31 December 2023

Getting to the Netherlands

I had been pondering how to travel to the Netherlands for Christmas. Boat or train? I decided to go by train. It looked like the Eurostar would start skipping at least Amsterdam, and probably the Netherlands as a whole, later on in the year. That might be the time to take the boat again. But now that the Amsterdam terminal still worked, I would make use of it. And it is quicker. So you get more time with relatives in exchange for the time away from the cat. 

Then, two days before travel, three things happened. Eurotunnel staff went on strike. Storm Pia damaged overhead lines at London Euston. And I felt myself going down with a lurgy. (Which is not unusual in this time of the year.)

Somehow it turned out that not only did I speak to Jaco and Marjan that day; they also were travelling to the Netherlands on the same day, but by boat. They said they could give me a ride to Hull. And they may have a 4 person cabin, so I could fit in! That was very kind of them. 

The next day I went to bed really early, but not before I had checked both the strikes and the cable damage. Both sorted! So I could stick with my original plan. 

The next day I felt a lot better. And I set off. All went smoothly! And just sitting and reading is just the sort of thing you might do anyway when a bit under the weather. I left home about 8:30 UK time, and was at my mum’s about 21:45 NL time. Not bad! 

On the way to London

30 December 2023

Llyn Alwen with Kate & Bryn

I was hoping that I could catch up with Kate again before things would get hectic again in the new year. And she was available on a Tuesday. That was still a working day! But it was also my only chance. And I could just work on one of the days the university was closed. So I went for it. Luckily, the weather was good as well!

She was still slightly recovering from an illness, so she didn't want to do anything too strenuous. She suggested two relatively flat walks, and I picked the one I had never done before: around Llyn Alwen, a reservoir quite far east. I wouldn't normally end up there, but Kate already lives over half an hour east anyway, so this was my chance.

When I got out of the car I could already hear Bryn, her dog, barking. He tends to get quite excited when I show up! And this occasion was no exception. Kate suggested we first have a cup of coffee before we leave, and I never turn down things like that. And I had brought the last remnants of the last cake I had baked. So we did that first!

Bryn is always interested in food. And he was again this time! And he got so persistent I was scared I would be throwing coffee all over Kate’s living room. He is big and strong and can make you do that sort of things. And while I was being protective over my coffee, he saw his chance and ripped my cake out of my hand. It was gone instantly. The sneak!

Kate made him lay down on his bed, and gave me half her cake. He seemed to have been quite good until I showed up!

After the coffee we left. We parked up by the dam, and started to walk clockwise around the reservoir. It was very beautiful! I was glad I had chosen this. And Bryn did his usual Bryn thing: jump into any body of water, looking for stones on the bottom. He absolutely loves carrying a stone around. And he likes getting wet.

The dam

Scenic path

Bryn looking for a stone

After a while we got hungry, so we sat down by a picnic bench. Kate made a very concerted effort to keep Bryn away from me, so I could eat my lunch in peace. And then we kept walking.

We were quite close to the furthest point of the walk when finally we met other people. Two chaps thought it was quite sweet that Bryn barked at them. On the other side of the water, we bumped into a few more people. The response was generally the same.

It was a really varied walk, with woodland and open hills and all sorts. And when we got back to where we had started, we decided to drive to Adjacent Llyn Brenig as that has a café, where we could go for a hot chocolate. That went down well! And then we went back home.

Open landscape closer to the far end of the reservoir

Double selfie

The bridge over the narrow bit of the reservoir

Dreamy woods

Dramatic skies

Deciduous woods

There we established we had actually run a race together in 2012. We had both done the Plymouth Half Marathon then! But it would be years before we would become aware of each other's existence. I hope one day we can run a race together and do it on purpose!

29 December 2023

Boosters for the cat

It was time again for the dreaded vet visit. I know the cat hates it! But sometimes these things need doing. 

I made sure she didn’t notice I had got the travel basket ready. If she spots it she knows what I’m up to, and is likely to hide. So when it was time I swooped her  unsuspecting form up and stuffed it n the basket. We were off! 

She tends to meow almost unbearably pitifully in the car. This time was no exception! It always cuts straight through my soul. But when we got there she shit up.

She was still unhappy. My travel basket has a little pillow in it, and she managed to manoeuvre herself underneath it! Trying to hide from the world. Poor thing. 

