Americans clubbing
mermaids to death. He  
was a schoolboy then
and that is how he
remembers it. Like
watching the hunters
clubbing baby fur seals
on the northern Canadian
ice flows.
Later he saw engravings
on the walls of George
Pickering’s library and it
looked as though a group
of monks was doing
exactly the same thing.
Percival says he never
went over to the island,
not even later, when he
was an adult. It only took
about five or six minutes
in a small boat with an
outboard engine. Of
course, being wartime,
there was no way he
could have crossed over
when he was still a
schoolboy. Once he was
roughly told to leave the
shingle strand and get the
hell out of there. Nobody
was supposed to know
about the clubbing of the
mermaids. We are still
not supposed to know.
Too secret even for the
Official Secrets Act.
Nobody was supposed to
know about the rockets
either; or the radar, or the
radioactive fallout. So

things that we all
knew about, that we all
know about, and yet
never speak of to each
other. Out of fear? Fear
of what? Well, careless
talk still costs lives. So,
we all take care.
Today most of the
island is still off limits.
Because of the birds.
They started clubbing
them to death too, at
first. Not the American
airmen or the monks this
time; the nuclear people.
So many kinds of people
came to the shingle
strand and went over to
the island and found
some new devilry to
perform. Not George
He was just a watcher,
like young Percival.
Percival has always
watched and listened.
He knows where all the
skeletons are buried, as
they say .But then you
only have to walk along
the beach to the sand
cliffs and you can see
the skeletons sticking
out of the cliff side, the
odd bone or two
dropping onto the sand.
Fine thing for your dog
to bring home from an
evening walk.
Merman or manatee
In Suffolk, I learned to be a
reporter, and it was there I

felt the past reaching out for
me as a palpable presence.
The Americans arrived as a
sudden invasion of aliens.

The spiritual power I could
feel in Butley Priory, and
among the ancient oaks of
Staverton Park, was violently
challenged by the nuclear
warheads that were heaped
up next to the thousand year
old Wantisden Church.

Then they built a nuclear
power station. The power
station is built on the river
flats across from the priory.
Orford Castle, where  the
merman was imprisoned
This countryside is the
home of cunning men
and magic
the cottage in the woods
avocets return
Butley Priory - the gatehouse
The map above shows
where the drama of
is enacted. The
cottage at Wantisden, the
priory at Butley.
Bentwaters airbase
stretches down to Butley,
almost linking with the
Woodbridge strip.  A few
miles north-east  is the
Sizewell nuclear
At the Swan Inn, in Lavenham, American
airmen, including Glenn Miller and James
Stewart, had their last drinks before setting
out on WWII missions.
. Benjamin Britten stages his concerts
in Snape Maltings. George Pickering
is a ‘cunning man’, descended from
the craft people of the Essex/Suffolk
border, where Gerald Gardner and
Aleister Crowley learned their magic
arts. George leases Butley Priory and
invites an actress, a schoolteacher and
invites an actress, a schoolteacher and
a newspaper reporter to wine and dine
a newspaper reporter to wine and dine
– and explore the tantric arts. the
airforce reports a UFO on the edge
the priory ground
Along the East Anglian coast
sites of hidden force, the old priory
at Butley, the nuclear power station at
Sizewell. They face each other across
the rivers, creeks and mud flats behind
Orford and Aldeburgh.
Saxon invaders bring pagan power to
the banks of the River Deben, the
Christian missionaries establish
monasteries and the American airforce
brings nuclear bombs to
their Suffolk
Here, the merman is dragged into  
Orford Castle from the marshes,
Half of Aldeburgh has been swallowed
by the sea.
recalls the trapping of the merman in
recalls the trapping of the merman in
Orford Castle – and seems to give
answers to George Pickering’s quest.
answers to George Pickering’s quest.
Cardinal Wolsley - local
butcher boy made good.
When I was there. . .
UFOs and manatees, Aleister Crowley and nuclear power, the
US airforce at Bentwaters, Sizewell power station, a mysterious
merman and the Knights Templar - all to be found in this novel.
Percival says he saw
Right - the gatehouse
of Butley Priory today.