31 March 2019

Student conference imminent

It's a stressful time for our dissertation students! Soon they will present their dissertations to their peers and supervisors. Quite a lot of them will be happy when it's over! And so will I be. Last year I looked forward to it; it's nice to see what these students have worked on for all these months. But then I was just there to judge presentations. Well, and as a promo girl trying to convince students to fill out an important survey. But this year I had to organise the whole thing! And I'm an academic, not an event organiser. But well, a module leader's gotta do what a module leader's gotta do.

I had to book the venue. We don't do it on campus; this is a trick to encourage the students to stay all day. If it's in town they may wander off into the pub after their own presentation! And we want them to stay so they can engage in the question and answer sessions of their peers. And where we do the event there are no pubs or other distractions.

I also had to source extra laptops and projectors as the venue didn't have enough. And I had to order lunch. And make the programme. And make the conference booklet with all 127 abstracts in. And I had to come up with a marking schedule and marking sheets. And think about when, where and how to check attendance.

It's a lot of work! And I'm not trained to do these things (well maybe I am trained for the marking schedules and sheets. But not the rest). And I don't like it. And I have so much other work: organise a field day, supervise my own dissertation students and a MSc student, mark essays for my 1st, 2nd and 4th year modules (or rather, two 1st year modules), and lots of things including some I should do but haven't yet, such as come up with projects for MSci students (that's something different from MSc) and file my timetabling requests. I will be so happy when it's Friday afternoon and all of that is off my shoulders! I think I'll need a drink by then...

30 March 2019

Great place to do an exam feedback session

In my student days, we would get our exam papers back after they'd been marked. We could read the feedback on them and then either archive them or bin them. Nowadays things work differently! At least here they are. The students get only one chance to see their exams and the feedback on them: during an exam feedback session. These are 1 hour slots, organised by year. You just plonk the module organisers at a table with a pile of exams in front of them, and then the students (the whole year!) pile in and ask to see their exams one by one. We're not supposed to let them rummage through the pile themselves; the grades are confidential and they're not supposed to see other students' grades on the other exam papers. So you spend most of the time looking for the right paper. The students don't often have many questions! Just showing them the paper tends to be enough. This year I fielded none. My feedback must have been clear. And there were no issues with erroneous totting up the points. This can happen! And that's the sort of things the sessions are for.

When the students have seen their feedback they hand the paper back and move to the next module. And at the end of the hour they all get collected and stored away for the external examiner.

This time the second year's session was in a glamorous place. The zoological museum! We have one. Pretty cool to be surrounded by skeletons and jars and taxidermy and whatnot while waiting for the students to have a question. I should go there for real one day. Soon it'll be Easter and 'll have time! And maybe even an interested guest!

29 March 2019

New furniture for bedroom

Once you live in a house you want to stay in for a while, you can invest in furniture you really like! I am not a big fan of large furniture as it tends to take two to move around, and I am only one person. Hence my habit of using simple shelving as places to put my clothes. You can take them apart and they become very easy to lug around, even up and down stars! I did buy a wardrobe to hang clothes in but that gave me enough headaches. But now I live in a house I don't want to leave for a long time so now I can consider having big lumpy furniture. If I can get it into the house I'm sorted! And a nice wardrobe looks better than bare shelving.

I had been having a look at furniture. Nothing floated my boat until I saw an advertisement for a whole set of home-made furniture, sold nearby. It was solid wood, it was white (which goes well with the blue bedroom), and it was the right style to fit. Not so old it would only look good in the old part of the house, but not so new it would look out of place in my house no matter what! So I responded. And we agreed I would pop by after the Open Day (I would be nearby anyway) and have a look.

I drove to the tiny village (I had run there once or twice) and had to phone for directions. The Google van doesn't go down such minute roads! But I got there and all was well. The lady was nice, the house was right beside a derelict windmill (great!) and the view was amazing. And I liked the furniture! I had my eye on a small wardrobe (I had done enough lugging of large wardrobes recently) and a chest of drawers. That should sort me out entirely! But then the question was how to get these into the car.

With taking the doors off the wardrobe, placing the drawers inside it, and strapping the door closed-ish we managed. And I was on my way! Very carefully.

When I got home I parked with the boot of the car close to the door. Bringing the chest of drawers in was easy. The wardrobe was a bit of faff but I did it! Then I had to decide where to put them. I did a bit of trial and error and got to a conclusion.

They were in position now but that wasn't all. I knew the wardrobe had a rail, but I already have a wardrobe with a rail. I was after shelves! So I took the rail out, and started on making shelves. I still had wood left over from my cupboard project; I used that for supports the eventual shelves would lie on. And I had lots of slats left over from doing a similar conversion in Plymouth. I had used some for my electricity-stuff-cupboard too! I sawed them to size. It worked out fine! but I had just enough wood for one shelf and I wanted two. I would have to pop to the nearby timber yard! So stay tuned; this is not over yet. But it's only finishing touches now!

The derelict windmill

Furniture in position!

The wardrobe on the inside at the end of the first day

27 March 2019

Last one of a series of four Open Days

It's almost over for the spring! We had four open days in February and March. I had to organise them all and attend them all. But they're all done now! I can get a bit more weekend to myself. They're not too onerous really; the organisation is difficult the first time around but once you've got the hang of it it's OK. And they don't even last long; they roll from 12.45 to 15.30, but if you organise them that means 11.00 to 16.00. Still better than the autumn ones though, which start in the morning. Then we get two batches of visitors; the morning round and the afternoon round. In spring we only get one!

We'll only know in summer how successful we've been. We hope that all of the prospective students that come visit actually choose Bangor and show up in September for Welcome Week! Or at least a fair share. We'll see! And then we only have one strange mini-open day in April. I don't quite know yet what shape that'll take!

