Volunteer rescuers’ sad job to recover lifeless body

Tryfan in Snowdonia.

Tryfan in Snowdonia.

My heart goes out to not only the husband and family of the woman who fell 150 feet to her death on Snowdonia’s Tryfan mountain on Friday but also to the volunteer mountain rescuers who searched for her and eventually found her body.

Obviously the loss felt by a husband or immediate family member cannot be compared but to be a member of a mountain rescue team dedicated to saving life and, instead, having to find and recover a walker’s lifeless body is stressful too.

Remember, all mountain rescue teams in the UK are made-up purely of volunteers who often risk their own lives to save others.

On this occasion, more than 20 rescuers were drawn from three local teams: Ogwen Valley, Llanberis and Aberglaslyn.

The woman, from Stockport in Greater Manchester, and her husband were both well-equipped according to rescuers. They were descending Tryfan’s North Ridge/West Face late in the day when she fell. Her husband was unable to reach her and called for help.

A nine-hour operation, involving the three rescue teams and a Coastguard Helicopter, led to her body being found early Saturday morning.

The summit of Tryfan is 917.5m (3,010 ft) above sea level. It is the 15th highest mountain in Wales. 


Related posts that may be of interest:

Rescuers’ story stirs up web interest https://50shadesofsun.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/rescuers-story-stirs-up-web-interest/

Hero volunteers need support https://50shadesofsun.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/hero-volunteers-need-support/


Ups and Downs of one of ‘those’ days

kate3_edited IMG_0786_edited  UP: Kate who posted the video that went viral. DOWN: My car’s gearbox goes wrong – again.

Have you ever had one of ‘those’ days? Well, yesterday was certainly one of those for me.

It started before Lisa and I went to bed. Just after midnight, I posted a new entry on my blog site and the viewing figures started piling up like nothing I’d ever seen before.

It was no surprise that the post was popular as it was about Kate, a 30-year-old Welsh woman with MS who had videoed herself having an attack so she could show it to her neurologist. Then she published it on her own Facebook page and people started to take notice.

My blog got attention too and the viewers kept coming, both reading the story and watching the video. By the time 24 hours had passed and midnight came around last night, yesterday’s post had proved to be my blog’s best day ever – and by some considerable way. If you missed yesterday’s post that includes Kate’s video, you can find it here: https://50shadesofsun.com/?p=1429

One of ‘those’ days could not be all good however – and so it turned out when our car went wrong again. Regular readers of this blog will know that our car was previously out of action from Christmas Eve when the automatic gearbox gave up the ghost. The car was collected by an automatic gearbox specialist some 300km/190miles away in Malaga.

They sorted it out and delivered it back on Tuesday, four days ago. It stayed in our drive on Wednesday and we used it for the first time on Thursday; we only drove about 20km/13miles and everything was fine.

Yesterday we did the same trip but as we approached the area in which we live, it was obvious that all was not well and so, instead of turning off the main road towards home, I turned into the nearby mechanic’s workshop. He quickly confirmed my thoughts; it is the same thing, the gearbox, he said.

Lisa and I left the car there and he took us home, later delivering my electric wheelchair which had been in our car. So, now we were back to square one – at home but without a car.

No time like the present, I telephoned the gearbox specialist in Malaga. His pleasant “How are you?” was met by me saying “I am fine but the car isn’t”. I explained what had happened and what the local mechanic had said.

Fortunately, the gearbox is under a 12-month guarantee so they are sending a recovery vehicle to collect it on Tuesday and they will be bringing a courtesy car for us to use until our car returns again.

Without a doubt, yesterday was one of ‘those’ days.

‘Hen Wlad’, ‘Flower of Scotland’ and ‘Jerusalem’?

wales flag  scotland flag  england flag Wales: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau     Scotland: Flower of Scotland         England: Jerusalem ??

If memory serves me correctly, it was in 2001 (or thereabouts) that I used my opinion column in the newspaper group for which I was senior editor to call for the British national anthem to be reserved for purely British use.

