The exhaustive guide to
Something Rotten
Something Rotten - decomposed

My thanks once again to Ben Tymens and the rest of the forum for putting together the following explanatory notes for Something Rotten. I have appended a few notes of my own, where appropriate or to clear up burning questions that had, until now, no answer. Updated: 5th Jan 2005

Welcome to yet another instalment in the guides to Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, this time dealing with the references scattered throughout ëSomething Rotten'. This being the fourth book in the series, many of the references will have appeared before in other guides, so if a character name isn't explained it may be as well to search one of the previous guides (for example this one does not explain the relevance of Lydia Startright) (And won't - Jasper).

As ever, this guide has been written to try and avoid revealing any of the plot, but I cannot guarantee there aren't any spoilers within it. Page numbers are those for the cheaper UK hardback, as that's what I could afford. If you need to find a reference, chapter numbers are included, and you can always hit ctrl-f to find a given word.

All errors and mistakes are entirely mine, except when they're not, and I apologise for my occasional flights of editorialising - as Dr Johnson noted, ìto make dictionaries is dull work". Finally it remains only for me to say that feedback and corrections are always welcome, if not listened to (a major rewrite of the information below will only be considered if enough errors are sent to psd at terrascope.co.uk).

However, without further nonsense, I present...

Something Rotten: Decomposed

Preliminary nuggets:

There are a couple of references that escape the general confines of the book itself, if you know what I mean. The first is the title, and if you don't recognise it from Hamlet Act One, Scene IV, then I suggest you go away and mug up on Hamlet before you even start reading the rest of the book. I believe that the Mel Gibson version comes highly recommended as a primer. (Incidentally, does anybody else spend sleepless nights wondering what Ned Kelly's Hamlet would have been like? "To be or not to be, and don't come the raw prawn?", "Alas, poor Yorrick, I knew him, Bruce?", "Ahh, piss off to a nunnery, Sheila?". I digress...)

Another reference worth drawing your attention to is the Kaine Publishing Stamp, certifying the book as having an energy content of 19180 btu. This was actually worked out by one of Mr Fforde's fans using data collected from a government paper on future methods of generating electricity and the known weight of an American hardback copy of LIAGB. Be afraid. Be very afraid...

btu, by the way, are British Thermal Units, equivalent to the energy required to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. This obviously varies throughout the world, in Britain the lack of plumbers anywhere south of Birmingham means that more energy is required for the same amount of heating (or at least until someone figures out how to make a turbine small enough to harness the steam coming out of your ears when they give you a quote).

451F, famously, is the heat at which paper spontaneously combusts.

Chapter 1 - A Cretan Minotaur in Nebraska

Pg 1 - Barnaby Rudge

Set in the 1780s, amidst a background of riots and probably something else, Barnaby Rudge features no Martians that I am aware of. However, I haven't actually read it, so I'm willing to be corrected... Anyone wishing to provide a better synopsis can feel free, but for now the best information I can give you is that it has a raven in it that apparently inspired Poe - another neat Nextian link.

Queen Pasiphae

There are various accounts of the origins of the minotaur - the half-man, half-bull slain by Theseus - and the more lurid ones of them hold that Pasiphae did the bad thing with a bull that was due to be slaughtered in honour of Poseidon. Anyone with an ill-advised curiosity can probably Google for diagrams of how this might have been achieved, but there are places even I won't go... Pasiphae is the name of a moon of Jupiter that, appropriately enough, is found in an eccentric orbit.


Entering upon a tangent, briefly, I can't resist mentioning that various methods of tracking have been tried in the real world, with varying degrees of success. Perhaps the best of these was an attempt by members of Durham University to feed radioactive peanuts to squirrels so they could trace where they'd been with a Geiger counter. Not, one suspects, the greatest advance in science, but the signs warning of radioactive contamination proved a great advance in the field of burglar deterrence.

As did the glowing squirrel shit...

Pg 2 - All's Well That Ends Well.

