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Travel Wales

Zip World Velocity 2

Last year, while my brother and his family were visiting, we went on Velocity 2, the fastest zip line in the world. It is based at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda, Gwynedd, and is the longest zip line in Europe (1555 metres – I’m not sure if this is the total, including the little zip too). Depending on how much you weigh, you could reach 100mph as you fly down the wire.

I would definitely recommend the experience: it is exhilarating and an adrenaline rush. There is a smaller zip to get you started, then you get in the red truck to go up to the start of the big zip. The views from the top are fantastic: the North Wales coastline and Snowdonia mountains; then you fly over the beautiful blue Penrhyn Quarry lake.

You ‘zip’ lying on your front, with all limbs tucked in and if necessary, you’re also given a sail to slow you down. Velocity used to be for one person at a time, but now 4 people can zip alongside each other, and it’s a bit like a production line.

You cannot take your own camera – they provide REVL head cams – but don’t have to pay up front (like I did). They attach them to everyone at the top and you can decide at the end if you want the video and stills. The video is great quality but I would’ve preferred a video from my point of view rather than my reaction. I think it’s a real shame they don’t have cameras that can provide that option.

Travel Wales

Zip World Titan

Back in 2017 my family and I went on Europe’s first 4-person zip lining experience. I took my head cam and put together a video of it, which was very long and not very exciting. I have now shortened the video to mostly just keep the zip lining and not the in-between bits.

Zip World Titan: the first 4-person zip line in Europe

Zip World Titan is part of Zip World Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales. Because you ride in a sitting position, you can look at the views all around you, of the Snowdonia mountains and the slate mines.

You can reach a maximum speed of 70mph, but this depends on weather conditions and your weight. Mum and I were nowhere near that speed! You can also increase your speed by tucking your knees up and leaning backwards.

We have also been on Velocity 2 – Titan’s big brother – in Penrhyn Quarry. This used to be a single zip but is now also a 4-person zip. This is the fastest zip line in the world, with speeds up to 100mph.

Unfortunately you can no longer take your own cameras on either of these zips: instead you can use their REVL camera and get a video and stills of your reaction, rather than the views. I’d recommend the experience and the picture quality is great, but I’m disappointed with my Velocity 2 video, which is basically my face, with a bit of the quarry and lake around the edges.

I’m never sure if it’s Zip World or ZipWorld, but either way, at the Slate Caverns you can also do a zip-lining course in the caverns and Bounce Below, which is trampolining inside the caverns. There is also a nice cafe on site. And if you’re interested in the slate mines, there are Slate Mountain tours where you can learn more about it and go into the Deep Mine.


In the British Summertime

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In the Summertime.”

If it’s autumn or winter where you live, what are you most looking forward to doing next summer? If it’s spring or summer where you are, what has been the highlight of the season so far for you?

Summer officially started 9 days ago, and for the UK, it hasn’t been too bad so far. I’m typing this while sat outside in warm but only partly sunny weather. That said, I have already been sunburnt at least twice this year.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Manchester on a gloriously sunny day, and I wish I’d been planning to stay there longer to enjoy the evening in the city and maybe have a cocktail or two while sitting outside. This last Sunday I spent the whole day outside, firstly at a horse competition, then walking the dogs on the beach with ex-colleagues, then back to the horse competition. It was a really lovely day apart from the sunburnt neck and scratches from impatient dogs wanting me to throw their balls!

But my highlight so far was going to Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan, nr Porthmadog) with my grandparents to meet my aunt and uncle. It was the best weather of the summer so far, and we had a lovely picnic and chatted all afternoon. I took the dogs so they had a run on the beach and a paddle in the sea. There are two campsites right nearby, so I plan to visit again (maybe a few times) over the summer.

I’ve still got a busy summer ahead: I have something on every weekend from now until half way through September. I have 10 horse shows, a birthday party, two hen parties and two weddings, and maybe some other stuff. It would be nice if the weeks were busy too, but hopefully a job isn’t too far off.

(I know it’s a bit like blasphemy in the UK, but I wouldn’t mind a bit of rain: the ground is as dry as a bone and I’m worried about my horses having enough to eat!)

