31 May 2019

Garage gets scaffolding

When I got home from the Netherlands I was surprised to see my garage was looking as I had left it. I had expected it to be covered in scaff by now! But no. Oh well. I had my mother around, I had other things to do! But one day when I had popped to the shop I saw two bored young man loiter at the top end of my street. Then I saw a small lorry with scaff in the actual street. Ah! They were here for me! But what were they waiting for? I went back and asked. They said their boss was on his way. And he was! In yet another lorry. And they just went about their business. But it was Friday and over the (long, bank holiday) weekend no roofer would appear to make use of it. But it works as a nice platform for taking pictures I otherwise can't take!


It's a beautiful roof. 

It has issues, though!

The house seen from an unusual viewpoint

30 May 2019

Pannier rack - attempt number two

Having had a pannier rack for a few days made me realise it's actually quite nice. I figured I should make a move in getting a permanent one! So I hit eBay and found another one. It arrived in a few days; just before I would fly to the Netherlands. I mounted it while Lien was reading something. It fit perfectly! That holds for both the rack and the bags. And the seller was very pleasant! And as I had already made the effort of finding lugs and bolts and nuts (and sawing some bolts to size) for the old rack, I had everything ready this time. Mounting it was pretty much a doddle.

Now I bike to work with my stuff in the bag. It's nice! It feels better (less sweaty), and if my bag is a bit heavy, and I would feel that on the saddle if I would have it on my back, I am fine! All good!

29 May 2019

Washing machine troubles

I think the washing machine deserves its own blog post, in spite of having been discussed in the context of my mother's visit. When the old one packed up and I couldn't easily and quickly get a second-hand one I had to think about what I wanted from a washing machine. And I went with small and energy-efficient. I am only one person; if you wait until I have 9 kg (a quite normal capacity for a washing machine) of laundry it takes me months and that's not practical. And a big brand or not? The reviews go either way. The old one, which must have had some brand of sorts but I don't know what it was, so it can't have been something to flaunt, did a fine job. So was it worth getting a fancy one? The biggest risk of a washing machine is that it floods the place, but mine stands in the kitchen annex which contains the main drain. Whether it drains in there through its dedicated hose, or just gushing from arbitrary directions, doesn't really matter. So why go for a Miele or a Siemens if anything might last me a lifetime. A Bush it was! I tried it on a 30 degree wash and a 60 degree one and it did fine. And this one had a 15 minute programme I can't wait to try out next. If that gets stuff clean I can do my laundry fast and efficiently!

27 May 2019

My mother’s visit

I had got my mother home! That was quite special. And after a good night's sleep we could go and do stuff with that visit.

In the morning, after a rest from all the travelling, I could show her the rest of the house and, of course, the garden. That was the important bit! My mother loves gardening and I have an amazing garden. After breakfast (I don't think I've made my mother breakfast before!) we went down. And my handrail did its job! Great! That was well worth the effort. My mother loved the garden. Obviously! But she did see it had been a bit neglected. She wouldn't have to be bored.

I wasn't bored either; I had been in the Netherlands for a while, and there received all sorts of emails pertaining to exams and dissertations and suchlike that needed attention. So I had to do a bit of work! But I have a home office so I went upstairs to do as much as I could, occasionally popping down into the garden for a coffee. In the afternoon I went into the office for a bit. We had a meeting I wanted to attend! But at half past four I was home. With groceries. So we sat a bit more int he garden until I started cooking.

The cooking was something I hadn't been sure about. My mother doesn't cook! But I do. How would that go? Me cooking for myself and she eating what she normally does? But she said she's just eat whatever I'd cook and that was indeed the way it worked. She turned out to like everything I did! It was nice to bring her a hot meal in the garden (OK, not every day, the weather was a bit variable) and enjoy it together.

The next day I had a plan. I wanted to take her picnicking. My garden is already lovely but you can't see the mountains from it. So after breakfast I did a few chores until I felt like coffee. Then I made a big bag full of picnickeries and off we went! I wanted to start in Nant Ffrancon. It's a beautiful valley. I had driven through it countless many times, but I had also run the old road on the other side of the valley, and since living in Bethesda I would run the lower part of it. And that old road is very quiet. We could just drive down, park up, get out, and have some cheese or chocolate or whatever we felt like. And we did just that! We found a nice spot, the weather was great, and the entire time we sat there nobody at all came past. There were only some sheep trundling along! It was very peaceful and beautiful and my mother understood completely why I had brought her there. And we had nice nibblies!

What I hoped would happen from when I knew my mother would visit!

