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heleninwales
It's not quite the end of the year yet and I've not done the full year review, but I do have 3 clear goals to achieve in 2018.

1) I'm going to start a vlog and post regular videos on Youtube. More about this when I do a proper SMART goal for it.

2) Finish a novel. This was supposed to be a goal for last year, but it fell by the wayside, partly due to me becoming much more involved with politics. I still care as passionately as before about the issues that got me fired up, but I need to stop letting politics swallow my life and I want to get my creative projects back.

3) Learn Spanish. I'm keeping on with improving my Welsh, but I'm curious as to how I'd get on learning a new language totally from scratch now I know the best ways to learn a language. Also Spain is sunny and warm when Wales is still dark and gloomy so it might do me good to take a short break away during the darkest times of the year. And if I did that, I'd want to be able to speak the language.
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heleninwales
Although we live in a tiny town of only 2600 inhabitants, we have more and better shops than the size of the place would imply. This is party due to it being a tourist destination but also because it's the commercial centre for a lot of scattered villages, hamlets and farms. Today (being a Wednesday) would normally be the Welsh conversation group meeting in one of the local cafes, but of course the week between Christmas and New Year is always an odd one. Officially it's a normal working week but in practice so many people take the time off that everything goes into limbo. However, I decided that I'd go to the cafe anyway. The worst that could happen would be that I'd sit for half an hour, drinking tea and reading a book. It would get me out of the house and -- after a lot of wet, dreary grey days -- it was a bright sunny morning.

As it transpired, everyone was either away, had family visiting or had gone down with the 'flu that had prevented me from attending the week before, so I sat and sipped my tea and read more of Pwnc Llosg (A Welsh murder mystery) until it was obvious that no one else was coming and the teapot was empty. I left the cafe and went shopping.

I had four items on my list and I not only bought those, I found extra things that I hadn't thought I could get in town. Here is the total haul.

Successful shopping trip!

The things that were on my list were the pudding basin and the bottle of kitchen cleaner (both from the ironmongers) and the thermometer and bag of disposable razors (not in the photo) from Boots. But in addition to these planned purchases, I noticed that the extremely old-fashioned clothes shop had vests in the window. I'd had to throw several vests away recently because they were going into holes, but the ones I'd bought (online) a couple of years ago hadn't really been what I wanted. The neckline was too high so they showed above my t-shirts and they barely covered my midriff, when everyone knows that vests need to be long enough to ensure there are no gaps to let the cold in.

The in-car phone charger and 64Gb flash drive were surprise finds on a rack at the back of Boots. I'd been going to order these online, but finding them today for instant purchase saved time. I'm going to be using my phone a lot more next year because I've found a really good free SatNav app (recommended by my daughter) and I plan to be taking lots of video for a new project I'm planning. Being able to charge the phone on the go will really help. I also need to research external batteries for phones, but that I will have to do online or wait until I next visit A Big Place. The black box at the back of the photo wasn't bought in town but was ordered online and arrived today. That is a bendy phone tripod that will also be substantial enough to old my DSLR. I'll be explaining the need for this new photographic accessory in later posts. :)

And, finally, the thermometer...

As I've previously mentioned, I had a mild 'flu just before Christmas and I kept taking my temperature with the old-fashioned glass mercury thermometer. Wandering around the kitchen with it in my mouth it came to me that it was a bit silly to still be using such a potentially dangerous and difficult to read device. Basically I was putting a fragile glass tube filled with a deadly poison in my mouth. What if I had a sudden sneezing fit and bit into the thermometer? I'd have a mouthful of glass shards and mercury! And then they're hard to read. You have to turn the thermometer to exactly the right angle so that the thin thread of mercury is magnified and then you have to read a very finely graduated scale. This was fine when there was no other choice, but I now have a safe, easy to read thermometer for the next time I suspect I have a fever.
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heleninwales
We had a lovely Christmas day yesterday. There were just the two of us, but we're happy with that. I made a larger then usual roast dinner with pork, stuffing, apple sauce, roast potatoes and veg, followed by one of the Christmas puddings I made a few weeks ago. I spent a little extra on a bottle of wine and it was very nice indeed.

