Amongst The Ordinary, The Extraordinary

One of the reasons – and there are many – why I’m fundamentally unsuited to modern life is the fact that I’m more interested in the micro-details of the natural world than in all the manufactured concepts to which I’m supposed to be paying attention. Yes I do manage to hold down a job, but there’s a good reason why I’m a mid-level clinical psychologist and not the big fancy-pants boss of the whole shebang.

See this? All will be explained later in this post.

See this? All will be explained later in this post.

It’s fair to say that I’ll never be CEO of a major company. Because if I was, my inaugural board meeting would go something like this…

“So, Twisted, congratulations on your appointment,” says the obsequious second-in-command (OSIC), who is secretly scheming to get his grubby mitts on my job. “It’s an honour to work for you. Here are the company sales figures for the last quarter.”

I take the papers from him. They’ve got numbers on them. I like numbers a lot, except when they relate to money, and unfortunately these numbers definitely relate to money, so they’re quite boring. But I look at them for a minute, just to be polite. The OSIC is watching me closely. He seems to be sulking because I shifted the venue for this meeting from the board room at Megacorps HQ to the edge of a small field in the Cotswolds. I don’t think he likes sitting in mud. To be fair, I hadn’t realized that it would be raining so heavily this morning. Anyway, he’s watching me for a reaction to the sales figures.

“Oh. My. Goodness.,” I murmur.

There is a collective intake of breath around the fallen tree trunk that we’re using for a table. The deputy finance director stops trying to wipe the mud off her laptop with a monogrammed hankie and says, “Is something the matter? Sales are through the roof this quarter!”

(Not that we have a roof. Because we’re sitting in a field. But still.)

“Over there,” I whisper, and the gaze of a dozen be-suited women and men follows where I’m pointing. “Look! An actual woodlark! I can’t believe it!”

Fortunately for the economy, nobody is ever going to make me CEO of anything especially now that I’ve written this career-suicide blog post.

Ditto: look closely, for all will be revealed below.

Ditto: look closely, for all will be revealed below.

But I wanted to talk to you about the awesome details that are right there, under your nose and that are, in my un-humble opinion, far more interesting than last quarter’s sales figures. This post came about when I was in the garden the other day. I’ve talked before about how my love of geology was sparked by finding my father’s book about minerals as a child. By the time I was 17/18 I was studying geology at school and loving it even though I hated that school so much that I shudder at the memory. (I’ll tell you about the dinosaur skeleton I found another day.) At the time, we were living near the sea in a very fossiliferous part of south Wales, and when my friends and I weren’t heading to the pub to get drunk, we drove down to the coast to look for fossils of an evening. We were rarely disappointed.

These are Jurassic gryphaea, aka 'devil's toenails'. You can't move on the south Wales coast without tripping over a few.

These are Jurassic gryphaea, aka ‘devil’s toenails’. You can’t move on the south Wales coast without tripping over a few.

Ever since, whenever I’m outside I’ve had one eye on what I’m doing and one eye on the ground, admiring the rock. I’d hate to miss a decent fossil or geological feature. You can’t switch off that instinct once you’ve got it. You just can’t. And the thing is, there’s a lot of gravel around this old brewery we live in. Nowt to do with us: it was there when we moved in (and it won’t be there much longer because I’m going to completely redevelop the garden). Gravel is pretty boring because it’s a mish-mash of bashed-up stuff that could’ve come from anywhere, but I just can’t help myself. Interesting bits and pieces catch my eye, which is awkward when you’re trying to have a polite conversation with someone. So the other day, I spent ten minutes pottering around the garden, picking up a few pieces. (T’was only ten minutes: the twinnage got tetchy.) Here, to prove how easy it is, you can see what I found…

That picture of the pot full of fossils and bits and pieces near the top of this post? That was ten minutes’ haul. Let’s take a closer look. First, there are the near-modern non-fossil thingummyjigs. In my vegetable bed, I found a couple of segments of Victorian clay pipe. Hardly surprising. I can picture the late 19th century owners of this brewery standing there, frowning and discussing the price of hops, long slender pipes between their teeth. (Apparently, Victorian men had terrible teeth due to the omnipresence of clay tobacco pipes in their mouths. The advent of cigarettes was a godsend for dental shapeliness.)