Spot the little head poking out from underneath the pillow 

She was quite calm when the vet had her on the table. She got her boosters, and got a general check of her lungs, belly, eyes, ears, and teeth. All was well! She still has bald patches by the vet wasn’t too worried about it. She even wasn’t too worried about her weight. 4.76 kg; more than the previous times! Oh dear. I am too generous. Will have to tone it down again. 

On the way back she barely meowed. I think she spotted the pattern: once we’re in the car again, the only thing that happens is that we go home and I release her again. And that’s it for a long time. So she was right back to her normal self when we got back. Good! Sorted for the next 12 months…

28 December 2023

Reconnecting with a former Welsh tutor

Several years ago, Jenny, my Welsh stutter alerted me to what is basically a Welsh teaching qualification. I went for it, and I got support in doing that. I got an additional Welsh tutor: Siân. Initially, we would meet online, but later we will meet in person. And it turns out that we live quite close together, so we quickly developed a habit of just going for a little walk together. Often, we would have coffee at her place afterwards. It was quite nice! She also helped me with preparing teaching materials in Welsh.

I passed the exam. But it didn't seem to be a reason for Siân to stop seeing me. We just kept doing our walks! Sometimes not for a while; we had to fit it in between the other things we did.

Then, after a while of no contact, I saw her again at the Climate Festival. She said she had handed in her resignation! But we agreed should also not be a reason to not see each other. But you know how that goes; nothing happened for a while. But one day I decided to put a card through her letterbox, saying I still meant it. And then I got an email. And we decided to catch up in the last week of work before Christmas.

When I arrived she was doing something in the kitchen. And she put on the coffee machine. When we were drinking the coffee it started drizzling. I figured that walk would not happen! And it didn’t. But it was good to catch up. In Welsh, of course. I have faith we’ll be doing more of than in the future! 

26 December 2023

Registered for a duathlon

I don’t think anyone who reads this blog has failed to notice I like racing. So far, I have only done running races. The idea of broadening my horizon a bit is quite old; already in 2014 I was considering races with more elements to it. But I am not a good swimmer, and also impatient, so triathlons are out. But then there is also the duathlon. That cuts out the swimming!

One day I decided I should just give it a go. I googled some nice races. I also told Kate I was thinking about it. She then suggested another flat one in Cheshire. I had been looking at local races. And I’m keen to avoid flat. But racing together would be cool! 

It turned out she would be away for the Cheshire duathlon. And I found out my trip to Finland would not get in the way of the most beautiful duathlon here in the area: the Slateman. So that became the one I registered for. It's many months away, but I really look forward to it! I don't have a road bike, but I don't mind. My commuter bike gets me from A to B.

It just seems to make sense to do a race that involves cycling, given that most of my race training is cycling anyway. And I decided to start easy; I only registered for the sprint. That's 2.5 km running, 20 km biking, and then 5.8 km running again. That should be ok without prep! And if I find it easy, I can always register for the standard distance next year. That is 5.8 km running, 50 km biking, and 11.5 km running. Still quite doable, I think! But maybe I am underestimating it. Hence finding out first. 

It's quiet on the racing front now. But in February, the 2024 season will start. I look forward to it already!

25 December 2023

Run to Llyn Anafon

I figured it would be a nice idea to go for a run somewhere on my way back from Chester, dropping off Tim. It’s nice to have some variety in running venues. And I landed on Cwm Anafon. So I turned off the A55 by Abergwyngregyn, parked as deep into the hills as I could, put on my running kit and set off. It was a really windy day! 

I had run (and walked) this route before, and I knew it was beautiful. And apart from the wind, the weather was fine. It barely rained. But I had to sometimes stop and brace myself against the wind. I just went to the top and back, and then back to the car. A successful run!

Looking back; car just visible


Lovely sheep fold

Menacing skies in the distance 

Reservoir selfie (wind had briefly died down)

24 December 2023

Back to OVMRT

I had picked Tim up on a Tuesday evening. And then Wednesday to Friday I was at work. So I figured we should use the Saturday to go on a bit of a jolly. The weather forecast was okay, so I figured we may be able to go on a small road trip and have a picnic outside. I also figured we could pop by the base of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team, to say thank you for coming out to help us, and let them know how the situation had developed since. I can imagine it can be quite nice to talk to your casualties later. 

