Soul Food's Alluvial Mine, with its allusions to digging, is certainly a creative trigger for me. Ever since I read an account of Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb when I was a young girl, I have been a dedicated armchair archeologist.
Most recently I have travelled to ancient Peru with Hugh Thomson's book Cochineal Red, and to the fabled city of Tell el Amarna with the witty and delightful Mary Chubb. What I love about these writer is that they do more than uncover the past - they uncover the hearts and souls of ancient people, and in many ways, they are not so different from us.
Let me share a couple of their stories with you.
Hugh Thomson attended an Andean ceremony, a gruelling high altitude walk, yet the Peruvians being a celebratory, joyful people, they even managed to create moments of delight during this ordeal with singing, music and dancing. The tales of camps and fires and boiling chocolate Mate to ward off the cold are very familiar to anyone who has been a traveler. These things are shared through the ages and across the world by all who cannot resist the magic of the campfire, the outdoor gathering.
But what particularly charmed me was the Game of the Little Houses. It seems native Peruvians know all about positive visualisation. Halfway up a mountain they make miniature houses and believe firmly that what they create there will be manifested in their lives. They literally build their dream, live their dreams, marry their dream spouse, exchange dream money - even buy dream passports and diplomas. All in the certainty that the dream will manifest.
Mary Chubb was assistant to the secretary of a London archeological society when she wangled herself a trip to Egypt in 1930 as an on site secretary to the expedition. Her witty observations of life on the dig at Tell el Amarna, and her companions, make delightful reading.
The leader of the expedition, the charismatic John Pendleton, remarked one day that the team needed to find a treasure worth 200 pounds to be able to come back the following season. There seemed little hope of that, although many beautiful things were found.
But not long after, the team uncovered an earthenware pot filled with gold and silver bars, stolen and hidden while Akenaten and Nefertiti were still alive, and for some reason, never uncovered again until that moment.
The finds were always looked over by the Cairo Museum first, and what they didn't want, the expedition was allowed to keep and take back to Britain.
The Museum director was very dismissive of the gold and silver bars. ``I do not want all the gold and silver," he sniffed. ``We will retain one half...you may keep the other."
The Bank of England paid 200 hundred pound for the treasure, ensuring the expedition's return to Tell el Amarna.
Let us never lose the courage to dream, to seek the dream, to make the dream manifest.