31 January 2020

Having the house cleaned

It was a while ago I made the decision to have the house cleaned, but now it has actually happened! I made sure I had some stuff to do in the morning as the cleaner wouldn't come until 10:15. And then I let her in! I showed her the rooms she would clean. And we had a chat about my oven; that has a black layer on the inside of the door so I can't see what happens inside. I had attacked that with what I could think of but got nowhere. Nicola said she could do better. I might book her again for that! And then I got onto my bike and left, and she got going.

When I got back I first saw the kitchen. That hadn't been in too bad a state to begin with. So the floor looked beautifully shiny but it still looked like my kitchen. But then I went upstairs to inspect the bathroom. And that did look quite different! Mopped floor, clean sink and loo and shelves and whatnot, but the most striking thing was the absence of limescale on the shower screen and the tiles. It looked lovely!

Now I want to not quite keep things at this level but I might want to try to squeegee the screen after showers. And keep this good look going for a while!

Look at that shine!

30 January 2020

Pruning trees

When I bought the house the garden had been rather neglected. And several of the trees could do with a trim! I had that sorted out in January. It seems that's the best time for it. But this year I would do it myself! I had bought a telescopic tree prune device for the particular occasion. And it was time to try it out!

I started with the plum tree. It's a small tree so that's a nice one to start with. And the thing worked really well! Soon I was done. And then tackled the much bigger crab apple tree. And that was a lot more work but still perfectly doable! My trees look all civilised again. And after cutting all cut-offs into bits and chucking them in the bin the garden was tidy-ish again too! I could get used to this. I'll be my own tree-pruner from now on!

I haven't done the apple tree yet, but I want to first look up how that's done again (my sister sent me instructions a long time ago!) and that I can just do with secateurs. The tree is barely taller than me! So stay tuned for that one.

The plum tree beforehand

My new toy

The plum tree and crab apple tree after treatment (after taking this pic I did a bit more pruning on the left bit of the crab apple tree!)

29 January 2020

Caulk yourself silly

The painter was done! But was I really ready to put furniture in the spare room? No! I mean, he had sorted out the wallpaper issue, but I still thought there were details to sort out before I would consider the work done. For one, there was one corner where the wallpaper wasn't quite glued down OK. And he had caulked the joints but caulk can shrink a bit. And he had got some white paint on my dark hatch. And there was a strange joint in the wallpaper that also had shrunk and thus cracked. I wanted to sort all that out first! So I glued the corner of the wallpaper back. And caulked the joints where more caulk was needed, including that weird joint. A bit experimental; I have never caulked before! But if not now then when? And I caulked some edges where earlier on, window installers had caulked over wallpaper so when I removed said wallpaper, the ugly edges showed. And when I was at it anyway, I caulked an ugly edge from which I first removed some old paint from Rose's regime. I didn't take pics of 'before'; that is an omission!

New tool in the tool kit

The strange joint in the wallpaper

How I managed to make it look

Where the caulk is now, there used to be a ragged gap!

When that was done I did other things. And then came back to paint over the caulk. It was probably dry now! I just hoped it wouldn't be too obvious this was a different generation of paint. I also started to touch up the greenish bits. But that was complicated! It turned out that when I had painted the woodwork, I had not stirred the paint thoroughly enough, so I had been painting with whatever pigments had been floating on top, and had left the rest for the painter. Oh dear. In this case, the dark bits were lowest in density! So my woodwork was painted considerably darker than the bits he did. Oh dear. Can't really touch up the dark bits with the light leftover pain! So I did some light hiding of the white paint and called it a day.

Where the dark paint meets the light paint

I suppose I now need to see if the covering jobs were satisfactorily done. And if so, I can finally really take the working platform out, have a hoover, and move furniture in! I suppose it is about time...

