Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

It is said that the Eskimos (or Inuit as I believe they are officially known) have around 90 words to describe snow. I believe that English weather forecasters have at least an equal number of words and phrases to describe variations in the local weather. Unfortunately, many of these seem to be lost on a non-native such as myself. For example, last Friday we were predicted to have “patches of sunshine.” How this is different from the “partially cloudy” that I am familiar with back home I am not sure, but have been told that there is a subtle distinction that a local will recognize. The same holds for the distinction between the “patches of dryness” that were forecast for Saturday and something more familiar such as “occasional showers.” As it turned out, we seemed to inhabit a “patch of dryness” much of Saturday, but any “patches of sunshine” were ephemeral. Sunday everything got back to normal and it rained much of the day, carrying over into yesterday, as well. This morning, however, we seem to be blessed with a “patch of sunshine” hovering directly over the upper dale. I can only hope that it lasts long enough to dry out the quarry a bit, as it has become a bit of a mud bath.

Saturday the whole crew went off on another tourist expedition, this time northward into Northumberland, to visit the town of Alnwick (pronounced “Anick” by the local residents). Alnwick is the site of a large, and still inhabited medieval castle, which some might be familiar with as it was featured in some of the Harry Potter films. Byron is quite fond of the place, and hadn’t been for a number of years, so it was a “must do” this summer. Next to the castle is a large formal garden, which includes a “poison garden” featuring toxic (and intoxicating) plants. This section is, of course, fenced off and requires a guided tour. I guess the macabre nature of the thing makes it quite popular with the visiting public, and there was quite a queue for tours. Our tour was cut short when one of the punters actually collapsed and the paramedics had to be called. Afterward, I overheard more than one member of the tour speculating as to which of the plants the poor sod may have sampled.

Alnwick is also home to one of the largest second-hand bookstores in the country, which now occupies the old train station not far from the castle. Unfortunately, it was rather late by the time we got there, and we only had a brief time to browse through the stacks. Brian did managed to find himself a book of memoirs from the Ancient Monument Society that he could not live without. After a stop at the Manor House for a combined lunch/dinner of an excellent venison pie, we made it back to the Blue Bell just in time to catch the England vs. USA World Cup football game. Being the token opposition in attendance, we took a lot of good-natured ribbing, but only up to the point that the English goalie fumbled a save and let USA tie up the game. After that, we were treated to the usual whinging on about how crap the local team is, which always happens after things don’t go right on the pitch. This allowed me the opportunity to console more than a few with the observation that it would have looked a lot worse had they been playing the French.

The rains returned on Sunday, and after a slow start to the day, Brian and I headed up to Hexham to take advantage of a good supermarket there for provisions, and to have a wander about town. Perhaps motivated by the rain, Brian wanted to check out a woolen-goods shop, and at my urging agreed that he would look good in a tweed flatcap. Perhaps feeling slightly uncomfortable with the foray into new fashion territory, he insisted that I get a hat as well, so armed with out new tweed hats (mine a slightly different style), we headed to a local pub for lunch. Upon arriving we found a group of local fellows having a Sunday afternoon piss-up, singing songs and telling bad jokes that obviously seemed completely hysterical give their condition. Upon seeing us, one of the fellows blurted out “look, here come the Scrumpy Jacks!” For the Americans in the audience, a “scrumpy jack” is a rough apple cider particular to the English southwest, and favored by unsophisticated folk such as farmers. Those folk also seem to favor the sort of hats we were wearing, hence the comment. The fellow who made the observation, however, was pretty much bereft of any hair on his head, allowing me to comment on the fact that at least mine was warmer and drier than his. This, in turn, allowed his mates to begin heaping merciless scorn on the poor fellow over his hairless condition. Good fun for all!

But back to the mine. Yesterday Dave was able to get the loco running well enough that he finished mucking the face, and was able to begin with the nest set of timbers. Byron and Greg continued their efforts to extract more of the large fluorite-containing rocks from the crushed zone, and today’s photo shows the results of that effort being unloaded on the landing. At the end of the day Greg managed to get another, even larger one down from the cavity wall. Brian was on specimen washing duty, as Shanade has been rather scarce this year. While at it, he had another dales experience for the first time, and was swarmed by midges at one point late in the afternoon. Yours truly had an exciting day of wrapping and binning washed specimens, followed by running errands and collecting bills from some local suppliers.

Today we will likely be dealing with the consequences of pulling out these large rocks. Fortunately, the sun is out so sawing will not be such a cold and unpleasant activity.

Forward in all directions,


Jesse & Crew

Yet another very large specimen is delivered from the mine.

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