Sloop Jon B does it again! My thanks for his exhaustive notes for our overseas visitors; I have appended a few notes of my own to clear up a few points. Last updated: 4th Nov 2002
Jon Brierley's British Reference Notes
A Non-Brit's Guide to the Thursday Next series
This work-in-progress-which-is-unlikely-to-be-finished is intended as a brief guide to references in Mr. Fforde's works that might elude the non-British reader. There are several people on the Fforum from the USA, Australia and elsewhere who have expressed an interest in getting all the references and in-jokes, so here goes. I have assumed that all of you are sufficiently intelligent and literate (of course you are, you're Fforde Ffans, after all) not to need all the many literary references annotating, nor such universal cultural icons as the Beatles, so I have confined myself to the insular and the deeply obscure.
Page references are to the UK paperback first editions, 'cos them's the ones I've got. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.
The Eyre Affair
p.2 Maida Vale; inner suburb of (north-west) London, which in our world is quite pricey; either Thursday earns more than we thought, or the Nextian Maida Vale is a bit more downmarket. The poet Robert Browning also used to live there.
p.3 Trams; streetcars, to Americans. In our world trams in London and most other British cities disappeared in the 1950's (though they are slowly being re-introduced). A symbol of the 'retro' feel of Nextian England.
p.4 Wellington; in our world it was of course only Nelson who was shot by a French sniper (at Trafalgar). Wellington survived to become Prime Minister. Yes, I know you know all this, but somebody asked.
p.7 the Crimea; OK, listen up. This is a biggie. The Crimean War in our world was fought between Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia (don't ask) on one side and Russia on the other, 1854-1856. The basic cause was that the Brits and the French didn't want the Russians taking over Turkey and threatening their Mediterranean possessions. For some reason the allies decided the best way to show the Russians where they got off was to invade the Crimean peninsula. (A bit like occupying Seattle and then expecting the USA to give in). Everybody fought very badly and the end result was a no-score draw. However, for some strange reason the conflict had a huge cultural impact on the British; possibly as a result of the (relatively) large number of casualties, or perhaps because it was the only major war Britain fought in nearly a hundred years. Whatever, the war itself became a symbol of the futility of war (until displaced by the even more futile World War One) and gave us, among other things a woolly sweater called a cardigan (after General Lord Cardigan) a woolly hat called a balaclava (after the battle of the same name) and another piece of knitwear called a raglan (after General Lord Raglan). As you can see, cold was a problem for British troops. The war saw the start of modern nursing profession as organised in a military hospital by Florence Nightingale, and combatants were the first to be awarded our highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross, originally made from melted-down Russian guns. The most famous action of the war was the Charge of the Light Brigade, when the aforesaid Cardigan (who was a twit) led the Light Cavalry Brigade up the wrong valley and got nearly all of them slaughtered by Russian artillery. Cardigan survived and was later officially exonerated from blame, which instead was landed on one Lt. Nolan, who was conveniently dead. Sound familiar, Fforde ffans? The then poet laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson later wrote his most famous poem (imaginatively titled The Charge of the Light Brigade) to commemorate the event. Presumably somebody else did the honours for the action in which Anton De Laste Next was killed.
p.7 jingoism; Nextian echo from our world here; in the 1880's the Crimean war almost had a re-run, and in the wake of popular anti-Russian feeling a music-hall song asserted that 'we don't want to fight, but, by jingo, if we do -.' Hence, jingoism, jingoistic, to be very gung-ho and patriotic.
p.8 Isle of Wight; island off the south coast of England, notable as a holiday resort, which in our world the French have never got their hands on.
p.8 pelota; (JFf note: in the US editions this reads 'croquet' which is what it should be. Nextian Croquet, which features in TN2 and TN4 is a violent game played with Dowager Empresses, vicars, afternoon tea, Rhododendron bushes, Italian sunken gardens, American Football body armour and equal measures of violence, speed and skill - Rollerball meets American Football meets Croquet.) Croquet, in our world, is a genteel game played on lawns and not to be confused with cricket, a game in which 11 Englishmen are ritually humiliated by Australians.
p.8 Czar Romanov Alexei IV; surely that should be Alexei Romanov? One for the upgrade?
p.9 picketing cheese shops; when TEA was published there was a widespread protest by British truckers and farmers against the high rate of tax on petrol (gasoline).