28 January 2020

New underground group launched!*

We had had the goodbye trip. Now it was time to start a whole new group! We are not complete yet; Kate (Bob) is still away on a research cruise and she'll be joining us when she gets back. But we had our inaugural trip! Kate (not Bob) was going up for an SRT qualification so she wanted a trip with verticality. And I thought of Llanberis Copper Mine. I had once stuck my nose in in 2012 with the Plymouth lot. We didn't like the look of it at the time, but I knew that in 2017 the place had been all surveyed and bolted and documented and whatnot by two chaps working at Go Below (and I think a few more people but the documentation is signed off by these two). So it was time to go back! I thought. And Kate agreed. And Chris would come and was OK with it, and Kate had a friend that wanted to come, James, and he thought it was fine too. So it was decided! Don and Phil were invited but were otherwise engaged.

This mine needs a bucket of kit. With pretty much all of it vertical you need lots of ropes and lots of kit to attach the ropes too. I had ordered some extra karabiners and maillons but it needed 18 and I didn't have that many! And I only have one rope. Chris had a few too. But James had more kit than you can shake a stick at. So with him there too we could go for it!

We met on the lay-by. I hadn't met James before! And it turned out he was one of these people who does things by the book. He checked the documentation, checked the lengths of the ropes, and made even sure the ropes were packed in order. Blimey! I would have to be on my best behaviour. There's no harm in being a bit more organised and safety-conscious than normal. And I didn't want to make him uncomfortable!

We got the kit together and got changed and went up. And in! And the first pitch was not far from the entrance. James rigged that one. And went down! The second pitch was only some two meters away from the bottom of the first (as I said, this trip is rather vertical). I rigged that. And went down! And was confused. The documentation had said there was another pitch 8m lower. And I saw a ridge I could swing out to, but it was only some 3m lower, not 8. And I had two bags hanging underneath me. That's rather impractical if you are trying to swing out to a level! So I left it and just kept going down. And ended up in a small sub-level. I could easily see the way on; there was a tiny further drop into a level. But there was water running into it so I wouldn't be able to have voice contact with the others if I went on. I waited there! And when the last person was down (it was James) he just went on. And then we were on a rather solid and pretty level!

View from the entrance

James rigs the first pitch

The sort of floor you tend to be on

Chris on the solid level

Pretty bucket

From there there was another pitch onto a rubble slope. I rigged that too. I hadn't done that much rigging in years!

I had to wait for Chris to be down too (needed to know how much slack was needed) to rig the next bit. That was a bit scary! It was only a tiny pitch, but an enormous drop; I stared into a deep abyss that I knew to be 35-40 m deep. And I would for now only descend some 2 m; there was some more swinging into a level going on here. And the idea was to rig the rope from that level into that gaping hole. And normally, you get two bolts; if one gives there is still another. But here I found only one! And well for a 2m pitch that is not an issue, but I could feel that deep deep hole below me. But well! One bolt should do. I went down and swung out and waited for the next person.

Chris turns his back on the last pitch

 The level Kate and I explored

The next person was Chris. He looked at the drop and didn't like it at all! He went back. Then Kate appeared; she joined me. Safety-conscious James wasn't keen either. So Kate and I quickly explored the level and went back to tell what we had seen. I came back up the short pitch first. And Kate had a new hand ascender + foot loop. And she struggled to get up! It was really configured strangely. And we had a big pitch ahead! That pitch where I had ignored the ridge was also some 35 m. You don't want to do that with badly configured kit! So she came up and de-rigged, and then we sorted the foot loop issue out. And with the new configuration she did the small pitch before the long one. That was better!

When we were on the solid level I quaffed some tea. I was parched! And we sent James up the big pitch first; he is the sort of person who gets cold rather fast. And this was a rather damp mine! Then we sent Chris up. I happily had my lunch while he ascended. I came up last. And at the top of the pitch we had to send James ahead again; he had managed to get cold again! But we all came up and out and soon we stepped back into the amazing views from the entrance. This landscape stays magical!

It was a successful first trip for this new group! I hope we will soon do another. It became clear that we should do some trips when James is not around; he doesn't like cold trips, or floors that give way below you, or ceilings that fall on your head. So Hafna is out! Maybe Brittania? I don't know what that's like but the documentation suggests a lot fewer false floors!

