31 March 2021

Welsh class ended

It seemed yesterday that my Welsh class started, but it has already ended. I'll miss it! It was a good course. I learned a lot of things, I enjoyed it, the technology was used to good effect, the topics were interesting and the tutor knew his stuff. All good, clearly! And I think I wasn't the only one who enjoyed it, as during the last lesson several people enquired if the same tutor would offer another class after Easter. But he didn't! That is a pity.

I have already had a look at the classes that are offered in the north-west after Easter, and it's not looking good. There are two options; one is a class about Welsh film and television, and I just don't have any interest in that. And I know nothing about it either. I could easily see breakout groups where you are asked to discuss your favourite Welsh thriller or something, and I would have nothing to say. So that's a no-no.

The other one sounds really interesting; it's run by a lady who writes a column in a periodical, and the classes would be discussing one column per session. That sounded really attractive to me, but the class was Wednesday morning 10-12. I'm working then!

I will have to cast the net a bit wider; maybe there are classes in the north-east, for instance? Everything is online anyway, so in theory you could be on the moon. It doesn't matter. Venturing too far away from the north-west would be a bad idea, though, as I don't think I should be doing a class in South Welsh. I would confuse the shit out of myself!

I suppose for now I can only say that I hope there will be something suitable for me in the north-west by September. And watch this space to find out if I find something else to tick me over until the summer…

30 March 2021

Only surviving owner of the house

 One day I was having lunch in the garden when the neighbour approached me. He had sad news. He had been informed that the woman I had bought my house from, Rose, had died. That is sad! I know she was ill; we had had occasional contact since she moved out and I moved in. But she wasn't very old, and wouldn't have been unthinkable she would just recover. But she clearly hadn't! She must have barely had time to enjoy her new phase of life.

To be honest, I'm not sure about the people who owned it before her. As I have the archive of the house I know that they bought it in the 70s. It is far from unthinkable that they also sold it because it was getting a bit much for them. And as they sold it to Rose in 1998, they might not be alive now either. I could very well be the last living person who has lived in this house! That feels weird. And I think this is the first time I am in a position like that. I suppose that's what you get when you start buying houses rather than renting them.

When Rose moved out, she didn't quite empty out the house. I still have a lot of stuff I have inherited from her! And these have now pretty much become historical artefacts. I will use them with extra respect. Like the lawnmower. And the kitchen scissors. And the cleaning mop. And the Christmas decoration. And the sander, the workmate, the axe, the binoculars, the pan and brush, the scales, the shovel, the fruit bowl and all the other things she left. Rest in peace, Rose!

29 March 2021

Eileen Beasley

I had finished my big Welsh book about Welsh slate! So it was time to start something else. Fortunately, one of the people in my Welsh class had a recommendation. We had been discussing the case of the Beasley's; people who are quite famous within Wales but probably generally unknown anywhere else. They were a family in South Wales who had received their council tax bill in English, and thought that was not on. The woman, Eileen, asked for a version in Welsh. And when that request was refused, they in turn refused to pay said bill. They thought it was outrageous that a Welsh-speaking family in Wales could not receive a Welsh tax bill from an entirely Welsh-speaking council. And they dug their heels in.
The council didn't like this at all, and just sent the the bailiffs after them. But the Beasley's just made do with the furniture they still had, and engaged the press. The more the bailiffs emptied their house, the more the press had good stories about how cruel the Llanelli Council was being. And after eight years, the council decided that the negative publicity was outweighing the sensitivities of the public servants who had so far stubbornly resisted the request for a translation, and as well the cost of changing the bill to a bilingual one. So finally, they received their next bill in both Welsh and English. Just one small family had triumphed over the system!

One man in Welsh class had mentioned there was a novel about this, and he recommended it. I found it online and bought it. I knew the rough outline of the story, but now I could read about the details. And it was a novel; I accept that some poetic licence might have been applied, but I figure they kept the important bits intact. It was very interesting.

The problem with this book was that it was clearly a children's book. The bloke had not said anything about that! So it was a bit annoying to feel patronised, but then again, I had just taken his word for it and not done an awful lot of research myself. And it being a children's book made it really fast to get through. I could start something else very soon afterwards!

I think Eileen Beasley is a sort of a 50s Greta Thunberg. Just one individual (be it with support from the family) who takes on a much bigger system and makes a big difference! That is inspiring. If Wales would ever get its independence I wouldn't be surprised if we find banknote with her face on it…

28 March 2021

Pondering paint

When I had removed the catflap from the kitchen door, I had been faced with a big hole. I had fixed that by screwing some excess skirting board to the inside of the door. It looked a bit off, and I figured I needed to paint it. But paint it how? I thought some cheerful colours would do the job, but I know that it could get too garish. I thought I might try three colours; white, which is the colour of the window frames; yellow, as I painted some woodwork above the windows; and turquoise, as that is the colour of the bedroom and I knew I had some left. So I set to work. The white base layer went fine. And then I added the colours. And it just didn't look good. Even I saw that! I'm not famous for my keen eye for interior design, but this really looked bad. So I decided to reconsider. I painted another layer of primer over the turquoise. And then decided to go for only white and yellow. And is it beautiful now? It still looks like an improvised repair. But it's the first thing you see when you walk into the kitchen and it does the job for me. And I think the white and yellow nicely matches the other white and yellow on that side of the kitchen! It's still not a beautiful kitchen, but I am enjoying these small improvements. Maybe one day I will win the lottery and then the kitchen will get properly prettified. But so far I am proud that even with my limited sense of style I managed to avoid a bit of a design mishap!

The first attempt

The final result

27 March 2021

Second census

In 2009 and moved to the UK. In 2011 I was counted in the census. Little did I know I would be counted in the 2021 census as well! But here we have it. It's now 10 years later and I'm still in the country. And a lot has changed! And a lot has stayed the same.

I suppose the big difference with the previous time is that a lot of questions come with the disclaimer "your situation might have changed due to Covid, but answer the question reflecting your current situation". And I did! I pointed out that I work at home these days. Many people will, I'm sure.

Another thing that changed was that I now live in Wales, so I get asked specifically how my Welsh is. Unsurprisingly, you don't get that question in England. I will now show up in the census as a Welsh speaker!

