Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Some Stones


Last month was full of visits to museums. During the mostly dull British winter, there is nothing to see in the parks except muddy grass, bare branches and puddles, so we look for places of interest where we can be inside in the warm. The days are not all grey, they can be bright with blue skies and that livens up the journey to and from the places. Often we end our afternoon watching the river Thames, at its best when it is gleaming in the sun*, with the sparkles increased by the wake of every passing boat. A few weeks ago* we decided to “finish off” the Geology room of the Natural History Museum, of which we “did” half last year. There are so many cabinets with hundreds of samples that it would be impractical to fit it into one day. Unlike the tourists* or children on school outings, we are able to return at any time, so we do not have to cram the visits.

* "sun/snow, sunny/snowy" Insert the vowels to differentiate

* Omission phrase "a few wee(k)s ago"

* "tourists" Keep the Ray short, so it does not look like "terrorists"

The main  museum was packed with people and I suspect that a quiet day here does not exist, unless the trains were not running. We were confident though that the geology section would not be as full of kids as the dinosaurs and other animal areas. There were* a few families going round and I did hear one or two* children crying, probably with frustration, boredom or tiredness, as they can see nothing except the wooden sides of the cabinets, and even if they could see the contents, it would not hold their attention at all. The older ones were admiring the diamonds*, gold nuggets*, and large examples of crystalline structures* in the glass-sided cabinets along the side walls. At the far end is The Vault, a more secure area for the most valuable items, a collection of coloured diamonds*, a piece of Mars rock, and other rare gems*, and this had the children and adults crowding round. However it was difficult to get good photos, as it is a dark area with just the gems* illuminated with spotlights.

* Omission phrases "there (w)ere" "one (or) two"

* "diamonds" Always insert the triphone, as this is similar to the outline for "gems"

* "nugget" Note that "ingot" is written with full N+G+T strokes, to differentiate

* "structures" Doubling is used for a small number of common "-ture" words, for convenience

* "gems" Always insert the vowel, as this is similar to the outline for "diamonds"


Here are a few of the treasures that I found of interest. My favourites* are always the brightly coloured rocks and minerals. The monetary or rarity value of them does not really appeal, as I am not going to find, cut, polish, sell or buy one, so that is of little interest. The first picture is of two tiny green parrots carved in serpentine. The colour is exactly right for the subject matter. They are no longer just lumps of green mineral, they are now two birds covered in very tactile* looking feathers, and they must look even more attractive when they have a backlight shining through to make them glow.

Ringneck Parakeets that live
near the Serpentine Lake,
Hyde Park
The mineral is named for its resemblance in colour and scaly surface to serpents or snakes. One of its variations is called lizardite but this derives from the place name The Lizard in Cornwall, south west Britain, whose name comes from the Cornish language. That area is composed mainly of serpentinite* and you can buy every sort of souvenir made from it, although, unlike the parrots pictured, it is a muddy and striated dark green. Items made from serpentine can be mistaken for jade, and the mineral can be dyed to resemble jade.

* "favourites" Note that "favoured" uses the left Vr stroke

* "tactile" Has several pronunciations, tack-tile tack-till or tack-tl

* "serpentinite" Ensure to include the diphthong sign. This is the name of the rock that contains any of the serpentine group of minerals.

The most fascinating stone is this landscape marble, the cut face of the Cotham Marble, which is not true marble but a type of Triassic limestone. Its grey striations* and the row of plant shapes look like a winter’s landscape of snow, bare trees and leaden sky. We have just experienced this in Britain with a week of snowy weather, showing up the trees standing stark against low grey clouds, bringing yet another shower of snow* and frozen* rain, and the cold north wind, which has been more stormy than usual, picking up the powdery snow and swirling it around. Another similar real marble exhibit is an example of Ruin Marble due to its resemblance to a ruined cityscape. Interesting but not so pleasant* a prospect as the trees version.

* "striations" Separate Ish stroke because of the preceding triphone

* "snow/sun snowy/sunny" Insert the vowels to differentiate

* "frozen" "freezing" Insert the first vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "pleasant" "pleasing" Insert the first vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning

The Cotham Marble

Ruin Marble

Frosterley marble
Here are another two stones with a similar pattern. The first is of Frosterley marble, named from a mine in the village of that name in County Durham in the north of England. It is not marble but polished black limestone and the shapes that resemble shells and feathers are fossilised corals from 325 million years ago. This decorative rock was used for some of the columns in Durham Cathedral.

Mocha stone

The second is mocha stone, another name for moss agate, from India, consisting of chalcedony with a dendritic (tree-like) crystalline formation of pyrolusite (manganese dioxide).

The blue coloured minerals are all very attractive, as this is not the usual dull earth colour that one expects stones to have. This is a piece of polished Lazurite and to me* it looks like a projection map of the world, but with rather more ocean than real life*. Maybe this is the view of the world before the super-continent of Pangea was formed 335 million years ago, showing drifting pieces of land mass and wild oceans from the beginning of earth’s history. Maybe it is just an unusually* colourful stone in a glass case in a quiet room in busy noisy central London.

* "to me" Although they are short forms, insert the vowel in "me" and "him" when in a phrase

* Omission phrase "rea(l) life"

* "unusually" Insert the final vowel, as "unusual" could also make sense


Olivine crystals
The last item is a large slab, probably 3 or 4 feet long, full of gold coloured gems*, glistening under the spotlights as one walks round it. It is housed in one of the alcoves down in the central hall of the museum. This is a slice of the Imilac meteorite, a 4½ billion year old stony*-iron pallasite rock consisting of iron, nickel and gem* quality olivine crystals and grains. It was formed during the first few million years of our solar system’s creation. Gem* quality olivine crystals are known as peridot* and chrysolite*. This latter name is from the Greek for “gold stone” describing the shining embedded fragments spread throughout the rock. The museum has a collection of 5,000 fragments of over 2,000 meteorites and this is the largest collection of extra-terrestrial material in the world.

* "meteorite" Essential to insert the diphthong to differentiate from "meteor" and "meteorette". Note that "meteoroid" has full stroke D.

* "stony" Insert the last vowel, as "stone-iron" could also make sense

* "peridot" Can also be pronounced as a French word omitting the T sound

* "gems" Always insert the vowel, as this is similar to the outline for "diamonds"

* "chrysolite" Not to be confused with a different mineral called "chrysotile"

Imilac meteorite
This was the last item we saw and as we left, I might have heard this unimaginably ancient meteorite muttering something about the dinosaur fossils being very modern novelties of questionable interest due to their lack of age. I hope it was assuaged by the constant stream of visitors admiring its surface of gleaming jewels, ranging from golden* to dark amber coloured, untouched by the passing eons between its formation and its arrival at its place of honour in its final home. (1103 words)

* "golden" Always put the diphone in "glowing", as these two are similar in outline and meaning

Reminder of pairs to be differentiated:


See also article http://www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand-reading.org.uk/blog-pages/blog-2017-03.htm#Gemstones

https://web.archive.org/web/20110718222852/http://www.northpennines.org.uk/getmedia.cfm?mediaid=10654 Frosterley marble