01 July 2022

Project water butt: all done now?

When I had installed my water butt, I had improvised its drainage a bit. But I did want to do it the proper way. For a few quid, you can buy some kit that lets the drainpipe fill up the butt, but it drops the water straight into the drains when the butt is full. That seemed like the proper solution! But it had sort of lingered a bit at the bottom of my to do list. Now it was time to act.

I installed the additional piece and hope all has gone well. At least it was a day with a lot of rain shower so I would be able to see it in action soon! Would it work?

When I had a look in torrential rain I concluded that in essence it worked, but the connection between the drain pipe in the water but was a bit leaky. The pipe that had been provided had not fit the connector, so I had just used some wider pipe as some sort of converter. And that leaked! I sorted that with electrical tape.  

Altogether, the system seemed to work. And it's still is a bit of a mishmash, with white brackets on a brown with black drainage system, but so be it. It's a lot better than it was!

The new setup


Stubborn night in the hills

June is the month of exam board meetings. Martin is our examinations officer, so he is very busy. Earlier in the year we had agreed it would be a good idea to go camping together, but there hadn't been an opportunity for it yet. That weekend we were going to go on a short hike. But when in the last one of the meetings he pointed out the task of examinations officer was, given the amount of work and when it needs to be done, unrealistically heavy and he was feeling the strain, I figured he looked like he needed a night in the hills. This tends to revive me no end. Maybe it would work for him too! So after the meeting I suggested it. He didn't take up the offer, but by then the idea of a night in the hills was lodged in my brain. And I hadn't had a week anywhere near as heavy as his, but I figured I could do with a small adventure. And I hadn't brought my tent out in ages. The weather wasn't ideal, but I decided to just pack my bag and go.

I decided to camp on the moorland above Mynydd Llandygai, where a stream splits in two. So I parked up in the village and walked in that direction. And it was a bit wetter than I had hoped. What nutter decides to go camping on a night like this! I chose to take a bit of shelter in the pumping station along the route. Its roof is largely intact. It is not a place to set up camp though; too much sheep poo and suchlike. I just read the paper for a while, and it got a bit dryer. Then I continued my way.

I got to the spot and saw that it wasn't particularly good for pitching tents. It was a very windy night (again; who decides to go camping on a night like this), so I did want to stand in a bit of shelter! But there wasn't much level ground.

I managed to find just enough in the lee side of a rock and I hoped for the best. My little tent isn't very good with strong winds! But I didn't think it would blow away. And I thought I would manage to sleep through the flapping sounds. 

I got everything ready and then went for a bath. I was a bit damp and cold and that never helps motivating you to get naked and into a stream, but once you're in it, it is amazing. And of course it was! I dried myself off, and right then a big rainshower hit and I dived headfirst into the tent.

I spend some time reading the newspaper while listening to the rain on the roof of the tent, and then I went to sleep. It might have been mid June, but it wasn't the sort of weather when a thin sleeping bag is enough! My down jacket had to provide backup. But then I was comfortable, and I slept well. 

I woke up and I could hear it wasn't raining. Good news! I zipped open the tent and I saw some sunshine. A lovely view! So I got out of bed and get that my breakfast stuff. It was still very windy, so I had to be a bit careful with the stove, but it did work out.

I love having my breakfast while looking at a beautiful empty landscape. But in this wind I didn't really linger. I also saw more rain coming, so after breakfast I brushed my teeth and packed up. Time to go home!

It was only a short walk back to the car, and an even shorter drive back home. But I had felt really away from everything. Mission accomplished!

Camping spot

Breakfast in the sun

Not only sun around

Walking back to civilisation

30 June 2022

No climate, but firewood

When my climate course ran for the third time, only one person showed up for the first session. I could tell that a second person was trying to get on for the second session, but it didn't work out. An email later turned out it had indeed been connection issues. And once you have missed the first two sessions it will probably be difficult to join in for the third one. By then you have missed 40% of the course!

I was just about to start the third session when I got an email that the one participant I had had so far couldn't make it that evening. I did start the zoom meeting just in case, but indeed, nobody showed up. A bit of a pity!

While I was just doing some stuff while seeing if anyone would show up, my eye fell on a posting on the village Facebook page. Somebody was doing up their house, and had some waste wood. Was someone interested? And I was! I had burnt up quite a lot of my stack over the winter, and some replenishment would be welcome. And I suddenly had spare time. So but I will certain the one was going to show up for my session, I jumped into the car and went just down the road.

The man who had advertised the wood was pottering around outside, and he kindly helped me put all the wood into my car. Went home I stacked it into the garage. I would have some sawing to do!

I recently had bought a saw horse and it would certainly come in handy. At the end of the sawing spree after the renovation of the roof, I had had a firewood stack taller than me, and by late spring it had come down to shin height. Time to do some sawing again, and build it back up to its original height! I didn't know I would be spending my evening on this sort of thing, but I suppose there is some similarity between spreading information about climate change, and avoiding yet a bit more use of fossil fuels…

The saw horse in action 

29 June 2022

Moel Siabod in the evening

Last month I had said goodbye to Kate who was going off to sea again. She would be back in September. But then, only two weeks later, I got the message that she was actually in the UK. She had been in the US, but was actually not going off to sea. And she was in England now, but she would be back in Wales regularly! I quite liked that thought. A week later she was nearby up by for lunch. That was great! But she would be back to England again. In the week she was back I was busy in the evenings, but then there was another week after that. So I kept my Wednesday evening free. She had suggested walking up Moel Siabod. And the weather was fine so we did that! We met at Pont Cyfwng. And in the evening heat we set off. It was a glorious day.

