Cairns And Boulder Opals

Jan Leeming

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Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

CAIRNS and Boulder Opals

Date: 19th December 2010

CAIRNS First I must apologise for the fact that my Blog is coming up in a solid block -it leaves me with paragraphs but doesn't seem to appear as I've typed it. I left my friends in Melbourne in the midst of a thunderstorm - flew to Cairns where I had an overnight stay before going to a place I've dreamed about for over 40 years - more about that in a minute. I stayed at the Rydges Hotel - nice enough and only a place to lay my head but the staff - as I've found everywhere in Australia - were delightful. (I'm glad in that respect that things haven't changed over here in the last few decades - Aussies are open and friendly and go that extra mile). I asked at the desk if it were true that on Lizard Island, one only had to walk to the beach and you could snorkel - and I happened to be asking the right guy. Lovely Josh had worked on the island and was full of enthusiasm for the place.

The hotel pool was the temperature of a warm bath and the humidity was humungous so I gave up on the sun worshipping and took a walk along the Esplanade. So glad I did because I came across a Saturday Cotter's market which has only been running for a few months. Unfortunately I got there just as most of the stall holders were packing up but it was still an interesting experience with a many indigenous Australian artefacts. What caught my eye was the stall selling Boulder Opals.

Now I will digress and tell you a story. When I lived in Sydney in the 60's I was in a group taking potted Shakespeare to the masses in the whole of New South Wales. One of the places we visited was Walgett close to the Black Opal Field at Lightning Ridge. We had a few hours off and our driver (of the van in which we travelled - no such thing as a people carrier in those days) took us up to the Ridge. When I get back to the Uk and can post pictures again I'll load up one of myself and another member of the group actually standing amidst the discarded potch. Opal miners dig down like moles and throw out the porch until they, hopefully, strike an opal seam. The residue looks like mole hills or the surface of the moon. One old digger - the only time I ever saw an Aussie with corks around his hat - invited me to hold a fantastic opal and when I asked how often he found one like that, he said 'just often enough to keep me here'. That one was way beyond budget but he did offer me a fire opal like a black marble and with the most fantastic fire. He wanted £30 for it but between us we couldn't rustle up that amount of cash and a cheque is no good on an opal field. If I'd been able to buy that, heaven alone knows what it would be worth today. In fact, the chap gave me some potch and I could see fire in it - so took it to the cutter on the field and got a very flawed but sentimentally wonderful opal which I had set in a silver ring. It's not worth much because it's nowhere perfect but it serves to remind me of a fascinating day out. So back to the Boulder Opal stall in Cairns. I got talking to the lovely guy who sets them - Ben. I forgot to ask him but I think boulder opals are where there's some lovely 'fire' but not the depth of opal to make it worthwhile cutting so you buy the boulder as well as the opal. Opals come in pure - where the opal is solid from top to bottom - doublet where there is a thin layer of opal backed by, usually, agate and then there's a triplet. Having wanted an opal all my life and knowing I'd never have the funds for what I'd like, I bought myself a little boulder opal with the most amazing purple fire. It wasn't expensive but it will remind me of the great conversation I had with Ben and of a lovely afternoon in Cairns. Ben has a website which I will try and remember to give to you in the future but at the moment I'm sitting at Cairns Airport typing this and my info is in the suitcase which has already gone through. Next instalment - my two days of pure indulgence on Lizard Island.

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.