June 8, 2001

Good Morning. Yesterday’s weather was positively schizophrenic. The day began bright and clear, as many do around here. Soon the clouds were rolling in and I thought we were in for just another normal day here in the Dale. What we got was a steady succession of cold storms interspersed with warm sunny spells. From up here at Little Allercleugh, you could watch the storms come down the Dale from the west. When they passed over, the wind would come up, the temperature would drop, and we would get pelted with torrential rain, hail, or both for about 15 – 20 minutes. After the cloud passes over, the sun would come out and we could watch the cloud as it moved toward the east end of the Dale. This must have happened five or six times during the day. While down at the Golden Lion for the after work pint with Byron, a particularly nasty one passed through. That one dumped so much hail that it looked like it had snowed in St. John’s Chapel. A group of thoroughly soaked bicyclists piled into the pub, shivering and asking for hot tea. Byron and I left during the downpour, but by the time we made the short drive uphill to the cottage, it was sunny again. Today’s picture postcard was taken in St. John’s Chapel in between storms, and caught both the storm clouds and sunlight nicely.

Spent most of the day cleaning specimens, while Jonina ran more errands. Barclays’ computers were back up so she was able to get the cash for payday. No word about whether the fellow who was going away on vacation ever got his money, however. Hope he’s got lots of credit cards. I managed to get a first pass cleaning done on a bunch of pieces I would like to bring back with me, but left the BIG ONES spoken of yesterday for Jonina. Her comment was something to the effect of: “You got to help collect then, I get to play with them for a bit now.” After a thorough water-gunning, they will likely reside for a while in a cleaning bath. Though it’s hard to tell now, the matrix of both is covered with a white quartz druze which when cleaned should providing a nice color contrast to the green fluorite and gray galena. This stuff often takes a lot of work to get all the over-coating off, however. Afterward, Cal will undoubtedly trim them down to optimal proportions.

Jonina was back by early afternoon and spent a bit of time with the accounting spreadsheets. Afterward, she suited up in one of our bright orange “clown suite” and took over the cleaning duties from me. She helped select two flats of recently cleaned specimens to take by Gemcraft, and I took off down the hill with them. John and Marie were out, but I was told that they should be in this morning so I will be making a return trip around 10AM.

After stopping at Gemcraft, I headed to the mine and spent a little bit helping Byron wrap and haul out specimens. Byron usually finds himself a daily “pocket rock” which is something small and nice that disappears into his pocket for a little while. The one he had this day was a perfectly formed 4 cm twinned green fluorite crystal, of which about half was flawless gem. It’s now sitting on the kitchen window sill with a collection of it’s pocket mates.

Dave and Lofty had used up all the timber, and as we are not likely to get more from Alistair until Monday were busying themselves digging out the western entrance to the pocket zone. This is the area we opened the first year and site of Byron’s famous (and indestructible) wall. The two year’s pockets were joined late last summer, but there is very little room to collect toward the middle, so opening up the area is one of our first priorities. As Byron is spending most of his time collecting in the eastern tunnel, Dave and Lofty will start opening up the pocket from the west by lowering the floor. Byron thinks there should be more fluorite in the floor of the pocket as well. I’ve had a few questions about how Lofty got his name. It’s quite obvious when you see him – he’s at least 6 foot 4. As a result, the overhead in the mine is sometimes a bit low for him, but that’s what hardhats are for.

David Rennison had said he would be by around 7, and made it by around 8:30 (or as they say in the Dales, “half-eight”) yesterday evening. Being only an hour and a half late is some sort of an on-time record for him, I think. He had been busy acquiring specimens, and after a private showing from the boot of his car, I game away with a large purple fluorite specimen from Frazer’s Hush. It’s in serious need of trimming, but we have a lapidary saw here, and when done should be a nice piece. He also set aside a lot of Rogerley specimens that he will pick up early next week when the cleaning process is finished.

On today’s agenda will be more specimen cleaning, a sales call to Gemcraft, and packing for the trip home. Bill and Diane Dameron should be arriving for a few day’s stay at the Mill Race today, so we hope to meet up with them for dinner. Bill called me the other day from London to say that they were taking the train to Newcastle and would be picking up a rental car and driving to Weardale today. My one and only driving experience in Newcastle a couple of years ago would lead me to pray for them if I were suitably religious. As it is, I wished him luck in finding his way around there, as street signs seemed to be virtually non-existent.

I will be leaving bright and early tomorrow for my return trip to San Francisco, so the writing of daily reports will be carried on by Jonina while I am away. I will be back for another tour of duty at the end of the month, and Cal and Kerith should be here to pick up the narrative sometime in mid-July. When all is done for the season, we should have a perspective on the summer’s events from all parties involved - except Byron who won’t touch a computer. Smart man.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse and the Crew

St. John's Chapel between storms.

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