We would go up the ridge and go down clockwise. I hadn't been up that ridge in a long long time!

We had to have a break on the flank as Kate received a fungal from her solicitor, but otherwise we got up without incident. It was a beautiful route! And the views were good as well. We enjoyed them especially during a snack break. And I had forgot that once you reach the end of the climb, there actually is quite a lot of ridge to walk before you get to the actual summit. Very beautiful! And at the summit we sat down for some more snacks. But we didn't linger; the summit was riddled with midges. We were quickly on our way! And we soon walked into the shadow, but that was okay. By the time the sun set behind the hills we were almost back at the cars. This is the time of the long evenings! And I think we made excellent use of this one. I hope we'll do something like this again this summer!

Loud-shirted hike mates

View from snack break 1

Nantgwryd seen from the ridge

View from the summit

Sunset


28 June 2022

Giving the mountain bike another chance

On the day I saw my physiotherapist I decided I should not go for a run. I had gone for a fair few runs beforehand just to make sure I had symptoms to show him, but now, of course, I wanted to get rid of these same symptoms again. And it was a glorious day. I decided to bring out the mountain bike. Or rather; my office bike. It is a bike that I had adopted because otherwise someone would have thrown it away. It was good enough to make it to Bangor from Menai bridge. And it clearly had had front suspension, but that had seized up by now. There was still about a centimetre of give in it. Not much! But it still was my best bike for the job. Big nobbly tires, a small frame, wide handle bars and a small gear.

The first time I had taken this thing into the hills I had been a bit ambitious about it, and spent a lot of time walking. No I just wanted to short ride. And I decided I could go around a strange conspicuous gorge nearby, right behind Moel Faban. That would be a fairly even route.

I biked up the steep way to the path. That was harder work than running it! But then on the smoother stretch you could take it easier. And coming down wasn't too eventful on the other side. I actually had a good time!

I didn't take my normal running route back into the village; that didn't look suitable for a bike. I bailed out earlier and made a bit of a detour over the country lanes. These are not very exciting, but if you are on bicycle, you don't have to spend much time on them. Especially downhill!

I was quite pleased with this design. I think I had given my heart and lungs enough to do, and I had not been bored. And I had barely spent any time walking beside the bicycle. Success!

The next time I did the same route, but in the other direction; I didn't like that very much. So the next time I went for a ride, I did it the original way around again. It was raining, but that wasn't a problem.

I think I have a new routine now for the time it will take for my ankle to heal. And it will only get better; Kate had accidentally brought her old mountain bike up from the south, and said she was happy for me to have it. This is a much, much better bike than the one I have been on so far. And I am starting to have the impression that a bike actually matters! Not just the rider. So maybe this marks a conspicuous change in my exercise life: I might be turning into a mild mountain biker!

Moel Faban seen from the back

Having a good time

27 June 2022

Cat in a murderous mood

Sometimes weeks pass without me having any reason to believe the cat has caught anything. And sometimes she is just on a killing spree. I hadn't seen her with any rodent for a long time when suddenly she walked into my office with a mouse in her mouth. She looked at me meaningfully, and then dropped the poor thing on the floor (quite like she had done the very first time). Quite some time of classic cat and mouse chase followed. And in the end, she noisily ate it in the middle of the office.

The next day she did it again. And when I later got into the bedroom, I found another half mouse. This was a different one! She had been active.

The cat showing off a dead mouse

Found this in the bedroom

That night I struggle to sleep. And the cat wasn't interested in joining me either. At some point I heard all sorts of crunching noises coming out of the office. I did check as I wasn't sleeping anyway; of course she was eating yet another mouse. I went back to bed. And then had to listen to another chase and a lot of squeaking. She was going through them rather quickly now! I seem to vaguely remember I thought, but as I must've been half asleep I'm not sure. And she did join me at some point.

When I woke up in the morning she wasn't there anymore. I found her sitting at the foot of the bed. That was a bit unusual. I suspect that there was yet another mouse. And when I opened the curtains I found out that was indeed the case. That was where the mouse has been hiding! This was relentless.

It probably requires full screen mode to find the mouse...

The next day I was away from home most of the time; I was in the office (on campus) during the day and went for a walk with Kate in the evening. But when I came back from either of them, I did not find any severed mouse heads or other indications of continuing slaughter. I thought maybe it had been just a phase! But this lady had clearly not forgot yet how to hunt.

The day after the quiet day all bets were off again. When I woke up she had another shrew in my bedroom. And cats don't tend to eat shrews. I got pity on the poor thing and sneakily caught it myself. The cat wasn't even following me when I brought it outside. I brought it to the downstairs garden, and released it into dense vegetation. I supposed that would do the job. I went back inside and soon I was working away at my computer. And then I heard a familiar sound. Squeaking! She was chasing a shrew again. I had the feeling it might be the very same one. She was just showing me I could try to interfere, but the person deciding the fate of the shrew would be her. I had no way of verifying, of course, whether this was the same shrew! I just think it was. And it didn't survive. I tried, little shrew! But Mevrouw Moor is a skilled killer…

26 June 2022

Physiotherapy for my ankle

I was glad I had found a sports physiotherapist in the area! I was scared that maybe I would not be able to keep running away I had been doing. I realised I was a bit addicted! But physiotherapists can sometimes work magic so I hoped he could just give me exercises to do that would keep me going.

