Sunday, June 25, 2006

Welcome to Weardale.

Well, we're back here for season number eight at the mine. I guess we must be having fun despite all the ups and downs over the past few years. This year, Joan and I have taken a week's vacation to explore the western Scottish Highlands prior to arriving here at the Mine House in Weardale. Spent the first few days in Glasgow catching up on museums and other cultural stuff, including a visit with John Faithfull, the curator of minerals at the Hunterian Museum. The collection, as one would expect, is focused regionally on Scotland, and we got a tour through the greatest hits of the Leadhills area. I was previously not very familiar with the Leadhills mineralogy, and got to see some truly amazing old-time specimens. I also had the chance to see some truly attractive bicolor tourmalines from Northern Scotland. Sadly, the ones recovered thus far require magnification to fully appreciate. The next day we got a chance to visit the old Scotland Street School, which is the one Renee Macintosh-designed building we had yet to see.

After leaving Glasgow, we drove up to Plockton, a small picturesque fishing village on the mainland coast near the Isle of Skye. The scenery in this area is truly dramatic, though we didn't get to see it to full effect as it rained most of the time. We were told numerous times that we had missed the good weather by a week, but that we were getting a good taste of what life is really like in Northern Scotland. At least the rain kept the midges at bay, and I suppose I can put up with getting a little wet in exchange for avoiding swarming clouds of small biting insects. Although we didn't get much hiking in, this left plenty of time to enjoy many of the other local attractions, including some excellent beers from the Isle of Skye Brewery, the local seafood, including things they call prawns but look like small lobsters, and the almost non-stop series of traditional music sessions at the local pubs. The Western Highlands are truly beautiful, and remote. Hopefully we'll get back for a longer stay sometime soon.

Arrived in Weardale yesterday early afternoon, and checked into our usual summer lodging at the Mine House. The peacocks, chickens, ducks, cats, and dog, along with our landlords Bob and Mary all seem to be doing fine, and the garden has become more elaborate than ever. A Norwich-based collector friend, Lloyd was passing through with his wife Sarah yesterday, having picked up a new car from a Darlington dealership. Lloyd mentioned that the Allenheads Inn was under new management and he had seen a potentially interesting specials menu when stopping by at lunch. After rendezvousing with local collectors Barry and Helen, we all headed up to Allenheads for dinner and what was the first official meeting of a group known as "Old Farts", proposed by several individuals on the chat boards. The name is an acronym for "Official Locality Data, Fluorite, Ale and Related Trivia Subcommittee", and grew out of a discussion of North Pennines fluorite and which pubs in the area had good beer. The Allenheads Inn has always qualified as a source of good beer, but unfortunately, the menu did not live up to its promise. The food was truly appalling, and from the looks of the staff, they were having a quite a difficult time coping with the crush of a busy Saturday evening. Lloyd's Labrador "Alfie" was pleased, however, and had no problem with pork loin that could have passed for shoe leather.

This morning in Weardale is rainy and quiet. With the exception on the occasional outburst from the peacock, that is. The quietness should fade by this afternoon, as England is playing again today in the World Cup Football (or soccer to us Americans) Championship and the pubs should be packed with "enthusiastic" fans. Byron is scheduled to arrive at the Newcastle airport around 2 pm. After something like 24 hours of travel, he will likely be somewhat less enthusiastic, but will likely recover in short order, given the prospect of some potentially rewarding digging.

Today's picture postcard is of the somewhat rainy scenery on the Isle of Skye.

More soon,


Monday, June 26, 2006


When we got home yesterday evening, we found the remains of Joan's pork loin in the back of the car. Apparently, Alfie gave up on it, presumably when his jaw muscles started to ache too much. He's recently buried what was left in the back garden.

Best wishes for a safe and successful operation at the mine this season,


A rainy day on Skye

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