Blog: Take 2013

10 Jan

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness

– John Steinbeck.

Here’s Moel Y Ci, my nearest hill that looks out on the Carneddau and where I’ve tried to go running up. Fell running looks so much easier from the top.

Firstly, Happy New Year one and all!

After a two month hiatus, you can probably guess one of my resolutions.

The 8.50am from Euston to Bangor felt painfully early when you’ve prised yourself from sub-human hours of sleep to be on it. An old grey jumper made the window soft and I stole back those lost hours of sleep as we stormed through greenery towards Chester. An ill-timed direct debit meant I had to abandon the idea of a taxi and walk the 4 country miles home holding a fishing rod that looked enough like a gun to inhibit anyone stopping to offer a lift. I slumped through the door with red raw shoulders. This turn of events also sparked four days of Spartan existence where I had to find novel ways to sustain myself on a budget of twenty 10 pence pieces I dug out of my desk drawer. My attempt started with a trip to the shop, along the road I found a beautiful rabbit fresh from the jaws of death. I packed her in the boot alongside my tennis shoes, continued to pick up some veg and thought I’d go for a walk to celebrate. Since I’ve been in Wales it’d be fair to say I haven’t pushed myself enough, I do more than most but I still feel like a soft southerner pretending he knows what the mountains and country are about whilst still fumbling with a compass. Skinning this rabbit in the barn at least made me feel at least like I was slightly less of a softy but there’s much more to do.

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Yummy Rabbit Stew

I ran home yesterday up and down hills that were like humps on a camel rollercoaster, arriving at the railway track path that was heavy with low fog – normally I run along here guided by the moonlight, where shadows piece together a path in front of me but tonight the fog gives no clue to the route and my torch does nothing but immerse me in a myopic cocoon of light. The moon is threatening to rise on the horizon but I don’t see it all evening, which is just as well as. I’ve tried to enjoy the stars on the way home but glancing at them on and off never really does much. There hasn’t been a clearer night sky so I hurriedly make some organic white tea (frankly, a terrible choice) and with more wool wrapped around me than the average sheep, wander off for a starbed. A pallet and a hay bale are perfect and I lay here until the once hot mug gets icy next to me. This might just be why I’m in Wales.

Feel on top of Uni work already and the blue sky has been shining this week, long may that continue.

If I forget again how lucky I am to be here, studying something I love with adventures all around – somebody needs to kick me in the shin. Hard.

If I was female, could play the ukelele and whistle, then I’d like to be her.

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Is a cab driver that gets under your skin a Taxidermatologist?

29 Oct

A chill came across the country yesterday.

I spent a lot of this week in the arms of statistical formulae. They’re not welcoming arms. In a state of weakness I agreed to teach an undergrad stats class, educating 2nd years students on the joys of the humble ANOVA and beyond. My lowest point was when I tried to sound cool talking about the Levene statistic (nobody has ever sounded cool talking about it) and how we could put two thumbs up, accept the null hypothesis and cruise on to the next test – this was delivered in time with me firing hand guns from my hip and immediately wondering what the hell I was doing. I’m sure they respect my teacher mode.

Yesterday and it was 9 a.m. and I’m being asked if I ‘have any scrambling experience’. Suppressing the response ‘well, I prefer mine poached…’ I sort of nodded and we set off up Tryfan (pronounced Tr’-van). I’ve already lost a few heartbeats to youtube clips of people scrambling up here and throughout the day I lost plenty more. Doing a PhD in sport psychology seemed ironic considering my idiotic approach to the toughest sections, which involved spending half my time scoping out holds and the other half looking below and scoping out which rock I’d be the most likely to land on if this went wrong. After about three hours we popped out to a peak, skipped down a gully and up to the final summit, upon which stood Adam and Eve – two boulders about four feet apart and precariously positioned by a drop off East face. Legend says jumping from one to another (like this) confers the ‘Freedom of Tryfan’ for a day. I mean seriously… for a day? a season pass would have been more reasonable. Either way, I don’t know if I mounted Adam or Eve but before I had time to think about why my legs were shaking I leapt like a retarded frog and Tryfan was mine, boom!

Spent my Sunday morning at the Launderette again – ah, the ‘Launderette’, sounds so romantic and French doesn’t it? No? As my underwear hit 5000rpm I skipped down Friddoedd St., past the student boozer ‘Rascals’ and into Morrison’s for a croissant. Glamorous. More importantly, since when did I own 24 pairs of underwear?

On a final note and in case it hasn’t been mentioned, the house has a stuffed parrot. Possibly or possibly not called Nigel.

Love H.

Life imitating Archers

14 Oct

It’s another Sunday and I’m in my armchair listening to Radio 4. Life imitating Archers continues.