Our view

When we were done there we went on. I drove us to Capel Curig, and from there to Pen-y-Gwrid and Pen-y-Pass. I wanted to show her that valley too! We stopped at the layby at the copper mine but that was too busy. We went on to Mynydd Llandygai and there, at a quiet dead end, had a glass of wine and some cheese, with a view over the quarry and the valleys behind Bethesda. And then it was time to go home!

Mynydd Llandegai; spot the mother (full page view only!)

The day after we had a plan too. Go to the garden centre! And buy some plants. But I had to do some laundry first. But that turned out to be complicated; when I left for the Netherlands I had told Marjan to hold on to my house key as she would still be without washing machine. And while I was in the Netherlands I saw she had sent me a message. I couldn't read it! I only got the notifications but couldn't load the actual messages. I figured that if it were important she would text as well.

When we got home I saw she had messaged she encountered a problem with the washing machine. Oh dear! But quite often that sort of thing is just something odd and not really a problem, so I didn't take it too seriously. When I tried to do laundry myself, though, I saw she had been right. There was something wrong! I had a good look. I didn't see how that could be remediated either! Hmm. Now what? I had bought that thing ten years ago upon moving to Britain. Second hand. And it didn't have a brand name on it. It had probably served its time.

I phoned the big second hand store in Bangor. Did they have washing machines at the moment? They didn't. There wasn't much elsewhere either. Maybe time to buy a new one? I googled a bit and we decided to just get it over with. Off to Bangor! We wanted to go there anyway, for the garden centre.

I dropped off the old machine at the recycling centre, and then we popped to Argos and picked a small, energy-efficient model. Quite affordable too! Then we were off to the garden centre. We bought some lovely plants! By now Lien had cleared most of the central raised bed and it needed plants. And she knows about them!


Afterwards I drove her past my work and my previous house, just to give her an idea. Then it was time to go home and have lunch. And then install the washing machine! I had never installed a new one but I figured it wouldn't be too complicated. And the hardest thing turned out to be getting it off the styrofoam serving tray it had came on. It was only a 6 kg capacity machine but it weighed 66.5 kg itself according to the packaging. And when it was installed I tried it out. It worked!

All that time my mother had been working in the garden and now I could join her. I had concrete plans: I have a buddleia growing in front of the conservatory and that needs regular pruning to preserve the view. And I needed to get the ivy from the master bedroom as the painter would come and repaint it. And these tasks go together well; you have to get past the buddleia to get to the ivy. So I did that! And it went fast. The cutting up the cut-offs and putting them in the bin took longer. Then we pruned a rose bush. But so much had to go that we decided in the end it would have to go. But I didn't feel like it now! We faffed a bit more, and I hung out the laundry (first full round of the washing machine was a success!), and then I proposed a glass of wine in the garden. Proposal accepted! And then we had dinner and tea and called it a day.

The next day we woke up to rain. So we did some newspaper reading in the morning. By the time it was dry I went for a run. When I was back and showered and had another cup of coffee it was time to go back to the garden. We hadn't planted any of the plants we had bought! We had to do that now. 

Work on the garden!

We did that and I also dug out the rose bush. And popped to the shop for drinks; we would be four tonight! I also got rid of all the weeds my mother had removed. And then I figured we should change from our gardening clothes to something more elegant as Mieke and Henk were probably imminent. But before we had the chance my phone went; it was Mieke, and they were close. I waved them in and it was time to settle in the garden with a beverage!

Mieke and Henk loved the garden too. And it got sunny! I even showed Mieke the tunnel underneath the garden. And they told us where they had been and what they had done. They had had a good time! And I popped out to buy groceries and cook. We had dinner in the garden. And tea! And then I had to go and sort out beds for everyone. Henk and Mieke got clean sheets and I improvised a bed from sheep skins. And when that was sorted we could just sit down and chat a bit more! But indoors by then. But everyone got tired and we went to bed.

My guests!

The next morning I woke up because of the bin man. I got up and got ready for breakfast. I don't often have breakfast with three others! But it was nice. And then the visit was almost over! The guests packed their stuff and got ready. I said goodbye to my mother. I don't know if she'll be back! But she has now seen it and can picture the things I talk about. And after many years, I could be a host to her instead of the other way around. Neither of us will forget this!

25 May 2019

Taking my mother home

While I was living in Amsterdam, my mother, Lien, stopped visiting me. It became too strenuous! Her mobility isn't what it has been. Then I moved abroad and I didn't expect her to go that far. If Amsterdam is too far, then so are Norway and the UK! And then fast-forward to last year and I buy my house. And she suddenly she suggested she come and visit! But I would have to come and get her. She can't travel alone anymore! But then the plan got bigger. She lives in some housing project for the 55+, and one of her friends  (Mieke) from there was thinking of coming along. And then a friend of Mieke's (Henk) was thinking of it too! And my mother suggested we would tag it along on my visit to the Netherlands. Then I would be travelling between the countries anyway. And that plan was accepted!  It was a bit uncertain until a rather late stage whether it would the two ladies from the housing project staying with me, or just my mum, while the two others would travel independently. But it the end it was the latter.