p.9 Socialist Republic of Wales; Wales is a major source of humour and alternative history in the TN series. I gather that the nature and status of Wales, and English attitudes thereto, are not well known abroad, so I will attempt to explain. Wales is a country of approx. 3 million people, in our world part of the United Kingdom but very definitely NOT part of England; it's that sticky-out bit on the left hand side of Britain. About a third of the Welsh people still speak the Welsh language, a Celtic tongue not related or similar to English. The south of the country (where most of the Welsh live) was until recent years notable for coal mines, and this naturally bred a people with a marked Socialist bent. Labour party candidates in Welsh elections didn't bother counting their votes; they just weighed them. Wales has been politically and culturally subordinate to England for nigh on a thousand years, and there are those among the Welsh on whom this rankles. The English meanwhile, have very often adopted a patronising, condescending and even contemptuous attitude to the Welsh and their language (until the early 20th century use of Welsh was all but officially banned). Why the English (who by and large know very little of the Welsh) continue to condone and practice anti-Welsh prejudice, I do not know. They affect to find the language incomprehensible and unpronounceable, and are given to making unfunny remarks about sheep. (This is not a new phenomenon, either; Shakespeare is full of Welsh jokes - see Captain Fluellen in Henry V). Metropolitan trendies who would recoil in horror from a joke about black people see nothing wrong in making racist remarks about the Welsh (a well-known TV presenter did just that on national TV not long ago - she later apologised, but not very sincerely). It's as if the English don't believe the Welsh really exist, but are just a bunch of Englishmen with funny accents who insist on pretending to be foreign, just so as they can wind up the English. Apparently sane English people seriously believe that any conversation they hear in Welsh is about them and also that Welsh people only talk Welsh when there are English people to hear, and once all the tourists have gone home speak English to one another. Jasper's joke is that were Wales an independent republic in conflict with England, the English would treat them with a lot more respect than they actually do. Note, I am not Welsh, and speak only a few words of the language, but Jasper lives in Wales and has a Welsh partner. Anybody thinking of making anti-Welsh jokes on the Fforum might like to remember that. (The name of the Fforum is itself a sly Welsh in-joke - ff in Welsh is pronounced as English f in fire, but f is pronounced as a V). Incidentally, Jasper always refers to the country in which Thursday lives as England/English. What became of Scotland and Ireland in Nextian history? (I ask as one of Irish descent).
p.9 Hay; Hay-on-Wye, home of a major literary festival and a thousand-and-one second-hand bookshops. I believe Mr. Fforde lives not far from here.
p.9 Owain Glyndwr VII; the original Owain Glyndwr (pronounced approx. as oh-whine glinn-dooor) was a 15th century leader of Welsh resistance to the English, the last such leader Wales had. He was defeated but never captured, vanishing mysteriously. Cue spooky music.
p.9 Dungeness; despite having trams and airships and other retro fittings, Nextian England 1985 apparently has nuclear fusion power stations, which is more than we've got. A nuclear fission power station does in fact exist at Dungeness (Kent) in our world.
p.11 Gad's Hill Palace; a typo - should read 'Gad's Hill Place'. Even Dickens couldn't afford palaces.
p.11 ExcoMat containment facility; (JFf note: Exotic Material Containment Facility - something to do with time-travel, I believe)
p.12 Haworth House; in our world the Bronte's home is a mere parsonage, not a grand House. More on Haworth later.
p.12 Chawton; village, in Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived from 1809. Jasper implies it is a building rather than a village. Perhaps should be read as 'Jane Austen's House at Chawton'.
p.12 Lydia Startright; Start-rite is a well-known (UK) brand of children's shoes.
p.15 Lamber Thwalts; at first I thought this was a mistake. Lambeth is a (rather seedy) district of London, and The Lambeth Waltz is (I learn) a piece of music by Australian composer Penelope Thwaites. There is also a much better known music-hall song called The Lambeth Walk (also the name of a street) and that is what I believed Jasper meant to refer to until I looked it up.
p.16; Milton Keens; Milton Keynes (pronounced as in the name of Jasper's crim) is a ghastly 'new town' in Buckinghamshire renowned as the most boring place in Britain.
p.16; Parkhurst; high-security prison on the Isle of Wight.
p.21; Landen Park-Laine; in the UK, right, when playing Monopoly, if you want to claim the highest value square before anyone else does, what you want to do is land on Park Lane. (Jasper apparently thought of changing it in the US edition to Landen Boarde-Walke, but I'm glad he didn't).
p.25; Acheron Hades; in Greek myth the river Acheron was the chief river of the underworld (Hades). Also apparently a real river in the north of Greece.
p.25; Braeburn; a strain of apple. Very nice, too.
p.31; Dodo; now, we all know dodos are extinct, right? Proverbially so, in fact. Here is some more information re dodos you may not know. (Stop me if I'm boring you). They lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and were flightless, so wings wouldn't have been much use to Pickwick anyway. They were quite large birds, weighing up to 23kg (50 pounds), so one wonders about their suitability as house pets. They probably ate roots and leaves. Dodos were not noted for brains; the name is alleged to come from the Portuguese doudo, meaning simpleton, but Bea tells me this word is not in modern Portuguese, but there is a word doido meaning crazy person. I cannot ascertain whether the call of the dodo was in fact plock-plock or not.
p.31; Thylacine; marsupial carnivore, a.k.a. the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf. Almost certainly extinct.
p.32; Stella Seacow; as the Upgrade says, this should be Steller's Sea Cow. Bloody huge herbivorous sea creature, related to manatees, and of course extinct. Would only make a pet if you had your own lake.
p.32; should have used dove; amazingly, dodos were in fact members of the pigeon family (the sort of relative nobody ever talks about, presumably).
