22 April 2021

Starting painting the extension

When the repairmen didn't show up, I decided to do something useful with my day. And with them not showing up, I had the extension to myself. So I popped to the local builders' merchant and got me some paint. And then started the work.

The first thing I needed to do was make sure I could do anything safely. You have to stand on a ledge above a considerable drop in order to do work on the extension. And when you're working, you're not focusing on staying up there. So I wanted to be secured. And I had figured I could do that by running my climbing rope from the bedroom window to a window in the conservatory. I could use that as a handline I could clip into. So I made my first rig! I retrieved my climbing gear from downstairs and improvise something. It was sufficient.

The ridge I have to stand on gets progressively narrower when you go further right. When you go to the right of the bedroom window, you are also not secured to anything above your centre of gravity anymore. I can of course still be attached to my handline, but at quite an angle, so were I to fall I would swing out quite a lot. I'm not so keen. I like my tether to be vertical, going up from where it is attached to me! I'm not so keen on horizontal tethers. So I decided to start on the left. I supposed it made sense to first get comfortable where it was still easy, and then build up my confidence as I moved further right. I mean, I have done much more dangerous things either underground or on climbing walls, but thanks to Corona that was quite a while ago, and additionally; then I tend to be able to concentrate on navigating the circumstances. Now I would be busily waving a paint scraper around.

Starting on the left also meant I had to bring something in that would increase my height. I can't reach the top planks! So I dragged my ammunition box out of the garage and put that on the ledge. That would give me enough height! This wouldn't work on the right, as the ledge is too narrow, but I will deal with that once I get there.

With my handline and my ammunition box in position, I could don my overalls and set to work. I first had to remove as much of the pesky vegetation as I could. I had already done around of removing ivy when I still had hope that the previous set of workmen would actually show up and go do the work, but the thing with vegetation is that it grows back. But it was quite easy to remove quite a lot of it. Then I could start paying attention to the paint. It was flaking like nothing on Earth. So I scraped and I sanded. And after a considerable effort I put on a layer of primer on the first four planks! A start had be made. I am just tackling the situation plank by plank. Once I have one or more planks (four if they are at the level of the window and therefore very short; just one if it's one of the continuous ones underneath the window) ready for paint, I just paint it. So at some point I had four planks with the first layer of paint, four planks with only a layer of primer, and several planks partially scraped. That way I will slowly make my way from the left to the right. And then I have to do some caulking.

I also improve my rig as I moved along. I had first just connected two knots with a carabiner, but I later made a rig that is easier to keep at tension. And I traded my cow's tails for a Petzl connect, which is easily adjustable. And I pondered about improved rigging on the right. Stay tuned for that!

Altogether this will take me a while! But then I have an extension wall that is ready to face the harsh Welsh weather again for a few years. And it doesn't look particularly good; I suppose in order to achieve that I should have used paint stripper, or something along those lines, to really get rid of all the old paint, but I can't be asked. This is only for durability, not for looks!

 the situation before I started

The flaking paint and my first safety measures

 using the bedroom as an anchor

First results 

21 April 2021

Failing to get the extension repaired

When I bought the house, the extension was already in need of some repair. Some of the wood was very rotten, and the paint was flaking off like it was going out of fashion. And I had asked the bloke who had sorted out my plastering, and the roof of my garage, to sort this too. He may have been a plasterer himself, but he clearly also could do project management, and subcontract roofers and whatnot. But he had stood me up on this job. Multiple times!

With the peak of the pandemic hopefully over, and spring having come with its warmer and drier weather, I thought it was a good idea to give it another go. I would just try to get someone else to do it. And I saw two vans driving around, with lettering on them that suggested the owners of the vans did exactly this kind of work, so I looked them up and gave them a ring. Both came to have a look. One got the job.

He was supposed to come one Friday. And he didn't! He then said he could come on Saturday. But he didn't. I phoned him. And phoned him. And phoned him. Nothing! And I was really grumpy, as it was a beautiful day, and I had been contacted by two friends about meeting up. I had said that I was not available on the Saturday. We have only been allowed to see people for such a short time! So keeping my Saturday free for a bloke who didn't show up was rather frustrating. But getting angry doesn't help, so instead I went to the local builder's merchant and bought some ingredients for some DIY. If I can't get anybody else to do things, at least I can do things myself. I can't do the repairs of the wood, but I can make a start on repainting the outside! And I have plans for the water butt as well.

I might have to go and scout out tradesmen again. Will this work ever be done?

The brown-painted wood and the horizontal stuff underneath are where a problem is

The state of the wood

20 April 2021

Marking the bicentenary

Last year, Bethesda was 200 years old! But it was not a good year for celebrations. This year actually isn't either, but one has to make do. So this year the village got some stuff organised. One of the initiatives is that they put out a call for pictures of the Bethesda High Street. If they were old pictures they wanted to recreate the modern versions. I didn't know what they were going to do with it, but that became clear!

