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Diary of an opsimath
heleninwales
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Various friends are posting their schedules and it all looks so interesting! I want to attend ALL THE PANELS!! but of course that isn't going to be physically possible due to timetable clashes and my own lack of stamina now I'm older. However, I will do my best... :)

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heleninwales
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29/52 for my 52 week project

There was a Welsh conversation group that met on a Wednesday morning in a cafe in town. I attended a couple of times and found it useful but, unfortunately, I had no sooner found the group than they decided to transform themselves into an evening group and started meeting in a pub a short drive away. This was not so good, for a variety of reasons, so I stopped going. However, whilst at the Welsh summer school, I discovered that another, different group had now taken over the Wednesday morning niche and so I went to investigate. Last week's session was enjoyable, so I went along again yesterday.

My Welsh definitely still needs a lot of work. Though I can hit a good patch and sound pretty fluent at times, if we move on to another topic, I'll suddenly find that I don't have the words to say what I want. Anyway, I'll keep going over the summer and then everything depends on what courses (if any) I end up teaching this next academic year as to whether I can carry on with the conversation group or join the advanced class that starts in September.

So, the photo... As I was walking home, I spotted this contented looking cat snoozing in one of the tiny gardens belonging to the stone terraced cottages on the road leading from the town square.

Ginger & white cat

The fact that I'm posting this on a Thursday means that giving up the Alphabet Challenge was the right thing to do. Suddenly I feel free to photograph whatever I like. I know that one should stick at things -- I was brought up to believe that if you commit to something, you should see it through and not give up just because it gets difficult -- but you can take that too far and sometimes I hang on for dear life, even when giving up would be the better option.

I was becoming less and less engaged with Flickr. Because I just ended up taking desperation shots for a particular theme, they usually weren't good enough to post to the groups I belong to on Flickr, which meant no one was seeing my pictures, which meant I wasn't receiving any comments, which meant my enthusiasm was dropping even more. But I think I've now halted that downward spiral.

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heleninwales
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I did a 365 project in 2010 and managed a photo-a-day for a whole year with just a couple of days missing. Not wanting to do something quite that demanding again, for the past several years I have done a couple of 52-week photo challenges. It's worked pretty well and I usually found the limitations of the set topic made me take photos that I wouldn't have taken otherwise and it has resulted in some good photos, but for some reason, this year I'm struggling with the alphabet challenge.

I don't know whether there was something different about this year's topics or whether it was because the teaching ate into my time or whether I'm just a bit jaded with photography and need to re-think what I'm doing, but for the last few months I've been taking a desperation shot on the last day of the week. I have therefore decided to stop at this point which means I've been through the alphabet once.

So here's the mosaic of the 25 photos I took for the challenge. I missed one a few weeks ago, so it's not 26 as it should be, but this way it fits into a square better. Oh, and I will be continuing with my own personal challenge, which is far more flexible and more related to what I'm actually doing.

alphabet challenge 26 week mosaic

1. Cadair Idris, 2. Crocheting a blanket, 3. Charging..., 4. Crochet blanket, 5. Crocheting around the edge, 6. Welsh cakes, 7. Golden Nut Corn Flakes, 8. Corner-to-corner cushion, 9. Elizabeth House inverted colours, 10. Small scissors, 11. Padlock keyhole, 12. Easter basket with chocolate, 13. Pussy willow catkin, 14. Old railway, 15. Old books, 16. Garden panorama, 17. Tawelwch / Quiet, 18. The last apple, 19. Stripy carrier bag, 20. Phrase books, 21. Old signal at Penmaenpool, 22. To be used up, 23. Sheltering from the wild weather, 24. A beautiful summer's day, 25. Zig zag
heleninwales
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I mentioned the shopping trip to Llandudno a few days ago but hadn't got around to processing the photos. As it's grey, overcast and drizzly today, it was nice to look at the brilliant sun and blue skies of such a short time ago. Here is the view from where I sat to eat my lunch.

