Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
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?