30 April 2021

Territorial wars

I knew my garden was frequented by cats, even before I had one myself. So I figured it might be the stage for some territorial wars when I added a cat to this ensemble. I especially assumed the cat that lives at number 14, with the lady who runs the local chippy, could prove a challenge. And I was right.

That cat (I don't know her name) is also a tabby with white feet and a white belly. And I noticed she would still be brazenly stalking around the garden after Mevrouw Moor had taken up domicile in my house. Sometimes I would see her in the corner of my eye, assume it was my cat, and greet her, before realising it wasn't my cat at all.

The first time I realised there was indeed some sort of war going on was when it was dark outside, and I heard cats scream. Soon afterwards the cat came in through the catflap. She was coughing; I think she had screamed herself hoarse. I could only assume who her adversary had been. But later I have caught them at it. I once heard screaming, saw the both of them, and saw my cat scamper indoors. Not so difficult to see who had the upper hand there.

When I took the pictures below, I think we both saw the cat of number 14 through the glass. I grabbed my camera while Mevrouw Moor started hissing in the direction of the glass. So brave! The other cat growled back. But she wasn't going anywhere.

Mevrouw Moor made herself comfortable and did a bit more hissing. She started out hissing through the glass of the door, but later switched to hissing through the catflap. I think she knows very well it is a chip-activated specimen, and the other cat can't come in. So she was safe. But she looked on while the other cat marked her territory. That must have been difficult to see! But if you won't defend your territory, that's what you get. My cat is a lot more athletic than the other one, but I think the other one is much more ruthless. I'm not sure I would dare take that one on if I were her. And I got some funny pictures out of it. I think that territory won't be hers anytime soon…

Intruder spotted!

Bravely hissing through the catflap at a not very impressed adversary

 Stare-down contest

29 April 2021

Sneak in another footpath

If you do your exercise on a bike, you don't necessarily have to stay on top of it. So in the weekend after a lot of scraping, sanding, and painting I decided to go for a bike ride, and then check out a few nearby public footpaths I hadn't tried yet, when I was using lockdown to familiarise myself with pretty much all of them. These are the sort you are not likely to do from my front door. And it was lovely weather. They weren't very long, but now I have seen them too. There are a few more in that direction, so I might do it more often. I find it is a nice way of scouting out the environment while getting my exercise and not spending too much time on it. I could imagine me becoming a bit more varied in my exercise in the slightly longer run. With a combination of biking and running. And maybe even sometimes a combination of both!

28 April 2021

progress with painting

When I started painting the extension, I soon finished all the woodwork to the left of the window. The top plank had been a bit of a challenge, but otherwise, this was the easy bit. I was working on a wide ledge, wide enough for my ammunitions box to function as a stepladder, and I was tethered comfortably to my handline. And then the next phase loomed.

The next stage would be the planks that run the entire width of the extension underneath the window. That meant that the further to the right I went, the narrower the ledge would be, and as soon as I would reach the bedroom window, I would not be underneath my handline anymore. So this would be harder! But there was help at hand.

I was just parking my bike in the garage when the neighbour approached me. He said he would be away for a few days, but if I wanted to use any of his ladders in the meantime I could just help myself. Normally he has them chained down, but because he knew I was painting he had taken the chain off. That was very kind of him!

That next day I took him up on his word. I took the longest ladder from the wall, carried it into my garden, carried it up the garden stairs, lifted it over the fence, and put it upright where I needed it. The thing about long ladders is that they don't go around the corner very easily! But I got it there. And I tried it out. And it gave me excellent access to the woodwork above the very narrow part of the ledge. That's a win!

With that ladder in position I could make good progress. By now I had put my Petzl Connect to use, and I quickly found out I could safely move between the ledge and the ladder. That made for fast work! Within not an awful of time I had scraped all the woodwork below the window. I did have to insert a little piece of wood where the original plank had been rotting, but that was done in less time than I feared. Sanding all the wood, wiping it and then applying a layer of primer is a relative doddle. And as soon as that layer of primer is in position, then not only does it already look good, but the wood has its first layer of protection.