Being a good girl and washing my kit in the river afterwards

*: A wise woman pointed out to me that 'splinter cell', the original title, sounded a bit overly combative 

27 January 2020

Another Thursday walk

I had done two indoor Thursday nights (here and here) in a row. And that was in a way quite nice; we had a spell of rather crap weather. I barely biked for a whole week! But that was over and things had calmed down. So I went for another evening walk! And it was nice! Photography doesn't work as well at night but I think I managed to provide an impression.

The path

Some interesting 'graffiti' on the path

It's not as if I don't feel the blow of being bullied out of the ThursdayNighters anymore, but I must say I am liking my new regime of doing nice things on my own terms. I still love the mines (there is another trip coming up!) but now at least I lost the time spent faffing with people who don't tend to say anything interesting and who turned out to care less for me than I thought. It's not as if the ThursdayNighters individually never say anything worth listening to; I for instance had a lovely trip with in-depth conversation with Jason once. But if you put them in a group then not much comes out that floats my boat. Everything stays on the surface and after a few years you know exactly what these men think of certain mines and certain cars but you still don't know them and they don't know you. That is the sort of thing you try to close your eyes to when you're still hanging out with them, but of which you notice you are actually quite relieved to lose when you leave! So then I might as well do nice things on my own. Or with individuals. Better company!

I suppose the mismatch in interests had already done some damage before things came to a head; I still liked individual ThursdayNighters, but wasn't keen to needlessly extend mining trips with general hanging around and talking superficial things in groups. My decision to join the Christmas dinner was part a gesture of goodwill after almost quitting, and part a wish to see significant others. I suppose my lack of enthusiasm to hang around on parking lots and listen to banter had been noticed and hadn't done my position in the group any good. Oh well. Captain hindsight always knows exactly when to quit a club (or otherwise!) And now I can just do what I come to do and go to bed any time I want. And this is only getting better when the sour taste in my mouth fades into the background!

26 January 2020

New year with both dissertation students and a master student

Last year I had three dissertation students. I'm not sure I said much about that! Three is a nice number to be honest; you get only a limited number of timetabled tutorial slots, and with three students you just divide these up in three 20 min slots and Bob's your uncle. This year I was supposed to have seven! But one was scavenged by a colleague. This student was imprecise but enterprising; she had accidentally given a physical topic as one of her preferences, while she was a biologist. And I had allocated her to me on that topic. It was her first choice! That is; it was listed as her first choice. But it wasn't, really. And before I had managed to sort out something she had found herself a biologist who was willing to take her on. Good for her! So I was left with six. And that means I have to be a bit more inventive with the timetabling; doing ten minute slots is a bit sparse.

But that's the logistics; what about the science? I have a students on a wide range of topics; geoengineering, sea level change, carbon capture and storage, GHG emissions from waste plastic, and the Gulf Stream. Cool! And when I had the first tutorial they all showed up. A good sign! So I'm looking forward to this. I hope they are too! I do think I managed to steer a few away from taking way too much on. I hope they all do well!

And then as well, the MSc students were allocated. Last year I had one. And I found out I had one again! On a project, again with our industrial partner! It will be cool as well. We will be looking into the effect of the drainage of a local copper mine on the estuarine fauna. Forams and mines combined; could it be better? Stay tuned for more!

Screenshot from Google Maps: notice the red plume of mine waste in the sea

25 January 2020

Painter done!

It is sorted! The last big painting jobs are sorted. Yes there are still details to do. But the painter has been busy and the spare room is now done, after the wallpaper issues, and the kitchen has had all its wall and the ceiling done. Great!

