Sunday, May 23, 2004

Good morning from Weardale. Once again we have braved bored officious airline security guards, appallingly bad airline food, and serious jet lag to return to our muddy little mine here in the north of England. Sixth year now. You know that they say about a fool and his money. I just tell folks that we're exchanging one sort of green for another, and if the green for some reason isn't coming from the Rogerley they we have the beautiful green of the countryside here.

But speaking of jet lag, I am convinced that it is one of the major unintended side effects of modern civilization. Naturally, our ancestors on the savannahs of Africa never had to deal with the biological consequences of crossing eight time zones in a single day and the attendant confusion one's body experiences over the proper times to sleep. How ironic it is that I just happen to exist in one of the first human generations where it is possible to do this to one's self and can't refuse the opportunity to do so. While I am not a biochemist, I am sure that sleep is primarily a complex biochemical process which evolution has developed for some good reason. There must be some way to reset one's "biological clock" the way I reset my alarm each time I come here. If anyone knows of a biotech company developing a treatment, please let me know as I would like to sign up for the clinical trials. And before you raise your hand to let me know about melatonin, I've tried it numerous times. I suspect the only thing it really does is enrich the coffers of the folks who sell me the pills.

But enough whining and complaining, already! Let's get on with the story. Well, as before, I arrived a day in advance of Byron and Jonina in an attempt to gain a little adjustment to the time change before driving the four-hour trip north to Weardale. This year it also gave me the opportunity to visit with Reading-based mineral dealer Mark Wrigley, his wife Christian, and their two marvelously energetic (and chaotic) children. Mark, for those who may not know him, is a recently out of work telecom employee (is that a repeated redundancy?) who, in search for another means of employment has decided to combine his love of minerals with his knowledge of the internet and now populated cyberspace with numerous mineralogical offerings under the guise of Thames Valley Minerals. Now, anyone who knows anything about English geology and geography will know that the primary minerals to be found in the Thames Valley are clays and other detrital sediments. Not the sort of things that most folks are prone to collecting, as they usually require a scanning electron microscope to fully appreciate. This has forced him to look a little further afield for his offerings. Being English this means that fluorite figures prominently on his site and was the occasion for our initial meeting a few years ago. He now sells some of ours and I occasionally purchase some of his. Sort of a mineralogical form of static motion, I guess. Anyway, we had a lovely visit, looked at rocks, exchanged intelligence (not gossip this time, mind you) on recent goings on in the mineral community, and went to an excellent pie shop for lunch, where I had the opportunity to watch his daughter Robin drink her lemonade by dipping her hand in the glass and then sucking the juice off of her fingers. Novel technique, but one that requires a thorough hosing down afterwards.

Mark was kind enough to give me a ride back to Heathrow yesterday to meet up with Byron and Jonina. Fortunately I was coherent enough to notice the small sign posted as we approached the terminal where they usually arrive informing anyone lucky enough to actually see the thing that some flights had recently been shifted to another terminal. The other terminal is, of course, the one at the opposite end of the airport and Byron and Jonina's flight was, of course, one of those that had been shifted. Had I not had my own chauffeur it would have been a very long and frantic dash between terminals. As it was, we all managed to meet up without too much difficulty, pick up the rental car, and get on our way. I think this is the first time we have not arrived on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend so traffic was light all the way up. The weather was fantastic the whole way and I think this is also the first time we haven't been greeted by rain as we drove into the dale. Hopefully a good sign regarding the rest of the summer.

After getting settled in we went down to the Golden Lion for a beer and to see how things are in the dale this year. New landlords have taken over and the place is cleaned up a bit. They also offer food now, which I'm sure will come in handy as eating out options here in the upper dale are somewhat limited. Everyone managed to stay awake until around 10 pm - just barely, and then collapsed. Sunset was bright and clear with a new crescent moon hanging in the sky, and is the subject of today's photo.

On the schedule today, after everyone has ingested enough coffee to become semi-functional will be a shopping run to the Safeway in Consett for provisions, meet-up with Dave, and a stop to say hello to the mine. I'll let you know tomorrow just how far we get.


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Sunset over Weardale.

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