President Finn, friends, and colleagues, I am truly delighted to accept the Hess Medal for 2013. It is difficult to express one's feelings adequately on receipt of such a prestigious award, but a mixture of pride, humility, and thankfulness for a long and lucky career all occur. It did not start propitiously as my high school grades would only ensure undergraduate entry into the Northern Polytechnic, a second-tier institution in London. Nevertheless, I was enthused by several great teachers, including John Charalambous (inorganic chemistry) and Stephen Morel, a field geologist who had worked for many years in Malawi. They pushed me into trying for graduate school, and I was fortunate to find the eclectic Roger Strens my supervisor at Newcastle.