I keep thinking about what Chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council Tim Jones had to say last Christmas - we don't seem to have heard a lot more about it. He wanted to make Exeter Castle a tourist attraction. People could visit the Cathedral, and then, rather than going on elsewhere, tour the Castle. They would then walk round the rest of Exeter, following the wall. It would make far more tea and coffee shops, he insisted.

Since then, I have had a vivid dream about what Devonians call they olden times. Let me take you back about a thousand years. Unfortunately, the distance of time means that my dream of the early years of the last millennium is in black-and-white. They did not have Technicolor in those days, I'm afraid.

We are at the ground-breaking moment when the idea of Exeter Castle first took place. In fact, there are two local boys breaking the ground.

I kid you not, said Norman, this will be a good keep.

He wiped his claggy hands on his grey tunic, and counted the rings on his wrist-candle. It had been going out a lot lately. Maybe he should have its wick trimmed.

It's eleven o'clock, he said. Roughly.

Time for a break, then, said his work-mate, Gandy. What you want to do?

Well, said Norman carefully, if we're going to make this the tourist capital of the South West, we better think slowly. He took off his leather helmet, and thrummed his fingers thoughtfully on it.

I say, said Gandy, that we should walk over to the Cathedral, and then, rather than going elsewhere, we could come back to the Castle. He sniffed.

Or, said Norman, we could go round the Castle, and then go over to the Cathedral. You could take in a mead-house, an ale-house, a soup-shop, or an alternative stew-kitchen. They got some new broth up by the Library.

What's a Library?

It's where public chariots park, replied Norman. Private ones have to wait until after dark.

Gandy leaned on his shovel, thoughtfully. The keep was coming along fine. It was already beginning to look like a very promising ruin. It was an investment.

What about, said Gandy, if we go down the underground passages, up past the Guildhall, round by the South Gate, and then follow the wall back here.

Norman sniffed. He hitched up his calfskin leggings. He wondered how the Grecians had done against Dag and Red, the Viking bladder-ball duo. There was no sign of the news-pigeons yet, although, being as it was not quite a year since the team set out, it was perhaps wishful thinking to expect to hear so soon. He wondered what the result would be.

Gandy, my lover, Norman replied. How about - and this is only an idea - don't pull a face - if we started at the Cathedral, and went round the wall, the other way , and came back to the Castle. That way we could take in a watering-hole, a treacle parlour, a wine bar, a venison takeaway, a turnip-u-like, a milk cellar, a cheese parlour, a curd and whey house, and three cider counters.

It sounds touristy to me, answered Gandy. Have you got a map? And what about the building work here - that all sounds like quite a hike.

The building? That'll, you'll like this, keep.

They held their sides and roared. That was Exonian humour for you, eh? Wait till they heard that one in Heavitree.

Norman got out his Ordnance Survey map of Exeter, and carefully unfolded the vellum. He laid it in front of them.

What does that say? asked Gandy, staring at a pair of parallel lines which ran across the otherwise blank picture.

Norman traced his finger along it carefully.

Hugh Street, I think, he said. Named after Hugh The Mapmaker. Not very good writing, that could be misunderstood.

Why does it say 'Next' at one corner of Hugh Street?

That'll be because he hasn't finished the map, I expect, said Norman. See - there's another word there: Gap. He's left a good few blanks. He fell to thinking again.

That place Poundland looks expensive, muttered Gandy. How come only the rich get a chance to spend, spend, spend? I have to spend my farthings at that futuristic shop round the corner.

What, Past Times?

That's the one, replied Gandy. They've got some interesting new gear in there.�

Then suddenly Norman whistled. I've got it! he shouted. What if we go round the Castle, through Rougemont Gardens, up past the museum, cut across by M & S -


Mule and Skinner's - just been re-branded. Then we go to the Cathedral, taking in a bull's blood bar, an elderflower emporium, a bishop's tipple, a juice joint, a twenty-four hour pasty express, a herbal hop-shop - Gandy, it's the route of the future. This will make Exeter the punters' choice.

Norman paused. His voice trembled. Gandy, he asked, What year is it?

Gandy thought. 1038, he answered. What's the problem?

It's the Cathedral, said Norman. I've just realised. It hasn't been built yet.

A pigeon flapped exhaustedly overhead. Gandy took out his crossbow and shot it down. He unfurled the tiny piece of parchment strapped to the pigeon's leg.

What's it say? asked Norman.

Dag And Red 3, Exeter 0, murmured Gandy. I'll never get to see Ipswich now.

They sat beside the half-finished keep dejectedly.

We'll make a go of the tourist trade, said Norman eventually. Here, I'll split the pigeon with you.

You have it, said Gandy. I'm off to cobble my street for a bit.

What you going to call it? asked Norman. It's nice and narrow - good for shopping.

Gandy thought. I think it'll have to be King William Street, he said.

Bill Greenwell

From Express and Echo