31 August 2023

Almost another call-out

I was in the train back to Bangor, from Chester, minding my own business, and looking forward to having an evening with the cat. And then my phone lit up with a message. We were put on standby! We had only done a rescue the previous weekend. This is getting a bit much! Sometimes an entire year goes by without us being needed to rescue a person. And this was a person rescue. And of course it was in the very same venue as the previous one.

I indicated I would be available later. I did not give an actual time estimate; on the way out, my one hour train journey turned into a three hour combined train and bus journey. So I wasn't keen on doing any estimates until I would have got to Bangor! I could just update then. 

The good news was that before I even got to Bangor, we were already stood down. It was a situation with someone being overdue, and they had made contact with the homefront. I was relieved. I got my evening with the cat back!

This time it was a false alarm. But it does strengthen my conviction that this is the venue to watch. Oh well! The more often we have to rescue people out, the better we will get at it. As long as it just remains the situation that the people we get out are largely a bit tired, cold and hungry! And nothing worse…

30 August 2023

Run (and lunch) in Chester, if you can get there...

It started well, and went downhill quickly. Not the run; this was Chester after all, so not much in the way of hills. Also not really the date. As that was what the run was part of; a third date. The issue was getting there. 

I got on the train without issues, and it set off eastward in a promising way. But before we reached the first stop  there was an announcement: there was a technical problem and the train would terminate at the next stop. There would be a replacement bus service. Great. 

I got on the bus. It was filled up all the way. And we were off! But we were on the slow coastal road, as the stations between Bangor and Chester are a bit more seaward than the dual carriageway. This was getting slow. And at some stops, the bus driver had to wait a bit to let other thwarted rail users get on.

The back of the bus was full of young folk who had a lot of beer in their luggage. And they had a Bluetooth speaker. They just started a party! There was some loud and uncoordinated singing along to Mamma Mia, and to a cover of Zombie. I think that there would have been a dancefloor if the trip would have been only marginally longer. And all the beer required an improvised stop to let some ladies have a wee between a lorry and a corn field. I was glad I had an emergency flask and sandwich with me. 

I finally reached Chester close to 2 PM, although I should have been there at 12:17.  And we would leave for the Great Gatsby at 16:30. Plenty of time, but much more than having lunch and getting ready wasn’t going to happen! 

The play was lovely, as I already pointed out. And after that we just had some tea and called it a night. And yes I did stay over, and no not in the same room. I know there would be questions!

The next day the plan was: go for a run, and go for lunch. And we did! We did a lovely loop that started in Chester proper, and had a big loop in the rather green area between the river Dee and the A483. On the one side it was fields; on the other it was woodland,  associated with an estate. And it rained beforehand and afterwards, but the actual run was dry.

the Dee

While we were running together I tried to remember what the previous time was I went for a run with someone. I wasn't quite sure, but I knew it was years ago! In 2015 I had several running partners, like Gordy and Coleen. And I know I ran with my niece once, but I can't find that, so I'm not quite sure how long ago that was. I think that was later! I mean, in 2015 she was a bit on the young side to go for a run together. Especially as she was the navigator. But either way; I enjoyed that! We were not perfectly matched regarding speed but that's okay. I hope I can lug him along one of my running routes well in the not-too-distant future!

Lunch afterwards was good too! A nice contrast of sweaty muddy running, and then having a civilised lunch in a café all brushed up. Maybe here in Wales we can combine a run in the Carneddau with lunch in the Green Olive one day!

29 August 2023

The Great Gatsby

Two weeks before I had had a rather enjoyable second date. So soon after, we started planning a third. We would be in the Chester area again, which is less good for outdoor exploits, but better for anything cultural. And we settled on an open air performance of the Great Gatsby. 

We took our seats in good time, and had pizza from the local caterer. And quite early on, a lot of the actors came out, and started playing a bit of jazz, and doing a little jig. It brought everyone into the right mood! And they all looked marvellous in their period costumes.

It also didn't look like rain. That was good! The forecast hadn't been overly promising, so I had full waterproofs with me. But I would not need them at all.

Then the play began. I was familiar with the story as I had a read the book a few decades ago. I didn't matter! I loved just watching the story unfold in front of me. And I must say; if you read the book, you have to make up the costumes and the music and the parties and the dancing in your head, and I am a bit limited in my capability of picturing that in style. And here I didn't have to! 

Early on in the performance (so no Gatsby yet); Tom Buchanan in the chair, Nick Carraway on the right, and also no Daisy yet. Later I was too immersed to take pictures. 

I thought it was an excellent performance. Some characters were a bit exaggerated, but I expected that. It had struck me as the sort of theatre where they do that. But I didn't find it distracting at all. And I loved the effortless cool of the actor who played Gatsby. I suppose it may very well have been an effortlessly cool actor who played a character who makes a concerted effort to look cool, but also to make it look an effortless. Complicated!

All the other actors were excellent as well! And I suppose Jordan was also effortlessly cool. And there is a lot of straining in the others, because that is the story. Tom Buchanan was played as a downright oaf. But he gets some redemption later, of course.