I had considered taking the train, but there was a rail strike, so I drove. And I found it without difficulty. Just before nine I walked in and met Oliver, the physiotherapist. And soon we were having a chat to find out where my problem had come from. I had been running every day pretty much since the onset of the lockdown, so I wasn't sure why I now suddenly had an ankle problem. I say suddenly; it had slowly come up. But why? Maybe it was something to do with my increased running steeply uphill. But I had just been enjoying that so much!

He then had a bit of a look. He asked me to walk around, stand on tip toes, crouch down, et cetera. And he checked the strength and flexibility of both my ankles.

He decided the problem was in my ligaments; the ones that keep the outside of the ankle together. And there wasn't a big problem with them but they needed a little bit of care. He said that my ankles should be a bit more flexible, and my calf muscles too. He said I should just try to flex my ankle a bit, and sometimes stand on one leg, especially the right leg. And he said I should warm up before I run. Just some ankle lifts, for instance. 

He said I should run a bit less for now. He figured I could go back to normal in the long run!

In the end he gave me a calf massage and then time was up. He said I should try to stick with his advice, and then drop him a line in a few weeks. Hopefully I would be all back to normal. And if not, then I should book another appointment and we could see what he could do.

Given that I was in the area anyway, I dropped by at my friend and colleague Katrien's for coffee. That was lovely! And then it was time to go home and put what he said into practice. I hoped I could make it work! I really love my daily runs…

The sort of thing my physiotherapist wants me to do


25 June 2022

Helping reduce food waste

I was just coming back from my run when I heard shouting. I was just about to cross the High Street to go back home, when a lady came out of a shop and addressed me. This had been the shop where they sell local produce, that had been a temporary thing. Now the space was occupied by Pantri Pesda; an initiative that fights both food poverty and food waste. It isn't a food bank, as these are bodies you need to be referred to, and this pantry is open to all. Local supermarkets and restaurants and places like that donate their leftover food, and they redistribute it to those in the area who have use for it. And this time, they had more than they know what to do with. And the lady attending to the Pantry that day was the same person who had been running the shop so she knew me. She had a lot, LOT of rocket, and also a lot of peas and cabbage. She also plonked some nonperishable foodstuffs on top. That made less sense; they would happily last until the next week. But so be it. 

My swag

I don't really have use for a crate of rocket, but she said you can make rocket pesto with it, so I set to work. I had never made pesto! I think the result was okay, but it was way more than I can eat myself before it goes off. And my freezer compartment is tiny; no way I can reserve a big chunk of that for pesto. So the next thing I needed to do with somehow get rid of it! That did work quite well, though. So I have learned something, and me and three more people (I made 4 jars) have pesto… and the rocket wasn't thrown away!

Making pesto

At the time of writing, the white cabbage is still awaiting my attention, but the other cabbage and the peas have already been dealt with. And the vegan chocolate and the seaweed snack the last forever. I say: success!



24 June 2022

NWCRO training and AGM

 The previous time the rescue team had had an AGM, we did it online. For obvious reasons. But that didn't motivate people very much, and we found we were inquorate. We had to do it again! And twist some arms to make sure we have enough people.

This year we could be in person again. And the advantage of that is that you can combine it with a training. That tends to draw more people than just a meeting! And this year it would be right after the John Grant concert. I knew I was going to be a bit sleepy…

The day before I had suddenly thought of Amelia, a team member who lives in the West. Most people who live in the West are Thursdaynighters and I do not wish to travel with them, but she is an exception. I had mailed her to ask if she wanted to share transport. And when I came back from the concert in the middle of the night, I saw I had a response. And I had only just received it; she was nightcrawling too. She thought that car sharing was a good idea! And suggested an additional lady we could pick up along the way.

The next day we organised it and it all worked out. Amelia drove to me, I drove us to Conwy Falls, and Sharon drove us to the AGM. And when we got there it wasn't busy, but there were enough people to make the AGM valid. But we would do the training first.

The first thing we did was assembling the Larkin frame. We don't do that very often, so we are a bit out of practice. It would be good if we have a bit more routine if we ever need it in anger. So it was fun and useful! And after that we practised loading the stretcher. And we do that quite often, but it is a delicate art; if we ever have to really put a casualty in a stretcher, they are likely to be in it for a while, so it is important we really are good at putting them in it in such a way they are safe and comfortable.

Larkin frame in action


We then had lunch, and during lunch one of our members gave a preview of a presentation he was going to give during the upcoming rescue conference. It was about gathering large amounts of practically useful data about underground venues, that would be accessible to the team members. The idea would be that not everybody knows everything about all venues; if we can just pull all the information about where the entrance is, where the nearest parking is, what phone signal is like on the parking lot, et cetera, from an online tool with a few clicks of the mouse, that could really help a lot.
After that it was time for the AGM. That was not eventful, but of course it is needed to go through this every year. I am staying on as membership secretary. And at the end of the meeting I handed out a few medals. And then we were good for going home! Another year, another AGM sorted...