I had grabbed my crutches from the garage, because I figured that if we would do a little walk, we should both be on crutches, for reasons of equality. And we set off, over the old road to Cwm Idwal. It looked like the deeper inland we would go, the worse the weather was, so I stopped the car fairly early on. Maybe we didn't want to do a picnic in the rain! And we decided to first do a little walk.

View from our walk: Rainbow

View from our crutch walk: further inland, the weather gets worse

We also noticed it was very windy. It actually wasn't picnic weather at all! Maybe we needed to change our plans a bit. But we could do our walk. So we headed into the wind, in order to have it easy on the way back. Walking on crutches is quite tiring! Even though the main strain tends to be felt by your hands, and that is not really wind dependent.

We hobbled a fair distance, considering circumstances, and then turned back. We decided to have coffee and cake in the car. At least the cake wouldn't be blown out of our hands! And then we went to OVMRT base. We were warmly welcomed. And we were offered a cup of tea.

I introduced us as the Moel Faban casualties, but there was no need; the rather garrulous chair of the team, Chris Lloyd, recognised us immediately. He had been at the Landrover that took us to Bryn Hafod y Wern. And after the cup of tea, he offered to show Tim around on the base. (I already know it, mainly through a casualty care course.) The man can talk about the team until the cows come home! Even if the cows have to come from the other side of the world.

When we finally managed to rip ourselves away I wasn't sure what to do, but I decided to drive back over Llanberis. It wasn't the sort of weather in which we would want to get out of the car, but at least it is a beautiful touristic route!

When we got home we just sat by the fire and drank tea. And had the High Street produce our dinner. The next day I would bring him back home, so this would be last dinner together. Maybe a reason to make a big effort, but I was more interested in enjoying it without having to do much slaving in the kitchen.

The next day I brought him home again. And I didn't have to worry about anyone looking after him there. He can do it himself by now!

23 December 2023

A year in exercise

I am quite the Strava regular. In May last year, I really got in the swing of it , and recorded basically everything I did. I still do it. And it allows me to keep track of how my fitness is going

I keep track, but so does the software. At the end of the year it's offered me a year overview. I don't think it did that last year, or maybe I didn't pay much attention, because I hadn't been recording things the entire year. But I thought it was interesting to see what I had been doing in 2023. It said I was in the top 3% of active people on Strava, but I still was surprised how little I had actually done. I seem to have only biked 2500 miles, and was only active 250 days of the year until the day I saw the overview (Dec 18th). 

I also thought that biking would form a bigger portion of my general exercise. It was only 58%! Hiking and walking wasn't much, but it might also have something to do with that I don't routinely log that. And I seem to be a bit of a good weather sports person; my most days active, most distance covered, and most verticality conquered all fell in July. The only unusual thing I did then was the 10k in Llanberis! And the most hours spent exercising had been in May. That might have included the occasional overnight hike (reported here in June). And indeed, I don't do that sort of thing in winter.

With my penchant for competing with myself, I will certainly compare next year's overview with this year's version. Although I don't think it will really be a competition. If there is a way to see how you have been doing month by month, and compare that to corresponding months in earlier years, I don't know about it. So I will just have to just do my thing, and then find out in December if that was a bigger thing that year than this one. But I think that number of 250 days active should be something I could easily break. After all, there are so many more days in the year!

21 December 2023

48th birthday

I woke up because the cat jumped onto the bed. I noticed she was soaking wet. I had no idea what time it was. But I realised it was my birthday! And I think she was giving me a damp duvet as a present.

Sometime later the alarm went off. I got up, and saw that I already had got a congratulation from Miles via WhatsApp. That was nice! He had sent it shortly after midnight.

I had breakfast with Tim. He had already sent me a birthday present in the mail, but told me not to open it until the actual day. And he had sneakily smuggled a cake into my house. And I didn't have to be in the office particularly early, so we first did breakfast, and then had some more coffee, and had some cake with that. A good start of the day!

At work I didn't get an awful lot done before it was time to get social again. By coincidence, our annual T&S Christmas do fell on this day. (The T&S team is the academics on a teaching contract.) The idea initially was to go for a walk, and then have some nibbles in the coffee room. But one of us is quite heavily pregnant, and she didn't fancy a walk. So the only thing we did was consume mince pies, brownies, and whatnot in the coffee room. There were only four of us for a reasonable amount of time, but it was still good.