Almost all of the actors also played an instrument and/or sang, and almost all the musicians also acted. A bunch of multitalents!

The story ends sad, of course. But after the final scene, all actors (also those whose character had died) came back on for a last little dance. So everyone left cheerful anyway.

I thought it had been a brilliant production! I think it had been an excellent choice for our third date. I’ll write about the rest of the date in the next post…

28 August 2023

Typing in Dutch

When my RSI got out of hand, I became almost a monoglot in written form. Speech recognition software works very well in English, but in any other language, at least in my experience, it is a bit more difficult. I did use the Welsh speech recognition software, but it is clearly not anywhere near as well-developed as the English language stuff. It gets a lot of words wrong, and then you have to correct it with your hands anyway. Just typing it straight away is not even that much more demanding on arms and hands.

I know my phone should be able to understand Dutch; my sister can dictate in Dutch, and she has the same brand phone. And I have tried to use that functionality, but I failed miserably. The closest I came was speaking to my phone in Dutch, and it then indeed writing down the text in Dutch, but immediately afterwards also writing the text down as if it was just very strange English. For instance, if I would want to dictate ‘ik wil een fiets’  then I could, but it would be immediately followed by ‘it will in feet’ as that would be what the phone figured I probably had said on the assumption I was speaking English. So I gave up on that. But only after the phone amusingly assumed I had called  my sister a ‘crazy cold pinecone’.

It is almost 3 years ago that I had to sign off sick with serious RSI. And since then the situation has greatly improved! I've still not fully recovered; I guess that might take another year or two. But I am increasingly able to type a bit. Especially on my phone, as that is good with predictive text. In April I already started typing messages to my sister again. I had spent years only recording voice messages, as that is easier on the arms! And I still do that if I have a lot of text, but I am glad I can send short messages in written Dutch without thinking too much about it.

If I wrote emails, I still did that exclusively in English or Welsh. And some of the emails I would have preferred to do in Dutch was to two Dutchman who give guest lectures in my applied marine geology module. It was weird sending them emails in English, as I had always just communicated with them in Dutch. I both know them from my time at Free University.

This year I felt confident to ask if they were on again this year, in Dutch. I did compose these emails on my phone, for reasons of predictive text. It felt good to have the choice again! I am glad that there is still progress. And as I said; I sort of hope that after some two more years of this malarkey I can put it behind me. I think I will always be careful! But I am glad it is not likely to be something that really hinders me for the rest of my life. I am still doing one set of physiotherapy exercises for my arms every day. I've been doing them for years! And I see no reason to stop. 

I will be careful and not overexert myself, but I thought this was so hope-inspiring I wanted to share it!

27 August 2023

Application Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy

I mentioned earlier I wanted to apply for promotion to senior lecturer. And I said I next needed to apply to become Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. And by now I have had a look at what that takes. Most people would have done that years ago, but I’m me, and I hadn’t. And I must say this could become a stumbling block! You basically have to demonstrate in two case studies that you are a leading light regarding education both in the school and in a wider context (college, university). And there are lots of criteria to meet: management, inclusivity, innovation, whatnot.

In my SL application I am going for the scattergun approach; I have been in the job for a while, and from all various corners of my activities I can cobble together examples of a lot of the things they want to see. I am fairly confident about that. But if everything needs to be in two case studies, you need to have done two big, all-encompassing things. I will just give it a go; I'll just think of the biggest things I have done, and then try to write them down as convincingly as possible. There is a fair chance it won't be successful, but then at least I will have had a try, and then the second attempt will be easier. And I can have that second of times after I have indeed done too big things. And at least I now know what I'm working towards. I have just taken on two rather big jobs earlier this calendar year; it’s quite possible I can use these two in a second attempt. Right now it is still too early.

I have heard a rumour that being a Senior Fellow he is now not desired but essential. So if I don't manage with the senior fellow application, then the senior lecturer is also not going to happen. But again; if I get a lot of the work out of the way now, I should be able to strike without too much difficulty once the senior fellowship is sorted. Whenever that may be. It looks like I'm in for the long haul. Not what I would have hoped, but if that's what it takes then that's what I will do! Stay tuned...

26 August 2023

Small-scale local race

The day after my 10k race in Caernarfon, I came across another race on Facebook: Ras y Mynydd. It was a mixed road/trail race in the surroundings of Mynydd Llandygai. It went around Moel y Ci. It looked like a cute local initiative! And it was two days later, at 7pm. I decided to go. That area is so beautiful! I had been running around there before, for instance over the top of the hill. I didn't care I had just rung my lungs out of my body. I was keen to do this race as well!

That day I hitched a ride from Martin, as I figured that if I was going to run 7.5k race (partly trail) in the evening, I couldn't really justify also spending an hour and 15 minutes on my commute. There is a limit to the amount of time I can spend exercising! Sometimes I just have to keep my job down and my household going. And the cool thing was that for entirely different reasons, Susan did the same thing. We had never gone to work all together!

