a good idea. It would look silly! So the plasterer came back, in the nick of time, and did that. And filled the holes I had made in the bathroom wall! That was one worry fewer.

I also washed the skirting boards and the radiator and the ceiling. Using the steamer on the wall has alerted me to the nicotine on the ceiling! I hope Rose didn't smoke in the bathroom but if she smoked elsewhere the smoke probably drifted in. When the steamer created droplets on the ceiling they were brown. Oh dear! 

Once the painter gets started I suppose he may be there only during working hours, and then I'm not home, but still. If he is anything like the plasterers then he'll be there from early to late! And he can spend as much time as he wants on what will be the master bedroom; I can happily stay out of that room for days on end. But I can't avoid the bathroom! Not without treading roughshod on some social norms...

more removal of mint green

13 January 2019

New floor awaits

As soon as the painter is done, I can have a floor put down in the living room! And then I can start turning it into an actual room! I can't wait. And I actually didn't wait. I mean, the painter has to go in first. And painters work best when nothing is in their way! But I had seen a website with lots of reclaimed floorboards (I like old stuff, in case that needs pointing out), and they happened to have a courier coming to North Wales anyway in the week before the painter would come. So I went with it! I bought planks that allegedly come from a former Liverpudlian tobacco warehouse. Not far away! And you can see plenty of floorboards in the pictures in the link. I think the miners that make Bethesda what it was might have approved. I suppose many of them smoked! And they must have been used to imports from England.

The planks, though, are now lying in the only room that has all the space in the world for them: the future master bedroom. Maybe a bit in the way! As that room will need painting. Maybe I should try placing them under my bed. The bedroom won't be painted! And then the painter isn't hindered by them. And can't spill paint on them either. But I'm looking forward to seeing them in position! The joiner has already said he thinks he'll manage to fit me in...


11 January 2019

Sunday scamper

I figured I should go for a bit of a walk over the weekend! And I thought of the little trial levels up the valley. And I had asked one of the underground chaps, Chris, to join me. We had gone for a walk before and that was nice. And he was available!

He came to my house and we had a coffee first. Then we set off. Chris knows everything there is to know about the local mines (and other industrial archaeology, and geology, and more things) so basically, from there on I could juts follow him and have my head filled with local knowledge. He knew, for instance, what that strange leat was for that runs in the hills above the village. It used to go from Afon Wen to Bryn Hafod y Wern slate quarry. That quarry was in use during the Great Strike, but some of the land it crossed was owned by Penrhyn Quarry, so they blocked it, and it couldn't be used. And that seems to have been it for Bryn Hafod y Wern. Oh dear!

The other leat, in the Ogwen Valley, seems to have provided water for Penrhyn itself. It must have used lots! There is water everywhere; there is a little reservoir on the other side, and there is the stream coming past it that has clearly been used for industrial purposes. But you're Penrhyn Quarry or you're not.

Anyway. We got to the first mine: Tan-y-Garth Arsenic mine. It had several entrances but they all went ratehr steeply downhill and were full of cloudy water. So no exploring there! But I knew that; if there was any underground exploration down there then either it would have been gated, or I would know about it, or both. But it was nice to have a look!

Chris on the arsenic mine spoil

Then we proceeded to Twll Garth slate mine, also known as Dr Hughes, for some reason. We came past the pretty sheepfolds there on the crest of the hill. There was a hole in the ground but no entrances. And the weather was getting nice in the meantime.

Me in front of Dr Hughes

Crossing the river on the way back

We walked on to the little scars in the hillside you can see so easily from the other side (which is where you are if you start walking at Tan-y-Foel). These were Gallt-y-Mawn and y Gyrn Wigau slate trials. They we quite similar; linear scars in the hillside with waste tips below them. It seemed to have mainly been open cast. At Gallt y Mawn we had a cup of coffee. And admired the weather! It was better then we had anticipated. And after Gyrn Wigau we crossed the valley and walked back on the other side, walking past some of the slate relics above Rachub on Moel Faban, And by then we were hungry so we went home, via the shop. I decided I could bake pancakes! And I did. Not very skillfully but I did it. And then it was time to do chores again! But it had been a good day! And I am glad I now have seen the little mines above my village. Maybe next time: Bryn Hafod y Wern!

09 January 2019

Skirting boards

I'd never put a skirting board anywhere! It's just one of those things you never do when you rent. And there's not much to it; you just screw a bit of wood to the bottom of the wall. But doing it was a first!