Did I go back to the office from there? No! Our winter graduation ceremony started at 1 pm, so I had to get myself to the main campus. The graduation already has its own blog post.

After that I was glad I could bike home dry. And then we had dinner. Nothing too fancy; I was keener on something easy than something culinarily impressive. And in the evening I popped over to Martin for a glass of wine. Sue and Dean were away. (Hence that we had done a pre-birthday earlier in the month.)

Altogether it was a good day! If this sets the scene for my 49th year I’m satisfied…

A birthday card I got from Sue and Dean

20 December 2023

Winter Graduation 2023

New winter, new graduation. In winter, most of those getting their degrees are MSc students. These don’t finish in May but September, so they don’t get their degrees in July like the BScs. I had two MSc students, so a good chance at least one of them would be there. So I signed up.

Earlier that day I spoke with one of my colleagues; she had intended to go, but couldn’t after all. And she knows I always get an arbitrary gown. She suggested I take hers! It’s quite colourful. I thought it would be a good idea. 

I biked down in my pragmatic clothes, found a quiet ladies’ room to change in, went to get a gown, pretended to be my colleague, and got hers. Then I went to the Council Chamber where we always gather before the ceremony. The atmosphere in there tends to be a bit giggly (not what I would have expected), and when it was announced everything was postponed by 15 minutes, that didn’t get any less. But in the end we did end up looking all serious in the cortège. And the ceremony could start. 

Me in my snazzy outfit

Lined up for the procession 

The first graduand was very overwhelmed. He was crying! And clutching a double portrait. His parents, the grapevine later said. I hope it was happy tears! And many more graduands followed. Our students came last. And my Yorkshire student didn’t appear. But to my delight, my Indian student did! It was so good to see her. 

At the end of the ceremony we sang the national anthem. The good news and the bad news was that I was next to Dei. He is a spirited Welshman and a trained singer! So if you struggle with when you should sing what (a church organ, which was our accompaniment, isn’t perfect for that) you can hold on to what he is doing. But my singing is crap, so I make sure not to go too loud! It might hurt his soul how I butcher this important song. 

After the ceremony we were ushered into the courtyard for pictures. I saw my student come down the stairs, but she didn’t spot me. So when the pictures were taken, and we were going back up the stairs, I looked out for her. And found her! Finding people is hard when everyone wears a gown and a hat. She was so glad to have successfully rounded off her master’s. It had been difficult at times. I was also very glad, and proud of her. We hugged. And made sure to get our picture taken. 

Happy student, happy supervisor 

I then gave the gown back, and made my way to the reception. There I did more mingling, ate some food, and had a glass of sparkly wine. And I cheered for the three students who had won prizes. And then two of my colleagues wanted to make a more informal announcement. I had no idea where they were going. But then they said it was my birthday, and they made the whole reception sing ‘happy birthday’ for me. That was very sweet. And it turned out to have been my student’s birthday the day before. Festivity all around! So when the reception trundled towards its end I left in a cheerful mood. I was glad I had come! 

The university mace

19 December 2023

SEG issues

In the summer 2022, I got me my solar panels. And when I had solar panels I needed a smart meter. That was fitted in September. And when I had a smart meter, I could apply for getting compensated for the energy I would generate and not use myself. That construction is called a Standard Export Guarantee. I applied for one, and after some mailing to and fro, it was granted to me. But no money came in my direction. I was wondering if they pay out annually. Then Martin told me he gets his quarterly. And he has the same energy company for that. So it was probably time I got in touch!

When I phoned them and gave my details, the lady I spoke with said I didn’t have a smart meter. No smart meter? How would they have given me an SEG in the first place? But well, she had my information in front of her, so clearly they were convinced I didn't have one. She said I should send them a clear picture of my smart meter, where they could see the serial number. So I did.

Just over a week later I received an email from them, acknowledging the receipt of my pictures. They would investigate. I wasn't very impressed with how on the ball they were. How much time does it take to just send a generic email to say you have received some pictures? We'll see how long this situation is going to get dragged out. But I doubt anything will happen this year. Let’s hope for good news in the new year! 