So what is there still to do? Well, the spare bedroom has not been done yet, and it doesn't need to, except for the skirting boards. That will be done when the office stuff has been moved out. And then in the kitchen there are more details to do: I have damaged the paint on the kitchen's skirting boards when I took off the wallpaper so I want to touch that up. And the kitchen has not very well done white-painted window frames. I think I'll paint these green too! And then there is some other bit off the ceiling I might paint in a colour too, to make it all a bit less pale. And maybe even the kitchen cabinets as they are ugly anyway and one day I want to get rid of them. Might as well make them a bit more colourful while they wait for me to have the money and the priority to sort that properly!

This was the last mint green wall: magnolia now!

The ceiling is not nicotine yellow anymore

Bedroom wall done too!

24 January 2020

Term starts again

The honeymoon period was over! I had had an OK first semester. It was a bit stressful to do a new module but otherwise things had gone well and I had taken it fairly easy. I had barely worked weekends the entire semester! And that was on purpose. I wanted to have an academic year in which I had some semblance of life-work balance. And so far that had worked! But I am only responsible for two modules in the first semester (and then teach on four more) and in the second semester I have three. And teach on several more. So all is kicking off again: the lectures, practicals, field days, tutorials and whatnot. It will be running until Easter! Wish me luck...

23 January 2020

Sunny snowy walk

There was snow on the mountains and sun in the weekend weather forecast! One must seize an opportunity like that. Chris had said he wanted to scamper up Elidir Fawr. I decided to join!

He picked me up at eight and we parked at the bottom of the road to the reservoirs. A van pulled up seconds later. There I changed my boots. I had showed up in my 'regular' boots but it was snowy up there. Maybe we needed crampons! So I changed to my stiffer boots. And put the crampons in the bag.

While we were faffing, the van produced a bloke and a border collie, and the bloke was doing the usual boots-changing faff before a walk too. We had a bit of a chat! He had set off early in the morning from near Manchester to go on this walk. And the dog was clearly keen!

We all set off. It was so early that the sun was still behind the ridge. It was beautiful anyway! We walked to Marchlyn Bach and went up the ridge there. At the top of Elidir Fach we reached the snow. And stayed in it for a while! We went up to the top of Elidir Fawr, and decided to have a cup of coffee there. The bloke with the dog was there too!

Still early over Marchlyn Bach

 Rime at the top of the ridge

Enjoying the view 

Chris looking happy 

We then had to decide what to do. We went for looping around the reservoir. Then you end up on the ridge above Nant Ffrancon, and from there you can drop down again to the road. It's a nice modest loop! It's only 9 km but we had more to do. And it was so beautiful with the sun on the snow! We carefully descended again. We didn't put on the crampons but I was glad we had them. And we kept bumping into the man with the dog. We thought he would be a lot faster but he wasn't!

We had so far only seen the man with the dog, and a father with two children, but as the day progressed we saw more and more people. And dogs. Many people had noticed it was a good day for it! 

When we came down Carnedd y Filiast Chris drew my attention to a rock with amazing trace fossils. It was probably trilobite tracks! They were beautiful. You saw the two rows of imprints of little legs. And this is some 500 million years old and you can still make that out! That was amazing. And when we came a bit lower I saw another rock with trace fossils; this time probably made by worms. Cool!

Amazing views! 

Beautiful trace fossils

On the ridge, near where the path drops down back to the road going to the dam, we had our second break. And then we went back to the cars. We bumped into my mentee on the way! She had started a lot later so wouldn't do the whole loop, but she wanted to get some time in the sun as well. It was nice to see her!

It was lovely to get half a day in sun and snow! I hope we get a few more weekends like this before spring hits for real...

22 January 2020

More colleagues

In December we had job interviews. There was a teaching and research job to give away! I went to the presentations. As the job involves teaching, the candidates have to do a 10 minute mini lecture, pretending we are 2nd year students.

The job went to a bloke we already had. He had come in, I think, as a maternity cover, and then got another contract covering some someone on a long sabbatical. Now he has a permanent job! And some time soon the person on sabbatical will come back and then it will feel real that we have a new lecturer.

In January we interviewed for a teaching-only job. That was more exciting for me! This will be a closer colleague. And it could well be a familiar face. I had heard from the grapevine there were three internal candidates! And that made it a bit painful; there was only one job to give away and that meant we would have to disappoint at least two colleagues.

