June 11, 2000
Greetings from the Great Wet North. Weather has turned sunny again - at least momentarily. Isabelle at the Golden Lion said that yesterday may have been our summer, so she hoped we enjoyed it. Today is dawning in a similar fashion, so maybe Summer 2000 in Weardale will last two days.
Headed off to the mine yesterday morning with Jim and Byron, while Jonina remained at the cottage to work on cleaning the ever increasing pile of fluorite specimens. Got to the mine and discovered that, along with it being sunny and dry outside, there had been some maintenance work done on the local sewage treatment plant, which is located south of the quarry near the river. The wind was coming from just the right direction to make the quarry smell like you know what. We also quickly discovered that, as Byron had feared, Friday's shot had only fractured the face and not reduced it to a pile of rubble. After about 10 minutes of trying to bar the limestone blocks loose, it became obvious that we would have to drill and shoot it again. I guess this is what one would call a learning experience - how to blow up things when working with a new type of rock. Jim and Byron went into a huddle to discuss strategy and soon emerged with a plan. I was given a list of the required blasting supplies, and drove into Stanhope to find a pay phone and call Jonina with the order. Kind of like calling out for a pizza. Jonina, having been forewarned about the possibility that her cleaning day might be interrupted, promptly headed off to Kendal. Jim and Byron drilled another set of holes into the center of some of the larger blocks. The drill and jackleg cooperated, and drilling was completed quickly.
As our morning's scheduled activity of mucking the tunnel had been derailed, Byron seized the opportunity to do what he likes best - digging in pockets. Before Jim and I even noticed his absence, we heard a couple of loud thumps from the end of the tunnel. On investigation we found that Byron had finally managed to dislodge the large rock that was blocking up the GBH, and was busy extracting more purple fluorites. The cavity is now about 8 feet long, and continues upward at a slight angle. This angle makes collecting in the pocket fairly easy compared to the BSP, as all the water we spray into it to wash out the copious amounts mud drains right out. We all took turns crawling up into the pocket with the hose, washing, and collecting. Within a couple of hours we had removed a couple dozen more specimens - including a couple more monsters - and numerous "bits". Around 1400 everyone took a lunch break, and emerged from the mine looking like participants in a low rent mud wrestling contest. Everyone got hosed down, and set to lunch. Jim just stood, back to the sun for a while with his arms out, soaking up some warmth and trying to dry off. Looked rather like a cormorant trying to dry off after diving for fish.
Everyone soon began speculating about Jonina's expected arrival with the powder, but as she wasn't there yet, we all went back up to the mine. Byron went back to the GBH, and Jim and I constructed a barrier to protect the hydraulic power unit from falling rocks out of some of the large railroad ties. Jonina arrived soon after, grumbling about all the motorcyclists and bicycle races going on between Weardale and Kendal. It had not occurred to anyone that it was Saturday, and a sunny one as well. Two things that tend to get the locals out and on the roads. When Jonina and I drove over to Kendal together last Thursday, she claimed to have spotted a heard of sheep that were all a mud-red color. Trying to keep my concentration on driving on the opposite side of windy roads, I missed this spectacle, but suggested that it may have been an experiment in genetic engineering intended to produce sheep with pre-colorized wool. When we couldn't spot the herd on the return drive, I accused her of having hallucinations. On returning from her solo trip yesterday, she claims to have spotted the herd again. I reminded her that verification of any anomalous sightings requires independent confirmation, so the controversy continues. Do red sheep really exist, and if so, why are they red? Inquiring minds want to know.
Jim and Byron loaded up the holes, and the shot went off as planned. After letting the fumes clear for a bit, we went in to inspect the results and found a nice large pile of rubble in the tunnel. First chore on Monday will be mucking, and then Jim and I will do a bit of surveying to get the tunnel angled back northward. As the day was still rather summer-like, we decided to fire up the barbecue for dinner. On returning up the hill to the cottage, we discovered that is was a bit more windy than in the valley, so the BBQ was set up inside the doorway to the coal room attached to the garage. Jim claimed expertise in the matter as he had cooked by BBQ constantly while in Africa, so he handled that chore while I sliced and roasted some potatoes in the oven. Jonina felt compelled to try and make up for having missed most of the day in the lab, and set to water gunning specimens and changing crockpots. After a while of this, I shoved a glass of wine at her, and she decided that maybe it was time to relax.
After dinner, Jim and I went back down to the pub, while Byron and Jonina got seriously involved in a game of cribbage. Things were lively at the Golden Lion, but not quite like karaoke night. Isabelle does have a Tom Jones CD she is fond of, and at one point a number of the obviously well lubricated patrons were singing along with "What's New, Pussycat?". Chatted with a number of the locals, who still seem to find it interesting that a bunch of Americans would be hanging around in Weardale all summer. It still amazes me how friendly, as a rule, most people around here have been. Kirsty is still pregnant and now overdue, but was in fine form and sassing all the customers. Isabelle ask how everything was going so far this year, and seemed quite pleased that everyone was getting along better than last year.
Today is a day off from the mine. Byron has promised Jonina that he would construct a table for the air abrasive unit and a stool for her to stand on at the saw. Jim wants to construct a non-magnetic surveying device out of string, a plastic compass, and a two-by-four. This afternoon we are all going over to Kendal for dinner with Lindsay and Patricia. Hopefully we can get the equipment situation sorted to everyone's satisfaction.
Well, everyone is finally up, so I guess it's time to get the day underway.
Jesse, Jim, Byron, and Jonina