The smart meter, as it was installed in September 2022

18 December 2023

2023 Christmas decorations

I started putting up Christmas decorations when I had a living room. I've done it every year since! I don't mind a bit of kitsch. 

This year I intended to do it at the acceptable time for Dutch people; from December 6 onwards, but I didn't get around to it. And Christmas was coming close quickly! But there was a solution for that: a man who was signed off work, but who had become fit enough to hobble around the room. He volunteered to do the work! And I gave him a free hand. I think he did a sterling job. So most of the time he spent here during his second visit was under the Christmas light and the tinsel!

Making the cat a wokerata

When I make decisions about what to eat, moral considerations are a big thing. I don't buy meat, I avoid plastic, I try to buy seasonal and local… 

When I buy food for the cat on my shopping rounds I don't think I have a lot of choice. I basically have to buy what is sold around here, and everything contains animal products, and nothing has any certification implying that animal welfare was taken into account in producing the product. That was starting to jar. And I decided to do the reasonable thing: ask Internet for a solution. Whatever you can't buy here in the village (or even in the bigger towns nearby) you surely can buy on Internet. So I started googling if such a thing as ethical cat food exists. I was sure it would! I can't be the only person who wishes to feed their beloved pet with something other than deeply unloved farm animals.

I was right! It didn't take me long to find a website that reviewed ethical cat food. And I went with one of their recommendations. Initially, I didn't order much, because I first want to know if the cat even likes it.

It arrived with a bit of a delay as the delivery needed a signature, and I work full-time. And then I wouldn’t open it until she had eaten what was still in stock. 

The new food

The first signs were good! She first got to the dry food. Her first encounter with that positive. But the second and third meal she had with this stuff she was a bit less enthusiastic. By the fourth she seemed to be back to normal again. I really hope she will continue to like it! And that she likes the wet food too. It would be really great if I can buy her pet food that is as good for other animals and the environment as possible. She is not the only non-human who matters…

Trying the new food

17 December 2023

Planning the next Climate Festival

It’s never too soon to get people thinking about climate! This spring, the valley (and its sustainability initiative) organised a Climate Festival. And coming spring we want to do it again. And that requires some organisation. There are regular meetings; I had missed one, but now I was available for the next one. The invitation said the meeting would start at 5:30, and we were all invited to join the weekly free meal before that, at 4 pm. I was aware of this meal, but I never joined. 

I eat quite early, but 4 pm is pushing it a bit. Additionally; I had a work meeting until 4 pm, so I couldn't physically be in Bethesda at that time anyway. So I got home from work, quickly ate some leftovers, and then went to the meeting. I saw a lot of activity in the kitchen and the place that functioned as a dining room, but I saw little signs of a meeting! I also saw that Chris, the organiser of the meeting, was still busy with food. I flagged him down, and he suggested I just sat with the diners. The meeting would start a bit later. He offered me food, but I had already eaten! At least people came to offer me some tea. I did not turn that down.

Canolfan Cefnfaes in the dark

I just sat down with three strangers who looked welcoming. And they were. We just had a nice chat (in Welsh) while they were eating their quite good-looking Christmas dinner. It was nice of them to include me! And by the time they were more or less finished, Chris gave a sign that the meeting would be starting. The other participants of the meeting had joined in the dinner.

We went to a different room; there are only four of us. And we could get the meeting over quite quickly. The previous meeting, that I had missed, had covered potential venues for the climate festival. They didn’t want to do it in the same place as in 2023, and we quite liked the idea of doing it in the Community Centre in nearby Tregarth. But we discussed whether we would have access to outside space, and we discussed parking, and how to get more volunteers, and what external people to get involved, and how to get people there. It was quite thinkable that many people would come from Bethesda, and we could try to organise that. In some sustainable way. We also discussed accessibility. 

When we were done, Chris said that we should have some Christmas pudding, or a mince pie. So l did! And then I made my way home. It was still quite early. I hope our next Climate Festival is going to be a clanging success!

16 December 2023

Tim’s second stay

If you catastrophically break your ankle, you’re not walking anytime soon after that. So I had been Tim’s host for the first period after the incident, and then I had  brought him back home for his surgery. But his recovery period would be really long, so after a spell at home I came to collect him again. He was in much better shape! He had one of those big plastic boots, and he could put his foot on the ground. But he was still not supposed to put weight on his injured leg. And that hinders you in most things you do.