Sport Wales

Bone of Contention

Pick a contentious issue about which you care deeply — it could be the same-sex marriage debate, or just a disagreement you’re having with a friend. Write a post defending the opposite position, and then reflect on what it was like to do that.

Daily Prompt (but I’m only doing the first part – complaining!)

Not really issues I care deeply about, but a couple of things that have really been getting to me.

The first is about the hard time Rhys Priestland got from the rugby fans, which led to him needing professional help; and the fact that the Welsh coaching squad asked the fans to give Dan Biggar a chance to keep the pressure off him.

Priestland did get quite a lot of stick, and some very nasty comments were made. I don’t think I said anything majorly harsh about him personally, but I did question the choice of him over Hook when he had played badly in game after game.

My bone of contention is why the fans are being blamed for this. We weren’t giving him a hard time for no good reason: he made many mistakes again and again. And if it wasn’t for the coaches selecting him again and again, we wouldn’t have had any reason for complaining.We just couldn’t understand why the coaches apparently couldn’t see what we could.

And my second bone of contention is the volume of anti-rugby posts on Facebook during the 6 Nations. Yes, lots of people support rugby just for those 6 weeks and post statuses about the scores. Yes, they only support the national team and don’t support a domestic team.

But let’s take a deeper look at this. First of all, I and most of the people I know are in North Wales. Our regional team is the Scarlets, who are based in Llanelli. Which is in South Wales. Go figure. So there aren’t really any local teams for us to support for the rest of the year.

And secondly, rugby doesn’t get much media coverage, except during the national games such as the 6 Nations. So excuse us for getting a bit excited for a few weeks of the year.

What really gets to me is that most of these comments come from football fans who hate rugby. What do they really have to complain about?! Football is everywhere from August to May, and even longer if there are international games on.

Why can’t they just leave our time alone?

Maybe I’m completely in the wrong and I’m the only friend of theirs who doesn’t give them a hard time about posting football statuses, or tell them they should support Welsh rugby because it’s patriotic. I doubt it. I think I’ll just need to remember to shift them all to my ‘acquaintances’ list before next year, so I don’t have to put up with their comments.

I’m trying to get into regional rugby, but it’s difficult when you don’t have a real reason to support a team, and just want to choose one. We have a relatively new team up north – RGC 1404 – who are looking pretty good and are (I believe) supposed to be our regional team and regional development base. But I’m unclear as to whether they would be able to get into the Pro12, or just be able to get promoted to the Premiership. And they’re still a bit away from that.

Activism Sociology

Rape and Victim Blaming

I’ve really been getting on a feminist trip recently, reading many, many articles written on feminist blogs, such as The F Word, Geek Feminist, etc.

One subject that comes up time and time again is rape, and more specifically the culture of victim-blaming. While reading all these articles, I found myself not getting entirely on board with what was being said, and I think (and hope) I’ve finally figured out what I mean. Although this has changed while I have been typing this out!

First of all, let me be clear that I do not believe anyone who is raped is in any way to blame. The act of rape is entirely in the hands of the person who chooses to do the raping.

Calls from police and safety groups that urge women not to go out alone at night might mean well, but seem to forget that men get raped too, and that there is not necessarily safety in numbers: rapists might think the same way and group together! I understand the idea behind sensible drinking campaigns that urge you not to be a victim, but again, missing the point. These also ignore the fact that you can be raped in your own home.

Now to my issue. Again, I must be clear: I have not been the victim of rape, and to my knowledge, I do not know anyone who has been. I do not pretend to know what it must be like. The only thing I can equate it to is when I was mugged by two boys of about 16 when I was in university in Leeds in 2003.

I was walking home alone after a few drinks in the pub with a friend, and these two boys took advantage of the fact that we were alone on the street. One grabbed me from behind, holding my arms down, while the other grabbed my bag from my hand. I was thrown to the ground while they ran off down a side street. I was almost ready to run after them, but a car pulled up and those people drove me home while calling the police.