I argued that, as Wales has Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and Scotland has Flower of Scotland, it is inappropriate for England to use the British God Save The Queen. It is not England’s property and never has been. It is just that although both Wales and Scotland have their own identities, England hasn’t.

It’s hardly surprising that some people from other countries get Britain and England confused.

On more than one occasion when I have told someone that I lived in Wales, as I did at the time, the follow-up was along the lines of ‘Oh, right, Wales is in England’ to which I would point out, as politely and diplomatically as I could that Wales is most certainly not in England but that they are both part of Great Britain.

So, having explained all that, you can possibly imagine my delight in the fact that a cross-party group of MPs is going to present a Bill in the House of Commons to give England its very own anthem. And it looks like, if it is successful, that the anthem may well be Jerusalem.

The words to Jerusalem are taken from William Blake’s preface to his epic poem, Milton, and the music was composed by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. It is well known as the WI hymn as, at every Women’s Institute branch in England, members sing it at their meetings; it refers to ‘England’s green and pleasant land’.

Some people may feel that There’ll always be an England may be preferable but that in itself has a problem because it contains the words ‘Red White and Blue, what does it mean to you?’ but the English flag is an upright red cross on a white background. Red, white and blue are, of course, the colours of the British flag. The words also contain the call ‘Britons awake’.

It may have taken 15 years for my dream to come true but it certainly looks hopeful that the Bill will eventually become Law. Apparently, Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes the proposal and favours using Jerusalem as the English anthem.







Time for a moment’s reflection about council prayers

ccclogo-black   prayedit

Exactly what part should prayers play, if any at all, in government proceedings at both national and locals?

That question is being raised, once again, in the UK – in fact in Wales, where we used to live.

Campaigners are calling on one of the country’s 22 regional authorities, Carmarthenshire, to drop its Christian prayers which take place at the start of every full meeting of the council. They say that prayers have no place at such meetings and should be dropped.

At Camarthen, those councillors who don’t wish to take part in the prayers don’t enter the chamber until they are finished but the campaigners say that is divisive.

Of the 22 councils, 12 have prayers and of the 10 that don’t, Newport, has a separate voluntary prayer service prior to each council meeting.

There are more than two schools of thought here. The one espoused by the campaigners and the UK’s National Secular Society that religion of any kind should not have a place in public administration.

The other extreme is to leave things as they are now and to maintain the Christian prayers but there is a middle way that has been adopted by some town councils in America, and maybe elsewhere, which is to invite representatives from different faiths to attend on a rota basis to lead the prayers.

One Newport councillor, Miqdad Al-Nuiami, agrees and says he would like other religions to be included.

He said: “It used to be a formal part of the council meetings, and I always attended it. There were some Christian members who delayed their entry until after that part, presumably to indicate their feeling that it should be secular, irrespective of which religion.

“I did actually diversify it, I had the council invite other faiths as well but some members took exception to that. I had a lady from the Sikh community, a couple of councillors walked out which I found slightly intolerant.

“I think what the council does now is a very good way of dealing with it. I would be supportive of that being widened to other faiths and indeed to the secular society. Let’s be open to people’s views and prayers,” he added.

Regular readers of the blog will know that although I have a religious faith, it is not Christian nor any other mainstream religion – and I say it again, now, to declare my interest. That being said, we should all be tolerant of other people’s choice of faiths or atheism and let them all worship, or not, in any way they choose.

I don’t think any one-faith prayers should have any place in council meetings. Any prayers should not just be non-denominational either. They should be interfaith and done in such a way as to be inclusive for non-believers too, in a similar way to those who wish to can affirm instead of taking an oath in court.

Here’s my suggestion, for what it may be worth: Perhaps councils could replace prayers on their agendas with A Moment of Reflection. This would be a brief silence which each councillor could use to prepare for the meeting in his or her own way. It would be both inter-faith and non-faith, inclusive, tolerant and should not cause any offence.


Looking at the 12 months ahead of us

genelect queen reign HCFrom left: Spanish party leaders seek coalitions, UK’s Queen Elizabeth II will be 90 in April, Hillary Clinton set to win Democratic nomination but President?