I suppose my situation has improved a lot in between. Back then I was living in a one-bedroom apartment that I had chosen in a hurry, in which I would not have chosen if I would have known what I got myself into. Now I am living in a beautiful house I bought and which I enjoy every day! And instead of an unpleasant neighbour (who might not yet have been unpleasant in 2011) I now have a very nice neighbour with a charming dog who wants to lick my nose. (The dog, that is; I have not noticed such desires in the neighbour.) And I suppose I still don't live in a particularly beautiful neighbourhood, but this time it only takes me about 20 minutes on foot to be in the equivalent of Dartmoor. And that more than makes up for it!

Would I still be living here for the 2031 census? Time will tell! 

Overlooked ruin

 I had noticed before there were some ruins by the river my commute follows for about half the route, but I had never got around to exploring them. But when I was on my way home from the demonstration against the protest bill I figured that the time had come to have a look.

It was quite extensive! And there was an impressive chimney. It's just hard to see from the bicycle path, because of the trees. I'm glad I've had a look now! It is clearly an old mill, but I'm not quite sure what sort of mill. There was some discussion about it some time ago on the village Facebook page. Opinions differed! I will keep my eye out for more information coming up…

26 March 2021

Small protest for protests

 Two things happened here in the UK in close succession and they didn't combine well. A woman was abducted and murdered (and probably raped in between), and the suspect was a serving police officer. The other thing was that a new bill was proposed, which curtailed the right to protest.

After the murder, a lot of people (mostly women) wanted to protest against not feeling safe on the streets. Large gatherings, of course, are not legal at the moment though. One could have imagined they would have exercise discretion and let the protests happen, but that was not how things panned out; the papers were full of pictures of police officers manhandling and handcuffing women. And I think a lot of people were angry about the proposed bill anyway, but having seen a legitimate protest so ham-fistedly dealt with probably stoked that anger. 

On Friday, I saw something about a demonstration in Bangor against both this bill and violence against women. And I thought that was a worthy course. I didn't think I could go though; there was an Open Day on. These come in two sessions; one before lunch and one after lunch. During the one before lunch we were told applicant numbers were such we were not all needed. I was free to go! So I had lunch, tried to find the details about this demo, and failed completely. I decided to go anyway. If I had misremembered and there was nothing on, I would just turn around and bike back. That way I would have got my exercise!

I was a little bit late but I saw that there indeed was a demonstration on, on a field right by the main campus. When I parked my bike everyone just left. The second half of the demonstration would be on the nearby field, where people could lay flowers by a tree in the honour of the murdered woman.

There were a few speeches, and people attached placards to a nearby fence. And then it was already over. I didn't linger; I mean, everyone was wearing a mask, and you weren't allowed within 2 m of anyone else. So mingling was not really an option!

All in all I think I was there only for about half an hour. And I think there were less than a hundred people demonstrating. But few people is better than no people at all! I am glad I went. Sometimes you just have to show up to show you care. And we were seen; there are several cars driving fast and honking. I don't think this bill is very popular in Wales. I looked it up, and only Tories voted for it. This area is not very Tory dominated!

Did we make a big difference? I don't think so. But I do think it mattered; the people who worry about this have seen that there are more people worrying about this. I know exactly what it feels like if you are upset about women being treated like consumer goods that can be applied to cater for men's sexual gratification, and being the only one to feel like that. Feeling you are not alone helps! And gives you faith to keep the fight going. So I was doing that. And that is already something.

25 March 2021

Nocturnal cat

When I got a cat to look after, I kept her indoors for a while. You don't want her to get lost in a strange environment. Or try to walk back to her old house!

After two or three weeks it was time to let her out. I was a bit nervous about that! But all went well. But as the only place I thought I could reasonably put a catflap was in the conservatory, I had kept her indoors at night. She can only walk in and out through my bedroom, and I don't want her to have access to that when I am trying to sleep. But cats are pretty much nocturnal. Shouldn't she be outside at night?

One Friday I gave it a try. When she was outside, I just locked the catflap that leads from the conservatory to the bedroom. That way she could come and have a nap on the comfortable chair in the conservatory if she wanted to. The disadvantage of this configuration was that there was only a thin door between her and me. Would she let me sleep?

I went to bed and all was well. But in the middle of the night I was woken up by scratching at the door. The cat had been fed up with the conservatory! So I let her in, and through, because if she didn't want to be locked out of the bedroom on the one side she had to be locked out of it on the other side. And I went back to bed.

The next step was: locking the catflap that leads into the conservatory when she is outside. Then she really can't get into the house. I don't think she will like that very much as her normal routine is to just pop out for fairly short amounts of time. But if I lock her out altogether, she can't wake me up! I don't think she could, anyway. She can't really get close to me then. Watch this space…

24 March 2021

Made it to the week before Easter

 The thing to look out for during the second semester is Easter. Once you have reached Easter, you've made it. The vast majority of teaching is done then, and that doesn't mean the work is done; there still is plenty of work to do, such as marking. But most of it you can do in your own rhythm. Last year, of course, reaching Easter wasn't like any other year; we were still coming to terms with the whole pandemic thing. But the year before that I felt like this as well!

This semester was a bit unusual. I had come out of the previous semester on sick leave. So I came into the new semester, still coming to terms with my new way of working using the voice recognition software, and facing a big pile of marking that was left over from the previous semester. And somewhere in February there was an addition to that; a colleague seemed to have forgot that two of our colleagues had applied for voluntary redundancy and would not be marking exam questions. Could I perhaps take over from one of them?

It was a bit nerve-racking to have to prepare for all my teaching in the semester while not working at full speed, and having that backlog as well. But I think I pulled it off. But there was one sprint to come; the week before Easter would be fairly mild, but the week before that was heavy. It started deceptively easy with Monday without contact hours. But on the Tuesday I had contact hours from 9 to 12 and from 1 to 5. And they weren't unusually demanding contact hours, but given that there were some many of them it was tiring anyway. On the Wednesday I had three hours of teaching in the morning and then two meetings in the afternoon. There was not enough time in between all these to go running, so I had to wait until the second meeting was over. That was after six! It wasn't a long run. On Thursday I had many hours of teaching, and I had to go to Bangor to get tested for the trip on Friday. I just managed to fit that in! But it was getting tiring by then. I sneaked down for a paracetamol before the last hour as I was getting a headache. And remember that an hour of teaching tends to mean you have to have an hour's worth of things to discuss ready. And all contact needs to be logged; which student attended what? And every session needs to be recorded, downloaded, uploaded into software that gives it captioning, and published online. And you have to deal with queries in between. So that means working the evenings too, which is, I'm afraid, standard. Even though it shouldn't be! So that week was demanding. I was happy to go into the field on Friday. And then after the fieldtrip I recorded my last two recorded lectures. Of the entire term! And thus of the entire academic year! That is a landmark.