Another thing that happened was a series of lectures. I assume that in normal times, they would probably have organised them in Neuadd Ogwen, but as it is 2021 they were done on zoom.

On Friday evening I made sure to be ready for the lecture on the development of Bethesda. There have been villages in this area since forever, but Bethesda as we know it now started with the road from London to Dublin (which is now known as the A5) being built. Slate quarrying was already happening in the area, so as soon as the road was there, someone built a chapel along it. That chapel was called Bethesda, after the pools where miraculous healings took place in Jerusalem, according to the Bible. The area had before been known as Glanogwen, but now it became Bethesda. And within no time there was a pub called "the Star", where the parking lot is now. And some 20 years later, my house was built.

The lecture spoke of the three estates that cover the area that is now greater Bethesda; Penrhyn, Coetmor and Cefnfaes. The speaker went into detail on the planning, and the division between the areas of the village that are on the various estates, and such things. He said that that legacy is still there, and he was pleading for somehow connecting them better nowadays. He suggested the site of the old Pant Dreiniog slate quarry, which is now mainly a field for walking your dog, could be used for that. And he was wary of increasing tourism, as he feared the village could turn into some sort of St Ives, where way too many of the houses are holiday lets. He also wanted more connections with Jamaica. In case that connection is not evident; the lords Penrhyn made their fortune with sugar plantations in Jamaica. I'm sure they added generously to their fortune with slate quarrying, but without the slave labour in the Caribbean they wouldn't have been able to buy up all the small slate quarries that they turned into one big one. And he figured we have the debt here!

After the lecture I went out onto the high street, as I had seen an announcement of the various pictures of the high street (and other areas) being projected on the gable end of the local charity shop. That was quite beautiful!

It is all a bit improvised. I suppose some mass gathering would have been nice, as local cohesion is important in this context. But maybe we can still do that once it is a good idea again!

 from the presentation

19 April 2021

More plants

 When I had to go to Anglesey anyway, I popped by the garden centre on the way back. It was time to buy some plants to fill the raised bed in the upper garden. And I wanted to fill some voids in the lower garden is well. So I loaded up the boot with plants that I found pretty and that seemed to fit the circumstances of my garden.

I put them all in then I hope they will all grow up to be big happy plants. I hope this part of the garden will soon look a bit more mature!

18 April 2021

Structural Recce

The easter break is over, and soon we will be going back into the field with the students again. One of our upcoming trips is to Traeth Lligwy; a beach on Anglesey where Old Red Sandstone is exposed. I had been there for a recce a long, long time ago, but for some reason I had never actually done the trip. And it seemed that the last time, things didn't quite work out for some reason. So we wanted to go and have a look before we would go there with the students, to check we know exactly what to do with them and where. Just show them the lithology? Let them measure it? Something else?

We were supposed to go on a Wednesday, but one of us had forgot to put that in the diary, so we had to move to Thursday. That was fine; the weather was equally nice. So I drove up and walked onto the beach. Dei would already be there with a GPS. He was already measuring the lithology; the sandstone beds and finer beds, which are really clearly seen in outcrop, have been deformed, and you can measure strike and dip of the beds over the width of the beach, and get a clear idea of what is going on. So when I found him I joined him. We were a bit confused; there are also fault zones in the lithology, and they complicate everything. And sometimes you think there might be one without being able to detect it, because the inclination of the beds just changes in strange ways.

After a while Jaco appeared too. As this is a sedimentary environment, this is his cup of tea. No microfossils for me, and no geophysics for Dei! We went through the whole section together. Some of his confused us; we had an article about this very section, but we couldn't match up will do so in the field with what we saw in the article. That is unusual!

We figured we would ask the students to indeed measure the inclination of the beds over the width of the beach. Maybe they would get an idea of the overall structure that way. But we will make sure we also have some time for looking at the lithology. It has all been deposited in an arid environment in the Devonian. You get to see channels, and channel overspill, and surface processes, and material affected by the surface processes then ripped out again by a flash flood and redeposited in very messy layers. A lot to look at!

I think we can pull this one off. And I really hope we have the same kind of weather when we get there with the students!

I think this beach has been eroding; this access ramp is only milddly fit for purpose

Dei with his GPS on the red sandstones

The deformation of the beds

17 April 2021

Dutch cheese

I like Dutch cheese. I used to always bring a fair amount back when I would travel to the Netherlands. But life has changed! Firstly; international travel is illegal at the moment, so in the past 16 months I have only been once. And then a few months ago, Brexit came into force. And now you can't bring animal products into the country from the EU any more. So I won't be able to pick up that habit again once international travel is okay again.

