Goat’s Hole Cave, Paviland, on the Gower peninsular, south Wales, is the site of a prehistoric ceremonial burial, one of the oldest in Europe and earliest evidence of modern humans on these islands. There are many such caves nearby, eerie, ancient dwelling places, described by the painter Ceri Richards as ‘black apples of Gower’.
In Cambridge, looking for the Wittgenstein Archive, we find a brick wall, a skip and a white slip-on shoe.
In Dundee the boots of a seven foot giant stomp up the street. ‘Where is my creator?’ it howls. Mary Shelley hides behind the settee.
The Roseland peninsula, Cornwall, almost dreamlike, but its castles summon up images of an era when England was threatened with invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire. Now the invaders are the wealthy middle classes, ramping up house prices, reviving Cornish nationalism and interest in the Cornish language.
Completed in 1828, the statue of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, dominates St Andrew Square. In 1846, Frederick Douglass, author, statesman, anti-slavery campaigner, visited Edinburgh. He would have seen that statue – but was he aware of Dundas’ role in delaying abolition? Do residents or visitors of the city realise Dundas amendment to William Wilberforce’s act led to the enslavement of a further half a million men, women and children? And this is to say nothing of the huge compensation granted to slave owners across the UK, and particularly Edinburgh New Town.
John Buchan can’t stop thinking about ham. Alfred Hitchcock is frightened of eggs. Charles Dickens is hungry all the time. In Broadstairs I eat British chips and wonder where the seventy eight steps are now.
I search for mesolithic footprints in the mudflats of the Severn Estuary, avoid a tsunami, then call upon Amy Adams, expert in alien linguistics, to decipher a chilling message.
Scrumping back to Paradise: apples, wassailing and the history of cider.
An octopus searches for the location of a battle that took place in August, 1485. Facts are disputed. Five hundred years later the body of King Richard the Third is discovered in a social services car park in Leicester. The octopus studies the menu in the battlefield visitors’ centre and notices an absence of Welsh dishes.
Westray and Papa Westray, far northern outposts of the British Isles, once a Viking colony, where the plaintive call of the curlew sounds over white beaches of the most extraordinary beauty.