28 February 2019

New doorstep

The conservatory is a bit lower than the adjacent bedroom. There was a wooden step to bridge that difference. But that was a bit iffy! Even the house surveyor commented on it. I hoped he would rather look at the bigger picture, but I couldn't deny he was right. But it was low on my priority list.

When I was emptying the conservatory for the painter, I pulled out the step. Time to turn that into firewood! I saw that behind it, there was some rotting skirting board. That went too. I later bought some new skirting board; that was lower than the old stuff. So I painted where the skirting board had been. And then put the new skirting board in place. And I had had my eye on a beautiful piece of slate I had found in the garden (although not one of the ones pictured; there was a third) for a new step. And I would have to lay it down on some supports. I figured I could saw off some bits of the big beam Phil had pulled out of the ceiling! And so it happened.

It was easier than I thought to put the big block into place. I 'walked' it over the grass to the door, and there lowered it onto the door frame and the dolly I had got ready on the other side. Then I just wheeled it to the supports and removed the dolly! Job done! And it's a recent conservatory (this millennium) but I still think this old slate slab looks good in it. And it will last!

Last climate lecture

I know the blog makes it sound like I am only working on the house! But that's not true. The last week, for instance, I had two lectures in my first year module, one tutorial in my second year module, one tutorial in my second year module, a meeting about plagiarism, a OneDrive training session, two two-hour statistics practicals and one session in which I got my head around that statistics practical. And then three lectures in my fourth year climate module. And, unlike the other things I mentioned, these were the last! So after this week I still have the tutorials and the first year lectures, and whatever comes at me with regard to meetings and such, but no more lectures in that module. That will give me some space to breathe! And the last classic lecture was about the Paris Climate Agreement. And that's policy, and international relations, so not easy to lecture about if you are a scientist, but it is very interesting. And next week I will have time to write the exam! Quite a luxury, to not have to submit that before you have actually done the teaching...

27 February 2019

Putting up pictures

When you have a room that has a ceiling, walls, and a floor, and even some furniture, it is pretty much done. But it still feels a bit empty. It wouldn't feel complete until I had things hanging from the wall!

Some walls and pictures are easy. If I can reach the wall, if it is far away from the walls I share with the neighbour and if I have a picture ready it is the easiest. I can drill a hole when I want, just standing on the floor, and hang the picture. Done! That way the hallway was done. And one picture in the bathroom.

Then there are the pictures in the wall I share with the neighbour. I don't want to drill them at silly hours! And those are the only hours I am actually in. Except for the weekend. So then I get one chance a week to do it.

Then there are the walls that are such I want a big picture up. I don't have many ready! So I have to make more. And I figured I could have a start with two frames Rose had left. What was in them was not really of interest to me; one was a piece of embroidery, and the other an old map of Lancashire. I figured maybe I could put some of my old maps I bought in Norway in them instead! And one night I managed the first. And I have three frames from the office that I have plans with. I bought A1 sheets of mounting card to adapt the print sizes I have to the frame sizes I have! And one day I'll have time for that.

The old map went above the stairs to the kitchen. I just about managed to drill the hole with the ladders from my platform (they started shifting already - oh dear) but I couldn't put the picture up unless I removed the ladders first. And then I couldn't reach! Luckily I bumped into the neighbour and he is considerably taller and he put the frame in position. Success!

The mounted map, and one to be mounted on the floor

The map all in place!

Then there are the pictures I want to hang up in the staircase. These are the hardest! You need long ladders for them. So I should make sure to first have some ready, and then borrow the neighbour's ladders once again. And then the hardest is done! And I can keep tinkering until in my eyes, it is all perfect.

26 February 2019

Living room all painted: time for a book cupboard!

When I had a floor in the living room, I quickly put a chair and a coffee table on it. And soon after a trunk and sofa followed. But I didn't want to put my book cupboard there until the skirting boards were done. But as soon as that was done I put it up! That was done fairly quickly. I have numbered the shelves! And for tightening the screws on the one side I used my drill. And then I could finally empty the boxes that held my books! And so many went through my hands, making me think 'ooh, I look forward to reading that'! It felt good to have a book cupboard again. And a living room in which to read the books!

Cupboard is up

Cupboard in use! 

Painter all done

On Thursday I came home to a strong smell of paint. The painter had finished! And the floor paint in conservatory and storage was still wet but I could see it looked good. Great! Soon I would be able to use these spaces again. And now with the skirting boards done in the living room that was all done now too! And I could now put anything in that room I wanted! Great! This is coming together now. Soon it will be sort of finished!

The conservatory

25 February 2019

Add skirting boards

The house is not really one of those immaculate ones! It has lots and lots of rough edges. And the storage space was no exception. Rose had had a freezer there, and when I removed that I saw that both underneath it and behind it it had left its mark. Rose had painted around it! And there was a big stain on the floor. And the moisture that had caused the stain had damaged floor and wall. And there was no skirting board there. It had clearly been there once, but no more. Maybe it had started rotting?

I had not really intended to do much about it but when the painter came in and made everything look great I got my act together and decided to make some effort. I first fixed the floor with polyfilla. Then I fixed the wall with powder filler. And painted over that. And then I added skirting boards all around! There was quite some missing. And I had practised upstairs. And while I was at it I removed some redundant wiring and painted over the scar that left. I And in the end it actually looked quite good! I think it had been worth it!