Mostly, the routine was the same; I would bring breakfast up, which we would have together, and which featured the cat being very chuffed she could lick out two bowls. And then I would go to work. But this time, he would ask me if there was anything I wanted him to do before I got home. He was a lot more capable! He went to the shops, did dinner preparations, and whatnot. And during the week I was, obviously, at work, but in the weekend we could go and explore his newfound mobility together. Stay tuned for more on that! 

15 December 2023

Last teaching: presentations

At the end of term, they always tend to be a plethora of student presentations. This term was no exception. I had presentations from the first, third and fourth year students in my diary. 

The big one was the third years. They were doing presentations about various topics within applied marine geology. There were 30 students on the module, and if they all have to present, that makes for a long day. And you never get everyone presenting; some students have logged particular requirements that allow them to not present in front of a group. And there's always people who are ill or have just broken their leg or something. Or who don't show up for unclear reasons. But even, say, 25 students is quite a lot.

Things got worse when I checked which room I had been allocated; it was the room that is colloquially known as "the church"; it has stern wooden benches, quite like church pews. Maybe actually identical to church pews. You get a bit of a wooden arse if you sit on them for too long! I sent out an announcement to the whole cohort to warn them about this. I suggested bringing a pillow. I myself brought a nice woollen jumper that I could sit on if needs be.

“The church”

In spite of the Calvinist furniture the day went well! And that was the biggest teaching engagement of the last week of the year done. The only teaching I had then left was four students with special requirements that would present to only to Jaco and me; one presentation of a first year student who hadn't been able to make it to the original presentation session; and a progress meeting with two MSci students. 

That is all done now. No more teaching in 2023! Well, except some with my MSc student. But the Christmas break is always short, and I have an enormous pile of marking to get through, combined with reinvigorated attempts on our Athena Swan application, and preparation for the new semester. And a new wave of Academic Integrity cases. Now that marking season has properly started, the floodgates have opened! No rest for the wicked. But from now to late January, there isn't much timetabled, so I am quite free in when and where I do that work. I imagine that a fair amount of it will be done in my home office, with the cat next to me on the good office chair!

14 December 2023

Summer sorted

Normally I’m not this organised! But it is December, and I have already sorted out my summer holiday. This is almost unheard of. My middle sister is turning 50 (we reach any age in quite quick succession; my other sister had got there relatively recently) and I will go to Finland to celebrate that. We will retreat to cute little cabin in Lapland. 

She sorted out the cabin and travel there from Helsinki. I sorted travel to Helsinki, and I must admit I will fly! It would take forever to get there any other way. I suppose this falls under love miles. I don’t go around flying there all the time! The last time was in 2012…

I look forward to it! And I hope the mosquitoes will keep a respectful distance…


13 December 2023

Running to Ty Mawr Wybrnant

I hadn't seen Miles since I came over for a cup of tea in his underground accommodation in October. It was about time we organised something! And the logical place to meet is Conwy Falls Café. That is the headquarters of his company, and he tends to work in the weekend.

I figured that if I was going that way anyway, I might just as well combine it with a run. It is nice to sometimes run away from my surroundings so I had a look on the map. And I got an idea. It was going to be a bit wet, so I didn't really want to run on slippery paths. Forestry roads are better than! And I realised that directly west of the café there was enough going on in that regard.

I also was reminded of the fact that in that area is a house that had to come up in Welsh class one day. The house, Ty Mawr Wybrnant, was where William Morgan was born, and he was the person who first translated the Bible into Welsh (or completed it; someone else had already translated the new Testament. He did a revision of the translation.) And that was quite an important moment in the Welsh language. When I realised it was this close by I decided I should visit one day, but so far never had. This might be the day!

I met Miles in an almost deserted café. That is not a good thing on a Saturday during coffee time! But it was lovely to see him and catch up in person. 

After our rendezvous I thought I'd drive around anticlockwise to Ty Mawr Wybrnant, but the road at some point became private. I improvised a bit, crossed the river, went west on the A470, and took the next bridge back to the southern riverbank. There, the road also seemed private. I just parked up and decided to run the rest.

