Monday, May 24, 2004

Good Morning from Weardale.

The story so far - our intrepid adventurers are still deep in the throws of Transitory Time-Zone Syndrome (TTS) and have yet to emerge from their lair on this anomalously bright, sunny North English morning. Not even the sound of the hot water kettle and its intimate association with morning coffee has evoked the normally Pavlovian response of luring them out of their repose. Must be serious, indeed! Not that I'm much better, mind you, but I did get a chance to put a sizable dent in a novel during the usual waking period beginning around 0300 that is a prime symptom of this condition. At these northern latitudes it also affords the opportunity to witness the early and lingering morning twilight spreading across the dale, the subject of today's photo.

Yesterday, being the first day after travel was one of minimal expectations, something that I am proud to say we accomplished handily. After the morning application of coffee we had a visit from our landlords Bob and Mary. After several false starts on a holiday this past winter they were finally getting off for eight days with friends in St. Petersburg and this was our only chance to chat and catch up on things before they left. I hope we weren't too incoherent. Over winter, aside from suffering a couple vacation-canceling illnesses, they have managed to undertake a major landscaping project here at the Mine House. What last summer was a largely derelict drainage channel leading from an old mine tunnel behind their cottage is now a terraced, planted, and bridged garden. Quite impressive! With everyone's health back in order they were quite ready to get away so after a short while they got back to preparations and left us to ours.

First order of business for us was getting provisions into the cottage as, aside from the Peets coffee I brought with me there was precious little in the cupboards. We do this at the start of every summer here, but I am still amazed at just how much stuff one can load into a shopping trolly at the local Safeway when starting from scratch. Very quickly it was overflowing with all the necessary basics from bread and butter to beer and sausages, and Jonina's daily withdrawal from the ATM in Stanhope had all but vanished. By the time we had loaded up the car with our take it was well past lunchtime and I, for one, was in the clutches of low blood sugar along with the TTS, so on our return to the dale a diversion to the Mill Race was made for our introductory dose of Whitby Cod this season. I am happy to report that the fish is still excellent and the portions still huge, and my music-loving caver acquaintance Greg is still occupying the same stool at the end of the bar.

After a good meal and a pint (or two) everyone had faded into a foggy state of contented semi-consciousness, so we drove back up the dale, unloaded our groceries and had a short siesta. It was during this process that I realized that Byron, contrary to usual practice, had (fortunately) not bought a large tub of vanilla ice cream. It would have been a little worse for ware by the time we got back to the cottage. Before completely fading away I got hold of Dave and made arrangements to meet up at the Golden Lion around 7 pm to discuss strategy for the coming summer. Not long before I was thinking we should leave for the meeting, an energetic fit of ambition seems to have overtaken Byron and Jonina and before I knew it, we were unloading the storage shed and laying out the workspace in the garage. During the process Jonina somehow managed to put the ring with keys for practically every door in the place in a bag with some old boots, and leave it in the shed. The ensuing excitement put us a little behind schedule, but fortunately Dave was even later due to a visit for tea with Sandra's mom.

Today's schedule of events, at least for me will be dominated by a meeting around noon with a fellow here in the dale to look at some old mine equipment that may be available. Dave will make the introduction and Byron will provide consultation on the quality and usefulness of any interesting items. If it comes to that point, I will, no doubt, be called upon to display some rudimentary bargaining skills. Afterwards, if time allows, we plan to stop by the mine and begin the opening up process.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Early morning in the upper dale.

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