23 June 2022

John Grant

In 2013, a song on the radio caught my attention. I just didn't know what to make of it. It was a song about being the greatest motherfucker that one was ever going to meet. I just didn't know if this was sarcastic or serious. A bit more listening pointed out that it was sarcastic. But by then, of course, I was drawn in. I made sure to Google the artist. And that is how I became aware of John Grant. I didn't know at the time he had already released an album a few years before that.

The next song by him that really caught my attention was Pale Green Ghosts, from the same album. I liked the music; there is something about that kind of electronic music that somehow does something to me. I know I am generally a bit of a low tech kind of person, so acoustic guitars would make more sense, but not everything in life makes sense. I also liked the lyrics (important!). So that consolidated my interest in John Grant. And finding out he had done quite some collaboration with Sinead O'Connor didn't do any damage of course.

Then one night I suddenly got a text from Martin. Was anybody interested in going to see John Grant in concert in the Albert Hall? And Albert Hall, wasn't that London? Isn't that a bit far? But he had provided a link, and clicking that turned out there is an Albert Hall in Manchester. That was a bit more doable! I immediately texted back that I was. John Grant! That would be amazing!

The others had reasons for not wishing to join. So it was going to be only him and me. I did point out that my joining was conditional on sharing transport. I was still a bit bruised from the previous concert I had been to, with him and Sue and Dean, and them insisting to travel in three different cars. It's a bit lonely to drive alone to a concert, attend the concert, and then drive back alone, if you know that all three cars are going to the exact same village. He understood and said he would drive. I figured he would suggest that; Manchester is quite far away, and quite some of the way is motorway, and I figured he would not be keen on pootling along fast roads in my slow Corsa. That is the natural habitat of his shiny BMW.

We also agreed to go for dinner beforehand. The concert was listed as starting at 7 PM, so that was the logical thing to do. He would pick me up at 15:30. And he had suggested to dine straight underneath the venue, as there conveniently was a restaurant there.

The time of the day came and I heard a heavy engine. I got into his car and off we were! And without incident we reached Manchester, where Martin knew the way and knew where to park. When we walked to the venue I felt a little bit out of place; how often am I in a city bigger than Bangor? Or even Llandudno? This was a different scale. But we didn't have to go far. Further than intended; the restaurant underneath Albert Hall was too busy and we had to go somewhere else. A little bit of wandering around led us past the entrance of an Armenian restaurant and we decided to go there. And we had excellent dinner!

When we reached the venue again the support act had already started: Stephen Mallinder. I had never heard of him; I had just googled him the night before but not spent too much time on him. I quite enjoyed it, though! There was quite a strong Sisters of Mercy vibe about him. And I could also just enjoy the amazing venue. I had felt a little bit conflicted when I found out that that same week, John Grant would play Paradiso in Amsterdam. I really like that venue! And then I was going all the way to Manchester. But this venue was easily as atmospheric. And of course I had good company to enjoy.

Stephen Mallinder in action


After a while the support act ended, and not much later, John Grant and his band appeared. To great enthusiasm over the floor! And he launched into what I think is his current single: Just so you know. It's not my favourite. I was prepared for this, though, as I had checked what his set list had been in the previous two concerts. And it looked like he was sticking with that list. That meant he would get the songs I liked least out of the way at the beginning. The second song would probably be Boy from Michigan. Better than Just so you know, but still not one of my favourites. And indeed! But it was great to hear him live. He is clearly good at it.

And John Grant!


After that it picked up for me. The next song was the Rusty Bull. That is another song in the tradition of Pale Green Ghosts, with a driving electronic beat. After that came Black Belt; that is as defiant a song as they come, and I like it, and so did the rest of the audience. There was a lot of singing along going on! And John Grant had some great fun strutting his stuff on the stage. 

After that he launched into Rhetorical Figure; that was a song I had to get used to. It is a bit cartoon-esque, but given that the lyrics are about language nerdiness, I warmed to it quickly. So I enjoyed that one immensely as well! And then the mood got a bit darker; the next song was Grey Pickles, Black Pressure, which he dedicated to Julee Cruise who had recently died. I had not heard of her, but it must have affected him a lot. The song is decidedly sad, but very beautiful. He did lift the mood bit after that by moving onto a song that is just about an ice cream parlour. But from there it got more serious again; the next song, the Cruise Room, is quite romantic but also very melancholy. I thought the piano didn't come into its own there; maybe a hiccup of the sound technician. Still a beautiful song. And then a song followed about Chelsea Manning, and another one about not giving up if religious people tell you you go to hell for being gay. He then launched into Sensitive New Age Guy, and closed off with Queen of Denmark. I know that would be the end of the first part. It's a song in which he sings away his anger, and the entire audience was belting along with him. It sounded very cathartic!

It wasn't really the end, of course. After only seconds they were back for the encore. It wasn't long; the ticket had said "curfew 11 PM" so I figured they only had a permit to make noise until that time. And it was rapidly approaching. He did Tempest and Caramel (not my favourites). When I then heard the first notes of GMF I knew that would be the last song of the concert. I think the rest of the audience know it too. The singing was again enthusiastic. And then it was over.

I gave Martin a big hug and thanked him. Without him I would not have been there! And it had been an amazing concert. I should do this more often.

