Monday, 4 May 2015

A callous life


I live in a hard-water area. If I lived in a soft one, then I might have ended up as a brick-layer or potter.

Callousness has formed the skin in which I have lived in since moving from the acid-soil area of my upbringing. I drink calcium carbonate on a daily basis, suspended in the stuff which comes out of our taps, and I regularly cover myself with it in the form of dust. I live in a house which is made of it and the vegetables I eat have grown in the earth made alkali by it. I cut it into decorative shapes, and doing this gives me callouses on my hands. It's been a hard life, but it's getting softer.

So how come us Southerners are portrayed as soft by all the Northerners who are surrounded by gentle mists and peat-bogs?

For a non-granite region, we have our fair share of radio-activity around here, though. The hot springs of Bath set the geiger-counter ticking to a degree which would worry anyone taking the cure at the Spa, if they bothered to measure it. Ironically, it is the radio-activity which is the key ingredient in effecting a cure for the skin disease.

I had a friend who spent the last few years of her life living in an unventilated, basement flat which she bought very cheaply for central Bath - a fact of which she was vociferously proud. She died of lung cancer brought on through breathing in the accumulation of radon gas.

The city of Bath is built with stone quarried from the hills that surround it - Bath itself is built on a thick bed of bright blue clay which quickly turns grey on exposure to the air.

The mortal enemy of all stone-carvers is not the actual stone dust, it is the silica which is suspended in it.

Sandstone has a concentration of 70 - 90% silica. Oolitic Bath stone has about 2 (I am guessing now) and Italian white marble - almost pure calcium carbonate - has less than 0.2%.

It's not the coal dust which kills miners, it's the sandstone which surrounds it. If you look closely at freshly-cut, golden, York sandstone, you will see black flecks in it. This is coal.

What is more dangerous than silica? Slate dust. The average life of a Welsh slate-splitter was 45 years, if he started work aged 15. All the Georgian roofs of Bath were clad with Welsh slate.

The lower the hills, the older they are. Bath stone is about 160 million years old.

The oldest decorative stone in the world (?) is the green, Irish, Connemara marble. That is about 1000 million years old. That's pretty old, isn't it?

21 comments:

  1. A veritable mine of information Tom, none of which I knew before.

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    1. It's almost quarried-out now, Weave.

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  2. I shall rate the marble here in Connemara more highly from now on - it has never appealed to me, being forever associated with tourism.

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    1. The antique stuff is now gone - quarried out. A friend of mine bought 4 6x4 sheets of the stuff, quarried in around 1800. He retired on the profit.

      My mate Father Joe asked me how he could make some money for the street kids of Brazil, and I suggested the marble.

      Fine, he said, he had friends in Connemara who owned quarries and owed him a favour.

      100 years too late to collect.

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    2. I also suggested cocaine, and he said he had thought about it, but valued his life too much to try. A priest without a church, born in Connemara, he lives here in Bath.

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    3. Please say Bail ó Dhia Ort to Father Joe for me.

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  3. Hard water is good for you, stop complaining.

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    1. Try saying that without eye-watering whilst pissing out kidney stones at the same time, and I'll have more respect for your opinions on the subject.

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    2. It's a fact. Check it out. You obviously aren't drinking enough of it.

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  4. Our neighbors have a radon extraction system because their house tested high when they bought it. In a total panic, we had ours tested and it came out low. So I guess you can sit on a hidden pile of granite and get gassed by the radon coming off it, but a few yards to the left and right of it you are alright. I am still worried about it, though. Supposedly dying grass gives away where radon is coming up, but I don't know if that's true.

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    1. Probably not true. It's all to do with the cracks in the rock formations.

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  5. Life is the assessment of its collateral damage. I wonder if the very large mammals, now assessed to become extinct within the next hundred years know what is happening to them. I bet the elephants do.
    I drink hard water from my beautiful, 7 gallons a minute well. It has two filtration systems, and I think it tastes great. Every ten years or so I have it tested to be sure fracking hasn't affected it--yet.

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    1. Try as I might, I am unable to drink 7 gallons a minute.

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    2. I hope not. It would kill you.

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  6. We live in midwest America and our house tested very high for radon and we installed a radon mitigation system that reduced the levels lower than the ones outside.
    There is a lot of facts in this blog I did not know, thank you....now I can whip out "rock facts" and dazzle all my acquaintances!

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    1. I whip out my rocks to dazzle my acquaintances.

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  7. I didn't know about any of this except for the radon, and I thought that was mostly in Cornwall.

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    1. Yes, you would think it would be mainly in metamorphic Cornwall, but radon is rife under the limestone of Bath as well. Bath has a strange geology.

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