I decided I liked Dutch cheese so much I was willing to have it sent to my house. I had been thinking about that for a while already, but it never ended up at the top of my to-do list. Until the Easter break! And I ordered some. And a few days later it arrived. So I am well-stocked again! I look forward to trying all three pieces I have ordered. One is well-matured, one is farmer's cheese and one is cheese with holes. I'm sure they're all amazing!

16 April 2021

Upper garden getting tidier and tidier

 Since I started attacking the jungle in my upper garden, I have been spending the odd half-hour making more progress. The first thing I did was take some ivy from the lower garden and planted in the little raised bed underneath the fence. I hope it will grow up and cover the fence! I also sowed some wildflowers in the same bed. I assume Ivy is so tough it won't be smothered by other vegetation.

Since then I have taken the weeds out of the central raised bed, I planted several plants in there, I've sown flowers around them (but as it is also a cat loo I have my doubts whether many will come up), I have removed leaf litter, soil and weeds from the little path that runs behind the raised bed, I moved my bay tree and my rhododendron around, I added some plants in pots, and I uncovered the paved corner. I'm not sure why that is there; there is an area covered in big slabs of slate, with on top of that a smaller rectangle of concrete. I could imagine the concrete is meant as the foundation for a little shed. I prefer having my shed downstairs, though. And maybe the slate was just a nice base for the concrete. Or maybe it was an old paved section meant for garden furniture. I prefer that downstairs too!

I also planted lots of ground-covering plants underneath the rosemary. I hope they can thrive in that shaded spot! I also added some grass seed to the part of the lawn that had been overgrown by plants I had since removed. It's looking fundamentally different now! And as it is, it looks a bit dull, but I suppose that if some of my flowers come up, that will liven things up a bit. And I might get a few more pots. And maybe I'll just get used to it a bit more. It was so recent this was all still a jungle! But I'm sure in the end it will look lovely.

If I have done the garden downstairs and the one upstairs, does that mean I will be done? Well, no; there is also a little patch on the side of the house, by the kitchen door. I should make that look good as well! But first things first. Let's get this upper garden thing sorted!

The paved section in the corner

The state of the garden now

14 April 2021


 I was in a video call when I received a phone call. I didn't recognise the number, so I assumed it was someone asking me about some accident I had been involved in and that hadn't been my fault. I checked whether I had a voice message just in case it might have been important after all, but there was nothing. I forgot about it.

The next day, that same number rang again. I answered, but mentally entirely ready to tell someone they had the wrong person. But it was the NHS! Did I want to get vaccinated against Covid? Hell yes! They offered me a slot that next Monday, and I took the first one they had available. Bring it on! I hadn't expected anything yet; I thought it would be my turn in May or something. So this was a lovely surprise!

I was aware that I was breaking a long-standing family tradition. My grandmother had tuberculosis, and died of that in 1951. Later that decade, a vaccine would become available, but it was too late for her. My mother, her daughter, contracted polio in the early 40s. Only a decade later, a vaccine would become available, but that was too late for her. In the female line of the family, it seems that people get unpleasant diseases in the last years before vaccination starts rolling out. So I suppose the traditional thing to do would be to make sure I got Covid before I would get a jab. But I'm really happy that I dodged that bullet! I evidently never met my grandmother, but slowly dying from respiratory disease sounds awful. Especially if you keep having children all the way till the end and you won't see any of them grow up. I have seen the damage that polio did to my mother's life. I'm really glad that disease never had a chance on me!

On the day it was my turn I rocked up at the University sports centre, that had been converted to an emergency Covid hospital. I don't think it had any patients ever; I think the actual hospital has always been able to cope. But now it was a vaccination centre. It was busy there! Which is a good thing. I parked up and walked to the entrance, where volunteers were waiting for us. And the volunteer that greeted me at the door was an old colleague! He had clearly decided that given that he was retired, he had time to put his energy to good use for general society. What a good idea!

He ushered me and two others inside, where other volunteers put us in a queue. That first queue went to reception, where they checked our names. From there we went into the queue for the actual vaccine. It snaked through the entire centre! But it was moving fairly fast so it was not a problem.

Then it finally was my turn I first had to confirm my name, address and date of birth again, so they knew exactly who they were vaccinating, and then the lady who would actually wield the syringe asked me some questions about whether I had relevant allergies and such things. And then she injected me! That was it! That was a tradition of several generations broken. It was such a small gesture, but with such great meaning.

I was then told to sit on a chair for 15 minutes just in case I would have an adverse reaction, but I didn't, so after these 15 minutes I was free to walk out again. I will be back in some six weeks or so! And then I will be fully inoculated. It feels good...

