Most people walking into The Old Angel Inn in Nottingham would be more interested in the arcade game there than the very ordinary-looking black door next to it. That is until they learn that this door is not like the other doors; it opens out into a secret underground cave system that is centuries old.
Called the “Beer Caves”, these underground passages used to entertain gentlemen providing them with a quiet getaway to chatter and drink and make merry. Over time these caves fell off the radar and people stopped coming but there’s now a sort of revival effort by archaeologist David Strange-Walker through his “Nottingham Caves Survey” project which is mapping and 3D-scanning all five hundred caves under Nottingham, as the first step in an even more ambitious caves regeneration initiative. You can follow the progress here with details on other caves they’ve explored so far.
Since watching Gintama and Speed Grapher, to an extent even Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Alice in Wonderland way back when, my desire to build out a large underground lair of my own right under the city, my own kingdom where I am the law, has burned brighter than ever before. My mind paints a fantastic picture of this scene: guests from far-and-wide, Japanese, American and Italian, gather in my underground lair. The bustling city’s right above, oblivious to our presence under their very noses. Fun and games and party follow, sometimes even spilling over a little bit into controversy just like wine spilling just a drop over the lip of the glass. And when we’ve had our fill, we exit. Back out in the real world, there exists now a secret network of people — Bankers, Lawyers, Scientists, Doctors, Teachers, Politicians, Entrepreneurs, Sportstars, Rockstars — spread all around the world, not acknowledging each other’s secret acquaintance save for a knowing smile as they pass each other, continuing to lead their very normal lives, until the day of the next gathering.
Seeing these caves smack in the middle of a modern settlement, brought it all back to me. I really, really start to build one. Maybe it’s not coincidence that a day after running into Ryo Chijiiwa, who’s building his own hut in the mountains, I run into underground caves in England that line up perfectly with my fantasies.