When the day came it turned out that a fourth candidate had done his PhD here in Bangor too. I recognised the face! And the fifth candidate had done a maternity cover here so they all were at least a bit internal. Oh dear!

I bumped into a colleague who had been on the interview panel when I left the office. They had decided! And on Tuesday we got the email: the post had gone to the bloke who had done his PhD here. He’ll start in March. I look forward to getting a new colleague!

21 January 2020

Thursday: another historical talk

The previous week, I had attended a historical talk with Chris; it was about the Great Orme Copper mine in the bronze age. And they drew attention there to similar talks; one would be the week after, about the Dinas Dinlle hill fort. That one was on a Thursday. We went there as well!

I have not been to Dinas Dinlle but I really should. And now I REALLY should! I knew about it because there are some cool thrust moraines exposed there. But now I also know something about the hill fort!

It was a talk by three different speakers; one set the scene, including the geology; one talked about the geophysics they had performed, and then one spoke mainly of the dating. She also mentioned palaeoenvironmental reconstruction work but that was unfortunately still in progress! So, no data on the vegetation and such. Too bad! But the place had been in use a long time ago, and played a role in the Mabinogion, and had later fallen into disuse. And in the early 20th Century it had been part of a golf course. Now it is protected! But archaeologists can do excavations, to a limited extent. They had been allowed to put two trenches near the cliff! And that cliff is a mixed blessing.

The fort is now right at the beach, and it's being actively eroded. That is the reason these moraines are exposed. When the fort was in use, it was quite some distance from the shore. Not anymore! And the erosion will slowly eat the fort, and that's why excavations were allowed. Better excavate before it is lost forever!

So what did they find? Mainly very big roundhouses with massive walls. The diameter of one of the houses was, I think, some 13 meters. That's a lot! With 2m thick walls. I hadn't seen that coming. The estimate was that some 100 (also reported as 30-200) people lived there at its peak.

I also couldn't resist buying a book about the maritime history of Wales! More will come from this...

20 January 2020

Wallpaper problems

The plan was as follows: the painter would line the wall with aluminium foil, then with expanded styrofoam, and then lining paper, and then paint over that. And he did! But the problem was the paper didn't quite attach sufficiently to the thermal insulation. At the seams, it curled outwards. That made it look very very wallpapery. When done well you can't even see the seams! But here you could. He then tried to remediate the situation but adding more glue. And painted over it. But the problem hadn't gone away. So while the paint dried the wallpaper curled out again and cracked the paint. And that was just not quite what it should be! So when he came by to give the keys back and give me the invoice he saw that too. And we decided he is going to add another layer of lining paper (at right angles to the other one) and then paper over that. That should sort it! Maybe the glue doesn't hold well on styrofoam, but I have faith it holds on painted lining paper.

I had hoped to start putting furniture in that room in the weekend before term but I had to wait! He'll be back. But that should be soon, and when he has done that all should be finished!

The lining paper in place

Painted lining paper

A crack

This is what a lined wall should look like!

19 January 2020

More modules gone

I was just doing some work in the office when there was a knock. It was my colleague Mattias. He came to talk about my climate module. It needed some work. I was getting to that slowly! I had taught it for the first time without any preparation, as they hired me just as the module started. I wished they had hired me a month earlier so I could prepare! You can't just teach a 4th year module just like that. And the year after I knew a little bit earlier I would teach it, but not by much. And then there were the years when I got landed with more and more new modules so i did improve the module, but never rigorous enough.

And now Mattias offered to take over and change things. And I said yes! I had asked management to get rid of some tasks as I figured I was overburdened, especially in the second semester. So if someone volunteers to take something off me, I'm happy! So there we go. I already lost the responsibility for one module and now I lost one more. Or rather, two; the climate module turned out to be two modules. We run it for both third and fourth year students, and the lecture are done combined. So the teaching load does not increase with the addition of the third year version of the module, but it does increase the burden of admin. The third year module came falling out of the sky one year! Nobody had warned me this module existed, and then I suddenly was responsible for it. Oh well. We pulled it off.

