Sunday, 21 September 2014

New Square On The Block

I'm pretty busy right now, visiting people and spending quality time together while I still have the chance - only just over a week left now until I begin my journey Down Under with my train to London.... Eeek!!!!!

I will go through photos and write more about this soon, but for now I just thought I would show you the new square that I had found on Pinterest and decided to have a go at last week. I'm not really sure if I'll have time to finish a blanket using this square, so it may have to become the front of a cushion cover for my mum to finish off... 

The pin leads here, with another link to this pattern on Ravelry :)

I do think I need to balance out the filigree bits though as they are not quite even, I need to make sure my chains are the right length...

I like the square though, it's called the Victorian Lattice Square :)

It's a bit bigger than the previous squares I have made on these baby blankets, so if I had a bit more time it wouldn't take too long to finish off a little blankie. Maybe I can make something larger for our home once I'm in Australia though :)

Excuse the colour - my camera's white balance seems to have gotten very confused!

And speaking of Australia, we now know where we will live temporarily upon our arrival! This feels very exciting to me, as I had been really struggling to visualise what things would be like when we got there, and this was leaving me feeling quite unsettled. But now we know that we will move into a 1 bedroom serviced apartment until we have secured a place to live properly, and got our container of stuff from Customs! You can check out the website here if you like - it looks fab!

Back in a few days with a bit of a catch-up, but for now I am trying to make the most of time with family :) 


Friday, 19 September 2014

Rock Climbing

You may have picked up, if you read my blog regularly, that I really like the outdoors and being quite active – although I do less than I used to, and far far less than I would like to!

One of my favourite outdoors activities is rock climbing. I have been a climber since I was about 15, when the father of a boy from my school suggested it to me as an activity I would enjoy. He wasn’t wrong! I absolutely loved it, and my local climbing club was a very friendly and supportive bunch, who I thoroughly enjoyed going out with.

I climbed regularly and frequently for a few years, before I sort of drifted away from it while completing a full-time college course (while working a 6-day-week at the same time!) in order to get into university.

I no longer climb as much as I would like, mostly because I am not able to lead (that’s the job of going up first, placing all of your protective gear, and then setting up the belay point for the next person. You’re in charge of all the safety bits and the ropework etc, so if you can’t do it properly then you shouldn’t do it at all!) so I am reliant on having someone else to take me climbing, and I don’t know that many people nearby who can do that!

So last weekend, when my brother and his wife came to visit, I jumped at the chance of an outdoorsy day with good company :)

First of all we went surfing at a local beach. The waves were too big for me to be able to take the camera out as well – all of my attention needed to be on the task at hand, as I am not the greatest surfer… While my brother was ‘out back’ catching the big, proper waves, his wife and I were further in towards the beach. The waves are messier here, but I find them easier to manage than the proper waves. Something I need to improve if I want to be half decent!

Coming out of the water, we caught up with various people we knew who had all come to the beach for the waves that day. We had lunch at the beachside pub, and then moved on to St David’s, in order to go rock climbing on the coastal cliffs at Porthclais.

The winter’s storms had affected this part of the coast too, and some climbing routes are gone forever as huge sections of rock have tumbled to the sea.

A new gap in the cliff!

The newly exposed rock behind might give up new climbing routes though, once all of the unstable bits have fallen away, and only more secure rock is left behind.

You can see the colour change, where the previously unexposed rock is now out in the open

Look at those jagged rocks with their fresh sharp edges! You wouldn't want one of those landing on your head!

My brother was the lead climber for us, setting up the equipment. His wife went up second so that I was around below to shout any advice if it was needed - it wasn't needed in the end as she did really well, but she is fairly new to climbing and is not too comfortable with heights, so it was nice to have the reassurance anyway!

Me climbing, with my brother belaying

I love climbing by the sea, I love the noise of the water, the views, the fresh sea air. 

My sister-in-law climbing - she's removing the lead protection in this shot

After she got to the top, my brother threw the rope back down so that I could climb up too. Good job he can be trusted! lol

You'll have to forgive the sunglasses - I need to keep my new scar protected from the sunlight!

You often get to watch a lot of wildlife as well like sea birds and seals – the seals are great, as they seem so curious about you too and lie back in the water watching your antics! We didn’t see any today though, only this hairy bear caterpillar (although the internet tells me it’s a woolly bear) which I think might be a Tiger Moth caterpillar.

With aching arms from battling the big waves earlier on, we only did a couple of routes before calling it a day and heading back to my mum’s house. It was great though to get out and spend the whole day enjoying the outdoors, something I wish I had done more of over the last few years. At least I have the reminder of how much I enjoy it, so that I can make more of an effort from now on :)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Fascinating Day Out

Yesterday I got to do something very interesting indeed.

You may remember that I recently did some voluntary work with the National Park down here in Pembrokeshire? Well, while doing that I met a very interesting couple who, in addition to their work with the NP, also do work with the local Archaeological Society.

