30 April 2023

Marking and assessment boycott

The union and the universities have been in a conflict for a while now, about pay and working conditions. There are negotiations, but it's not been resolved. And in the latest ballot, it was decided that we would participate in action so short of a strike. And the crucial part of that action was a marking and assessment boycott. 

I struggle with marking and assessment boycotts. I know the whole point of taking industrial action is to have an impact, but this seems very very big. The big things to mark at the moment are the final work of students about to graduate. If we don't mark it, can they graduate? And is that proportionate?

On the other side of the scale are the first year students. Their grades don't count towards their final agree. So we could refuse to mark their work without feeling too guilty about it, but the problem is, they might just shrug, and the University with them. That would not be much impact! And then there are the second years; they hang nicely in the middle. But should it just be them who take the brunt of this?

Then there is another issue; that is what the University does if you engage in such a boycott. They say that as an employee, you can't pick and choose which parts of your job you do, so if you refuse to do part of it, you don't get paid for any of it. And the University has said that they will not withhold all the pay of staff who don't mark, but I will withhold 50%. And it's not 50% of the pay for the time that you would've spent marking but aren’t; this is really 50% of your monthly wages. Because, as they say, not marking is a breach of contract, and if you do not honour the contract, they don't have to either. So basically, as soon as you refuse to mark one assignment of one student, they can dock 50% of your monthly wage. And I don't know how many of us could afford that.

There was an online meeting with the Bangor University branch of the union. And we had a meeting within the school of ocean sciences. None of us are really sure about the situation! But there was one option; the union does have the right to change the action into an outright strike if they can argue that the university’s threat is too punitive. And if you strike, you only do not get paid for the days you're actually on strike. They won't withhold your entire monthly pay if you strike one day!

The problem with a strike, this late in the day, is that there isn't much teaching anymore. As I write this, there is only one week of term left, and it is a four day week. So if they don't call this strike immediately, the only thing we cannot do because of strike is basically marking, supervision of master students, and preparing for the new year. Some of that is work that needs to be done anyway; if you don't do it because you're on strike, you will have to catch up later, and that defies the purpose of the strike. And with the marking and the supervision of master students we go back to the original dilemma. So there is something to say for it, but also plenty against!

I haven't refused to mark anything yet. The university’s threat surely works on me. And I don't know if anybody else has already nailed their colours to the mast. I have no idea how this will pan out!

29 April 2023

Dissertation presentations!

After Easter, my biggest job is sorting out the dissertation presentations! And on Monday morning they kicked off. I had made sure I was presenting on the Tuesday; that way I had my hands free to do some herding of cats the first day and a half, if necessary. I arrived at the hall in the morning, and made sure everybody knew which room they were supposed to be in, and that every room had the paperwork that was needed.

What seemed to be missing was people. This year was considerably smaller than the previous one, and there are also students every year who can’t present on the day, because, for instance, they are ill. I'm not sure if we had more people absent with a good reason than the previous year, but it sure felt a lot emptier! And then there are always also student who just don't show up.

The terrace of Reichel Hall where it all took place

That little table in the corner was my office for the day

Most sessions had a maximum of 12 students. I don't think any of them was complete, but the spread was  remarkable. My session was quite big: it could've had 13 students, and only 2 didn't show up. But on the same day, there was a session with only 3 students in it. That is a bit disappointing. 

With this many students not there, I also ended up having ordered a bit too much catering for the first day. Luckily, they were flexible, and let me change the order for the second day. I now have some leftover brownies from day one in my fridge!

By the end of the second day, me and my other marker were the last ones standing. That's what you get with a big session. We stayed on to agree marks. And then we left the entirely deserted building! And there will be a lot of catch up sessions for the students who couldn't be there. But the big, centrally organised event is now over. 

I was wondering if next year we might actually be able to do it in Ocean Sciences itself. That is a lot cheaper! And I think it will fit. Next year doesn't look like it's going to be a very big year either. I'll have to discuss that with someone!

The next thing I needed to do was sort out all the administration for the marking of the actual dissertations. These would come in on the Friday of the same week. And after that they would only be one week of term left!