p.32; pukey and quarkbeast; A quarkbeast is a thing made up by Jasper (see Madeup Words). (JFf note: A Pukey is a creature that appears in an excellent short story by Nigel Dennis. The pukey does little except vomit - but everyone must have one because. . . everyone else has one... Highly recommended!)
p.33; Pontiac; it may not register with American readers that car makes such as Pontiac, Chevrolet and Studebaker are in fact very rare in Britain. Is this a symbol of the total domination Goliath has over Nextian England? Or is it just because Jasper likes big old American cars?
p.34; Jeyes Fluid; bleach.
p.34; Filbert Snood; a filbert is a kind of nut, and a snood is a very naff women's garment with a hood.
p.35; Styx; is, of course, another river in Hades. And an unspeakably vile American rock band.
p.37; Biros; ballpoint pens, from the inventor of same, Hungarian Laszlo Biro.
p.39; Baconians; Baconians exist in our world, too, and while they don't knock at doors or fight in the street they are as mad as pants and a pain in the arse. Unsurprisingly, the Bacon cult was founded by one Delia Salter Bacon, who was no relation to Francis, but may have thought she was, she being completely barmy. The conversation between Thursday and Capillary gives a very fair summary of the case for and against, and Jasper also provides an elegant demolition of the Bacon case at Q&A.) Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare; Colonel Next said so.
p.42; Cavalry sabre; odd sidelight on Nextian warfare here. They have tanks but use sabres. Hmm.
p.42; Cheltenham Gold Stakes Handicap; in our world the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a very important horse race.
p.46; Flanker; in British slang 'to work a flanker' is to pull some crafty move. A flanker is also a position in a rugby (Union) team.
p.48; fired a gun in anger for the first time; clearly Thursday did not have a trigger-pulling role in the Army.
p.55; the book in the pocket that stops a bullet is a literary cliche, particularly in Boy's Own type stories from World War One, where it is usually a Bible. Often the verse at which the bullet stops is somehow significant. For Thursday, it is not a Bible, but Jane Eyre. Another symbol of the importance of literature in the Nextian universe.
p.56; M4; motorway (freeway) which runs from London to South Wales (via Swindon).
p.58; Stonk; in British slang, 'stonking' means powerful, extremely, very.
p.60; Swindon; doubts have been expressed as to the reality of Swindon, but alas it does exist. Our Swindon is a town in Wiltshire of approx. 158,000 people, lying 79 miles West of London. Originally a railway town, it has been extensively redeveloped in very nasty concrete and glass, and now plays host to a multitude of software and computer related industries, being at the heart of the English equivalent of Silicon Valley. It is famous for nothing very much, but is reputed to be very boring. Of the Swindonian items shown on Jasper's site only the Magic Roundabout is completely real, being exactly as shown. That a traffic roundabout is the most interesting thing about the real Swindon should be enough to keep you away from the place. The Nextian Swindon is much more important and interesting and weird, which is kind of the gag.
p.63; Haworth House; unlike Swindon, Haworth is well worth a visit. In our world, the Brontes lived at Haworth parsonage (not House) in the village of Haworth in West Yorkshire, not far from Leeds and Bradford. It's not far from where I live, either, and I know it well. As in the Nextian world, the house has become a museum, but I'm glad to say it isn't quite as naff as Jasper makes it sound; I've never been taken round by a guide, and the staff have always been very pleasant and helpful. (It was until recently run by the very wonderful Juliet Barker, who wrote a marvellous Bronte biography). The exhibits are always interesting and well presented, and change regularly, but, alas, the manuscripts of the novels are not normally kept in Haworth, but at the British Library in London. I did go (as I suspect Jasper did) when the Jane Eyre manuscript was on show at Haworth a couple of years ago, and while I failed to jump into it, it was indeed awesome. Like seeing some holy relic. A final note about Haworth; it has a truly excellent pub (the Fleece).
Small digression; years ago I worked for a coach firm in Manchester, and one of our regular half-day excursions was 'Haworth and the Bronte Country'. I always wanted to announce to the coachload of Mancunian grannies that anyone who had actually read any of the books could go for free. I swear I would never have had to make the refund.
p.71; helped us to rebuild after the Second War; it is not outstandingly obvious from reading TEA that Nextian England was occupied by the Nazis for part of World War Two. This is one of the staples of alternative history, of course, and though no big deal is made out of it at this stage, pay attention, it may become important later.
p.71; Cemetery in Highgate; Highgate Cemetery in North London is a very notable place of interment, most famous as the site of Karl Marx's grave (which is, of course, just another Communist plot).
p.77; Congresswoman Kelly; members of Parliament in Britain are called, um, Members of Parliament (look, nobody ever called the English imaginative) and there is in our world no such body as Congress. But then 'real' Britain is still a monarchy, but Nextian England appears to be a republic. More information that may become important later in the series.
p.77; airships; airships were wonderful things, and Jasper (an aeronaut himself) clearly has an enthusiasm for them (one shared by Len Deighton, incidentally). In former days, before the disasters that befell the R.101 and the Hindenburg, the well-heeled took airship cruises much like that described by Thursday. How much more civilised than being crammed into a nasty noisy jet and force-fed rotten food. Slower, I'll grant you, but where's the rush? Relax, and enjoy the ride, and ooh, come over here and look at the view! I'm with Congresswoman Kelly on this one.