I first had to get rid of a remnant of the old skirting board. The wall in the landing with my fireplace in it needed some work; with ripping out the old open fireplace, any skirting board had been ripped out as well. There still was one piece left, but the local timber merchant didn't have any matching skirting board on offer, so I decided to rip that out of the wall and put entirely new stuff in. And it wasn't easy to get rid of the old stuff! It turned out to be fixed with four Victorian nails. That's a bit much! And there was no way I could pull these out of the wall so just crowbarred the wood off the nails, and cut these off with my Dremel. And then I sawed my new purchase to size and screwed it into position. I suppose if I were a joiner I would have made the edges match the surroundings more but I'm not. It's good enough for me! Bring on the next challenge.

 I think the plastering behind it needs some polyfilla! That'll teach me doing the skirting boards after the plasterer has been... (or at least not removing the old stuff before the plasterer came)

08 January 2019

Short ThursdayNight trip

The Thursdaynighters had had some midwinter fun. They had been out on the 27th and on New Year's Day and because I felt the pressure of marking I didn't join. And when the university opened again, I was back in the office, so I also skipped a Thursday daytrip. But then they offered the trip they had cancelled a few weeks earlier. I jumped to that occasion! It was a small mine in a beautiful valley: Chwarel Llew Twrog, and would be a modest trip. And there probably weren't very many people joining.

I knew of David and Paul coming; in theory we could have shared a car, but I feared the others would want to go for a pizza or something. After an underground trip I want my bed! So we drove separately.

I got to the agreed place as the first. I went for a leak and in that time, the others arrived. We piled into David's car (there would be little parking space where we were going). We drove up the old road to Manod; this little road is famous as the Manod Quarry has served as a depository for British art in the Second World War. The powers that were were scared it would get damaged if left in heavily blitzed London.

We put on our kit and walked up the hill. It was a cloudy night so we didn't see a thing, but I knew the valley was lovely! And we fairly soon got to an entrance. It was wide and had relics of rails; it had been well-equipped. But it was only a tunnel. No chambers, no side passages. But it did have two nice waterfalls just coming out of the walls!

The simple level with the waterfalls

When we had seen it all (it didn't take long) we went along to the bigger venue. We walked along a wall. It was a bit slow going; there was no path, and the terrain was rocky and mossy and slippery. But we got there. And this venue was a little bit bigger! It was also a tunnel, but this time with a side passage, and a small chamber. Exciting! We looked at it all, and then sat down for a chat and a cup of tea while Paul went in to properly photograph everything. He had brought his tripod!

A lot of slabs stacked up along the sides, ready to be taken out in the main level

After a while Paul was done, and David's feet were getting cold. So we got out! And this time, we headed straight downhill, as we figured it would be easier to walk back along the road. And it was.

When we were done David brought me back to my car. David and Paul went to Mick for a post-trip cup of tea, but I went home. And along the way I picked up a hitchhiker who was very glad I had. He was walking to Swallow Falls from Betws-y-Coed and it was a bit further than he had imagined! So I wasn't the only one home at a decent time that night.

07 January 2019

Cupboard constructed

I had inherited a mint green cupboard for hanging clothes in from Rose. It was somewhere I didn't think was a good place for hanging clothes. It had originally been a door from the landing (which wasn't originally a landing) to the garden. It must have been a very narrow door! It was only some 70 cm. But if I didn't want to use it as a door, nor as a dangly wardrobe, I would have to do something else with it. And I went with a classic cupboard. Just put shelves up!

The first thing that happened was that Jitske pulled out the rod and its accoutrements. Then I filled up the holed with polyfilla, and painted it. Then it was time for structural work. 

I popped to the DIY shop and bought wood. Small rods for screwing into the wall, and planks for laying on top of these. And then it was a case of cutting everything to size and fix it in position. The rods were quite easy. The planks a bit less so. I have no right angle in my house so the planks in the back needed to be a bit longer than the ones at the front. And they seem to always have to be a bit differently sized than I thought after measuring. And they were big buggers! I brought in the workmate and the bow saw and set to work. And on New Year's Day I managed to get to sorted! I have a cupboard. I do want to oil the wood like I've oiled pretty much all the other wood, but that can be done in between things. The hard, noisy, messy work that needs a lot of space is now done!

Oh and I need to paint the door frame... oh well. I might go for green! But not mint green.