The sports centre a.k.a. Enfys hospital

You can tell it is still standing by in case the main hospital can't cope

13 April 2021

Paint everything

With great garden comes great responsibility. If you want to enjoy your garden, you have to maintain it. And that doesn't only hold for whatever is alive in there. I have some woodwork in the garden! And that needs attention too.

From the beginning I had got into the habit of painting the stairs down into the garden once a year. And it was that time again! But this year it started elsewhere; one day in late autumn, the neighbour had noticed that there had been someone in our respective gardens. And he or she had moved from the one to the other in such a clumsy way that the fence had been damaged. He had kindly offered to buy a new panel and install it. He then painted his side of it, and asked me to do the same with my side. And suggested I maybe do the same with the rest of the fence. I hadn't really thought of that, but he is a retired painter so he knows what wood needs. The problem was, though, that when that all happened my arms were good for pretty much nothing, so I had to bin that idea for a while. But after many months of recovery and physiotherapy, I can wield a brush again like the best of them, so it was time to slap some paint around. And I still had plenty; Rose had left me three tubs of paint for exactly this purpose, and one of them was even entirely unopened.

The fence was first. And then I had my attack on the upper garden, in which removed a lot of brambles and buddleia and whatnot from the fence there. I figured I had better paint that too, before I would have things growing against it. So that was second! And then I did the stairs and the garden shed on one in the same day. By then I was down to my last tub! Thanks Rose, for three years' worth of wood maintenance. I'm sure that tub will even carry me through 2022!

Now all this painting is out of the way, I can get mentally ready for tackling the extension. That already needed lick of paint when I bought the house. I had already hired tradesmen to sort that out, but they had stood me up. And by now I had decided I had better do it myself. It should be within my capacities to scrape that, and give it a good coat of paint. So that's next!

12 April 2021

Bummer: no run

 Many years ago, when I was living in Plymouth, it happened that I suddenly got some strange cramp-like discomfort in my bum. I never knew where that came from. Luckily, it went away on its own accord as well. And in a milder form it has occasionally come back over the years. I still don't know what it is! (I looked it up; this was 11 years ago, in summer 2010. I don't seem to have mentioned the bum issue on the blog, though!)

I was getting this same sort of cramp more often recently. Often when I am running, but also for instance on the way down from yr Aran. Sometimes I walk the last part of my run as my bum is not feeling good. And then one day I went on my daily run, and I wasn't even properly out of the village when I already got the cramp. I decided to turn back, go home, and Google stretching exercises for my bum. I needed to get rid of this! And as it seemed to clearly be a muscle issue, then stretching may be the way out.

I had been a bit hesitant to Google it. Really; googling something with one's bum and stretching? That could go horribly wrong. But I did it anyway. And to my relief, lots of useful links came up, and nothing iffy. So after looking at a few of these links I made a list of ten suggested stretches, and tried them all out. Quite a few didn't seem to do what I needed them to do, but a few did. These came in two versions: one was pretty much bringing your knee to your chin and thereby stretching the bum muscle, and the other one was supposed to involve a foam roller. The idea is that your roll the muscle of your choice over the roller with the desired portion of your body weight pressing down on it. I don't have a foam roller, but I do have a different roller: I have a rolling pin! And that is considerably harder than a foam roller, but it'll have to do for now. I can really really feel the muscle that is the problem when I'm rolling my bum over that thing.

The next day, after my favourite stretches, I went for my run again. And all went well! Stupidly enough, when I later just walked to the next-door parking lot to buy cheese, I got the cramp after all. But that was much less annoying.

The day after that I was okay for a run again. And I didn't get cramp while doing things like gardening! I think I need to accept that I now need to stretch before a run. I suppose that moment was bound to come. I was already told off a bit by my sister, who didn't think it was a good idea I treated my body like that of a 20 year old. It turned out she had been told off herself for treating her body like that of a 20 year old. We're middle-aged now; we need to look after our bodies if we want them to perform! I've learned my lesson. And I think I will be stretching now for the rest of my life. This sort of thing is not likely to ever get better! As long as I can keep going by doing innocuous things like stretching then I suppose I am still blessed…

Attempt at stretching and taking a picture at the same time

11 April 2021

Cat update

 The cat had settled well, but there still were some tweaks to make. One thing I wanted to change was her toilet habits. She had a shallow litter tray, and she is the sort of cat to quite energetically bury her products. And that results in her throwing a lot of grit out of the tray, which I have to then clean up again. And I wasn't keen on that! So I wanted her to have a litter tray box with a roof. So when I had to go to Bangor anyway for my physiotherapy appointment, I popped into the pet shop nearby. And I saw they had litter boxes made of recycled plastic! So I immediately bought one. And I figured the cat would be smart enough to recognise this as her new toilet. I just put it in the same place and put the same sort of granules in it. And indeed, she didn't miss a beat and used it. I suppose she will not be using it very much, as when the weather is nice she prefers to pee and poo outside, but we're in North Wales here and I'm sure there will be plenty of days where she will want to use her indoor toilet. I have no reason to believe she minds this change, and I most certainly like it.