p.78; the Chilterns; a range of low but pretty chalk hills, mainly in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
p.78; the Uffington White Horse; if you cut the turf off a chalk hill, you leave a white pattern. About 2 or 3 thousand years ago somebody did a horse pattern at what is now Uffington Castle in Oxfordshire. Nobody knows why, but boy, are there a lot of weird theories. There are other such figures in England, not all genuinely ancient. I'd really like to tell you about the Cerne Abbas Giant, but he is no way relevant to Thursday Next. Look him up on Google.
p.79; Remarkable, isn't it?; Colonel Phelps' hand is well in advance of anything available in our 2002.
p.79; a proper Charlie; English rhyming slang, Charlie Hunt, and I'm sure you can work it out for yourself.
p.80; airfield; the use of this term instead of the normal UK 'airport' is another example of Jasper using language to create a sense of the difference of the Nextian world to ours. The technical lit crit term for this technique is ostranenie, from the Russian for 'making strange'. All right, I'm just showing off. The real Swindon does not have an airport, of course. (JFf Note: Long Marston (now the Honda Factory just to the East of Swindon) WAS an airfield during the war - I think it was for repair and maintenance rather than operations. It was closed in the late forties but not in Thursday's world).
p.84; the name's Stoker; anybody out there who doesn't know Bram Stoker wrote Dracula?
p.88; 356 Speedster; let it be clearly understood that Thursday's trusty steed is a Porsche. Go and download the picture of it at Downloads now.
p.93: Mycroft; Mycroft was of course the name of Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother. I strongly suspect our Mycroft of actually being that very man.
p.93; Good Queen Bess; Queen Elizabeth I attempted to conceal her advancing age by caking her face in white make-up, so that she looked more like a china plate than anything else. Unfortunately for those who imitated her, she used a powder based on white lead, which slowly poisoned the user.
p.94; Emma Hamilton; otherwise known as Nelson's bit of rough. Admiral Nelson's adulterous affair with Lady Hamilton (they were both married) was a huge scandal at the time.
p.95; with Rutherford when he split the atom; New Zealander Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), while at Cambridge, was the first scientist to disintegrate the nucleus of an atom. He did this in 1919, so Owens was indeed an old boy. But apparently fictional.
p.97; Rosettionery; a portmanteau word made up from 'Rosetta' and 'stationery' (see Madeup Words). The Rosetta Stone was a tablet discovered in Egypt inscribed with the same text in different languages and scripts. It (eventually) allowed Egyptian hieroglyphics to be interpreted.
p.101; HyperBookwormDoublePlusGood; DoublePlusGood is an example of Newspeak, the anti-language devised by George Orwell in 1984. Big Brother is not just cheap TV.
p.102; snorkers; very old-fashioned British slang for sausages (see also Madeup Words).
p.104; Wessex; in our world, Wessex ceased to be a political unit when King Harold got it in the eye. It roughly covered the modern day counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon, i.e. the West of England generally. The term was revived by Thomas Hardy as the setting for his laugh-a-minute novels.
p.105; Jack Spratt; hero of a nursery rhyme; he was the one who would eat no lean. Like all nursery rhymes, utter rubbish.
p.107; Finis Hotel; Thursday's temporary home is fictional, but there is a Hotel Finis Terrae. It's not in Swindon, though, but in Patagonia, Chile, and claims to be the most southerly hotel in the world. Anybody been?
p.108: Jam Roly-Poly; Classic British pudding, consisting of a sponge roll with jam, usually served hot with custard. A staple of British school lunches when I was a kid, but probably replaced these days by something provided by SmileyBurger.
p.108; great auk; Another one for your list of extinct species. A large flightless North Atlantic sea-bird, related to puffins, and the original bird to be called a penguin (allegedly from Welsh or Breton pen-gwynn 'white head'. Even though great auk's heads were black. Go figure).
p.109; Charlie; After the execution of Charles I, Milton became an enthusiastic propagandist for Cromwell's republican Commonwealth. The definitive comment on Paradise Lost was Dr. Johnson's; 'none have ever wished it any longer than it is'.
p.109; Liz Barrett-Browning; poet Elizabeth Barrett eloped with her future husband poet Robert Browning in 1846 and became double-barrelled. Browning, however, never added Barrett to his name. Sexist pig.
p.110; Vorpal; a word made up by Lewis Carroll for his poem Jabberwocky. Said to mean keen or sharp. The raven/writing desk riddle is also from Carroll, of course ... we are in the Cheshire Cat bar, after all.
p.111; Bowden Cable; a type of cable used in the manufacture of brakes, especially on bicycles. I've just realised, btw, that I'm making it a bit difficult for Jasper to run any more TN trivia competitions. I'm giving away all the answers.
p.112; pukka; Anglo-Indian slang, meaning genuine, good, proper. From a Hindi word meaning cooked, ripe, substantial. One of those words that seeped into British English from the Empire. Oddly, the opposite of pukka, 'cutch', never caught on in the same way.