28 April 2023

Trying out the new public footpath for running

When I bought my house, I had a look at that public footpaths around. One of them went straight through the quarry. But I was soon to find out it wasn’t public anymore. It seemed to have closed for a limited time, but that time seemed to have stretched on and on and on. But then, not too long ago, some of my friends said there was a new public footpath through the quarry again. They had walked it!

I was keen to see it for myself, but I wanted to run it, of course. And I admit that I already had, before it was public; the gravel road that the path follows is not in use for quarrying, but for punter transport by Zip World. And that company had had to close over lockdown. So in that period, I had already tried it! But now it was entirely legal, even when the zip wires were in full use.

On a calm Sunday I went. I knew what the views were like, but still it was different! I just ran while the lorries with punters were trundling up and down. And that was okay. One driver even leaned out of his cabin to cheer me on! 

It’s some 400m up; good practice for the Steepest Street in the World race. I think I'll be doing this more often! It is a there and back again route, though; the path just ends at a kissing gate that doesn't really lead anywhere. Of course you can trundle through the heather from there, but the going is a bit too uneven for trail running. And I am not a fell runner. I didn't see anybody else using the path, so I don't know how popular it is. That also means I don't know if there will be much of a demand to create a circular route. I would like that! But for now, I’ll just enjoy the route as it is…


The road is the footpath; behind the slate bank is where the go-carts go

Good view into Nant Ffrancon 

Where it ends

Near the top selfie

Punters zipping overhead

View over quarry lake

27 April 2023

Starting work on the new raised bed

Between my upstairs and downstairs garden, there was a drystone wall. It looked like it could come down any second, and I had it repaired. But firstly, that meant I had to give the workmen access. The area underneath the wall was rather overgrown! And when they were working there, they needed to bring down a lot of stone. The place to put that was where I had had to remove most of the vegetation. That did it for any remaining green. So when they were done, that entire raised bed was empty. And I had had it on my to do list to fill it up again and try to make it beautiful! So now that project was brought forward.

The wall was sorted in November; I didn't get around to starting work on it until April. But that involves several months in which not much happens in gardens in general. And now I have a big blank slate to fill! 

I wanted some sizable shrubs in the back, and then only low vegetation in the front. And I wanted to try to make it look coherent. I know I'm terribly bad at that! But I just thought back at the advice my sister, who has much more of an eye for this, had given me when she had visited me the previous year. (Entirely solicited, I hasten to add.) 

I took some scrubs from other raised beds that had become too cluttered, and of which I thought they would look good together, and put them in the back. For the front I thought I needed a bit more time. But one thing I knew I wanted was some English stonecrop at the front. And that grows in abundance around! So while being careful not to do noticeable damage, I took some form the outskirts of the quarry, and put it in the bed. It is full of slate; I think it will like it there, and not be outcompeted by faster growing plants. It's not a very fertile bed! And I am around to try to control any plants who try anyway.

Not entirely empty anymore!

It is still rather bare, but a start has been made. I hope I can make this look pretty! If I succeed, that really improves the garden a lot!

26 April 2023

Giving up on shoes

I like to keep using items as long as I can! A lot of material and energy has gone into producing them, and I want to squeeze the last bit of use out. And that holds for shoes as well. I had two pairs of shoes that needed regular gluing. The soles kept falling off! But with one of these pairs, I have now given up. It took few days, with very little walking, for the last glue job to fail again. The professional shoe repair person in town had already given up. So now I have to! A pity; apart from the sole issue, they are in fine nick. And they were very comfortable. But what can you do! Structural integrity matters. But I will keep gluing the other pair for as long as I can. Maybe I should only buy shoes of which the soles are stitched on! But I'm not quite sure how feasible that is…

25 April 2023

Ready for the dissertation presentations

 I have to do quite a lot of preparation for the dissertation presentations! And this year, the timing didn't work out very well. So by Friday end of play I wasn't ready. I hadn't expected to be! And the presentations started on Monday morning first thing. So I knew I would have to work in the weekend. I'm not keen on that, but sometimes it has to be done!

