Monday, June 23, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

T’was mid-summer’s day this past weekend but you would never have known it here in the North Pennines as it just poured down rain the whole weekend. Driving through Stanhope on Saturday I witnessed a Morris Dance troupe trying to celebrate the day and stay dry at the same time. I’m not sure how well they accomplished either given the circumstances. This morning, however, I see some sun and blue sky out the window. The breeze is up so maybe the quarry will dry out a bit.

Friday afternoon I met up with Brian Jackson from the National Museum of Scotland and his friend Gillian, who is a jeweler and gemologist, as well as an incipient mineral collector. They had come down from Edinburgh transporting boxes of books to the launch reception for “Minerals of Northern England” at the Killhope Lead Mining Museum here in the dale. Being in the area, they were, of course, interested in spending Saturday at the mine and play in the mud for a bit as well. Brian seems always the ambassador of Scottish culture wherever he goes, and when at the Tucson show a couple years back, was seen constantly in kilt. He related a story about going through airport security wearing the thing, and being told that he needed to take it off because of the metal buckles. When he informed the security agent just what a Scotsman traditionally wears (or doesn’t) under a kilt, they perhaps wisely relented. On this occasion kilts were not in evidence, but he did insist on fixing us a traditional meal of haggis, tatties and neeps that evening. Fortunately for all he also came bearing a bottle of single malt whisky, and everyone survived the experience in good humor.

With the rain, Saturday was a pretty muddy, cold and wet affair at the mine. Some good specimens were found, however, which has the marvelous effect of making everyone forget about conditions that might make the average individual thoroughly miserable. Brian took a fancy to some of the calcite-coated purple fluorites that occasionally show up in small cavities on the main vein. These are difficult to collect as the surrounding rock is usually hard and unbroken. He did manage to get out one rock, about 20 kg in weight, with a partial cavity on one side, which he lovingly carried back and stashed in the boot of his wife’s new car. He did mention that when back home he had hopes of getting it out of the car before his wife notices it. After a serious demudding back at the cottage, we all went back down dale for dinner at the Black Bull in Frosterley.

Sunday morning Brian and Gillian were off to a gemological society meeting in Leeds, and Byron and I drove over the moors to Kendal for a visit with Lindsay and Patricia Greenbank. Despite the less than optimal weather, the drive was scenic and Patricia’s lunch was wonderful. Both have had some medical troubles recently, but looked to be in good health and spirits. Lindsay, with mobility restored after knee surgery is back acquiring and selling minerals and had some new things to show off.

Today at the mine Byron says he’s going to try and remove some large and threatening ceiling rocks in the collecting area, which will hopefully allow him to pursue the fluorite layer that has been giving us the best material. The registration on our company car needs to be renewed so I’ll be getting it to a garage for the required inspection and servicing before signing a check over to the government for another year’s usage. With all the mud and wetness about over weekend, the camera did not come out very much, so today’s photo is of a nearly full moon rising over St. John’s Chapel on a clear evening last week.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

Moonrise over St. John's Chapel.

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