p.121; Raphaelites; in our world, of course, there was an 19th century art movement called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a bunch of precious buggers who wanted art to return to values they thought Raphael and his ilk had betrayed. Presumably this lot think different.
p.121: N'est pas une pipe; Belgian Surrealist Rene Magritte did a series of paintings entitled 'Betrayal of Images'. Each was a crude drawing of a (tobacco) pipe, captioned Ceci n'est pas une pipe; 'this is not a pipe'.
p.124; Prose Portal; do you think it odd that the first use of the Prose Portal is to enter Poetry? No? Just me, then.
p.125; pantomime horse; this is not the place to give an explanation of the traditional English children's entertainment known as pantomime, because it would take too long. The whole thing is seriously weird. Suffice it say that it often features a comic turn by two men in a horse suit, one doing the front legs, one the back. And that's one of the less weird parts.
p.128; a little early to tell; Wordsworth was an enthusiast for the French Revolution in his youth (he ended up a very Establishment old man). Meanwhile, 150 years later, Chinese Communist leader Chou en-Lai was allegedly asked what the influence on history of the Revolution was, whereupon he gave the same answer Polly does. Judging by the number of different versions of this story, I'd say it was apocryphal.
p.131; Finisterre; the staff of Swindon SO-27 are mostly named after areas of the Shipping Forecast. It goes like this; one of the BBC's little rituals is that every night on the radio a special weather forecast is read out for the benefit of mariners and all who go down to the sea in ships. To aid the process, each part of the seas around Britain and Ireland is given a name, and the forecast will go through each in turn, giving the weather, wind and sea condition and visibility, as it might be "Dogger; Southeast 7 to severe gale 9, veering southwest 5. Rain. Moderate, occasionally poor." Thousands of people with no connection to the sea whatever listen to the Shipping Forecast devotedly, taking comfort in the unchanging ritual as a sign that all is still well with the world. When some of the names were changed recently, there was a furore at the disruption to the routine. One of the names changed was in fact Finisterre, which is now FitzRoy (the name of the founder of the Meteorological Office, the UK's weather bureau). Other shipping areas found among the LiteraTecs are; Fisher; Sole; Malin; Forties; and German Bight. Now that's the sort of stuff you came for, isn't it?
p.132; Bodleian; the Bodleian Library is the main research library at the University of Oxford, established in 1598 by Sir Thomas Bodley. It is a copyright deposit library and therefore (in theory) receives a copy of every publication in the UK. I wouldn't bother trying to see their collection of back issues of Spanker's Monthly, though. The waiting list is enormous.
p.134; Braxton Hicks; Thursday's boss is named after a kind of false labour pain suffered by pregnant women. Its purpose is to lull them into a false sense of security, so they will think the real labour pains won't be as bad as they really will be. The pains are named after John Braxton Hicks, the English doctor who first described them. (Well; I suppose the actual first description was something on the lines of "It hurts like hell", but that didn't get written down in an official medical paper, and so doesn't count). I am indebted to Twila for this information.
The Church at Capel-y-ffin; Capel-y-ffin is a place in the Black Mountains in South Wales, not far from Hay-on-Wye; the name means 'the boundary chapel', (it is very close to Offa's Dyke, the ancient Anglo-Welsh boundary) and there is indeed a (very small) church there, as well as a youth hostel. My thanks to Ben for this information. Oh, you want to know why it's in the list of chapters? Well, I don't know for sure, but I suspect the word 'boojumed' to be relevant here.
p.143; transport cafe; truckstop. In the Nextian world transport cafes clearly have better menus ... ours are famous mainly for grease.
p.143; 1978 England soccer team; England did not qualify for the 1978 World Cup. Not in our world, anyway.
p.154; Merthyr; Merthyr Tydfil, former coal mining town in South Wales. It is not, in our world, particularly Welsh-speaking.
p.155; Arndale centre; Arndale Centres are a chain of shopping malls. I used to think they were ghastly, until somebody invented something worse.
p.155; ESC; since Nextian England is a Republic, it cannot, of course, have a Royal Shakespeare Company.
p.160; Sturmey Archer; Sturmey-Archer were once famous as the manufacturers of gearboxes for bicycles and motorcycles. This British firm was recently sold to a Taiwanese company, and manufacture relocated to Taiwan and the Netherlands. Boo, hiss. Sturmey-Archer has been used before as a name for a fictional character, I'm sure, but I disremember where. Anybody know?
p.167; Alton Towers; theme park in Staffordshire, notable for big roller-coasters and even bigger queues. I say theme park, but it doesn't even have a theme.
p.169; Love is like oxygen; This was a big UK hit for glam rock band The Sweet in the early '70s. (Love is like oxygen/You get too much you get too high/Not enough and you're gonna die/Love gets you high). It was covered by Duran Duran in the '80s and ripped off by the Spice Girls in the noughties. I'm not quite sure why Victor makes the remark at this point; am I missing something?