After breakfast I went into my home office. No need to be on-campus longer than necessary! I would only have to go to campus for the printing, basically. So when I figured I was done and could start printing I headed for Anglesey.

The door was open! I knew that the University had an Open Day, but I wasn't sure if anything would be taking place on our campus. It clearly did! And the place was swarming with Peer Guides. I knew quite a lot of them! Even though I stopped being in charge of them a while ago. That was nice. And I accidentally was wearing a T-shirt in the same colour as their Peer Guiding shirts.

When I started printing I soon found out two files seemed not to have saved properly. That was a bit of a bummer! I had to finish them again. Luckily, I had worked out a rather efficient way of doing it, and it didn't take an awful lot of time.

When I was done, the open day was also coming to an end. Once I was outside I checked my bag. I didn't want to come home and realise my paperwork wasn't complete! I'm glad I did; one presentation booklet was still in the queue. I went back and sorted that. And had a little chat with my colleague Mattias who runs the open days, and one of the senior Peer Guides. She had been amazing when I was still in charge of Peer Guiding!

When I got home I felt a lot better. I had faith that everything would be okay on the day! And I went for a run before it was time to have dinner. Most of the day was gone, but not all of it, and I still had the Sunday to myself. And then on Monday we would see how it all would pan out…

Paperwork ready

24 April 2023

Mark Steel

I get regular emails from Pontio. What tends to happen is that I think I don't have time to go see whatever they have an offer anyway, so I delete the email. But one day I got an email that's specified in the subject line what it was about. And that was a gig by Mark Steel! And I like Mark Steel. I love how he takes the piss of literally any location in ‘Mark Steel’s in town’, and if he pops up in other programmes like the Newsquiz I also enjoy what he does. So when I saw that mail I paid attention. 

I don’t go see comedians often; I think the last time was Phill Jupitus in 2017 (who did name check Mark Steel in his show!). But this sounded good and I thought people might agree with me. I asked the usual crowd; Sue and Dean were interested, Martin would just be back from the sea and figured he’d be knackered, and Tom and Siobhan didn’t respond. So the three of us would go. But we did convince Martin to come and join us for dinner beforehand.

It had been a hectic day. I had had to judge student posters in the morning, and get that done before our lunch seminar. Both activities were even in the same room, so at the end of the poster session, we had to get rid of the posters, and bring all the chairs back into the room. The start of the seminar also coincided with the deadline for students to upload their presentations and abstracts. And I needed to put the presentations in the correct OneDrive folders for the conference that Monday, and make the abstracts into conference booklets. That is quite a lot of work! But first that seminar. And then agreeing poster grades with my colleague. And still answering buckets of emails from panicking students.

I wasn't done when I had to leave in order to be ready for our dinner. And we hadn't really timed it well! We had to hurry up. We pretty much dashed out of the restaurant, leaving Martin behind to take care of the bill. But we would compensate him later, of course. But it's not how you want a dinner with friends to end!

We got to the theatre on time, and took our seats. Soon Susan spotted that Tom and Siobhan were there as well! But with other people. Oh dear.

Then the man himself appeared. And he kicked off! I know he can be quite energetic, and he was clearly not holding back. And even though this was not a mark steals in town episode, he did make sure to take the piss out of Bangor. He figured it was incredibly far away from everything. I suppose we've noticed! He also figured it was a very dull place. I suppose I've noticed that too. And he also mocked us; he thought we were a rather old and reactionary audience. Maybe we were! He also asked us who of us was actually Welsh. And it was clearly a minority that answered… he decided quite a lot of us were probably second home owners from London.

He also talked about his old mother, and the Queen, and regional accents, and cultural differences between countries, and Jeremy Hardy. That got a big applause! I suppose there is a big overlap between Jeremy Hardy fans and Mark Steel fans. And he covered a lot more but I can't remember all of that now.

Mark Steel on stage

He was quite funny, but of course I expected that. I was fairly familiar with his work! But I thought in person he could be a bit exhausting. Although it could just have been that I was already exhausted and just didn't cope very well!