The view from where I parked 

It started on a path, where I was careful because it was a very slippery day. The forecast had been largely dry, but the weather didn't seem to care about the forecast! It was very wet. I also quite soon became resigned about getting very wet feet. The path had turned into a stream. But only metres from where I had parked up, the landscape was amazingly beautiful. And after the initial slope, I was on a small asphalt road. Not one that my car would enjoy…

Only a stone’s throw from where I was parked 

Selfie before I got too soaked

Mini road next to maxi stream

All buildings in this area are gorgeous 

Suddenly, the house came into view. It was very beautiful! I knew it would be closed, and the small exhibition belonging with it as well, but I didn't care. I just wanted to see the site. And it really was gorgeous!

The house, right by a stream

From the other side

The lichen-encrusted gate

I decided to run a little bit further, as that was uphill, and I would get a bit of exercise. But I didn't want to go too far; it was raining hard, and quite windy, and some of the route was such that there was no way I could move at any speed downhill. I didn't want to get too cold! So soon I turned back. I took a small detour to avoid a path and stay on the forestry road. In good weather I would have done the opposite, but it wasn't anything like that! And when I got back to the car, I quickly took off my soaking upper clothes and put on a nice dry jumper and jacket. I hadn't run any further than I do on my usual loop, but I didn't mind. Time to go home, have a shower, and light the fire, in arbitrary order.

I really want to come back here on a dryer day! I don't know this area very well at all, but it is really beautiful, and it also seems to be very quiet! What more does one want?

12 December 2023

Bike posture

When I was at the bike repair shop, James the repair man said he thought my handlebars were in the wrong position. He figured they were tilted a bit too much. He said that puts your wrists in the wrong position when you have your hands on top of the handlebars. But I tend not to! I tend to have them in the crook. And on top, but in the middle, away from the brakes, if I am climbing and don’t expect anything that needs braking for. But he said that the crook is for descent, and default position should be on top, at the extremities, above the brakes. 

What seems to be standard 

What I do

I tried it and wasn’t convinced. I didn't find it any more comfortable than in the crook! And I don't have much purchase on the brakes that way. You have a lot more leverage when you reach them from inside the crook.

When I saw Jenny, my Welsh tutor, who also travels most places on bicycle, I mentioned it to her. She said she agreed with me! She doesn't see the point of using the brakes from above either. She is a crook rider as well.

Just because I have nothing to lose I will probably give it another try. I am a creature of habit, and I have been riding like this since my teenage years, if I have dropped handlebars. I totally accept you sometimes do things just because you don't think of doing them any other way. But I think I will end up sticking with riding the way I ride! If it works for me, that's good enough. And me having good leverage on the brakes seems, to me, like a universally good thing…

11 December 2023

Bike maintenance

I phoned James, the bicycle repair man, again, to ask if he would have time to fit me in for some bike maintenance. I had been feeling some wear and tear manifesting itself. Sometimes the gears slip, and the brakes are losing their effectiveness. He said he had only recently done maintenance. And that was true! Four months ago I had brought the bike in. But that had been after only three months since the previous round of maintenance, and he had mistaken the resulting wear and tear for that incurred over a whole year. So if I can do that in three months, I can certainly do it in four. If I have to be in the office every day, I cover some 130 km in a week, with 2.2 vertical kilometres. If you do that for four months in a stretch you end up with some 2500 km horizontal and 42 km vertical. Quite a lot! But either way; he could just fit me in before Christmas. 

I brought it in, and James figured he wouldn't manage to have it done before the next week. But he would phone me.

The next day I had a brainwave. I don't like the pedals on that bike, because they are not grippy enough, and you can slip off. He now had the bike in his workshop anyway; could he just replace them with something more grippy? And he could.

Two days later I got a text message. It was done! I could pick it up. That was great! I could tell he had put on new brake pads. And it had a new chain. And he said my mud guards were on the way out. I might have to look out for replacements. 

The bike was also very clean. It always is when I collect it! James always pressure-washes it before he starts. And this time, probably because of it being December, it was extra muddy. July just doesn’t have the same mud credibility. 

James seemed to think it was a bit beyond the ordinary, though. He said he had collected the mud from my rear mud guard only, put it in a pot, and planted a spider plant in it. He said it would be ready to be repotted next time I would drop by! I will surely check in on the plant. I would in all likelihood be bringing a new load of potting soil for it. But that actual day, I rode home on a smooth and clean bike. Lovely! 

The plant

Clean bike