How I Didn’t Become an Archaeologist

a baby archaeologist

a baby archaeologist

This blog post is part of The Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop. Enter into my competition to win one of TEN copies of my ebook, For One Night Only. And once you’ve done that, click here for links to lots of other blog sites participating in the blog hop and find out more about– or even win – Australian books and authors.

My competition is open to everyone everywhere, the only criteria is that their answer should make me laugh. If I laugh, you win a copy of the book.

Read on to discover what you have to do ….

The hero of my latest book, For One Night Only, is a rugged, sexy archaeologist working in Sicily. To write Dr Hugh Calthorpe, I had to delve into my past to the time when I nearly became an archaeologist, but didn’t. I can pinpoint the experience that fired my ambition to be an archaeologist and I share it below.

What did you nearly become and can you remember what inspired you to follow that path? This is the question you must answer to win … so go on, amuse me!

When I was about seven my family moved to a new house and out the back of this house I found a sandpit, and in this sandpit I had some of the most intense and inspiring moments of my life. Almost as soon as the moving trucks were unpacked I located my digging equipment and set off for the sandpit, clad in raincoat and rain hat. I dug around, as you do, and almost as soon as I turned over my first trowel full of sand I found a plastic lion.

What a remarkable find! I rushed to the kitchen to show my mother and then, every day after school, I grabbed my spade and dug some more. What magic pit had I stumbled upon? (Kids were much less sophisticated in those days).

Over the next few weeks I think I excavated a whole set of African jungle animals. My gain was some other child’s loss but the desire to dig for treasure was born. Add a few Tin Tin books and old Curse of the Mummy movies and I knew what I had to do. I HAD to be an archaeologist!

I carried this certainty with me to the University of Sydney which I attended straight after school. I enrolled in Archaeology and Prehistoric Anthropology and trotted along on enrolment day to choose my subjects. But I found it confusing. There was no Discovering Ancient Temples in Forgotten Jungles listed in the subject choices. Had somebody left that one off?

I soon learned there was a mountain of dreariness to climb before getting to the juicy stuff – Neolithic wheat species, how to make a stone tool and even more Neolithic fossilized grain studies. I completed the degree but I learned that real life never lives up to the imaginative life. And there was a maturity thing happening too.

So from archaeology it’s not a huge leap to art and museum studies, so leap I did, then slithered into writing and je ne regret rien.

What exotic road did you not take?


25 thoughts on “How I Didn’t Become an Archaeologist

  1. cassandralshaw

    All my childhood I wanted to be a vet – like on Daktari (show from my childhood that had Clarence the cross eyed lion) instead, I decided to party-hard and dropped out of school. A brilliant decision of course.

    Then I studied fashion design, then Environmental Management -now I write – not exactly a smooth transition but in my stories I show my love of animals, my heroines love clothes & one is fashion designer (LOL) and I always slip in a little enviro message.

  2. Jacki

    There were two things I didn’t become the first was a Vet I loved Animals read all the James Herriott Books watched the TV Shows but my let down was the dreaded Maths and Science which were required and I was completely useless at so bang went that Career the second was to join the Police Force had everything required Height ,Weight Education but I was too Young back in the Mid 70’s there were no Female Cadets so another Dream down the drain along with Proofreading again too Young and Female ended up Nursing at the RAH and ended my Brilliant Careers at the Gas Company doing Clerical, Selling and Cashier Work before retiring to a life of leisure giving me all the time to do what I do best become a Professional Reader and quite a good one too.

  3. Catherine

    I nearly became a historian because of Richard III, though actually, he was only the last in a long line of historical crushes during my teenage years. I spent all summer between year 11 and 12 in libraries reading everything I could find about him, managed to make him a topic of a 5,000 word essay for part of my year 12 assessment, wrote to a descendant of Eleanor Talbot’s brother to find out whether he had any family papers that might shed light on the plight troth (he didn’t, but he wrote me a very nice letter in reply), and spent hours memorising the mass and the Lord’s prayer in Latin just in case I accidentally time-travelled back to medieval times and needed to prove I wasn’t a witch. (I can’t even remember where I got the idea that this might help, but there you have it.)

    At University, I studied history and psychology and languages, and even convinced the French department to let me study Old French (a subject they didn’t even teach under normal circumstances), because it would be useful for historical research. To be fair, my intense romantic attachment to a man who had died more than 500 years earlier had waned somewhat by this point, but I did wear black every year on the anniversary of his death for a number of years. In fact, this got so ingrained that I’ve found myself wearing all black and picking up Daughter of Time during the third week of August out of sheer instinct (much like a salmon swimming upstream) and only realising later that once again I am wearing mourning for Bosworth Field.

    I believe this all started with Sharon Penman’s book, The Sunne in Splendour, but as you can see, it struck a chord. And I did major in history in the end, though for a number of reasons, I never became a professional historian.

