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Helen's journal and online home
In which an old dog attempts to learn new tricks.
heleninwales
I need to write up and post about our trip to London last week, but today was taken up with the Welsh conversation group in the morning and strimming most of the back garden this afternoon. We've had a hot dry spell, so the long grass was not too hard work to cut, but rain is forecast for tomorrow afternoon, hence the pressure to do as much grass cutting as possible today.

I also had to take our Daihatsu 4x4 to the garage because I noticed that it was slowly leaking diesel. :(

Considering its age (18 years old) it does very well and we've driven more miles than usual recently. Fortunately it's the pipes that take the diesel from the tank to the engine that have corroded through and need replacing. I think that will be cheaper and easier to fix than a new tank. It does mean that we can't do our planned trip to Aberystwyth tomorrow, sadly, but actually a quiet day at home would be welcome.
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heleninwales
20/52 for the group 2018 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: T is for Trouble

We've just had another short break in London, as you can see from the London Eye and the red bus. There's obviously been some sort of trouble here, though there was no indication as to what had happened and there were no police around when I walked past and spotted the tape around the van.

Police do not cross
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heleninwales
Ian Dunt has lots of wise things to say about Brexit, but I've just discovered that I agree with him about the royal family too.

In theory I dislike the idea of a hereditary head of state. Why should someone, due to an accident of birth be given a life of wealth and privilege at the tax payers' expense? But the minute I think about the alternatives, I start to think the Queen isn't too bad after all.

A country does need a head of state and it's nice to have an apolitical one. Otherwise they will be disapproved of by all the people who didn't vote for them and might alienate countries they visit. Or at least alienate a large part of their population. You only have to see how divisive Trump is in his own country and the British opposition to a state visit. But how can you hate the Queen? Yes, she's royalty, but has no power. She quiet and gracious and does the job of queening well.

I do believe that we should seriously downsize the royal family. I will not be watching the royal wedding and resent my taxes paying for it. I've seen people claiming that it will increase tourism and bring money into the country, but here in Wales we won't see a penny of it, even if it does increase visitor numbers in an area of England already pretty saturated with tourists. Ideally I would like to see a small royal family who live more modestly whilst most of their palaces and royal residences are opened to the public. That would bring in money. People still flock to Versailles even though the French got rid of their royalty a long long time ago.
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heleninwales
19/52 for the group 2018 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: S is for Straight

There aren't many straight roads, tracks or paths in North Wales, but this section of the Mawddach Trail is dead straight because it used to be a railway line and railways like straight lines wherever possible.

Straight track
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heleninwales
18/52 for the group 2018 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: R is for Risky

It was quite risky climbing down the cliff and then making our way to this tiny island. There is a sort of path down from the cliff top as long as you find the right spot. You can also get to the island without getting your feet wet, as long as you go at low tide. But beware! Don't get caught out because it would be a cold and miserable place to be trapped by the rising tide!

I must have been inhabited once, hundreds if not thousands of years ago. This island is known as Dinas Bach (Small Stronghold) and the apparently smaller island a little way along the coast is Dinas Fawr (Large Stronghold). (See map.) So the names must derive from the sizes of the settlements, not the sizes of the islands, both of which come into the "tiny" category. But they would have been a great defensive position in more uncertain times.

Tiny island, Penrhyn Llŷn
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heleninwales
17/52

The problem with going on so many expeditions is that I don't seem to get time to process the photos and write anything about the trip before we're off on another one. Another problem is that it's all a bit samey. We climb up to some wild and desolate place, trudge around for a while looking at rocks and then descend again.

Anyway, after spending a week in Pwllheli during the "Beast from the East" cold snap, we managed to book a few days away in Ponterwyd during a very wet week. The second day out walking was the best regarding weather.

This is an off-topic photo this week because due to the pretty awful weather there was no chance to photograph anything for the week's theme of "Quality" and very few photos worth posting. Day 2 remained more or less dry, though very grey. We climbed and climbed and climbed and then negotiated a perilous path up the side of a waterfall to finally emerge on the top of wooded hills cleft by unexpectedly steep valleys. This was the view looking back the way we had come.

Wide valley, Mid Wales
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heleninwales
I have had quite a domestic day today. First I strimmed some of the grass in the back garden. I only had a narrow window of opportuntiy because no one wants their neighbour using a strimmer too early in the morning, but the forecast said it would start raining at 10 a.m. I did about 45 minutes and now the top strip is tidy. It didn't actually rain until quite late in the afternoon, but I did as much as I'd planned, so it was fine.