We still had quite a drive home, so we did not linger and went straight back to the parking garage, and then home. The next morning I woke up with my head still completely full of John Grant songs. And that would stay that way for a while! We spent more time driving to and from the concert than being in it, but it had been well worth it…

22 June 2022

Progress on the solar panel debacle

 I had been arguing via email with the solar panel company for a while. They had just offered to replace my inverter with two separate ones, and I had replied that I was not going to agree on anything until they had properly explained to me what the pros and cons were of the various potential inverter setups. That would be a bit of typing, but I figured that was just what they deserved; I had asked why they were so hesitant to speak over the phone, and they had said that their legal team had suggested that would be better there would be a paper trail. I had, after all, threatened with legal action. But the my phone rang. 

It was the company. I had explained to them I had only threatened with legal action after they had not taken up my offer of sorting this amicably via the phone as soon as as I found out what they had done. I don't know if they suddenly realised that I was not as hostile as they thought, or whether they just realised that you can record phone conversations, and then there is still a paper trail. But either way! They phoned me. And then just explained why having two inverters would be a solution. And given that they had not actually asked me this before, I finally had the opportunity to tell them that it was likely I would have my wall re-rendered fairly soon. And if that would indeed happen, we could just await that, leave the inverter where it was, and then go on from there. And we agreed we would just wait and see. If the renderer would indeed show up and finish the work as planned, then that would open the floor to the additional five solar panels, and then I would soon have the full array working. If something would go wrong; the renderer getting covid and having the bail out, for instance, then we could change the inverters after all. 

It was a lot more pleasant to just talk rather than exchange angry emails. And my threat of legal action still stands; I still think they could not charge me the same amount for a different product without consulting me, and I will seriously consider going to the Small Claims Court to get what I think I am due. But at least I will know later this month how much it is I think they owe me. So there will not be any news for a while! But stay tuned. This saga might have a happy ending in the end…

21 June 2022

Run for the physiotherapist

Sometimes I have a bit of a niggle, and then I have to stop running for a while. But when I got a niggle in my ankle it wouldn't go away. I spent a while biking instead of running, and it got some extra rest when I went to the Netherlands and spent several days not running at all, and even some more when I came down with a cold. But when I went for a run again after my cold I really enjoyed it, but still felt that ankle. And I got worried. This had gone on for weeks! If that amount of rest was not enough for the ankle, then what was? I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I had looked for a sports physiotherapist in the area before and not found anything, but the world changes, so I just googled around again. In this time, I found something in the general area. Rhos on Sea turned out to have a practice! And I decided I should contact them. Maybe they could find out what exactly the problem was and what I could do about it. I don't want to just give my ankle endless amounts of rest and if not actually paying off!

The practice had a contact form and I filled it out, and before I knew it I received a phone call from the actual physiotherapist. We talked through my issue and decided that he should see me. He had a slot ready the next week. That really cheered me up! I hoped this would be the first step in the direction of getting back to running on the healthy ankle again.

I had only run once since my cold when I had the physiotherapist on the phone. My ankle wasn't in a bad state. I did want to be able to show him some symptoms, so I figured what I needed to do is make sure I run enough before my appointment that the angle would indeed be a bit painful and stiff. That too cheered me up no end. I had just been wondering if I should bike to Idwal Cottage again, or maybe get my mountain bike of the garage and do a loop with that. But the bikes could stay put; I put on my running shoes! And went up my usual hill. And had a blast.

The next day I went for another run. I really enjoyed it! I hope the physiotherapist doesn't say I have been doing nasty damage to my ankle. I hope my plan just works, and that he will have enough information to find out what the problem is, and point me in the direction of a rapid recovery. I would struggle to adjust to life with a lot less running!

Happy and running again!



20 June 2022

North Wales forams (or absence thereof)

When last year we moved our annual third year fieldtrip to Anglesey, one of the things we had to do was to start making a new training set of modern foraminifera. With the students, we took a lot of samples, and in the lab, we analysed the foraminifera assemblages for us much as we could within the limited time. And then the students had to look at the results and see what they could conclude from them in their final assessment of the module. And the results were a bit patchy; we just had one day in the lab, and not all samples had been done, and some samples had only been done in such a limited way it was not statistically robust. And there were a few results I wanted to verify. Some samples had strange counts! And there are several things that can have gone wrong; a misidentification, or just the logging of results in the wrong column of table. That sort of thing. So I wanted to go back to these samples and make a cleaner version of the training set. I hadn't got around to that for a long time, but now, after term was over and all the marking had been done, I figured I had time for that. So I emailed our lab staff to ask if they had the samples ready for me. No answer. I phoned over a Teams a few times but again no answer. Then I sent another email with high priority. The lab technician got back to me; she said she wouldn't be there the next Monday, and asked where the samples were. I said they should be in the lab and I would show up on Tuesday. And so I did.

The lab technician was not there and I had no ide where the samples were. With other technical staff are looked for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. I just went home. They were not found. 

It's disappointing that we had quite a range of samples and they seemed to have just been thrown away. But it does mean I now have time for other things. We will just have to start from scratch this year! And we will approach the topic in slightly more simplified way. Better few samples analysed well, than lots of samples analysed not so well!

In the field with the students

What we do this for: link the modern assemblages to those found in a fossil core, like this one

19 June 2022

Changes in planned family visits

There was a bit of a whirlwind in announcement of family visits when I was in the Netherlands! My nephew would pop by while interrailing, while my cousin would be in the area on holiday. I thought that was cool! But I was hardly home and a message arrived to tell me that my nephew’s passport would expire too soon for him to be allowed into the country, so he would be sticking to mainland Europe.

