On the top of the cliff stood a clutch of skeletal trees. Their forms had been stripped and blasted by exposure but I found that by nestling down in the lee of a trunk I could escape from the prising ingresses of the wind. The sea was visible beyond, vast and dark. In places pools of light played across its surface. Where it was illuminated it seethed in agitation. There was something singular about it, and melancholic; it seemed that there was intent behind its repeated incursions and incisions. The way it would break things apart seemed coldly rational, as if by prising into the structure of the surface of the world it thought it would find some sort of meaning there. It was probing perhaps for the same thing that I had been looking for, wandering hermitic and despondent, for some sort of significance to its presence, some sort of meaning. But there was nothing there, all it had found were layers of sedimented sand that disintegrated at its touch, and the mineralized and empty remains of Pliocene mammals. The snow had eased and I pulled from my pocket a clutch of odd stones that I had picked up earlier in the day from a small pile of debris that had evidently fallen from a small slip at the top of the cliff. I turned them over in my hand. Barely larger than my fingernails there was something remarkable about their forms, there was a suggestion of purpose in them, as if theyd been shaped with finesse; they were immensely delicate, and almost geometric. Looking up from the study of them my mind drifted back to a damp grey November afternoon Id spent wandering through the rooms of the British Museum. In one of the Mesolithic cabinets Id seen a collection of similar tiny microliths, which the display said had been used compositely in the points of hunting weapons between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago. In the next cabinet along Id been stopped in my tracks by the presence of a ceremonial headdress carved from the skull of a red-deer; its antlers still protruding, the bones forming the top of the nose had been broken off and the edges of the remaining piece of skull had been trimmed, there appeared to be two eye holes bored into the back of the cranium. Looking into these empty sockets I tried to imagine the existence and culture of the people who had made it, how their reality depended on their relation to the land; their entire lives would have been lived in relation to it. This link would have left them with a deep bond their immediate surroundings, imbuing them with memories, and thus with personal and, as the headdress suggested, spiritual significance. Returning to the present I stared out over the North Sea, Id begun to feel something similar here; though superficial by comparison, a connection had formed year on year with my repeated visits, as if place and self had begun to be tied in some way. A sense of familiarity had gathered as I had begun to link the memories of instances of felt experience to the land itself, and its meaning on a personal level had blossomed with that relation. But this familiarity was disintegrating, as the place itself was reconfigured by and lost to the sea. I knew, however, that this loss was nothing new. I thought about Doggerland, the landmass that had once connected the British Isles to mainland Europe. It had been a vast, rich plain, covered with marshes and damp forests of pine, birch, alder and oak. The material in the museum had been uncovered from what were now coastal sites on the periphery of this landscape, as had the lithics I now held in my hand, but I had also read accounts of bone harpoon points and immaculately made thin flint hand axes dredged up by trawlers from the seabed, suggesting that it had once been occupied. But the sea covered it now. The land would have been flooded slowly at first, with an influx of melt water from receding glaciers after the end of the Younger Dryas; the coastline would have crept inwards imperceptibly, year on year. The plain would have reduced in size, shifting into a series of isolated islands, which would have in turn been inundated, perhaps catastrophically. At low tide, parts of this flooded landscape would have been visible to the people that remained on the edges, silted over and unutterably changed. Dead tree trunks would have emerged from the water, standing as memorials to the land they had once known. Perhaps all that the recovery of the tools I now held in my hand suggested was the movement of these people towards this marginal higher ground, away from what had been theirs and that had been lost; the history and trace of their presence here had almost entirely been submerged.