30 September 2023

Moel Siabod with Kate

In April, Kate moved to England. In June she got in touch. She wanted to come visit! And we picked a weekend for that. And this one was it.

She would arrive Saturday around noon. And the forecast for that day was good. So we wanted to take advantage of that and go into the mountains. 

She arrived noon sharp and ready to go. Minutes later we were off! Our plan A was Pen yr Ole Wen, but there was no parking there. We checked all lay-bys to Capel Curig, but there wasn’t space to park a toy car. 

We got to the further outskirts of Capel, where Kate spotted a parking spot by Cobden’s, a hotel that seemed perennially closed. But there was a sign there. You could park there for a few quid, and pay online, or otherwise pay in the hotel. We are troglodytes so we went in. I didn’t realise that was a thing! 

A kind lady let us in, and let us pay. And then things went from there. We got the entire history of the place, and the current state, and we got the grand tour. It was interesting! The place is not half as closed as I thought it was. I hope to get back there. But we wanted to go for a walk! So we had to leave at some point. 

We decided to walk Moel Siabod. I hadn’t been yet this year! The last time had been last year with the other Kate. It is a nice walk! We did the clockwise loop. And we made sure to stop for lunch soon, as it had pretty much been lunchtime when Kate arrived, and it was a lot later now.

Moel Siabod

The lake where we had lunch

View from near the top

Double selfie

It was a nice walk and the weather was lovely! I was really chuffed. And I was confident we would manage to spend the next day, which would be a washout, in a good way as well...

29 September 2023

Feeding the cats

Sue and Dean were going to go away. And they hesitated to ask their friends to look after their cats. But I found out, and landed the job anyway. It was kind that they thought it was a bit much to ask. But why would you let your cats be fed by strangers if you have friends who can do it, and who really hope that one day they can be friends with these cats?

The first time I went up I combined it with a run. I had nothing timetabled that day except for an online meeting, so I could work from home. And then I figured I could just run to their place in the early evening, feed the cats, and then run back with a bit of a detour in order to make the run long enough. And not run over the direct road, of course; I had figured I could get quite close over public footpaths. 

It worked out swimmingly! The running route I had designed was very beautiful. And it mainly went over paths I rarely use. I should really do it more often! Some parts were very wet, but well, running shoes dry out eventually. 

When I got to the house, the black cat (Noodle) was greeting me in the living room. She was up for cuddles! That was special. I have never met her on my own. I expected she would be more scared of me when Sue and Dean would not be there. But she also was hinting that she was up for some food. So I sorted it out!

When I looked up from food preparation I suddenly saw that her sister, Dumpling, was there too! I really didn't expect that. She is scared of absolutely everything including me. But she just sat there in the middle of the kitchen, quite relaxed, with me less than 2 m away from her!

While I was tidying up they walked out of the kitchen. There was no trace of them anymore! So I just locked up, and left. But not before I had dropped Martin a message; my extended route back came past his house; was he in? And up for catching up? He was!

It's not far between these two domiciles, so in a few minutes I knocked on the door. He offered me a cup of tea and of course I accepted. And we had a good natter.

While we drank tea and talked, daylight vanished. Not ideal for running, but I was prepared; I had brought a headlight, a taillight, and four reflective bands. I should be alright! I said goodbye and was on my way. 

The road above his house has been recently resurfaced. It was the first time I saw it like that. It was a lot easier to run on, but it was also very ugly. And then I was on some grassy paths for a bit, which are slightly difficult in the dark, but not much later I was on a gravel road turning into an asphalt road. Soon I was home.

I figured I could do this trick again; incorporate the cats into my run. But on working days, biking or driving was probably going to be the preferred option. I would see! But the first iteration of this temporary task was a clanging success. I was glad I had found out it needed doing, and acquired it!

28 September 2023

Term about to start

The start of term is an important threshold to cross.
Once you do, you have so much teaching in your timetable that you just roll from one thing to the next. And you keep rolling until Christmas. Before that, things seem a lot less hectic. And every year it is a bit daunting when term approaches! This year was no exception.

I had my website for the dissertation module ready very early; I always do that, as the students are encouraged to already engage with the module over summer. If they want to create their own topic, they can already start with that. But then they need to know what the module entails, and what we expect from a dissertation topic. The information on the website helps with that.

After that I had tried to get my other websites are ready. I think I managed! And now all the actual lectures and practical and field trips will start. I wasn't quite done by the Friday before the start of term. And on Saturday, my friend Kate would visit me. I managed to finish a few things on the Saturday before she came, and on the Sunday after she left again. I think I'll be okay! Let's hope this year goes well…

27 September 2023

Therapy, again

In September I would speak to my prospective new therapist for the first time. It would be online; the lady is based in Denbigh, and that is too far away to travel. I hadn't done online therapy before, but I didn't expect trouble.

That first meeting has now happened. So what did I think? I got on with the lady, and I think we can work together. I have a fairly clear idea of what it is I need and how I need it, and she figured she can work with that. I did notice that it is much easier to get distracted from a therapist when they are on your screen, and not physically with you. Not that that should be surprising! But now I've actually experienced it.