After Martin dropped me back off, I quickly ate some soup, got my bike ready, and changed into my running gear. I also packed clean clothes and a towel as there was mention of showers. And then I set off! And this time it was only a 20 minute ride, so a lot more forgiving than the previous time I had biked to a race. But I still figured the soup would have been processed sufficiently by the time I would start to not cause trouble.

I parked up at the Memorial Hall, which was race headquarters, and registered. You just filled out a little form in which you gave your name, address, club (if any) and gender + age. The administrative ladies then just gave you the next number on the pile, and added that number to your registration form. And I paid the very modest £6 fee. I was ready! And I was pleasantly surprised; the weather forecast has been very wet, but the skies had cleared considerably.

Race HQ

I spotted a lady I knew from Welsh class. I still fairly regularly bump into her when I am running. And she looks fast! I figured she'd outrun me. It was nice to see her. And she lives in the village, so she had known about this race for years. It seems to be real tradition! But I had only just found out about it.

I had made sure I had enough time so I was a bit early; there was a bit of hanging around going on. I also spotted Dave and some of his associates. I hadn't seen him since early May. But then it was time to line up at the start. And then we were off!

At the start

Seen from the other side (pic by Nick Pipe)

Off we are! (pic by Nick Pipe)

I had decided beforehand it wasn't going to be a race where I would push myself hard. I had only done that three days ago! And the scenery was very beautiful. I had my camera with me, and I intended to use it. Even more so now that the weather was better than expected. But that does take time. But I got carried away and started quite fast anyway. Oh well! I knew I could wear myself out a bit in the beginning; some of that route would be downhill on uneven terrain, or slippery, and I'm not very strong on that kind of terrain. I could rest then!

We started on asphalt, and then got onto a forest road. And from there we turned off onto a narrow path with kissing gates. That was the sort of terrain I can't go fast! The path was quite slippery as it had been a wet day, and I think it is more important to not fall on my face than to run a good time.

The path lead to a bigger path, which went uphill for awhile. That is where I can do my thing! And the views became spectacular. And the downhill wasn't too steep or uneven, so that went alright as well. But when we came back to asphalt, I could accelerate again after all. No worries about where to put your feet!

The route made another loop outside the village. The views of the even better than before! But as this was off road, and the place was very muddy, you did have to pay attention to what you did with your feet. All went well. And then we got back on asphalt. I decided to squeeze out what I still had left, and thundered back to the memorial hall. Finished!

I found an acquaintance who had finished a few minutes before me, and we had a little chat. Together we saw Dave finish, and shortly after that, the lady from Welsh class. And then we decided it was time to go in for the cup of tea and piece of cake that was included in the racing fee!

When I registered they ask me if I wanted to certificate. And I had figured that why not; I did! But that meant I had to wait for them to be finished. And they were done by hand, there and then. So I just chatted away with familiar and unfamiliar people, and cheered on the winners of the various categories. This race had special categories for locals! I liked how it was all a bit improvised. And after the ceremony with prices, that certificates were finished. I went to get mine. And that was the only indication I would get that they of my time! 39:56. And it was my first episode of this race, am my first 4.6 mile race ever, so I couldn't place it in context. But I was happy with it!

Bye then it was getting quite dark so I had to make my way home. I had forgot to bring the big headlight of my bike. With the lights I had, I was visible to other people, but I couldn't see very much myself! But I got home safely. 

I really want to do that race next year as well! It has been great fun. And it is a beautiful route. And it is a fundraiser for the Memorial Hall which is the headquarters. After deducting the costs of the race, they only raised some £300, but it is something! So I intend to be back…

25 August 2023

Telephone issues

I don't think I've ever lived anywhere where the phone signal cuts out as often as it does here. It is a bit annoying! And quite a lot of communication these days goes through Internet, and even though 4G also cuts out when the phone signal does, at least I have my own wifi. I can only be reached through wifi when I'm not too far away from the modem, though. The conservatory is out!

It normally doesn't last very long, but one evening it was out, and I naïvely assumed it would be back the next morning. It wasn't. And a bit later I saw on the village Facebook group that someone had contacted their provider, and they said that indeed, there is maintenance going on. They figured it would be repaired by Friday. This was posted up on Tuesday. And an update on Wednesday postponed it to Saturday.

I really should get my landline sorted! It stopped working and I don't know why. It would really be handy to be able to just phone people. It was a bit typical that I rarely get phone calls; that is a bit of a 20th century mode of communication. But I did manage to miss two phone calls in the time when the signal was down. Luckily, both callers then also contacted me via Internet. And I wasn't always in the conservatory when they did that. So all communications were performed in the end. And text messages just come in as soon as I leave the village. Not all the people I communicate with by text have iPhones, so iMessage isn't always an option.

I'll be glad when this is sorted again! Isn't it handy when things just work the way they should…

24 August 2023

Lots of cave rescue business

Last year, there was a big change in the way we have to run our cave rescue team. Traditionally, if people wanted to join us, they could just show up for a few trainings, and if they liked it, and the team liked them, they could apply to become probationary members. And then after a certain number of events attended, they could become full members. But then insurance changed, and only members could attend trainings. That means we have to sometimes sign people on as probationary members without ever having met them.