And while I was at it I did the conservatory too. I'm getting experienced with this!

Of these six bits of skirting board, only two were there initially, and the rest I added myself. And notice the repairs on floor and wall.

24 February 2019

Electricity: more challenge

When I had managed to get a floor, and a sofa sitting on the floor, the living room was ready to be put to use! But that made it a bit conspicuous that the light was provided by a bare light bulb. That was not how I intended it to stay. So I bought a lampshade for it. But it wasn't just a lampshade; it was a lamp! So it came with everything up to a ceiling rose. That would suggest the thing to do is just to take off the ceiling rose and put the other one in its place (with all issues involved). But that's not as easy as it sounds! My ceiling lights are looped in. So it has nine wires coming out. The ceiling rose that came with the lamp only has space for three. So now what? Time to hit google!

This is what I found out: some people just combine wires and that way manage to fit them all into the limited space of a non-looped configuration. But one has better know what one is doing when choosing that option. And I don't!

Another option is to buy a connector box and that way add enough places to put your wires. But then you have to manage to fit the box inside the ceiling rose! That seems unlikely to actually work.

One can as well just forget about the new ceiling rose, and just cut off the wire before that and attach it to the old ceiling rose. That's easy! It just means you're stuck with the not-very-beautiful white plastic ceiling rose. This is what I decided to do in the living room. It's not perfect but it does the job!

What I might try to do in the kitchen is connect the wire of the new lamp to the old ceiling rose but fit the new one over the top. I guess it's big enough for it! Still; not a very hi-tech solution but I suppose it combines easy with pretty, and that's worth something...

One of the looped-in ceiling roses

23 February 2019

Storage empty, bedroom full

Having your house painted and new floors laid means a lot of shuffling stuff around! I had been storing a lot in the storage area (one can see why), and the conservatory had at some point also started to function as a place to keep things out of the way. But then it was time for these spaces to be painted. So everything had to go! And (with lots of help from Jason) I put it all in the bedroom. And got a little bit nervous. The room was pretty cramped by then! And I really hoped the painter would do as he had said and do the last painting when he said he would. I didn't want to have to take everything out of the room again to make space for the carpet fitters before I could put it in the places where it was supposed to end up! But I have faith. Watch this space!

Empty storage! 

 Bedroom invisible behind all the stuff

(As good as) empty conservatory

22 February 2019

Writing corner in landing

When I viewed the house I was quite charmed by the landing. Such a quirky space! Originally a reasonably-sized room (if your standards are not too high) but with the staircase in it, suddenly rather small. But with a fireplace! And it had functioned as my improvised living room for a bit, before the actual living room became usable. I had imagined it as a space where I could do some things like work without having to go to the full-flung home office. A bit decadent I know; a home office and a sub-home-office! But there we are. Anyway. It had been ready for things like furniture for a bit. And I bought a desk for it! I found a nice small one that wouldn't clog the space. There are cupboards on either side (old doorways) so if I need space to put things I can use these. And I just put one of the kitchen chairs there. If I need that chair for diners I can just move it again!

It wasn't even quite the desk I intended. I had ordered a brown one! And got a partially white one. The manufacturers offered me a partial refund; it looked like they weren't keen on the faff of this one being sent back and then a brown one dispatched. And I accepted! So it's even a very affordable desk.

I think my writing corner serves a purpose. Recently I had been doing something in the living room but I knew I had to still do some stuff on the computer. And I didn't want to leave the snug part of the house! And that's where that desk comes in. Then you can laptop away next to a wood fire. And I look forward to doing some letter writing there too! Although both work and house have recently rather got in the way of just that...

21 February 2019

Another sofa battle

I like having a sofa! You can sit on them sideways. And they can hold more than one guest. When I got rid of my old sofa I knew that one day I would have to get another one. And I also knew that would be hard. Sofas are big and I'm only one person! And well, my time in Bangor hadn't been my most sociable time anyway, but not having a functional living room for close to a year hadn't helped. There was nobody I could call on without feeling self-conscious about it!

When the day of the floor being laid approached I had popped by the Bangor second hand shop when I had been in town for teaching anyway. And they had a sofa that looked small enough! And I liked it. Would this be the one?

I decided I had to go back and measure it in detail. My doorway is really narrow, and the sofa would have to pivot around it. The only way I can figure out if that works is do it graphically! I measured up my doorway. And then tried to go back to do the measurements. But they weren't open at their official opening hour, and a nearby man said that was normal. It could take a while! I didn't have a while. I left.

I had hatched a plan. If I could establish by Thursday if it fit, I could ask one of the three (!) other SOS people who would be coming underground to help me along the way. It's barely a detour! I asked Ed and Kate, and Kate would travel via home so was out. But Ed was willing! Great! I biked back to the shop, measured it, put the measurements into a graphic programme, and decided it would fit if I could take the legs off. Great! I went to Ed's office. He had gone! I phoned him. No answer! Oh dear...

By the time I was ready to leave for the mining trip I received a text. From Ed! He had forgot all about me and had not been able to resist the good weather. He had gone up a mountain!