So now I will have fewer contact hours. I do have to start marking now, and also making exams. Since the pandemic we have been allowed to upload the exam papers only a few months (or even weeks) before the actual exams. I love that! But it does mean I still have to do all of them.

There will be more meetings now; we get all the exam board meetings, and we also have to make decisions about the next academic year. I don't mind it, although I find them cumbersome; since my switch to voice control I struggle with events in which I have to talk online to people. It is difficult to use your voice both for communication with humans and with your computer. But I'll manage! And last year I thought that by the start of the new academic year, things may be back to normal. That clearly wasn't the case. But I don't learn, and I think that by the next academic year, some things will have gone back to normal. By then all adults should have been vaccinated; surely that makes a difference. We'll see! But either way; the hardest part of academic year 2020-2021 is now over!

Annual trip to Parys Mountain

 If you want to do a trip in the field during a pandemic, then Parys Mountain is a good place to go. It is in the middle of nowhere, it is well ventilated, and it is not busy. So when our annual trip with the first year students was due again I was looking forward to it.

We did the usual routine of me going to meet the buses on the main campus, allocating seats to the students, and following the buses to our destination. There we met the other staff and students who had driven themselves. And then we were go!

The whole site bears witness to the Silurian and Devonian times, when the Iapetus Ocean was closing or closed, and the Ordovician bedrock was affected by hydrothermal activity associated with back arc extension. And all of that then deformed by continental collision. We only have four geology sites there; the viewing platform which gives you the overview; a location from which you can see the whole geology is in the shape of a big syncline; the "central boss" which shows strong evidence of hydrothermal activity; and a black outcrop which consists of the products of a black smoker. I did the spiel for all of these. And then my job was done!

The next thing on the agenda was lunch. We sat in the ruins of the mine offices and ate our sandwiches. And when we were done, Dei took over. He did the historical part of this trip. As we had exhausted the geology, he led this past the settling ponds, kilns, the engine house and the windmill. And then we were done!

I been a very pleasant day. The weather was kind to us, which can't be taken for granted in March on Parys Mountain. We left by something like 3 o'clock. A nice end to a busy week!

The great open pit

Dei talking history

23 March 2021

Hardware issues

 When I moved my office computer home, I needed some extra peripherals. If I was expected to do meetings, tutorials, and all such things at home, I needed a camera and a headset. And when I ended up doing all my work by voice, the headset became more important, of course. And generally, it all works.

It happened twice so far that my headset suddenly stopped working. Both times in the middle of the meeting! The first time, the person I was in the meeting with was happy to do all the talking. And I just mouthed my words of goodbye when we were done. The second time I just switched my phone.

The voice recognition software also sometimes crashes. It once did that when I sneezed into the microphone. I have learned to very quickly whip off the headset when I feel a sneeze coming up! It also sometimes happens when I am giving a command, realise while giving it that it's the wrong one, and then try to correct myself. It confuses the software. It makes sense that computers can't deal with it! But try to stop yourself. And sometimes it also just crashes without me having any idea of why.

One of those occurrences happened in a session with the students. That was very inconvenient! I could still talk to them, but I couldn't do anything with my computer anymore. In order to make things work again I would have to log out and back in again. But there was only some 15 minutes left on the session. And I know that the both the students and me pretty much had wall-to-wall teaching that day. I suggested we just call it quits! And nobody protested. So I said goodbye, hit control alt delete, and got the software starting again. Not how things should be, but the damage was limited!

That week things seemed to be all coming at the same time. That same day, my computer just refused to recognise my WebCam. I had to do a few sessions with the students without showing my face. I don't prefer it that way! I think it's less personal. And you can't gesture. I tried to convince my computer to collaborate with the camera again but to no avail. IT services suggested I just trade it in, so when I had to be on campus anyway for a Covid test I gave them back the old camera and received a new one.

The new WebCam

The next session I had, I plugged it in and started teaching. And for about half a minute that was fine. And then the sound cut out. Evidence suggested that this new camera, which has an inbuilt microphone, had overruled my headset. But then lost the ability to convey the sounds it picked up to the session the students were in. I had no idea why! But we dealt with it by unplugging the whole thing and just doing the session by sound alone again.

The next day there was a virtual open day. At least I could make everything work in Teams! Next week I'll see if I can make it work in Blackboard Collaborate as well, as this is the platform we use for teaching. I hope I can just show my face again!

22 March 2021

Sister to the rescue

In my evaluation of the year 2020 I mentioned that I had practised not letting my brain mull over negative things too much. Most of the day my brain is occupied, but there are these typical times when your mind is free to wander. These times are (for me, at least) when I am trying to sleep, and when I am running. And I love running! And sleeping. So even though I was clearly getting better at it, I was still not managing to entirely banish nasty stuff. And it was affecting things I enjoy, and should be able to enjoy to the max. And I figured that after trying for some 15 months, and still not being sufficiently successful, I could probably do with a bit of help. And help is at hand. Having a clinical psychologist on speed dial has come in handy before. I have asked my sister for advice on how to deal with problems encountered by the students, but now I decided to ask her about myself.

I suppose that for a psychologist, this is simple stuff. Something happens to you that hurts you, you don't want to face the hurt, and then your mind starts to churn around the margins, thinking about things such as why it was wrong it happened to you, who else it will happen to and why that is wrong, and all that sort of things. And that means that even though it is the last thing you want to think about, you think about it all the time, because you're not thinking about the essence. Mind you; I am heavily paraphrasing here. What you get here is the interpretation by a marine scientist of the psychological concept. This description is likely to be a bit lumpy. But I think I got the gist!

After she had explained this to me I tried to just focus on the pain. And it is helping! I got through several runs where I was just enjoying my run and not being bothered by intrusive thoughts. I am starting to regret not having asked earlier. But what's done is done! And I am happy I am making good progress now. People hurting each other will happen as long as there will be people, but dwelling on it too much probably has never helped anyone. Except, of course, in channelling this to make positive change. And I will still do this! I will only stand up against misogyny with more vigour next time I encounter it. But I intend to fight that fight while not letting it affect my quality of life any more than necessary.

The effect that a few minutes talking to my sister already made a significant difference also strengthened my view that seeking professional help (even though I was seeking it in a nonprofessional way) is such a good thing to do if you are struggling with something! You are often so deep into things you can't see them objectively anymore. And a third person can. And a trained person cannot only see things clearer, but also knows what to do about them. And that makes a massive difference!

