Thursday, October 25, 2012


For the last several days I have been searching for rock outcrops, any type of rock and any outcrop--without success! I need to get my daily fix of "rocks" but alas I have settled for looking at the paving stones (granitic) and ornamental "gravel" (slate). However, there are other interesting items that make up for the lack stratigraphic sections.

My spouse and I are visiting our son and family in Maidenhead, UK, a town west of London and very near the famous Windsor Castle, home of the Queen. The last time I looked her standard was flying (she is home) and I thought about stopping in for tea. Right now my major project is inquiring about the native rock used to build the massive castle. All of the sources available to me at this time  refer to the construction material as "stone". But, is that a quarried rock of some sort, dressed river cobbles, or perhaps brick?  Don't know.

Maidenhead is located on the River Thames upstream from London about 26 miles and their town bridge dates from 1777. This river is certainly the most famous stream in the UK, and is also the longest river flowing entirely in England---215 miles. Much like the Mississippi River in the US, the Thames has a disputed marked source (seasonal springs at Thames Head) in west-central England and generally flows east finally emptying into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary. The River is wide and tidal from the Estuary until a few miles upstream of London (Teddington Locks).  It is the major shipping lane for the Port of London and the Royal Navy steamed an aircraft carrier to dock during the recent Olympics.  Although a proto-Thames drainage was established perhaps by ~60 Ma, the current river owes its course to Pleistocene glaciation.

Through Maidenhead the river is navigable, but is quite narrow, and the barges and boats seem long and very "slim". I am uncertain how some of the boats are able to "turn around" in the river!  A couple of days ago I walked up to the local locks, the Boulter's Locks (current locks date to 1828), and observed locking through. They are quite tiny compared to the massive locks on the Mississippi River near my former home in Wisconsin.
                                                               BOULTER'S LOCKS.
We have been driving a daily trip, about 10 miles RT, on "the wrong side of the road" but now have our "left side curb bumping" down to about one per day. The secondary roads are quite narrow, very sinuous, and most are curbed. I seem to have trouble on one particular curve where the width of each lane is 6.5 feet. Cars are able to park, in many instances, on both sides of the road pointing in either direction. So, you are traveling down the road trying to stay left and notice a car on your side pointing toward you. Nothing to worry about for the normal English driver as the car is simply parked. However, that aspect is always worrisome for me, a novice driver! In addition, our daily route includes several one lane bridges where certain directions have priority driving across. There seems to be numerous " light flipping events" as a way of saying thank you for letting me drive through.

We enjoy walking downtown in the mornings to have our daily libation at Java and Company. All coffee, as best I can tell, is served Americano style and with steaming hot water poured over 4 shots of espresso in a ceramic mug (take-away paper cups are not common). The coffee is HOT but no one here would think of suing the shop. I also have a soft spot in my heart for sweet pastries so am able to get my daily shot of sugar in the shop!
                                                     MAIN STREET, MAIDENHEAD
Morning coffee is always good with a newspaper and as a news junkie I am enjoying the selection of papers. It is quite easy to find at least 10 dailies to choose from. I sort of prefer the Daily Express at 5 pence, about $07.5. What a bargain.

Main street Maidenhead is a polyglot of smells and people and activities. I had an interesting talk with an ancient Sikh the other morning on a park bench and watched the street buskers perform their acts. The street is blocked off to traffic and several days per week, at least this time of year, there is a Farmer's Market spread out. Some of the veggies and fruit are local products while others are from Spain and Italy--I learned that tidbit from the Cockney vendor and who constantly called me mate or guv, and my spouse "darlin".

The UK is "sort of" part of the European Union as they maintain their own currency (British Pound Sterling) but participate in most other ways. However, there seems to be quite a push by many members of parliament to remove the UK from that organization. It will be interesting to see the results---if the government allows a vote. Another major issue coming up is a vote by Scottish citizens to become an independent nation and leave the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland).
                                           ONE FOR EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK!
I am also fascinated by the advanced age (at least according to U.S. chronology) of the buildings. One of the local pubs in nearby Bray was constructed in the 15th century and others are older. And speaking of pubs, it is a treat to visit the local establishment for a pint of ale (my favorites are Fursty Ferret, and Old Thumper (A Beast of a Beer) and conversation. To my great happiness, 8-10 televisions are not blaring out football games during visits.  Over the weekend we went in for the Sunday Roast and part of the fare included Yorkshire Pudding.  At other visits, the bangers and mash were gourmet--but lots of calories!  After a couple of visits, the pub locals were quite accepting of strangers.

Unfortunately I have not been able to locate a local rock/mineral shop nor a local rock and mineral club. I had been hoping to acquire some new like-minded friends!  On my next trip I will probably attempt to find a local club outside of the immediate Maidenhead area, but that is another story.

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