The day before our flight we talked through some last things. Was my mother's bag big enough? Or too big? Would the friend need an adapter plug for the British sockets? Should she bring talcum powder? Are nail scissors allowed?

On the day itself we got ready, and went to the communal room to meet Mieke. But she appeared from some other communal room and said the cab was there. And Henk too. We were on our way!

The cab driver dropped us off. I needed to go and print my boarding card. Mieke had the other boarding cards on her phone. But I was wondering if several people travelling on one phone would work. I don't like boarding cards on phones anyway! So we decided to print them all off. That was a bit of a faff! It took several iterations, but we did it. Then we had to get to security.

My mother took hold of my arm and we went security-wards. Just before we got to the gates and the stairs a lady closed the ribbons. She said it was closed. We had to go to a different terminal! I asked how far that was. Five minutes, she said. I asked how far at my mother's speed. She had a look and opened the ribbon for us. That was nice! So we got to security. And there they might have been forewarned. A bloke appeared that took my mother past the queue. Mieke went with her.

After the security we reconvened. Onwards to the gate! We were flying KLM so we weren't going to a gate that was all too far away. But it was far for my mother! And she can be silly so Mieke coughed once and Lien immediately forgot to focus on staying upright to dig out a bit of chewing gum. She promptly fell over but luckily I was alert and caught her. But we managed to get to the gate without issues. So far, so good!

As Lien and Mieke had booked together they sat together too. I was on my own. It was an uneventful flight. When we arrived I waited for the ladies again so Lien could take my arm again. We got through passport control (the wrong one; my fault), went to the loo, and went through the doors. We were at arrivals!

Mieke and Henk would hire a car there so they had to go to the hire car village. In a way it would have been nice to join them and only part ways when we knew they were sorted, but I was a bit nervous and keen to get my mother to my car. So we only walked them to the bus stop for car rentals and said goodbye there and then. We would see them back towards the end of the trip! They would take Lien home again.

When the others were gone we walked on. And we got to the car! All good! From there it was easy. She was sat in a comfortable chair and all was well! And I would show her the landscape. It's not spectacular at the start but it gets better. It was lovely to show here the general surroundings! And then we got home. We had made it! I showed my mother the house (not yet the top floor or the garden; it had been enough for a day) and plonked her on the couch and plonked wine and nuts down and went to the shop to get some food. Then I cooked her pasta. My mother eating my food in my house! And then us having a glass of wine in the living room! It was very special. And this was only the beginning!

23 May 2019

Visit to the Netherlands

It was time to pop by in the Netherlands again. And there was a family reunion coming up; I decided to let that decide on the exact date. And this reunion was booked for the 19th so mid May it was.

It would be an unusual visit; normally, my mother is the centre of it, but this time, it was different (more about that later). I did first visit her, but then visited Roelof, the entire family, my dad, Monique, and my sister's family in succession without stopping by at her place. But I ended up there the day before I would fly back.

On the Saturday I ended up picnicking with Roelof and Micha at the shores of the Amstel. I was warm in my summery dress! And on our for our family day, which was hosted by my cousin Bart, who lives at walking distance from the coastal dunes, we went to the beach. There it was cold, windy and foggy. No summer dresses there! It was good to see the bulk of the family again, though. And it was nice to see where Bart lived (with his family); I don't think I ever visited him at home since he moved out of the parental house. And when we were done with the cold beach we just went to drink some hot chololate somewhere.

With Monique I went for a long walk. That was great! But I was dressed a bit too hot. I got all sweaty! It was a difficult week to get it right. Then I also hit the moorland with my sister, later that day. And then it was back to my mum. And do Welsh exercises at the living room table!

Then it was time to go back. It had been good. But now time to enjoy Wales again! And get back to sorting out dissertation marking, given that I'm responsible for the overall process...

Goslings visiting our picnic

Walking the breakwater on the family day

Monique and I found a mysterious watch tower 

Sunny Amersfoort

21 May 2019

Marking done!