I had realised the ladder was not high enough for me to safely reach the higher planks. And the neighbour has more ladders where this came from, so in theory I could just add one, but I was hesitant to do that as one ladder of this size is already quite something to deal with. I feared I would drop a second ladder through his window if I would try to stack it on top of the first. But there are more ways of getting to height. Stay tuned for how I will solve this last challenge! For now at least I had provided most of the surface area with enough protection to make me feel better. When I write this, it needs one more coat of paint, but that is only half-an-hour worth of work. I'm sure I can squeeze it in one day…

This helps!


27 April 2021

Project water butt: part one

When I bought the house, I noticed it had a water butt. Very useful! But what was weird about it is that it had no influx of water. It just stood there, more then a metre away from where the gutters drained the roof. That seemed weird. Should the gutters not drain into the water butt? That's the whole point, isn't it? And I had figured I should change that one day, but I had loads of more important things to do than worrying about relatively trivial things like this. So the butt stayed where it was for three years.

As I had been sowing flowers, and had spread some grass seed where I had bold patches, and had bought new plants for my new raised bed, I had a lot of watering to do. And that meant I was quickly emptying it. And I thought maybe this was the time then to move it. When it was almost empty, and the remaining water was very dirty, I emptied it into the drain. And then I had to find a way to place it closer to the drain, and raise it high enough above the ground so that little tap on it would have some use. I had initially thought of blocks of slate (of course), but then I thought of the chimney pot (or whatever it is) I had found in the chaos of the garden. It didn't seem to be good for anything else, so it was worth the try. I wanted to increase the surface area for the water butt though, so I figured some slate could go on top. When I had been fighting chaos in the upper garden, I had also removed some ferns, and these had revealed some buried pieces of slate. These might actually do the job! So I stacked these on top. They were not sufficiently equal in thickness, though, so I went down to the waterside to find an additional piece of slate to make up the difference. And I found one!

I moved the rhododendron into the corner where the water butt had been, and created my special water butt table. It seemed stable! And it was high enough for my big watering to fit can underneath. And now it was right next to the guttering.

I threw a few watering cans full of river water in it. This is North Wales; if I would not weigh it down it might blow away in the next gale. And so far I am happy with my setup! And then I will see when I have time for a stage II: attaching it to the guttering…

  its original position

 its new position; high enough to fill a watering can, and close to the gutter

26 April 2021

Arm improvements!

My arms had clearly been getting better. After the initial stage when pretty much everything hurt, I had already made so much progress I could drive without any pain, and later even ride my bike without any pain. I generally was able again to do things that rely heavier on raw strength than on fine motoric skills. So after not having been able to do things like paint a fence or rip a tree out of the ground in the time when I was off on sick leave, I was now on a roll and doing all these things that needed doing in the house and the garden. But I was still entirely dependent on my voice when working my computer.

I remember that back in the days, when I was writing up my PhD and had RSI as well, I would often go kayaking in a nearby park, as back then I never lost the ability to do activities that require strength. And I figured it was probably good to get some blood circulation going on in my arms. I still think it might have helped! But this time, of course, my RSI was much worse, so I was much more restricted.

Initially, any use of mouse, keyboard or graphic tablet would hurt, and will keep hurting for a long time. Then in spring things were going so well (after some physiotherapy) that I noticed I was starting to use my mouse again now and then. And that was clearly a bad idea! That quickly got me back into 24 hour pain. I decided to physically remove my mouse from my desk, so even if the working the computer by voice was cumbersome, I would not be tempted to use it. And that helped; soon I was not having pain in my mouse arm again. It did make me wonder, though, if I would ever recover. I've been trying to recover now since November! Shouldn't there be some progress by now?

I just kept on with the exercises, though. And then it started to pay off! Finally! My setup is that I have a mouse on the left and my graphic tablet on the right. I still avoid the mouse. But I noticed I could use the tablet a bit without repercussions. And that is such a help! That makes it so easy to get your cursor to where it needs to be. So now my working speed has seriously improved! And my optimism about whether I will ever be back to normal as well! So many months in, but I am seeing progress. I can now even use software that is a bit clunky by voice recognition software. I will keep doing my exercises and I hope one day I can even use the mouse again! That would be the day!