We will try to meet weekly. And she gave me homework. I hope this round of therapy will give me what I need! Stay tuned…

26 September 2023

Big saw bought

I quite like doing a bit of DIY. I recently made my amazing cupboard! I also made several firewood racks. That sort of job requires sawing. And, of course, I saw a lot of firewood. All of that I do by hand.

When it comes to firewood, it doesn't really matter how tidy it is. But sometimes I suppose being quick would help with the tidiness of the garage. If another batch of raw firewood comes in, you can get that cut up and stored away quite quickly if you have a circular saw.

If you're doing DIY, and you can't saw straight, you end up having to do a fair amount of filing afterwards, and that is a bit of a faff. A circular saw really helps with that!

One day I was just scrolling a bit through Facebook when I saw that my neighbour was offering a circular saw for sale. It looked like a bargain. And he's my neighbour! The logistics would be very uncomplicated. So I said I’d buy it. And the next day I came to pick it up. 

It was a beast! I hadn’t appreciated from the picture he had put online just how big it was. But I suppose big is good.

I put it in the garage, but I was very aware that I now needed a workbench to give it a purpose in life. I only have a workmate, inherited from Rose. That's not good enough. I also have a vice, and that is also entirely useless without a place to put it. So my next task now is: get me a workbench, make space in the garage, put it there, and then I have a sort of workshop where I can do things like put things in vices and saw them off straight!

The saw

25 September 2023

Meeting my new tutees

An important part of welcome week is meeting your new tutees. Unless something unexpected happens, you keep them for their entire time with us. It's always extra special if one of your own tutees graduates. So I looked forward to meeting the new cohort. 

This time I met them in PJ Hall, which is named after the same John Pritchard Jones as PJ Institute in Newborough. All sorts of important people like the Welcome Week organiser, the Senior Tutor, the Welsh Medium lead, et cetera, did their presentations, and then they brought our respective faces onto the screen, one by one, with a list of our tutees. We would wave, and anyone who spotted themselves on the associated list would go and find us. This year they had made sure that there were a lot of chairs in the hall facing each other. So we could just find a spot and have a little introductory chat! Last year all the chairs faced in the same direction, so I had gone somewhere else. But I had figured that this year, just staying was the best solution.

There were 11 students my list, and six showed up. Could be better, could be worse. I knew I had two students who had already been at Bangor University for a year, so I could imagine they would have just skipped Welcome Week. Not sure about the other three!

I thought we had a good atmosphere going in our little group. A week or two later we would have our first tutorial; I hope they all show up, and that this is one of those groups that really get along. And does well academically, of course!

First and last walnut harvest

 I bought the house knowing there were a plum tree and an apple tree in the garden. That pleased me! Good I thought but I could possibly add to the garden. I not only like fruit; I also like nuts. So I decided to buy a walnut tree. And then, of course, the retailer of all the trees suggested I buy two, and I did. And that spring they started to take their life in my garden seriously.

Fast forward four years. There is good and bad news! The good news is that the biggest walnut tree has now produced its first walnut. I suppose very young trees put their energy in getting bigger, and can't afford to make fruit yet. The other three isn't at that stage yet.


The bad news is that I decided to my garden is actually not big enough for these two trees.

My neighbour subtly explained that both my plum tree and apple tree are dwarf varieties, and I had bought "normal" walnut trees. They would become huge! And the one that made the walnut is already on its way to do just that. And it is taking over the garden. The small isn't, but that probably means it's not very happy. I have decided they have to go. I intend to chop the big one down, and try to dig out the small one. Maybe someone else can give it a home.

I'm not quite sure when I will find time for this, but their days are counted. It was a nice idea but sometimes poor execution means you have to abandon it! And I can just buy my walnuts from the whole foods co-op instead…

24 September 2023

Welcome week: beach trip

Everything seems to be happening in an unusual order this year! We were doing the field trip in Newborough all upside down. And Every Welcome Week, we take our students to the beach. Normally that is towards the end of Welcome Week, but this year it was the first thing all the staff were invited to that happened. 

I had driven to work, as the beach trip would end quite late. The idea was to get to the beach by 17:00, and not leave until 19:00 or 19:30. And then we would still need to get back to main campus. I intended to hitch a ride with the coaches, but that would involve biking to Bangor, and, more crucially, biking back to Menai Bridge afterwards. And I realised I hadn’t brought my bike lights. So I decided to drive myself instead. 

I got to the beach when the students were already there. They were getting on with what traditionally is the first task: making a sand sculpture/castle. On a very windy, but fortunately sunny, beach. I went off to mingle.

The mood was good! And while most people were dressing against cold wind, there were some students who were happily roaming around in shorts and T-shirts, and seemed entirely comfortable. And there was even a dog there! She belonged to one of the peer guides. My estimate is that at least half the people present there were in love with it. 

Do you normally get some charismatic mega fauna in the sand sculptures: turtles end octopuses tend to be popular. This year was no exception. One group made a kraken that was veritably the stuff of nightmares. There was also a group that had built a fortress and had re-routed a stream on the beach to fill its moat! 