Another message reached me. My Finnish sister had had a holiday plan thwarted, and wondered if it would be an idea for her to come over to help me with my garden. So it briefly looked like I would just swap one family member for another one. But as this sentence already suggests; things would go otherwise. She then realised July is not a very good months to be extensively moving plants around in the garden, and the timing wouldn't be ideal for our usual hikes either. So that plan changed! She'll be back though.

I sort of went from two planned family visits to one back to two and back to one again! Sometimes life can be confusing. But stay tuned for the visit that has so far not shown any signs of being under threat!

18 June 2022

Solar panels not working

I had expected to be looking at beautiful graphs of renewably sourced power by the time the solar panel installers would leave on the Thursday. No such thing happened! Friday nothing happened either. On Monday I reminded the company; when would this process be finalised? I had already received the request for paying the final bill before the installers had even left the house, but I was not keen on paying that before the installation process had been completed.

On Monday afternoon I got an email from a lady of the company I had not had contact with before. She coolly explained that the inverter installed in my loft did not function with only six panels; it only would work after the additional five would have been installed. I didn't know what I was reading; they had just decided to put an inverter in the loft that would not work with the current setup? Without informing me? That really changed the entire deal. I had discussed the situation in detail with someone else from the company; the whole point of doing the installation in two stages was to start generating early on. And that had just been swept off the table. It meant I had agreed to pay for installers to come out twice with no reason at all, and now had panels on my roof that would just be sitting there, getting old and dirty and outdated and not doing anything in the process. That was not the deal! I sent an email back saying that I had a problem with this, and that I suggested they phone me to discuss the situation and find a mutually acceptable solution. They didn't.

I got an email back that did contain an apology, and an explanation that an inverter that could have worked with both setups would not be available for months. Nothing else. No acknowledgement of that by them unilaterally changing what they had delivered, I was being duped, and that that was a situation that needed to be dealt with. I was angry. You can't just shrug that sort of thing off!

I felt like they were trying to dismiss me, and I stepped up the assertiveness. I told them I had started seeking legal advice and that I wished them to compensate me for the incurred losses. This basically boil down to the power not generated, and the cost of having installers come out twice. I would never have agreed on the latter if it would have had no advantages, as it didn't now.

It got absurd from there. Or at least, it felt absurd to me. The company got back to me to suggest they just take my solar panels off the roof and give me a refund. How would that solve anything? So I rejected that. They then suggested something that made a lot more sense: putting two smaller inverters in the place of the one big one.

The situation is not resolved yet. One thing I know I want to do is get to the Small Claims Court and try to be compensated for the losses I have incurred. But the thing is: when to do this? I don't know what my losses are until I have a full 11 panel array that works. And the easiest way of getting that, in theory, is to just proceed with this company. But the atmosphere is not good at the moment, as you can imagine. If they bail out of the second stage of installation I will have to try to claim back the losses I may incur. And a lot now hangs on when I get my wall rendered. I have a renderer booked in, but I won't know when my roof will be ready for more solar panels until he is done. And he might just phone me the day beforehand saying he has covid and cannot come. And then what? Then it could take forever as tradespeople are not easy to find. I will want to seek compensation for a lot more loss if it doesn't work out with this chap! So I'm really wishing I have a fresh wall before the end of the month. That will keep the damage limited.  And in the meantime: watch this space for updates... 

Beautiful panels, doing nothing

17 June 2022

Two races missed in a row

After my very enjoyable two races after a hiatus I wanted more! So the first thing I registered for was the Snowdonia half marathon. But then my sister got covid, had to move her trip, and moved it straight onto the race. So I had to bail out! My sister didn't really think there would be much left of the day, or me, after I would have run 20 km.

Then I registered for the quarryman run. A short run in the vicinity of Llanberis. It sounded good!

The day before I started to feel a bit lethargic. I went to bed early. And I woke up feeling a lot worse. I didn't really feel up to anything! Just a cold; I didn't test positive for covid. I did manage to water the plants, and that is good because that is a matter of life or death, but otherwise I did not achieve much. I spent quite some time just joining the cat in her nap on the bed. It was all I had energy for! So this was clearly not a race day for me.

Not a race day

One could have argued it wasn't a good race day anyway; I had only done a few runs since my ankle played up. But the ankle became irrelevant. And it got a few more days of rest. 

There is another interesting-looking race in early July! Maybe I'll end up doing that. Sooner or later I'll manage to get into another race! But these months fate just doesn't seem to want me to do that…

16 June 2022

Third attempt at side gig

In April, the second iteration of my climate course ended. So what would be next? When I discussed it with my contact person we decided she would advertise the course again for June, and she asked me about potential extra sessions. The discussion about extra sessions ended in me making a suggestion and that not being responded to, but the course was duly advertised. By coincidence, it would start really closely after my return from the Netherlands. Seven days before the start I was informed of recruitment; it was a list of five names. Not much! But I will work with that.

When I got back from the Netherlands the day before I sent an email out to those who had registered, to say welcome and remind them and generally make them feel like something was really going to happen. I also chased up a Zoom link from technical support. In the end I made one myself.