I was chatting to them about their current dig, which sounded fascinating, and so I asked if it was possible to visit as a member of the public. I was delighted when they not only answered “yes”, but also said that all of the archaeologists are very friendly, and that even if the couple I had met weren’t there, then not to be shy about introducing myself and asking questions, as whoever was there would be more than happy to explain everything!

My mum is really interested in archaeology, so I thought that this would be right up her street. I had made sure that I had gotten directions to the most accessible dig (at Craig Rhosyfelin), and that my mum would be able to get to it ok as she has reduced mobility, so as soon as I got in I told her the exciting news. She was as happy about it as I had hoped, and so we planned a day out revolving around visiting this site, plus another famous megalithic site nearby that she has been wanting to visit for ages - Pentre Ifan burial chamber.

So what was quite so interesting? Well, you may have heard of a little monument in England called Stonehenge? – it’s a little bit famous ;)

Some of my pictures of Stonehenge from a visit a few years ago - not the best quality as I couldn't find the originals so I had to download these from my facebook!

It has been known for some time that some of the bluestones of Stonehenge originate from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, and this dig that I had found out about was excavating a bluestone quarry site that had been discovered. Not only that, but they had used chemical fingerprinting to confirm the exact bit of rock that one of the bluestones had been cut from!! How incredible!

Yesterday, after I had taken my car for its MOT, we set off into the hills, following the directions I had somehow managed to remember for almost a week! 

Heading into the Preseli Hills

We went through a ford to get there, not something too common any more I think? I used to get really excited about fords when I was small!

Then we arrived at the dig site. I spotted a lady who was near enough to the edge of things that I could chat to her, and said hello. Her name was Kate and she was busy, but very friendly, and she said that if I gave her a few minutes to finish what she was doing, then she would be able to explain the site to us.

I took a few photos, and then when Kate was ready my mum and I went over to her and she gave us a fascinating insight into the site. I wrote down everything I could as soon as I got home, as I didn’t want to forget anything! So, here is a tour of the site in pictures :)

The rock outcrop above is a confirmed Bluestone quarry site. One stone is definitely from here, and it is likely that one or two others are from here too.

Archaeologist Kate giving us a guided tour of the site

Above is an abandoned monolith that was uncovered by the excavations. It is still resting on stone rails that were prepared for the removal of the rock, but at some point during the manoeuvre it cracked and so was left in situ.

In these pictures you can sort of see the stone rails that the monolith is resting on. This was all totally buried beforehand, and was identified by geophysical techniques before being uncovered.


Next to the bluestone quarry and in front of the megalith, these white tags mark the soil layers of the half of a significant find which has been 'left in section'. This means that where the archaeologists have found something significant, they have not dug the whole thing out, but have left a cross section intact so that the structure of the layers can be seen. 

This find was a fire pit, which had been dug and dressed with stones of quartz. This pattern of using it as a fire pit and then dressing it with quartz had been repeated on multiple occasions. Carbon dating of the layers showed that the pit had been used on different occasions over a period of 500 years. The pit itself dated back 10,000 years - so much older than Stonehenge, which is about 4000-5000 years old, and indicates that this site was perhaps significant long before bluestones were quarried from there! I wonder if there was something intrinsic in the area that appealed to those who saw it all those thousands of years ago, or if it was a cultural significance that was passed on down generations - 5000 years of passing-on does seem like a long time though...


Above is a view of the site from the other direction: the rock strewn area contains patches of soil that had been packed down with crushed stone/gravelly bits, possibly as a firm working area for moving the stones. There are also scrape marks on various rocks, showing where the large stones had been shifted over them. 

Towards the far edge (from this angle) of the excavation, this type of ground just drops off and is replaced by fine alluvial silt, indicating that from this point on towards the now-small stream (the other side of the hedge in the background - where the ford was) was all underwater at that time. Beavers would have lived in Britain back then, so their damming activity could well have contributed to flooding localised areas. Fascinating to think of how different everything would have looked back then!

This little part of the quarry area has been positively identified, by chemical fingerprinting, as the exact site from which one of the Stonehenge bluestones was taken. The gap left behind lies behind the first upright finger of rock.

Kate guiding a student - they had found a potential post hole site, so now the student had to begin trowelling instead of brushing the soil away, so as not to blur the demarkation of the find. That area of more browny-orangey soil where they are working did not have the stone/gravel pressed into it, and in this patch they hope to find evidence of living quarters or similar for the stone workers. Back at that time, people put a huge amount of effort into building stone burial chambers for the dead, however they didn't go to the same lengths for their living homes, so evidence of these is relatively scarce.

After this fascinating tour of the dig site we watched a while as archaeologists dug, brushed, measured and recorded, until we decided it was time to head off to Pentre Ifan - a stone burial chamber - which was a short drive away from the dig site. 