21 March 2021

Climate science with the students

 I am teaching on our final year climate module again! And the way I go about it is to record lectures about the topics I find important, and then have a live session where I try to get some discussion going. An I tend to ask the students to prepare in some way. And there were two sessions I thought I'd discuss here. One was about climate sensitivity, and the other one was about a potential eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.

For those who are unfamiliar with this concept; climate sensitivity is the globally averaged warming expected from a doubling of preindustrial atmospheric CO2 levels. And that is important, of course. We are on our way to reach that level; preindustrial values were 280 ppm so climate sensitivity tells us about what happens at 560 ppm, and we are already at 417 ppm on the day I write this. It will be crucial to know in how much trouble that will get us. And some of that is easy; an atmospheric physicist will have no trouble calculating how much global warming that would cause if the Earth was not a dynamic system. But the thing is, it is. There are all sorts of feedback mechanisms at play. The greenhouse effect will melt snow and ice, which reduces the planet's albedo, so increases global warming further. Higher temperatures lead to more moisture in the atmosphere, and water vapour is a greenhouse gas too. And so on. So finding out just how much warming an increase of 280 ppm CO2 causes is not straightforward.

I had asked the students to look up in article in which someone had come up with value for climate sensitivity. And then we discussed what the range was, how they had come to their conclusions, and whether there was a trend in that. And I am afraid there was.

In my lecture I had used three or four sources, and they had all come down to around 3 K. That is quite alarming as it is! But the students had found more recent sources, and some of the estimates went up to 5 or 6 K. They even found some old sources with values like that. And that is a lot more alarming still! And there didn't seem to be much of a trend in what methods they had used. Both modelling and using very long time series had ended up yielding results a lot higher than what I had seen before. Oh dear. I should make sure I keep my well-paid job so I can replace my gas boiler with a heat pump!

The other topic I wanted to mention here was Yellowstone; I suppose most people will know that this is a super volcano. And volcanoes might erupt. I wanted my students to figure out how bad that would be. And it wasn't particularly bad, really. Of course it will do a lot of damage. A bit of cold already caused a lot of grief in Texas. Imagine widespread ash fall! That will be a lot worse. But in the greater scheme of things, it will be minor.

We compared Yellowstone to 3 other organic events; the worst one was a generation of the Siberian traps, some 250 million years ago. This caused the biggest extinction event ever. And it was a much much much bigger event, and it was exacerbated by the regional geology. And reassuringly, the geology in the area of Yellowstone seems to be mainly rhyolite and granite, and these are quite inert. You can volcanically heat them but nothing will happen. Then we compared it to the Toba eruption. This is not very widely known, but it was the biggest eruption in the Quaternary. It happened some 75,000 years ago, so there already were people around, and we clearly didn't get extinct. This, by the way, was also a rhyolitic eruption and these are the more explosive kind. Yellowstone is an order of magnitude smaller, and is a hotspot volcano, so more a Hawaiian type eruption than an Indonesian one. And these are less severe. The magma will be less viscous with less gas in them, so the eruption will be more gloopy, and fewer sulphidic aerosols will make it into the stratosphere.

Then we had the Tambora eruption in 1815; it famously caused the "year without a summer" in Europe. This one was an order of magnitude smaller than Yellowstone. It is still a subduction volcano, so more likely to get aerosols in the stratosphere and cause mayhem. And additionally; all these Indonesian volcanoes which are close to the equator, will manage to get aerosols all around the globe, while Yellowstone will probably only affect the northern hemisphere directly. So altogether; if Yellowstone erupts I am sure it will be a big thing. But almost everything we found out about it was reassuring! And volcanoes work on rather long timescales. The chance that it will erupt in my lifetime is very small. So I will never find out exactly how disruptive it would be. But it was nice to do a climate session and not everything being doom and gloom!

20 March 2021

Protect the plants from the cat

I know my garden is considered a loo by the neighbourhood cats. And I know they even use some of the plant pots in front of the house. And when I got a cat myself, I soon started to suspect she thought the big flowerpot in the conservatory was second litter box for her. And one day I caught her in the act! I am not keen on her killing my seedlings, so I decided to put some defence over the pot. And then I did the other three big ones as well. And a few days later, when I saw cat footprints in the trays in the propagator, I decided I had to put a mesh over these as well. I hope that will do the job!

And yes, this means I have been seeding the new round of vegetables. It can still be quite cold outside so my plants still live in the conservatory, but I am confident that it won't be freezing in there until next winter. I have planted beetroot, leek, aubergine, peas, pumpkin, spinach, and cabbage. I hope this year things will work out better than last year! I don't hope the cat has already cut short the lives of some of these juvenile vegetables…

19 March 2021

Drain Battle

There had been a while I couldn't use my wash-basin because I was working on the taps. I had managed that in the end! But only a month later I was again brushing my teeth in the kitchen. The drain had become clogged!

I could easily imagine this is one of those blog posts that everybody skips. I identify a problem, I mention the difficulties of sorting it in a badly maintained house, but I manage in the end and feel good about it. Been there, done that. But then I pondered it, I figured that actually, this sort of stuff matters. And why?

One reason is that unclogging drains is exactly the sort of chore that isn't very pleasant, and keeps you from using your rare spare time in a pleasant way. If you have a demanding job you need to sometimes be able to relax! And then you want to go for a walk in the weekend, and not have to spend your time rummaging in unpleasant substances in the bathroom. In a way, drains are a mental health issue.
Another issue is the endless question: if there is an issue with your house, do you repair it yourself or call a professional in? The advantages of repairing it yourself are that you are and how to repair things yourself. It gives you independence. But if you call in professionals, you keep your time for yourself (and that matters; see above) and you are supporting the local economy.

A third question is; if you have a problem and you can solve it in a way that hurts the environment, will you do it? What is more important? Your own comfort or the well-being of the planet? But I was glad that this time, I didn't have to choose. I remember times when I was under the impression that drain cleaner was some vicious poison. But nowadays you seem to be able to very easily buy eco-friendly substances. And I did!

So what about the practicalities? I started out with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. That did not work. I employed the plunger too. To no effect. But two rounds of drain treatment did the job. I can brush my teeth in the bathroom again! And I am enjoying it. And I have some liquid left so I can keep the drain open now.