We did implement the change, but it did result in some organisational quandaries. For instance, we now had a whole list of probationary members from before the change, and probationary members from afterwards. We used to have criteria for changing probationary member to full members, but it was deemed that that system wasn't fit for purpose anymore in times of Covid, so nobody had become a full member in years. And then this happened. So we had to go back to the drawing board.

We had a committee meeting planned in which we intended to discuss that, and make executive decisions. By coincidence, three days before we had a callout. We also had a new training officer, who needed to think about how to document training attendance. If we ever need to call on our insurance, they will certainly want to know what regime the people involved in the insurance claim have been through! So two days after the callout we had a meeting (an online one) about that. And then that committee meeting, which was in person, in Plas y Brenin. In it, we managed to set new criteria for becoming full members, and also for staying full members. People who never show their face will end up not being called out anymore.

And after every incident, we have a debrief meeting. That one is coming up. I'm not done with these meetings yet!

Altogether it seems my life has been reduced to work, running, and cave rescue. Oh well! Work is a necessity, running is lovely, and the more involved in cave rescue I get, the more I feel like an actual part of the team, rather than just someone who thinks the team desperately needs women in this pathologically male-dominated underground exploration world, in order to be an acceptable rescue service. And if not me then who. 

I'll have to do some admin work now; changing the documentation, and changing the membership status of a whole number of people. And then the new training season will be upon us. Another year, new surprises, I'm sure!

23 August 2023

Caernarfon 10k 2023

When lockdown hit, I was a bit nervous I might lose my shape. Most of my exercise, after all, came from my commute, and it had now been shortened from many miles to only one flight of stairs. But I replaced my cycling with running, and actually came out of lockdown fitter than I had got in. I found that out the first time I went racing again, after that was allowed again. I registered for the Anglesey half marathon, and immediately broke my personal best on the 21 km. That was promising!

From there it only got better. My next race was the Steepest Street in the World Race, and I even got me a podium position there. Not that I ended up on the podium; I had no idea I had come third, and had just gone home. But it suggested I really was in better shape than before the pandemic, and my half marathon time had not been a fluke. I also ran the Conwy half marathon a lot faster than I had done the previous time. Not a personal best; I suppose the route is a bit too vertical for that. And about as vertical as the next race: the Nick Beer 10k, which is basically just the prettiest part of the Conwy half marathon. And I ran a personal best on the 10k there, in spite of the 600 ft elevation gain; it was 46:09. And that made me want to run a flattish 10k. Surely I could break my personal record of the 10k again? I had been quite proud of running two personal bests on the 10k in succession in 2016: 47:57 in Caernarfon and 46:35 in Bangor, finally breaking a personal best of 50:09 that had stood since 2011. I was clearly faster now than I was in 2016 (let alone 2011). But how fast? One way to find out!

I noticed the Caernarfon 10k and registered. That should be the one! It has less than 200 feet elevation gain. And I had been doing well recently; running silver in the the Steepest Street in the World Race, and doing my commute quite fast as well. So all was looking well. Until about 4 PM the afternoon before. We had a cave rescue callout! When it was clear that was really happening (sometimes it happens you get a callout, and before you even get to the scene you get stood down as someone else has already sorted the situation out) I thought my race was not going to happen. Call-outs can become all-nighters! But then it was a rather smooth rescue, and I was home before midnight. Without the callout I would have been in bed at 10:30, and I also would have had dinner, which didn't really happen because of the callout, but I thought the race was still doable. So on the day I let Marjan, who was going to be my support (again!), know that I was indeed going to race, and at 9 o'clock we met. 

We got to the race terrain, and all went smoothly. It was also beautiful weather! A bit windy, but otherwise lovely. We also bumped into another acquaintance of her: Viv. And after a while I went to the start. 

Pre-start selfie with Marjan

I made sure to start at the front. This time I did not want to have to wrestle my way through slow people in the beginning when all the runners are still quite bunched up. It did mean a lot of people quickly overtook me. And I noticed that more than three of them were women. I wasn't quite sure how many, but something like six.

I often start feeling quite fast, but not this time. I didn't know if that was because of the callout or something else. But I just muddled along. I had decided I needed to run every kilometer in 4.5 minutes and then I would get my personal best, so I made sure to check at every kilometer time. I suppose I could have switched on my Strava exactly when the horn sounded, and then I would have had much more precise time record, but I hadn't, because sometimes when you tell it to start it needs to load for a while. I didn't want to have to deal with that! So I had started it a few minutes before the start. But if I just got everything rounded off to minutes I could still keep a reasonable eye on how I was doing. And it seemed to go alright!