p.172; the Forest of Dean; is an area of natural beauty in Gloucestershire, slap bang up against the Welsh border. Now a tourist area, it used to be a centre for coal and iron mining. Symonds Yat is a beauty spot in the Forest, overlooking the River Wye. Neither the Forest or the Yat is particularly spooky, as far as I know.
p.173; Uncultured rats; Help. I know this is a reference to something, I'm sure I've read something Jasper wrote about it, and I can't find it anywhere. And it's something I really ought to know, too. Rats.
p.181; Ludlow; Market town in Shropshire, no great distance from most of the other places we've mentioned. If we're not careful, there'll soon be signs up all over the West of England saying 'Welcome to Thursday Next Country'.
p.182; "Welcome..."; the compere at the Ritz is in the style of a master of ceremonies at the old-time music hall, who would introduce each act with polysyllabic hyperbole; at every extravagant phrase the audience would cry "oooooh!"
p.183; Sauvignon; as far as I can discover, Sauvignon is not a place but a variety of grape, from which very nice wine is made.
p.184; Garrick; David Garrick (1717-1779), English actor and theatre manager.
p.184; Bosworth field; the site of the final battle of the Wars of the Roses (1485), in Leicestershire, is now a Battlefield Visitor Centre and Country Park.
p.189; silver hunter; a type of pocket watch.
p.193; C of E; Church of England.
p.194; Tesco's; Tesco are the UK's largest supermarket chain.
p.194; Neanderthals; Neanderthal man was so called because the first identified remains were discovered in the Neander valley in Germany. Homo neanderthalis was not an ancestor of homo sapiens, but a contemporary, and debate rages as to how they might have differed from us, and why they died out. Given homo sapiens record in species extinction, I think we can guess.
p.195; Bollocks; I am told this term is not widely known in North America. For the benefit of connoisseurs of Old English swearing, it means testicles, and more colloquially, rubbish, nonsense, as in 'a load of old -'
p.195; lichgate; (from Old English lic 'body, corpse' + gate). So spelt, not lych-. It means 'a roofed gateway to a churchyard, formerly used at burials for sheltering a coffin until the clergyman's arrival' (The Concise Oxford Dictionary).
p.196; bash the bishop; um, spank the monkey.
p.196; Clarice Cliff; she was a designer of very colourful Art Deco pottery from Stoke-on-Trent (which is the pottery centre of the universe). Nowadays very collectable; if Joffy is short of funds he could make a fair bit of money from his crockery.
p.198; Hobnob; a very addictive type of oat cookie, not unlike a miniature flapjack. There are also chocolate Hobnobs, which make strong men weep if they can't get them; they even made ginger chocolate Hobnobs at one time, but I believe they were withdrawn from sale and reclassified as a Class A controlled substance. It says in the Upgrade (see Upgrade)that 'Hobnob' should read 'Garibaldi', which is a flat cookie with currants in it. Personally I'd prefer the Hobnob.
p.201; Runcible Spoon; an implement invented by Edward Lear for his poem The Owl and the Pussycat.
p.201; prepositions; see the Upgrade ( Upgrade) for what Mycroft meant to say.
p.201; Cauliflower's; a solecism known in the UK (and possibly elsewhere) as 'grocer's apostrophe'.
p.201; Shilling's; is Nextian England still pre-decimal? In our world decimal currency (pounds and pence) replaced the traditional pounds, shillings and pence on 15th. February 1971. I remember the date because it was my eleventh birthday. (Cue nostalgic yearnings for when money was worth something and you could get a bag of sweets for a penny, etc., etc.).
p.202; Swindon University; our Swindon does not have a university of its own, but the University of Bath has a campus there, and Cranfield University has one at Shrivenham six miles away.
p.207; rickets; a disease of childhood caused by vitamin D deficiency. Popular in the early nineteenth century, all but eliminated in Britain thanks to better diet. But keep eating those SmileyBurgers, kids, and who knows, it may make a comeback.
p.207; another country; L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between; "the past is another country; they do things differently there."
p.213; Daisy Mutlar; the would-be wife of Landen has previous as an unsuitable consort. She was also affianced to Lupin Pooter in that great comic classic The Diary of a Nobody by George & Weedon Grossmith.
p.214; Camp Hopson; Furniture and department store in Newbury, Berkshire (not far from Swindon).
p.215; half-human; and what of Acheron's other half? More information to be noted for later. Tabula rasa, of course, is the Latin for 'blank writing tablet', which is what all the subsequent Felixes are.
p.219; Leigh Delamare; service (comfort) station on the M4 near Chippenham, Wiltshire (between Swindon and Bath). Even as I write, little knots of Fforde ffans are lining up to have their pictures taken beneath the sign.
p.221; karabiner; a coupling link with safety closure, used by mountaineers. From the German for 'carbine', though what the connection is between mountaineering equipment and rifles, I do not know.
p.221; Gladstone; a Gladstone bag is like a briefcase, but with two large compartments joined by a hinge. Named (why?) for William Ewart Gladstone, British 19th cent. Prime Minister.
p.221; Poet Writer General; presumably the Nextian equivalent of Poet Laureate.