It’s getting colder. The stars at night are brilliant. Rode to town on Friday and spent most of it staring above me at these little white shiny things that I feel I hadn’t seen properly for ages. Went to what is supposedly Bangor’s hippest bar set up by some ex-students with second-hand furniture and home brewed lager. It was okay. The sky closed in by the time I had to cycle home and I could barely open my eyes to see 5 metres in front of me, let alone other galaxies.

Drove to Anglesey yesterday and walked through some forest and dunes coming out at Malltreath Beach, shit the bed – over a mile of sand, blue skies, crashing waves, and only Snowdonia and two other people in the distance. Apparently it’s a hot spot for naturists, lucky it was a dash cold. When you spend so much time surrounded by things that demand your attention it was nice to spend the afternoon surrounded by nothingness. Everything deserved attention. But nothing demanded it.

Cycled to a nearby farm today to join something of a local occasion – the annual ‘Moel y Ci Fungi Forage with Nigel’. Nigel was the Bear Grylls of Fungi. Between what was about fifty of us we foraged nearly one hundred species, which, laid out over 5 tables looked pretty amazing. Possibly the coolest fungi being one that devours moth Larvae, closely followed by the non-anti-Semitic Jew’s Ear that grows on Elder, wobbles a lot and tastes like crap.

In a moment more Eastenders than Archers I went to the Launderette this morning. Uninteresting apart from the fact it gave my bed frame a chance to play a useful role (other than it’s current job of creaking at the thought of movement and being twice the width of the mattress that slides around on top of it). It makes an amazing drying rack, who would have known. On that note, goodbye.

Terra Firmer

7 Oct

After what can only be summarised as an unsettling move; living from a backpack of clothes and bare necessities – this sodden, bleak, sheep-ridden landscape is feeling like home.

Last week’s commute to the department involved a lung flexing cycle along a path like a rollercoaster track that seemed to constantly go up, occasionally interspersed with a downhill plunge, but mainly the slow cranking uphill, (not even going there with a cranking joke).

Alas, after buckling my rear wheel on a pothole, I’ve turned to the dark side and bought a car. A car that’s probably a little too quick for me but it’s got leather seats and a cd player (cue Buck Rogers). All I need now is some cd’s.

vrrroooom

Can’t decide if the sheep in the front field are shy or just a little arrogant. They scamper anytime I go near them, (n.b. I did learn that they have their ears clipped at birth to label their flock, hence where the saying to earmark something comes from).

Maddy came to visit this weekend, I nearly took her to Penhryn castle (but couldn’t quite find the entrance), I made up for this by arriving at Beamauris Castle (just after it had closed). I’d make a terrible invader. Drove through Snowdonia on a characteristically sunny day and got wet feet walking along a bog that went around this top notch lake. At the far end we were pretty peckish and (to the dramatically inclined) it felt like tea and cake or death, so we stopped for tea and cake please.

Llyn Dinas in the background (and Maddy very much in the foreground)

Not sure I’ve done much work in the last week, signed up to teach a stats class starting in a fortnight and I’m running a journal club that begins next week, both of which equal panic. The actual PhD is ridiculously interesting and explores totally uncharted territory to do with personality theories, plus our little group is called those who study the ‘dark side’ so we sound pretty (relatively) cool too.

Oh, and Glastonbury (unless I get tickets in April, in which case – greatest festival ever).. you suck!

This is the view of Bangor from Anglesey (it looks a lot better from afar)

The Move to Wales

30 Sep

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It’s raining. But you knew that anyway.

After a chaotic day taking a train at 5.39a.m. just because it was cheaper, I got into Bangor to be greeted by sideways rain.

Met my supervisor on Thursday, joined him for a lunchtime run and communal shower before having a meeting sat in big armchairs whilst the latest Mumford & Sons played in the background. Despite hearing a lot about the atmosphere here, I wasn’t prepared for how fun and welcoming everyone would be, could get used to this.

On the first night I found somewhere to live, a farmhouse with sheep out front and cows out back. I’m housed in an attic room surrounded by antique furniture and a bed that was designed for a stick insect. There’s an art teacher called Nesta who lives here, renting out rooms to students, there’s a nice bunch at the moment. I do feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere, probably because I am in the middle of nowhere, it’s a 2 mile cycle from town (and more importantly the pub) through country lanes and in the last three days I’ve only been passed by a single car. A cycle track leads into town but involves crossing a ford which for the past few days has been a 2 foot torrent of water, it’s no harrison ford.

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Here’s the farm, my room’s behind that tree..

The first day of sunshine finally appeared yesterday and I joined a walking club to head up Snowdon. Stunning day, epic scenery. Bought an OS map today and it’s been incredible looking at everywhere thinking that this is my playground for the next three years!

h