January – now. Spain’s national politicians are trying to put together a coalition to form a government after last month’s general election created a hung parliament for the first time since democracy was restored. They have until January 13 to succeed or a new election will be called. (50shades: It seems no-one wants a second election but to avoid that some tough compromises will need to be made).

March 14 – European Space Agency and Roscosmos plan to launch the joint ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter on a mission to Mars following postponement of original planned launch on January 7. (50shades: Good to see some international cooperation, if it goes ahead this time).

April 21- Queen Elizabeth II of the UK will mark her 90th birthday. (50shades: So many years of service to her country).

May 5 – National Assembly for Wales election (where we lived before moving to Spain). (50shades: There is likely to be a new party in the Assembly after the election with UKIP possibly gaining as many as 10 seats. This could herald the end to Labour’s monopoly on power and mean a return to coalition rule. The only question being: Which parties would be in such a coalition? Most likely Labour/Plaid Cymru/Liberal Democrats).

May 9 – A transit of Mercury will occur when the planet comes between the Sun and the Earth, and Mercury is seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. Full transit will be visible in South America, Eastern North America, Western Europe, and a partial transit everywhere else except Australia and far eastern Asia. (50shades comment: Nothing to get excited about, fairly frequent most recent one was in 2006).

May 12-15 A special celebration will take place in the grounds of Windsor Castle, UK, in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

June 1 – Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest (35.4 miles) and deepest rail tunnel, is scheduled to be opened in Switzerland. (50shades: The Swiss are good at creating tunnels. This will help trade).

June 10-12 – UK national commemorations to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.

July 4 – America’s NASA Juno spacecraft is expected to arrive at Jupiter. (50shades: Wait for pictures of Jupiter to fill TV screens and newspapers).

July 18-21 – Republican Party National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (50shades: Maybe too close to call but, sticking out neck, it will be Ted Cruz as nominated candidate).

July 25-28 – Democratic Party National Convention at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia. (50shades: Hillary Clinton will win the presidential nomination).

August 5-21 – 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (50shades: Expect thrills and spills aplenty plus a scandal or two. Wow, is it really four years since London Olympics?).

September 3 – NASA plans to launch the OSIRIS-REx mission to retrieve a sample from the asteroid Bennu. (50shades: Doubtless it will be a success but what’s the point?)

Sometime in September – China plans to complete the Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope. (50shades: So China wants its own telescope but will it be any better than what we have now?).

November 1 – Sierra Nevada Corporation plans to launch Dream Chaser, a privately built spaceplane on an unmanned debut mission. (50shades: Sounds interesting).

November 8 – USA presidential election (50shades: Republican candidate, whoever he is, will win).

December 31 – The last remaining American, British and Australian troops ‘will’ withdraw from Afghanistan. (50shades: It won’t happen, there will be a reason why they need to remain).



Weather ‘tis nobler … *

Conwy valley in North Wales was flooded in December.

Conwy valley in North Wales was flooded in December.

Lisa and I had more than one reason in our minds when we decided to move from the UK to Spain but the major one was the vastly different weather conditions in the two countries.

We were both tired of seeing almost constant grey overcast skies, seemingly never-ending high winds that, on one occasion, flattened our garden fence and rain, rain and more rain for days on end.

Since we arrived in Spain, the UK has been hit by some pretty atrocious weather resulting in widespread flooding after it was hit in quick succession by storms Desmond, Eva and Frank. On the upside, though, it has been unseasonably warm; you could even say ‘mild’.

That being the case, December’s weather in the area where we used to live, in North Wales, just had to be compared with where we live now. That was our first full month in our new home.

With the help of various weather sites on the internet, facts and figures about temperatures, wind speeds and rainfall were gathered together; I hope you find them interesting.

Short sleeves, and sunglasses in southern Spain in December. Cheers.

Short sleeves, and sunglasses in southern Spain in December.

Temperature: Colwyn Bay basked in an average a high of 55˚F/13˚C and a low of 43˚F/6˚C which, I have to agree are more like spring temperatures than those usually experienced in December. Meanwhile, Cuevas del Almanzora enjoyed a much warmer average high of 68˚F/20˚C and a low of 51˚F/10.5˚C.