We parked up and walked the short path from the road, and once there we had our picnic. My mum was really happy to have been able to go there - as she struggles a bit with mobility she doesn't often get out to places like this, and we were having a lovely and fascinating day out.

Pentre Ifan has been labelled the most impressive megalithic site in Wales, and it dates from a similar time to Stonehenge. You can read more about it here (or of course do an internet search of your choice!) but I'll leave you with the pictures I took yesterday - it may look familiar to you if you have been on my facebook page!

Thank you for joining me for another bit of my local history. I do find it so interesting, and I hope you enjoy it too :)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Book Called Bob

I thought I had posted about photobooks before, but when I did a bit of a hunt around my archive I couldn’t find anything, so maybe not…

I first discovered Bob Books through my now sister-in-law. Several years ago, she and my brother went travelling around Australia. SIL is a pretty keen photographer, and after they got back to the UK she compiled her favourite pictures into a photobook. I admired this greatly and was very impressed, so one Christmas they gave me a Bob Books voucher as a present! How thoughtful! I was getting married the following month, so I saved my voucher and used it to make a photobook of our honeymoon photos. I was very happy with the results, and loved the process of designing the book, so I have made several others since – and have many more waiting to be made! You can see my back catalogue of Bob Books on their website here if you like, although the honeymoon book isn't there.  (Don't take too much notice o the prices - many of these were bought with gift vouchers, and the rest were bought when there was a special offer, and so were a chunk cheaper! In the end, I was getting many more photos for my money than when I used to get them printed as individual photos, not to mention the end product is much cooler than a regular photo album!)

I have used another photobook service (PrinterPix) once after getting a voucher online, but I didn’t like it at all – in the design process, which was all online, I think it was twice that their systems lost all of my hard work of designing the book! As the designer was so slow to use, that meant many many hours down the drain – almost so many that I was struggling to meet the deadline for the voucher! The printing was also of a poorer quality, with images being cut off in a way that I hadn’t set up when I designed the book. The colours were off too, with some images being so dark that you couldn’t make out details, and the customer service was AWFUL. It took an age to get any response, which when it eventually came was not at all helpful. At the time, lots of people on Facebook seemed to be having huge issues with them too - and I just went on there to check, and people are still really having problems with both the product and the customer support. Check here if you want to see for yourself. 

Bob Books on the other hand have been quick to get back to me with help on the one occasion I needed to contact them. Another thing that I like about Bob Books is that you can download software to use to design your book. This means that you can work on it even when you don’t have an internet connection, and you are not limited by internet speeds when adding photos. It’s quick to save when you need a break, and you feel more in control of your own work. It also has the bonus that you can give up working on a book, and come back to your project whenever you like (I have just come back to one after over a year!), whereas designing online tends to have a time limit before your work gets deleted.

(Bob Books do also have other design options: an iPad app, PDF-to-book, as well as an online option - or even their own design service. All information is on their website here)

Yet another thing in favour of Bob Books is that they have a facility to ‘publish’ your book online. There is now a time limit for how long your project remains there if it is not for sale, but the feature means that you can easily reorder a completed book if you need to – for example if a family member loves it so much that they want one for themselves! I mentioned for sale, and it’s true – Bob Books offer you the chance to offer your book for sale, with a mark-up of your choice on the price! How clever!

If you are interested, I recommend creating an account - they don’t send an awful lot of marketing emails, but they do give out discount codes every now and then, which are great to take advantage of if you have a book waiting to be created :)

My favourite Bob Book is probably my Tall Ship Voyage book.  

I found my diary that I had written of this trip, from back in 1997, and I decided to type it up, scan the photos, and make a proper book out of it. I am so so happy with the results, it's just so much more than a photo album and a folder of paper! I'm so pleased I thought of doing this book!!  I actually then posted it all to this blog, so if you would like to, you can go the the introduction and click the links at the bottom to get to the posts :)

My latest Bob Book arrived in the post recently, and is one of two trips: A few days in Romania with my best friend back in February, and my week in Poland in June. It didn't take long to arrive after I ordered it, and I'm quite happy with it!

I love that with Bob Books, you can do lovely photographic covers. Some people do quite tasteful covers, but I like a big photo on the front!

Scared of forgetting things, I've started doing a page at the front to explain where I went on my trip, and then a similar page at the end with details of all the photos by page number.

I love how you can be flexible inside the book. As well as adding text and changing background colours, like in the page above, you can adjust the size and quantity of the photos, from full page pictures like these:

Inside the Church of Peace, Swidnica, Poland.

To a montage like this:

The Gnomes of Wroclaw!

Or of course you can mix it up, with a main picture plus some smaller ones like on the left here :)

Pelisor and Peles, Romania

I love my Bob Books, and am very happy to read that they do deliver to Australia! I have several in progress at the moment, and a couple ready to order - just as soon as we know an address to send them to! Can't wait :)

(I am also reminded that I haven't yet posted lots of stuff about either of these trips, naughty me! I must finish off and get them posted at some point soon!)