Oxford in the 1920s was a University town of course, but also a car town. The development and subsequent success of the Morris Motor Company nicely balanced the scholarly world of the colleges.
The city is filled with historic buildings and beautiful greenery, numerous popular walks and parks. The Botanic Garden is the oldest in Britain. Such scenic surroundings prompted the poet Matthew Arnold to describe Oxford as the ‘city of dreaming spires'.
The University of Oxford comprises 44 colleges and private halls. There are more than 100 libraries housing countless tomes and volumes, but the largest is the Bodleian library system, which includes 40 libraries in all. The iconic Radcliffe Camera is its most striking architectural manifestation.
Official academic dress would still have been a requirement in LMS's day. It was only during the 1960s that the practice of wearing it full-time started to fade out.
Oxford was very much a literary university, with Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien all recent alumni.
Oxford will always be renowned for grandeur – in architecture, academia and atmosphere – a truly impressive place.
London is, among many other things, a literary city. Within a few miles of the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey (home of Poet's Corner, where many famous writers are buried), Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace, hundreds of great writers have worked and lived. William Shakespeare, Samuel Pepys, John Milton and Charles Dickens were followed by many other extraordinary creative talents.
When LMS arrived in London, its literary scene was thriving. The Bloomsbury Group, a set of writers, philosophers and other intellectuals, was at the height of its fame.
The printing press had also become much more efficient, with the 1930s and 1940s seeing the Platen Printing Press churn out several thousand impressions per hour. News, novels and other printed publications were more readily available than ever. Fleet Street was becoming synonymous with the newspaper industry.
London has long been a fashion capital, and never more so than in the Roaring Twenties. The Prince of Wales, who would become LMS's nemesis, was a fashion icon, admired and emulated much like today's film stars.
The city was hard hit by World War 2. It was subjected to intensive aerial bombardment, night after night, which left much of it in ruins and many civilians homeless or dead. LMS's experience would have been typical.
Where better to be posted during WW2 than the Bahamas? It's a perfect paradise of sun, sea and sand, with English as its official language.
Some seven hundred islands make up the Bahamas, along with more than 2,000 uninhabited islets. Peppered with palm trees, parrots, pigeons, dolphins, sharks, manatees, turtles and myriad more exotic wildlife, the islands boast an eclectic variety of fauna and flora.
The Bahamas were the first point of landfall for Christopher Columbus in 1492, although the islands were never colonized by the Spanish. The name comes from the Spanish for 'Shallow Water'. The Bahamas were made a British crown colony in 1718.
The capital, Nassau, lies at the heart of the islands, with the Exumas stretching out in a southeasterly direction and Grand Bahama Island and The Abacos to the north. The large island of Andros, with the Andros Barrier Reef, lies to the west of Nassau.
Nassau is the biggest city in the Bahamas. It is part of New Providence island and is connected to Paradise Island by two bridges. In Nassau, Georgian architecture sits alongside more modern buildings. There is a natural harbour, which would have been used by LMS and his crew during their stint on the island.
English speaking, the people of the Bahamas are predominantly of African origin (c.85%). Over half the population lives on New Providence Island.
The islands gained independence from Britain in 1973 but remain part of the British Commonwealth, with an appointed Governor-General who represents the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.
New York, New York...
It is iconic, it has often been described as the most important city in the world, and it is home to some of the most significant buildings on the planet. Indeed, the Manhattan skyline is instantly recognisable.
LMS mentions several key landmarks and locations, including the beautiful art-deco Chrysler Building, Central Park and Madison Avenue. Times Square, the heart of Broadway theatre, also features in his journal, as does nearby Long Island.
Manhattan is just one of the five boroughs that make up New York City, the others being the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Lowever Manhattan is home to Wall Street, while Midtown holds the United Nations and Grand Central Station, and Uptown Manhattan boasts Harlem and Columbia University.
Through LMS, we can peer into the art scene of New York at the time. New York was (and remains) an artist's mecca. The Abstract Expressionist Movement in the 1950s is well recorded in Any Human Heart; many of the artists he cites were among the movers and shakers of the art world at the time.
Osun, named after the River Osun, is a land-locked state in the southwest of Nigeria. Its capital is Osogbo.
Osun State University comprises six different campuses, including ‘Ikire’ – perhaps the one William Boyd has in mind when he sends LMS to lecture at ‘Ikiri’ University. The six campuses are located at Osogbo, Okuku, Ikire, Ejigbo, Ifetedo, and Ipetu-Ijesha.
Nigeria is a vast country, irrigated by the River Niger. It is rich in biodiversity, with coastal plains, tropical rainforest, swamp and savannah.
The country is also very rich in oil, which has been a source of great conflict and corruption for many years.
The official language of Nigeria is English (along with Yorùbá – a Niger-Congo language.)
The currency changed from the old Pounds, Shillings and Pence system (£sd) to Naira (NGN) in 1973 – the last country to abandon the old currency system. LMS lived in Nigeria from 1969 until 1975, so would have experienced the use of both. Two Naira subsequently equalled £1.
Sainte-Sabine is a commune located in southwestern France, in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine. It was created after the Born-de-Champs and Saint-Sabine communes merged in 1974 and is now referred to as Sainte-Sabine-Born.
LMS also mentions visits to the Valley of the Lot and Puy-l'Évêque, both found in the Lot department in the Midi-Pyrénées region.
The Lot valley is a hidden treasure, whilst Puy-l'Évêque, with its historic streets and pretty terraced houses, retains remnants of its prosperous past in dyeing and nail-making.
This picturesque part of France is home to the Cahors Vineyards. And the Lot department is renowned for its fine food, from tasty truffles to gorgeous goose and delectable duck confit.
Lot takes its name from the Lot River, which flows through the southern part of the department, although the Dordogne also flows to the north and the Cele in the centre.