I went like the clappers! I had three exams this spring. And a most fortuitous combination of three! Two were three-marker-exams, so you only mark a third of the questions, which of course only takes a third of the time. And one of these was a very small class. And then the third was MCQ, so some computer marks it. Great! When I got the exams I had to mark in I immediately went for it, so I could given them to the other two markers soon. It's always a bit of a faff to push them from one person to the next! And you can bet on people missing a question here or there so some to-ing and fro-ing is expected. But this time it went OK. And as soon as these were out of my hands I swapped to dissertation marking. This year I was supposed to mark 3 dissertations by my own students and 11 by other people's students. But I had three non-submitters. So only 11 in total!

 The MCQ exam was in one of the elaborate halls in the main building; it has this somewhat unsettling mural on the wall at the top end of the room.
One sunny day I stayed home. If I would have commuted to the office it would have been almost two hours spent on that. Now I could spend these hours marking! I had allowed myself three print-outs; I could do these in the garden by the river. Lovely! The rest had to be done in my home office. Not as glamorous but well, nice enough. And I made good progress!

Two days before I was due to fly to the Netherlands I finished the last dissertation marking. And got the piles of exams back from my other markers! But it was too late to do that that same day. I also got a script from a student who had done the exam in a separate room. And the day before I would fly I was quite busy; the day started with the last exam (the MCQ one). Then I had to get to Menai Bridge as the MSc students were doing their literature review talks. My student was before lunch! So I dropped my bag in the office and went.

When the talks stopped for lunch I had a few minutes to warm up my lunch and then we had a weekly lunchtime session. We do these to disseminate good teaching ideas. This one was interesting! About how to use the online-marking-software the best way. But as soon as we were done the talks started again. I had no more students but I knew they were short on staff in this session so I went. But before the last talk of the session I sneaked away. I needed to get to one colleague who needed to mark the stray script and who would probably be in the last session! I caught him and gave him the script. And then I started collating the grades. It was clear some questions had fallen by the wayside. I would have to sort that! Preferably before I would leave. But time was running out! Luckily, the colleague who had missed the last questions left the talks before they were over too. She marked everything that still needed marking. And we sorted moderation; I checked the others' work and she checked mine. Good! This could go back to teaching administration. And then I collated the grades from the small class. It was fully marked! I set up everything that needed setting up for moderation and plonked the scripts in a colleague's pigeon hole. By then it was so late I couldn't go underground anymore. A pity! But I was glad this exam stuff was sorted before I would leave! And the day after I managed to agree marks with other dissertation markers of all but four of the dissertations. Success!

20 May 2019

Count your money

Rose left strange things when she moved out. One was an oven dish full of coins! I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. But one day I was in the Asda in Bangor and noticed they have a coin machine. It counts them and gives you a voucher. Sounded like the place to go! But you tend to only think of that sort of things at the wrong time so it took over a year for me to get around to it. The entire bowl was only some seven pounds. But well, money tends to come in handy, and now finally so does the oven dish. Chores are better done late than never!

19 May 2019

Getting ready for a new roof

The house has a fine roof! But the garage doesn't. It leaks like the clappers. Mainly because of the skylights in the roof, and not the roof itself, but changing the windows would be a massive work. And as the roof also leaks in a few places where there is no skylight, I decided to just have the entire roof redone. Especially as the leaks have made some of the beams rot. It turned out that the plasterer is also a roofer so he got the job. And he starts soon!

The roof still has good bits so I do keep things in there that need to stay dry. But with the entire roof coming off that wouldn't work anymore. So I have now put everything that needs dryness in the conservatory. Mainly firewood! And then it will be a bit of a mess for a few weeks but then I will have a waterproof garage! That will be nice. And I've asked the roofer to not throw the ceiling beams away; they can be firewood too! And that can then await its turn in my waterproof garage! And I’ll have firewood for years...

 Firewood having been evacuated from the garage

18 May 2019

Another band

I hadn't gone to a gig since July! Maybe that's silly. I did enjoy that one! It's just that I like to go to bed early. But I had seen there was another gig due, and the music had sounded OK. And Dilwyn had encouraged me to pop in (as usual). I had had Jaco and Marjan over (two weekends in a row; they had their kitchen re-fitted so they were keen on using other people's kitchens, including washing machines) and they thought it sounded nice but they were not up for going in. But I was! When they had left I phoned my mum and after that I popped in. And it was nice! It was Don Kipper, and they were good. It's a multinational folk band. They played some songs of their own, but also songs (traditionals, I suppose) from (in the time I was there) Albania, Armenia and Turkey. So they had a wide repertoire. I was on the dance floor in seconds. But I came off when the Turkish song got into gear; that was a bit too complex a rhythm for me to tune my feet to. I'm not very musically advanced! But it was fun. I didn't stay until the end; my bed still calls. But I should do this more often!