Around kilometer 7 I started struggling a bit. I noticed my heart rate was higher than I had intended it to be. I had run the Steepest Street in the World Race with a fairly constant heart rate of about 160, so that was sort of my aim, but I was quite soon at 166, and later went over 170. That is a lot! And my breathing was frantic. And at around 8.5 km my head was getting a bit light. But I had only a short distance to go then, so I just kept going.

Around 8 km; notice the red face

From around the 6 km sign I had seen a woman in the distance (shortly after the start I had lost sight of any of them), and I had been slowly gaining on her. I was wondering if I could perhaps overtake her. But coming closer to the finish I realised I wouldn't. By then I was only interested in the personal record. I wasn't even overly keen on overtaking two blokes that were near me. I was tired!

Close to the finish I was a bit annoyed when one of the men cut me off in order to try to overtake the other one. I saw later on footage Marjan had shot that it hadn't been successful! But I had a quick look on my watch when I came over the finish; it said it was 10:44. So that meant I had a personal best! I knew we had started a little bit after 10AM but I couldn't remember by how much. I would have to await official results. But my mission was accomplished! I had improved my seven year old personal best. 

After the finish. Pic by Marjan

I caught my breath with Marjan. And together we cheered on the next runners. We were looking for Viv! But didn’t find her. When we were sure she must have finished, and we must have missed it, we decided to leave. 

There was no text with results, but later that day the results for all were published. I had run 43:58! That’s pretty good. And I had finished 11 seconds after the woman I had seen. I was 8th woman, and all 7 faster ones were in the 21-34 age category. The fastest had done it in 36:43! That’s really fast. 

I knew I would be tired the rest of the day, given how long I had been running with a very high heartbeat. But I still managed to have a productive day with cutting the grass, doing the laundry, and sorting out my lawnmower storage. Not bad!

I suppose the next time I run a flat 10k I will find out if this was the best I can do. Maybe with a good night’s sleep I can do even better! But I know I will have to push hard to achieve that, if I can at all. Watch this space! Next race is in October…

22 August 2023


I was just having a nice cup of tea with Charlotte when my phone it up with a one-word message: standby. In capitals. That changed my entire day abruptly!

Charlotte left, and I went to collect my kit. Almost immediately after that first message, another message had followed, which gave a bit more detail. This was a case of an overdue person, and the location was given as well. So this was not another dog rescue! And it was the venue from which we get called out for human rescue most often. Almost immediately afterwards it became clear this was a case of two people.

The thing about the mine that these men had gone into, and hadn’t come out of by the time they had told their contact persons they should be out, is that it is part of a famous through trip. Would we go in from what is generally used as the entrance, or the exit? Or both? So which side would be the one we were expected to gather at?

I pondered the situation a bit, and decided to drive to Capel Curig. Whichever side it would be, that was where I would have to go first! And I could await news there. And as soon as I got there and put the handbrake on, another message pinged into my inbox. We were told to go to the exit. So I gave my ETA and I was off!

When I got there they were already three other team members there. One of them quickly briefed me. The situation was that two blokes had gone in, aiming to do the through trip, but encountered an issue, and had turned back. One of them was stuck at the bottom of a pitch and couldn't come out. And that's why we were here. Except that we were now parked up at the wrong entrance. This information hadn’t been available when we were told where to gather!

Long story short: we could get a ride in a Landrover some part of the way, walked up the hill to the exit, and then walked over the surface to the more western entrance. It was actually quite a beautiful walk! Another contingent had been redirected to the entrance, and would come from there, with the help of Mountain Rescue. They would bring the kit.

Where we started walking when our ride ended

When we got to the scene we found the person who was already out. And we quickly established voice contact with the person who was still in. And we had our riggers already decide how to haul him out, and had members of our medical team assess the casualty from a distance, when the second contingent arrived, and we could start for real. Now we had ropes and anchors and a drill and pulleys and everything you might need!

It wasn't a complicated rig, so in not much time we had him out. And by that time, two vehicles had managed to drive up to the entrance. One was of one of our team members, and another one was associated with the two blokes. So we happily handed them over! Success!

Hauling the casualty out. Pic: NWCRO

We make sure all the people and all the kit were accounted for, and started our way back down again. On the way up our party had split up into groups; a fast avant-garde and the rest. (I managed to be in the avant-garde with the twentysomethings!) But now it was dark and misty, and we decided to stay together. And without issues we got back to where our vehicles were parked.

Everyone was keen to either get home or to some establishment where victualling was provided, so we didn't linger. We will do a debrief later! But at the first glance, this looks like a successful call-out: we got the casualty out in fine shape, there was nothing that obviously went wrong along the way, and we were ready to leave the scene by 11 pm. And that is a lot more comfortable than the last time I was involved in a rescue that involved people: then we were called out of bed at 2 am, and we weren’t ready to drive home again until 7:15 or so. That was in the same venue, by the way! And I had been completely shattered after that. And this time it was past my bedtime when I got home, but I decided to just stick with my original plans for the day after…

ps This is what appeared in the media about it


20 August 2023

Senior lecturer application making progress

In June I had revealed my intention to apply for promotion at the very next opportunity. I mentioned I had already downloaded the form. And that was the easy bit! Filling it out is more work. But it is summer now, and it is possible to find some time for it. And I am making very good progress! It is as good as finished. It needs some finishing touches, and I will have to go through it again after having put it aside for a while to get a fresh view, but the main work is now done. I am basically ready to fire when an opportunity arises!