Anyway. So this year I am still responsible for these modules. Will the teaching and marking load change too? I don't know; that depends a bit on how we organise it next year. We shouldn't increase it but maybe we will tone it down! And maybe Mattias will now get to to the bulk of the marking. That's what you get if you are the module leader...

Only after I had said yes I realised that this will probably work against me. If I now am only module leader on one module I will probably get landed more tasks! And these will be new, and I was just hoping to not take on new tasks for a while. Everything you do for the first time takes a lot of work! But well, I said it now. And I suppose it makes more sense to have a physicist to a climate module than a geologist. So we'll see how this pans out! And now I first have to get through these modules myself. When that is done the semester will be over. And then we'll see how it went!

18 January 2020

Tidying up some last untidy bits of woodwork

When you rip out a ceiling you are bound to end up looking at some rough bits! I had had the plasterer hide most of it, but I had ended up with some dubious-looking bits of woodwork around the stairs. Some months ago I had hid some of that but there was more. The joist had a big rough cavity in it! And I wanted to hide that. So I set to work. I tried to make a template by fitting some cardboard in there. Then I marked the shape of that template on some wood, and started sawing. I had to do some filing to make it fit but I got it done in the end! And then I needed to make it blend in with the other, much darker, wood. So I sanded it a bit to rough it up, and then painted it with outside paint. Then some coats of oil and it was ready to go in. And then not the entire hole is hidden but by far most of it will be. Good enough for now!

The original situation

Fitting the wood

The remaining hole

Wood put back in after painting

17 January 2020

Goodbye trip

When I had been unceremoniously booted out of the ThursdayNighters I thought I should end on a high. So I suggested a farewell trip! I figured I may have two enemies and probably some indifferents but that should still leave me with a handful for a nice trip. And soon after sending the email I had my first participant! Kate (not Kate aka Bob; she would be away on fieldwork at the time). And Phil was up for it. And Chris. And then it was silent for a while. And then many days later Don mailed; he had been ill and hadn't responded before. He was up for it too! And we found a date for it. My plan had been a rather wet mine as I like it, but the water is chest deep, and I didn't want to do that to Don as he was recovering from a chest infection. And Don himself suggested a completely different mine, still wet but with 'only' crotch-deep water. Kate and Chris hadn't been yet so it was a fine idea! They hadn't done the other one either so we should do it some other day, but then without Don. That sounds uninviting but I'm thinking about his health.

On the actual day, Kate mailed early in the morning she was ill. A pity! And then, a lot closer to the time, Phil texted saying he was tired so wasn't coming either. This was going to be a rather small trip! Typical. But well, if one's ill one's ill. I'm sure we'll do another trip when Kate has recovered. Will Phil be interested? One way to find out. And we were still three! Still a valid trip.

When I got to the layby with Chris, Don was already there. We got kitted up! And Don had a wild idea; there is one pitch which involves a lot of water falling on your head. And he thought we may be able to divert that water. It can choose between two ways down and he wanted to make it choose the other one! So he had brought some cement. Maybe we could build a wall. All the rage, it seems!

I put the cement in my bag and we set off. We got in. Chris hadn't been and Don and me hadn't been for years so we had forgot bits! Don had misremembered the first pitch, but I still recognised it. And went up! And soon we were all below the very wet pitch. I ditched the bag and went up. Don then tied the bag to the rope and I pulled it up. And then Don and Chris came up too. We were all quite wet!

Hazy pic of Chris coming up a set of ladders

I had started building a bit of a dam with a beam and some rocks I found. And I tried to dig a bit of a gully to tempt the water the other way. Then the others joined in! We made a beautiful dam. Whether the cement will help I don't know; it doesn't really get the chance to dry! It might just get flushed away. But I am sure we made a bit of a difference, especially with our gullies. Whoever comes in here next might get less soaked! It might be a ThursdayNighter. Not sure they deserve my efforts to make them comfortable, but let's not be uncharitable. We decided to go on!