Jaco getting prospective students enthusiastic about geology

26 March 2019

Old PI gives talk

In 2015 I went on a research cruise. It feels like last year but it isn't! It was the second and last cruise of the BRITICE-CHRONO project, of which Chris Clark of Sheffield university was the Principal Investigator (PI). And he was on board! Even in my team. He is a complete nutter and I'm glad I don't have to live with him but I like him. And then in spring last year he would come to Bangor University to give a talk about the project. He had been invited by Geography; they had beaten us to it! But the strikes happened and he didn't come.

Chris enjoying some downtime on the cruise

Then on a Tuesday I was in the Geography building and saw Lynda, our liaison in Geography. She said he would be coming this week! Why didn't we know? But it was a good week for it; we had a guest speaker who was in town to see one of the biologists, and this biologist could look after this guest. I am the default person t receive guests and introduce them, and lead the Q&A session afterwards, but he could do that this time. I had my hands free for Chris! Lynda herself was going to be away on the day, which annoyed her a lot, but she had already found Katrien (another BRITICER) willing and available to look after Chris. Good!

On the day itself I had a lecture at 10 in the same building. Chris would talk at 12! So after my lecture I went to the nearest computer room to find Katrien, do some work, and wait for a sign of Chris. And then it came! We found him and took him for a coffee in the Pontio building.

He was well! And as usual he was full of tall stories. Never a dull moment with that man. And he was happy with how the project had been going but he was also aware of its complications; the project has a data component and a modelling component. The data people first create data and publish it; then the modellers use it for their models. But publishing data always takes longer than you hope! So the modellers had been waiting for the data to be available. And then ran out of time doing their modelling thing. Chris would have loved to have asked for a 3 year data project, then a few years in between, and only then the modelling part of the project. But he didn't think he would have been able to get that funded!

When we had downed the coffee it was time to go to the room he'd present in and set up. There were quite some people there! And rightly so. Even though it was a Geography talk, and we hand't felt it would be appropriate to advertise it in Ocean Sciences as it ran at the same time as our own seminar, I saw some Ocean Sciences face sin the audience. And Ed, the BRITICE PhD student, showed up too.

The talk was great! He managed to explain quite clearly why the work was needed. And how we had done it. And he had some modelling results that were so new none of us head seen them before! Very exciting. It turns out that the models really struggle to reproduce some of our observations. It's clear there are things we don't understand yet about melting ice sheets! And that our models therefore can't do. If we want to understand what the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will do we need to get these things right. Our models are all we have! So I hope our enormous dataset will inspire a big push in model improvement. And then we can model quite accurately how the shit will be hitting the fan!

25 March 2019


It had been full moon and the world was beautiful! One night I came home and hoped to capture the lovely moonlight in the garden. But the moon was on the wrong side! It would probably only move into a position from which it lights up the garden way too late in the night. So no moonlit pics! But I thought I'd try to catch the river in some light that came from one of the neighbouring houses. I must say this is pretty too!

The view downriver

The view upriver

24 March 2019

Phone atavism

Only a year ago I put my new phone into use. I had had an iPhone for reasons I did not remember. Now I would experience a different brand; Samsung. And I'm not impressed! The memory is tiny, and if you shove an extra SD card in you can't actually move (most of) the apps across so it doesn't help. And the battery doesn't last either. The Welsh Dictionary app works clumsily. And quite soon it started to have issues with Gmail and the camera. If you would try to use them the phone would just say 'unfortunately, Gmail has stopped working' or words to that effect. And then it started with outlook too! I had already started to take my old phone back into use; that has a working camera and working email. And lots of useful apps. And it was the phone I kept nearby anyway when I would be reading a Welsh book. But when it at some point the new phone just cut out altogether and needed rebooting I had enough and moved the SIM card back to the old iPhone. A bit silly that this 2015 model does better than the 2017 one. As soon as I'm up for an upgrade I think I'll go back to Apple again. I don't like how they roll but they can clearly make phones!

23 March 2019

Lovely day in the field

It would be alright on the night! Or rather, on the morning. I had done this field trip many times before but this was the first time I was responsible for it. And I was a bit nervous! There had been a bit of a difficult situation as around this time another field course runs, and timetabling that trip had sort of not worked due to the person responsible being ill and nobody acting fast enough to sort it in her place. This had lead to it having to be shoe-horned in, and that meant it overlapped with our trip. Two of the staff that would be on our trip were now on theirs! And I had a demonstrator (a MSc student earning some money on the side) had to pull out at the last minute. Oh dear. Would we manage?

In the morning I drove to Bangor. There already were quite some students gathered! In the sun. So far all was promising. But no bus to be seen. It appeared, though; or rather, two of them did. We loaded up the students and went. At Ogwen Cottage we met the other staff (they all had reason for not travelling on the bus) and we were ready to divvy up the students and go! There were 5 staff and 60 students so 12 each and that works out quite well. We could manage without all these people that hadn't been able to be there! And the sun was still shining!

I took my twelve around the lake and I was really feeling the science. Sometimes these things just get better the more often you do them! No chance of me getting bored with the material. We were in Cwm Idwal, and it's a beautiful glacial cwm (corrie for the Scots) with roches moutonnées, moraines, erratics and whatnot; at the same time, it had relics of violently explosive volcanism, and lavas of two completely different compositions. And the head of the valley is a textbook syncline. It also had a lot of history; Darwin's first publication was on this valley! All these finches and worms and whatnot came later.