When will this opportunity arise? I still don't know! I intended to ask my line manager during my annual Personal Development Review, which he had promised would take place in summer this time (after having done them in autumn twice in a row). However; June and July have already gone, and I think my line manager and will be on holiday until the end of August. So the best I can possibly get now is a September PDR. I hope that will happen!

My next quest will be to convince him that I am ready. I'm not sure how hard that will be. Luckily, I expect to have my PDR with our Director of Teaching and Learning, which is Dei, also present, and he supports me. I'm sure that will help.

I'm also still filling out a generic form. Some time ago, the University was suggesting separate criteria for people with either Teaching and Scholarship (like me), or Teaching and Research contracts. It would make sense! But on the HR website there is no hint of anything like that. 

In the meantime I have enough to get on with; I also want to apply for Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. This is not one of the essential criteria, but it is listed as desirable. It would be good. And I hope I can just reuse a lot of the information I have dug out for the Senior Lecturer application! Watch this space…

19 August 2023

Plum time

I love it when my garden yields copious fruit! So I was glad to see my plums ripen, in spite of the cold wet July. They are now my staple fruit, for as long as the harvest lasts. And I am sharing the love! I have been giving neighbours on either side plums, and I baked a plum dessert for Jaco and Marjan when I went there. It is a good plum year! And the apple tree is getting ready to take over for when the plum tree gets exhausted. Not the best part of having a garden; that's just having a bit of beautiful nature to yourself, right by your house. But it is a rather enjoyable aspect of it anyway!


The dessert

18 August 2023


Like everybody else in the world, I had been aware for quite a while that there was a Barbie movie in the making. I'm not into Barbies, so I didn't think this concerned me. But then the film got released and reviewed (trailer here), and it sounded like Greta Gerwig had managed to make it my business after all. And then I had my eldest sister on the phone, who had really enjoyed it. That's quite an endorsement! So when Susan said she wanted to see it, and asked who was joining her, I didn't hesitate: I said yes.

On a Monday I biked home from work, had a shower, dressed myself head to toe in pink (there are people who are quite surprised I am equipped to do that) and was ready for an adventure.

It was the three of us; Martin hadn't been tempted, but Dean was coming. And we went to a multiplex in Llandudno. 

We had to plough our way through quite a series of commercials; mostly for fast food. And then a few trailers for nothing up my street. And I also realised I was in an unusually young audience. The last movies I have seen have largely been a bit niche, like ‘y Swn’, about the political struggle for a Welsh language television channel. You don't get many young people coming out to see that!

Then the film actually started. The first scene, famously a homage to ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’, had me chuckling. And Barbie and Barbieland then being introduced had the same effect. I liked the fact that she drinks non-existent milk, and just jumps from her house (not the ground floor, obviously) into her car. If kids are playing with Barbies that's exactly how it goes!

Subtle this film is not, obviously. But I knew that and was ready for it. I thought it was a hoot! And I'm not one to be offended by the naked feminism in there. We still need it! So I’d totally recommend it. Don your pink garments, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the ride! 

17 August 2023

Walk with Kate and Bryn

It had been really good to see Kate again! But we didn't get around to doing more than a short walk. We still wanted to squeeze a bigger one, with the dog, into the diary, and one August Sunday it worked out. She had a commitment late morning, so we couldn't do an exceptionally long walk, but a shorter one is nice too. 

The day before, she happened to come past my house, so she briefly stopped over to make plans. And have coffee with cake. That was nice! And the next day I just rocked up at her house, drank buckets of coffee, and just did a bit of newspaper reading well she was seeing to her commitment. And around noon that was sorted. We could leave!

Selfie with Bryn

We decided to do a walk we had done before, two years ago. I hadn't been back since. Dolwyddelan was looking great, and Bryn, the dog, was very excited. We decided to climb out of the village until we would get to a field with no sheep anywhere, so the dog could come off the lead, and have lunch there. Given that we only started walking after 12, lunch needed to take place quite early in the walk. We found a beautiful spot for it.

Lunch view

It was good to be out in the hills, and it was fun to do a walk with the dog. I'm sure the novelty of that has already worn off for Kate as she takes him out several times a day, but for me it was special. He is quite sweet! Very well-behaved. If we were sure there were no sheep around he could come off the lead. And if we had to walk through a herd of sheep he did need to be on the lead, but he barely complained, and barely barked at them.

Summit selfie

Summit view

There was one occasion where there was a gate that wouldn't open, and there was no stile. And then there are only two options: you have to go over the gate/fence, or you have to go under it. And he is mature Labrador, so lifting him over is no sinecure. Luckily we managed to convince him to squeeze under! On the way back that required bribery with snacks, but we did it.