Trying to dig a gully

We did the next two pitches to the level with the adit. I wasn't sure we should also go further up (there are two more pitches) as Chris was a bit uncomfortable in the back. But he was up for it! So we went to the far end. And saw that a huge rock we had worried about years earlier had come down. But now it was blocking the passage! I have no desire to remove it from there, but it was nice to see it. And then we went back down. And out. A good trip!

We changed into dry clothes and then had some Hevva cake Chris had made. Nice! And then we went to the pub for a hot chocolate. It was a very small trip (Don commented on that that said a lot, and he was right) but actually, three is a good number in there. It had been fun! And we will do more of this. Don is up for more trips with us. And when we have a sizable contingent of Kates we're ready to roll bigtime stylee!

Farewell (or welcome?) trip selfie!

16 January 2020

First aid renewed

A bit less than three years ago I did my First Aid at Work. A very useful qualification to have! So as it runs out in spring I had to go back for a refresher course. And that's good and bad! It's good as you get two days of relaxation; the bad thing is that it would take me about an hour to re-learn everything from last time, and learn whatever is new, and really don't need two days. But I embraced it! It was an education-dominated crowd: there were two secondary school teachers, one lady working at the University sports centre, and a bloke working for University security. And then a chef and a builder. Apart from the chef everyone spoke Welsh so we could almost have done the whole thing in Welsh! Oh well. The instructor also asked what we had used since the last time. I hadn't used my skills at all. But the others had! Especially the PE teacher, sports centre lady and security bloke...

We had the same instructor, pretty much the same syllabus, and it was altogether quite the same. And for lunch breaks I would go for a small stroll. And at the end of all it we did the test. We all passed! Several of us with 100% scores. And the marking went fast as it was us teaching folk doing it, and we've practiced. So now we're all ready for whatever injuries life throws at us! For another three years.

The pretty side of Parc Menai

15 January 2020

Thursday night archive dive

My third free Thursday Night I decided to stay in! One of the things I really wanted to do one day I had time was go through the archive that my house had come with. It's a big pile and I'd had a bit of a rummage but I wanted to do a more thorough job and document systematically what I'd find. And I wanted to incorporate what I had found in the county archive too. So on that free Thursday night I had a good start. I went through each document and I summarised its contents in a spreadsheet. I came across all sorts! I struggled with the interpretations; I don't speak legalese so I'll have to do another session in which I try to find out what phrases like 'whereas the property hereinafter described and intended to be hereby conveyed is vested in the Vendors in fee simple upon trust for sale subject to a Lease bla bla bla' really mean. It probably means 'the vendors lease out the property' but I'm not sure. If they are vendors, are they not selling? But there was mention of a yearly rent in that document, nothing about property ending up in different hands. Oh well. I have a lot to learn! But I can't be the only one. I'm sure there are websites for this sort of thing.

One thing I did find out: in 1898 the house was nr 14. That is good to know! And it fits (almost) with what I found in the archive! The oldest document in my archive, the one from 1898, suggests a chap called William Hugh Pritchard gets the lease. The building is owned by a bunch of clergy. And in the census I found the occupant in 1901: Hugh Pritchard. Is this really the same man? Quite possibly! Some people use their middle names, and I doubt a quarryman (which is what he was) at the time would have had a passport. So yes I could imagine him being called either William Hugh or just Hugh depending on circumstance. Although 'Hugh Bryn Afon' would be what he would actually be called then, according to regional tradition. Even though the name is barely rare here. Guess what my landlord was called when I lived in Menai Bridge. Yes indeed, Hugh Pritchard...

14 January 2020

Great Orme talk

There’s a rather spectacular mine here in the vicinity that didn’t (much) make it to the blog! The Great Orme Copper Mine. And there is a reason for that. It is a show mine, open to the public, with a caving club dealing with the bits not open to the public. And I don't often visit show mines. And the associated caving club hadn't been very inviting! So I gave the entire mine a wide berth. The closest I had been when I had run around the headland during a race. But then I had my attention drawn to a talk about the archaeology of the place. It was Chris who alerted me to this and I decided to go!