The warmest day in both places was the 16th when thermometers rose to 62˚F/17˚C in North Wales but reached 72˚F/22˚C in our corner of southern Spain. In contrast, the coldest day where we are now was the 20th when the temperature fell to 45˚F/7˚C compared with 32˚F/0˚C, freezing point, on the 13th where we used to live.

Rainfall: Rain that led to widespread flooding in various parts of the UK fell near enough every day of the month in Colwyn Bay. It totalled 100mm/4inches, which is much higher than usual for December. It averaged more than 3.2mm/0.13inches a day and the day when it rained most was the 12th when 11.94mm/0.47inches were recorded.

In Cuevas del Almanzora, however, in the same month rain fell on just three days and totalled just 10mm/0.4inches.

Wind speeds: Those storms mentioned earlier meant that North Wales was lashed by winds averaging up to 20kph/12.5mph with the fastest sustained speed of 58kph/36mph; gusts reached 82kph/51mph.

That is vastly different to what we experienced. Winds here averaged just 11.75kph/7.5 mph with a fastest sustained speed of 25.75kph/16 mph; gusts reached only 35.5kph/22mph.

Summary: While Colwyn Bay enjoyed milder temperatures than usual for the time of year, it was subject to heavier than average rainfall and stronger than normal winds.

Cuevas del Almanzora enjoyed warmer temperatures, almost no rain and much less wind.

Hey, no pushing there. Form an orderly line for our spare room!


 * Apologies to William Shakespeare.

A tail of two cats!

Pooka in the sun on her 'day bed', our bed.

Pooka in the sun on her ‘day bed’, our bed.  

Prissy comes indoors for added comfort.

Prissy comes indoors for added comfort.

Our two cats have settled as well into Spain as they did into the UK when they arrived from Florida, America’s ‘Sunshine State’ where both of them were born.

Having originally lived with Lisa and her family in the USA, they flew across the Atlantic with British Airways in 2012 to join Lisa and I in our first home in Wales. At that time, we were amazed that, after such a long journey, they simply had a good sniff around and then curled up contentedly on our bed.

Then, we moved to another apartment in the same town and they followed the same procedure.

Ok, this time their journey was shorter in miles but, because they travelled overland, it took longer than their previous expedition. In 2012, they left Lisa on Tuesday morning (afternoon, UK time) and arrived in North Wales on Thursday afternoon; total travel time about 48 hours. This time, we said goodbye on Saturday morning and welcomed them in Spain in the early hours of Tuesday morning; total travel time about 64 hours.

From North Wales they travelled by van to Kent, where they stayed on Saturday night. The next day they were driven, via the Channel Tunnel, deep into France, where they stayed Sunday night. On Monday, they crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, finally arriving at about 1.30am on Tuesday. At that time we were in temporary accommodation because work on our proper home was still not completed. It was another week before we moved in.

However, despite the upheaval that they both had to go through, once we were able to move into

our new home it was delightful to see that both Pooka, now an ‘old lady’ at the age of 17½, and Prissy, a comparative youngster at 9½, acted in exactly the same way.

Assured that we are both with them, they explored their new surroundings as they investigated each room before curling up to go to sleep. They felt comfortable in their new surroundings – and so they should as our new property is more than twice the size of our old place in Wales.

Two days later, we unlocked the cat flap and introduced Prissy to it. Having used one back in Florida, she took to it straight away. She loves her new found freedom that she did not have in the UK, she goes out and comes in whenever she wants to do so. She enjoys the sunshine outdoors but is happy to come indoors for the extra comfort of an armchair or bed.

Pooka has also been shown the cat flap but prefers to use a door on the rare occasion that she ventures outside. Lisa and I both agree, though, that Pooka will go out more once spring comes and we get some furniture for the decking. Once, we are outside, we are absolutely sure that Pooka will want to join us and will renew her acquaintance with the cat flap that is just lie the one she used to use in Florida.