I also a catnip toy when I was in the shop anyway. She likes it! Finally something that can rival the laser pointer. Maybe catnip is cheating, but I think that is allowed.

A last change I've made is that I have started to close the catflap into my bedroom close to bedtime. If she brings a creature in I feel the need to deal with it. If it is dead I want to prevent her from disembowelling it in the middle of my bedroom. And if they are alive, well, I suppose I still want to prevent her from disembowelling them in the middle of my bedroom. She managed two nights in a row to bring a live creature into the house just when I wanted to go to bed. And I know she hunts, and I can't object to that, but if she brings live creatures into the house then I will compete with her to get hold of them. And I will plonk them back outside. So two nights in a row I couldn't go to bed because I wasn't comfortable with sleeping in the bedroom that either head a bat frantically flying around in it, or a mouse scurrying around and doing whatever it might do. Chew through cables. Walk on my face. Things like that! So I had to go on a wild goose chase to capture and release them.

So now I close the catflap, and if she wants to come in she has to meow to me. If I see she doesn't have a creature with her, either alive or dead, then I'll let her in. So far it has worked fine! And given that she still only spends short periods outside, I haven't further pursued my initial plans of making her stay outside all night. I think she is happier being inside all night then outside all night!

The catnip toy gets a tough time

The new litter box

10 April 2021

Simple solution to music problem

I had been pondering for years what I would do with music. It used to be so easy; you would just have a stereo set that you used for listening to the radio or playing CDs. But then my CD player packed up. I put my DVD player in its place; these can play CDs as well. But the problem is that you can only program them if you have a screen attached to them. So you basically have to play your CDs from start to finish. That is a bit of a bummer! And I would have just bought another one, there is not for that MP3s became the go-to place for music. I had an iPod! And I had an iTunes library. And a Spotify account. I was all going with the flow. But I suppose you need to keep on top of the technology. The iPod became small, my iTunes library seems to have vanished, I couldn't get Spotify to work on either my work computer or the one at home. And at some point I tried to use a phone as an iPod, but that wasn't much of a success. So altogether I had drifted away from music. All my radios are tuned to radio 4, which is talk radio. I will sometimes listen to radio 6 if I don't like what is on radio 4. But I only rarely listen to music where it is me who decides what music that is. But that is a bit of a pity; I have lots of CDs and some of them are really good.

When I was in Bangor anyway I went to the big supermarket, and I was wandering around a bit. And then I saw they sold what they called boomboxes. Just radios with a CD player built in. Could be that simple? You can even plug something along the lines of an iPod or a phone in and play stuff from that. So I bought one. Now I have a simple and fairly small device in my living room on which I can play my CDs again. That will keep me ticking over until I properly arrive in this century! Sooner or later I think that'll happen, but I am not in a hurry…

09 April 2021

More physiotherapy

The day came I would see my current physiotherapist! The previous one had vanished into the Covid ward right after having seen me. This one I had had on the phone twice. But now I would see her! I looked forward to that. I do think there is added value in a physiotherapist actually seeing you and being able to physically check things.

She asked me to resist her trying to push my hand up, down, and sideways. Nothing hurt! I wasn't surprised, as heavy work doesn't hurt me anymore. It is only the computer that does that. I have been pulling big things out of the garden, and lugging heavy things around, and sawing through trunks and it's all good. But when I improved to such an extent that I wasn't in constant pain any more and I started using the mouse to get my cursor in position. It can be a right pain to do that by voice. And it's so tempting to let your hands help a bit! But soon I did it too much and ended up in 24 hour pain again. I had to physically remove my mouse to remove the temptation. And that helped! I was soon back to no pain whatsoever. And it is good that clearly, I have no problems as long as I work my computer by voice, but it is not so good that I clearly am barely making progress in ever being able to go back to using my mouse and graphic tablet.

The physiotherapist was a bit surprised about that. It seems that it is more common to either struggle with both types of doing things with your hands, or with neither. Just the fine motoric skills being a problem seems to be odd! But she did think I would recover altogether. That is a relief! But it could be a while.

She checked my back too, as she wasn't sure there might be a hidden problem in my back, neck and/or shoulders. But she thought all was well there.