Don Kipper on stage

17 May 2019

Rescue training and meeting

I had missed the last rescue training, so I figured I should be at the training preceding the AGM. And I did! It was a bit hectic; in the morning I did last year’s Welsh A level exam for practice, and from there I only popped home for a few minutes before heading for the training. David collected me. When we got there, there was a bit of a discussion on what to do. We decided on one session on communications and one on hauling with counter-weight. I started on comms. 

We didn’t actually have the equipment we had hoped to use, but that’s OK; we did a theoretical session. We started with how a call-out actually works. We tend to forget to talk about that! What happened before you get the call-out on your phone? It starts with the police, but who do they contact, and what decisions do these people then have to make and how do they make them, et cetera.  Under what circumstances does such a call land in our phones? 

We also discussed what means of communication you can use for what; VHF radio is not secured, so you can’t use it for sensitive information. And what information is sensitive? And things such as: what channel are we on, why are we there, what are the drawbacks of that channel, where can we go to if needs be, who else is on which one, and such things. Time flies like that! Then we packed up and went to the climbing wall to see how the haulers were doing. 

We had a bit of a look but after a bit we were shoo’d away after a bit as the other group wanted to debrief and did not want to provide spoilers. Then we came in! The ropes were rigged. Gethin told us what the idea was. We would try to haul up someone to the platform close to the ceiling, with another person as a counterweight. As the hauled person going up means the counterweight goes down, you have to prussic up the rope as fast as the other people are hauling to make sure you don’t end up on the floor with a slack rope. And that’s hard work! We first practiced prussicking up a rope in an easily reversible way, so with something other than a chest jammer. I tried an S-Tec flow first, and my Petzl Stop (but only partially rigged) second. That worked! But then it was time to try it for real with a person. 

I went up the ledge. I would be hauling! And it turns out that’s the easy bit. Ed was doing the prussicking and he had a hard time of it. And when we had Gethin up we released him again. All worked well! 

Then I went down to let someone else haul and ended up being the prussicking party. It is indeed much harder work! But again it went well. This time Gethin rigged a stress meter on the rope. He could monitor exactly what stress we put on the rope and the anchor and how that developed over time! The moment the prussicker turns around and abseils down seems to be the peak. Funny!
When it was about time to pick up we had to get one of the chaps down from the platform who had forgot to bring his Stop and wasn’t overly happy being lowered by Gethin. Then we could de-rig and put everything back in Gethin’s van. And then it was time for the AGM!

I think AGMs are often the same, whatever organisation they are of; it’s a meeting of people who are of good will bit who have no intention to volunteer for positions like chair or treasurer or any of that. Oh well. We managed to fill the positions! And we discussed our call-out record of the past year. If I remember correctly we had four call-outs. One concerned a dog fallen down a hole (was rescued); one concerned two lambs fallen down a hole (were rescued); one concerned a horse fallen down a hole (was already deceased so could not be rescued); and only one concerned a person. This person was missing in a region where there were holes in the ground. We checked the holes and the person was not there. I have no idea how that story ended! 

And there was trouble on the way; we fall under the umbrella if Mountain Rescue but it seems that may change. I am curious to see how that pans out! 

A pleasant surprise was that I had failed to get the call-out text messages for years. When I bring that up someone tends to do a test-call-out and I always get that message. But never the real ones. I tend to have to find out through email or David who tells me. But now finally they figured out some tick box next to my name hadn't been ticked. Did that have to take years to find out? But better late than never!

Anyway. Another rescue year started! Let’s hope we won’t be needed this year. And that all mammals, both human and otherwise, refrain from getting themselves into a pickle underground! Even if that means I won't know for sure if I get the text messages from now on...

Hauling up Ed with Tony as a safety belay

16 May 2019

Garden with colleagues

I am on a mission to make up for lost time! Now I have a house with a living room I want to invite people. I like having people over! Not too often; I stay a bit stuck in my solitary mindset, but it's nice to have a drink and a chat with nice people. And my house now does a good job as a host! So this time I had two of my colleagues over. I figured they'd combine well. And they agreed! One is Suzie who I work with quite a lot, which is great, and the other being Sarah who is a biologist so with whom I don't share any modules, but who is also in the teaching and learning team. She's nuts! The sort of person to think it's not daft at all to run a full marathon before a full working day. And she's vegan so that provided a slight challenge. I tend to have dairy in my food. If I don't it's often something like fried rice, but the spice mix I use has fish sauce in it, so that's off too. I went for something simple with chick peas and spinach! A bit of a cliche, but as I would be invigilating an exam in Bangor until 4.30 I figured I couldn't really do something very elaborate.