In the end I suppose it didn't take an awful lot lot of time, and I didn't damage the environment, but the local economy has remained unsupported. However; the last time I looked for a plumber it was really difficult, so I imagine all the local plumbers have more than enough work and are sufficiently supported as it is. So altogether a good outcome! And if it resulted in a dull blog post, well, then you didn't read to this part anyway…

18 March 2021

Restrictions eased

 In December, the restrictions in Wales went back to being as strict as they had ever been. We were not allowed to see anybody outside our families and our bubbles. And these restrictions stayed in force for a fair while! And a few weeks ago, it became allowed to exercise with someone else. And I took advantage of that once. But now the rules have been relaxed more! For people from two households who live within 5 miles of each other can meet outdoors. And they don't have to exercise; just drinking coffee, to name something, is okay too.

The rule about the four people from two households is strict. The 5 mile rule isn't; the government had explained that that is to a certain degree open to interpretation. If you live in the middle of Cardiff, you probably have lots of friends living within 5 miles, so then you are expected to stick with it. If you live in the middle of the countryside, then these 5 miles might not help at all. So then you need to exercise your own judgement.

I haven't yet met up with anyone, but I think I soon will! It will be nice to hang out with people again. Maybe the evenings will soon be warm and light enough again to invite people over for dinner in the garden. That will be fab! But just coffee and cake will do. Watch this space!

More financial trouble

 Work at the University has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride! I arrived as a postdoc, and then got some really short contracts, became permanent, and then within no time had that permanence be seriously questioned. Then the moment came our Head of School told us our jobs are not on the line after all. And then the University sent out an announcement saying they haven't managed to make all the savings they needed to, so redundancies were an option again. And they were quite confrontational about it! They stressed that in the previous round, voluntary redundancy had been open to most, and the conditions were favourable. They said next time, this option may not be available. It sounded rather menacing. If you haven't volunteered to leave by late February, the only way of leaving would be with a big boot print on your rear end!

I don't know how many redundancies this will mean in practice. And I don't know if any are required in our school. But the uncertainty is back! I don't like that. I am, after all, still trying to recover from the injury the first months of the lockdown had caused. Seeing your livelihood threatened while you are still suffering from a work-related injury is unsettling. And it's now already happened twice! We'll see how this pans out.

We also got a message that we are only expected to work at home until the end of June. It sounds like they expect University life to get back to something resembling what it was before in the next academic year. I hope that also means they don't expect any more Covid-related financial hits from then on. It would be nice to get a period of calm!

17 March 2021

Virtual dissertation talks

 On the Wednesday we had the virtual poster sessions of the master students, and on the Thursday we had the dissertation presentations of the bachelor students. It is the time of the year when lots of students are presenting the project they are working on! And it was again a first; the previous year, the presentations had been scheduled so soon after the end of face-to-face teaching that we had to quickly make something up. We decided to ask the students to record their presentations and upload them for us to watch. We didn't even have the platform back then that we use now for this sort of occasion. When I write this I must say I am a bit shocked; how fast does one get used to things! Teaching without this platform now seems unimaginable.

Anyway. I had put myself in a session with two colleagues. And we had mixed up the students. And I must say, all went well! No students had connection issues, the question-and-answer sessions were lively, it was all we had hoped for. And again; next year I expect us to be able to do this in person again. By then the idea is that all adults have been vaccinated, so why would we not do this in person? But every time we pull something off in these times of Covid restrictions I am glad we did it. I'm still not taking any of this for granted!

Virtual posters

 In a normal year, our master students present their work in a poster session. It is a bit like a scientific conference poster session, but then smaller. We use one of the more glamorous lecture rooms for that. And to draw staff in, there tend to be nibbles.

This year, this couldn't happen. Of course. And I was amazed to see how this had been dealt with. We all got an invitation to attend the poster session virtually. We got a link, which brought us to some portal where we had to choose a name and an avatar, and then we found ourselves outside one of our buildings. I had to figure out how to walk my avatar around. This really looked like an old-fashioned computer game, and I don't play computer games. But I figured it out, then walked into the building, where I quickly found the posters.

I had to also figure out what to do when I got to a poster. You could click on it to read it, and if the student who had produced it was there, their face appeared on screen. I could then unmute myself and have a discussion with said student. And there could be several people there! You could have a nice chat.

The virtual room also had a space where you could access a feedback form. So after you had seen the poster you could physically (well, almost) walk there and provide your feedback.

It was a bit weird to have to get used to, but I think it really worked! You had the overview and could see which posters were busy and which weren't, and whose they were, so you could make an informed choice of where to go. And with the cameras and microphones you really had an idea of useful human interaction. I was impressed! So I suppose next year we are back to physical posters, and that is better, but I think this was as good is it could have been given the circumstances!

16 March 2021

Life with a cat

I have had a cat now for just over a month. So I have had time to get used to it! And so has she. So how are things panning out?

We have some sort of routine now. In the morning my alarm goes off, and I put on some clothes and release the cat from the old side of the house. She will run in meowing urgently. I will try to pet her a bit, but she will be impatient. Then I go to the loo and she follows me. Then I get my laser pointer and send her through the house like a crazy cat. She really hasn't tired of that at all! And she now insists on spending a fair while upside down with her claws into my bed. It seems to be the bee's knees.

Early morning chasing of the red dot

I then open the catflap for her, and do my morning routine while she continues to dart through the house like a headless chicken. And when I'm done we go down for breakfast. She tends to wait for me, regardless of whether there still is food in her bowl.

She tends to sit on the table when I have breakfast, and when I am done she can lick out the bowl. Then I go and brush my teeth. She tends to be meowing around the bathroom then.


When I go to the office she fluctuates between being asleep somewhere downstairs, and walking into the office, meowing mournfully. Petting her doesn't really help. Going downstairs doesn't either. Sometimes she will try to jump into my cupboard, which I am not keen on, as that's where the printer lives and I can imagine she could destroy that. Furthermore, from the cupboard she can get onto the shelf above it, and I know how precariously that is fixed. I don't want a youthful and reckless cat stomping around all over it! It might come out of the wall. So if she is too insistent I have to remove her from the office and close the door. And then she will do her mournful meowing again.

Work (she actually doesn't do this all too often)

If I come downstairs during the day and she is lying somewhere but awake, then to go and scratch her head for a bit. She really loves that.

If I am in the kitchen for a while as I am cooking, eating, and/or doing the dishes, she tends to regularly walk in meowing mournfully (yes, there is a pattern there). But when I go to the living room to read a bit she tends to ignore me and hang out elsewhere. She will regularly be in the bedroom then. She might be asleep on the bed or under the breakfast bar. Sometimes she has the zoomies instead, and thunders through house like a daftie again. I also will do at least one more laser pointer session with her during the day.

