Grave Goods – Edward Parnell.

Edward Parnell (image by K. Walne).)

Edward Parnell (image by K. Walne).

In this outing, writer Edward Parnell selects which Grave Goods he’d take on the Awfully Big Adventure. Edward’s most recent book, ‘Ghostland’ is a fascinating expedition around Britain, following in the footsteps of hugely influential writers and their fictional characters, blended with threads of personal and natural history (see bottom of page for longer bio).

I’ve read a great many books in 2019, but Edward’s was my favourite written by a living author. I recommend it enthusiastically – review by Barbara Chamberlin here.


Tools of the Trade – a tool/implement without which you’d be lost, whether it’s a pen, trowel, notepad, bottle-opener or scanning electron microscope.

Ok, so I have no idea whether there will be any wildlife in whatever form this afterlife might take. If not, I fear it’s going to seem fairly barren and miserable to me (though if I’ve been sent to the Bad Place then I guess that’s part of the point)… But I’m going to be optimistic and assume that the otherworldy skies are awash with birds and insects ­– perhaps even vast flocks of extinct Passenger Pigeons and Eskimo Curlews that I can gaze upon like some latter-day Lewis and Clark. And if so, I’m definitely going to need my binoculars with me. They could also come in handy if Heaven is anything like that depicted in Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, as I’ll be able to stare down through the holes in the firmament and spy upon events and people back on Earth.

Food for the Journey – a favourite portable snack, or a portion of something from your funeral feast.

I’m assuming that I will no longer have a great appetite, or at least not a physical need to stuff my face with anything even vaguely healthy. So, I’d like a freezer-box stacked full of top-quality ice cream of various flavours. And an endless thermos flask full of tea, as I struggle to go more than a couple of hours without making myself a mug of the good stuff.

Memento Vivere – a memento of a companion/event to bring you cheer.

I’d bottle the scent I get when I sniff my cat’s head (though not when he’s just come in from the rain and has that musty aroma). Usually, he smells of warm straw and home.

Ex Libris – the book or text you are least likely to tire of reading.

As I’ll myself be a spirit of sorts, then I’d probably opt for the Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James. Or perhaps a collected works of Robert Aickman. Given eternity, I might even learn the esoteric secret of how to write a good eerie tale myself.

Lucky Deposition – a bonus selection chosen by the guest – can include transport.

Well, with endless time on my hands, a huge TV and on-demand access to endless trashy 1970s horror movies, old black-and-white classics, and box-sets of great series like The Sopranos, should help to pass the time.

A Message from Beyond the Grave – an entirely discretionary option – leave a note for a future generation to find.

QUIS EST ISTE QUI VENIT. Who is this who is coming? Preferably etched in my own spidery hand upon an old tin whistle.


Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. His first novel, The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. His new book Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, explores the British landscapes that inspired writers and artists (including M. R. James, Arthur Machen, W. G. Sebald and Paul Nash) whose work touches upon the unsettling – as well as being a moving exploration of his own haunted past. Ghostland is an elegiac meditation on grief, memory and longing, and of the redemptive power of stories and nature.

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