My students were done in good time so I could prepare the garden furniture and the nibblies and the food at my leisure. And quite punctually the ladies arrived! And they liked the house. Although Suzie is so British she would probably have said so anyway. But I think she meant it! I showed them the house and then we went into the garden for a drink and afore-mentioned nibblies. They liked it! 'My' dipper duly appeared to enliven the scene.

I brought the main course out too. It was still warm enough! And Suzie had brought dessert and we had that outside too. But by then it had got chilly and we went indoors. Into my lovely living room! There we had tea until people started yawning (for once I'm not the early night-obsessed oddball; the others were early sleepers and risers too) and Suzie and Sarah went home. And we agreed there was scope for more! A Teaching and Learning BBQ in the garden perhaps. When it would get a little bit warmer! There is plenty of space!

15 May 2019

New science park

I got an invitation to an event about women in energy. And I'm not one of them! I'm a papaeoclimatologist. But I like going to events aimed at women. I think it should mainly be men who go there; women know what it's like to be a woman in a certain environment, and it's the men who don't. But still! And it was at the new science park in Gaerwen. I was highly skeptical about this; it looked like a vanity project from a university that can't afford it. And it seemed to have attracted new businesses, like it was intended to, but I had heard that quite many of these had come from Parc Menai, a similar outfit on the other side of the strait. We had done our dissertation talks there but we won't next year as I'm not even sure the building we used will still be open then. So maybe interesting to take a look for myself.

I walked in and my first impression of the event wasn't very positive. The room was full already. No spaces on the table! I wasn't late at all. That made me less than welcome. But I managed to pull a chain to a corner of the table and get a coffee. Around me were only women. And they were all speaking Welsh. First thing: not so good; second thing: good. For me, at least. Everyone seemed to know each other and I knew nobody. Then a bloke came in; he turned out to be the managing director of the place. He found a seat (not at the table, of course) near me and started to talk with my neighbour. And he even introduced himself to me and drew me into the discussion. That was nice! It took a man to make me feel welcome at a women's event. Oh well.

The presentations were interesting but not overly applicable to me. And then I got a request from a student to contact him. If students want that something is generally wrong! And indeed he was in distress. This is a hard time to be worried as the academic year is as good as over; if something is wrong there may not be much opportunity to do anything about it! But clearly this chap needed a hand. I decided to skip the rest of the event and go back to SOS, and talk to our disability tutor to see what we could do for this chap. We talked through the possibilities and I got back to him with the results. He said he was relieved. Success!

And the science park, M-Sparc? Well I only got to see it. At least I've been. And we'll see what happens with Ty Menai. At least the place has a nice MD!

The rather snazzy building

14 May 2019

Foel Gron

A new mine! New to me, anyway. That still exists around here! The Thursdaynighters would visit Foel Gron, which is a small slate mine in the middle of nowhere. And that sounded nice! And not actually further than Blaenau Ffestiniog. We had been in that neck of the woods before and the sheer emptiness of the landscape attracted me. The last time we had been there it had been winter still, so now I actually drove up in daylight. And I could see the amazing views! And the venue had been proposed as one of the chaps had been there before without kit, and seen a drop, and wanted to explore that now. 

 I was the first to get there but David was right behind me. And then Edwyn showed up. This was the first time we’d see each other after the fiasco with the pannier rack. He parked next to me and wound down the window. What was this; was he afraid of getting out of the car? What does he think I’d do? He asked if we would fight. I said I hoped not. Then he came out of the car and I gave him back the ill-omened bike part and we went about our business. 

Miles also showed up. He gave me back my drill! When I had told him it didn’t work he volunteered to have a look. And he’d fixed it! He didn’t know how; he had not found any fault with it. But he had diagnosed some rather dirty contacts so maybe that was all it was. Now it can serve me for many years more!

Then we went up. The first entrance we saw was a wet adit. Not everybody fancied wet feet but I had come prepared and was wearing neoprene socks. I went in with Jason (who wasn’t). It went quite far and split, but looked backfilled right behind the junction. When we came out only Paul was waiting for us; the rest had gone on. We caught up. We saw a big entrance and went in. It was nice! We identified the tunnel that probably went to the drop but we explored the rest first. Some nice levels with white precipitates in the water.

When I thought we would go and rig that drop it turned out there was confusion. Was that drop where we thought it was? Probably not! He had misremembered. Oh well. We explored the tunnel anyway (no drop there, but a nice small chamber with chains) and then went higher up the hill for some more entrances. The place had been untopped so chambers and levels had accidentally become entrances. We went in and found a chamber that lead to daylight, but we couldn’t reach it. We went out again. There was an entrance on a slope and I didn’t want that to go unexplored so I clambered up. I ended up at that daylight we couldn’t reach from inside! Now we know that too. And we looked at one more adit (which turned out to be extremely shallow) and that meant we had seen the place. Time to go back to the cars and change out of our wet cold kit! Or at least, Jason’s and mine was wet and cold. On the other side of the road there was another mine I had never visited; the TN had been there not too long ago but I had missed that trip. But I’m sure I’ll get to see that too one day. A nice evening out!