Llandudno beach

Whenever I go to Llandudno for shopping, it is traditional to buy M&S sandwiches and eat them sitting on the promenade, fending off seagulls. You did, literally, used to have to fend them off. Before now I've sat with my back to the wall of the shelter and swatted at them with a handbag, but since the council brought in draconian anti-seagull feeding bylaws, you hardly get troubled at all. One or two did creep up to stare at me, but getting up and walking towards them in a menacing fashion made them go away.

It's always nice to see that Llandudno is still popular with visitors. So many of the North Wales resorts have sadly declined. Admittedly, the majority of the holidaymakers looked to be over 60, but once the schools break up, there will be families too.

Resting in the shade

After finishing my lunch, I walked up past the pier before heading to the shops to buy what I'd actually come for.

Llandudno pier

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27/52

This shot was almost monochrome so I thought I'd try a black and white version.

It adds to the period feel, but you have to pretend that the chap walking beside the engine is scratching his ear and not talking on his mobile! :)

Engine shed, Didcot Railway Centre

This was actually a shot taken with my new Samsung Galaxy 4S. I am pleased with the camera, though I do need more practice to get the best out of it.

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After the weekend in South Wales, I had the Welsh summer school, which was only a few minutes walk from my house, but was very mentally exhausting. I had let the Welsh slide, due to having to revise/learn all the HTML and CSS for the courses I taught last year, not to mention getting to grips with teaching GCSE English Language for the first time. So, the plan was that a week of speaking and learning Welsh would get me back to where I was a year or so ago. To that end, the course was successful and I've also discovered that there is group who meet for conversation practice in a local cafe. I went along last Wednesday and intend to keep going, unless I end up having to teach that day.

The following weekend we had a trip to Oxford. We travelled on the early train on Friday so that G could attend the final meeting relating to the maths education research he has been doing with Oxford University. While G gave his presentation to the group, I made my way to the hotel via a quick diversions up the high street and an hour sitting in the Starbucks near the hotel where I waited until I was able to check in.

Next day, we got the train to the Didcot Railway Centre. It is conveniently situated right next to the modern station and Pendolinos whoosh past as you watch the steam trains trundle up and down the line belonging to the centre.

Didcot Railway Centre

If you like steam trains, it's well worth a visit. There are lots of engines that have been restored and you can ride up and down their branch line as many times as you like, for free. :)

More train pictures behind here...Collapse )

There was also a museum of Random Stuff, all relating to the Great Western Railway. This display of tickets from a rather swift tour around the Stratford-upon-Avon area caught my eye. It must have been quite a tiring day!

An ambitious day tour

When we'd seen enough, we caught the modern train back to Oxford and then, after a nice Italian meal, we journeyed via the Park-and-Ride bus to the Peartree services and our hotel.

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Just a very quick post and no photos yet because it's time to make dinner. With luck there will be a photo or two tomorrow -- assuming they came out ok!

Today was an excursion to the town of Llandudno on the North Wales coast, which is a 3 hour round trip. G was attending the graduation of some of his students and I went shopping.

I really don't like shopping much, so tend to save it up and then arrange to go to a Big Place[*] and get it all done in one fell swoop. I bought most of what I went for, plus a handbag I hadn't intended to buy but did need due to the zip breaking on the faithful old bag that has served me these many a year. I may also have made a step forwards in sorting out the muddle a certain big name mobile phone provider has made of one of my online account (fortunately the one belonging to the spare phone, and not my main phone). And, though I went intending only to look I actually bought the new fridge-freezer I've been procrastinating about for, oh, about 3 years. However, I didn't manage to get a new printer. The ones they had weren't suitable. I need to do some research online. Why do they have to bring out new "improved" models that have all sorts of features that you don't want and don't do what you need them to do. :(




[*]I always find it rather ironic that when I was a child we went to Llandudno for holidays. We thought it a charming little place compared to Manchester where we lived. Now it's one of the Big Places where I go to shop for things I can't buy locally and want to see in the flesh rather than just buying online.

