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Diary of an opsimath
It seems to take longer and longer to catch from a quick trip away. Anyway, last Wednesday we travelled to London after work. I spent Wednesday morning scampering around packing and doing last minute stuff (like buying diesel, booking a parking place and making sure there would be food to come home to), then I taught for an hour before hurrying home. G was waiting ready to set off and the drive to the station was uneventful, no floods or anything to prevent us arriving on time.

The journey went smoothly, though we did have to change twice and go via Stafford. The online booking system is a bit obsessed with sending you the quickest route whereas to be honest, I don't mind waiting 20 minutes for a connection because it gives time to pop into the loo and/or buy a snack. It also allows time so that you're not worried f the train is a minute or two late or you have to walk from one end of the station to the other to get to the right platform. Anyway, we caught both connections OK and the hotel was only a short walk from Euston, right opposite the British Library in fact.

Next morning we checked out and we were pleased the hotel had a luggage room where we could leave the suitcase. That saved having to pay to leave it in the left luggage at Euston. The main reason for the trip was that G wanted to attend a one day maths education conference. Meanwhile I planned to visit the Celts exhibition at the British Museum.

For some reason, on our last trip to London, there had been a slight glitch with the Oyster card and the system owned us £3. In order to collect this, I got the Tube for a couple of stops to Goodge Street and then had a little explore down Oxford Street before heading for the museum. Exiting from the Tube station, there was a huge crowd of people waiting for the lift. There was also a spiral staircase with a sign saying, "For emergency use only." I saw a couple of people disappear up the staircase and I decided that, to a claustrophobe, a huge crowd and a packed lift was sufficiently like an emergency to entitle me to use it. I started off at a good speed, but ran out of puff towards the top, but I made it, all 136 stairs!

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Once I'd had enough of looking at the shops, I headed for the British Museum. I know that area pretty well and only went slightly astray when I exited from the wrong corner of Bedford Square. However, that did lead me to see what must have been a very important person indeed because he (probably "he") merited 4 police outriders on motorcycles and an SUV with blue flashing lights surrounding his very elegant and expensive looking but very discreetly un-ostentatious saloon car.

I bought a ticket for the Celts exhibition, but had a while to wait before they'd let me in, but it was almost lunchtime anyway, so I ate in one of the museum cafes.

I'd hoped that I'd be able to take my weekly themed photo while in London, and indeed I found just the thing!

African door post

48/52 for the group 2015 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: U is for Ugly

This is a door post from Africa. Originally it stood outside the men's hut and was supposed to look ferocious and warlike, presumably to reflect the inhabitants. It's now in the British Museum. I actually think it looks a bit sad and lonely, but it is indubitably ugly.

African door post

I spent 2½ hours slowly wandering around the exhibition about the Celts. It was nice to see the Gundestrup Cauldron again. I'd seen it when we visited Copenhagen. They also had an interesting array of torcs, brooches, weapons, horse accoutrements etc. I rather liked the bronze pony cap (to protect the poll) that some young Celtic warrior had added curly horns to. I suspect he thought it made his chariot ponies look really cool.

When I finally emerged from the Celtic twilight (the exhibition had swathes of grey chiffon hanging from the ceiling that were, perhaps, to represent clouds and mist, I couldn't face looking at any more things, so I sat quietly for a while and read a book until it was time to go and collect the case from the hotel, meet G and catch the train home.

British Museum

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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For some years I have made a habit of looking back at a post I made in January 2009 about what makes a perfectly adequate Christmas. Unfortunately, the note that some cards have to go airmail now just serves to remind me that my old university friend from New York passed away just over 12 months ago. I also referred to visiting my Dad who died this April.

As the point of the post is to be totally upbeat and positive, I decided to do a slight re-write so that in future I'll see an updated version that has no overtones of sadness.

Current Mood: tired tired

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This is a quick summary of what is needed to make a perfectly satisfactory Christmas, based on what has worked for several previous Christmases. There is only us to please now, so no need to succumb to seasonal panic and depression.


For Christmas dinner, all we need is a piece of dead animal to roast. Or a chicken. G doesn't like turkey, so forget turkey and just get a small roasting joint of some kind. Pork is good because we can have stuffing and applesauce. Yum! But beef is fine too if there is no pork or chicken left by the time you do the shopping (which is unlikely, to be honest, even if you leave it until Christmas eve like you did last year because we'd been away).

Make sure we have a pack of stuffing mix and a jar of applesauce or a couple of cooking apples.

