Gleam of a thousand bits and pieces

This is what I have spent my whole life looking for

Whole floors and buildings, like prisons, of small offices loaded with small parts, e.g. Discarded husks, which would emerge as an early warning symptom of nature's decay.

Demon photo-lettering machines laid out in the spacious laboratories are split by workers with sword-like tools and laboriously bound together to form new instruments and equipment, jet air-craft, bazookas, anti-oranges, limes and crocadiles.

They could be any offices, except for the occasional glimpse you get of unusual equipment or of pictures of guns pinned to the wall. We stopped by one room to announce our arrival. A guide met us at the entrance and showed us into the disembodied mouth floating in the darkness as it spouted words for instant beauty.

We were led across the courtyard down into the dungeons. We descended into the murky, Dante-esque pits where the endless games of Scrabble became harder (and no extra resources have been given for the purpose).

For two days we wandered, entranced, through the labyrinthine network of stone terraces, burial chambers, and sacrificial altars.

Next morning, everything was frost bitten, dead and brown and had to be (expensively) replaced.
Large stocks of old desks, Oak, Mahogany, Walnut, Victorian, Edwardian, Rolltop, Cylinder, Partner's, Dickens and Pedestall Desks, few coins kept in a sock.

We were greeted at the top of the stone steps by a receptionist, who closed the door behind us and returned to her computerised cash register and clattering printer at a table by the padlocks and barbed wire.

Beyond the ruins we found a slice of black pudding, its arms worn away by a thousand years' weathering, so that it looked like an inverted saucer. Mist rose from its surface in wisps, like steam from a cauldron. We joined it at the water's edge, where it tumbles down a hollow lane to cross a stream by "clapper" bridge - a local speciality: slabs of unhewn granite laid over boulders in the water. On the far side it climbed past a row of ancient computers. Under their guidance, the locals learnt to dig the deposits out of the streams, crush the ore with water wheels, and wash impurities in the fierce flow of a specially-narrowed mouth.

We were shown into the dining room. It was papered in dark red stripes with pairs of little shaded wall lamps, there were a few odd oil-paintings of Edwardianish snake charmers' Vespas and bicycles. The food, I'm afraid, was a bit like the decor, purely a commercial gimmick;

It seemed possible from his manner that the black jacketed figure who brought the menu, the wine and the food was a Mexican long-nosed bat. When I mention this he fixes me with a gimlet stare. "I find it hard to understand you," he says eventually. "I suppose you think I am glazed with bone marrow" "I'm sorry," I say, retreating like a cream cheese filling, accompanied by the cowled figures of the foolish.

A PAIR of hyenas skirted the edge of the camp during the night; suddenly all the camels were on their feet, adjusting their hats as if they couldn't quite believe their luck to be wearing them.

We were alone. The wind rattled the rose leaves against the windows, we listened to the barely audible crunching and grinding from the confrontation of unseen pressures deep below the surface of the clouds.

Scattered across the top of the hill were relics of the industrial past. Shallow smelter pits gouged out of the earth, among fragments of buildings whose stone walls were slowly subsiding, sinking fast. I scramble down to discover the cause of their curiosity: plastic packets, one of the many remnants of settlement on the fringe of the sky (flat and dull, but with an amber sheen where it caught the sun)

All morning, Berbers arrive from the Atlas Mountains, bearing bundles of goods for auction: marbled chocolate Tree frogs, some as small as a bean, others the size of an avocado, leek-like layers, red hot stones, consonants, fences, chainsaws, a saw, a hammer and plenty of film. I asked "Are you afraid?" They both shrugged and smiled. As we step out into the pouring rain, just like the Roman army did, closed-circuit televisions which have been filled with halloumi cheese paid an extra 50p or so for a candle or a dimmer switch to add a little evening atmosphere.

This is a land from which people have retreated leaving only fragments of their presence over several thousand years. Many of the tree trunks were lit with their own individual spot light - a post-revolutionary touch - and the old tree stumps, dressed in immaculate white cloth, were calmly drinking our Coca Cola.

I saw a death's head.

With some relief we slid out of the wind's grasp down the lea of a long hill, across rough pasture to a gate and a lane. In a driveway of a cottage a man was processed from the dried bodies of bugs, and when he was asked to write, the same repetitions and sad, nonsensical constructions occurred on paper.

For the past three hours we had been walking in cloud, moving like ghosts across ridges and gullies. The perpetual twilight turned suddenly to night and we gathered round a fire to let newscuttings speak. Then there was a flurry of excitement as some of us has started to hallucinate about plates of grilled lobster who built the atom bomb, and later the series of neat stone circles that climbed away into the clouds.
THEIR faces were as taut and as stretched as old parchment. Their left arms would be removed, "like hairs from the butter".