When we later all walked up the hill to the entrance I moaned about how my perfect plan had failed. Jason and David took that as a hint, and said that if I was stuck, I should ask them. I figured I wouldn't need that; I would ask Ed! But it was nice they said that. When I saw Ed he said he was fine with having another go the next day. If I would be out of the field early enough. Good!

In the field it looked unlikely I would be out on time. I contacted Ed again. It wasn't happening today! Was he around tomorrow? But he had already left town. And would stay away for days! Oh dear. I pondered this. I really need to work on my friend situation! But there is a bit of a chicken and egg issue here. I haven't invited people over for ages because I have no sofa (which is a simplification but quite close to the truth). And if you don't maintain your friendships you have nobody to move a sofa with. Catch 22! But I remembered Jason and David. David doesn't want to be in my house' he's quite clear bout that. I decided to contact Jason. And he was keen! I was saved!

The next day we met up at the shop and plonked the sofa into his van. Simple as that! And got it onto the house. Then we screwed off the legs. And tried to move it into the living room. And failed! Then we took down the door. And then it worked! We then tried to screw the legs back on in the proper way, and failed; somehow the screw holes just did't make sense. But we screwed the legs back on in some way. Good enough!

Then I showed Jason around in the house, and we had a cup of coffee in the garden. Jason liked it! And then we hung the door back and went for lunch. And by coincidence, Phil had suggested a swift half for that night. With my rather work-and-house-dominated months and low feelings about friends that was just what I needed! And Jason had missed the mails but liked the idea. But then it made more sense for him to get there from my place. So he agreed to stay for dinner! So we spent our time emptying out the storage space of which the painter would soon paint the floor, and then went food shopping. And we had a nice pasta meal. And then went to the pub! What a good end to a good day! It's great there are people like Jason. I hope he needs a hand moving stuff soon too. Or someone to cook him pasta!

And now I have a functional living room! It's still not quite finished, with its unpainted skirting boards, absence of lampshade, and absence of anything decorating the walls (not to mention absence of radiator), but I can now sit in it in comfort! Hurrah! And then I can invite people!

The sofa in the shop

How I figured out if, and how, it would fit. And while I was at it I also figured out my comfi chair in the kitchen wouldn't fit.

Sofa in the living room!

20 February 2019

Perfect field day

Every year I go to the beach with Lynda and a cohort of first year students. It tends to be a good day! Even though it's early to mid February we tend to have good weather. And we take the students to that beach because the sedimentology is spectacular. So what could go wrong? Not much! Last year it was a bit cold but some soup over lunch sorted us out. And this year the forecast was lovely!

I drove to work early, and jumped into the departmental Hilux, which had been filled with hardhats, trowels, and whatnot the night before, by the technicians. Off to the beach I went, to put big conspicuous labels on the sediment sections! I find driving an automatic a bit awkward but all went well. And I had hardly hammered a few pegs into the cliff face when I already got hot. What a day in the field this would be!

How I found the field in the morning 

Lynda showed up right on time. She did her spiel, and then set the students on their way. And off they were! And we just loitered a bit. Would  someone have a question? They didn't. We asked them if it was all going well. Apparently it was! And it looked like they meant it. Good! And well, then we have to just sit in the sun and drink coffee. We can do that! We never had such an independent cohort before. Or such lovely weather.

Relaxing on the beach with Lynda. Pic by David. 

David popped by as he knew this would be a nice photo opp. And he regretted not to have brought the drone! Conditions were ideal! When we wrapped up the students were quite switched on. And then we went for lunch in Beaumaris, to the same place as last year. More hot soup! And then we did it again with the other half of the students. (There is another location nearby where other staff have them do some levelling, and sometimes some core drilling, and we swap student groups over during lunch).

Pondering sediments. Pic by David

The second group was as good as the first. Great! And soon we'll have pretty much the same students on some trips to Red Wharf Bay and Cwm Idwal; that will probably be lovely too! Weather permitting...

19 February 2019

Half a ThursdayNight trip

I am a bit suspicious of ThursdayNighter trips. They tend to end late! And other people cope well with a lack of sleep but not me. So when one week we would go play on the ziplines in Cwm I did commit to joining, but I was a bit apprehensive. I made sure to drive myself; the other had been talking about a kebab after the trip! The last thing I need.

When I got to the parking lot, many were already there. Including Kate (aka Bob, as Blackadder fans will understand), another of our PhD students, who had been attracted to this sort of stuff by Ed's stories. She shares an office with him. It was nice to have her there! And the other Kate wasn't there so we didn't really need to call her Bob but well, we could.

Ed had an idea of a route. We would start at the catwalk. Then drop down and do some zipwires. I had made sure to bring extra Cwm-compatible cowstails: you need them long and with big karabiners. The handline of the catwalk hangs high and I can't reach it with my normal cowstails, and you want to hand the karabiners over your pulley on a zipline.

I started on the catwalk. Only slowly the rest followed! And in the level before the drop Edwyn overtook me; he had the rope. He went down, and then me, and then there was a bit of a wait. I had some tea, and a sandwich, and an apple, and I noticed there were actually steps going back up. I think these may have been new! I clambered up. One of the blokes wasn't keen on rope pitches and he came down them with me.