Pieces of Victorian clay pipes.

Pieces of Victorian clay pipes.

But let’s leave those pompous, wonky-toothed, Victorian men behind and go back a couple of hundred million years. Have you any idea how easy it is to find treasure? Look!


Well the one on the right has to be a little piece of ammonite, top and left are from some sorts of bivalves, and bottom one maybe a crinoid. Cool, huh? And what about this…


Fossilized coral, if I’m not very much mistaken. Oh, and these:-


The tiniest snail, the tiniest creature, and some coral. All very, very beautiful. Oh, and these:-


On the left, see that tiny imprint of an ancient bivalve shell? And on the right… well I’m struggling with the one on the right. Any geologists reading this? Coral? Oolitic limestone writ large?

Oh, and you know I mentioned gryphaea, above? Well my ten-minute-trawl didn’t yield any immaculate specimens, but I found loads of weathered, bashed-up gryphaea remains. Look!


So. If you’re bored, go and rummage outside amongst the gravel. You won’t be disappointed.


TL,DR: Gravel is cool.


Filed under Outdoors

17 Responses to Amongst The Ordinary, The Extraordinary

  1. slippedstitches

    You live in heaven. I can only dream of having such a treasure trove about.

  2. Hoard and praise the verity of gravel! What a fossil trove you have. There must be a Crinoidea out there somewhere in your garden. Thanks for showing us your finds.

  3. You great bit show off Ms T! The only thing we have in the way of fossilised anything was the rediscovery of a pig skull that was seconded into the blackberry hedges by the feral cats last year. You lucky LUCKY bollocks you! I could keep one eye on the ground 24/7 around here and all that would happen would be that I would get deposited on from on high by the local starling population for my stupidity. I think I am going to have to move to Auld Blighty.

  4. Jill Groves

    Oh Twisted we share the same nose to ground trait I fear! When our new stony driveway was delivered I checked through every lump..I know them all now….and found glories upon glories..not that I am as brainy to know what the heck they are..but some have shapes similar to yours and some have veins of shiny stuff…I LOVE shiny stuff…

  5. Lots of clay pipe thingies in our garden too , agricultural labourers in our case! No gravel though we are on clay!

  6. carolinebetts942696329

    Rog and I share your passion. We got into fossil-hunting around ten years ago when we first visited the Jurassic coast at Dorset. There are lots in Folkestone near where we live, and we’ve hunted on the Yorkshire coast too. If you Google Roger Betts Fossils, a load of pics will come up (on a computer – doesn’t work on a smart phone). xxx I’d love to have a metal detector, and I also love the idea of dump mounds at the bottom of old gardens – lots of pot lids and broken bits, including china dolls’ heads. Our garden is decorated with loads of weird geological and other finds now.

  7. I love that things catch your eye – as though you are meant to find them. A recent weekend in Bude turned up a stone with imprinted lines that looked like a TRex head from Jurassic Park, and another that looked like a voodoo skull. Both now on my living room windowledge, along with the TONS of fossils we found in Runswick Bay! Here’s to the ground-scanners.

  8. Lucky you! Not much in my present garden though I have a couple of tins of interesting stones from my childhood, including what I think is an iron meteorite.

  9. Emma

    Looking forward to rummaging under your guidance x

  10. I’ve never found anything in the garden soil or gravel nearly as interesting as your treasures. I’ll find the random lost toy now and again but that’s about it.

    What a treasure trove. Is it any wonder you have your eyes to the ground.

  11. We are ground-watchers too – hubby (geochemistry) reckons the one on the right might be another coral. One of our favourite places is an old spoil heap near the blue john mines, where there are lots of minerals to be found (calcite crystals and the like). Even the kids are getting it now, mwhahaha!

  12. Oh you extremely lucky person you. Sight and double sigh that must be so much fun- But since I am a bit manic, I would possibly do nothing else that search for those pieces. And then I would never give them away. Bad prospects for life. What do you do with your finds, Phil?

  13. This reminded me of the time I was on a cruise with my friends and we spent half an hour on a tropical island looking at the ground because my archaeologist friend had discovered a massive amount of fossilised coral. Everyone else on that cruise boat must have had photos of a stunning island in the Pacific; we had photos of fancy looking stones… and that’s the way I like it!

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