Glorious sunny day

The Kraken, attacking a boat

Normally we do at least one other activity after that, but the chap in charge decided that the risk would be that people would get very cold. Especially as people often get a bit wet in the next activity. So he called it a day! Earlier than I had expected. I would've been able to bike back from main campus to my office in daylight after all. But this way I could just drive straight home, and have something of my evening left. That was okay as well! But I think the people there had had a good time, and that is the important bit. A Welcome Week can be quite crucial in someone’s life! 

23 September 2023

Chimney swept before autumn hits

My wood stove had been my main source of heat for quite a while! If you burn a lot, you risk a lot of soot in your chimney. I really needed to get it cleaned before the next season. I kept forgetting about it, until I didn't. So on the first day of welcome week, he came over. And that very day it seems that autumn hit properly. And if not then, then surely the day after! It was a day of heavy rain and strong winds. It won't take long before I light that fire again. I'm glad it has a clean slate again!

The chimney sweep kindly left the soot in my ashes bucket

22 September 2023

20 mph

It had been in the news for a while! Wales would get a lot of 20 mph speed limits. And I had understood that most 30 mph limits would be lowered to 20 mph. I figured it would be a good idea; lower speeds means fewer accidents. And of course it has its disadvantages; driving through towns goes slower, and cars don’t seem to be made for that sort of speed. But I'm sure they have thought about that.

And then the day came! So what has happened in my area? To be honest, I am glad they have not made the entire 30 mph zone in the town 20 mph. That only happens when are you reach the town proper, rather than the outskirts. And even then they’re being cautious.

Approaching town from the east

I was still getting used to it (I drove to work for reasons of the beach trip I’ll blog about next, and my bike being in the office), but it will soon be normal. And then let’s see if it shows up in accident statistics! 

21 September 2023

Cheese tasting evening

When I was in the Netherlands, I visited the cheese shop. My Dutch cheese had almost run out! And when I was there, I sent a picture of the shop to my friends. And one thing led to another. One of them suggested it cheese tasting evening. That sounds like an excellent idea! So soon we had a date in the diary: the last day of the field trip.

In practice, it became the first day after the field trip, as we could round off a day early. That suited me fine. It was a fair amount of preparation, and I also wanted to phone my mum who had her birthday that day! And go for a run. And when my friends arrived, the house was presentable (I think), and the cheese was cut up and beautifully displayed, with all accoutrements. And the soup, that I had in mind to make it a full meal, was almost ready. Success!

I had mature cheese, cheese with holes, farmer’s cheese and goat’s cheese. And I had added a small plate of local sheep cheese just because I could. Martin had brought a bottle of red wine to complete the scene. 

The cheeses were all appreciated! I think I sensed a vague preference for the Friesian cheese with holes: Tynjedaler.


The cat also made an appearance. Quite unlike my previous cat, she isn't particularly interested in cheese. That made preparations quite relaxed! But now she provided excellent entertainment.

After the same fieldwork two years ago, when I had organised it, we went to drink beer at Martin's. I really needed that. This time I hadn't organised the field trip, so I didn't pathologically need some alcohol and friends to wind down, so this time it was less urgently needed, but it was even more enjoyable!

20 September 2023

Finishing off the fieldwork in the pub

The students had been talking about going to the pub at the end of the fieldwork for a few days. And on the Friday, that was still going on. And they asked us to join them. I think it is a nice thing to do; do something big, and then relax together over a drink at the end of it. Last academic year, the dissertation students had done something similar. Uptake from the academic staff was not big; only three of us appeared, out of almost 30. But I thought it had been worthwhile.

I was thinking a bit about the food I had at home, and the risk of it going off before I could eat it if I would not go to the pub with the students instead of home. After all, I had already done without dinner on Tuesday! But I decided that this was more important. So I pressed them to make a decision on what to pub to go to. We can't show up if we don't know where! And they settled on the Blue Sky Café, where I have been several times before, and which I quite like. That works for me!

Pic from their website 

When I dropped off the students in Bangor they could go straight there, but I had to first drop the vehicle off, and then come back in my own car. And the next day I was going to have a cheese tasting session with the Gerlan crew, so I wanted to quickly pop by the supermarket in Menai Bridge to buy supplies for that. I already had the cheese! But cheese requires accoutrements, and I didn't think the corner shop in Bethesda would do the cheese justice. So I drove back, dropped off the vehicle, put the keys were they needed to go, hastily went to the supermarket in the last 20 minutes of it being open, and then made my way downtown. There was a fairly small group of people! About half the students, and only Katrien and me. They were busy with a game of Cards against Humanity. I joined in.

I had never played this; I don't think it brings out the best in people. But I don't think anybody minded. I had one beer, and quite enjoyed myself. It is nice to sometimes just socialise with the students! 

After a while the students decided to go to a different venue that would serve food. I wasn't going to last another pub. I would peel off! But it was already approaching 11 pm, so already past my bedtime. I figured I had shown my good intentions.

The week after, the students had to hand in their field notebooks, so then we will be brought back to reality. But now it was nice to have had a bit of lighthearted relaxation in a pub!

19 September 2023


The last day in the field, we would go surveying. We do that every year, but some years, such as the previous one, I am not needed for that. But this year I was.