When we were all down we asked Ed where to go next and what it would be like. He didn't know! He had only seen the map and had been curious. Oh well! So we followed the map. It too us down a chamber and then to the first zipline. I went first. I could hardly reach the floor so I couldn't have a run-up! And I didn't reach the other side. I hand-over-handed to the end. Jason followed and did the same. Then Chris had a go. He is heavier then us and he crash-landed on the other side! Edwyn managed to find the goldilocks point of getting to the other side at speed but landing with elegance.

We had fewer pulleys than people so we sent a few back. When we were all across we started on the next zip. Brian started and crashed into the other side. Oh dear! Chris did the same. Then it was my turn. I didn't dare a run-up, even though here I could as the wire was lower! But you guessed it: I was overly cautious and didn't reach the other side. I hand-over-handed to the end. Jason followed and did the same. And Edwyn Goldilocked it! David did too. Bob and Ed had avoided the ziplines.

We were now back at the inlcine, and there we found Ed and Bob again. And the group decided to go to the Corkscrew and have some more fun. But I saw my chance! I decided to bail out. I could be in bed at a reasonable hour! And wanted that. So I said goodbye.

I came out into the moonlight. Lovely! I took a picture while eating some more fruit. I used a 60 second exposure time so that could happen simultaneously. And then went back to the car, and drove home. And the next day I heard the others hadn't got back to the cars until around midnight. I had made a good call! But next time I do these zips I either take a run-up after all, or ask someone to give me a shove...

Looking at the Manager's office from near the entrance

18 February 2019

Living room floor!

The joiner would come on Tuesday morning. If needed, he would be back on Wednesday. And on Tuesday I have Welsh class so I am home late. And I was! And I walked in and was very curious to see what I would find. And the first thing I found was the key. He must have finished! Otherwise he would have still needed it. I parked my bike and had a look. And it looked great! I have a floor! Now I need the skirting boards painted (which the painter will do) and then I need the radiator put back and then I need furniture put in place and pictures on the walls and then I have a living room! Hurrah!

The floor!

New bike light: all the difference

When the days get shorter my bike commute gets less pleasant. The ride back through the dark is just not quite as pleasant as riding through the lovely sunlit landscape. And I have to pay a lot of attention; my light was good enough to see where I go but, to be honest, only just. I decided to upgrade. I bought a fairly pricey light and tried it out on the next Tuesday night. And blimey that was every penny well-spent! The biking gets about as relaxing as in daylight. It can really see where I am going! And that makes it a lot easier to avoid the sticks all the dogs like to leave on the path. And you don't have to be so awfully alert. You can see what's ahead!

I also saw things I hadn't been seeing before. Maybe even though they were there! Before Tregarth I sped past a frog (I figured he'd be fine) and then saw a tiny lizard trundle through Tregarth itself. It looked like this little thing would never manage to get off the path before he would get trampled. The bit in the village gets more footfall at night than the rest! It had such little legs. And I can't imagine a lizard is at its fastest in February at 9PM. I stopped and got him off the path.

Soon I won't be needing this light so much anymore; the days are getting quite long already! But I'm glad I bought it! Next winter I'll be ready...

The path lit by the old light as seen by my camera (believe me; I can see more than this)

The path lit by the new light as seen by my camera 

17 February 2019

Another Welsh book down

When I reviewed my last Welsh book I predicted the next one wouldn't take as long. And it didn't! I finished it. And it turned out to be quite the page-turner. In my world, at least.

The book just starts out with a bickering, middle-aged couple about to set off to the National Eisteddfod. Along the way they see another bickering, middle-aged couple they know, whose car seems to have broken down. They offer them a lift. General awkwardness ensues. You notice quite soon the man or the original couple is attracted to the woman of the other couple, while his wife swoons over that lady's societal status. And the other man tries to block out all the awkward conversation.

Once at the Eisteddfod, the bickering couple keep bickering. The lady wants to see and be seen, especially on stage, and the man is more keen on a pint with his mates from the choir, and singing Welsh evergreens with members from choirs all over the place.

So far interesting enough for me! What more do you need than the suspense of people trying to share a life while they want different things from it? Especially if it drags on for decades? But later it gets much more spectacular.


The initial couple, Dilys and Glyn, have two grown up children; a son and a daughter. And in the car on the way to the Eisteddfod you find out the other couple, Heulwen and Dan, had a child, but 25 years ago it was run over by a car when it was only a toddler. There were no witnesses and the police couldn't find a culprit. Can you guess who drove that car? I suppose you can. And then the book shifts to what the loss of a child, without knowing how exactly, did to the one couple; and what being eaten by suppressed guilt did to the one half of the other couple. And then the culprit comes clean. And get thrown into jail rather sharpish. And is joined there by his son. Being raised by a man whose head was with another child never did anyone much good. But the book leaves you there. You do get an idea if the couples will still be couples (and how) at the end of all this, but that is it. Enough for me!

It was a page-turner, even though it was written in South Welsh. I do long for a northern book next, but quality-wise I have no complaints!

16 February 2019

All ready for the joiner!

When the joiner comes in he needs the living room empty except for the floorboards lying ready for him. So that meant getting rid of the stuff the painter had put in it to get it out of his way. And then get rid of the working platform I had used to get to the ceiling. That also meant I had be be done with it! But when I decided the ceiling was OK I took it apart and put it in the garage for now. And I pulled the carpet up. And the underlay. And I swept the floor. And now it is all empty and clean-ish and I look forward to it becoming a proper room so much! It's been almost ten months without a living room! And I like having a living room!