It was on a Wednesday at half past 7 in the Telford Centre, which meant it connected quite well with my meet-up with Jenny in the pub, which is on the other side of the road. Chris appeared just when Jenny was leaving. We had a drink and went to the venue. It was very very busy! The organisation had to bring in more chairs. A good sign! And I also saw a chap from one of my earlier Welsh classes. It was nice to see him!

I was glad I had brought my glasses. Soon it started! And the presenter, Alan Williams, started. He mentioned people had been doing work on this mine, which must have been huge, had been done since forever, And people had tried to trace the copper in artifacts found around Europe. And not found it! But given that it was such a big place he had found that weird. That copper must have gone somewhere!

Pic by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust

Traditionally, the copper had been identified using impurities. No copper/bronze artifacts are pure copper! But he didn't trust that work and wanted to redo it, and also use lead isotopes. Every mine will have its own isotopic signature! And so he set off sampling. And then comparing the results.

He found that quite a lot of artifacts did match the mine! And that not only explained where all the copper had gone, but also showed some trade routes. Copper axes from the Great Orme had been found all over Europe, but in what looked like patterns, mainly along the rivers.

It looks like around 1600 BC, North Wales was pretty much the centre of European technology! In the bronze age, copper was quite the thing. With tin, of course, which one finds in Cornwall. What was cutting edge technology thousands of years ago is now a lovely hobby in the Celtic fringe!

When it was done I had to shoot off so I said bye to Chris and left. But it had been good. I'm sure we'll do more talks of this series!

13 January 2020

The painter does his thing

The painter is very active! When he set to work things moved fast. He was quick on the top floor but he needed more supplies. When he was waiting for that he started on the kitchen. And found a complication! When he removed the wallpaper, the plaster came with it over large stretches of wall. Oh dear! And he's not a plasterer. We discussed a bit. I would have done it myself (I had to patch up the other wall too) but he suggested he would. I think his work wouldn't be worse than mine so that was fine with me. Doing it myself would defy the point of hiring him! So that had to wait for a bit; he needed filler (he preferred that over plaster) and it was almost weekend. He would be back after the weekend! I hope he's finished soon!

 Thermal insulation in the spare room

The lining paper is ready

The area of plaster that came off in the kitchen
You can see the plaster-on-wallpaper-on-plaster if you look closely

12 January 2020

Good attempt at solving the damp problem

If this fails I have got myself into trouble! I spoke with the painter about the damp problem. And he suggested he line the wall with aluminium foil! It sure stops any moisture coming through. And then he'd line that with the thermal insulation stuff, to sort any condensation issue. That was a tip from my neighbour who has a similar wall. And then lining paper over that. And then paint that! A big job. But it fights damp on two fronts so it’s worth it.

When he had done the foil the room looked really weird. And I think that if I ever regret this, and want to get rid of it, I will have to get all the plaster off the wall. That would be quite the job! But let's hope that never happens. And when it is all done I can start putting furniture in the room and use it!

11 January 2020

Make kindling

It’s my first winter with a living room! And the living room has a wood burner. I still don’t burn an awful lot of wood but altogether it adds up: my basket with kindling was almost empty. I’ve almost burnt all the slats from the plasterwork! So it was time to make some more.

I have plenty of wood from the work that has been done on my house. And some of that is planks! Fairly easy to chop these into kindling. But that does require an axe. Rose had left hers, but it was barely sharper than a brick. So I first took my Dremel out and sharpened it. Then I went to the garage to set to work! And I used a piece of roof that was too big for the stove as a chopping stump.

It’s not much work, really! Even with my crap aim. In no time did I have enough to last me a while! I decided to also saw some former fence posts. The garage is tidier again, and I’ll probably have kindling for the rest of the winter!