Martin had been liaising with NRW, and we would largely survey lines that they had already been working on. We skipped one of the lines that was too far away from the road, and we added one line at was of specific scientific interest to what we were doing there in the estuary, but otherwise we were just adding our efforts to the ongoing monitoring of these beaches. Beaches have a habit of changing, and Newborough is no exception; the most striking aspect of its motion is that the beach is moving backwards, eating away the dunes.

Low water was in the late afternoon, but the students needed to work on the field books. So we already picked them up from the main campus at 10:30, and brought them to PJI. We the staff could then just make the last preparations for the surveying, and frankly, just have a coffee and a chat. And help the students a bit if needed. And in the afternoon we gathered them all, did a small surveying demonstration, and then we set off. We had four groups in three vehicles, and I was going to take my group in a people carrier to the vicinity of Llanddwyn. In a way, we had won the lottery; Llanddwyn is very beautiful, and we would have the best views on it of everyone. 

The first thing we needed to do was find the start of the transect. This was a wooden stake, hammered in by Martin. We had the GPS coordinates, and one of the men lead us to it. So we could begin! This first transect line was short, but there was quite a lot going on on the beach, so we needed to take a lot of measurements.

Our first transect. Llanddwyn on the right.

While we were setting up, the School photographer suddenly appeared. He asked me where the other groups were, and suggested he would go to Martin’s group first, who was the furthest west, and then work his way back east.

We went surveying. The beginning is always slow if you haven't done it for a fair while! But soon we got into the swing of it. And we had better; we were supposed to do two lines, but by the time we got to the end of the first line, it was already low water. From then on, the waters would rise! We surveyed back to the stake  as quickly as we could, and then moved to the other line.

The next stake was easier to find, and the beach was largely flat. We also were in the swing of things now, so we did this second line a lot quicker than the other one. By about seven we were done! By that time the evening light was beautiful, and temperatures were dropping. We went back to the van, and my phone was showing messages suggesting everybody else was either already out of the field, or soon would.

The second transect 

We gathered again in PJI, and then we made sure to tidy the place up. We had loved the place and wanted to make a good impression! Especially since we wanted to come back next year. We loaded everything up in the vehicles, and then we were ready to ferry the students back to Bangor.

The fieldwork was still timetabled on Saturday until lunchtime, but the decision had been made that we didn’t need that time. This was the end! I think it went well…

18 September 2023

Flyering in the local paper

After the citizen’s assemblies for sustainability had come to an end, it was not the end for sustainability in the valley. There was another meeting coming up, and the organising body wanted to draw attention to that. And they had been given the offer to put a flyer in the valley’s local paper: Llais Ogwan. (The voice of the Ogwen, but in the local accent a lot of vowels turn into a’s…) and sort it happens that Chris, the organiser, sent out an email asking for people to help. And I was available, and it would take place in Canolfan Cefnfaes, which just around the corner for me. So I volunteered.

Canolfan Cefnfaes

The venue is an old school, where renovations are taking place, after which it's going to get a wider use for the community. It had already been in use as a sort of food bank earlier on. And when there are elections on, it is the local polling station.

When I got in they were already quite some people, who were associated with Llais Ogwan. Shortly afterwards, Chris walked in, with his flyers. Each newspaper should get two flyers; the other one was encouraging people to read books in Welsh. And we set to work!

We were so efficient that half an hour later it was all done. I was glad I could have been of help! And in about a minute I walked back home. It was interesting to see that Chris and I single-handedly lowered the average age in that room considerably. Sustainability is for younger people than local papers, clearly! But I hope the flyers work, and that the upcoming meeting, which will also be in Canolfan Cefnfaes, is well-attended…

The paper! With Ras y Mynydd on the front cover…

17 September 2023

Controller in Cwm

After the AGM of the cave rescue team we started making plans. We got ourselves a new training officer, and we already had four aspirant controllers (one of these being me), so we could get cracking. Unfortunately, the first training we would do was in the middle of our fieldwork. And with the low tide being in the afternoon I doubted I could attend. That was a pity! It was a session specifically organised with people like me in mind, who need a practice leading a rescue operation. But I would be sampling modern forams that day.

I had almost given up hope, but then things moved fast enough for me to get home just before six. That meant I just plonked my car in the middle of the road (don’t worry, the only person I could get in the way of is the neighbour, and he could get past, and would also know I would not linger there), loaded up my caving kit, fed the cat, quickly threw a few edible things into my bag (a few energy bars, an apple, and some cashew nuts), left my water bottle in the windowsill, and was off. And I made it!

The session had been organised by Nick, one of the other aspirant controllers. He works in the mine where we had the scenario anyway, so he could just tag some setting up of the scenario to the work he was doing in there. One other aspirant controller was abroad, and the last one seemed to be driving through England, and it was unclear what time he would reach us. So I ended up in charge! For the first time.

Nick told me what the scenario was; four people overdue. He had some details like names and such. And he had printed surveys of the mine with the area within which the scenario played out. The entire mine is way, way too big for an evening exercise. So we walked up to the entrance, and I set up shop at the top of the first incline. And I sent small teams off in the various directions. 