We even saw some rather handsome goats! And we were back at the bus on time. And we didn't lose any students. It was altogether a very good morning in the field, as far as I am concerned! Bring on the trip to Red Wharf Bay...

My group of students (syncline in the background)

The handsome goats

Another group on a moraine, Pen yr Ole Wen in the background

Looking out over Nant Ffrancon from a roche moutonnée

22 March 2019

Unusual evening out

I was thoroughly enjoying feeling able to revive my social life again, with inviting people over for dinner. But I wasn't the only one who was trying to be sociable once in a while! Laura, who had been one of my recent guests, then suggested dinner with the teaching team. And the idea was well-received! So on an early Tuesday night staff started to descend onto the foyer of one of our buildings. We wanted to go early; straight from work, and done early enough to be able to go sing in a choir, put a kid to bed, and such things.

When we were almost complete we decided to go. We'd text the late person; this was Dei, the only male in the company. Teaching tends to be female-dominated! We know how busy he is so we figured he may not have bothered to read the email that suggested we'd gather in said foyer. And when we started off, texting him about our whereabouts, we saw him on the parking lot. He would join us shortly!

We walked to the Italian restaurant a few blocks from the office in the drizzle. I was on bike so I hoped it would be dry when we came out! Sarah, who was on bike to and has a longer commute, hoped with me.

We sat down. What a good idea! I had only been in this restaurant once. I'm not much of a frequenter of restaurants! And if I go it's often only with one more person. Now we were six (after Dei appeared)! And we we enjoying ourselves.

We had the restaurant to ourselves (half past six is not everybody's favourite dinner time) so we could be loud and boisterous if we wanted. And there was much rejoicing! I admit there was an element of gossiping about people not present.

I had the most wine. Sarah wasn't going to go over the limit with such a commute ahead, and the rest were driving. I enjoyed the fact that it didn't matter too much! Although I think I was still legal at the end of the evening. Oh well. It was nice not to have to worry!

It was also interesting to see how little meat was consumed. Out of six, four of the pizzas were vegetarian, and one vegan. A sign of the times!

By seven-ish we were already ready to leave. You can have dinner in one and a half hour! I didn't mind. I walked back to the office (through the dry air!) to get my bike. It would take an hour to get home from there! And I had to be sharp the next morning; I was doing a field trip with my freshers. I admit just two modest glasses of wine left me less than sharp on the evening itself but the next day that was sorted. We all agreed we had a good time so who knows, we may do this more often!

21 March 2019

Finishing touch: wardrobe in bedroom

I had taken my bedroom into use two weeks ago. But it was still strangely empty! And my kitchen was strangely full. It was time to do something about that. What needed to happen was that the wardrobe should go into the bedroom, but I needed help with that.

The wardrobe had started out in the living room, but that was a bad idea. The walls, ceiling and floor all had to be done so you can't have a clunky piece of furniture in there! It had moved before I had, so when I came over with the rest of my stuff, and David helping me, he helped me to move it downstairs. But not over the stairs; sometimes it's very useful if you house has road level entrances on more than one level...

The basement is not a practical place to keep your clothes if you sleep on the top floor but what can one do. I had initially meant for it to go upstairs to the bedroom, but then decided against. Too difficult, especially if it would have to come down anyway after I'd move into the master bedroom!

The wardrobe had spent most of the year in the downstairs storage; when it had to leave that because for floor-painting it had moved to the kitchen. Jason helped me with that as he was there on sofa business anyway! But that was an awkward place for it to be. Especially as I now parked my bike in the storage; I have to slalom past the wardrobe to get there.

By then the time the wardrobe went into the kitchen the carpet for the master bedroom was imminent; soon I could start using that bedroom! And it had plenty of space for that wardrobe. And then I took it into use but couldn't really get the wardrobe there on my own. I managed to get it into my previous house on my own, but this trip would involve a rather steep slope, and then coarse gravel. I would have needed the dolly and that gets stuck in the gravel! I know that as I have used it before to transport my lintel, some slate slabs and some radiators.

After it could be moved I had Martin, Fran and Laura visiting but it didn't seem a good time to do it. Martin sort of volunteered (or rather, was volunteered by his wife) but it was dark, they came for dinner, and if we would start lugging the thing around we might miss Laura's arrival. Or have her run us over, wardrobe included. And by the time Laura arrived it rained and we were hungry. I figured I would have visitors again!

Then Phil and Chris would pop by for a small mine trip. Excellent! I warned them I would ask them to help me with this. They were fine with that. After we did our little scamper, and had had coffee with flapjacks, we got to it. And when I say 'we' this is rather metaphoric; the men pretty much did it without my help. That might have been a bit much I was glad it got done. A big improvement to both kitchen and bedroom! And I think it's a very collaborative piece of furniture; it had most of the ThursdayNighters interfering with it at some point. I'm sure Ed has helped me with it too but I couldn't find evidence of that!

It can stay here now!

20 March 2019

Small Sunday scamper

Some time ago one of the ThursdayNighters, Chris, had told me of some mining relics on the river. Not very far from where I live! He had suggested we go and have a look one day.

Phil basically beats a path to my door and he had suggested we go and check it out with the tree of us. Sounded good! And he had suggested one Sunday. Unfortunately, that Saturday the heavens had opened and the river had been extremely high. There had been serious flooding of the nearby river Conwy! And by Sunday teh levels had dropped, but not enough to make a scamper along the river a good idea. So we went in another direction: Chris was permanently looking for an adit above Rachub he thought he had seen decades ago and that he had been searching for ever since.