In a high point of Elizabethan comedy, we find the following exchange:

PAROLLES: I know not how I have deserved to run into my lord's displeasure

LAFEU: You have made shift to run into 't, boots and spurs and all, like him that leapt into the custard; and out of it you'll run again, rather than suffer question for your residence.

Just be thankful that the invention of the custard pie routine was after Shakespeare's time...

Death at Double-X Ranch

In the film 'The Third Man', 'Death at Double-X Ranch' is a book written by the character Holly Martins. So now you know.

2387 - Normally numbers are significant. In this case it signifies the shallows of my knowledge.

Pg 3 - The Oklahoma Kid

Another film western, this time featuring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, I've seen it described as a gangster movie with horses and stupid hats. Sadly there was no indication that the horses were wearing said hats, but we live in hope.

Pg 4 - Eckley's Livery Stables

Okay, despite Googling till I turn blue, Eckley appears to be in Colorado - and there is nothing else to report. I await the inevitable correction.

Pg 5 - Norman Johnson

This has been bugging me for a while. Dustin Hoffman played a Dr Norman Johnson in Sphere, if that helps? Alternatively, Norman Johnson is a DJ on Radio North Tees. Late night local radio certainly seems a plausible hiding place to me, maybe we should send someone round with a silver biro?

Pg 6 - Colt .45

From Googling, there are several guns that could be described as a Colt .45, but taking the liberty of listening to the same person who advised Mr Ff -

"Any Colt 45's used in 'Death at the Double-X Ranch' should be either the Army model of 1860, or the Single-Action Army Model (Peacemaker) of 1873. Being a pulp novel, accuracy is probably not its strongest point, and Thursday is only speaking generally. Chances are that low-grade, generic gunmen will all have Peacemakers/Colts, as the author can't be bothered to think of anything else."

Zane Grey

As noted in the guide to WOLP. Zane Grey is an excitingly named author of the sort of western that is populated with large numbers of bovines. Owen Wister was another author of westerns, including The Virginian.

Pg 7 - Sears/Roebuck Catalogue

Sears, Roebuck and Co were formed in Chicago in 1886, and twenty years later employed over 2,000 people just to open the mail orders it received, from a catalogue selling everything from needles and thread (rather optimistically described as a 'sewing machine'...) to cars, or even an entire house and contents.

Pg 8 - Cathouses

If UK readers are wondering whether there's something dirty about this, a cathouse is a brothel. I initially wondered whether brothels were legally required to have a litter tray for more deviant members of the judiciary, but it turns out to be a pun on somewhere you'll find pussy. My apologies for anyone hauled up before their IT Department when the Filth Filter catches this.


Almost certainly the Baxters from A Fistful of Dollars, directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as some character whose name escapes me... Howell may be important in this context, but I'm drawing a blank...


I suspect this might be a slightly convoluted in-joke. In 'Highlander' there is a drunk at a bar, who in the credits is played by 'Prince Howell'. Close enough to Prince Hal for me, and only slightly marred by the fact that Jasper worked on 'Highlander 2'. If anyone has any better ideas, they're politely requested to shut up.

Pg 10 - The Winchester Rifle

Winchester sold over 720,000 rifles of their 1876 design, making it one of the most successful guns in the 'wild west'. The 1873 version that preceded it was 'the gun that won the west', according to Skiffle. Who knows such things.

Pg 12 - The Virginian

Written by Owen Wister, The Virginian is one of the earliest novels in the western genre, and features a protagonist who 'loves Shakespeare and Dostoevsky', according to the first (eg 'only'- Ed) website I happened to research. I really ought to read some books sometime - it'd make writing this a lot easier.

Pg 14 - Scrumping

Scrumping is the age-old tradition of ensuring fresh vitamin supplies via a locally sourced non-financial unidirectional transaction (eg 'stealing apples from a nearby orchard'), and has been a country sport since time immemorial. Being chased home by a farmer just makes them taste sweeter. A handy hint for anyone wishing to try it - whilst jumpers do make exceedingly good bags, remember to tie knots to close every hole, and check them frequently. Many criminal masterminds have been caught at an early age by failing to notice a trail of apples falling out for the farmer to follow...