Nothing happened for a little while. One team managed to end up off the demarcated area on the survey. But then things started happening; the first casualty (an A4 piece of paper in a plastic sleeve) was found! And he said where he had seen his three mates last. Or at least, it was written on the piece of paper. So we pretended to bring him out, and focussed on the mentioned location.

Immediately afterwards, there was more news: another team had found the three others! I thought initially. But then I looked at the sheet. These we different people from who we were looking for! So they were not our business and we needed to keep looking. One team was already searching the area where the actual three were last seen, and we decided we would all join them (except me). I would set up station on the floor where everyone else was going. 

Then things went fast. Another person was found! Only a bit cold and cranky, so we brought them out. Then another, in a similar situation. And with about five minutes to spare (we had decided we would end the practice at 9 pm) we found the last one. We had found his water bottle, and he had been found slightly uphill from there. Nick had been kicking some rocks down in the chamber, so people were investigating. And he was hurt! The imaginary casualty, that is. So we basically said we would do the usual thing off assessing his physical situation, getting him into a stretcher, and getting him out. But what we physically did was just carry the piece of paper and the water bottle back to the entrance.

On the way out we came across the third aspirant controller who I had accidentally locked out! He had just gone for a walk. It was a beautiful evening. I felt a bit bad though.

Some of the documentation used

Once outside we had a little debrief, and then we went back to our cars. I was glad I had made it! It had been such a useful exercise. It was the first time I had taken charge of a scenario like that. And it's brought home to me that a lot of it is admin. But I can do that! And I had plenty of people around me who knew the venue like the back of their hand, so I didn't have to worry about that. I suspect the task is a lot more difficult if you don't know the venue. But hopefully, with our combined knowledge, we know every plausible venue around. And let's face it; most of the times when we have to rescue someone it is from the same mine. And we have enough people who know their way around that system.

I was also chuffed that we could do an entire scenario in just a few hours. We should do that more often! It is a lot more intense than just doing a mine familiarisation. But we'll see what happens next! I also know our medical team wants to do a medical session. And I think I am also due leading a session on getting a stretcher through a difficult system…

16 September 2023

Sampling modern forams

After the coring and geophysics of this year’s estuarine field trip, there was one day where I was not needed. That was great! I think I really hadn't been drinking enough, and I felt a bit rubbish the entire next day. But after that I was fine again, which was good, because then I had two days of sampling. 

Low tide was in the afternoon, so I picked up the students rather late, got to the Pritchard Jones Institute, made a sampling plan with the students, and then went into the field to get the samples. It doesn't have to take very long!

The first group went for logistic efficiency; they sampled some environments on the very accessible northern part of the marsh, and then only sampled environments you can't find there in the south, where the marsh is bigger and there are no paths. That worked!

The second day I had different students, and they decided to do everything in the southern part of the marsh. Some of the reasoning was that the other group had already sampled the north. Good thinking!

In the marsh

After the sampling we briefly returned to PJI to drop off things or pick them up, and then I had to take the students to the lab. Their samples needed to be processed immediately! But luckily, that is not much work. We tend to be done in an hour or so. And that meant that both days, I was actually home at a reasonable time. The first day that didn't mean I stayed home (blog post to follow), but the second day I could just have a shower, I have my dinner, and have a well-deserved beer.

Sample sieving

After all that I had another day where they didn't need me in the field, and I could just work from home. And that only left the last day in the field: surveying! Watch this space…

15 September 2023

Welsh class 2023/2024 starts

With another academic year starting, there was also a new Welsh course starting. I pretty much always register for one. It is a good way of keeping your grammar at an acceptable level, and also provides vocabulary and conversation training. And I don't progress anymore; this is just for staying at the level where I am. And last year I ended up in a proficiency course with a tutor that I didn't know beforehand: Catrin. She was great! I really enjoyed that course. But she wasn't going to do it again this year. So I registered for something similar, but taught by someone else.

On the Monday of the field work I logged into the zoom meeting. Many people from last year’s course were there! And the new tutor: Sian. She suggested that we all introduce ourselves. There were about 15 of us. And she started with herself, and she took her time.

The introductions took about an hour. Basically you're listening to people saying basic things such as where were they born, where do they live now, and why they are learning Welsh. I'm not learning anything from that! 

When that was done she said she hadn't prepared anything, and she wanted to know what all of us wanted from this course. Then, again, you are with 15 people in a zoom session, with one at max talking. Again, no learning whatsoever! And it looked like she was keen on us presenting things to each other, centrally, which again would be one person talking and 14 people listening. But luckily, some of us requested things such as grammar exercises and breakout groups. With these, you learn something! 

I was bored and frustrated. I was still quite knackered from the day before, and knew I may have two more days like that coming up. I didn’t want to spend my evening staring fruitlessly at a screen! I decided that if this lady would not clean up her act I would leave. But let’s see what she would come up with the next week. And I decided I had to send her requests on what sort of stuff I wanted to practice. I can’t walk away without giving her a chance to give me what I need! But if next week isn’t better I’m out…

14 September 2023

Coring and geophysics

Ever since I have been involved in our annual estuarine field trip, we do both surface sampling and coring. And normally, we do the coring on the last field day. This year, for reasons of tide and other logistics, we had to do it differently, and after the introduction day we immediately went coring. Initially, the idea was that, as usual, I would have half the students in the morning while the other half would do geophysics, and then after lunch we would swap. But then the geophysicists decided that they could only work at low tide, so they needed all the students in the afternoon. So only the day before, we decided I should get all the students in the morning. 