The men appeared and we got ready to go. We walked up the hill, with Millie up front (Phil had brought the dog!); she is always very keen. And we found lots of interesting things! But not the adit Chris had hoped to find. Oh well. We got some fresh air and some exercise (I had started to feel a bit exercise-starved due to very little cycling associated with Storm Gareth and other high winds, although I had already sorted that by doing my run before the men appeared) and the dog had a good time. And the company was good!

Millie and Phil at the edge of a quarry

Phil and Chris at a cutting in the rock

When it started to rain after we were done exploring the Nth adit we decided to go home. There we had a coffee (with Chris-made flapjacks!) and then the men helped me with a chore I will blog about separately! And by about half past one I had my house to myself again. It was good somebody dragged me out; I hadn't been in the hills much lately! Only my late afternoon stroll to Dinorwic...

19 March 2019

A sock for a bike

I had bought  a very snazzy bike! And I don't want it to get nicked so I put a lock on it. But the lock rubs and bangs against  the frame. I have never before worried much about this, but this is my best bike ever, and the first carbon fibre specimen. So I decided to pad the frame a bit. Might be good for the bike! So I dug out some neoprene and some webbing I had lying around, and made a protective sock for my bike. It's stitched into position so I can't easily remove it and put it back, but hopefully I won't need to. But if it works I might one day make another version with velcro. Probably a better idea but well, a good idea is only worth something when you think of it on time. I didn't! But let's first see how this sock does the job!

Slight damage from the lock

 The sock!

Sock and lock snugly together

18 March 2019

Brexit nerves

I don't blog about politics much, but this is an exceptional situation. When I write this it's 12 days to go to the brexit day. And still nobody knows what will happen. What sort of a country is this? A country in which a prime minister calls a referendum to take the wind out of the sails of a rival party; not because he thinks it's good for the party. And then he is so convinced it will go the way he wants it to go he doesn't bother setting boundaries on the vote; any decent person would have said the referendum would only be acted on if the turnout would be above a certain level, and when the difference between the two sides would be a certain size. But no. It didn't go the way he wanted and he skedaddled.

Then Westminster knew it had no idea how to implement the referendum result, but in spite of that called article 50 which only allowed for two years to sort this rather difficult situation out.

The new prime minister then thought that although the referedunm had only asked about brexit; not about any specifics of it, and the outcome had been rather close to 50-50, it would be a good idea to let the agenda be set by the most extremist brexiters. That doesn't leave you much room for negotiations. And it didn't. A deal came out only she found palatable.

Then the issue was to get something through parliament. Parliament really really didn't like her deal. But she wouldn't budge; she claimed the people had spoken and everything but her deal would be betrayal. And another referendum would be betrayal too. Really? The electorate had no idea how the negotiations would go. It would have been quite reasonable to let it decide whether it liked how things had panned out. Apparently that is morally wrong. The people had spoken! Yes, and they had by a minute margin voted for brexit. How that would be an encouragement to try to deliver an extreme brexit is beyond me. But Theresa May appears to be psychic and apparently, what the electorate wants is exactly the sort of brexit her deal would result in. How convenient!

Asking the electorate again after two years in which a lot happened is betrayal, but having the most resoundingly defeated deal in history be voted on again a few weeks later, and then again a week later, and possibly a week after that again, is not betrayal at all. No, of course it isn't. Such shameless manipulation. I don't know how people can live with themselves if they behave that way. But then again, we are talking about the woman who, in her time as home secretary, wanted to withdraw human rights from people she didn't like. And who let the whole country go to pot with rampant homelessness, councils seeing their budgets cut by many tens of percents, and the NHS on the verge of collapse, but effortlessly found a billion pounds to buy power from a bunch of intolerant Northern Irish. My goodness.

And this is the government where the newer home secretary botched Universal Credit, and claimed it was very important that working would always pay; in itself not a problematic idea, but this is the country where there is the national minimum wage, and the living wage. A country that explicitly admits you can't live on minimum wage and then makes sure that state support for those unable to work is less than something you already can't live on. Dearie me.

And in this cartoonesque society that is pretty much a two-party state, the opposition seems unable to do anything other than equivocate, dislike jews, and get in its own way. I am ashamed of this country! I love it on a small scale. Wales is good to me! But on a national level I've never lived in anything like this complete mess. Can we send all of Westminster on a course of organising piss-ups in a brewery? And start again with a new bunch? On the basis of probability, any new batch of people can't be as incompetent as what we have now. And I can't vote them out.

Phew. Rant over I suppose. Even though the situation still is that nobody knows wat is happening although a humongous event could be happening within two weeks. Which is ridiculous! I clearly needed to get something off my chest. And I'll keep my fingers crossed for the coming few weeks...

17 March 2019

Reading corner works

When I didn't have a living room yet I was really chuffed with the landing. But as soon as the living room was ready I felt a bit decadent. Two spaces for being cosy? But I had made a writing corner on the landing and I does come in handy. I am still decadent, but at least I am making use of my decadent house; the living room is for sitting comfortably, the landing is for being a bit more executive but still snug, and when the gloves come off and the room can be full of dual screen computers and binders and very non-Victorian, work-related stuff I have my office.

It got a job when I was preparing for a Welsh session for A level candidates that would take place on Saturday. We had been asked to do an old exam paper beforehand, so they could discuss it with us on the day. And that only requires some paper and a pen. And a flask of tea. That is easily added to my little desk! And it did feel nicer than being in the more businesslike environment of the office.

16 March 2019

Lots of rain and lots of lifts

I knew my car would need its annual check soon. It was the first time I needed it done since moving to Bethesda! I was a bit nervous about it. In the old house I could reasonably get to work without a car in any kind of weather. I could just walk if needed! But now that's not an option anymore. And sometimes the weather is just awful and you get blown off your bike. I booked my MOT in a lovely week with sunshine, but well, by the time the garage had time for my old piece of rust the weather had turned.