Emergency cupboard work

There is a doorway to the living room. And there also is an old one which is not currently in use. Either Rose or an earlier occupant turned it into a cupboard. Or rather, two cupboards; one in each room. It used to lead to the other doorway-turned-cupboard I sorted out before. And I hadn't notice anything special about it. I had seen it had only two of the three expected planks in! I assumed Rose had just wanted to put something so tall in that it didn't fit underneath the bottom shelf. But I found the shelf in the garage and decided to put it back. And noticed the support it would have to rest on wasn't very well attached to the wall! Aha, that was the reason it wasn't in position. I prodded the other supports a bit. They were quite loose too! They had just been hammered in rather then screwed. Oh dear, I had something to sort before the floor would be laid. I took out all shelves, pulled the supports out of the wall (with not that much effort), and then decided to remove the woodchip wallpaper that had still survived in this corner. Then I drilled out the pre-existing holes so they would be big enough for plug and screw. And then I painted it! The painter had left quite some of the magnolia paint. And then I had to put the supports back. I wasn't pleased I had felt the need to add this to the big DIY list but well, it felt good ticking this off!

 The destructive state

The end result

All ready for the joiner

When the joiner comes in he needs the living room empty except for the floorboards lying ready for him. So that meant getting rid of the stuff the painter had put in it to get it out of his way. And then get rid of the working platform I had used to get to the ceiling. That also meant I had be be done with it! But when I decided the ceiling was OK I took it apart and put it in the garage for now. And I pulled the carpet up. And the underlay. And I swept the floor. And now it is all empty and clean-ish and I look forward to it becoming a proper room so much! It's been almost ten months without a living room! And I like having a living room!

15 February 2019

Clean the hearth

The plasterer had recommended a painter. And the painter was critical of the plasterer! He figured he'd been very untidy. And there was plaster everywhere. And that was indeed sort of true. The ceilings were my biggest concern! But he also pointed out that the hearths were a bit plaster-y. And I decided I should do something about that before the floor was put down. It would result in bits of plaster, and plaster-dust, all over the place. Best do that before the living room would be taken into use! And I used a tool I hadn't used on removing plaster from the wood: my drill's wire brush. It worked! And yes it did get all dusty. But it's clean now! I still have to do the other one though, even though that means I will have to clean the floor there yet again after I'm done... I think I'll put a sheet down to catch the worst of it!

As it was

My not-so-secret weapon

As it ended up!

14 February 2019

More moulding

I had managed to hide the side of the last bits of plasterboard with wood moulding. But the plasterboard had a top too! And that didn't look good either. So I bought some more! And then just whittled it down until it fit in the slot. And then I painted it brown with some stain Rose had left, before nailing it into position. And as the colour brown worked rather well I painted the earlier moulding too. And now it all blends in quite well with the other woodwork! I call this a success!

 Top of plasterboard still in sight; mouldings standing out

 Made the new strip fit!

Look at it now blending in after having been painted!

13 February 2019

Living room ceiling ready

The weekend before the joiner was due to lay the living room floor I dealt with the living room ceiling. I did the usual scraping off of excess plaster, and scrubbing of the rest with a scourer or a toothbrush. I also oiled, as well as it would go, the underside of the beam that had the modern beam right below it. Some flossing with an oily cloth seemed to do the job! And it's never perfect but I'm quite sure that as soon as the living room is in use I won't notice any of the imperfections. Bring on the joiner!

Clean! (NB notice the light fixing!)

More curtains, and lampshades

Many months ago when I was still working on floors and ceiling one of the Thursdaynighters commented with something like 'ah! you're doing up the house? Sorting out soft furnishings and stuff?' And I wished then it was true and I had reached that stage yet! But by now I have. The painter is as good as done! So I can hang up curtains and such. And with the light fixings in place I can add lampshades. And now the painter won't take them off again as fast as I put them up. As happened so far!

I sorted curtains for the living room as soon as the last bits of patching up of the walls were done. When I wanted to hang the rods up I had noticed the plasterer hadn't plastered all the way to the beams. So I brought out my filler, did something about it, and then saw the painter had touched up the paint. Success!

Later I also added a curtain to the front door. It's an ugly white plastic door in a beautifully and colourfully painted room! And a curtain will help keep the warmth in too.

I also found a lampshade that went with the colours and wasn't very heavy (remember the light fixings). It is starting to look like a house! And when the big things have been done I should hang up some pictures! And then it all comes together...

Curtains tend to reside near windows so be backlit! Oh dear. Notice as well the tools in the window sills: it won't stay that way!

Look at me being all domestic. And notice the seventies vibe!

12 February 2019

Hide the damp in the bedroom

It started with black mold (or something like that). It didn't stop there! I wanted to know how bad it was and where the water came from. So one day I stood on my bed and peeked below the top of the somewhat bobbly wallpaper. And it came off in my hands! Two strips just fell to the floor. Oops. And what appeared below wasn't plaster. Was it some damp-resistant paint or something? Whatever it was, it didn't stop water coming in. And it didn't look good.