The most important part of the walk was of course catching up. A lot has happened since the last time we had a day in the hills together! And I hope we can do things like this a bit more frequently than we did in the first half of the year. I suppose Bryn needs walking anyway, so if I am in need of a good catch up I might just join in!

16 August 2023

Therapist update

Last year I decided I need it improve my mental health. I got me a therapist, but after a few months I left her again as the approach she was using was not the most suitable one for me. But where to find another one? My therapist said that the people she would recommend didn't have space. And then you're basically left to Google. I found some website that has a lot of therapists on their books, who work online, and of course there will always be someone among them that has space. However, they assigned me someone who sounded like a complete copy of my first therapist. That was no use! And my sister was sceptical of such arrangements anyway. But that left me on a bit of a  dead track.

In summer I decided to act again. I just contacted my old therapist and asked her who the people were she would recommend, but who didn't have space. I would rather be on someone's waiting list than just out in oblivion! So she gave me two names. And I contacted one. She was willing to take me on, though (as expected) not immediately. And now there is an appointment in the diary for September!

I hope this will result in some good results! Everything is better when you’re comfortable in all of your skin, and not sailing on old coping mechanisms that have lost their purpose. My sister is very generous with insightful questions and comments, but it’s better to have a dedicated person for this, who is not also a close relative. So watch this space! 

15 August 2023

Finally painting the garden shed

I have had my garden shed for some four years, but I have only painted it once. That is not the way to make it last. So when I had decided to take two days off to enjoy the very brief spell of good weather, I figured I needed to give it another coat. And I did! It wasn't even a big job. But only now had it ended up top of the to-do list. I hope it will serve me for many more years!



14 August 2023

Seize the two dry days

In June, I had had two lovely nights away in my tent. And maybe I could have had more. But at some point the weather turned, and for weeks it wasn’t really camping weather. And then there suddenly were two nice days forecast. And I hadn't really taking any time off yet. This was a sign! Time to dust off the tent again.

On the first beautiful day I still had several things timetabled, so I had to do pretty much a full day at work. I got home and packed my stuff. I also had dinner; I figured it was probably best if I didn't start walking hungry. I quite like cooking by the tent, but not at any hour!

I had also decided to camp by Llyn Bochlwyd. It is in a beautiful area! And I had walked past several times, but never slept there. And the places you can park are very busy in summer, but probably not in the evening. And that turned out to be true. I didn't struggle at all finding a parking spot.

I walked up in the low sun. It was a nice walk! But when I got to the lake I saw a tent already there. Oh no! Of course I could keep walking, as I had done on one of my earlier trips, but it was getting a bit late. I decided to just walk around the lake a bit to see if I could find a quiet spot. And then I saw two more tents. This was busy! 

Walking up: looking at Cwm Idwal

Reflection of evening light 

When walking around the lake I had to pass one of the tents. I had a little chat with the people associated with it; they were quite nice (and had a charming dog), and they said they had camped here several times before, and they had always been the only tent there. I said I was going to keep a respectful distance. And I walked to the far end of the lake.

I intended to camp by one of the streams that feeds the lake, as I think lake water is lovely for swimming in, but I prefer drinking water from streams. (Yes I know that all the lake water has been streamwater not too long ago.) And there was a stream, but in general, the ground there was quite swampy. I did a bit of scouting around, and in the end I found a spot by a rock that wasn't quite by the lake nor by the stream, but close enough to both. I pitched the tent and then wanted to go for a swim. The midges had come out by then, and I really wanted to wash, so I could afterwards put on my long trousers and other covering garments.

My swim was brief but nice! And then I covered up. I then fetched some stream water, and sorted my luggage. In the meantime, the wind picked up and the midges vanished. Then I brushed my teeth. And then I put on my down jacket and just sat on a rock for a while. It was nice just looking at the black hills and blue evening sky and the reflective lake. And all the lights in the sky. The stars were coming out. I even saw a meteor! And a helicopter seemed to land on Carnedd Dafydd. 

My swimming spot

My anti-midges outfit

A cloud rolling in 

The nightly lake

Then I went to bed. I slept ok! And woke up around six. The midges weren’t out, so I had a relaxed breakfast. And I decided to go up y Gribin. And then walk back down over the Heather Terrace

Walking up y Gribin was lovely. And on the top the views were amazing, and there was as good as nobody there. I walked past Glyder Fach, and sat down for coffee with a view on Tryfan. And when I was ready to leave, a bloke appeared. He was one of our students! We had a nice chat. 

My tent; notice the sliver of the lake in the mid-distance

Tent seen from the other side

Going up y Gribin

View from y Gribin

Nearly at the top! Where the ridge gets quite narrow

From Bwlch y Ddwy Glydyr

I then started descending into Bwlch Tryfan. Only when I was pretty much committed I remembered that that was not the route I had intended to take. This was steep and full of scree; my intended route was more along the isolines and would have been a lot more comfortable. Oh well! This would have to do. And when I got to the Bwlch I easily found the path that leads to Heather Terrace. I had done it once before, in the other direction; it is an okay path.