p.223; Land Rover; very famous British make of 4x4 utility vehicle, much favoured by farmers. A real, rugged, all-terrain vehicle, not one of your luxury models for posing around town in.
p.224; bramble thicket; bramble is another name for blackberry, which grows on prickly shrubs.
p.225; Severn; longest river in Britain, which for part of its lower course forms the boundary twixt England and Wales.
p.225; the Marches; a march is a borderland (cf. German mark) but in Britain 'the Marches' always refers to the English counties bordering Wales.
p.227; large G&T; Gin and tonic. Somebody's sure not to know.
p.235; Welsh capital; the capital of our Wales is Cardiff, not Merthyr Tydfil.
p.235; Brodyr Ulyanov; Brodyr is Welsh for 'brothers' or 'brethren', and as the upgrade points out, probably should be amended to brawd, 'brother'. It was the habit of British trade unionists and Labour party activists to refer to each other as 'brother' or (more rarely) 'sister' (I once heard an exchange between a young Communist and an older Labour stalwart that ran "Listen son," "Don't you call me son, brother," "And don't you call me brother, son!"). Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov was of course the real name of Lenin.
p.235; John Frost; see Socialist Republic of Wales for more fascinating information about Mr. Frost and alternative Welsh history. Note there that Cymru is the Welsh for Wales, meaning 'land of the comrades' (while 'Wales' is Old English for 'land of the foreigners'), and ceiniog is Welsh for 'pence'.
p.237; arse about face; British slang for 'back to front'.
p.238; ersatz;; German, 'substitute or imitation'. First widely used in English during the 1939-45 war, when shortages led both Britons and Germans to consume dubious replacements for such luxuries as coffee.
p.238; poisoned chalice; Macbeth, act 1 scene 7. I am ashamed to say I did not know this until I looked it up.
p.240; Mallard; fastest steam railway locomotive ever, Mallard did 126 miles an hour on July 3rd 1938. Alas, this great engine, though preserved, is not currently in working order.
p.243; Liddington Hill; is exactly as described, and also one of the possible sites for King Arthur's greatest victory, the battle of Mount Badon.
p.244; Berwick-upon-Tweed; town at the other end of England, on the border with Scotland.
p.247; Augustus Ceres; Ceres is, appropriately for an Earthcrosser, the name of the largest of the asteroids.
p.251; size of a cricket ball; approximately the same size as a baseball. 9 inches or 22.9cm in circumference.
p.256; Lerwick; even farther away than Berwick; Lerwick is in the Shetland Islands, way north of Scotland. Incidentally, Berwick is pronounced 'Berrick', but Lerwick is pronounced 'Ler-wick'. We do this these things deliberately, to confuse foreigners.
p.260; Thomas Kyd; another Elizabethan playwright, author of The Spanish Tragedy.
p.261; Marlowe; Just to round the story off, the man fingered for murdering Marlowe was one Ingram Frizer, an agent of the Walsingham family. Frizer received an official pardon for the dirty deed, which happened in a 'respectable house' in Deptford, London, not a tavern as is often alleged. All four men at the fatal meeting were, in one way or another, involved with the Walsingham spy network.
p.261; coroner; in England, an officer of the Crown, whose principal duty is to investigate deaths in the locality, by ordering post mortems or inquests.
p.263; Belfast sink; a large, square type of kitchen sink, often found in Victorian kitchens.
p.267; Rugby; a town in Warwickshire, home of a famous public school. I wouldn't have gone that way, myself.
p.273; windy; slightly posh slang for 'afraid'.
p.273; basketball; in our England, basketball is pretty much small potatoes. I have seen hoops outside people's houses, but I've never seen anyone using them. (My school was very good at basketball, but only because we had Stormin' Norman Duffin, who was 6 foot three at the age of thirteen. We were crap at everything else.)
p.276; Triumph; classic marque of British motorbike, now made at Hinckley in Warwickshire, very close to where Thursday and Bowden now are. Steve McQueen was riding a Triumph in his famous fence-jumping scene in The Great Escape, and Marlon Brando rode one in The Wild One. Harley who?
p.278; Home Counties; name given to those counties immediately surrounding London. You will notice the implication that the rest of England is somehow not 'home'. Fellow Northerners may join me in sniffing and saying 'typical' at this point.
p.278; Austin Allegro; smallish car produced by British Leyland in the 1970's. My Dad had one once. It was rubbish.
p.286; Oswald Mandias; Ozymandias, poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley still holds the all-comers record for Silliest Middle Name in Literature.
p.286;CID; Criminal Investigation Dept. of the police. Plain-clothes detectives, as opposed to uniform coppers.
p.288; this was Yorkshire; I do not wish to get involved in discussing all the defamatory stereotypes of Yorkshiremen (I have to live in the place, after all) but suffice it to say they are reputed not to suffer fools gladly, to speak their mind, and to be, um, careful with their money. That ought to keep me alive if anyone from my local pub reads this.
p.289; Wombat; the Wombats are of course a skit on Freemasons, but the name is a parody of that of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, a (slightly lower-class) society of similar kind. Think Shriners, or Kiwanis.
p.292; honeymoon; I dare swear that nobody in fiction or out of it has ever spent their honeymoon in Merthyr Tydfil before.