I had more than enough to do in the rest of the house. I didn't want to take this on right now! The damp could stay for a bit to be solved later. The house won't fall down that quickly. But the wall looked awful now. And I went for the student solution: just buy a big piece of cloth to hide it. And so I did! It makes my room look indeed like a student room but so be it. It's OK for now! And I moved my dehumidifier from the kitchen tot he bedroom and it's making a big difference. I'll get to the core of this issue when the ground floor is done!

What it looked like with the wallpaper having come down

What it looks like now

11 February 2019

Painter doing the last bits

I'm so glad I didn't try to paint my own house! It took the painter a lot of time. And he does it professionally. He started on the old house, then moved to the new house, and then went into the periphery; the conservatory and the storage space downstairs. But that became a bit tiresome; the thing is, I had taken the landing into use as a living room; the living room had to stay empty because I was still working on things like the ceiling, and the joiner would come in and lay the floor; the master bedroom should get a carpet soon so that's not ideal for putting things either, the bathroom and hallway can't hold much, so where to put stuff? I like to keep the top floor decluttered so I have a bedroom and home office in which I can escape from the building mess, and the kitchen is in use as well. So he managed the conservatory by just shuffling stuff aside, but then the storage space... I mean, the name is already a bit of an indication of why that could be a problem. I have a wardrobe there, and my deconstructed book cupboard, and a lot of shelving for stuff. And a show rack, a trunk, and lots of boxes and bags.. And curtains. So where to put all that?

The painter went with moving the bags and the shoe rack into the living room, and basically just covered the rest, and shuffled it around to be able to get to ceiling and walls. But he wasn't happy with that! He couldn't swing a cat. And he will have to do the floor as well one day. That really is best done in one go, but then the place has to be empty! Where to put the stuff? So we agreed he pause a bit now, and wait for the joiner to come do the living room so we can then put stuff in there. He will have to come back then anyway; the living room will only have skirting boards by the time the floor is laid, so that has to wait for the joiner anyway.

So all is painted now except for the floors of conservatory and storage, and the living room skirting boards! It's lovely!

 View of the storage from the stairs while the painter had shuffled stuff around

10 February 2019

Next challenge: light fixings

 Doesn't DIY always throw up new challenges. The electrician had rewired the place and left ceiling lights dangling from the wires, and the plasterer had plastered around them. Now the wires were sticking through the freshly painted ceiling plaster. And I thought I'd just properly attach them! How hard can it be? But the answer would become clear.

I quickly find out you have special things for screwing things into plasterboard. Some sort of metal plug! But the things is, they are indeed for in plasterboard. And the plasterboard had a hole in it for the wire. Probably, the plasterer had made sure there was a joint where the wires were and just boarded on either side of them, and filled the gap somehow. Or something like that. But where the wires were there was no plasterboard. Just the crumbly edges of plaster covering the hole! How do you screw into that? Hmm!

With the light in the landing I decided to turn the fitting in such a way the screw holes were where the gap in the plasterboard was the narrowest, and screwed small screws straight into the plasterboard. And it held! For now at least.

 Landing fitting sorted!

Next: the hallway. There the hole was rather big. I decided to largely fill it with polyfilla, and sick a plasterboard plug in the wet stuff. I wrapped the wires in toilet paper to avoid the polyfilla sticking to that; I didn't want it break off as I moved the wires around. I let it dry and had a look. It seemed to have worked! A plasterboard screw went into its embedded plug, and the other screw hole was done with another small screw straight in the plasterboard. And that held! At least for now.

Hallway fitting with toilet paper, polyfilla and embedded plug

I then had a look at the living room. (The master bedroom and staircase weren't needed as the ceiling hadn't been removed.) And there the plastered had done some trick! I could see there was some wood behind the plasterboard. Had they stuck a slat in to aid in something? Whatever the reasoning was; it helped me. I could place one of the screw holes straight over the wood! That sorted it out. Small, by now traditional, screw in the plasterboard for balance and symmetry and Bob was my uncle. Sorted! A bit quicker than I had started to fear after the first crumbling plaster-incidents. But I now have to make sure I don't choose heavy lampshades!

09 February 2019

Get the excess plaster off the ceiling

I had put quite some effort into cleaning and oiling my beautiful Victorian ceiling beams. Especially those in the living room! And I hoped they would survive the plasterer and painter unscathed. But it was not to be. The plasterer had got plaster on them; in some places, quite a lot. I decided not to clean it off. The painter might do the same! And it turned out that the cleaner was actually quite tidy and didn't, but well, how can you tell beforehand. So now my job was to scrape the plaster off again! Not a particularly pleasant job but nice when it's done. I started with the landing; that was all painted, and didn't need a new floor either. So I could get rid of the plaster, clean the floor, and take the room into use! And things are never that easy so I did get the plaster off (at least to my not very strict cleaning standards), but by then most of the weekend was gone. I then cleaned the floor (and noticed the painter had spilled paint on it: heresy!) but didn't have time to then enjoy it. And I didn't either in the days after. Oh well! It feels good to at least have the option to use it once I have time. And then it's the turn of the living room. I think that will be easier; the beams are smoother!

A not very good picture of cleaned (right) and not-yet-cleaned (left) bits of beam in the landing. 

