Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Given the freezing weather in the country at the moment, and the resultant shortage of salt, maybe I should look out the box of halite I have in a cupboard somewhere. Halite is basically the crystalline mineral form of common salt. It can form in beautiful crystals and can be slightly coloured by trace elements, but I've shied away from it in the past because most of my storage space is in the basement. And the basement can be damp. And the halite falls apart and disappears.

I was given a box of pink halite by a friend in Arizona a few years ago, but haven't felt that I could sell it to people. Well - people living in Scotland. It probably wouldn't last very long. But it might be worth chucking it on the pavement outside the shop.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

To Mars!

The Russians want to send a monkey to Mars. Sounds like fun, but maybe less so for the monkey. Unless they plan to send loads. Unless... Unless...

Oh my god. I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was... We finally really did it...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snow drop

For the last weekend day before Christmas, it's pretty quiet today. It's not been a good December for me this year, but it comes at the end of a year when business was far better than I expected. So I'm not unhappy.

Thoughts have turned to Tucson already, and I'm beginning to check stock to make a shopping list. Not going to be spending masses this time, for the reason mentioned above, but also because I am already very well stocked. Makes the buying trip a little inefficient, but I can live with that.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Flair of the dog

Feldspars are a large group of silicate minerals that are important in the formation of igneous rocks, but show up in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks too. Labradorite is a plagioclase feldspar, named for Labrador in Canada - the type locality is Paul's Island. Its crystals show lamellar twinning; thin, interlocking plates. When light reflects off these crystals there is a fantastic play of colour across the surface of the stone. This is called schiller effect (or more properly in this case - labradorescence). Most of the material commercially available is from Maniry in Madagascar, though there's a high grade called Spectrolite from Finland.

What you DO need to know is that it's pretty.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Red planet

After Swindon has been twinned with Disneyland, Aberdeen might make a bid to be twinned with Mars. Even more expensive school trips. NASA think a mineral found in a small quarry in Aberdeenshire could be similar to material found on Mars, which may have interesting implications.

Macaulayite is a fetching deep red colour; a hydrated iron and aluminium silicate, formed from heavily weathered granite. It contains water, and if Mars rock contains water then the planet could possibly support life. And if it supports life, it's only a matter of time before the invasion of Earth begins. So hide.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Second leg

Here are my shipping crates, MWF1 and MWF2, pictured near Scunthorpe today. The blue ones. They went down there by car a little over a week ago.

On Thursday they'll be in Bristol, then they'll go on a huge boat to America. I think to Houston. Then by train to L.A., then truck to Tucson, where I'll meet up with them at the end of January.

They look cold, but they are hardy souls.


It's the first of December. Today's Lego advent calendar produced a pirate captain. And it's freezing. Christmas is approaching.

November is usually a very quiet time in the shop, and I always forget how late the Christmas rush actually starts. It's a vital time for the business; December and August are the biggest two months in the year by some distance. So I always start getting a little antsy waiting for things to pick up. The supermarkets have had tinsel and baubles on the shelves for ages, the first Christmas trees have been in windows for a few weeks, restaurants have been urging us to book now for months. And I sit and put off paperwork in a quiet shop. Waiting.

I know people will come eventually, but since it's been my business, I've always found the waiting more uncomfortable. So - feel free to start your panic buying sooner rather than later. I'll have more time to chat and might make you a cup of coffee if you're lucky. Also - Riley will be heading off to the States soon My marathon stint will be starting on the 14th. All support and encouragement welcome. And biscuits.