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heleninwales
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The weekend before last it was time for our annual pilgrimage to Caerleon. In G's case, this was to attend the exam board meeting at the university to discuss his students' assignments and dissertations; in my case, it was just to have a day enjoying being somewhere different.

We'd travelled down the previous day because the meeting started early, so we parked at the university and G trotted off to work and, because rain was forecast, I walked down into the town straight away.

Recent archaeological excavations have revealed that Caerleon was even more important than previously thought. It was a major port back in Roman times. I wandered, as usual, past the remains of the legion's barracks.

Roman barracks, Caerleon

Then I continued on past the amphitheatre where a woman was exercising three lurchers. The dogs were having great fun, racing and bounding around the arena, which of course is all grassed over now and not covered in sand as it would have been when people watched rather more ferocious animals galloping around.

Unfortunately, it then began to rain so I hurried back up the hill to wait in the car. Usually the meetings take less time than predicted, but this time it dragged on and on. I didn't mind, I had taken plenty to do. I had a scarf to crochet and my iPod and books so I could revise my Welsh in preparation for the summer school the following week.

When G finally appeared, we drove on to Merthyr Tydfil where we were to spend the night before trundling home on the Sunday.

Merthyr is a place we'd always drive past, but on our last trip down south we did actually venture into the town centre. This time, we not only walked into the centre, where there are a number of splendid Victorian buildings, we carried on up the hill and found Cyfarthfa Park and Castle.

More photos behind the cut...Collapse )

Despite the stormy sky in the second photo, the rain held off and we walked around the castle grounds (now a public park) and down past the lake before heading back to our hotel.
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Note to self: Next time you go away on holiday and put shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturiser etc into small travel bottles, for heaven's sake PUT A LABEL ON THEM!!! Today's small decluttering job was to tidy the cupboard under the washbasin in the bathroom. There were all these little bottles of stuff, but as I had no idea what each kind of pleasant smelling goop was, I've just put the whole lot to soak and I'll wash out all the little bottles properly tomorrow.

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Apologies for silence. I'm trying to keep up with reading and commenting here on LJ. That's assuming I have anything sensible to say, which isn't always the case. I do try and read most of my friends' list most days, so lack of comment from me doesn't mean lack of interest. But current lack of internet time is because I'm attending a Welsh Summer School to try and kickstart my language learning again.

Last year I was so busy updating all my HTML and CSS knowledge that Welsh fell by the wayside. Despite trying to fit in a bit of intermittent practice with flashcards, I could feel it slipping away (or getting rustier and rustier, whichever analogy you prefer). So... I booked a place on the Welsh summer school at the college where I teach. This suddenly boosted my motivation.

Speaking, listening, reading and writing were all supposed count for my self-study, but the Welsh tended to get missed. If I did it first thing, it was fine, but that's one of the few times I have to read fiction for pleasure, so I kept leaving the Welsh until "later" -- which of course never came. Anyway, as I said, the prospect of having to speak in a class focused my mind I went into frantic revision mode.

This made me realise something useful. Just telling myself to "Do some Welsh every day" was too vague. What has worked this time is setting up specific To Dos with checklists (eg revise Book 1 Story 1, Book 1 Story 2 etc). So... for the future I know that I need to plan definite activities in advance, set up To Dos for them and tick them off when done.

I do sometimes wonder why I'm bothering to struggle on with the Welsh, though the recent research regarding language helping to delay the onset of dementia is one of the reasons I'm persevering at my age. I'll be retiring in a year or so, so Welsh isn't going to help my career. I would like to socialise more with Welsh speaking people, so that's another motivation, but if I'm honest, I just want to be able to speak another language fluently. It was always one of my childhood ambitions. I thought people who spoke more than one language were really cool. :)

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