A few days ago I took an engineer friend to the Buckinghamshire village of Penn, where the founding father of Pennsylvania William Penn is laid to rest, only to find the historic Quaker Friends Meeting House burnt to a shell.
Here was a social asset, built for the use and convenience of man, destroyed by one of the great forces of nature.
Some say that the greatest force of nature, least controllable by civil engineers, is human nature. And it was an interest in human nature that led me, 20 years ago, from engineering into drug and alcohol services. I've seen many lives ruined, or cut short, but positive outcomes are still the goal as they were in engineering.
One thing I learnt early is that most of those damaged are not drug users. They are family, friends and work colleagues.
The mother of a user swept away any illusions about that.
She told me in shocking detail how her son had subjected her family and anyone else within range to years of lying, moral blackmail, mental torture, theft, even violence, so severe that when she learnt he had run away again and was sleeping rough, she knelt down and prayed that it would snow.
Tough to take, but in this field, as in engineering, we keep that positive outcome in mind, and keep going.
Peter Stoker CEng (former M), 21 years with Sir William Halcrow & Partners, National Drug Prevention Alliance, PO Box 594, Slough, SL1 1AA