    (though I can still give you chapter and verse on the Wars of the Roses at the drop of a hat, if you are foolish enough to ask. The obsessions of one’s youth go deep into the long term memory, it seems…)

  4. Amethyst Post author

    A cat trainer. Apparently, if you are four years old and you put BOTH the cat and the bowl of milk in the fridge, thinking to keep the milk from spoiling in the summer heat but still giving the cat access to the milk, and THEN forget you did it in the first place–for four hours–the cat does not, as would be expected, hate and fear 4 yo you, but rather you become the only other living creature the cat tolerates. Whodathunk?

  5. samstillreading

    I always wanted to be an actress – my sights were set on Home and Away! My parents told me I had to go to university first and well, I keep going back! However, I get to ‘act’ now giving lectures which I hope have more memorable parts than Home and Away!
    Thanks for a great giveaway!

  6. Pip Post author

    Oh my, there are some broken dreams here, folks! I love it. Fabulous answers, all of them.

    Cassandra, as a writer you know nothing is wasted. All those parties and past passions, they’re all there to be used and you are using them. That’s where we writers are frugal – we recycle our pasts.

    Pete, what the hell did they want with a Boston lawyer on an Alaskan pipeline?

    Jacki, I loved the James Herriot stories too, and I’m hopeless at maths. But a professional reader is a damn fine past time, an honourable and noble pursuit in a vocationally oriented society. Keep fighting the good fight for readers everywhere.

    Heather, the triumph of hard slog ending in feuding academia is a triumph I’m glad I failed to taste. It would have been pretty sour. I had to distill what it was that drew me to archaeology and find other outlets for it, and luckily I did. Archaeology in Australia is limited too. You have to leave the country or be brilliant at attracting funding – and that’s after you’ve secured an academic post.

    Catherine, you are a soul sister. I adore your passion for Richard the Third. And wearing black on the anniversary of his death … well, I stand and salute your attachment to the man and your powerful imagination.

    What riches we have when we have such a youthful obsession! I too spent many hours in my school library at lunchtime – when others were off doing normal things – going through encyclopedias and reading about the Incas and the Aztecs, tracing maps and scribbling their myths in an exercise book. And now, here I am, writing fiction, off in my own little fanatical head space …

    Amethyst, that is an extraordinary tale of youthful psychic cat whispering. This is not the first time I’ve heard of cats liking the interior of fridges. I understand how it bonded the two of you. You never wanted to pursue this professionally?

    Samstillreading, lecturing and teaching involves an awful lot of acting. It’s quite a job keeping students engaged for forty minutes or longer, so I see how you are still utilizing your youthful passion.

    Melissa, pumpkin soup on a white top. Hard to beat! Well done. You were not destined for hospitality obviously. I had a similar experience not long out of uni. I secured a job interview with the ABC and aced it. I was called back for another interview, and being a bit early I decided to have a coffee in a cafe nearby. I raised the coffee cup to my mouth and missed, spilling coffee all over the white pants I was wearing. I had to go to the interview covered in splattered espresso and was so unbalanced by my appearance I mucked the interview up. Such is life ….

  7. Gail

    I wished so hard to be that woman in Flashdance – welder by day, dancer by night, warmed by the knowledge she can have it all now she’s dancing for her life. And her home! Basically a big garage with a dog in it. Sadly I can neither weld nor pirouette that well, but yay me for achieving dog ownership.

  8. Eleni Konstantine

    Great story, Phillipa. Let’s see there was the time I wanted to become a beautician- I loved make up and thought, yep that’s for me. But alas having a strict Greek father – ‘Eleni, you stay in high school’ put an end to that dream. By the time I finished high school, I realised that a beautician also had to wax people. Ewwww…

    Happy Australia Day!

  9. Helene Young

    I can see you excavating the sand pit with joy in your eyes at each new discovery, Phillipa.

    I was going to be a Vet, a fighter pilot, then an environmental scientist (at least I started studying that degree…) Then I was going to be a windsurfing instructor and that path lead me to the Lake District in the UK – smart move for a girl from Currumbin to end up in the freezing cold, wearing a wetsuit, trying to convince English school children they were having a jolly good time.

    Next I decided I was going to be a restauranteur and Expo in Brisbane gave me a taste of that for a year. Fickle as ever I reverted to my second love – flying – and this time found a career that’s captivated me for twenty-five years. But why stop with a full time job if you can have two! So now I write as well…

    As my old mate, Bazza, a retired Victorian Supreme Court judge says -‘You’re a long time dead. Make the most of it!’ So I will 🙂

    Loving ‘For One Night Only’ so no need to enter me in the draw!!

  10. Pip Post author

    I have to show this post to my two kids, nephews and other sundry teens and young adults I know fretting over what to study and what they want to ‘be’. It’s all so fluid as everybody’s answers show. Choosing one thing doesn’t excluded them from others and what they start out being won’t be – except for the rare individual – what they end up being.