On a Wednesday I brought the car in with the bike in the boot, took the bike out, and rode to Bangor for a lecture. After the lecture I biked back. I didn't think I needed waterproof trousers for that trip, but I was wrong. I got into the office rather soaked! Luckily I have dry trousers, socks and shoes there, but no dry knickers. I decided to do something about that. I put all wet gunk on the radiator and got on with the working day. And as it was Wednesday it ended with meeting Jenny in the pub. She mentioned one of her daughters would also show up with significant other. That's nice! And Jenny suggested they were in their big car, and they live in the same village. They would give me a ride home!

We had a nice Welsh-speaking session and then indeed Marian and Chris drove me home. Very nice! And the next morning I biked in again. Wearing waterproof trousers this time! But it wasn't enough. I was still a bit damp. But I had brought nickers. I also decided I needed waterproof covers for my shoes. I had bought a pair some time ago but they were no good. They didn't stop the water at all! I need something better. I don't think it's good for shoes to get wet and be dried out on the radiator every day. And the sensation of wet feet isn't very nice!

That afternoon I was driven home by Kate, our PhD student and newest addition to the ThursdayNighters. That was nice of her! And she drives past my house anyway so she suggested we keep the bike in her car overnight and that she would pick me up again the next morning. Great! And it did rain on the way back but it wasn't too bad. Three lifts in three days! That has never happened before. But it was welcome as I would have to do plenty of biking still!

On the Saturday I had to get to work again due to the Open Day. No lifts this time, but also a forecast of no rain! Unfortunately, it was quite gusty. I walked over the bridge and that was hard enough, as I was pummelled by the wind to an unpleasant extent. Luckily the wind had died down on the way back.

On Monday I biked in again in the sun. And when I phoned the garage they told me the car was ready! And the bill was under £300 so by my standards that's not much. And I was glad to have it back! Storm Gareth was on its way and I didn't want to have to bike through it...

15 March 2019

Mantle beam

I figured the fireplace in the living room was looking a bit bald. It needed something! What about a mantle beam over the top? A clunky piece of wood makes most things look better. So I looked around a bit on internet and decided on a 10 x 10 cm beam, wide enough to span the entire thing. With faux supports. I'm far from being beyond kitsch!

It arrived on the same day as the garden shed. Good! That meant someone was home when it arrived. I plonked it in the storage and would get to it later.

The next Sunday I did get to it. I first spent what felt like an hour peeling it out of the packaging. Then I had a look at how to assemble it. There were no instructions! But after a look at the bits of wood and metal and how that could fit together it spoke for itself. I set to work!

I held the heavy oak beam in position to see how high I wanted it. A bit difficult on your own but I came to a decision. And then put in the supports first. They would be fitted with hangers and then hooked over a screw in the wall. I managed to get them in pretty much level! One job down.

Then the beam. I lay it on the supports and drew on the wall where the screws had to go. And then drilled the holes! Just hoping it would be accurate enough. It wasn't. The screws were a bit adjustable but not much. I couldn't get it to fit! And I took the coward's escape. I just hung it on two out of the three screws. These two I could manage to match up! And well, it still had the supports. I think it works. And it is more or less level.

When I stepped back I noticed it is actually hovering above the supports. But it was hard to get it right that precisely! I hope I stop noticing it. But for now I won't worry about it and just enjoy my beam! And I now also had a place for my self-made tea lights...



14 March 2019

Entertaining again

Jaco and Marjan had tried out the house. With success, I would say! And I was enjoying this new episode of being sociable and invited more people. Close to Christmas, one of my colleagues, Martin, always organises a social do at his place, up the hill from me in Gerlan. I tend not to blog about it as I never take pictures and around that time, there is always a lot on but I mentioned it in the context of walking past a house I would like to view after his do. That had been the 2017 one! And during the 2018 one I had asked if he an his wife would want to come and try out the house when it would be sort of finished. And they were! And I thought it would be nice to also ask our relatively new colleague Laura; she had started working with us in autumn but only a month ago she had moved to nearby Tregarth. And she was up for it!

I realised I would have to prepare for this one. I had suggested the date of an Open Day. These things are best on a Saturday so you can go to bed early on Sunday. But the Open Days end at half past three, and then we need to tidy up, so I tend not to leave until four. And I didn't have a car! So I would only be home at five. And they'd be there at half past six! Cooking for four, and getting nibblies ready, and changing from your sweaty bike clothes into something more socially acceptable altogether takes some time. So on the Friday I did a lot of prep work.And both Martin and Fran and Laura had offered to bring something. Martin and Fran would bring salad and Laura a desert. Great! I would make vegetarian lasagna.

On the day I saw I was early, so I did shopping for nibblies before the Open Day. I thought big town Menai Bridge with its Waitrose would have better ones! And that I would have to bike it back was just one of those things. I got home at five and started cooking and otherwise getting ready. And I was on the couch with a newspaper when there was a knock on the door! It was Martin and Fran! Martin with a salad and Fran with flowers. That was sweet! I showed them the house and they liked it. They figured it was quirky! And there was just enough daylight for them to get a glimpse of the garden. Then I offered them a drink. No sign of Laura yet! Oh dear. But just as we wondered if she was lost or something, car headlights shone into the living room. Laura! And she brought a beautiful cake.

We were complete! We had a chat over drinks and nibblies, and after a while I suggested we go to the kitchen for dinner. And after dinner we reversed that movement. Time to light the woodstove!