For veggies we need: potatoes, sprouts, carrots and parsnips, also frozen peas and onions (for gravy).


Sadly the bakers in town where I used to buy puddings has turned into a café, but the Co-op have some nice ones. But if you've left it too late and they've all gone, remember these are actually very easy to make. Bread will grate perfectly well straight from the freezer, so you just stir everything together and steam for hours and hours. If you are totally disorganised (what do you mean "if"?) they can even be made on Christmas eve and then eaten at New Year and then for special treats whenever. After a big dinner, do you really appreciate a heavy pudding? If you use the recipe in the slow cooker book it avoids making kitchen into a Turkish bath. The second batch can even be cooked on Christmas day in the slow cooker. (Like you did once.) It won't get in the way of the other cooking. Heinz treacle sponge from a tin with custard is fine for Christmas dinner. Or ice cream.

The rest is behind here because it"s mostly for my own benefit...Collapse )

So that's it. Nothing to get worked up about now is there?

Current Mood: tired tired

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47/52 for the group 2015 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: T is for Tree

The weather has been awful all week but the forecast wasn't too bad for this morning, so I managed to squeeze in a walk before the rain returned. The sun actually peeped through the clouds for a couple of minutes so I managed to get the shot I needed for the week's theme.

Sunlit tree

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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46/52 for the group 2015 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: S is for Silhouette

The weather has been pretty awful this week with floods on Monday and lots of heavy rain since. However, I took a chance during a fine interval on Friday to walk up to see some friends and snapped this shot with my phone on the way.

A grey November day

And today, as I processed this picture and posted it to Flickr, it's raining hard again. The sky is getting darker as the day progresses (currently 9:30 am, but still a gloomy twilight outside) and the flood is rising again on the swamp beyond the bottom of our garden.* I have therefore declared today a day for huddling indoors and catching up with Stuff. Besides, I have been out more than usual this week.

I'd done my usual two days of part-time teaching on Monday and Wednesday and then after visiting my elderly friends on Friday morning, in the evening I took part in the Merched y Wawr quiz (in Welsh). I not only survived without making an idiot of myself, I even managed to provide the answers to two questions (out of about 100!). And our team didn't come last. There were supposed to be two teams from our branch, but in the end we could only field one team of three because people who had said they were coming never appeared. The quiz didn't involve answering questions individually (or I'd never have agreed to take part!). Instead it was more like an exam, except that it was done as a team and you could discus the questions and come up with a joint answer. Overall it was enjoyable, stretched my Welsh to the limit but I'll happily have another go next year now I have a better idea of what is involved.

And then yesterday (Saturday), it was a Sadwrn Siarad (Lit. Speaking Saturday), which is basically a one day Welsh course which provides classes at all levels for a whole day for the princely sum of £10. It's always well worth it and it gives you the chance to meet learners from other classes.

Compared to the quiz, it was quite relaxing, but I knew that I was tired when by 3:00 pm I realised, as we were translating a bit of dialogue, that I knew exactly what a "ffreutur" was; I could have described it in either English or Welsh and explained what you did there, but for the life of me I couldn't remember the English word "canteen". :)

So, as I said, definitely a vegging out day today to let my brain rest before another week starts tomorrow...

* Please don't worry, due to the length and steepness of our back garden, there is absolutely no danger of the water reaching the house.
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For the first time since... well, it's so long that I can't remember, but it's quite a few years, I wrote more than 500 words of first draft this morning. Perhaps I haven't entirely forgotten how to write. I had been starting to wonder. But what I've finally realised is that if I want to write, it has to be first thing in the morning or I never get a round tuit. Also, I've discovered that (counter-intuitively) I can write on my busy teaching days; it's the day after a busy day that I feel too tired to write. So having had that insight, I might be able to get into a productive rhythm of writing days and non-writing days.

Just as long as I haven't jinxed it by posting about it, that is!

And in case you were wondering, I've finally kick-started the writing by going right back to basics. A4 lined paper and a fountain pen. :)

Current Mood: productive productive

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I have just given myself sparklepoints* for managing to have a conversation on the phone in Welsh about arranging what time my tutor would pick me from my house tomorrow. She's going to give me a lift to the quiz that I (perhaps foolishly!) agreed to take part in. Wish me luck! :)

* It's a Habitica thing. You make a Habit to click to give yourself extra points if you do something especially difficult.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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45/52 for the group 2015 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's topic was: R is for Regular

The buses round here aren't all that frequent, but this is probably one of the more regular services running through town.