 In a way good that the bedroom isn't a bedroom yet


05 January 2019

Ending the year marking

On the last day of term my students had a deadline. My 39 students had to each write a 2000 word essay. I'm not sure why the deadline was so late. I think it was a combination of two things; one is, that I wanted them to have time to incorporate feedback on their presentations, which they gave earlier in the month. And the other may have been that in the olden days, week 1 was the first week of term, but this academic year, it wasn't. And I had made a bit of a dog's breakfast of my timetabling request. That may have had something to do with it. But either way, I started the holidays with a big pile of marking. I had more or less managed to finish the other two that had come in before, but there was no rest for the wicked; I had to plough on without respite.

I made a start in the week I was still in the UK, but I didn't manage to even get halfway. And with all things looming in the new term, I knew I couldn't wait until the University would open again. So after I came back from the Netherlands I set to work. I had rather go for a walk and work on the house, but I didn't feel like I had a choice! So my walks were never longer than an hour, and progress on the house went slow. But slowly yet steadily the list of essays still to mark got smaller. I bailed out of all underground trips planned and kept my head down. I think this is how the new term will look: all work and no play!

04 January 2019

Welsh book done with difficulty

Some books are hard work! And I read one that was. It was, if I understood correctly, a bundle of columns some old codger had written for the regional newspaper of the Lleyn Peninsula. And if not that then it was bits he had written after retiring from writing for that periodical. The paper was called 'Y Llanw'; the tide, hence the name of the book: 'Wedi'r Llanw' or after the tide, or, perhaps, after 'the Tide'. It was all about local history. He would tell tales of shipwrecks, quarries, factories, notable people, etcetera. It was interesting in itself, but it was written in a bit of an archaic style. And a bit dry. But I persisted! And I am not very familiar with the Lleyn so I didn't recognise many of the places but so be it. It was good practice. And I have already started the next, and that's a challenge for another reason: it's written in very slangy south Welsh... I'll report about that when that's done! That will be quicker than this one...

03 January 2019

New semester comes knocking

I was only home for the first full day after Christmas when I got an email from a colleague. Five weeks to the next Open Day; it was time to start organising! And I know that, of course, but it still had its impact. I know I need to make that happen asap after the university reopens. I didn't want to start spamming people in the old year, as I figured it would feel too long into the future! But that does mean I have to hit the ground running in 2019.

When I got that mail I was also reminded of that I have to design a new model in January. And sort out a module I only found out existed when I was made module leader of. That should not be too bad; it's a twin module of one I have run before, but it needs new assessments. And I have a load of lectures inherited from a colleague, which need very rigorous revision before they're ready for their new lease of life. And I have the dissertation module on my plate for the first time. And I have all the lectures and stuff I already had. I am rather apprehensive. How to get through all that without collapsing? But there's only one way to deal with this: just do it. If I seem absent: give it until Easter. Then I should be able to emerge again into the light! And then, hopefully hopefully, the next year I won't have to deal with that enormous amount of new stuff, and the year will be less stressful...

02 January 2019

Stove in use

One of my stoves stands in a room that's furnished with a working platform and lots of buckets and trowels the plasterer left. The painter said the staircase needed plastering too! So he left some as he is not quite done. But anyway; it's not a homely space. I don't sit down there to relax. So its new stove is still virginal. But in the landing, I have put it to use! It is late December; a fine time to burn some fuel. And stare into the flames. And maybe read a book.

I had burned it once before heading to the Netherlands. But upon coming back, I had more time! And I used it. And the stove works a treat! At some point, a bit too much: I had been warned to build it up slowly, as new stoves fume. Not the fuel, but the stoves itself. You have to slowly burn off the newness! And I went a bit too fast it seems; even though no smoke was visible I set off the fire alarm. Oh dear. What a racket. And I hadn't put an awful lot of fuel in! But clearly the stove had got too hot too quickly and the fumes got out of hand. It did smell iffy, that's for sure. But an opened window solved the problem. I think I can burn it a bit higher now! I hope the worst is over now.


I have also started burning off a lot of the random clumps of wood Rose had left me in the garage. I had bought a new bow saw not too long ago and that gets through all that stuff with relative ease. So I can tidy that up! That will make space. And all the while the wood that came out of the garden can dry out a bit more. That will come in handy soon enough! I am also burning the slats from the lath-and-plaster. The wood doesn't burn as well with all that plaster soaked into it but it does burn. And once all is settled (rooms finished, garage with new roof) I can go and buy big loads of firewood. I don't want to now; the garage roof leaks like there's no tomorrow and I don't want to clog up the house with things like that. But once the garage is dry it can have loads of wood! I have to buy small bits though; the stoves are only small...