Having everybody go coring in the morning provided a bit of a challenge! We had one student with a medical issue which meant they could only do a limited amount of walking. And that morning there was a race on. That meant only limited vehicle access to the estuary! When I was still expected to have two separate groups, I had organised that they would be with me in the afternoon, after the race would have finished. That would make it easier to drive to where I needed to be, or at least most of the way. But that wasn't going to happen.

In spite of the restrictions we made it work. It did mean it took us a long time to get to our coring site. But we all got there, and we got ourselves a core. And there was a conspicuous black horizon in it. What did that mean? We would have to sample it for foraminifera. And then sample all the modern environments we could think of that could represent that as well. And then compare the microfossils.

Crossing a tidal channel on the way to the core site

When we were done with the coring and sampling we had lunch. Then we went to where the geophysicists would do their thing. I had never seen them in action, as I am literally always coring while they do that. This year was different! And they even did something entirely different from what they normally do. They basically surveyed the beach and measured electrical resistivity in the sand, and that way spotted a freshwater body. There was groundwater seeping out on the beach! I had never realised that was happening there. But that's what geophysics is for, I guess; to detect things you can't see.

Dei talking geophysics 

Things did get a bit late. I was getting a bit nervous as I was getting tired, and I knew I still had to bike home. The day before I had hitched a ride with Martin to Menai Bridge, and then taken the people carrier, with which I had transported to students, home with me. But I had to leave that behind, because the day after someone else would need it. So my plan had been to just put my bike in the back of the vehicle and drop that off on the main campus, where I pick the students up. But as the vehicle couldn't stay there, I knew I would have to drive back from the field to Bangor, unload the students, load the bike back up, drive the vehicle back to Menai Bridge (the bridge probably being one lane only not helping), and then bike all the way home. It was going to get late!

My colleague Katrien clearly noticed, so she offered to just drive me home. It is not much of a detour for her. I could just leave my bike behind! And then I could either just pick that up again with my own car some day, or hitch another ride with either Martin or Susan, and then bike back after all. The bike would wait. It was very kind of her! 

When I got home I was properly knackered. But the good thing was that I didn’t have to do anything strenuously physical the next day. I wasn't needed in the field, so I was just going to take a day working from home. I could really use that! And I was also happy to spend some time with the cat, given that over the weekend I had been away so much…

13 September 2023

Field trip kicks off

The weather forecast was hot but dry. Quite good fieldwork weather for the first day of the trip. I had organised a lift from Martin, so I could ask him all my last questions. I had missed the preparation meeting through being in the Netherlands, and we hadn’t found an opportunity to make up for that. 

We got to Menai Bridge, picked up the vehicles and the students, and went to a location that was new to the field course: the Pritchard Jones Institute (PJI) in Newborough. I had never been! Martin had managed to rent it for the duration of the trip, and it could be a bit of a hub for the students. It was a lovely building! And we did a bit of an introduction there. And then we went into the field.

Pritchard Jones Institute 

The main hall of the institute 

There was some confusion about where to start. Katrien and I went to the wrong place! My fault probably; she was driving behind me and probably just followed me. I forgot ‘the Cob’ and ‘the Cob car park’ are two different things. But we sorted it. And Martin kicked it all off! Speaking about the bigger spatial scales. 

Martin introducing the site

He talked for a fair while, so after that I wanted lunch, and I wasn’t the only one. So that was next, at the picnic tables. And then it was my turn to talk about specifically the salt marsh. I’ll leave the sand to Martin and Jaco! 

When I was done we went deeper into the field. All the way to the beach! There it was again Martin’s turn. That happens on beaches. And  time flies when you’re talking science, so after that it was time to go back to PJI, and then home. 

On the beach

I thought it had gone well! It had been very hot, but not catastrophically so. The group of students was lovely and the atmosphere was good. The next day we would start actually doing something! 

12 September 2023

From plums to apples

It has been a very good year for plums! I had really enjoyed a bountiful harvest. But even a bountiful harvest comes to an end. The tree is almost empty now! But I have two fruit trees, and they tend to take turns. By the time the plum tree is empty, you can start on the apple tree. And I did! On September 9 I ate my first homegrown apple of the year. And the second one as well, while I was at it. They were very good! So although there are still a few plums to go around, it is now apple season. Autumn is coming! And last year, I managed to stretch the harvest into winter, but this year the tree has more or less a year off, and I won't manage that. But I will enjoy it while it lasts!

11 September 2023


If I'm teaming up with friends, it is often the Gerlan crew of four, or the wider crew with Llanberis contingent, of six. The Llanberis contingent, though, will be out of the country for year. We will miss them! But I am sure they will have a great adventure.

We wanted to get together before they left and we managed to find a date for a barbecue. The previous time we had planned a barbecue the weather was atrocious and we needed to stay indoors (no blog post). But this time, we had accidentally settled on a date that was in the middle of a heat wave. The barbecue was on! And we intended to have it by the lake in Llanberis.