The police arrived very quickly and were excellent. They were very sympathetic and drove me to where it happened and where the boys ran off towards, in case anyone was still around, or if any of my belongings had been dropped. I should note that I was quite useless in this whole process: the muggers wore jeans and hoodies, I didn’t see them from the front and couldn’t tell you anything more than their height and build. I also could not tell where exactly it happened (bloody terraced housing all looking the same!). Nevertheless, the police were patient with me.

I do not blame myself for being mugged. That was entirely the decision of those boys who I remember laughing as they ran off. But that doesn’t change all the shoulda woulda couldas I told myself over the next few days/weeks/months. If I didn’t have so many drinks, I would’ve been more aware of my surroundings; or I wouldn’t have walked so quickly and overtaken lots of other people, leaving myself alone. I knew mugging was a possibility, so I should’ve taken better precautions. Etc.

There was also an occasion when I got so drunk that I left a bar without my bag and ended up walking into a part of the city I didn’t know, completely unaware until I seemingly ‘woke up’ a while later, and spent several hours trying to figure out how to get home. I got home completely safe and thankfully my friend (who I left in the bar) had my bag. While my friends thought I was a legend for this drunken behaviour, I still kick myself: it could’ve ended quite differently.

This is the part where I second guess myself. I started by wanting to say…

Let me reiterate again that I do not know what it is like to be raped, and nor do I blame the victims. But looking at the only experience I can equate it to (one of exploitation, control, etc.), I hate how much I tell myself that I should’ve done something differently. Mainly because as a victim I felt I was quite useless, and thus I blame myself for the lack of justice.

I wish I had taken more regard for my safety not because I deserved to be attacked or was ‘asking for it’ or anything else that someone else might tell me. I wish I had taken more regard for my safety because of how much I beat myself up following these incidents.

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I agree with my own opinion! What if I hadn’t been drunk, took a taxi and got raped: what would I tell myself that I should’ve done differently then? And I haven’t changed my behaviour. I walked home along similar roads and in similar conditions (although less drink) the following weekend and many other times afterwards. I returned to university (Northumbria) last year and, upon deciding that that area of Newcastle seemed safe enough, walked around alone at all times. Even after warnings from the university that women had been attacked. I also walk around the countryside and woods at home at all times, more afraid of Blair Witch than anything else! This was the case before all reading all the feminist blog articles, and after reading, I become more and more angry with my own opinion above, and the world at large.

I’ll finish by saying that I think we all (men and women) have to take a certain amount of responsibility for safety in a world where you can be raped, mugged, or attacked in any way. I do not think this amounts to curfews or having to find men to escort us from A to B (do men have to find bigger men?!). I do think self defence is a good idea.

But most importantly we need to wholeheartedly agree that it is just plain wrong to attack anyone (men or women) in whatever situation they may put themselves in. Everyone should be able to feel safe at any time of day or night, anywhere, without being attacked. And this comes back to chipping away at the culture of victim-blaming.

So in a very long post, I’ve gone from not entirely agreeing, to being totally on board!

And for those still not agreement:

Only 11% of serious sexual assaults are committed by strangers.

Finny, A. (2006) The cost of domestic violence, Women and Equality Unit; quoted in VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Why an Integrated Strategy in Wales?

Hate to Love Wales

Supporting Wales has been difficult this Six Nations. Not because we’ve lost almost all the matches, but because the players don’t seem to care.

There are 15 guys on the pitch at any one time and only about 3 of them look like they’re trying. This is a fitter and stronger side than there has been for a long time, and yet they amble around the pitch while the oppositions run. So many mistakes creep in – and really careless errors – so are they just not that intelligent?

I say there are 15 guys on the pitch at any one time, but discipline has been so appalling that often this isn’t the case. This isn’t peculiar to Wales – it’s a problem for all teams in the tournament and one that needs to be sorted.

But back to Wales. Andy Powell isn’t a legend for getting caught drink driving a golf buggy down the M4. He’s a stupid boy. He had it all, and because of that, he lost it all.

Playing for and representing your country is a privilege. It’s not a chore. It’s not something that should be expected. You have to deserve it. You have to earn it.

I worry for the future of Welsh rugby if this is a sign of things to come. Rising stars who seem to think they’re owed something because they have some talent? You still have to work for it. This isn’t football, but it feels like it’s going that way. Shame. The gentleman’s game will be no more.