She just gave me an additional exercise and sent me on my way. I will see her again towards the end of the month. I hope things will have improved by then! This is dragging on…

The new exercise

08 April 2021

Last big walk before the weather turns

 I had plenty to do other than scamper around in the mountains, but the weather was gorgeous and the hills were still quiet due to travel ban from England. It seemed stupid to not take advantage of that situation! Easter Sunday was predicted to be still lovely, with rain and clouds arriving on Easter Monday. So I checked if one of the Kates would be up for a walk in the Llanberis area. This would be the time! And one was.

I wanted to walk Cwm Dudodyn. I had never been! And there was a right of way on the map. And that right of way looked like it wasn't a path, but I had seen a bridge over the river so I know there was at least something going in the right direction. And then I figured I could walk down y Garn. There is no path there, but it didn't look like difficult terrain at all.

I met Kate by Llyn Peris. Most of the layby had been blocked off, but there were still plenty of space for two cars. And we set off! We found the bridge I had seen from above, but then found that the actual path doesn't go to the top of the valley, but instead to the top of Elidir Fawr. Oh well! That was okay too. You had a lovely view over the valley from it.

At the top we had lunch. The view was amazing! We saw the whole range ahead of us. Tryfan was a little blobbie in the distance. And after lunch we headed for y Garn. We had another drink there, while the clouds were rolling in. Kate suggested we don't go down right there, but instead move on to Devil's kitchen and take the public footpath down there. That was okay with me! I hadn't been there in ages. And the clouds disappeared quite soon again.

When we got back to the road I thought the scenic part of the walk was over, but I had disregarded a little public footpath that led back to our layby. It was gorgeous, and led straight underneath the local slate quarry. I haven't explored that one yet! That's still on the to-do list.

I was keen to get off my feet by the time we got back to the cars, but it had been a great day. I was really chuffed I had used it for what it was extraordinarily suited for! The next day, office chores would call again, but that is never a big issue if you can still feel the mountains of the day before in your body…

The bottom of Cwm Dudodyn

Top of the valley

Coffee break. Picture by Kate

Lunch view

View from y Garn

On the way down

Down by the river

07 April 2021

Continuing the social engagements

 With visits in gardens allowed again I thought I'd invite my friends on the hill! The previous time meeting up in a garden became legal they soon appeared for a down jacket-infused garden dinner. But this time Martin suggested I come up to theirs instead; his wife Fran had health issues that left her less mobile than otherwise. So I did! I had never been in their garden. I always show up in winter!

The weather was gorgeous, and as I expected, their view was amazing. So we had a lovely time drinking tea in the sun! And it was a complete bummer that Fran was not in the best of health, but that's just the way it is. I hope she gets better soon.

It was nice to see the interconnectivity of Ocean sciences in their garden too. Martin showed me the inside of his shed, which had vertical bike parking which he said was inspired on the bike rack in my office. And I saw he had some rhubarb growing; that was the rhubarb Suzie had given him when we had been socialising in her garden the previous year. I have some as well, and mine is doing great too! And he had also heard about Juan moving back into the area. They both have a thing for snazzy bikes, so I can imagine some two-wheeled socialising will take place soon. It looks a bit like a network is growing here in the greater Bethesda area!

06 April 2021

Spreading order in the upper garden

When I bought the house, the garden was in a bit of state of neglect. And I had started my efforts in fighting back the chaos in the lower part of the garden. If it is nice weather and I hang out in the garden it is always down there. It gets the sun, it is beautiful, and it has the view over the river. And I made good progress! So much so that over lockdown I had even started on the garden upstairs. I had ripped out lots of weeds, and started one slightly raised bed for growing edible plants, and another one for decorative plants. And that was the site of the garden on the river side mostly sorted. But then there was the road side as well! And that was still quite a jungle. There was a huge rosemary growing there, and some willow had seen its chance and colonised a raised bed, and there were a lot of brambles. It was time to attack this.

I started with the willow. I dug that out. I have no problem with willows, but this was not the place for one. I already have a big one in the garden downstairs. And in order to get a good grip on the willow I needed to remove some thorny vegetation around it. So shortly after the willow was pulled out, I had also removed a lot of brambles, and two rose bushes. And I decided to keep at it!

I kept chopping and pulling until I had removed all the brambles in that corner. To my surprise, there turned out to be a rhododendron living underneath! I'm sure it's glad it now doesn't have to compete so heavily for sunlight. I also cut down a buddleia. These things go rogue all the time! I had already murdered one that was trying to suffocate my apple tree, and another one who tried to block my view from the conservatory. Now this one needed to be stopped from suffocating my rosemary bush.

When I had removed all that and removed all the waste that produced, I had a very, very empty upper garden. It would be a while before it would look cosy! I would have to think of ways of achieving this. I want something to cover the fence. Maybe I will transplant some ivy. I want to paint the fence first, though. Then the raised bed can be used for edible plants, but I might wait a week putting anything in there, as frost is still predicted. 