Pg 15 - Ha'penny

Shortened form of a half penny (worth about one toe-nail clipping in modern UK coinage). 480 ha'pennies made up a pound, for some unfathomable reason. Despite this, old people often insist that the old coinage made more sense.

Pg 16 - Wild Horse Mesa

Written by Zane Grey, and telling the story of some bloke who goes to buy horses off a Native American in Utah, who tells him about a wild mustang that cannot be captured. The star of this story resolves to capture it, even if it costs him the woman he loves. Don't know about you, but I think I can spot whose brain got sucked...

Pg 18 - 'Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown'

From Henry IV, pt 2, in case you were wondering. There is absolutely no point in me showing off like this, except to share the anagram: 'O what treachery awaits unseen, eh lads?'

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc is either: a) one of the greatest French heroines and military leaders who caused the English no end of trouble and turned the Hundred Years War or b) some cross-dressing tart who went insane and whose only real value was as a novelty cigarette lighter. You decide.

Jeanne d'Arc, or 'La Pucelle' (the maid), has long ago disappeared under various levels of mythology, canonised by the Catholic church, revered in France and subject to vast quantities of propaganda from the English, it's hard to tell what is truth and what is fiction. What is certainly true is that she was at least a mascot for the French army, and quite probably a leader of it (a long running argument, this) and that she was burnt as a witch after being captured by the Burgundians and then sold onto the English via a bishop. For all the French curses about this course of action, it's worth noting that Charles VII had plenty of opportunities to pay a ransom for her life, in fact he did nothing. It has been widely alleged that he feared Joan's popularity, and used the English to bump off a potential rival.

In one of my favourite historical ironies, Joan was tried by the clergy,: a bunch of men in frocks who felt that one of the key pieces of evidence was her habit of cross-dressing.


'In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree' - apparently this early tourist venture failed when the meeting with his publicist was interrupted by some bloke from Porlock Weir, spelling a hasty end for this troubled venture. Incidentally, anyone wondering if this speech seems familiar should head off down to the bonus features section of the website to see why...

Pg 19 - Zenobia

Readers will remember the unicorn sanctuary from the last book, but it's worth noting here that Zenobia was Queen of Palmyra from 267 to 272, until Aurelian came and invaded for Rome. I'm not sure why it's worth noting though - perhaps it made more sense when I first started researching?


Ah, look on my works, ye mighty, and thank the heavens that Shelley managed to write a nice short poem for a change. Ozymandias was apparently the king of kings, which must piss off Zhark no end. If you haven't read this poem, go and get hold of a copy now. What sort of a philistine are you?


Major James Bigglesworth DSO,DFC,MC is perhaps the most famous fighter pilot ever to take off from Blighty. Written by Captain W.E. Johns, the books invariably had title along the lines of 'Biggles Flies South', 'Biggles Flies North' and 'Biggles Flies Undone' (the latter book, sadly, appearing only in playground jokes). The enduring fascination for Mr Fforde can only have something to do with the pulse-quickening pleasure of messing about in a flying machine.

Long John Silver

Possibly the only pirate in literary history to have been named after an item of underwear, LJS' life of crime may have started with stealing single shoes from the displays outside shoe shops - a crime facilitated by the loss of a leg. LJS is the star of Treasure Island, no matter what anyone says.

England's Mountains Green

Various songs fight it out for the title of the English National Anthem, and nobody can ever decide, which is why the English put up with that awful dirge that by rights belongs to the whole of the United Kingdom. 'Jerusalem', by noted crack-pot mythologist, poet and doodler William Blake, is one of the two front-runners. Some pedants argue that England doesn't have any proper mountains; others say that it does - it just stole them from Wales. More informed pedants point out that mountains are defined by the geological processes that created them, and can, for geographic purposes, be entirely flat. This explains perennial rumours of the existence of Norfolk Mountain Rescue... (either that or the NMR serve a valuable public service by rescuing carelessly abandoned mountains from the misery of the fens)

Chapter 2 - No Place Like Home

Pg 21 - Wessex

As elucidated last time, Wessex is (depending on your historical viewpoint) the south-west area of England, an ancient Saxon kingdom, or Hardy's lightly fictionalised setting for his novels. Mr Fforde's version appears to be a cross between the first and last of these, unless I have missed a reference to a bearded bloke in a furry cloak and a heavy Germanic accent wondering where his hall has gone...