We had presents from the children who phoned to wish us happy Christmas and otherwise it was just nice and peaceful.

Today is Boxing Day and traditionally the day one goes out for a bracing walk, but I still didn't feel that would be wise so soon after recovering from the mild flu I had last week. I have, therefore been spending part of the day researching online about how to make documentary style videos for a project I'm planning. It's too soon to make it public, but don't worry, if I actually do manage to do it, you will be hearing about it in due course. :)

The next step is to go and experiment with my mobile phone and selfie stick to see if I can put into practice the tips I've been reading about. The next step after that will be to learn how to use the video editing software.

Current Mood: creative creative

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heleninwales
After walking from the station up to the Clifton Suspension bridge we were starting to feel hungry. Crossing the bridge just took us into a wealthy looking leafy suburb with big houses and no sign of any cafes or shops. There was a mobile stall selling hot drinks and cakes, but we wanted something savoury.

As we retraced our steps to the Clifton side of the bridge, we took a little diversion up to the Camera Obscura. You had to pay to go in and we weren't interested in the camera obscura part, but you could pay separately to descend to the cave, so we did.

The stairs and tunnel were narrow and steep. You needed to hang on tightly to the handrail.I took this photo coming back up.

Tunnel to the balcony

After several minutes of precarious descent, we reached the yellow balcony that juts out half way up the sheer cliff.

Yellow balcony

A sign warned that no more than 8 people should stand on it at once, but neither G nor I ventured out onto it as it felt very flimsy. I mean, I'm sure it is safe, but I have no head for heights.

After ascending the steep and narrow stairs and emerging into the bright sunshine, we discovered that the Camera Obscura had a cafe on the roof, but it was closed for the winter. We therefore made our way back into the shopping streets of Clifton to seek out a cafe. It took a while because there were fancy tea and cake shops (see above about wanting something more substantial) and there were cafes selling things like mushooms on artisinal hand-crafted sourdough toast for exorbitant prices. But eventually we found a Coffee #1, which seems to be a South Wales & West of England coffee shop chain. They had hot bacon baps, which were exactly what we needed after such a long walk in the cold.

Now sustained, we continued our walk back down to the docks and, as we had time, we popped into the Arnolfini art gallery where there was a very interesting exhibition of Grayson Perry's work. I would have liked to stay longer, but G is easily bored and after seeing a few things, we continued our way to the station and thence back to Cardiff and a M&S ready meal eaten in the apartment we were renting. It's nice to eat out, but also nice to be able to relax in the peace and quiet with reasonably good food and bottle of wine. :)

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heleninwales
This was a couple of weeks ago now. We actually went to stay in Cardiff but as one of G's days of meetings was cancelled -- after we'd booked the hotel and train tickets, of course! -- we decided on a day out to Bristol. I think I've only been once before about 40 years ago to visit my brother when he was still living there. However, G used to know Bristol well, having lived for some years in Bath. Anyway, as it was an easy day trip by train from Cardiff, we went to explore.

The docks had changed a lot since my husband was last here. He knew it as a semi-derelict area of old abandoned warehouses. The trumpet shaped structures on the bridge seem to be artistic counter weights for when the bridge lifts to let boats through.

Unusual bridge

Lots of expensive looking apartments and expensive looking boats in the marina.

Bristol Docks

I've never seen the Clifton Suspension Bridge before, though I recognised it at once. I couldn't get the whole bridge in from this position and the light was wrong to shoot it from the other side.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Gorge. This was the problem that the bridge designers had to solve. At high tide, the river is navigable so the bridge had to be built high up to allow sailing shops to pass underneath. The tide was out so it was rather muddy down there.

Clifton Gorge

It's difficult to say exactly who designed the bridge because many people were involved in the process, including the famous British engineers and bridge builders Thomas Telford and Isembard Kingdom Brunel. Also a woman called Sarah Guppy patented designs for a suspension bridge across the gorge which she later gave to Brunel. Construction was a long drawn out affair. Though work began on 21 June 1831, the bridge was still not complete in 1859 when Brunel died. It was finally finished in 1864 and that was only after a significant redesign by William Henry Barlow and Sir John Hawkshaw and the use of the chains that had originally been used on the Hungerford Bridge across the Thames.
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heleninwales
A couple of days ago we went out exploring again. On a previous trip we'd briefly looked at what G thought was a disused slate mine, only to discover that it was being worked. However, after perusing the map, he thought he'd found a route along public footpaths that would take us above the part they were working and give us a good view of the old mine.