When the day came, only one person appeared. Oh dear! That's not good. The lady thought that maybe everyone else had sort of forgot about it, as they had registered quite a while ago, and my email seems to have been the first contact they received to remind them. I think I need to have a chat with the organisation about engagement. I can't contact anyone until I have been given contact information, and if they do that only a week before the start of the course, then there is a lot of time for attendees to forget about the whole thing and decide to spend their time differently.

I did have a lovely session with the one lady. So far from all was lost! And I later got an email from another participant who said their internet had gone down, but she would be there from the second session onwards. A 100% increase of participants! That's nice.

I could imagine they give it a break now, given the low numbers. But it has been an interesting experience!



15 June 2022

Solar panels!

When my plane landed and I could take my phone off flight mode, I immediately got a call. It was from the solar panel installers. They had initially been booked to install my panels before I would leave, but they had run into a practical problem, and they had been rescheduled to start on the roof while I was making my way back to Wales. They could do the internal work after my return. Now they phoned me to ask when I would be home. I told them I thought I might make it in two hours. I sort of expected them to still be there when I got home, but there was no one to be seen. And I was distracted by the cat. I had missed her and really wanted to cuddle her again! And that was mutual. But I did quite soon walk into the garden to catch a glimpse of my new panels. I could just about see them! I didn't bother to climb up to the roof; that could wait.

The next day, around 9 AM, a van rolled up. It contained two men who had arrived to connect it all up. The panels were on the roof, but now there needed to be an inverter in the loft, and wires to the consumer unit, and then several infrared panels in several rooms. So they set to work! I had to flee to the master bedroom as I couldn't work in the room where all the action was. There was a lot of action! The drilling a hole through the outer wall for getting a cable to the fuse box was particularly noisy and dusty and smelly. The cat decided to skedaddle. Too much going on!

Roof full!

It looked like they would be busy for a while, so I decided to go for a run. I would have got that over with. Once they would leave, maybe I would have time to do some quiet work! I also made sure to make a start on dinner.

After a while, they also started on the infrared panels. And for that goal, they had asked for reinforcement. Soon there were four men scampering through my house and drilling holes in anything and everything! It was a restless day.

I had to instruct them to lower the infrared panel in the bathroom; that was a mirror, and they put it up so high I could only see the top of my face. That's not good enough. The other panels were okay.

Panels in the office

And in the kitchen

I was glad when they seem to be coming to when and and started tidying up. The work had created a lot of mess! And I'm sure they are instructed to leave the house as tidy as they found it.

At the end, one of the men asked me how I wanted him to program the infrared panels. I didn't want him to program them any which way! I have no desire to have them on everyday. The whole point of infrared heaters is that you switch them on when you need them. At least, that is why I have them. So every room has its own thermostat; if I walk in and I want it to be warm, I just switch the thermostat on, and I can immediately feel the heat coming from the ceiling. Excellent!

One of the other men explained to me that the company that had subcontracted them would sort me out with the software, so I could see what I would be generating. When they left I assumed I was, but I had no way of finding out. I did check my electricity meter; that was suggesting I was taking electricity from the grid. Did that mean the panels were not in action yet?

The company I had instructed to do this did get in touch to send me the final bill. I let them know I totally looked forward to paying that after the process was completed. And that included the software! I want to be able to see a graph of what I generate and what I use. I had hoped to be able to stare at graphs the very first day, but that is clearly not happening. Stay tuned! I hope the halted payment will be enough motivation for them to sort me out with the final touches. I want to know when I can run my kettle on renewable energy!

14 June 2022

New toy: smart watch

When I was visiting my friend Monique I mentioned I was nowadays quite active on Strava. And that I have no idea what my heart rate is doing when I exercise, because I use it from my phone, and not a watch. Then she mentioned they had an old smart watch lying around, which measures your heart rate. Was I interested in adopting that? And I was! 

Mike charged it, and reset it. Then Monique helped me connect it with my phone. I was set! I immediately put it on. And that day it wouldn’t get much to do, but the day after I would go on my first run in a while. I was a bit careful because of my ankle, so I took it easy. My heartrate didn't go above 150 bpm!

I hadn't connected the watch with Strava yet; I didn't know my password off by heart and needed to look that up at home. But once I got home, I could finally go for a run, logged by Strava, without having to lug my phone with me.


It did log, but there was no map! The watch can’t  provide that level of detail. Next time I will bring my phone anyway. But it is fun to see what my heart rate is doing when I am running up a hill! Getting up to Moel Faban resulted in 172 bpm. I now also know from my watch if I am getting a message!

I feel a bit stretched out in a way; in some ways, I haven't left the 19th century yet, and in other ways, I am now firmly lodged in the 21st. But I suppose there is something to say for having a wide range!

13 June 2022

Last days of my stay in NL

After the family reunion, I had two main items left on the agenda of my stay in the Netherlands. One was my friend Monique, and the other one was my mother. I had seen my mother in between things, but it is also nice to just have some time there. And Monique lives so far to the east you don’t see her if you don't make the  effort!

As always, it was good to see Monique. And we did the usual things of catching up and walking the dogs. We always have plenty to talk about!

Monique’s scenic village 

When I was at my mother's we also just caught up. And sometimes we are just reading the newspaper at the same table with a big mug of coffee. We don't necessarily need to talk! But the weather was nice, and we also sat outside in the communal garden with a glass of wine and some nibbles. And her friend Mieke, who has visited me in Wales. That was fab! 