Prince of Denmark

Perhaps, at his first mention, it is best to deal with the tale of Hamlet here. The first Shakespeare character to gain a lucrative contract endorsing cigars (a fashion which faded after the infamous 'Never alone with a Shylock' disaster), Hamlet was named after his father, imaginatively named 'Hamlet'.

Hamlet's troubles start before the play opens, when his father dies and his uncle, Claudius, seizes the throne of Denmark and marries Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. Hamlet suspects that Claudius bumped off the old Hamlet, and this is confirmed by the ghost of his father, who also reveals it was poison administered through the ear. Hamlet, logically enough, is quite upset at this. Slightly less logically, he decides the only course of action is to pretend to go mad.

At this point the urge to pretend to be mad also comes over the person trying to explain the plot, but here goes...

Claudius and Gertrude, along with Polonius, the king's advisor, decide to send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet. Hamlet, meanwhile, is being terribly rude to Polonius' daughter, Ophelia, inducing Polonius to believe that Hamlet is in love with her. Polonius isn't too happy about this, and forbids her to see Hamlet. Claudius, meanwhile, packs Hamlet off to England to get him out of the way. Before he goes, however, Hamlet organises a company of players to act out a thinly disguised version of old Hamlet's death to try and get Claudius to go mad - a strategy that fails somewhat when Hamlet ends up stabbing Polonius through a curtain.

Those who have made it this far with me won't be surprised to hear that the action fails to slow down - Hamlet is still bundled off to England, with orders from Claudius for the English to kill him when he arrives. Hamlet changes the orders, however, to order the deaths of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz but gets captured by pirates one day later.

At this point Laertes, Polonius' son and Ophelia's brother, returns from France, where he has been spied on by somebody else. Understandably upset about his father's death, he's even more annoyed when Ophelia does the dead goldfish routine (ie goes round the bend) before going for her last bath.

Hamlet is now sold back to Claudius by the pirates, and he has one last go at removing his nephew. Organising a distinctly rigged duel between Laertes and Hamlet (with a poisoned sword for Laertes and poisoned wine for the victor just in case), Claudius' plan is sent astray by Gertrude swallowing the poisoned chalice, and Hamlet winning - although Laertes rescues the dramatic action for us by scratching Hamlet with the poisoned sword anyway. Hamlet then grabs the sword and cuts Laertes back, ensuring his death, at which point Gertrude reveals she has been poisoned. Laertes then admits the treachery, at which point Hamlet runs Claudius through. Horatio, Hamlet's best friend, offers to commit suicide too, but Hamlet urges him to stay alive to tell the tale. Right at the end Hamlet gets to bequeath the throne to Fortinbras, the prince of Norway, for reasons that currently escape me. Probably the Scandinavian idea of a practical joke before Ikea flat-pack furniture, I guess...

Got that? Good - now if you'd like to explain it to me...


It is perhaps worth drawing the casual reader to this phrase, which was coined by Jon Brierley, who instigated the habit of writing these guides, before handing the torch on to myself.


Pg 25 - Edith Cavell

Nurse Edith Cavell was born in Norfolk in 1865, and was executed by the German military in 1915 for smuggling allied soldiers to neutral Holland whilst she was working under the banner of the Red Cross. Cavell accepted her execution stoically, and was shot in the early hours of October 12th, handing a propaganda coup to the allies. Cavell's remains were exhumed after the war, and repatriated to England, where she was accorded a state funeral in Westminster Abbey before burial in Norfolk.

Photographs of Nurse Cavell show her to have a perfectly decent haircut, so why mention her at this point in Something Rotten? Could it possibly be an excuse to squeeze in an oblique reference to the mountain named in her honour in Canada's Jasper National Park? (and if it wasn't, this almost certainly is...)


