Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Greetings from Weardale.

Byron arrived Sunday afternoon at the Newcastle airport on schedule, and looking remarkably composed considering the three flights (in economy seats!) and eight hours time change. On the way back up the dale we stopped at the Mill Race for a few pints and a bit to eat before Byron became totally comatose. I was served what must be the largest Whitby Cod I have ever seen! I swear that the fillet must have been over 12 inches long. I managed to finish the fish but the chips went wanting. If this is a sign of what we can expect from Denis and Mary, then I think I'll have to get into some serious training (i.e.: moving a lot of rock to work up the appetite). Got Byron up dale to the Mine House by about 2030 and he promptly passed out in bed, not to awaken for almost 12 hours. I wish I could do that! The first few days when I go through that sort of time change are an exercise in sleeplessness.

Monday was spent on preliminaries, such as grocery shopping and badgering John, the manager at Watson's garage about getting Byron his car. As usual, he was a bit behind schedule, but had a pretty good excuse as his wife had delivered a new baby the previous Friday. Were invited up to Allercleugh for dinner with our original landlords Jeremy and Phillippa. Their cottage is an on-going work in progress, but last year they completed the new kitchen (complete with an Aga!), and Phillippa seems prepared to take full advantage of the new facilities. It was quite the feast, but we did manage to get home before midnight.

Today, Joan took the day to segue slowly back into work by checking a week's worth of ignored e-mails (the Scottish Highlands are real good for that sort of negligence), and stayed at the cottage. Byron and I had the first "official" day at the mine. We first stopped by Watson's and found the Peugot on the rack getting serviced. The poor thing was a little worse for wear, however. Evidently, a large forklift had gotten away form the folks while shifting things around in their storage yard and a line of parked cars got hammered. The Peugot was fourth in line. The first three cars were totaled! John promised it to us by Friday and left Byron with a loaner that's way too pristine to get trashed hauling diesel fuel into the quarry, so I hope the Peugot's back soon.

I spent the first part of the day getting into my Whitby Cod training regimen by shoveling away all the rock and soil that had washed down onto the landing at the mine entrance over winter. Despite being thoroughly out of condition for this sort of thing, I think the worst part was the incessant cloud of midges that engulfed me while on the mine landing. Byron wisely chose to tackle replumbing the mine for the season, a task that keeps one moving, and hopefully, not so thoroughly besieged by the little flying devils. This was not without its roadbumps, however. Last weekend, a group of 4-wheelers were through the quarry, and one of them excavated a section of our waterline while tearing up the landscape. This, of course, left it in somewhat less that perfect working order, requiring a trip to the DIY in Stanhope for the appropriate repair parts. At least I got away from the midges.

After getting the water system up and running, Byron started in on the hydraulic power unit. Despite cleaning numerous contacts in the electrical system, it has yet to fire up, so at the end of the day remains on the list of tomorrow's chores.

Back at the cottage, Joan fixed a dinner of local venison sausage, mash and garliced broccoli. What was a drippy, cloudy day has cleared up and we should be in store for a very nice sunset. Whenever the sun gets around to setting at this northern latitude, that is.

Went off and left my camera at the mine today, so our photo is an archival one from a couple years ago of the shadows growing long across the upper dale on a midsummer evening such as the one today.

More soon,


Summer evening in the upper dale.

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