I also have a bay tree in a pot standing next to the bathroom. I think that needs to move. Maybe it can join the rhododendron in that corner. And I will have to go to the garden centre for some additional plants. I hope I can make this part of the garden look nice as well!

The work is just getting started

The removal stage is complete

05 April 2021

More social contact, more!

I was on a roll. I kicked off my Easter break with a lovely walk up yr Aran with Kate, and had then gone into Dinorwic with Miles. Does that mean I had had enough social contact for a week? No! I was having a whale of a time and was not done yet. Next on my list were the newlyweds whose wedding I had attended 1 1/2 year earlier. I knew them because the groom, Juan, had been my officemate. They had moved back into the area over the last lockdown period. It was time to catch up! I had already heard a bit about them from my friend Dani who turned out to be their neighbour, and I had bumped into Caro on one of my runs. But now I would meet them on purpose. The idea was to have some tea in their garden, and then go for a walk with Caro.

They live on a funny street with the houses not parallel to it, but in rows of right angles. And the rows have numbers, and the houses within the rows have numbers too. Of course I went to row X house Y when I should have gone to row Y house X, but that was easily remediated. Caro put the kettle on and Juan showed me the garden. And Dani was gardening next door.

We had a nice cup of tea, and filled in the time since we lost saw each other. A lot had happened! Not least that they not only expected a child (I knew that) but had already decided on things such as what its name would be and what languages it would be raised in. And where they worked.

After tea I whisked Caro away and took her to Mynydd Llandygai, to walk around in the empty land below the dam of the reservoir. It was gorgeous weather! And I didn't know Caro very well so we had a lot to explore.

We walked until it pretty much was dinnertime. I think we'll do that again! And I know that her life is about to change dramatically, but I'm sure we'll get another walk in before it gets there…

04 April 2021

Above-ground encounter

 Since it had been allowed again to do things with friends other than exercise I been contacting lots of people, and been contacted in turn too. And I was excited about it! I hadn't really suffered from not being allowed to see people socially for a while, but now it was allowed again I noticed I was really enjoying it. And the next rendez-vous after the yr Aran trip was a bit of a surprise; it was Miles, who I hadn't seen in more than a year. I had seen quite some friends in the periods when that was allowed, so for instance when I was walking with Kate that wasn't the first time in a particularly long time I had seen her. I suppose this was the first time he and I just met up as normal friends. We knew each other from the dig, and had spent years regularly seeing each other underground, lugging rocks and doing upside down contorted drilling and all sorts of weird things. We had been a good team! But the dig had slowed down a bit because Miles was very busy with other things, and since the pandemic, of course, there had been absolutely no question of crawling around in narrow damp spaces. But now we would just go for a wander in Dinorwic quarry. That was quite something different!

I was a little bit early so I decided to have a look at one of the beautiful ruins in the shadow of the spoil heaps. Imagine doing place like that up and renting it out as a B&B! But I heard a heavy car engine so I got back to the parking lot. And then we met again, after so much time. It was good to see him.

We decided to go up on the zigzag, and explored some of the terraces. We also sat down for some coffee. And we had quite a lot to catch up on. Life had changed a bit since the last time! And a sunny Dinorwic was a good place for doing that. There's always something new to see. At some point I suggested that we scramble up to a higher level, and to my surprise Miles clambered to the top, had a look, and suggested we abort the mission. I was not used to him being so sensible! Normally he seems to be never happier than when teetering on an unstable scree slope. But I looked myself and agreed that we really should just go back the way we had come, and take a more moderate road up. Lockdown has affected people differently, but I hadn't expected it to have given him a more conventional sense of risk. Less unexpectedly he had also gone greyer, but I suppose the same holds for me. And he also could not keep up with me on uphill bits! That is new too. I clearly remember clambering out of the dig, and almost being overtaken by him even though he was carrying half the world in his bag.

Miles turned out not to have been to the surge pool at the top. That surprised me. But that was easily remediated! And from there we saw the beautifully wide incline a bit lower down. He hadn't seen that either. So I showed him. And there is so much to see there! All the buildings and the technology and whatnot. And we went all the way to the eastern end of the spoil tips. The views were amazing, and I concocted a plan for a later walk. And then we made our way back. I couldn't quite remember on which level you can traverse back to the other side, so we just went with trial and error. And got there in the end. When we said goodbye again we agreed we would do this (or something like this) again! 

03 April 2021

Easter holiday walk

I was allowed to travel freely within Wales. The English were not allowed into Wales yet. I was allowed to go for a walk with friends. The weather was beautiful. My marking was done. In other words; it was absolutely perfect day for going into the mountains. I could pick mountains that would normally be very busy on a sunny day, as with only the Welsh on them they wouldn't be busy. And I didn't have to go alone.