The Tolpuddle Martyrs were amongst the early trade unionists, using the new right to form unions in the 1832 Great Reform Act to create a union of just six members to campaign for a wage of 10 shillings a week. In 1834, a local landowner - outraged at the commoners getting uppity - managed to agitate for their prosecution under an obscure law forbidding the swearing of oaths. All six were transported to Australia, but they were released in 1836, after intervention from the then Home Secretary Lord John Russell - later to be Foreign Secretary during the Schleswig-Holstein problem (he also held the post of Prime Minister twice).

Emma Hamilton

Emma 'Lady' Hamilton was born in 1765, and by the age of 17 was already notorious in London society as a serial mistress and semi-nude dancer in a quack doctor's 'Temple of Health and Hymen'. Her life changed when she was swapped for a gambling debt - the trade ultimately led to her marriage to Sir William Hamilton in 1791. In 1793, now living in Corsica, she was introduced to Nelson, who managed to get his leg over despite only having one functioning eye, less than half his own teeth and a lower than average number of arms. Lord Hamilton appears to have tolerated the relationship until his death in 1803, but the press was less forgiving, making Emma a figure of fun. After Nelson's death Emma rapidly squandered the money left to her by Hamilton, and eventually drank herself to death in squalor in 1815, in Calais.

Mr Bismarck

That nice Mr Bismarck is, of course, Prince Otto von Bismarck, the 19th century's premier warmonger and the person who almost single-handedly drove the unification of Germany under Prussia, and more importantly the fashion for those funny pointy-hats.

Mr Fforde, in his wonderful 'Making of...' says that the 'von' has gone AWOL as Bismarck wasn't a duke in 1864, my own research (or 'listening to my German girlfriend going on endlessly about it', as it probably ought to be known) suggests that the 'von' was there from birth, as he came from an aristocratic family. Whether he should therefore be referred to as 'Herr von Bismarck' or 'Graf' is a matter of some confusion, however. This is the sort of problem you have when you get rid of a system of aristocracy but still need to refer to the buggers years later...

Pg 26 - Ikea

Ikea, as you will be aware, is the Swedish flat-pack furniture manufacturer that makes a fortune out of tormenting you with instructions that almost, but not entirely, look like the contents of the pack in front of you. This guide is sort of the same - it's taken hours to put together and there's a suspicion lingering that it will shortly fall to pieces but at least it's cheap and looks the part. I can't help with any requirements you may have for pickled herring though.


Battenberg cake consists of 2 pink and 2 yellow sponges of square cross-section, glued together with jam, and wrapped in marzipan, so that when you cut it open you get a neat chequerboard effect. Battenberg was named after the Battenberg family (there were four Battenberg princes in the Royal family), although the significance was lost in the Great War, when they changed their name in embarrassment to the less German sounding 'Mountbatten'. It's the sort of cake you have with afternoon tea, and the marzipan ensures an argument over its merits every time.


Wittenberg is the home of a famous university, and was the place where Martin Luther started his novelty doorknocker trade - "no hawkers, traders or ecclesiastical backhanders" - and kicked off the Reformation. Although it has little to do with cake, it's rescued by being the first place in Germany to have a lightening rod. And if you're going to have blokes like Luther potentially pissing off the almighty, it's a wise precaution to take. As you may have gathered, Hamlet went to university there.


Doilies are lacy bits of paper to stop cakes sticking to the plate. They didn't stop the cake sticking to the paper though, but I guess it was free fibre when times were hard. I remember being taught to make them in primary school, but the purpose escapes me. I only remember it as shortly afterwards the nice teacher was forced to resign, we were banned from visiting the old folk's home ever again, and all the scissors were taken away. Still, it wasn't as bad as the day they taught us about Joan of Arc...


Ah, Camelot - either the mythical home of Arthur and the knights of the round table, or the non-mythical company that runs the UK's National Lottery. Or 'Lotto', as they insist on calling it. I have a suspicion that 'Lancelot' is a dirty pun handed down through the ages, and that Guinevere is a sort of Arthurian version of Emma Hamilton. Lovers of Python will no doubt be reciting a number of desperate rhymes for 'Camelot' at this point, my favourite of which is almost certainly 'pram a lot'.

