Rock Hound

Back when I was a kid, I became fascinated by geology. In part, my father was responsible for he was also fascinated and together, we would walk up and down beaches at every opportunity, hands clasped at our backs, eyes peeled and a slightly bent back, searching for the one stone or rock that might be special. Many a time, people would watch us puzzled and ask, what it was we were looking for. Pretty stones really was the answer.

My dad polished, ground and sliced stones in the garage, made them into jewelry and sold them on the side back in the 70’s you see. Stones that we found were the special ones amongst the tigers eye, rose quartz, agate, amethyst and other purchased semi-precious stones.

I was lucky enough to go to a school that actually had a geology teacher too. Mr. Hilary Douglas was his name and he doubled as the environmental studies teacher and school bus driver. He liked his beer and his cigarettes did Mr. Douglas. So I was able to do an O level in geology at school. Being the bus driver, we also went on quite a few trips too and living in Yorkshire, you didn’t have to go far to see some superb geology. O level turned to A level and even a special paper. Mr. Douglas had never has a student do a special paper before and he was quite fussed about it. Needless to say, I got an A with distinction in the subject I loved. Shame I didn’t enjoy Maths as much really….

From there I went to the University of Aston in Birmingham to study Geological Sciences. There was a moment at the end of the first year when I almost opted to switch to Metals and Materials Science which I also enjoyed but in the end, I stuck to my one true love back then – Geology. The six weeks that I spent on the Island of Eigg doing my field mapping project counts amongst the best of my life. I graduated with a first class honours degree and won the department prize for the best field mapping project.

While almost tempted to the gold mines of Africa, in the end, I opted for the Ph.D.. I first went to Leeds and spent a year with the British Geological Survey before finishing with another 2-years at Strathclyde University. I also managed to get three – yes three! – transatlantic 6 to 8 week trips funded as well. Two by the BGS and UK Dept. of Education and 1 by the University College of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. I had published 10 or so papers before I submitted my thesis and as such, the Ph. D. was more or less guaranteed.  For those interested, here is the last paper I wrote a couple of years after gaining the Ph.D. This one is one of my first published works while so far as I know, this one is the very first published article I ever wrote.

I was lucky enough to be accepted into BP as a geologist in Aberdeen where I did my stint as a rig geologist for a couple of years. I learned two things – I hated helicopters and working as a geologist was no fun at all – it was all paper and no rocks! I was promoted into a specialist role at the Sunbury research centre for BP doing plate tectonics research and for a while, I was having fun again. I knew though that eventually I would be going back to working with paper as an Exploration Geologist and to me that was a fate as bad as death. I was fortunate enough to develop an interest in IT and data modeling at Sunbury and managed a move into the BP IS department. A couple of years later, I was a consultant at Price Waterhouse and my career in the love of my life – Geology was over.

It is funny how things change. For many years, not a thought about Geology entered my head. I think I have forgotten more Geology than you could possibly imagine. It seems like another world to me now. But today, I once again packed my hammer in the field and beat the crap out of a few rocks as I introduced my daughter to Geology. To the art and science of understanding Mother Earth; her processes and the miracles she makes almost every day. It felt good. I will shortly do it again and I am sure, so will my daughter.

Here is a photo of her today beating rocks…. as I post this I realize that I do not have a single photo of me in action. They all got left in Houston a long time ago….


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