In the interval, he played some songs, accompanying himself on the piano. We thought his comedy was better than his singing. And then after the interval he just ploughed on! I must admit I was seriously flagging at the end. I really wanted to be in bed. We also suspected he had tuned his material a bit to the age of the audience, which we were single-handedly drawing down. And when he was done, we quickly left.

I am glad we went! It was good. Although I wish I had been less tired. Maybe I can sort that next time I go see a comedian, in another six years or so! 

23 April 2023

Academic integrity on a higher level

It happens quite a lot that I am called to check on student work that contains a lack of paraphrasing. The students are, of course, encouraged to take the information from extant work, but they can't use the wording. They have to explain the information from their sources in their own words; only then can we judge if they understood what they read. And even though the students know we have software that detects if they copy phrases over, it still happens on a regular basis. And a lack of paraphrasing is not academic malpractice; it is, however, academic poor practice so we do act upon it.

At some point I was called to check on an exam. An entire paragraph had been copied over from an internet source. And checking my records I noticed that student had been caught before. And as soon as it is a second offence, I have to drag this person to the integrity committee of the entire university. I know that students are not very happy when they get the initial email from me, that says they have been caught paraphrasing insufficiently, and they are at risk of getting a penalty. I imagine getting the email saying that you have been caught for a second offence, and it will be dealt with centrally, is even worse.

The actual meeting, which took place online, was quite brief. The chair asked everyone to introduce themselves, and set out the procedure. He then asked me what the allegation was that had lead to this meeting, and asked the student what their response was. And then the panel had all the information they needed. We all left, and later that day the message came with the outcome. It boiled down to a lower grade. And I thought that was reasonable. 

My predecessor had hoped that after one stern conversation, this student would be more careful. But in the stress of the exam period, it happened again. I really hope now they will always keep the need for using their own wording in the forefront of their head. And by now there is not that much left of their degree! I have faith. 

I have reason to believe this won’t be the last time I will meet with this panel. But I hope it will remain a rare occurrence. For me it’s no big deal, but you can tell that for a student, it probably is. And it would just be be more pleasant for all if there was no need for it. Never doing stupid things under pressure is a big ask, though…

22 April 2023


The blissful Easter break ended, and immediately things kicked into higher gear. I immediately had to deal with a lot of students who had questions about upcoming presentations. The second year is doing their presentations the first week back on campus, and the third year the week after that. I had some 10 students from the second year, and that kept me busy enough. Quite a lot of them got in touch with questions or issues! And that was only the beginning. The students from the third year, for whom there is more at stake, were also ramping up the communications. The problem with that is, that I have business with every single one of them.

I of course also have other things to do. I have fieldwork to prepare, work to mark, academic poor practice two deal with. Just to name a few things. But these presentations take up a lot of time, especially the dissertation presentations! And I wasn't going to get much time to do that. The first day back on campus I was in the field, and the second day on campus I had the aforementioned presentations by the second years. They have to be double marked, so you get double the number of students. That means you're marking presentations most of the day.

In addition to these oral presentations, there were two cohorts of master students doing poster presentations in the same week. That took up a fair amount of time as well.

The dissertation presentations don't only lead to me getting bombarded with emails. I have to make sure all the staff know exactly what they need to do! Which means I really have to prepare a mountain of paperwork. Some of that I will have to do at the last minute; that can only be done after the student have submitted their files. Unfortunately, that will be Friday noon, in the presentation start 9 am on Monday. I should try to make sure I have a bit more time between these two things next year!

The week before these presentations always feels busy, but somehow it feels worse this year. And I'm only writing this before the weekend! There is no way I can get everything finished by Friday end of play. So I will be in the office on Saturday. And after the presentations I have to get my timetabling requests for next year sorted, as the deadline is coming up. And I still have several academic integrity cases to deal with. I really look forward to the end of term now! Then I should be able to sigh a breath of relief…

21 April 2023

Parys Mountain the 2023 episode

Immediately after the Easter break we would go into the field! And for me, this would be the last day in the field in this module. That would be one more trip, but that would be at the same time as the dissertation presentations, and I need to attend those.