A rather clear example of one beam in the living room that got plaster all over it, and one that the plasterer managed to keep clean

08 February 2019

Eat a pheasant

It's nice and relatively warm underground when it's frosty outside. So just keeping mining is a good idea! As long as you can get to the entrance. And that doesn't speak for itself. If we are in the Blaenau area we have to cross the Crimea Pass, and that closes in bad weather, and even if it doesn't close, it can be quite slippery there; if we are in the Gwydir Forest, we have to drive on a narrow, steep, bendy road that doesn't get much traffic and doesn't get much attention from gritting lorries. And these are the most often visited areas. 

When one week it was very frosty and snowy the ThursdayNighters decided to not go underground. But the day after, when the roads were predicted to be better, they would go into what is known as Bacon mine, as we tend to make a campfire and fry bacon there. But this time, Phil would bring pheasant! And he hoped the gathering would be hungry as he had quite a lot of it. I decided to not go; I was knackered, and I had the heavy responsibility of the Open Day the day after. But I was sad about it! It sounded nice. And with special guests; Phil would bring his dog and David his daughter. 

The day after I asked Phil if those present had managed to eat all the pheasant. And they hadn't! I didn't mean it like that (honest) but he offered me two left-over pieces. Well that sounded nice! I don't normally eat meat, but this was an exception. Free-roaming, non-threatened creatures. Bring it on! So as I was in town anyway for the Open Day I popped by to pick them up. The dog was a bit miffed I walked away with such lovely snacks, but I ignored that. And it was great! I felt all posh when I had such a funky dinner on my Saturday night. It was really nice! And I even managed to cook it satisfactorily. And then again on Monday! 

Hide the plasterboard

DIY often ends up more complicated than you think. For instance; if you pull a ceiling down, you just think you pull a ceiling down. But I hadn't realised too much beforehand that the ceiling had been integrated with the stairs. On the side, the plasterboard rested on a plank that rested on the banister. So how to sort that? I didn't want to take the stairs apart. I had been thinking about getting the joiner to think of something about this, but he said he wanted to focus on things he could do in his workshop. So I decided to give it a go myself! And I cut off the plank where it separated from the banister, and on the side cut it flush with the ceiling beam, and cut the plasterboard to that size too. But then! You look at it from the side, and it doesn't look good. But I had noticed you can buy decorative wood strips in the nearby DIY shop. I decided to buy one that would sort of fit and just nail it over the top.

By the time the joiner (who would make an exception for my floorboards) was already booked I snapped into action. I wanted to try to get all the messy jobs done before the floor would go down! That would then minimise doing damage to my lovely boards. Or even just make them dirty. I had had to bloody clean the floorboards in the landing so often, and every workman said they would be careful with it but they all scuffed it and spilled things on it and whatnot. I didn't want that again! So I took my wood strip and tried to saw it to size. And the wood is much lighter than the surrounding wood, but I could imagine the sun will do something about that.

Now I still have to sort out some gaps the plasterer had left, like between the beams and the wall, and take the excess plaster off the beams, and then the messy work is done! Until the joiner comes in and starts producing sawdust!

Now you see it, now you don't; wood moulding over the long end bit not yet over the top end

07 February 2019

First full Open Day responsibility

I had been in charge of an Open Day before. It is quite a responsibility! In these hard financial times you need to get every student you can get. But now for the first time I had to organise it too. Even more responsibility! I was a bit nervous about it. I was afraid someone would come stomping towards me demanding to know why a certain thing hadn't been organised, and me not being aware I had had to do that. But generally these fears are not quite justified. And they weren't!

I am used to sort Peer Guides as I've been doing that for a while. But now I had to herd cats, and make staff come up with demonstrations to do with prospective students. And it worked!

The day came. I had been pondering how to go about things. How long would I let the students do one of the demonstrations? How would I balance the marine biologists and the physical oceanographers? Should I send people to the boat? I decided on something. And hoped for the best.

On the actual day I was early, and so were Mattias who organises the autumn Open Days, and David the Head of School. We sorted some last minute things. And then the peer guides came in. I assigned them groups of students. And when the guests actually arrived, and we knew who had registered but not turned up, I updated the groups and told the peer guides who they had. I knew I didn't have much time. And because the guests were early I couldn't brief the staff as they all arrived at the same time. That was busy! I also had to tell peer guides and staff to go into the lab at the right time. Preferably through the right door (that failed).

During lunch I just talked to people about studying here in Bangor. Then I had to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. Parents in the new building, and the groups with their peer guide. That went a bit messy. Better next time! But we had got to the important part: mini-practicals for the the prospective students. We had five stations where groups of them would either determine the age of a cod, or get their hands on hermit crabs or brittle stars or whatnot, or create an internal wave in a water tank... lots of fun to be had! I had been on parent (and other companion) duty before myself. It's fun; you just have a chat. But these demonstrations are fun too!

The prospective students swapped to a different station three times. And then basically it was all as good as over! And it had run so well! Except for the few hiccups of people getting in each other's way. That'll be easily sorted next time! I have faith in it now! Bring on the next Open Day...

Prospective students admire their internal waves with Dei and some peer guides looking on. Pic by Nicky

The first new curtains

Just after Christmas I had started using the landing as an improvised living room. The floor was done, the ceiling was plastered, there was a stove. And I put up some netting to reduce the shop window feel a bit. And it was sort of snug! But the walls were bare plaster, and I didn't want to put curtains up until the painter had come and gone. So really really snug it wasn't. And then the painter came and went. And I cleaned the floor again. And then it was much better! And then I put a curtain rod back up, and bought a new set of curtains! And now it looks great. And I haven't put up any shelving, and I have little furniture in there, and I haven't sorted mood lighting, but now with paint and curtains and cupboard it is starting to look really snug. I have a living room attempt! And I like it!

