Day 96 – talk at Swansea

talking about walking, Welsh cakes and the future of energy

22nd July 2013

No walking, just talking this day as I re-visited Swansea University to give a talk at FIT Lab where I had given my first talk about the walk, back last November, while it was still a twinkle in my eye.

The day started by driving from Porthcawl to the White House in Swansea where I was staying after the talk. It is on Nyanza Terrace, which is the last few houses on Brynmoor Road. The instructions on the web site are very clear, but I was using the postcode and address that I’d been mailed by Parisa, and Google Maps does not understand streets with more than one name, I guess it never happens in California! However, with a quick phone call and a little help from the White House staff I got parked.

I was due to have a Skype meeting at 10:30 to join Adrian Friday in Lancaster who was being interviewed for a proposed ‘Sprint‘ (mini-project) of Catalyst, a 1.9M research project looking at citizen-led innovation.  Adrian is leading a proposal, ‘On Supply‘ to look at issues around smart energy on Tiree. I was too late to go into the university to do this, so instead sat with a cup of tea in the sumptuous White House sitting room.

After the interview I went in to meet Parisa for lunch and on the way met Harold and Abigail who steered me in the right direction.

The larger reflections on the walk are still ‘in progress’, so for the talk itself I used the first few slides that I’d used previously for pre-walk talks, to give context, and then ‘winged’ it, talking through a series of issues that seemed to be emerging and illustrating it with the contents of my rucksack rather than PowerPoint slides.

I wish I had recorded the Q&A session at the end as there were various useful comments and discussions. I do recall that Matt Jones was worried that in my post-walk annotating and threading of the narratives in my blog, I might lose some of the richness of the full narrative. However, my plan is to try to do this in a way that makes it easy to track, for example, issues around community shops, or energy, but to still see these in the narrative context of the raw text.

It was great to see, in addition to the FIT folk, both old faces (as in from my previous visit!) such as Andrew Morgan and John Ashley (Ashley’s Walks), and also new including Kate Evans from the Geography Dept.

After the talk we had tea and Welsh cakes1.  If you have never had a Welsh cake, think of them a bit like a cross between a scone and a Scotch pancake. They are more cake-ish than a pancake and have dried vine fruit in the mix, but are cooked on a hot griddle. For me, all Welsh cakes have an uphill struggle as they can never match my Mum‘s Welsh cakes, which were the best ever. She had a real, round, thick, black, cast-iron bakestone, and I think made the mixture with more fat than is common.  Certainly, while most Welsh cakes have a dryish centre like a scone, Mum‘s were moist, with a hint of the texture and flavour of the uncooked mixture you scrape from the bowl on your fingertip, but with a well-browned top and bottom from the baking-hot stone.

However, with this high standard to measure against the Swansea University Welsh cakes were good and there were plenty left over at the end and so I was told to take some. I was reluctant, as I knew I wouldn’t get through them quickly and I thought they would go stale, but they would be thrown out when the room was cleared so I took more than a dozen with me. Amazingly they kept fresh throughout the week. On the following Saturday, six days later, Clare took the last few to eat on the train back to Southampton (saving one to share with her partner when she got there), and they were still fresh tasting.

When I got back to the White House after dinner there was a message from Adrian: out of three shortlisted Catalyst Sprint projects, all very strong, On Supply had been selected, a lovely end to the day and a promise of a great project working with folk from Lancaster, Tiree and elsewhere on the future of energy use.

  1. There is a recipe for Welsh Cakes on the BBC Good Food web site, but they sprinkle sugar on them after. This is a common practice, but one I do not hold with, as bad as putting icing on Chelsea buns.[back]