View onto (Bwlch) Tryfan

View from Bwlch Tryfan into Nant Ffrancon

When I was about halfway there I figured I had probably lost it. I was on some sort of sheep track! That was uncomfortable going. I figured I might have dropped a bit too much. I dropped my bag and scrambled up the slope to see if I could find the real path, but I couldn't, so I just continued. At least I had a sheep path! And later I found a gully which I followed up in another attempt to find the real path. That still didn't yield anything. So then I decided to just descend. That was uncomfortable; there is a lot of heather there, obviously, and that scrapes your legs, and also can hide a lot of unevenness in the train. The going was hard, again! But after while I came to a path and that made everything easier. And by the public footpath past Tryfan Bach I had lunch.

Uninviting stile by Tryfan Bach

From there I would just loop around Tryfan and get back to the road. There is a public footpath there. There was a junction; I took the right turn, as that seemed an efficient thing to do, but that wasn't the public footpath. I cursed myself! Why couldn't I just stay on the comfortable paths? This was a case of ploughing through bracken. But after not too much time I ended up on the road anyway. Almost there! I walked the last few hundred meters along the road back to the car. This rather short hike had taken me a long time! And the next day I would really feel my legs, from all the uncomfortable walking. Oh well! This is how one learns. At least I had got another small trip under my belt! Who knows when the next one will be…

Road and cars in view again

13 August 2023

Eisteddfod 2023

In 2014, I came to Wales. And I immediately started learning Welsh. But it was 2017 when I for the first time I went to the Eisteddfod. That time I got roped in by my Welsh class; I volunteered in the learners’ tent. Then the Eisteddfod was far away for a while, or not happening at all for reasons of Covid, so now that the event was back in the north, it was only going to be my second ever. And this time I got roped into populating the University tent. All universities traditionally have a tent there. 

There was some confusion about whether we, as a School, were going, and what we would be doing there. But my colleague Mollie got things sorted. And she scheduled me in on the Monday afternoon. The idea was that she was going to be there as well, and my colleague Dei. It sounded like a nice day out! 

That Monday it turned out that it was going to be Dei, my non-Welsh-speaking colleague Tom, and I going. This did mean there was a lot less scope for speaking Welsh. Dei, who had already been to the event as he actually competes at the Eisteddfod with his choirs, gave us a lift. It was cool to see almost the entire route peppered with colourful signs, probably made by private citizens, primary schools, et cetera, welcoming the Eisteddfod, and its visitors, to the area. It looks like it is a big thing for local communities!

As we arrived in the afternoon the big queues had dissolved, and it didn't take as long to park up and get to where are all the action was. 

What we had there, in the University tent, was a big poster about the last ice sheet on the British Isles, and a looping PowerPoint presentation that said a bit more about that. And we had some flyers and such like. But it wasn't very busy.

Me by our poster

You sort of expect the university tent to have a lot of stands with interesting stuff! I don't know; the historians with interesting reconstructions of places, biologists with animal skulls, the biocomposite materials people with interesting materials; I don't know, but stuff to show and reel people in! There was no such thing. There were some background posters, and some people in University shirts with no obvious function. So we didn't attract much people. We were mainly there to talk amongst ourselves!

The first thing that happened wasn't over usually associated with the University at all; it was a talk by Liz Saville Roberts, the MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (the constituency that contains Boduan, the location of this year’s Eisteddfod). And after that, nothing else happened.

View from the Bangor University tent

We spoke to the odd person walking in, and took turns going around a bit. Dei is an Eisteddfod stalwart who knows everyone; Tom just goes hunting for journalists and camera crews to drag to our beautiful poster, and I just go around having a look. I popped into the Mentrau Iaith (Language Ventures) tent where I saw my friend Dani engaged in interviewing a novelist, and a tent with all sorts of local environmental initiatives where I bumped into the people I knew from the citizens’ assembly in my area.

We also had been stationed right next to a piano; that threatened to disturb things, as the University tent was also open for people to book as a practising space. I had been warned that some of the afternoon, some folk dancing group would practice there. There's no way you can talk to people about the ice age if literally 10 cm away from you someone is playing the piano and people are dancing all around you. But fortunately for us, these dancers never came. But at some point, Tom got bored and started playing some ditties himself. And then it was time to pack up and go home.

We found the car back, but also saw that the queues for leaving the terrain were pretty big by now. That was to be expected! Luckily, shortly after we reached the car, the entrance we had used on the way in got turned into an exit. There was a lot more demand for that at this time! So it only took us 15 minutes to get off the terrain. There was a bit more queueing outside, but fairly soon we were out on the open roads, heading back east. 

I suppose the next Eisteddfod will be far away again. It moves around the country. And having seen how much effort the University actually puts into that, I am not encouraged to sacrifice my time again to go there. But maybe they'll learn from their experiences. We'll see! It will inevitably come back north again. And maybe we can then, as a School, rock up with some more public-friendly material, if that time the university actually lets us…