Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Lovely Rocks!

It's becoming a bit of a family joke now, particularly after our epic, life changing trip to Grand Canyon. As my step daughter 'Splodge' commented after my last blog (see below), my love of rocks is a well established fact. Only last weekend, my mother commented to Rufus, "oh, he likes his rocks, doesn't he"? This was after I was telling her the age of my favourite rock sample, a piece - well, actually more of a slab, of mica schist from the Scottish highlands. Now, there's a story to this piece of rock.

Let me explain.....

Let me take you way back to the summer of 1976, in that long forgotten era when summers were long, warm and sunny! Yeah, you remember, that big bright shiney thing that we used to see in the sky every now and again? No? Oh well, don't despair! Anyway, this particular summer my mother and father decided on a family summer holiday to Scotland, which invariably isn't the wisest choice if one is hoping to experience a prolonged period of sunshine. If I rightly recall, my younger sister, being a bit of a 'sun-worshipper', wasn't best pleased with the choice of destination, but for me, even at the tender age of 16, I was more than happy to make do with countryside, forests, hills and ...... ROCKS! Add to that plenty of walking and I reckon you've got the perfect holiday, even when it's with your parents!

This year though turned out to be exceptional. It wasn't just warm, it was hot - damned hot! It was one of those 'hottest since records began' sort of summers and for Scotland was quite unprecedented. On one particular day my father took us on one of his now legendary walks. I must emphasise, they were legendary for all the wrong reasons! You see, my father had the map and chose the route but somehow 'scale' didn't seem to register. More often than not, after what seemed like hours of aimless trudging, one of us would dare to ask "so how far is the car park then?" to which the reply would be "it's just round the next bend, not far."

Bless him! In fairness, they were invariably cracking walks.

Anyway, on this particular walk in the highlands I was to stumble upon a nice shiney rock, glistening at me in the summer sunshine. I can't even remember exactly where we were other than to say it was somewhere in the vicinity of Ben Nevis, but there on the ground, was this....

On closer inspection the rock contained numerous small flakey minerals on the surface and was made up of crystals in striped bands. Being the curious type, I just couldn't leave this rock behind until I found out what it was. The only way to do that would be to take it with me, back to the car and then home. That seemed like a reasonable idea, but what I failed to consider was the effect that such a great slab of rock would have on my puny teenage wrists!

But, get it home I did and I then set about the task of identifying the great lump! This however, was not an easy thing to do. When attempting to identify birds for example, it seems that so many of them fall into that miscellaneous category 'little browny-grey bird'. Rocks are similarly difficult to identify, especially if you know nowt about them and have no idea what to look for. Enter my 'big brother' who had I think by this stage embarked on an 'A' level in Geology, so knew a bit about the subject."Oh that's mica schist", he proclaimed confidently." You see all the shiney bits? They flake off in thin layers."

They did too and he was right as it turned out. The more one looks at this piece of rock, the more fascinating it becomes. As well as the mica, the crystals beneath are laid out in stripes and the whole slab curves in a gentle 'S' shape. Add to that some rust coloured areas on the rear, (which I presume is exactly that, iron oxide?) and it makes for the most exciting lump of rock I've ever seen. After being in the care of my mother for the last 19 years, my chunk of Scottish schist has been reclaimed and is currently sitting on the television stand where our huge widescreen telly used to be before it conked out last week!

Now this is the point when my eldest step daughter gives me that 'look' that says "you are so SAD"! Well, maybe it is a little, but when I look at that piece of rock I see about 500 million years of history before my eyes. I wonder what the world was like back then, when the sediments were originally laid down and what happened 100 million years later when the original rock was metamorphosed to become the schist that it is now!

You see, that's where the fascination lies. It's not just the lump of rock, it's the history story, the complex puzzle and the inevitable questions that mount up as you try to make sense of what lies in front of you. That's what happens when I look at my lump of schist and that's what happened when I visited Grand Canyon. And that my friends, is why I HAVE to study geology. Educational inadequacies (both my own AND my school) were responsible back in 1978 for my working life following a completely different path to the one I ideally wanted, but there comes a time in ones life when those dreams need to be fulfilled. Studying geology has been a dream of mine for longer than I care to remember. It simply has to be eventually and with the support of my wonderful wife, it will be in the not too distant future.

Cheers for now!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Robert! While I published your post, I didn't acknowledge it personally. How rude of me, particularly as you are the first person to leave a message on my blog, other than my step daughter! Anyway, Robert, thanks for posting! GEOLOGY ROCKS!! Cheers, Grumpychops.


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