It was really nice! They stayed until half past eleven. Blimey I am wild. We even polished off two beers and an entire bottle of wine! I am clearly a lightweight because as soon as they had all left I didn't know how quickly I should get to bed. Getting up the next morning was a bit slow! But it had been good! And hopefully, I would have yet more guests a week later. I am enjoying this!

The flowers Fran bought

13 March 2019

Reading for the big exam

I have registered for my Welsh A levels! I will take the exam in June. And beforehand I have to submit two recordings of me speaking Welsh with someone else. And one of them is allowed to be my tutor. And one has to be about a specific Welsh book, film, TV programme or something like that, and the other one has to be about some aspect of Welsh culture (but I assume not that same Welsh book, film, TV programme). Jenny was willing to do the first conversation with me. But then we needed something to talk about! And she suggested I read a book she likes a lot: Blasu (to taste). So I borrowed it from her. And then I need to find a victim for the other one! I wonder if I could use a lady who helps with Open Days when our default person who sets up the Open Days is unavailable. She is from the island and she's very nice. And I'm sure we'll have something to talk about!  But lets' go and start this book. I need to be quick; next month the recording needs to be in!

12 March 2019


It feels like autumn will strong winds and lots of rain, but the garden has decided it's spring! All trees are budding. I'm not a particular spring fan; all that bloody green stuff gets in the way of seeing beautiful things like tree trunks and branches, and rocks, and the view in general. But still it's nice to see the world wake up again! Soon I will spend more time in the garden...

Notice the new leaves and flowers! And how high the river is

Lantern project finished

Months ago I started a crafts project! And then it went on hold as the entire house became my crafts project. I had decided to fill some empty instant coffee jars with house-related rubble and thus turning them into tea light holders. I had one back then, filled with the rubble the electrician had cut out of the wall. But the tiler gave me the next push (unknowingly). He had left some tile cut-offs, and as they were natural stone, I figured they'd make nice stone lumps for in a jar if I would smash them up. So I did! And while I was at it I filled another jar with sand the plasterer had left, and a last one with bits of slate that had fallen off the lintel in transport. The point of slate is that it flakes a bit! So now I have four house-themed tea lights! I like it.

11 March 2019

Shed waiting to be built

I like having meals in the garden when it's summer! And I have nice garden furniture for that. But using it requires lugging it down the slippery stairs. I figured it would be better if I kept it in the garden itself. But it needs a bit of protection! So I decided I could do with a garden shed. And I knew where to put it; close to the wall above which the house stands, there is a very big slate slab that would make a lovely foundation. I think it may have been a foundation before. The neighbour had helped put it there! It must have been very hard work.

I had a look at what was available. The nearby shops didn't have any that I thought would do the job. I wanted one that fit onto the slate slab, with the door on the narrow side, and which wouldn't get very bad reviews. I turned to a shop further away that delivered. And it came when the plumber and tiler were in! That was handy. The delivery man put in in the garage as it was open anyway, for the tiler.

When the tiler was done I took the shed out of the garden again. The roof leaks a lot, and I know that a shed is supposed to be able to withstand rain, but no need to get it rained on before it is in position. Furthermore, it was in the way of things So I moved it to the conservatory. To my surprise, it didn't come a a big box or bits with clingfilm around them, but loose components. Oh well! That's fine. But now I need to wait for a weekend in which I have time to build the thing, and in which the weather is OK. Could be a while! But until we get good weather I won't need the garden furniture anyway...

10 March 2019

Last floor done

On Monday morning the plumber would come. And then the tiler contacted me to say he was available too! I figured they wouldn't get in each other's way so I accepted that offer. I just made sure he showed up half an hour after the plumber so I had some time to get him started.

I showed him where the tiles were (in the garage) and he started off to do his work. And I left to do mine! And when I got home the tiles were in position. It looked good! It wasn't quiet finished though; it needed grouting and sealing.

The day after I came home and it was all done! And now the house really looks rather polished! In my eyes, anyway. I like it! And that stone will last. A lot longer than me!

Is that all done with the floors now? I don't know! Maybe one day I want to tackle the rooms that have so far escaped attention. But not for a while! Now it's time to just enjoy the place...

What you now see when you come into the front door


09 March 2019

Clean the other fireplace

I had made sure to clean the one fireplace before the wooden floor was laid down. But I hadn't done the other yet! And when things calmed down a bit I got around to it after all. This one is very cement-rich and not easy to clean. But I think I did an OK job! Another small step towards a tidy house!

08 March 2019


I had done without  radiators in the living room and landing for quite a while. But I hadn't really missed them! I had only started using the living room rather recently, and the landing had seen more use since Christmas but it had never been particularly cold there. And if I sit there for a prolonged time I light the wood stove. But I knew it would be nice to have radiators! And I had decided trying to put them back myself was not a good idea. So I was glad when the plumber came back to sort it. And when he was there anyway, I asked him to replace the upstairs radiators with bigger ones as the original ones didn't quite seem up to the task. A bit strange perhaps; you would expect the top floor not to be colder than a ground floor largely devoid of radiators. But this house is full of surprises!

The work is done now! I will have to do another run to the recycling centre to get rid of the old ones, and the packaging of the new ones, but that's OK. I can then also ditch the carpet tiles that had been in the hallway (but that's a different story)! And then the house not only looks but also feels respectable and hospitable!

After day 1

After day 2

07 March 2019

How many bedrooms?

Things were rather straightforward for a while. I had a double bed in the bedroom on the left, and a single bed in the bedroom on the right. But then my master bedroom became available. And I know this is a first world problem, but I was wondering how to organise things now. The options are:

Single bed in master bedroom, and on top floor the room without a bed becomes office only.