Given that both Martin and Sue and Dean drive past my house on the way to practically anywhere, it is normally them who pick me up. But I wanted to be the one to make the effort for a change. Martin would be a bit late, so I took my little Corsa rally-riding to Sue and Dean's house. I had only ever gone there by bike or on foot. It made it! But I had to acknowledge it's not a sinecure. 

We loaded up, including garden chairs, and we set off. And even with this heavier load the little car made it! But when we got to where we would park for our lakeside barbecue, we found Tom and Siobhan who said that there was an event going on, and it was busy. Maybe we should just have the barbecue in their back garden instead. In a way I was disappointed; it has been a hot day, and I had come out of a meeting at work, jumped on my bike, rode home via the shop, got my bag ready, and jumped into the car. No time for a shower! I thought that would be okay given that I had anticipated a swim in the lake. But now there would be no swim… I felt a bit self-conscious. Biking over hills in sweltering weather has certain effects on someone's body odour! But nobody was complaining.

The cat also made an appearance. He is quite an independent type, and we don't tend to see much of him. But it seems that if he realises a barbecue is on the cards, he hangs around. Maybe there is something in it for him!

We had a very sophisticated barbecue with a fondue starter. It was really lovely in the back garden! We also had more traditional fare, and amazing potato salad. I had brought a whole bag full of beverages, and bananas and chocolate for afters. And I didn’t take any pictures.

It was a really nice evening! I don't know if it will be the last one with all six of us before Tom and Siobhan leave, but if it is, I think it was a worthy occasion. And we will think of them next time we do a social occasion with, inevitably, just the four of us!

10 September 2023

Chemistry Tower shrinking

I have reported that our chemistry Tower is being taken down. And I thought I’d do an update! When I happened to walk past anyway on my way back from the Netherlands (yes I know, that is a while ago) I could see that a lot of progress has been made. Only about half of it is still standing! I didn't make a detour to get closer for a good picture, as I was keen to get home and greet the cat, but I thought I'd document this anyway. I hope I can soon report back that the entire building has vanished! And then we'll see what happens with the space is has vacated…

09 September 2023

Bridge congestion is back (sometimes)

There’s been trouble with the bridge for about a year now. In October it abruptly closed for all traffic, including pedestrians, but luckily reopened for cyclists and pedestrians only hours later. It was closed for a fair while! And when it reopened for cars, it came with a weight restriction, and after a while it kept one lane closed for quite some time. Over summer it was entirely open again, but the council warned it would partially close again in autumn. And it did!

Traffic lights! 

It was immediately obvious; if one lane is closed that means traffic lights just before the bridge, and traffic backing up. It's slower for everyone, be they cars or cyclists. But it would be nice to get the bridge fully fixed.

One thing that I am a bit apprehensive about is that with these traffic lights, I can end up with lots of cars behind me on the mainland side of the bridge, going home. What I do there is turn right off the road that comes off the bridge, and get onto a road that is not accessible to cars. I think few drivers realise there is a junction there. So I have to get in lane in order to turn off. If you do that somewhere where drivers expect cyclists turning off, my experience is that a fair percentage will let you through. But it has never happened that any driver slowed down even the tiniest bit in order to let me pass in front of them by that cryptic junction. That can be quite frustrating! If there is a lot of traffic coming from both ways, I feel very vulnerable in the middle of the road with lots of impatient people behind me. And no-one coming the other way letting me slip through. The road isn't really wide enough for cars to pass me. 

A guided tour of the repair work?

I digress. There is work on the bridge again, and it has implications for wider traffic! Let's hope they get this repair work done in not too much time…

07 September 2023

Porch update

When Neuadd Ogwen started its building work, in December 2021, I thought they would just build a porch around their artists’ entrance, and that would be basically it. Reality was different! More than 1.5 years later, a few (false) starts had been made on the porch, but the only thing that was really there was a concrete foundation. But in the meantime, both the other side of the building, and the roof, had had a serious upgrade. But then one day I got home, and porch material had been delivered. And then something indeed started to grow! That was just before my trip to the Netherlands.

It’s starting!

When I got back, the porch had, as expected, been growing. I really hope they finish it this time! And I hope they finish everything. It's not too onerous, but it would be nice if the terrain in front of my house isn't a building site for a while. And I'm sure Neuadd Ogwen would like to be able to just host events, be they farmers’ markets, gigs, yoga sessions, or whatnot, without having to hide (and work around) the building work. I will report back!


06 September 2023

To the Netherlands by train: review

It was only the second time I went to the Netherlands by train. The previous time I had tried the ferry from Hull. What did I think?

I had been a bit nervous. I was travelling by Interrail this time. And I remembered the stress of the way back, even on a regular ticket: the luggage and passport checks in Brussels, in spite of the Eurostar journey planner never giving you much time there. The website doesn’t make it easy to have a bit of a margin! And that means hurry and sweat and stress. 

To my relief, the way to the Netherlands went absolutely flawlessly. The previous time as well. It was long; I left home 6:50 and got to my mum at about 20:00 (local time), so about 12 hours door to door. And now the proof of the pudding; the way back. 