Getting ready to take a shower

In the evening also clean out her litter box. That can be a bit frustrating; she likes to follow me around, and she also does that then. And then I seem to give her an idea, so it is not unusual for me to just have cleaned the the box, and she deciding it is a good time for a wee, or even a poo. But it seems she is a bit nervous relieving herself in front of my nose, as it seems to happen more often than normal that she forgets to sit down properly, and will wee horizontally out of the box, creating a big mess. And then she will try to cover that. Scratching the wall she just peed against isn't really doing the job, though. I am thinking of buying a litter box with walls and a ceiling. Then it will be harder for her to pee all over the house.

Somewhere between 21:30 and 22:00 I close the catflap. I don't want her to have access to my bedroom at night! And I sometimes wonder if she hangs out in the bedroom at night because she wants to stop me from locking her out of it during the night, but she is always so easily inspired just to run out of it, back into "her" side of the house, which allows me to close the door behind her and go to bed.

Going to the loo

I've had some trouble figuring out what it is she wants, as she does a lot of mournful meowing at me, but then doesn't seem to want petting or food. And I can't spend my working day letting her chase the laser pointer. But I think she sometimes just wants to be near. And I think we both get our cuddle fix from the head scratching sessions during the day. So I think we have a sort of balance by now! And I think it's a good one. She makes me laugh a lot. And cuddling her is really nice. She is quite a presence in my house!

Planning a walk or bike ride

15 March 2021

A bit of background on gender issues

I wrote my previous post on women in science based only on my own experience. But I am a scientist! Surely, I realise that there is more data out there and that it matters. And I do. So I thought I illustrate my words with a few references. Not as many as I would have done if I would have been paid to do this. I'm writing this on a Saturday and I would like to spend my weekend days outside in the beautiful landscape. Not at my desk, rummaging through literature! But this is an issue close to my heart so I at least dug out a few examples.

So am I making this up, about the mismatch between the opinions of the women who are leaving or considering it, and the men in power who think there is no problem? It seems not. Look up some studies where identical CVs, but with different names on, were judged by large numbers of employers, and you are likely to read that a white-sounding, male name tends to get the most praise. And the best salary. And to make things worse; I found a study where they had actually asked these employers whether there was any gender bias in their company. The more they said no, the bigger the difference was between the salary they would give "John" and "Elizabeth". Was this a flawless study? Well, no; I would have liked to see the descriptive statistics on the data. This same study said that the people who said that there was a gender problem gave "Elizabeth" the higher salary, but they said this difference was not statistically robust. I want to see a p value! Show your data. Let the data speak. But it looks like this is exactly what happens in the School of Ocean sciences; it's the men that  that are keeping the system in place, which are the ones congratulating themselves on their exemplary views on gender equality.

I also found an article that interviewed lots of scientists, both male and female, and at various stages of their career. It is interesting to see what explanations they offer for the gender disparity, the difference there is between the males and females, and how people's views change through their career. One of the aspects they touch on is the availability (or lack thereof) of role models and mentors. I am not surprised! Another article ventures into darker territory and, in addition to the usual factors, touches upon harassment too.

Read here in article about how science benefits from having both genders on board. A balanced demographic doesn't only benefit the people who have so far been largely absent.

And what about men in female-dominated environments? These tend to be promoted faster than the surrounding women. There is even term for it; the glass escalator. So I said that I thought that no environment should be dominated by just one gender, but it looks like there is quite some evidence that even where women dominate, men are still at the advantage. Not really encouraging. And food for thought. Imagine trying to make your way in science if you not only are a woman, but you are also not white! I am still speaking from a position of privilege. But that shouldn't stop me from trying to make a difference there where I do not have privilege. I was disgruntled when I was contemplating International woman's day, and in order to do something productive with that I joined the Fawcett Society. I'll vote with my feet and my wallet! I haven't yet actively engaged, but I am writing this less than a week after said day, and it's been quite the week. Of course it was; I work in academia. But Easter is approaching and then I can contemplate a bit more how I can actively make a difference! I think I am straying a bit from my theoretical underpinning, but of course just being aware of the data is not enough. Trying to make a difference is the next step.

PS Some more links on race and CV appreciation here and here and here.

14 March 2021

International woman's day 2021

This International woman's day I was in the field with the students. I didn't have much time to pay attention to the occasion. And after the day in the field I had to do some things associated with the dissertation talks by the students. But I sure thought about it! And how could I not? It is hard to not think about gender if you are a woman in science. At least, that is my experience. And the longer you stay in science the more that holds.

When I went to university in 1993 to study physics, I walked straight into a male world. 90% of the students in my year were male, it was 95% in the next year up, and beyond that females were really hen's teeth. The staff was heavily male-dominated. I'm not even sure there was any female staff. Then I switched to geology. There the situation was not so dire; the student body was about 50% female and 50% male, and there was female staff. Not many of them, and not in high positions, but at least they were there. And that they were underrepresented, especially in the higher ranks, wasn't a problem, everybody (read: men) said; there were female students coming through now, so give it 20 years and the staff would be a lot more female to. Including the professors. And then gender equality would have been achieved.

Fast-forward to 2021. I am now of course employed by an entirely different University, even in a different country, but we are still talking natural sciences in a Western European country. So how have these 27.5 years panned out? Do we have gender equality now? Well, no. In our School, all the professors are still male (and white), and the head of School is male and the dean is male, and the Vice Chancellor is male. We have had large numbers of female students since forever, but the pipeline is still incredibly leaky, and women still struggle to get to the top. If you ask the men in power why this is, they tend to say things such as that perfect gender equality has been reached and that it is a mystery why are all these women leave, or that it is just a pipeline issue; give it time and the problem will solve itself. The former makes little sense, and the latter shows a worrying disregard for the actual data. Our equality officer has all the numbers and can just show that that is not the case! Women fall by the wayside left and right. In the years I have been employed here, one woman quit her job because it was making her too stressed. Two woman decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere; one outside academia, and one outside the country. Two women took voluntary redundancy in the last round of restructuring. So we get a steady stream of female junior lecturers, but a lot of them leave. Does that just mean they were never suitable for the job? Or does that mean the job is such that women feel insufficiently respected and appreciated, and therefore burn out a lot faster than the men? We have had men leaving too, but mostly to retirement, after having been a professor for years. We have only had one female professor I know of. And one male professor stormed off angrily, and one man left because his wife (in the same department) had had enough and she managed to find not just a job for herself on a different continent, but also for her husband. 