Regular bus service

Now we only have one car, the buses may become more important in the future, especially as I have embraced another sign of impending old age and acquired a bus pass. Now I can travel free on all the local buses.

Current Mood: busy busy

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I have been very bad recently at LiveJournalling little trips away. I have a list of things still to write up and I've done a few that were so far back in the past that I just quietly back-dated them. Anyway...

Last week we went on a mini-break to the far north of Wales. I usually say I live in North Wales, but I live at the southern end of the north -- if that makes sense. Go just a little bit further south and the next town you come to is definitely Mid-Wales. The reason for our trip was that G had received an email from the restaurant in Bangor University offering a free bottle of wine to alumni who booked a meal with them. As they are only open a couple of nights a week, it had to be during half term, and if we were to claim our free bottle of wine, we couldn't very well drive home. The solution was to book a night in a hotel, and thus the mini-break came into being.

Neither of us know Anglesey very well. It's further than we normaly like to drive for a day trip and there are so many beautiful places nearer to home that we've never really bothered. However, as we wouldn't have to drive back the same day, we decided to explore the bottom right-hand corner of Anglesey.

Our first stop was Moelfre, a little village on the coast. We found a free car park and then walked down a narrow path between houses, past a quaint little cafe/restaurant, to the beach.

Lots of boats

From there we followed the coastal path round to the lifeboat station. Moelfre has recently had a new lifeboat, which entailed building a new lifeboat station because the new boat wouldn't fit into the old building. It was completed earlier this year and looked very splendid. It was open, so we could go in and look at the high-tech new lifeboat and also view the boards that list all the rescues that the crew have undertaken over the 160 years it has been saving people and boats.

New lifeboat station, Moelfre

Moelfre Lifeboat station

By now we were getting hungry, but the quaint cafe was very crowded as it was an unnaturally warm day for the time of year and of course it was half term. There was, however, the slight problem of having no cash. I hardly ever use cash in a normal week because I pay by card for everything. I do try to remember to get cash before we go away but I had forgotten. G thought the cafe might take cards, but I wasn't sure. Anyway, it was so cramped and busy inside and they didn't seem to have ready made sandwiches (which was all we wanted, we'd booked a posh dinner for the evening remember!) that we decided to abandon it and try elsewhere.

The public toilet in Moelfre wasn't open (seasonal only), so we drove back to the slightly larger Benllech. There the lack of cash caused another problem. It cost £3 to park in the cark park for the day. I could only scrape together about £1.65 in bits of silver. Anyway, we didn't want to stay all day; we just wanted a quick wander round before moving on elsewhere. However, the public toilet was open, so after using the facilities, we decided to abandon Benllech and head to our next port of call.

As we were about to turn back onto the main road, we were saved by a Tesco express with parking, and sandwiches, and a cash machine. There was a moment of excitement when I came to use the machine, pressed "No" to answer the question, "Did I want to carry out another transaction?" and was slightly boggled when the machine proceeded to eject a debit card. Fortunately, the owner of the card was still in sight so G chased after him and managed to catch him as he went into a cafe.

Next stop was Traeth Bychan (which means Tiny Beach). The car park was huge. It could have coped with a hundred cars. It also cost £3 to park for the day, but as it was deserted with just one other solitary car parked there, we ignored the ticket machine and sat and ate our sandwiches without paying. Having then realised that there was a bit of free parking a little further down the lane, we moved our vehicle and got out to explore. The exploration took about 2 minutes. The name should have warned us but it was indeed a very tiny beach. But this then led us to wonder why the car park was so large. If that car park was full in the summer, where did all the people go? What did they do? If they all stayed on the beach, they'd have had to stand like penguins! We could only assume that they all arrived with boats or jet skis which they launched and sailed out into the bay. Or perhaps they all set out along the coastal path?

To be continued...

Current Mood: busy busy

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I had planned to meet the children and grandchildren today, somewhere approximately half way between our house and theirs. However, the Daihatsu wasn't back from the garage (minor respray of lacquer stuff on bonnet to prevent rust) and anyway the forecast was for rain, so I cancelled.

I'm now glad I did because it's so gloomy it still feels like night time, even though it's almost 9 am and it's raining steadily. It's that heavy Welsh rain that says, "Brighten up? No chance! I can keep this up all day and oooooh look, sometimes I can make the rain go horizontal!" So instead, I'd better see if I can tackle some To-Dos and catch up with the house cleaning.
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