To Amsterdam went well, and to Brussels too. Although we had some 10 minutes of delay. I only had 50 minutes in Brussels in total! But I got to the right part of the railway station quite quickly. And then the fun began. 

The ticket gates didn’t recognise my seat reservation. A lady dealing with the rejects diagnosed that this part of the trip wasn’t properly linked to my Interrail pass. But she let me pass to luggage check, and then passport control. There all went well. In the queue for the right platform I tried to link the leg of the journey to the digital pass. I didn’t think it quite went well. But at the door I only needed my seat reservation. I was in! 

We got toLondon without issues. In the heat (summer was unexpectedly back) I walked to Euston Station. I had booked a train leaving at 15:13, but could take one at 14:33! Bonus. And I had a seat. 

I got out in Crewe. There my train was cancelled, so I had to take another one, fortunately only 23 minutes later, but which was obviously very crowded. It was hot and uncomfortable. But at least this train would go to Bangor without a need for further changes. And after Chester I found a seat. 

View from the train (near Colwyn Bay)

I felt very smelly and sticky when I reached Bangor! But I got there at 18:19, instead of the expected 19:37. Excellent! And I could just drive home. I got there 18:45. So altogether just under 12 hours door to door. And I still had food and drink left when I got there! 

So what next time? Maybe the train again. Cleaner than the boat. And quicker. And not too onerous this time! But not on an Interrail ticket again…

05 September 2023

In the Netherlands before term

I was a bit nervous about my trip to the Netherlands. I was going by train; would all work out? But on the way there, all went well. Everything! That was nice.

When I was there I did the usual rounds; my mum, my dad, my sister, and Roelof. Monique, who belongs in that list, was away. When I was at my mum’s I went for a nice run, and we had a glass of wine with a friend of hers. At my dad’s I happened to arrive on the day of the official opening of the complex he lives in, and I could admire it in its finished state. The previous time, the buildings were finished, but the landscaping wasn’t, so now it looked a lot better. I think he chose well! 

The pond in the woods near Amersfoort where I tend to run (notice the unexpected elevation)

The front of my dad’s housing complex

With Roelof I went for a stroll on Prinseneiland and Spaarndammerbuurt, and dinner in his neighbourhood. With my sister we did a walk on the moors. Sunscreen was required! Summer was back. 

‘Het Schip’ in the Spaarndammerbuurt

Beer selfie

It was great to see everyone again! And I’ll soon book my next trip…

04 September 2023

Preparing my trip

I would be going to the Netherlands before term would start. And that takes a bit of preparation. The neighbour needed to be asked to feed the cat (I know they cuddle too; that’s lovely), I needed to choose things to do on the long train journey; I chose a book I had neglected, documentation relating to my promotion attempts, and my notebook for jotting down thoughts about that, and about a lecture I had to prepare. And my car needed a bit of care as it would take care of the Bethesda-Bangor part of the trip. My tyres never stay properly inflated for very long.  And I needed to bring a lot of food and drink as I would be travelling for about 12 hours. 

Packing was not a big issue. I was going by train, and luggage restrictions are generous there. And I didn’t feel bad about parking on campus for a few days. After all, term had not started yet, so it would be quiet. 

The going by train was a third attempt, after having given up and going by plane once, and not managing to get seat reservations for the next trip either, and going by boat that time. Booking all of it is a pain! I don’t know if I’m willing to do it again. I know the train has better climate credentials than the boat, but not losing a year of your life due to frustration trying to cobble an itinerary to Amsterdam together is worth something too. And as well, soon there will be no Eurostar to Amsterdam. And of course there are other trains going from Brussels to Amsterdam, but that would still complicate the journey. I am not saying I give up on the train, but I must say I am quite tempted by the boat. 

I was a bit worried about the whole thing; would all go well in Brussels? That’s the crux. And train travel to London was a direct train, but back it would be lots of different ones. The previous time I did the itinerary, that got rather tiring, with things going wrong and my ETA at home getting later and later. Let’s hope this time all goes well! 

02 September 2023

Preparing the fieldwork

It’s September, so our annual estuarine fieldwork is nigh again! And that needs preparing. I had been thinking about my part of it. I was still working things out since our move to a new area. The other estuary was a lot better for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction using foraminifera! But I sure could do something useful in the Cefni estuary as well. 

Having a student doing a project in the area helped. That taught me about the environment, and that helps in designing a task for the next batch of students. I hope my plan will work out!

Additionally, this year, for logistical reasons, we would do the coring first, and the surface studies later. That required rewriting the field book. And I would have to do the coring alone, as Jaco needed all his energy for his sedimentological work. He was only just coming out of sick leave. It had been good having him with me last year, but hey ho! And this year’s group is a lot smaller so it will be ok.

It will also feel different, as last year I was taking advantage of the early low tides, which meant a 5AM start every day. this year the early low tides are in the dead of night, so I have to swap to the late tide. That will mean finishing late! 

I made sure to submit my equipment list to the technical staff a few weeks beforehand, and upload my chapters of the field book some week and a half in advance. 

I unfortunately missed the preparation meeting, but I still feel more or less ready. Bring it on!