We went to Parys Mountain. I enjoy that trip! It is a special place. And normally, I do all the talking about the geology, and Dei does all the talking about the cultural heritage. It is quite a nice sharing of the tasks. It indeed went like that this year; Jaco was at a conference, so it was the two of us.

We had one complication this year we hadn't had before; it was foggy! And it wasn't too bad, but the Big Pit is called that for a reason, and we couldn't really see the end of it very well. But a lot of the rock we look at in close-up, so then fog doesn't matter.

The foggy Big Pit

I had been reading some additional articles about this site in the train back home back from the Netherlands. So I was more certain of my stuff than I normally am! But I could still be more certain in the future.

Black Smoker deposits

Dei was on a roll with his more historic musings as well. I think the whole day went okay! And it stays a magical site. 

The next trip I will have to miss; that clashes with the dissertation presentations, and I have to be there. But Dei and Jaco will be totally fine without me. So this was the end of the module for me! A worthy end. And I'm sure I only have to blink and we have reached the next academic year, when it all starts again!

Dei talking mining business

20 April 2023

Vegetable growing started

I was getting a bit restless seeing Easter come and go, and me not having even remotely started growing food. I had been a bit earlier last year! So the weekend after Easter I popped to the garden centre for tomato plants and seeding potatoes. And later that day I gave the tomatoes bigger pots, planted the potatoes, and also planted some seeds I still had. I’ll try peas, beetroot, cavolo nero, and celeriac. Last year, tomatoes were a success (although I seem not to have told the blog that), and I tend to also manage with peas and beetroot. Keep your fingers crossed for the other vegetables! 

Veg and a spider plant

19 April 2023

The Cornish are back

I was in the train back from Hull to home when I got a text. It was from my Cornish friends Mike and Daz. They were coming to Wales again! Before Covid, that had been a yearly occurrence. Sometimes twice a year, as they enjoy the hills both in summer and winter guise.   I was glad to get to see them again after so much time!

They dropped by Saturday afternoon, and suggested we walk around on the surface of Llanberis Copper mine. That sounded fine! I grabbed my helmet and a water bag and I was good to go. But when we pulled into the layby, they realised they had already been there before. We had to make a plan B! And we decided to walk into Dinorwic from there.

We mainly walked over the main path, but at some point we went on a little explore. We saw bits we had never seen before! Dinorwic always has surprises like that ready for you. And it was a gorgeous day.

Afterwards we had a cuppa (Daz had supplies in his van), and then they drove me home. It had been really good to see them! We go back a long time by now. We first met in spring 2010... I hope they will be back soon. 


Obscure corner of the quarry

Respectful art

Me with Mike and Daz

Lovely views

18 April 2023

Onwards with replacing sleepers

I have raised beds in my garden, which are demarcated by old railway sleepers. I think they have been in there for awhile! Some had started to disintegrate. And last year I took the decision to not replace them with other sleepers. If a sleeper falls apart, I just take some stones from the riverbed and use these instead.

One of the sleepers of the raised bed that holds my apple tree was in a really bad state. And last year, I had pulled it out. Michael had asked me if he could help me with the garden in return to me helping him financially, and I thought this might be a nice job for him. But he never showed up! So I had this raised bed without a demarcation, and it was time I would do something about it. One weekend a while ago I had scavenged suitable rocks from the riverbank, but I hadn't had time to put them in position. But then, before post-Easter teaching started again, I did.


It wasn't even that big a job! And it was very satisfying. That raised bed is ready for the coming years. And I already know which sleeper will go next! But let's first do some things in the garden that are under a bit more time pressure. It is already passed Easter and I haven't sown any vegetables! And I also still have this empty bed underneath the repaired wall!


17 April 2023

Updating my car

 I normally drive without GPS. I had a satnav, but it was getting temperamental. And I just got used to checking my route beforehand on Google Maps, and just driving on memory. It generally works!

