04 August 2021

UNESCO world Heritage site

 North Wales has done it! The slate quarrying and mining landscape here has now become a UNESCO world Heritage site. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what that means in practice. Does anything really change? I should know, as I live within the boundaries of the site. Which I should, of course; my house was built in the time that, and because, the quarry really took off, and several quarryman have lived there, and the garden is an old slate yard.

I know there are people who are afraid tourism will now get out of hand. I don't know if that is what will happen. It has been widely reported in the news that Liverpool lost its heritage status, so until this week it still had it; how many of the people who visited the historic docks would have come because of the UNESCO status? And how many because they just happened to want to come to Liverpool? And the Liverpool example also shows that you don't get extra protection with heritage status. People can still build modern developments over the top. I suppose we will have to see how this pans out…



Acting secretary cave rescue

Do I need more things to do? No I don't! So why would I be acting secretary of a cave rescue organisation? Well! There is explanation for that.

I don't like it when any environment that has no need for being dominated by a certain gender is anyway, and some environments really should not be single gender. I fought and lost against misogyny in the general underground community, where the only thing it did was hurt one able-bodied woman. That is bad enough as it is. But imagine you are a woman, you have just fallen down a mineshaft, you are in a lot of pain, you are incapacitated. In other words: you are very vulnerable. Then it would be great, of course, if a cave rescue team comes to get you out. But if a considerable part of the team consists of men who see no problem with remarks being made about how much fun it is to abuse positions of power to sexually assault young women, you might still be very glad that they show up, but the situation could become terrifying. Mind you; I have not heard anyone in the actual rescue team make such remarks, and I would be surprised if those who make this kind of remark elsewhere would actually do that to someone's face, but altogether it is all too likely that were remarks that make the situation worse were to be made, the general opinion about that would be that it is just a remark, and not really harmful. I wouldn't want to be in the position of our hypothetical injured woman when that happens. I would want to have someone there who takes this  kind of thing seriously, and who would have my back. That might very well mean: a woman.

But what does this have to do with becoming a secretary? Well, not an awful lot, but enough. Our rescue team had only one woman in the committee, and that was the secretary. And she withdrew. And I know it is not necessarily the committee that goes down into the mines and rescue people who have fallen down a shaft, but I figured that it helps if people who are deeply embedded in the team think about this sort of stuff. So I figured the committee needed a woman. And then there is no other option than me, really. We have a few more women on the team, but one is already very busy with mountain rescue, and I hadn't seen the other occasional women much in meetings. So during the AGM I volunteered. So far we had a comms officer who had taken it over, but that meant he had more than one committee job and that didn't seem fair. And, of course, he was male.

During the aforementioned AGM only some seven people showed up. We are a much bigger team! The meeting was inquorate, and will have to have another attempt. So I am only acting secretary. I don't know if I will be voted in when we managed to get a quorate AGM together. To be honest, I half hope I am, because then indeed we have female representation in the committee, but I half hope I'm not, as I have enough to do, and roaming around on Google sites is hardly my idea of fun. I'm also terribly bad at it. We'll see how it goes! If I won't be secretary in the end, I can just make sure I open my mouth whenever needed during meetings and trainings. And callouts. There is a good chance I will be making myself incredibly unpopular again, but hey, the second time around at least it is expected…



30 July 2021

Plant library

Some people in Gerlan, including my friend Dani, had had a brainwave. They decided to create a plant library. It is far from uncommon to have plants in your garden or house that do well, and become too big or numerous to still fit in the space allocated to them. You can just chuck them away, of course, but that is not an ideal solution. So they decided to put up some shelving on a bit of empty ground, attach a sign "plant library" to it, and hope that the idea would take off. I thought it was an excellent idea. And I have a Contoneaster frigidus in my garden, and it's a beautiful shrub with decorative berries, but in autumn these berries fall off and create new Contoneasters. More of them than I have space for! I have put two of the babies in a pot, and these now live in the upstairs garden, but new plants keep popping up. I decided to dig a few out and place them in the plant library. To help any new provider of a home for them I put little signs with their names on it in the pots. If anyone wonders where to put them, they can just google the plant! I hope they will bring someone joy. And if so, I can supply more…


my plants

 the library

 waiting for a new home


29 July 2021

Move the plants out

 Even if I keep the door of the conservatory open during the day, it gets hot in there. And I keep watering my plants like there is no tomorrow. One plant had already succumbed to the circumstances; this was the courgette plant that had yielded my first courgette. As I write this, I have eaten two. I can't be sure it was the heat that they did in, but it is a plausible hypothesis. So if these plants are already struggling like that, they have no chance of surviving me being away for several days. So they have to go outside! And then I would just have to hope that it would rain once in a while. So I started bit in advance.

I managed to gather all the arms of the pumpkin plant, and fold them into the pot. Then the pot went outside. Then I made the one tomato plant that stands right by the window join it. Having cleared the area right by the window, I could now move the sort of improvised curtain that the previous owner had made from the back of the conservatory to the front, where it would stop a lot more sunlight. That would keep the temperature if not low, then at least a tiny little bit lower than otherwise.