Is there really no man in a high position who thinks it is a bad thing that so many women leave, and that we are left with a clanging gender pay gap and power imbalance? I can't say I have asked all of our professors. There are quite many of them. And we had one, and he still has a honorary role of sorts in the school, who acknowledged loudly this was indeed a problem, I would go so far as to try and drag all the men in the Department to an event dedicated to gender problems in the University. But he decided to leave for Finland, and I don't think he has any say in the day-to-day running of the department any more.

And do we have any women that might become professors any time soon? Not many. The rank below professor is reader, and we only have two female readers. I thought it was only one, so I'm pleasantly surprised! Maybe the website is wrong. It sure is on other fronts. Several people who have left are still listed, and some people have the wrong job title. But I really do hope we indeed have two female readers. And one of them was in the line of fire when there were budget cuts imposed on us, but the other one wasn't, so her job is less insecure, and I could see her become our next female professor. Just one female professor is not enough in my opinion, but it's better than none!

So if the place is less pleasant for women than for men, then why would this be? One thing, of course, is the simple vicious circle of so many women leaving, and leaving the rest discouraged by that, and possibly feeling isolated among all the men. Men in high positions saying that there is no problem doesn't help with that. Do women go into a profession determined to not progress in their careers, and not get to the top? Not likely. Another problem is just that maternity and childcare issues are badly organised in this country. I know children in general have both a mother and a father, but the stats show that it tends to be the women who put in most of the work. So if you have a job that demands a lot of you, and academia does, then that extra load might push you over the edge. And a lot of men feel (or empirically find out) that is not accepted for them to ask to work part-time, and put the childcare hours in. Remember that in this country they can only take two weeks of parental leave! This gender issue is hurting men too. It's typical that in Norway, female professors in Earth and Climate science are not rare, and there new parents get a year off. And the parents can divvy that up themselves. 

And a third thing is the steady stream of small events that suggest women are not taken as seriously as a men. For instance, I have had lots of students rather aggressively challenging the grades I have given them. It has happened twice that one or several students fought their way all the way up to the Head of School because they figured they deserved a higher grade. And I have asked a male colleague, who says that men and women are treated equally, if he had any experiences like that. He hadn't! His grades are just accepted. Mind you, the students who fought my grades never got anywhere. The higher authorities invoked always agreed with my marks and my way of determining them. And I have heard this from other female colleagues as well. I know I don't have an exhaustive survey here, but such anecdotal evidence can already be disheartening. And then there are the instances where you say something, and it is ignored until a male colleague says the same thing. A line manager being a bit startled by seeing four women in a row in a meeting, and feeling the need to comment on it. He had seen four men in the row in a meeting countless many times. The assumption that male colleagues are the module leaders. Lots of incidents like this. All of them in themselves insignificant (except maybe the aggressive grade chasing of students), but if you experience things like that often enough, it does where you down.

I don't think the School of Ocean sciences will come anywhere near gender equality for many decades. I should ask our equality officer if we are actually making progress at the moment, and if so, when we can expect gender equality if we linearly extrapolate it.

Quite often, these things only become stark if you turn them around. Imagine one of my male colleagues losing their job in the next financial restructuring, and looking for a job elsewhere. Imagine them applying for a job in a school where all the professors are female, and the Dean and the Vice Chancellor too. There are plenty of male junior lecturers, but from there on they become clear minority. If you talk to the men they say they are just not taken seriously, and are not listened to. All the females in power deny that there is any problem, and say that men and women are treated perfectly equally. Would they take the job? I wouldn't think so. But if you are a woman in Britain in science, That is the kind of job you can expect. And it is disheartening. And I am sad that I have the choice between keeping battling and trying to make a positive difference, trying to progress in my career even though it does feel like a battle, in order to at least add to the number of women above the rank of junior lecturer. And to show the female students that it can be done. If I can do it, then so can they. Or to leave and give up, and embark on an alternative career in which being female doesn't seem to be a millstone. Mind you, we have the next financial restructuring already in sight so I might not have that choice.

After all these years in science, I must say I am attracted by the idea of a job in a female-dominated environment. Should these exist? Well, no, of course not. In an ideal world, no profession would be dominated by one gender. But I have worked in male-dominated environments for decades. I could use a break. And I still love marine science, and I still love teaching, and I regularly realise how privileged I am to be paid to stick my nose in fascinating science, and communicating it to the students; in short, I still love my job. But I wish I were doing it in an environment that is as welcoming to women as a it is to men, and I personally feel that as it is, it isn't.

13 March 2021

Covid-compliant beach day with students

 Every early spring I join a day in the field, where I help first year students log sediment sections on an Anglesey beach. Due to coastal erosion, this beach has a cliff face, and in it are exposed amazing sediments associated with the last glacial period. There is a glacial till comprised of local material, and an enormous amount of glacial and glaciofluvial material brought in from further away, from the direction of Scotland. It's quite impressive! And we hope the students agree with that.

In a normal year, I do this trip with my colleague Lynda, and we get a sizeable group of students in the morning, and then another sizeable group of students in the afternoon. In between we take ourselves and all the students to the nearby town of Beaumaris for lunch. But, of course, this year everything would be different. Lynda is shielding, we can only have 10 students in a coach, we can only have so many coaches anywhere before locals start to complain, and all the cafes in Beaumaris are closed, and the students will have to stay two metres apart. So how did you do this?

I had a chat with Lynda beforehand, so I knew everything I needed to know to lead the trip this year. I was going to lead it with my friend Guy as a sidekick. We would do the fieldtrip twice, so we would only have half the students we normally have per session. And probably fewer; some of the students would be shielding as well. And we would have to just have our lunch on the beach. We could do this!

We normally do this trip in February, but we had postponed it this time to give the students time to get back to campus and get tested. We would all be tested beforehand. So on a March Monday morning I came to campus, picked up the School van, drove to the beach, and met Guy. Together (and with his dog) we marked the particular parts of the cliff face we wanted the students to describe. Then we went back to wait for the students.

In order to make sure the students could hear what we were saying and see what we were doing while staying 2 m apart from each other and from us, we did our usual initial spiel in two groups. I did one example sediment description with half the students and Guy did the other group. And then we could set them free to describe the rest independently. It was a bit chilly but not bad at all. And it was nice to have only a small group. You could give a lot of attention to the few students that were there.