I started reconsidering that when we were called out to rescue a dog. When a location had been given, I had indeed checked it on Google Maps. Just when I was about to get into the car, a message came through that revised that location. I had to quickly check on my phone where that would take me! And I did have to stop somewhere along the way to check if I was still going in the right direction.

When I got to the meeting point, the rescue was already underway. And I decided that I should step up my game. I should just have satnav! So I could just drive to wherever it was I was needed.

I have a phone. Of course, it can function as a satnav. But then it needs two things: a power supply (it doesn’t have much of a battery life), and somewhere to be mounted. And these things are easily sorted. I popped to the nearest store where they sell things like that, and got me a USB charger that fits into the cigarette lighter of the car. My car is so old, it has a cigarette lighter rather than a built-in USB port! I also bought a mount. So now I am sorted! If I get called out again, I can just travel to where I need to be like someone who actually lives in the 21st century. I'm sure that's quicker! And it will even come in handy during other trips I'm sure…

16 April 2023

Ferry to the Netherlands: judgement after full trip

You shouldn’t judge a trip until it is over! I remember that when I went by train, years ago, it all went fine on the way out. The way back saw some hiccups. I was totally trained out by the time I got home! So going to the Netherlands by boat was fine, but I knew I wouldn’t really know what it’s like until I would have made the way back too. 

Getting to the boat went smoothly. The train to Rotterdam was punctual, and at the bus stop, the driver of the coach (which wasn’t in P&O livery) found me. 

When I got onto the boat, my key card didn’t work. I had to go to reception to sort that. There they offered me a £20 upgrade to a room with a window and a kettle. I took it! I had filled my flasks at my mum’s, but still. Endless tea and coffee, and a view? Worth the money, I thought. 

My transport back


Port of Rotterdam 

The passage back went fine. In the morning I used up every sachet of coffee in the cabin. And I had more in the bag! 

I had booked a train back conservatively; I didn’t really know how long it would take to get off the boat. But my conservative estimate turned out correct. I think on a good day, it would be possible to catch an earlier one. Good to know. 

Travel to Manchester and Chester went smoothly. And then I had a deja-vu: there things got complicated, with delays, cancellations and platform changes. I spent some 45 minutes there. After some 22 hours of travelling! It had been Chester too where my train journey from the Netherlands had become so tiresome I got really fed up. Maybe that’s just what Chester does. 

When I finally got into a train to Bangor, there were no more complications. And after almost 25 hours I was home again. I was greeted by a cacophonous cat! I was so glad to see her. And I think that was mutual.

So what do I think? It is a bit of a slog! In both directions, it' took me more than 24 hours. But the part on the boat is actually quite relaxed. And the whole trip will be easier next time now I've done it once before. 

I should check the relative environmental credentials. I think a train is much better! Most of that is electric, and you don't know how that energy is generated, but at least part of it will be renewable. There is nothing renewable about ferry fuel. So if that is confirmed I should have the train as default, but the boat is a good second. I think I'll do this again!

15 April 2023

In the Netherlands

I’ve done the rounds again! I decided to visit the Netherlands over Easter. And I managed to see my mum, my dad, my sister and several friends. It was a good trip. 

Drinking wine in the garden with my mum

One thing that stood out was visiting Viking. During our hike he had explained he temporarily lived in the most glamorous location possible in Amsterdam and that I should come and see. And I did! He hadn’t promised too much. What a location. And if I see him, that often happens at Roelof’s, so then it’s him on his own, but now I got to see his wife and kids. The last time that happened he only had two kids! Things had changed in the meantime. 

There are worse places to live

I also got to see my dad’s new house in finished condition. I had seen the empty shell, and it looked promising, but now it’s a home with a kitchen and paint on the walls and furniture and all that. It looked great! I am glad he landed so well. 

And in addition to these new abodes it just was good to see people. Catch up with my mum over coffee, with Henco and Maaike over buckets of tea, with Monique and Mike over even more tea. Making Easter lunch with my sister (harp concert afterwards, of course!) and brushing her cat. Going to a museum together. It’s good to stay in touch with people you’ve known for decades! And I was even mainly lucky with the weather. A good trip! 