Kate had suggested doing yr Aran as she hadn't been yet. That sounded fine to me! We could make it a round trip and walk back on the Watkin path, as it wouldn't be too busy. Sounded ace! And I couldn't start too early as I had a dentist's appointment first, but what with no English people I didn't think that would be a problem. It's not as if the parking lots would fill up at dawn!

After my appointment I drove through Paris pass and through Nant Gwynant, and it was lovely to see how quiet they were. And when I parked up I saw that Kate was already there. I changed into my shorts and my walking boots, applied some sunscreen, and was ready to roll. And we started in the woods, which are quite pretty. And when we got out of the woods it was still pretty. Even though you are clearly in Snowdon County here, if you look around on that slope you barely see any human influence. And if you see any, it tends to be associated with abandoned mines, and blend into the landscape.

After a short while I requested coffee break. Due to my dentist's appointment I hadn't been able to drink coffee since about 8 AM! And normally I quaff about a litre of the stuff between that hour and noon.

After the coffee break we continued our way, and soon were on the old road to the mine. I was in a bit of discomfort; I think my stomach had noticed the lack of coffee or something, as I had a bit of a stomach ache. Whenever we stopped for a bit I lay down on my stomach, as that was in my experience the best way of getting rid of that.

Then the road (or the path that extends it) plunges down into the valley, and we had to make our own way to the top. It is always harder going if you have to do some bushwhacking, but it was okay. We just stomped on. And that was rewarded! From the top of yr Aran you have an amazing view on Snowdon, the Watkin path, and the slate mines of Cwm Bwlch Llan. And even though we were at 750m, I was still perfectly comfortable in my tank top and shorts. It was such a lovely day!

Kate ate a banana while I did my last lying on my stomach thing. Then it was over! I just drank some more and was ready to go down again. We discussed a bit on how to go down; we decided to not go via the Watkin path, but back over the ridge instead. At some point we would bump into a wall, and if we would follow that down we would come back on our path again. And we did that! We overshot the cars a bit initially, but that didn't matter, as we were not in a hurry and the landscape was beautiful. But we got back to them in the end. What a perfect day! I hope we can cram a few more like that in before the teaching starts again after Easter…

The empty landscape

Improvised medical treatment

View on Snowdon from the top

Snowdon and yr Aran together

Back in the woods

Marking before Easter done

Bangor University has a three week Easter break. And that doesn't mean it is necessarily a three week break; we tend to go into it with marking work to do, and exams to make. Just to name something. So on the first Monday I was marking. That was okay; it was pretty unpleasant weather. On Tuesday it was beautiful, but I kept marking. I wanted this out of the way! And then my usual virtual dinner date cancelled. And that meant that I could finish it in the evening. And then I felt free! I had finished my work on the upcoming exams before. Then of course there were things to do, but the pressure was off. That felt really good. And I was going to go on a social work the next day; I knew I would feel relaxed doing that! Bring on Easter!

02 April 2021

Having a motorbike guest

 I didn't only have a lodger cat! For several weeks, I also had a lodger motorbike. I didn't mention that, as I thought it may be best not to alert people to the motorbike in my garage, even though it wasn't expensive and it doesn't work. But now it has left I am happy to tell everyone about it!

So how did I end up with a motorbike in the garage? Well! My friend Kate drives a motorbike, and she would like to know more about maintaining them, but she is not so keen on learning by trial and error on a perfectly fine specimen. And then she found a rusty old broken down motorbike for sale a stone's throw from where I live. So she decided to buy it! She could happily take that thing apart, and if she wouldn't be able to put it back together in working order then that wouldn't be an issue. But motorbikes are big heavy things! They are best transported in a van, and she doesn't have a van. Hence the suggestion she just wheel it into my garage for now, and retrieve it when she has sourced a van. So that is what we did! So suddenly I had a motorbike in the garage.

So how does the story continue? She would just get a van and pick it up, right? Well, no, not quite. She had some annual leave lined up so she wanted to make a start. Vans seemed to be hard to get by, though, so she suggested she just come over with some spanners, and just remove some portable bits she could start working on. So she duly arrived with a toolkit and started loosening bolts. But then she wondered whether maybe we would be able to fit the entire motorbike in the car after all. We could just remove the sticky-outy bits like the mirrors, and see if it would fit! It's a heavy thing, but I suppose both of us have managed to manhandle heavy things into vehicles before.

In the end we used the plank of my work platform as a ramp, put the bike on it, and slid the bike, ramp and all, into the car. The door wouldn't close, but we could tie that closed. Success! 

It turned out the trick with the plank worked perfectly fine in reverse on the other side of her journey home. So now she has a bike to practice on! And an Easter holiday period to do it in. All good!