When it was lunchtime the students went back into the bus, and Guy and me sat down on a low wall to eat our sandwiches. And drink some tea. And then we did it all again in the afternoon! I think it went well. The weather forecast for the second day was a bit ominous; the wind would pick up through the day, and the whole day had a weather warning for wind. That makes things cold! But it wasn't as bad as expected and we did the whole two days in relative comfort. Although the second day I made sure to wear longjohns and a down jacket all day long.

From here Lynda takes over again, and guides the students through the assessment associated with this day. And I hope next year she will be back to do it herself. I quite enjoyed taking the lead for a year, but I can imagine Lynda can't wait to bring her vaccinated body back into vaccinated society and do the things she normally does. I don't mind going back to playing second violin next year!

Guy admires one of our sections which we defined right on the margins of an ice wedge

Guy teaching while it was still sunny

12 March 2021

Bike ride for exercise, in company

Phone the newspaper! Revolutionary things are happening. I went on a bike ride without going anywhere. I mean, of course I went somewhere, but it was the bike ride that was the purpose. And that is rare! I have done it when I had slightly hurt my foot, when I wanted to save my feet for a long walk, or when my calf hurt a bit, and another time when there just was a road that just asked for being biked. And a few times when I just wanted to venture a bit further from home, or was finding out how far away I could reasonably start a walk. But that was pretty much it. For exercise, I run!

I also don't normally see biking as a social thing. It might have had something to do with that I'm not used to it. But also, let's face it; it's not very practical; in order to talk you have to be beside each other, and as soon as any other traffic appears you have to go behind each other. On the way up you can't really talk, and on a steep way down you really don't either. And if you not going too steeply up or down, you can only hope you have the same sort of speed. So I think it's not ideal! But circumstances matter of course.

I am allowed to see people to go exercising with them, but I have to go from home. Not many people I know live so close that that would work. For a long time, everybody even lived so far away, exercising together on a bike wouldn't work, as my arms had a problem with riding a bike. But I had figured out that that was now over. So the next thing I did was go on a bike ride with Kate! She doesn't live excessively far away, so it would work to just bike to a location in between our respective domiciles, and then ride for a while together. And so we did!

I met her where my commuter route drops underneath the A55. And from there the set off to the west, to Seion, and past Dinas Dinorwig, through Penisa'r Waun, Brynrefail, and then to the shore of Llyn Padarn. It was lovely! We were on little country roads that had barely any traffic, but that were big enough to comfortably ride together. Our speeds were also quite compatible. Crossing the heights near the hillfort made it clear that Kate is faster downhill (more confident, I suppose) while I am not very fast uphill, but I am very stubborn, which resulted in me in the end doing them faster after all. Kate tended to go in fast but burn out. And she had some gear trouble.

By the lake we sat down to eat lunch. I had made sure I was comfortable! I had brought a jacket, a scarf, two hot flasks, and two Tupperwares with food. Kate didn't have panniers so she had to make do with what fit in her frame bags.

When we were done with lunch we went up the steep road to Dinorwig (the village, not the quarry; it wasn't the road that reduces you to a sweaty mess). That was the biggest slog of the trip! And from there we were on rather familiar terrain. I had biked this before. And I knew it would get interesting to come down the hill at Mynydd Llandygai; it's quite steep, and my disc brakes are very screamy. And I came down creating an enormous racket. But I had chosen the road with the fewer houses along it!

Soon we were back at the bicycle path which is my commute. There it was time to say goodbye! It had been a good experience. I think I'm up for this again. I can clearly adjust to doing biking for social reasons and exercise, and not just for going places! And this was the most social contact I had had in quite a while! Altogether a successful mission.

Two fast bikes at Llyn Padarn

Two happy bikers

11 March 2021

Side valley now explored without fog

A few weeks ago, I had tried to explore small side valley of Cwm Llafar, but that had been slightly hampered by fog. So I had decided to go back one day! And the day had come. We had another good weather forecast, so I had faith that if I would go back I could finally see where I had been. 

I set off and it was a beautiful day. It was still a bit chilly! A headband and gloves were still in order. But that would come in handy later.

I got to the point why would leave the main valley and scramble up. That went well! And the stream was beautiful with still a lot of ice in it. And fairly soon I walked into the valley I had only had the limited view on the previous time. It was a beautiful valley! And I saw it even had frozen waterfalls. But while I was checking them waterfalls, I started to suspect I had gone up the wrong stream. I had intended to go up the furthest stream but I had not paid attention and taken the second furthest one. But that was not a problem; I had just spotted a path leading back to that furthest stream a little bit further back. So I followed that, and duly ended up at the correct stream.

From there I walked up all the way to the ridge, and then circled the back of the cwm. And by doing that I walked back into the sun! So it was time to sit down for lunch.

After lunch I tried to figure out where I had gone the previous time. A lot of the slope looked a bit similar! I walked out over the ridge to get a better view. And from there I noticed that there was a zigzag path in the distance. This just added to the mystery of this valley. Cwm Llafar has such a well-organised path into it that I suspect it has been a tramline in the past. But why put a tramline into a valley where nothing is happening? There are some scratches into the rock, but nothing that seems to merit investing in infrastructure. And now I had spotted the typical signs of path for miners on the hillslope. So why had it been worth it to make this path? What had been going on here? And why a path up to the ridge? The miners wouldn't have been living on top of the ridge. They were much more likely to live in the Bethesda area, so travelling in the same direction as that assumed tramline would make much more sense. This place puzzles me!

Anyway, I traversed the slope and headed for the zigzag. Soon I was up on the ridge and could walk down. It did the job for me! And now I was glad I had finally seen all of this valley. It had been beautiful! It had made me ponder that you read in the papers about all these people who are absolutely dying to go on a foreign holiday. And I, in a way, and one of them, as I want to see my relatives, but I have no particular desire to go anywhere for reasons of seeing a more beautiful landscape. It is absolutely stunning in my back garden! The combination of luck and good decision-making had ended up with me living in a place that is very difficult to get tired of. Hurray for Snowdonia!

Nice weather in the main valley

The side valley is beckoning behind a small pass

It was still quite cold!

The actual mountain pass

The side valley! Looking a lot more visible than the last time.

The cliff face I walked underneath to get to the furthest valley

Lunch in the sun!

The view that inspired my thoughts about not needing to go on holiday to see beautiful landscapes

Me standing on the zigzag and looking down; I think one "V" of the zigzag can be clearly made out