It started off well. We parked by some cottages and then took a clearly marked footpath which climbed steeply past a field where someone was keeping ponies. The main track continued, but a stile over a wire fence reassured us that there was indeed a path through the woods. Quite a lot of the tall spindly conifers had been blown down at some point and the track was very faint, but we clambered over and under the fallen trees and eventually the path did bring us out high up on the hillside at the foot of the old workings.

I've never seen a slate wall as high as this one before! There was an entrance at the bottom, but we didn't venture to look in there.

Slate wall -- Aberllefenni

As I said, the mine is operating again on a small scale. They seem to be crushing up the slate waste to make that slate gravel stuff people use in gardens and also taking out the remaining good slate and making plaques, gravestones and other items.

Looking down the old incline at the current operations.

Current operations -- Aberllefenni

However were soon at the end of the path.

Where did the path go?

The map showed it continuing round the corner and across the face of the slate tip, but no path seemed to exist. We therefore scrambled up to the next level, which brought us to the top of that slate wall in the previous photo.

Top of wall -- Aberllefenni

There was possibly a tram track running across this when the mine was working.

Unfortunately, there was still no sign of a path, but we'd reached that point where going on seemed a better option than climbing back down the slate tip we'd just climbed up.

After a rather precarious scramble, we did reach the safety of solid ground and then the path was easy and well marked, back down the other side of the valley to where we'd parked.

Here is the view of the old workings. If you follow the line across, you can see where there used to be a path across the waste tip, a path that has now disappeared due to the tip subsiding.

Slate mine -- Aberllefenni

Anyway, it was quite an adventure, but not a route that we can put in the geology book! This will therefore be included as a site to explore rather than a circular walking route as we had hoped.
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heleninwales
Over on Habitica in the geology guild, people were posting about the most interesting geological site they had visited. Here in Wales we are very lucky that we have just about the whole geological succession available in a very small country, which makes it an excellent place to study geology. But the most interesting geological location I've visited recently was interesting more for the role it played in the foundation of the science of geology rather than anything terribly exciting about the rock itself.

Foel Tryfan

There's a pretty uninteresting looking hill called Foel Tryfan near Caernarfon and at the top is a rock that clearly consists of beach pebbles stuck together.

Cambrian pebbles

In Victorian times this outcrop was the subject of intense arguments between those who said it was proof of Noah's flood and those who preferred a glacial theory of origin, suggesting that the glaciers had scooped up pebbles from the nearby beach and deposited them on the top of the hill.

Of course both were completely wrong because the rock is in fact very early Cambrian, but Charles Darwin visited the site and it was quite amazing to stand there looking at the outcrop and thinking how the actual famous Charles Darwin had stood in the exact same spot at the time when geology was just developing as a separate science.

And here's the big quarry that was just over the top of the hill. There would have been glorious views over towards Penrhyn Llŷn in one direction and Anglesey in the other, but as you can see, the weather was very grey and so we need to go back another time to take better photos.

Old slate quarry
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heleninwales
45/52 for the group 2017 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: S is for Still life

Where do you draw the line between a still life and a cluttered desk? :)

Still life or clutter?
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heleninwales
44/52 for the group 2017 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: R is for Restless

Despite the gentle harp music, the man and boy appear restless.

To be honest, this was a bit of a stretch, but I think it just about counts. I took this in Cardiff with my phone. When I'm away, it's difficult to concentrate on serious photography or to set up shots specifically for the weekly theme.

Busker with harp

Current Mood: busy busy

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heleninwales
43/52 for the group 2017 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: Q is for Quit

There is still plenty of granite left, but the quarry owners quit and stopped working here. I assume that it ceased to be financially viable.

Abandoned granite quarry

I know I've skipped photo No. 42, but I want to do a proper post about that and it will have to wait for another day.
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