And increasingly common sight

25 April 2021

Too old to run

I am being facetious; I am sure I am not too old to run. But this week it felt a bit like that. Only very recently I had started to have to stretch on a regular basis, as otherwise my bum would seize up during my runs. And now I had a niggle in my left knee. I don't know what it is; I don't think it is anything serious, but I thought it might be better to give the knee a bit of a rest. I don't want to give myself a rest altogether, though, so I decided to do a few days of exercise on my bike. And I just took one of my somewhat longer loops on country roads that I normally run, and just biked it. It is less exercise on bike, of course, as when you are going downhill you don't do anything. But I could imagine it is not that much less than one of my somewhat shorter runs. After all, I am not only lugging myself up these hills, but also my 20 kg bicycle. I am not going on the road bike on purpose; one reason is that when you go uphill, you have bigger gears, which makes it heavy going. Yes I know this is exercise, but it has to stay fun as well. And when you go downhill, you'll bounce all over the place. The road bike is quite rigid with tiny tyres, so if you hit a bit of a pothole you get catapulted into space. On my commute that's not much of an issue, as most of it is quite well-paved. But these little country lanes can be a bit more variable in quality.

It was actually quite pleasant. I did it three days in a row, and by the third day I actually managed to remember to wear cycling glasses, to keep the insects out of my eyes. On the fourth day I had to get tested in Bangor so I wheeled out the road bike again. Almost a week of biking! But I'll try to run again soon. I want to know what this knee can and cannot do. And if this problem doesn't go away on its own initiative I might have to see if I can find a physiotherapist for it…

24 April 2021

Extension repaired after all!

 On Saturday, I was frustrated that the men who should repair my extension hadn't shown up, and hadn't answered their phone. I had phoned 16 times. I was wilfully ignored! But then, on Monday, I suddenly got a text again. They could come the next day! And I thought they had been rude, but what I really want is my extension repaired, so if they were still on it, then so was I. I said okay.

They arrived too late, but then they set to work. I couldn't see what they were doing, as I had to teach. But I could hear them hammering away in the background. And then I was done teaching I came to have a look. And they were almost done! And it looked fine!

I had discussed with them whether they would use wood or plastic, and even though I really like wood and really don't like plastic, I had already started painting the extension. And I knew it was a devilish task to paint the upper planks. It was really not doable for me to maintain any wood any higher than that. So I opted for plastic! That would last a fair number of years, and would not need maintenance. And when it would eventually degrade anyway, I could just hire these men, or equivalents, and have the work redone. It doesn't seem to be too much work! So it came with delays and frustration, but now at least the top 20 cm or so of the extension is weatherproof again…

23 April 2021

Arenig Fawr

 I had spent the Saturday waiting for workmen who didn't show up. That had been frustrating! It had been a beautiful day, and we have only been allowed to see people socially for a short while, and it felt really wrong to waste a beautiful day like that. But luckily, Kate was available for the first part of the day on Sunday as well, so I still got a lovely walk in good company in. As she had to go elsewhere afterwards, I suggested we stay in her area. For me there is still a lot to explore there! She had suggested three options that were all new to me, and I chose Arenig Fawr. 

As I drove through her village to get there, we ended up driving in convoy. And we found the starting point.

We booted up and set off. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day again! And I really needed that walk.
We started with lovely views on an abandoned quarry, and did some bushwhacking towards the top. The top turned out to be really pretty! It looked a bit moon-like. We had lunch at the top.
On the way down to a bit of a roundabout way, around the reservoir there. It was a lovely walk! I really appreciated her idea.

We were back at the cars at 1 PM. Early enough for her to go where she needed to go! And late enough for me to feel like I had had a proper day out. And I added a small bonus: I decided to stop for another sandwich in the completely empty landscape just south of Penmachno. I had driven through that many times, and every time I am amazed by the sheer amounts of nothing you see there. So now I wanted to finish my last flask of water and my last sandwich looking at it at leisure. A very successful day altogether!
Remnants of a bridge

Lovely quarry

Kate in front of the summit

The moon-like landscape

The view roughly south from the top

 the way down

The completely empty landscape just south of Penmachno

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

me doing some scraping. Picture by the neighbour.

 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