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these weird isles
15 minutes | Nov 21, 2022
East Anglia And The Fens
A trip to East Anglia, to the Fens and to Norfolk in search of finger in the ear folk singers, Brexit country and a vision of the future when the floods come and the UK becomes a minor archipelago, its lowlands lost and forgotten under the North Sea. (I drove east, not west, from Cardiff. This mistake was not deliberate. I am an idiot).
6 minutes | Sep 12, 2022
The dubious story of the Neanderthal brothers of Tregaron and the role of the equally reclusive cyberneticist Stafford Beer in world events.
4 minutes | Jul 4, 2022
George Orwell on Jura writing 1984, smoking roll ups and trying to shake off tuberculosis.
6 minutes | Mar 4, 2022
William Hershel, professional musician, amateur astronomer, discoverer of Uranus, built a telescope in Slough so huge it remained the biggest in the world for fifty years.
3 minutes | Feb 2, 2022
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in Bath. Jane Austen lived there a few years before. Could the two have crossed paths?
4 minutes | Jun 26, 2021
The Cornish pastiche: Tintagel, a castle on a rocky outcrop, is this Camelot? No, it's not.
7 minutes | Feb 2, 2021
The Omphalos, Sandycove
The Omphalos, Sandycove, near Dublin is a Martello tower and the setting of the opening chapters of James Joyce's Ulysses. 'Omphalos' is the Greek for 'navel', the centre of the ancient world. Ulysses is a navel novel.
6 minutes | Jan 5, 2021
The Warminster Triangle
Reg Presley, suddenly rich from the proceeds of a hit song, devotes his money and time to uncovering the secrets of the Warminster Triangle: UFOs, crop circles and the changing shape of planet Earth. Reg is voiced by Long John Silver.
8 minutes | Dec 23, 2020
Kathleen Schlesinger, born in Holywood, Belfast, in 1862, was a music archaeologist who published a major study of the ancient Greek wind instrument, the aulos. Her fascination with tuning systems led to lifelong collaboration with Australian microtonal composer Elsie Hamilton. Thanks to Kate Bowan for sending me a copy of her article 'Living Between Worlds Ancient and Modern'.
5 minutes | Nov 3, 2020
Silbury Hill - the largest man made mound in Europe, built around the same time as the Great Pyramids, sits on the side of the A4 in Wiltshire. It's a sombre dome, a green whale, an alien submarine. Is it a monument to the Great Goddess? A watchtower? A swollen node on a ley line? No, it's a big cake.
3 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
A cuttlefish squirts sepia ink and creates a pseudomorph of itself to divert predators. With a little more know-how it could manufacture 3d sepia images of Weston's Grand Pier, its Big Wheel or Helicopter Museum.
11 minutes | Apr 24, 2020
Acton, London W3
Acton, London W3, where I discovered Welsh writer Arthur Machen in the library, slightly dishevelled, jacket all ripped.
4 minutes | Feb 11, 2020
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'.
6 minutes | Nov 13, 2019
In Cambridge, looking for the Wittgenstein Archive, we find a brick wall, a skip and a white slip-on shoe.
8 minutes | Sep 26, 2019
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.
7 minutes | Jul 18, 2019
Edinburgh New Town
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.
6 minutes | Jun 2, 2019
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.
6 minutes | May 5, 2019
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.
5 minutes | Apr 2, 2019
Scrumping back to Paradise: apples, wassailing and the history of cider.
8 minutes | Mar 2, 2019
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.
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