I cannot find anything to note in this chapter. Any requests?
p.297; English Museum library; the library of the British Museum has nowadays been hived off into the separate British Library in a modern building instead of the famous domed Reading Room of the Museum library. So if anyone wants to sit and study in the same seat Karl Marx did, you can't, anymore.
p.301; Welsh assembly; in our world, it wasn't until 2000 that Wales got its own limited self-government; the legislative body is known as the Welsh Assembly, and sits in Cardiff.
p.301; Abertawe; pronounced 'aber-ta-way', and meaning 'mouth of the (river) Towy' is the Welsh name for Swansea, second largest city in Wales.
p.302; bach; literally meaning 'little', is a term of endearment in Welsh. Pronounced 'barch'; the 'ch' sound in Welsh is always sounded hard, with a back of the throat rasp Englishmen cannot usually master.
p.302; Dai; pronounced 'die', is a Welsh diminutive for David. It is a very common nickname in Wales.
p.302; R.S. Thomas; 20th cent. Welsh poet, who wrote mainly in English.
p.303; Jones the manuscript; surnames were imposed upon the Welsh by the English, having previously referred to themselves by patronymics such as Ap Rhys, 'son of Rhys'. As a result of the artificial and enforced choice, the Welsh stock of surnames was very limited, with Jones, Davies, Hughes and Williams especially prominent. To distinguish between the many Dai Jones in even quite small communities, nicknames were employed, based on residence or occupation. Thus, the milkman might be Jones the Milk. Hence the bookshop owner's byname.
p.303; Rhonda; a typo for Rhondda, pronounced 'Ron-tha,' with the voiced 'th' of 'them' (dd is always so pronounced in Welsh). It is the name of two valleys in South Wales, notable for coal mining. Haelwyn seems to imply that Merthyr Tydfil is in the Rhondda, which it is not.
p.303; Cold Comfort Farm; a very funny book by Stella Gibbons.
p.303; Llan-dod; Normally spelt Llan'dod, a diminutive for Llandrindod Wells, a small market town in Powys, East Wales. The Welsh 'll' is notoriously difficult for non-Welsh speakers to get their tongues round, but think of it as a sort of 'thl' sound and you'll have some idea.
p.304; Skokholm; small, uninhabited island and bird sanctuary off the coast of Pembrokeshire, South West Wales. Skokholm is the name the Vikings gave it, being Norse for 'wooded island'; it doesn't appear to have a Welsh name (although Ynys-y-Coed would mean the same thing).
p.304; Dylan Thomas: very famous - indeed notorious - Welsh (but not Welsh-speaking) poet. Under Milk Wood is his best-known work, a verse play for radio; the part of First Voice (the narrator) was famously played by Welsh actor Richard Burton. I don't know that he would have had much sympathy with the People's Republic; he was once asked his opinion of Welsh nationalism, "and he replied in three words, two of which were 'Welsh nationalism'".
p.305; Heddlu Cyfrinach; Welsh for 'secret police'. Pronounce it 'heth-li cuvrinach'. (The North Wales Police are known to some as the Deadly Heddlu).
p.312; fall as a teenager; Young Winston did indeed suffer a serious fall. He was also, in the early 1930's, almost killed by a New York cab.
p.324; Millcote; the name used by Charlotte Bronte for Leeds.
p.324; Mrs. Nakijima; typo for Nakajima, the name of a Japanese aircraft manufacturer. Suzuki are a Japanese car manufacturer. (My Dad had a Suzuki Swift once, as well. It was great). In our world, you get a lot of Japanese tourists in Haworth.
p.331; Foyle; Foyle's is the name of a well-known bookshop on the Charing Cross Road, London.
p.345; across the ether; Thursday apart, the best guess at the reason for this strange event is that Charlotte Bronte intended it as an example of mesmerism, in which she was much interested at one time.
p.351; Hispano-Suiza; long-defunct Spanish car and aircraft engine make.
p.353; Murray Posh; in The Diary of a Nobody Daisy Mutlar, after jilting Lupin, does indeed marry Murray Posh.
p.361; Branwell; maiden name of the Bronte sisters' mother. Their brother Patrick was usually known by his middle name, also Branwell.
p.366; goolies; British slang, (male) genitals. Cricketers often wear a protective known as a 'box' to cover the tender parts. Even so, cricket balls are hard, and a fast bowler can send one down at nearly 100 miles per hour, so there is very little defence against a direct hit.
p.371; Lavoisier; possibly Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), French pioneer of chemistry, executed in the Revolution (because he was a taxman). You never know with the ChronoGuard.
p.372; Stiggins; there is a very popular British children's book, by Clive King, about a boy who discovers a Neanderthal man living in a rubbish dump. The book (and the caveman) is called Stig of the Dump. It has also been made into at least two TV series.
This concludes the annotations to The Eyre Affair, and like Huck, if I'd have known what a trouble it was to write I'd never have started it. Still, you may with any luck see notes for Lost in a Good Book appearing on a web page very near this one before too long.