Lava is an extremely useful natural material, usually ejected in its molten state from volcanoes, undersea fissures or, more rarely, people who eat extremely hot curries.

When cooled, it can be used to make lamps, bread, jewelled pendants and a torpid unguent for cleansing the fingers of monastic celebrants. It can also be crushed to various degrees of granularity for use as non-fattening cake decorations, packing the points of ballet shoes and converting Tories into something occasionally useful.

In the Crimean War, Prussian soldiers used lava as facial camouflage during night-time sorties and in honour of their leader, Marshall Albrecht Balach, this became known as the balachlava.