June 4, 2000
Greetings from the Great Wet North. And it truly is. Been raining almost non-stop since Friday, and the temperature has been dropping steadily. The laundry refuses to dry. Looks like we have a serious cold front moving through, and there's talk of the possibility of snow or freezing rain on the moors. Besides making the task of running an already wet mine a bit more miserable, this could cause some serious problems in the Dale. Sheep shearing has already started, and if we have a freeze there could be a whole lot of sheepcicles lying about. Gives one an idea just how precarious existence was during pre-industrial times - which, with the exception of motor cars, televised sport in the pubs, and the occasional government subsidy when the sheep freeze, is likely very similar to what exists now in post-industrial places like Weardale.
Sounds like a good day not to be wet and muddy. When everyone gets up and moving, we'll probably go to Killhope and check in with Ian Forbes. I spoke with him by phone the other day and it sounds like they are quite eager for more of our galena. We already have one lot bagged up at the mine for them. If we have time afterwards, we might try to look up Dave Rennison in Barnard Castle. Jonina tells me that Dave and his collecting friend Colin had a bit of a falling out with the Killhope folks, which would explain why they weren't offering any of our fluorite to the Killhope gift shop. Seems that Dave and Colin were caught tailgating at Killhope's early September mineral show, something which evidently is verboten. Ah!, local politics.
Speaking of which, I had a conversation with Lindsay the other day, and the subject of Brian Young came up. I mentioned that he had approached my about reprinting the article in the Journal of the Russell Society. Evidently, Brian has been responsible for, or at least involved in the closure of a number of important localities to collectors. Evidently, the govt. has the power to designate an occurrence a "site of scientific importance" and close it to anyone without academic credentials and high level authorization. This can even be done to private lands. The rift between collectors and academics in mineralogy here in the UK sounds rather like the situation between fossil collectors and academic paleontologists in the States. Ah! local politics.
Yesterday we spent the day doing clean-up at the mine. Mucked out the tunnel, which for the moment looks right tidy! This will change shortly, no doubt. Searched around for specimens stockpiled during last summer's frenzy and came up with a few bits. Byron poked at the large rock now lying in the middle of the GBH. Contrary to most rocks in most mines, this one appears to be more stable in its repose than it appears. Byron thought he could bar it loose and let it fall into the pocket opening, and then saw or hammer it into smaller pieces. No such luck. We'll have to enlarge the opening to get it out. The cavity is located at the head of the tunnel, between last summer's Weasel Pocket (to the right, east) and the Crack of Doom (to the left, west). Currently, the cavity opening is about waist-height on the working face, and the cavity itself extends upward at a shallow angle for about 6 feet - large enough now for someone to completely crawl into if the boulder wasn't there. There is a fluorite seam running down the east side of the face, which appears to open up into more cavities near the floor level of the tunnel.
While doing some measurements to plot where the new tunnel should go, Jim and I came to the startling realization that all those old steel arches that Mick and Lindsay put in as supports create havoc with a magnetic compass, and all the bearings we've taken are suspect. It was one of those moments when one thinks "Duhh!, why didn't I notice this before?" We took bearings in both directions, and tried to work as far from the arches as possible. We'll see if it makes any sense today when we put it on paper. Jim is trying to construct a low-tech alternative using a protractor, a two-by-four, and string.
Jonina stayed at the cottage yesterday and continued to organize and clean specimens. the new Italian water gun plugged up in short order, however. The compressor in it still works but there is some sort of blockage in the water line. As soon as we can find the hex-wrench that came with it, we'll operate. When we knocked off at the mine, Byron and Jim stopped at the Golden Lion and I came up to the cottage to get Jonina. She had given up on the water gun by that point and was busy reading a basic geology text. Says she wants to try and understand what the rest of us are talking about when we get into science geek mode.
Had a couple of pints of Black Sheep at the pub, watched the rain, and talked with Isabel about her expanding pub empire. She now owns three pubs in the Dale, and says the roofs leak in all of them. Evidently, any building with any history at all in the Dale is "listed", meaning that if one wants to make any improvements or changes to the building, it's a bureaucratic nightmare. When she took over the Gray Bull in Stanhope last fall the roof supports were in such bad condition, she said she was surprised that the roof hadn't collapsed. The original roofing tiles were made out of some sort of quarried stone which is evidently very expensive these days. The local counsel was insisting that she use the exact same sort of materials during renovation. Local slate tiles would have been much cheaper, but wouldn't do. I guess she finally was able to get a local govt. grant to cover 40% of the cost and finished the job. Karaoke night has been scaled back, and now occurs only once a month, next door at the King's Head. Despite the crowds it attracted, Isabel said they didn't make much money because hiring the karaoke set-up for the night was quite expensive.
Well, time to get breakfast under way, take a shower (or what passes for one in these parts), and get the day going.
Jesse, Jim, Byron, and Jonina - who is trying to teach Byron a new card game.