Single bed in master bedroom, and on top floor all the furniture goes into the home office and the other room becomes available for DIY. It needs some; the wallpaper came tumbling down! And it has a built-in cupboard that needs some work done on it. I think the boiler may have lived in it before. That left some strange void! And I can then also plonk a ladder in the middle of the room and finally have a look in the loft. I still haven't seen that!

The advantages of the first option are: less work, fewer rooms that look like a building site (although the work will have to be done some day anyway), and I can keep office and bedroom at their separate temperatures  (I like my offices warmer than my bedrooms). Advantages of the second options are: I have all the space to get the necessary work done. And it will soon be spring, and then the office will be warm enough without help!

Stay tuned; I will decide soon!

Finally hiding the electrician's work

I had asked the electrician to do every room. I had asked the painter to stay away from the rooms on the top floor! That meant that the electrician had cut lots of slots into my wall to put wiring in, and the plasterer had largely filled them up again, but now these scars stood out like sore thumbs. And had done so for a while!

In the time in between I had tended to finish any slightly-too-big batch of filler by going upstairs and smoothing out the plasterer's work (they had used plaster, not skim) so it was almost ready for paint. I did one more round of filler and the smoothing thereof, and then get my paint brush out. And in low light you now don't see the scars at all! I'll find out how inconspicuous it is on a bright sunny day. But I'm happy for now with how much tidier it looks!

Two sockets, an ex-socket and a light switch in view, and nothing gives away that recently, they were accompanied by big holes in the wall (except the paint not being dry yet on where the socket used to be below the radiator)

06 March 2019

Try the new bedroom

I had been looking forward to sleeping at the back of the house since I moved in! The idea of listening to the river rather than the sounds of the village (quite often not much, but I am within earshot of a hall where concerts are held, and the back of two pubs) was quite appealing. And being close to the bathroom would be a nice bonus. So when I had got carpet on Tuesday, I bought curtains on Wednesday, installed them on Saturday, and decided to sleep in the room that very night. So I lugged down my bed! And some paraphernalia.

It wasn't an unequivocal success! I had been sleeping in my double bed with the winter duvet on. And that duvet means business! In comparison, the duvet of the single bed is the lightest flutter of taffeta. I had tried to compensate for that by wearing a long-sleeve shirt but it wasn't enough. I was cold! Too cold for a proper night sleep, not cold enough to not be able to sleep and then do something about it. But that only meant I had badly chosen bedding. I tried again the next night with more clothes and an extra blanket! But the listening to the river had been lovely. And I had been scared the room would already be too warm, but that clearly wasn't the case yet. I probably will be in summer, but then I can still go back upstairs!


Walnut sticks

I had really enjoyed eating from my garden in summer and autumn. There was so much fruit! My attempts at growing vegetables too were not very successful, but this was my first year and I'm sure I'll improve. But there was one category of food that wasn't originally there, and which I thought would be nice to try to grow. Nuts!

I like nuts. I figured a nut tree would complement the garden! And it seems that there is a proverb that says that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time to do it is now. So I went looking for a merchant of nut trees and found just that.

When I posted a question on the website I was promptly phoned by a man with a plum accent. He recommended I buy two. (Of course he would!) I thought why not. They would not deliver the trees for a while but we sorted the details.

I expected the trees in January but nothing happened. I asked when they would arrive; the answer was mid February. OK! But mid February came and went. I mailed again. It turned out the business had been busy and they were a bit behind. But he would process my trees soon! And he did; that Thursday I found a note in the door. I had not been home. True!

I picked up the parcel from a nearby delivery centre (which was in a very unexpected place; down the tiniest and obscurest of country roads), took it home, and dug the trees into the ground. I say trees; they are pretty much sticks with roots! But that should sort itself out. I don't expect walnuts anytime soon but I hope the trees survive the trip from Kent and will grow into healthy young trees with branches and leaves soon!

The stick-like trees in position (see arrows), being liberally watered by nature!

05 March 2019

Quick lead mine trip

It was one of those non-digging weeks, and that was OK, because the ThursdayNighters had a fairly small mine in mind. I knew it well! And David wanted to do some re-rigging as there was a pitch that was a bit dubiously constructed. He wanted to put a chain in the place of an old rope. Good idea!

Dacid and I drove up together (but not before he admired my living room). And only Ed, Edwyn and Jason joined us on the parking lot; Edwyn only to donate some chain. He was having a cold and would go home again when we would walk up! A calm trip this.

Edwyn drove our bags up (nice!) and then we walked to the entrance. David faffed a bit with the entrance pitch as well. I went down and waited at the top of the next pitch. Soon David appeared, chain and all. We tried to fix it in position. It was a bit of faff! He had some split links of which he had to hammer the pins flat, and that can be a faff if you don't have a nice flat background to do it on, but we managed. And we figured we would have to go back and change the handline that lead to the second pitch. It was getting a bit knackered!

We went down the second pitch too. There we sat down for a sarnie and some tea. And then we went all the way down! And walking out was a bit cold; I had forgot to bring my neoprene socks for the occasion. Oh well. And we came out quite early! Lovely! Especially as I would have a long tough day at work the next day. And it's nice to see the chaps!

04 March 2019

Afternoon stroll

After a hectic week it was reading week. I had few contact hours! And that meant one of those days was good for having the carpet people come and sort my bedroom out. I could stay home! But they came quite early in the morning. When they left, I could still quite easily get to the office. But I decided against! I have a home office and that works too. And this day I had a headache that didn't want to go away. I don't like biking with a headache! A few months ago I had developed a headache in the office, and I had had no paracetamol there. I should have gone to the corner shop and sorted that! But I didn't; I biked home to have a paracetamol there. Big mistake! By the time I got home my headache was debilitating. So I wasn't keen on that! Neither was I keen on driving. It was a beautiful day! So my home office it was. I sat down to give feedback on draft essays.