06 February 2019

Module change proposed

I like Palaeoceanography! It's great. But the students tend to be a bit critical. James taught a module that really went into the nitty gritty of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. But then he left and took pretty much the entire lab with him. And that made it a bit incongruous to teach that module to that level. And difficult too; part of it was a practical, but I'm the only one who can teach it. I have to rely on assistance from people who have never worked with forams. And that's a bit stressy, for both me, those assisting and the students. So when we were pondering modules it was suggested we change it. Kick out some of the more detailed micropalaeontology, and bring in some applied stuff. And Jaco would do the applied stuff. Or at least, he had the ideas and would be heavily involved in sorting it.

Designing the module it was certainly going to be a bit rushed. Everything is! But we had to do it. The deadline for suggesting significant module changes is the end of January. And before Christmas I was marking like mad. And the hiccup in my professional relationship with Jaco around that time didn't help. And over Christmas I was still Marking and Jaco was away. Then the new year started. Jaco had a deadline for a research proposal so he wanted to do the module design in the last two weeks. But these are the first weeks of term! And then it all kicks off and you're running around like a mad person. So we ended up only sitting together on the Tuesday of the last week we had.

We thought a bit about the module content and assessment, and made some notes. We had to fill out a form, and an online module description. The form was easily done, and we divided the form among ourselves. Jaco would fill out the first half and I the rest. And the stuff I would have to do relied on what he did so he had to go first. And I was away in the afternoon so most I did the next day. But I saw I had quite something to comment on in his contribution so I ended up rewriting the entire form. And only then did I notice it had to be signed bu the Head of School. Oops. That's what you get if you rush things! You miss such details. I sent the forms to him and hoped for the best. And then there was a glitch! He couldn't read the documents. He would have to have a look the next day. The day of the deadline. Oh dear. And he wondered if our director of teaching and learning (Dei) knew about this. Well, eh, sort of.

That next day Dei and I had a chat. He told me of some changes I had to make (or rather, additions) and said we should not change the module; just have a new one vetted, and ask the students if they were happy changing the one for the other. If there were no objections we could do it that way. If there were, we would have to teach the old module. But I can do it for another year. You can implement minor changes without asking anyone about it! I should be able to make the practical a bit more manageable. And implement other changes that make the students happier. Although that's sometimes harder than you think; the previous year I had turned the individual presentations into group presentations, and that went well and positive feedback was given, but this year the students thought it sucked. Difficult to anticipate that!

Anyway. The module has been proposed! Now we have to wait and see what the higher authorities think of it. But that's one source of stress now dormant for a while! And we'll see what I'll be teaching in the next academic year!

05 February 2019

Welsh in the workplace: passed!

I had done my exam on a Monday. I had no idea when I would get my results! But the week after I saw Jenny, my Welsh tutor, as usual and she spoke of feedback on my exam. Already? Great! And she mentioned the mark she had already sent me. Eh? No such thing had happened! But she said she already had the full results. I had passed! And she thought I had even earned a distinction. Blimey! But we weren't sure; the tutor who had performed the exam had been quite critical of my formal writing. Welsh is one of those languages where you use entirely different forms of the verbs when you are writing formally. For instance, if you just say something like 'I eat a fish' in everyday Welsh you actually say 'I do eat a fish -Dw i'n bwyta pysgodyn'; you will only conjugate your verbs (other than 'to do') if you're being formal. If you would say the equivalent of 'I eat a fish' (bwytâf bysgodyn) on the street people will find you very strange. I never really use that form! Neither spoken nor written. I have no need to. I like these formal ways but I have no practice in them so I am not surprised I wasn't very good at it. Anyway. So how could I have gained a distinction if my archaic language was so poor? She would check. But she was sure I had passed!

The next day she mailed me. I indeed still had the distinction! Bring on level 7!

Even winterier scenes

When the garden was all white from hail I posted it here. But in the meantime it has gone quite white! We had some cold days. I have not found the time to play in the snow but at least I have admired it from a distance. The garden was already very pretty, so imagine how the mountains look!

03 February 2019

Unpleasant surprise in bedroom

I thought I had enough to do in the house! But one day I suddenly noticed something unpleasant in my bedroom. Black patches on the wall! Mold! oh dear. I figured that meant a leak in the roof. Just what I need!

I mentioned it to Phil and he said it would more likely be a wall problem. If my rendering would be damaged water would slowly trickle in! And then I remembered the satellite dish I had pulled off the wall. I hadn't filled the holes! Oh dear. I should go back to these holes quickly and fill them.

When I later looked a bit closer I noticed most was actually on the gable end of the house; not where the satellite dish had been. So maybe it wasn't that after all. But I still think I need to fill these holes! And then ponder the wall in total. This was the gable end Rose had had re-rendered! So how could that be so leaky? Was there something else happening after all? I think I have to do more research. And some of that will probably involve going into the loft! From there I might be able to see if there are some wet patches, and where...