    A Reader’s Heaven, I can’t imagine how one could be a colour blind electrician and I’m gobsmacked you passed the exam! I hope you’re doing something less perilous.

    Gail, dancer, welder, dog owner – reach for the skies! I actually longed to have my own dog for years after my family dog passed on. One of the huge pluses to being an adult is few people say no to you (well, apart from publishers, agents, partners, the tax department etc). As an adult, you want a dog, dammit, you get a dog. Well done girl!

    Marisa, you came so close to your dream with an honours thesis … I’m very curious to know why you went no further.

    Eleni, good story. Waxing people could be challenging and stressful when inflicting all that pain on people. Giving facials would be nice though, very peaceful.

    Helene, you’re such a powerhouse! Flying, writing, running restaurants, windsurfing. Pack it all in and then write about it, as you do!

  11. Wendy Hatton

    I would have liked to become an artist but studying art was not considered a proper education choice so went on to become a nurse. I do like to dabble in art and crafts though so that desire has never left me.

  12. Jess

    I always wanted to be an archaeologist as well. Ancient history has always been and will forever continue to be one of my greatest fascinations. I can’t get enough. But while I really wanted to be one, I didn’t go down that route for some reason and I have no idea why. The logic there eludes me. Instead a girl I’ve been friends with since primary school has become one and even runs her own dig now in Egypt and I’m left watching all her posts and being incredibly jealous along the way.

    When I was younger I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Everyone else said teacher so for a while I went along with that. Turns out I hate that idea. Not because I have anything against being a teacher, but because I can’t do the public talking route. I just can’t do it. My palms sweat, my face goes an adorable *cough hideous cough* shade of red and I start to shake. It’s just not my thing. Once more, I don’t think I could do it just because. Instead, I became a dance teacher.

    I have a younger sister though, who tops the cake on this whole what I want to be question. When she was five she looked me dead in the eye and announced that she was going to grow up to become a Unicorn. She’s now a few years older and although she wishes to become a unicorn still, she has moved on partly to become a dog walker, while maintaining a professional career as a Ballerina and zoo keeper. She’s aiming higher now she tells me. Her reasons for becoming these things. She likes dogs, and zoo keepers get to play all day. What could be more perfect? Oh and she just likes ballet. I hope she never grows up and changes!

  13. Karen Stalker

    HI Pip, another fun discovery through the blog-hop.
    I always wanted to be a vet, just like Vicky on A Country Practice. It was only when the fact dawned on me that I may have to treat snakes (my biggest fear), or actually have to put an animal down, that my dream very quickly ended. Then for work experience I wanted to be a florist…. and ended up at a child care centre. After many varied years in the work-force, I am a mum, part-time craft consultant and part-time education assistant.
    And they say you should never work with animals or children – I wanted to work with both!

  14. Pip Post author

    Wendy, I faced the same opposition over studying visual art, which I did once I finished uni. It’s never been considered a ‘proper’ education although it is. Good for you for keeping up making things. Once a maker always a maker!

    Jess, welcome to another ancient history enthusiast! I think being a dance teacher would terrify me, I’d rather talk to a group of a thousand people. But being a unicorn would be best of all. My daughter thought she was half dog for a few alarming years. I assured her she was not physically half dog (she was only 3) but if she felt compelled to pretend to be a dog she should go for it.

    Karen, as a mother you probably do most of your work with animals and children. Being a florist and making fabulous arrangements with flowers would be wonderful. I actually think being a mother is extremely hard and very important. To do it well requires enormous stamina and some heavy duty emotional equipment, so a big round of applause for all the mothers in the world.

    Today is the 28th January and so I must draw this competition to a close. Thank you to everyone who visited this blog and left a comment and I hope everyone whizzed around and caught up with some of the other fabulous Australian authors blogging on the Australia Day Blog Hop.

    I will be forwarding all the prizewinners email addresses to Momentum Books who will send each and every one their very own copy of For One Night Only. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

  15. Pip Post author

    Thanks for stopping by Catherine, I’m very taken with your blog too. Just been reading about Timon’s feast. . I love cooking Mediterranean food above all else and it follows that I love to eat it and I love to feed it to friends and family. My husband goes berserk when he spies semolina in any form so I’ll have to have a go at that semolina and yoghurt halva.

  16. Heather Garside

    I was thrilled to receive the copy of For One Night Only! Thanks so much. I’ve read your first two books and enjoyed them very much. I was a 2010 finalist in the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Award and we were all presented with a copy of The Book of Love. 🙂

  17. Pip Post author

    Hey Heather, I’m glad you enjoyed my first two books and I hope this one doesn’t disappoint. Congratulations on being selected for the 2010 QWC/Hachette manuscript program, it’s a fabulous program.
    If you like or One Night Only please tell everyone you know, even the postie!

  18. Karen Stalker

    HI Phillipa
    I have just received a lovely email with For One Night Only attached.
    Thank you so very much, I’m really looking forward to reading it.
    Karen 😉

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