The butternut squash plant had grown all the way from the back of the conservatory to the front, and then vertically up the wall. Another branch had gone over my comfortable chair. It looked very difficult to move that! But when I had Martin coming over for cup of coffee, I seized my chance, and asked him to help me. Together we placed that plant outside as well. I now still have the second courgette plant and the second tomato plant inside, but these are not difficult to move. I can do that closer to the time.

For now I still have to water them like the clappers, because it is still sunny, and there is no hint of rain. But there is rain forecast for the coming days! So I hope nature will help me keep them alive. I might even find food when I come back! But I won't count on anything. I have given the slugs free rein again…

The pumpkin plant and a tomato plant outside

The curtain I am sure the previous owner of the house had made


28 July 2021

Taking an intern into the field

I have an intern! For the first time ever. And I probably should say "we have an intern" as the project the intern is working on is mainly Jaco's, with me bolted on. But still. Jaco had been involved in research where he quantifies the relative influence of the sea and the river in various estuaries, and he figured he could do something similar in the estuary we will be using for our September fieldwork. So when the internship application process finished and yielded an intern, we made sure to back into the field. We were still in the middle of the heatwave, but we figured we could do this.

We gathered in Malltraeth. The idea was that we would first have a look at the actual river, and then walk to the very end of the estuary. And the estuary has no shade! I made sure I applied sunscreen twice, and wore an ugly sun hat. Our intern had brought neither sunscreen nor hat. Oh dear. We didn't have a hat to spare, but we could kit him out with some sun cream.

When you are negotiating an estuary, you are likely to sometimes want to cross the channel. Jaco and I were prepared for that. The student a bit less so! It must have been a bit of steep learning curve.

We did what we came to do quite effectively. After a few hours we were at the end of the estuary! And from there on, our only task was to get back to the cars. It had been my explicit request to walk back through the woods, as there is more shadow there. That was a bit more work than I expected! We first had to walk back to the dunes, then through the dunes to the woods, and from the edge of the woods to the actual path. In my flawed memory, the path ran close to the edge of the wood, but that was only true further north. We had to bushwhack it a bit before we got to it! And it is not a dense woodland; the amount of shadow wasn't overwhelming, but it was a lot better than the estuary.

I had been carrying the necessities for the day, and by the time the reached the dunes I felt the shoulder straps of my bag cut a bit into my shoulders. And our student was lagging behind a bit. So when we reached the parking lot by the road, I suggested a little break. I liked a drink and a bite to eat, and I figured our student could do with the breather, and I liked to give Jaco some of the fieldwork weight I had on my shoulders. And that's what we did.

Only when we were almost back at the cars they did it dawn on Jaco and me that maybe our student had blisters. We had been walking through saltwater after all, and we all had sand in our shoes, and all that can chafe and rub. It turned out that he did! In hindsight, we should have left him at the parking lot, got the car, picked him up, brought him back to his own car, and then all gone our separate ways. It was a bit late for that now.

When we were all back at our cars, we had achieved scientifically what we had intended to, and nobody looked particularly sunburned, so I think this was a success! And the rest of the internship will now be university-based. No more fieldwork. At least not much; maybe Jaco and Jack, the student, will go back to the river at some point, but they don't need a Micropalaeontologist for that. I think we had a good start! I hope that is representative for the rest of the project…


Some lovely exposed sediments, and vegetation with fairly clear zonation in the background!

Pretty intertidal vegetation

Ripples in the sand


27 July 2021

Exam passed against expectations!

 Everything had gone wrong while I was desperately trying to pass a Welsh exam. I was certain I had bombed it. And I don't particularly need the qualification at the moment, but it is always nice to have, of course. But then I only got the email that gave me my result. I made sure to sit down to see that one. I opened the email and my eye immediately fell on the Welsh word for congratulations. What? I read the mail carefully. And then again. It really said I have passed! Even with "clod", which is as much as recommendation or praise. Crikey! I was quite chuffed. And it came on the same day I heard I had passed my proofreading course. A day of good academic success!

I also think this might have been my last Welsh qualification; I don't think there are any more. This is it! I have my A-level, I have the highest "Welsh in the Workplace" there currently is, and now I have my "Certificate of Language Skills". I can't think of any more! And that doesn't mean I don't have anything to learn any more; au contraire. But any future employer can't possibly wish for more evidence. And I won't have to sit that exam again!

26 July 2021

Proofreading progress

 I passed my second proofreading course! I am glad. The pass mark is 60, and I had scraped through the second-last exercise with just that grade. But I had managed to score a 73 on the last one! So that means I passed. That doesn't mean I'm now a qualified proofreader; that requires a third course. And I'm not going to start that soon; my tutor had said she figured I first needed bit of practice, as the next course is quite a step up. If you scrape through the previous course, you will get yourself into trouble in that one. It sounded a bit like the sort of advice I sometimes give students who have scraped through their Bachelors, and that now want to do a Masters. Bad idea! So I am heeding her advice. I have a book that comes recommended by the chartered Institute, and I will plough through that first. That will give me some experience and some skills. And then I can launch myself into the third course. Stay tuned!