June 9, 2000
Greetings from the Great Wet North. Not so wet yesterday - possibly as nice as the weather gets in these parts. Sunny and warm with a good breeze, which helped to dry things out. The quarry no longer looks like a lake. Amazing that just a few days ago it was almost ready to snow. Well, no day is ever perfect and this one was no exception. Byron and Jim headed to the mine around 0830 with the intention of finishing mucking out the tunnel, then drilling for the next round. Jonina and I spent an hour or so in the garage trying to get various pieces of cleaning equipment to work. We finally got the Krebs water gun to work by blowing water through the siphon tube while pushing the trigger. The Italian gun still refuses to work despite two disassemblies and cleanings. It is rather ornamental hanging from its hook in the garage, however. The still sonicator refuses to work. Jonina called the manufacturer, and they want us to send it to Cardiff for repair. I got it boxed up (fortunately the original carton was still in the garage loft), and Jonina wrote a cover letter. Tomorrow we'll have to schlep it down to Stanhope for pickup at Jeremy & Phillippa's office.
After feeling satisfied that we had gotten at least one piece of equipment to work, we set off for Kendal to pick up the powder. The weather was good the whole way, and we made the trip in four hours (including a stop at the local superstore ghetto to get a cordless phone so Jonina can receive calls while working in the garage), instead of the five it took us on Tuesday. Got back to the quarry, and one look at Jim told me that things had not gone as planned. Evidently, the compressor had worked perfectly all morning, and the tunnel is now completely cleaned out from the last blast. Jim and Byron made the mistake of shutting it off while they took lunch. It never restarted. Best we can tell is that the fuel pump is partially clogged with some of the same gunk Jim blew out of the lines the day before, and not enough fuel is getting to the cylinders. The problem with removing and working on the fuel pump is that it seems to require disassembly of a large portion of the housing around one end of the engine, much of which appears to be welded in place. On the positive side, Byron continued to work on the Dead Compressor pocket, and got out some more nice specimens.
Everyone gave up around 6pm, as it became obvious that a REAL diesel mechanic was required. We came up to the cottage without even stopping at the pub, which is probably a good thing as both Byron and Jim had so much diesel on them that they could have been declared a public hazard. I fixed dinner while Jim called Mick for advice. Mick pretty much concluded with Jim's diagnosis of the situation. Jonina spoke with Neil Fairless's wife Christine, who said that Neil, or another mechanic they know could visit us tomorrow morning at the quarry. If we can't get the thing up and running very soon, we will have to rent a compressor, as I think it is important to keep focused on production. Jim and Byron are great at dealing with these sorts of problems, but I think we need to keep them mining instead of fixing old equipment, if we can. This will add more cost, but I guess that's life in the food chain.
Paul & Lisa: Could you please make sure the UK bank account is well funded before leaving California? Jonina says we are under 2000 UKP. Barkleys is a real pain to deal with (in case you hadn't already noticed). Every time Jonina makes a balance inquiry, they are suppose to charge us. Last year Jonina says that the folks in the Stanhope branch would let it slide, but not this year. Evidently the bank has closed a lot of offices in the area, and all the remaining employees are real uptight about loosing their jobs. Jonina says that all the "customer service" functions have been relocated, and our representative, Allison Coulthard is no longer at the office in Bishop Auckland where we originally opened the account. At any rate, Jonina has never been able to get her on the phone, despite several messages left (one reason for the cordless phone). Someone she did speak with said we could sigh up for an on-line banking service, which sounded like it might solve some of our problems. Jonina was expecting a disk in the mail with the appropriate software, and instead received a letter saying that there was a "small problem with our account" which they were sure could be rectified in short order, and would she please call. Several messages later, she has yet to speak with someone who can help us. So much for customer service.
After dinner, I pulled out one of Jeremy & Phillippa's plastic lawn chairs and sat out in the yard watching the shadows grow long, and listening to the sheep give voice to their cares and concerns (if they really are bright enough to have any). Drank a glass of cheap California zinfandel I found at the Safeway in Consett, and tried to let the day's frustrations slip away. Jim and Byron came out for a bit, and Jim got into story mode about some of his experiences in Africa. Even at it's best, Weardale weather is still too chilly for folks acclimatized to Africa and San Diego, so I was soon left to my own thoughts again.
Tomorrow will be a better day.
Jesse, Jim, Byron, and the relatively diesel-free Jonina