Sunday, May 25, 2014

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather has remained cloudy, cool and drippy for the past few days, though we have for the most part been spared the heavy rains of last Thursday. This morning I saw a brief blast of sunshine outside my bedroom window, but by the time I fixed some coffee, started the weekly laundry, and settled in to begin this composition the clouds have returned in force.

Friday morning we finished drilling and fired the first shot at the face for the season. This one is not quite as straight forward as normal, as we are trying to start a junction with one tunnel heading north, which will be used as a siding for a second muck tub, while the main heading will curve to the east and hopefully intersect the zone of flats we have been working from the crosscut. We’ll find out if we were successful when everyone reconvenes at the mine on Monday morning.

Assuming that all has gone according to plan, we will most likely spend the day mucking and timbering the face, then proceed with another round of drilling and blasting. It is hard to say exactly how many shots will be required to get back to the zone of flats, but I’m pretty sure it will be at least two rounds. One thing we will be able to do on Monday is to test Ian’s engineering job on the rail at the portal. I hope this will work, as it will make for a very slow day if the loco keeps jumping the track at that spot!

Friday afternoon Dave took off early and headed off to Edinburgh for his first bike race weekend of the season. Last night at the pub I ran into his daughter Shanade, who said that the rebuilt clutch on the bike had not worked according to plan, so I am assuming that this race could be classified as a “learning experience” for him. I’m sure we’ll hear all about it on Monday.

Yesterday morning I discovered that our internet connection, which had been glacially slow had gone down altogether. The service provider that the landlord has here is evidently a remnant of AOL, and the phone call centers are, of course, somewhere in India. I made a total of four calls to them, all of which proved fruitless. Two of the technicians I got were barely understandable, and one actually suggested that I log on to their internet self-help website – despite the fact that the very reason I was calling was because I had no internet connection. The last woman I got actually spoke fairly good English and tried fairly hard to be helpful, but to no avail. In hopes of getting better service, I have since asked the landlord to switch the service provider to BT, who also operate the phone system here. I’m not sure how long this will take, but hopefully before the end of the summer. In the mean time, I guess the pub will also function as an internet café.

After my futile internet engineering experience, Ian and I made a shopping trip to Hexham, which is one of the closest large towns to us, about 30 miles/48 km to the north. The journey involves a drive over the moors north of Weardale, which on a sunny day can be quite scenic. Yesterday the cloud cover was so low that much of the trip was made in a heavy fog. Fortunately, there weren’t many sheep on the road, as they generally do not come equipped with HSE approved high visibility safety vests, and tend to be fairly invisible in that sort of weather.

On the way back we stopped in Blanchland, a rather picturesque village about half way between Hexham and Weardale, to meet up with a woman who has worked as a geologist for the North Pennines AONB organization for a number of years. During that time we have corresponded and I have provided her with many photos of local mines and minerals for use in their publications, but never actually met up. A few weeks ago I got an email from her saying that the organization had lost funding and that she was losing her job. She lives in Blanchland, where there is also a very nice, and recently refurbished pub/restaurant called the Lord Crewe Arms, so we finally had a chance to meet and commiserate about the current state of the job market for geologists over a pint. Today’s photo is of the interior of the pub.

The lack of noise from the washer now tells me that the laundry wash cycle has finished, so I had best get our mine clothes hung up to dry so we can go and get them wet and muddy again tomorrow. I could use the dry cycle on the machine, but it tends to permanently wrinkle everything that goes through it, so we do our drying the old fashioned way – in the closet next to the water heater!

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse & Ian

A new (old) pub!

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