June 10, 2000
Greetings from the Great Wet North. The local weather seems to have gotten itself into a regular pattern. Clear and sunny in the early morning, with increasing clouds into the day. Yesterday reminded me of one of those very foggy summer days in San Francisco, where the sun never comes out, and you think it's about to rain, but the worst it ever does is drizzle.
Yesterday AM, after deciding that the compressor required the care of a professional, we got on the phone and found a place that would rent us one by the week. 150 UKP for 40 hours running time plus 70 UKP transport charge each way. they could also deliver to the quarry that morning, so we jumped on it. Most of the day was spent driving back and forth through the valley running necessary errands. Jim and Byron, now armed with Mick's advice on the compressor, left for the quarry early to complete the removal of the fuel pump. Jonina and I showed up shortly there after, and I carted the offending item off to Neil Fairless, who would, in turn, hand it over to someone he knows who could conduct the resurrection. Hopefully it will be back sometime Monday.
Returned to the quarry, but no rental compressor yet, so I took off with Jonina to take care of various things such as visit the bank, see Mark Watson, etc. As we were driving towards Wolsingham we passed a flatbed going the other way with a compressor on board. Assuming this was ours, and assuming (correctly) that the driver would never find the unmarked turnoff to the saw mill and quarry on the first pass, we turned around and gave chase. Sure enough, the driver went right past it, and upon reaching Stanhope, pulled into the Texaco station for directions. Jonina pounced on him, and he followed us back to the quarry. Soon the thing was unloaded, hooked up, and running perfectly. All this with just a phone call - no credit card deposit, no reference check required to open an account with the rental company, just a signature from some foreigner in a muddy quarry in the outback of Weardale. The agent at the office said they would send someone out next week to collect a check. Not exactly like doing business in the States.
Byron and Jim promptly set off to drill for the next round, and Jonina and I continued on our rounds. Picked up more off road diesel from Mark, and Jonina queried him about mobile phones. Evidently the sort that will operate both in Europe and North America - known as tri-band phones - are commonly available here, though as I recall, still scarce and costly in the US. Jonina borrowed one from Richard, Mark's mechanic/assistant, and we went back to the quarry to try it out. From the landing we could call all over the valley, but the quarry floor was evidently in a "phone shadow" and reception there was problematic. Jonina decided she wanted one and would buy the phone herself as she would take it back to the US and use it there after summer. I thought that the phone was a good idea, and might cut down on needless trips back and forth just to communicate with people, as well as being a very good thing to have incase of an accident at the mine, so I said the company would pick up the service charges while here. I thought that we would have to go into Bishop Auckland to find a cellphone store, but Mark said he could get the account set up for her. Quite the entrepreneur - I wonder what else he does. Anything he can to make a few quid, I suspect.
As the crew will loose their second car when I leave next Saturday, we ask Mark about any progress in finding us a second car. He had found one at around 1000 UKP, but on inspection found it had a blown head gasket. Not worth bothering with. He does have a couple of early 90s' Subaru Justys - small, three-door, 4WD cars, both at 1600 UKP. The one we saw on the lot was clean and in good shape, and looked a lot nicer than the Peugeot, which I recall we paid more for. If we want a second car, this may be our only immediate option. I think the Justy we looked at would also have some resale value, unless we completely trash it.
After dealing with Mark, we set off for the Durham Dales Center in hopes of finding Jeremy and Phillippa, and arranging for pick-up of the now boxed sonicator. No one was in at their office, so we stopped in to say hello at Gemcraft. Both John and Marie were there so much chatting ensued. They appear to be buying a fair amount of mid to low end stuff from our Scots friends, and voiced eagerness for some of our new material as well. Marie was particularly desirous of eggs and such carved from Frosterley marble. We told her that, unfortunately, few had been fashioned over the winter as Byron's setup was being moved. I wonder if there is anyone in the UK who does production lapidary work that we could contract a lot out to. Jonina is starting to get some material processed, so hopefully I'll have a flat or two to take by sometime next week.
Dropped Jonina off at the cottage to continue working in the "lab", and returned to the quarry in time for the blast. The shot went off with a load "thump" which shook everything enough to cause a small rock fall to one side of the ledge. Byron went in for a quick look at the results, and says that there may have some problems with breakage on the face. It was quite smoky, so we'll have to wait until we go back this morning to really know how effective the blast was. Byron had collected some more of the Dead Compressor Pocket, and we loaded up the specimens and gear for Jim to drive out. While walking to the rear "car park", I found a couple of patches of the wild orchids that bloom in the quarry. They occur as small stalks up to maybe 4 cm high, covered with many small, fuschia-colored flowers which look (no surprise!) like very small orchids. I had my macro lens with me, and tried shooting a few. Hard to get a real good close up shot while kneeling in what amounts to a marsh, but I managed a few without falling over into the muck.
As it was Friday, and in celebration of our (surely temporary) victories over recalcitrant technology, we went up to Rookhope for dinner. Took Steve a purple fluorite group, which, having a few cleaved corners was of little specimen value, but looked nice. He seemed quite happy with it, and proceeded to show it off to other pub-goers, along with the green we gave him last year. Jonina had called earlier in the day to book us a table, so he cooked up some pan hackledy for us, which everyone inhaled with great fervor. He explained that this sort of dish was common through out the Northeast, and was traditionally a way to use up the weekend's leftovers for Monday supper. The leftover bits of meat, vegetables, and potatoes would be all mashed together and fried up like a large pancake. the name for the dish seems to vary from place to place, and I found someone else who knew it as "pan haggerty". I assume that Steve's version is from the Newcastle area.
Today we're off to the mine, and I assume that my task will be that of a manual laborer, moving rock. Current plan is for Jonina to continue with her duties as "Chief Cleaning Lady". No, she doesn't do windows or floors, so don't ask.
Jesse, Jim (who is drinking his coffee and playing guitar), Byron (who is drinking his coffee and having a pipe outside), and Jonina (who is still doing what she usually does this time of the morning).