I then got washed and changed and went to the cafe in town for the weekly Welsh chat. There's around a dozen of us altogether, though not everyone is there every week. Today there were nine. It's very informal. We just discuss whatever occurs to us. B is our Welsh tutor and another first language speaker also attends, so it's brilliant for picking up vocabulary local to the area. Today I learned that round here people use a different word for "funeral" than the one normally taught. Actually, having looked in the dictionary app, I see there are three words for "funeral" and the local one is the third in the list.

We also discussed our plans to visit Pennant Melangell. This is the church dedicated to St Melangell and, unlike most saints that have English churches named after them, Melangell actually lived at the place where the church and shrine now stand. Here's her story, if you wish to read about her. I haven't visited the valley before, but apparently it is a very peaceful place, even if one is not at all religious.

We also provided some inspiration to one of our group who is a potter. She arrived bemoaning the fact that she had half-made a batch of pots but didn't know what decoration to put on them. After hearing about Melangell and also having been reminded of the stories in the Mabinogion, she exclaimed that a woman hiding a hare in her skirts would be perfect and rushed off fired with enthusiasm to complete her work.

My Welsh is actually becoming pretty fluent now, so much so that I carried on speaking Welsh when I entered the new baker's shop on the square. I had to consciously switch language because the young woman who runs it is, I think, Eastern European. She's not a native English speaker anyway.

After lunch and catching up online, I made a cake. Now this is something that doesn't happen very often but a friend had given me two duck eggs. Another friend had given her half a dozen or so but she doesn't actually like them and so was trying to give them away. I'd never eaten duck eggs because we didn't have them growing up in a city and I'd never wanted to buy them in case I thought they were horrible. So this was my chance to try duck eggs for free.

I ate the first one hard boiled for lunch a few days ago. The taste was fine, but there was something about the texture of the white that I didn't quite like, so the second one has gone into a chocolate cake. Apparently duck eggs are excellent for cakes. As you can see, my cake wouldn't win any prizes in a competition, but it smells wonderful and I'm sure it will taste lovely.

chocolate cake
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heleninwales
I used to write fiction very seriously, aiming for publication. I also did a diploma in creative writing. However, after a few years of writing no fiction at all, I want to get back to writing just for my own enjoyment. I've joined a writers' guild on Habitica and I'm going to try posting about progress in the hope that a bit of public accountability will help me finish the various novels that I started.

Writing goals for the next few weeks: My overall goal is to finish the series of fantasy novels I've been writing on and off for far too many years. So, the first step is to sort out the very messy first draft of book 1. It is such a mess that I'm going to print out what I've got so far and write scene summaries, then try to get the story into shape. It's more or less all there, but things took a couple of wrong turns about one third of the way in and that needs smoothing out. My target for getting a coherent story outline will be mid-June.

Current Mood: determined determined

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heleninwales
16/52 for the group 2018 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: P is for Post-Modern

Tracey Emin's unmade bed made headlines when it was new. I have taken my inspiration from her and scattered a selection of items that say something about me over the bed. :)

As my life is far more settled and tranquil than Tracey Emin's was at the time she created this art work, there is nothing unsavoury or controversial in my take on this theme!

My bed (homage to Tracey Emin) 2 copy
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heleninwales
As is the perverse nature of British weather, Saturday dawned gloriously with a clear blue sky and the promise of a warm day. Here's the Throckmorton inn where I stayed while attending niece's wedding. I can highly recommend it. The room was comfortable, there was a good selection of food in the restaurant and the staff were really friendly and helpful.

The Throckmorton

I decided to return via a slightly more direct route, but before heading for Wales, I met our daughter and granddaughter at Witley Court. I admit that I hadn't read the web page thoroughly and assumed it was a stately home that one could go inside. As it turned out, the hall had been destroyed by fire in 1937 so was an empty ruin. However, it was still worth a visit, especially on a fine day. The gardens were lovely...

Formal flower beds, Witley Court

The fountains, now restored, are spectacular and spout water on the hour every hour.

Witley Court

There was also an interesting and very ornate church and one could visit the crypt, which was a little ghoulish, but we did go in.

I had a light lunch of a toasted tea cake in the cafe before saying goodbye to daughter and granddaughter and setting off on the long drive home. I think the driving took a total of about 4 hours. Part of the problem is that you had to keep slowing to 40 mph then 30 mph as you passed through village after village. It was all smaller A roads and not even dual carriageway, but I arrived home safely at last and now feel emboldened to venture into unknown parts, now I know the satnav phone app works so well.
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