Where the lower adit splits

Winch in water

White precipitates in level

Jason in chamber with chains (I should have brought a tripod)

More entrances

View from the high entrance

13 May 2019

Neuadd Ogwen spreads

When you live right next to something that could be described as a Gwynedd arts centre, if you see a newspaper headline saying 'Major expansion plans revealed for Gwynedd arts centre' your attention is caught. I read the article. It was indeed about Neuadd Ogwen. And it said they wanted to expand - but where to? They can't go to the front; that's where the road is. And on the other three sides are houses (mainly mine!) and gardens and my garage. And such! The newspaper mentioned an event with a presentation of the plans the day after and I intended to go. That day I looked on the Neuadd Ogwen website and found nothing, but I wanted to go and see for myself if anything was happening.

That next day I saw Jenny in the pub as usual. We tend to meet until seven, and the event also began at seven, but I figured I could show up a bit late. We overran a bit (we sometimes get carried away) and I rushed to Bethesda. When I got there the presentation of the plans in the foyer was over but a consultation in the main hall was about to start. I walked in and saw Sue, from my Welsh class. I joined her.

Two presentations showed the history of Neuadd Ogwen and what they did now. And then it was our turn! The audience was separated in to three groups and we were asked to brainstorm about the opportunities for the place, its challenges, and what we as the community could contribute. Sue and I stayed in one of the Welsh groups. At least it was good language training! I wasn't brimming with ideas I must admit but well one tries.

When we were done and someone from NO had summed up I went to have a look at the extension plans. And it started to make sense! I had seen from my garden a roof that really needed some maintenance on the NW side of the hall. It turned out a whole row of sheds and lean-to's were built against that side of the building, but they weren't in use. And now NO had bought the pub next door (the Victoria) with its apartment and bunkhouse, and the buildings seemed to have come with that. And now they wanted to do them up and use them for things like band practice, art studios, and whatnot. Good idea! And I spoke with Dilwyn, the manager, and he said they would insulate the loading doors, which is great, as they let through a lot of noise as is. They get a porch! Good. And that may produce some mess and noise but well, I'll have the garage roof redone and that will do exactly the same. We'll make it work! And I will try to engage a bit more with the events. Although sometimes you just can't! I missed many monthly markets due to Ocean Sciences Open Days and Welsh classes. I hope I'll manage to attend the next one! And by then who knows, maybe the porches are in place!

A lady looks at pictures of the derelict lean-to's

12 May 2019

Vote as a citizen or resident?

Some time ago I chatted with another University employee from the mainland. She was applying for UK citizenship! She explained why saying 'these Brits need help voting'. And I agree! They sure do. In a way, I prefer to vote as British as I can. I am a bit detached from Dutch politics! And what affects me every day is UK politics. And the only election in which I can choose is the EU elections. If you are a citizen of one EU country and live in another you can choose. The previous time I voted as a Welsh resident!

The the UK decided it wanted to leave the EU, so when I moved and told the electoral register I did bring up my EU vote. The person on the phone said it was irrelevant as by the time there would be EU elections again, the UK would be out. So I moved my vote back to the Netherlands. But now we're not out! But I stuck with my orange vote. The UK might still be out soon. A UK vote could be for someone who might be elected but never ends up taking the seat! That's not much value for your vote. And I think the Dutch have seen what a tar pit Brexit is and won't risk a Nexit. Or Hexit. So my Dutch vote should go to someone who, if elected, actually stays in Brussels/Strasbourg for the full five years. And then we'll see how Brexit pans out...

11 May 2019

Walk to Bryn Hafod y Wern

We had a bank holiday weekend. That's nice! The Saturday was largely taken up by the stairs to the garden and some more chores; on Sunday I made another big push with pictures (but I had blogged about that stuff so much recently I didn't mention this effort) and then had Jaco and Marjan over again. They were impressed by how much had still changed in the house since their last visit! And they did some laundry. Their kitchen has been ripped out so now they not only struggle to cook and do the dishes, but they also had to disconnect the washing machine so they can't do laundry. That's where I came in!