The museum I went to with my sister

13 April 2023

To the Netherlands by boat

For the first time I would go by boat to the Netherlands! I had made sure I was ready for it. Firstly, I had printed out all sorts of things. I knew it was going to be a long trip, so I wanted to have stuff to do with me. And managing to do some work in the train and on the boat would mean I wouldn't be so pressed for time upon my return. So I had printed some student essays I needed to mark, and some scientific articles I wanted to read within the context of an upcoming day in the field with the students. and I had brought some Welsh homework.

The next thing I needed was food and drink. It is a long way! On the boat you have access to drinking water, of course, but in the train you don't. And I like my water. and given that I was travelling by boat, and nobody cared how big my luggage was, I had brought 6 liters. Three hot flasks and a water bladder. And I had only booked a cabin, no meals; I hoped I could make coffee in the morning with water I had brought. At best it would be just warm enough! But it was worth trying if that would do for me. 

With regard to food I had baked a quiche beforehand. And made sandwiches. And I had brought a piece of cake. The sandwiches would be lunch and breakfast. And the quiche was dinner.

It worked out fine! I set off at 10:15, drove to Bangor, and parked by the old university library. It was Easter; there was barely a car there. The train was on time, and I had space to do some work. The other trains (I needed to change in Chester and Manchester) were also on time, and not overly busy. 

On the way to Hull

I got to Hull by 15:35. I had plenty of time! Check-in closes at 7.  I first wandered into town to have a look. I had never been to Hull! I also had another sandwich. But then I decided to just take the bus to the port. That went smoothly as well. As did check-in. So I could either do some more work in my cabin, or on deck. it was all quite relaxed! 

Hull station

Hull city centre

Art by the ferry terminal 

My cabin

I ate my quiche in the late sun. And went to bed at a reasonable time. I could hear the on-board entertainment from the cabin, but that wasn’t an issue. And when I woke up the next day I had a shower, and found out the hot flask I had saved had just hot enough water for something that resembled coffee. Success! 

Leaving Hull

When we docked I caught the bus to Rotterdam Central Station. And from there I took a train to Amersfoort. And at around noon I greeted my mother. It had been a 26 hour trip, but it had been stress-free, and I had marked most of my essays, and done my homework. I think I could do this more often! The booking was a bit of a faff, but the practical execution was lovely. If the way back is as good, I have found an acceptable alternative to flying or taking the train…

12 April 2023

Another Kate goodbye

I suppose the last years have seen a steady supply of goodbyes and welcomes to Kates. And there was another one! The Kate who
featured here the last time because she had come back from Iceland, is now leaving for England. So after the welcome came another goodbye! And now she will live quite far away. I don't think that's the end of the friendship though. I could imagine a weekend in Yorkshire at some point. And I'm sure she'll be back sometimes, because North Wales is just too beautiful to not come back to. We met up before she left to have some coffee and cake and a short walk.

And with this Kate leaving, almost inevitably the other one is imminent again. Stay tuned! I hope there will be welcome to Kate blog post coming up quite soon…

11 April 2023

Maundy Thursday chores

Not all of it was Maundy Thursday! On Wednesday already I started my chores spree. When charging my helmet light after the Cae Coch trip, I had accidentally ripped one of the wires of the charger off the plug. That needed fixing! So I used the last daylight of Wednesday to do some messy soldering. It wasn’t a work of beauty, but it was good enough.

Very professional soldering setup 

Then Thursday came, and the university was closed. Time for more chores! And I got some big stuff done. The first was repairing the fence. Months ago, for unknown reasons (although we know uninvited people sometimes roam our gardens), one of the older fence panels had collapsed. I had gone to B&Q once to buy a replacement, but they were out of stock. And then nothing happened for a while. But now I had time! I got that panel.