I had my lunch break in the garden. Lovely! But when I was done I decided I needed to enjoy the weather a bit. And I decided to go have a look at a nearby slate quarry. I had, for instance, seen it from the hill I climbed with Roelof. I had never been! Except walking past a long, long time ago with the PCG. That had been my first time in North Wales ever!

I parked at the same spot as back then in 2012 and started walking up in the yellow afternoon light. As soon as the quarry appeared on my right I veered into it. There wasn't an awful lot there, but I sort of knew that, as otherwise we would have visited as the ThursdayNighters. But it was a lovely day and there was as good as no sound and it was lovely!

I walked around the quarry anticlockwise and when I got rather high up I saw a sort of gate. And when I got up to it I saw it was on a tidy asphalt road. Hm! There was a track on the map but I did not expect this level of sophistication. The map told me it went to Dinorwig. Tempting! And walking on a road like this is quite fast. I decided to go for it!

After a while I saw the first drumhouse. There, a path moved from the road into the quarry. I walked in. The views were amazing! A high and not very well-visited upper part of the quarry in the evening light, with Snowdon in the distance. Lovely! I admired the view, had a chat with a bloke who had been collecting quartz crystals and was impressed by the view too, and went back.

I decided I should really do this on bicycle one day. The road to Mynydd Llandygai is quite steep but well, I should manage with that, and as soon as you're past that the slopes are not too bad. And on the gentle slopes biking is faster, and on the way down it is a LOT faster. I really should give it a try! I love Dinorwig! Even though I am now a Bethesda resident, and Dinorwig must have been a big rival of Penrhyn...

The road to the reservoirs of Electric Mountain 

Marchlyn Slate Quarry

Selfie with slate 

A high drumhouse of Dinorwig in the evening sun

Delapidated quarryman's cottages

Mighty view with paraglider

The Llanberis path and an entrance into Electric Mountain


03 March 2019


On a sunny Tuesday morning two blokes appeared to lay carpet in my living room. And they were done in no time! But well, it's only one room, and not one with a complicated shape. When they were done I hoovered up the fluff and then I had a bedroom! It will need some curtains first but I already know what I want and where to get it so that shouldn't be too much faff. I can soon move my bed down and start sleeping there, listening to the sound of the river. Nice!

New home for the bike

When I bought a new bike I didn't dare park it in the garage. It has a rather simple lock! And this bike is steal-worthy. So I decided to park it in the not-yet-in-use-bedroom. Close to the front door, and a floor that didn't matter as I would change it. And that worked fine for many months! But then the time came to evacuate the room for the carpet fitters. Where to put it? I decided on the storage space. It seemed the reasonable option! You reach it through the kitchen. So you go through a room with a vinyl floor to a room with floor paint. That should be OK! And there is space. So I put the same rack up as the ones I have in the office. And now that's where it lives!

02 March 2019

Start entertaining!

The barren days are over! I feel confident in my house to such an extent I have started inviting people over for dinner. And the first ones were Jaco and Marjan! They came over for dinner and it was good. Marjan had only seen my house when it was in a very early stage, and Jaco had never seen it at all. And I think they liked it!

We had dinner in the kitchen as that is where the dinner table is. And then we retired to the living room! That doesn't have central heating yet, but it was a warm day and I have a wood burner. I enjoyed it! And I think they did too! And the next set of invitations is out. I'm enjoying this!

Ready for the carpet

The bedroom had been stuffed to the brim with stuff. But after the paint in the storage room had dried for about 48 hours I could put lots of things in there! And some other things in the conservatory! And some in the garage. And on the Sunday before the carpet fitters came the room was empty. I had also cleaned the window frames (nicotine!) and windows, and put up some curtain rods. Best do the drilling and creating dust before the carpet arrives! And I had swept the floor. Now it is a big echoing space. But not for long! Soon I can sleep there. I will fall asleep to the sound of the river! And I won't hear Neuadd Ogwen so much on nights they have a gig on. I look forward to it! And when (not if) it gets hot in summer I can retreat to the upstairs bedroom after all. All marvellous!

Not much left in the bedroom!

01 March 2019

Second Open Day: easier

I was confident about my second open day as organiser! After the first one went well I figured I knew now how it worked. I swanned in and expected no problems. But one should not be complacent either! The days before the open day there already was some confusion; people mentioning at the very last minute they needed a monitor, when so many were already in use, the lab technicians wanting to know further in advance what would happen and people doing a demonstration that needed technical back-up assuming the technicians knew exactly what was needed. Oh dear. But we sorted it.

This open day was going to be busier than the previous one. We had the numbers. At the last minute some more people registered but I figured I didn't need to reorganise things; the groups could get a bit bigger. The increase wasn't all that big. And then on the day the ship wasn't there. It was supposed to be there. Oh dear! That meant my schedule of what group would see what demonstration (the ship counts as one) had to be rejigged. Really rapidly. And there was no slack in the system anymore.

When the guests came I quickly checked who was here, adjusted the groups, and hoped for the best. And it went well! We had a good set of demonstrations. The day went alright. But from various staff members and peer guides I heard things that had not gone so well. Due to the ship being away non-biologists had been doing biological demonstrations (and probably vice versa) and weren't impressed. One parent was suspicious about us letting only the prospective students do the practicals; why did we separate them? Were they telling the prospective students different information from the parents (or other companions)?

I think for next time I need to have an extra demo lined up for in case the ship goes scampering again. And the Head of School will have to explain why we separate the visitors! I hope all will go well. It's only two weeks away!

Some of the critters involved in the open day