Then on the free Monday I did chores in the morning, popped by Phil in the afternoon, and then decided I still had time to pop to Bryn Hafod-y-Wern slate quarry. That's nearby! And I had already seen it on my first Snowdonian walk since moving to Wales. I figured back then I should visit it. Only now would I! And I figured there wasn't all too much to see, but from most angles you see it you notice some funny sticky-outy bits. And these turned out to be worth seeing! And there was more. It was just an hour to walk there. Even as I had to get past an attention-starved horse (poor thing). And the place was pretty!

Decorative entrance

The entrance seen from the incline on the other side
Slate tips with hills in the back ground

The leaning launder pillars

The flooded pit

Strange round structure

 I didn't need all that much time to see it. Then I ambled back! Past the horse again. Poor thing. And walked back. It's interesting to notice that this quarry is the reason for that leat that had puzzled me for years. What a lot of work for such a small quarry! And I'm quite enjoying this visiting all nearby mines!

10 May 2019

Local geology museum

I knew there was a geology museum nearby! And I had never been. I figured I should. And one day I had to be somewhere near there so I decided to pop in. And it was nice! It was clearly a small local one, with things like slightly clunky reconstructions of dinosaurs and the likes, and labels just lying near the rocks/fossils they refer to, until some draft blows them away, but I liked it. It doesn't all have to be all slick and professional! And they had nice rocks and fossils. And even a door to a 'cave'; it turned out that the building was set back into the limestone bedrock, and a platform had been built between building and rock, and they had made rock paintings on the rock face, and put a skeleton on the floor! Very charming. And my ticket is valid for two weeks or so! Even though I don't think I'll have much time to go back. But all do go! It's a fun little outing.

The slightly twee part of the museum (in the more serious bits I was distracted by the rocks and didn't take pics)

Rock art! 

09 May 2019

Finally; new lamp in kitchen

When I bought the house, it had a big industrial strip light in the kitchen. And that stayed until September! Luckily, by the end of that month the electrician had taken that out and just dangled a standard light fitting down, to which I added a lampshade. But I did notice the difference in light intensity. Unsurprisingly! So when I saw a discounted lamp that had three jam-jar-like bits I thought that would be an improvement. The lampshade was opaque so didn't let light go sideways, and the clear glass jam jars would not have that issue. And as there were three of them, you could let that radiate a lot of light! So I bought it. But of course, the ceiling has a looped circuit and the lamp is not compatible with that. In the living room I found one improvised for that. In the kitchen I would do another!

My plan was to leave the old ceiling rose in place, and just mount the other ceiling rose cover over the top. I could just screw two brackets into the ceiling on either side of the ceiling rose, and fix the cover to that. And it worked! It doesn't look immaculate, but hey, what does.

This was the bracket the lamp was supposed to hang from. But you can't put that up over the ceiling rose! So I decided to only use two right-angled brackets, one on either side of the ceiling rose.

It works! The bracket you can see doesn't  reach to the other side

The almost-final result

The one thing I need to sort out is that the three wires are height-adjustable; I'm not yet happy with the relative height I have them at. I will have to tweak that! But the structure is sorted, and the amount of light this set-up produces is amazing. Mission as good as accomplished!

08 May 2019

Make the stairs mother-compatible

I had painted the stairs to the garden as a prelude for making it mother-proof. But the main task was making a railing! I had tentatively thought of two stakes as posts, but they were too short. Then I bought a 1.80m post and sawed a point on it. I rented a drill and bought some fixings and masonry bolts. Then it rained for a day. The day after, I hammered the post into the ground (as far as it went) and fixed it. That involved getting very up-close-and-personal with a shrub and being as uncomfortable drilling in slate as I normally am in the dig. But it worked! It's solid. And I have some cement standby for in case I want to fix it at the base too.

The next Monday I went and bought another post. It clearly needs two. Then work happened; it was Saturday by the time I sawed a point on that one too, an hammered that one in. And the fixing was not as bad as I had imagined. I bolted it to the top of the step so I didn't have to drill from inside that already quite pesky shrub. It was solid enough! And again, I can always add cement.

The it was time for the handrail. I had bought some special handrail brackets! And it's always difficult fixing something on your own; you have to hold it in position with one hand while marking where the screws should go with the other. A faff! But I managed. Both stakes! And I filled the gap between the two with wood filler. Sorted!

The only thing now is to fix anti-slip to the steps. I had tried soem stretched metal but that retained too much water and I feared it would make the steps rot. I bought some lighter stuff and will see if that's better. It's easily screwed into the wood, but it may be difficult to do that with the slate. I don't want to have to put big masonry bolts in! And I don't think small masonry bolts exist. But I will think of something. I might juts put grip tape on. It lasts for about a year, and that'll buy me time. And with rail and grip I am ready for an important guest!

Sawing a point

Drilling out the holes in the brackets to fit the bolts

Work in progress


End result!

End result from below!