Putting it in position was not a sinecure. These things are big and heavy, and you need to somehow slot them into four brackets! An additional complication was that the available space was slightly too small. What I managed to do in the end it was to remove all of the brackets, hammer the panel in position, bend the bracket open in my vice, put it back, force the panel into it, and then bend it close again. With violence. Job done!

At some later date I will have to paint the panel as all the other ones are dark brown, but I had bought it on a wet day, and in addition to it being soaking wet I also didn't have time. So that will wait! But I feel good about having done my bit to maintain the fence that I share with my neighbour. The previous panel that gave up the ghost was replaced by him!



The next project was in addition to the infrared panel in my bathroom. In the original configuration I had a towel rod above the radiator. If the central heating is on, your towel will dry. But I try to avoid using my central heating! And that leads to damp towels. Not ideal.

With a huge infrared panel in the bathroom, though, I still have a heat source that can dry my towels. But the towel rod is underneath it! But I happened to have an additional one (don’t ask why), so I just mounted that above. I suppose that if it is the kind of weather in with your towels don't want to dry, I might have the panel on anyway when I have a shower. Well, sometimes, anyway. And then the towels can use the heat that comes out after I've switched the panel off! And if I have things that really need drying and it can’t be done outside, and it is a bit too much to ask light a fire in the landing, I can just switch on the panels for the express purpose. We'll see! Maybe it doesn't end up being all too useful, but you don't know until you try.

Double towel rack

The Friday was largely for other purposes, although I did useful things such as hoovering (the cat didn’t approve) and cutting the grass for the first time this year. And cave rescue admin. But I’m glad I finally got down to some of these tasks that had been waiting for months! Very useful, such an Easter break…

10 April 2023

Confusion at Neuadd Ogwen

In December 2021, work started on Neuadd Ogwen. One of the main objectives of the project was building a porch over the rear entrances. As it was, the hall just had two sets of double doors that opened straight into the outside world. That doesn’t stop much heat and noise escaping!

It’s now Easter time 2023. How is progress going? On the porch side: it isn’t. In January, steel beams were installed, which looked like they were the backbone of the structure. And then nothing happened for a while.

The situation on January 25th

One day I came out of my house to find activity again. I asked the men there whether that meant work would now continue until it was finished. They said it did. 

When I came home that day, the beams had gone. What did that mean? This seemed very inefficient. I don’t know what is going on now. I suppose I will find out! But I’m glad I didn’t know 1.5 years ago, when all disruption started, that there still wouldn’t even be a start of a porch by now…

No beams! And no porch.

09 April 2023

Comms training

It felt like we had done the previous communications training only the day before! But in reality, it was pretty much a year ago. And we were doing it again at the same venue: the Great Orme. This time I actually also knew what it looks like underneath

Before we started, I introduced myself to some new people. As membership secretary, I know all names. It’s good to know the faces as well! 

Tony, our comms officer, lead the training. He let us play with new, digital two-way radios. The same with the Nicolas; some sort of phone developed especially for underground. And he brought out our usual tried-and-tested field telephones with a wire between them. And although they are not comms, he brought out some gas meters as well. I had just been reminded of the possibility of bad air underground! 

We first had a play indoors, but then we took the kit into the show mine. It worked! And that was basically all we had come for. I was home at a reasonable time! 

Inside the show mine

Signage in the mine

08 April 2023

Into the field with a new MSc student

In spring, we tend to get our MSc students. Last year I got two, one of which who bailed quickly. This year I had two as well; one on an entirely desk-based project, and the other one on a project that was very field-based. And I figured we should start of the fieldwork as soon as we could. The student agreed! So on a glorious Monday we had our first venture into the estuary. We looked at what the puzzling aspects of it are, and how we can try to pry its secrets out of it. That didn't go overly smoothly; firstly I hadn't been in the field in months and had lost my routine, and he had never had routine in the first place. Additionally; it was unknown where the GPS had gone, so it was difficult to log where we were making our observations. And our mobile phones can probably tell us where we are, and we were using that, but in the long run we also need elevation, so that GPS has to come back. But I think it was a success! And we will be back…

Lovely day in the estuary

Puzzling fossil salt marsh layers

What a commute!