Mother and daughter selfie

I also went for my first run in more than a week! After having given my ankle a bit of a break I dared give it a go again. And it felt good. And it even felt good the next day! Not quite back to normal, but the run had clearly not made things worse. So I should be back in business again.and I popped into town for some cheese. 

Running again!

Some beautiful buildings with unfortunate lighting

I made sure I made a few good nights, as I wanted to be fresh for the journey back, and then I was ready to head home again. I had missed the cat a lot! And I also knew that both work and the solar panel installers would be waiting for me. Time to get back into the rhythm of my life in Wales! But it had been a good visit!

12 June 2022

Family reunion

It has been a long tradition: the Saher family reunion. I can remember them from my childhood. And they are still going! It’s not a close family, but you could see that as a reason to appreciate the annual reunions even more. If we don’t see each other then, then we don’t at all! I am getting keener on them with time. But covid  had got in the way. I had attended the last one, in 2019. I had no way of knowing there wouldn’t be one for 3 years! 

We normally meet at the house of a family member, and do some sort of excursion from there. The last time we went to the beach, but we’ve been to a woodland, and onto a river, and all sorts of things like that. But this time, my southern uncle was organising, but he had decided that it was better to do the day closer to where everybody else lives. He had imagined a picnic, and a visit to a pancake house. But it turned out the pancake house didn’t take bookings, and the forecast was wet. So the day before the actual reunion he sent an email out saying it was cancelled. Oh dear! If it would be moved then the chances of me being in the country for it were very small. I was just looking forward to it. But then I thought that maybe we could just get some cousins together and do a cousin dinner, which is a bit of a tradition as well. 

I didn't get anywhere sorting that. Before I got to it, there was another message coming in from my sister; she said it would be a waste to cancel the whole thing and that she actually owned a conveniently located roof. We could just do the whole thing at her place! She suggested a picnic on the moor, and having pizza in her house. And so it was organised! The day was saved!

It was very logistically easy for me; I woke up at my sister’s place anyway. I helped making some sandwiches for the picnic, end soon we welcomed the first guests. It was good to see everyone! We were not complete; there was one cousin make it but that had already been the case when the plan was still the pancake house. But we had a good turnout!

I was especially chuffed to see my one cousin who had moved back from Canada during lockdown. I had obviously not seen her during lockdown, and I had also not seen her in all the time she had been living in Canada. It had been a fair while! And she has brought the youngest of her children, and I had never met him. And she was already talking about the next country to live in, so we need to enjoy her company while we can!

We started with coffee and cake in the back garden. And when we were almost complete and we all had had enough coffee, we went to the moors. My sister explained where we were going to my last missing cousin and we were off. And it is a beautiful location! And the weather was fine.

The three patriarchs

There was another surprise; another cousin, the sister of the one who had come back from Canada, said she was going to go to the UK for her holiday, and Wales was included in the itinerary. And it turned out she had booked a camping right in Nant Ffrancon! So I would see her again later that summer! And with my nephew visiting the very same month, it would be a summer with more family visits than anyone could have anticipated. Cool! 

It was good to spend some time on the moors hearing how everyone likes where they live, and their job, and what everyone thinks of Dutch politics, and how we are all trying to make our houses sustainable. And how the children are doing, and the pets. And who looks like who. The usual family reunion stuff! I appreciate it more with the passing of time.

Group picture

We knew that there was rain expected, so at some point we went back to my sister's house. That resulted in a small dispute; my sister’s cat did not appreciate that my cousin had brought his dog. But the animosities remained mild. And we humans had more tea, and later we ordered pizza. And my nice played some harp. And then the whole reunion started to come to an end! Some of us have to travel quite a distance in order to get to Hilversum. 

Nora playing harp

By then the weather was atrocious, so my stepmother offered me a lift to my mother’s place, where I would spend the night. That was kind! And I was glad that I had got to see all my relatives, in spite of the slight hiccup! 


11 June 2022

To the Netherlands part I

The previous time I was in the Netherlands, my sister announced that in June, she would be celebrating her 50th birthday. So that was my next trip sorted! And I had to make sure I had finished all my marking beforehand, but that worked out fine. I gave the key to the neighbour (and to Sue), removed my plants from the conservatory, said goodbye to the cat, and headed for the airport. And in spite of all mention of understaffing and chaos on airports, I got to the Netherlands without issue.

My first port of call was Roelof this time. He would be seeing a mutual friend that night, and it made sense for me to just join. And so I did! It was great to see Roelof and Micha, and Viking. We just sat on the balcony with a beer. It was fab! And we discussed the possibility of a 2022 swamp hike. I hope we can make that work! 

Old equipment near Nemo

The next day I first popped by at my mother’s, as my sister’s party wasn’t starting until the evening. And then it was time to get into party mode!

I walked up to my sister’s house in my pragmatic outfit, and was greeted by my brother in law. And then my sister who looked very festive! I quickly changed into a dress and got me a drink. And the first other guests appeared. My sister still has friends from school, so I have been meeting these since my early teens. That is a long time by now! And everyone was feeling festive, so having a chat with complete strangers was fun too. I lasted until about midnight! It had been a good party. A good way to turn 50!

Cheerful sisters

And with that, an important part of my Dutch trip was over! And for the next important bit I didn’t have to go anywhere. But that’s for a next post…