Pg 27 - Gorillas

According to the BBC, females and juveniles readily climb trees. Well, that stopped my pedantic suspicions in their tracks, didn't it? Still, I'll include it to stop any thoughts you were having.

Panel beating

The noble art of hitting metal with a hammer to return it to the shape your car was in previously. Not, sadly, the art of taking a baseball bat to politicians on certain political shows, although viewing figures would doubtless rise as people felt a need to 'engage with the political process'.


The DH82, it transpires, is better known as the Tiger Moth - a First World War flying machine of considerable fame. Early Fforde web-pages were apparently put together by DH82 Design.


The Thylacine, or 'Tasmanian Wolf' as it was also known, was a mangy-looking predator hunted to extinction as a pest species - you could still claim a bounty for shooting one even when it became clear they were running out of them to shoot. Rumours persist that a small population may have survived, but if they do nobody has yet found conclusive proof.

Pg 28 - The Brunel Centre

Named after Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a great Victorian gent whose many achievements include the Thames Tunnel (working with his father), the revolutionary steamship SS Great Britain (the first steamship to cross the Atlantic), the Great Western Railway (that led directly to the growth of Swindon), the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and last, but not least, the daftest hat in the history of engineering. If it's big, impressive and has several thousand tonnes of iron involved in its construction, there's a good chance that Brunel was behind it (or in the case of the hat, beneath it).

Pg 29 - Copenhagen

One of the more outrageous of Nelson's actions, the Battle of Copenhagen came about after the Baltic countries form the Armed Neutrality of the North (basically they just wanted Napoleon to go away, and keeping the British out of the Baltic - vital for supplies of timber for the fleet - seemed like a good idea). The Danes knew the British, under Parker, were coming, and had blocked the deep water entrance to the port with their strongest ships.

After Nelson's proposal for a show of force was rejected, a single frigate was sent with a list of demands. Unsurprisingly, the Danes, secure in their defences, rejected it. The next day Nelson took the 12 boats least likely to run aground and sneaked past the Danes across the shallow water they thought protected them, and proceeded to blow up everything in sight until they surrendered.

Legend has it that three hours into the battle Admiral Parker, seeing three of his ships run aground and a cannon-happy Nelson having the time of his life, tried to call the attack off. Nelson, so the story goes, stuck his telescope to his blind eye, and said 'I have a right to be blind sometimes: I see no signal', and carried on regardless. The resulting victory cemented the Nelson myth.

Interestingly, in 1807 the Danes tried it again, with pretty much the same result (except without Nelson, who was by this time suffering a loss of sight in both eyes, and a loss of pulse in every other part of his body).


Elsinor, or Helsing¯r, is the closest bit of Denmark to Sweden. The castle is actually the Kronborg Slot, and it's advertised (rather dubiously) as being on the 'Danish Riviera'. Having dipped a toe in the North Sea, I advise you to leave your skimpiest bikinis at home.

Pg 30 - French Windows

Perhaps now known elsewhere as Freedom Windows, French windows are basically large paned doors that one can open wide to provide an easy way in and out of the garden of a house - the difference between them and patio doors is they open on hinges, whereas patio doors slide.

Pg 31 - Lorem Ipsum

As explained by Mr Fforde within the book, Lorem Ipsum is a form of pseudo-Latin used to help with typesetting. The advantage of it is that it replicates fairly accurately the sort of spacing you'd expect with English, but you don't have to make any sense of it. Accusations that it is nonsense Latin aren't quite true - it turns out to come from Cicero, writing in about 45BC on ethics. The original starts "Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit . . ." (There is no-one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain . . .).

A quick Google for Lorem Ipsum will find you hundreds of websites in construction using it to get the layout right. Richard Clintock, the person who discovered the source of the quote, recalled having seen a 15th century book of typefaces that used it, meaning that it has been used, more or less unaltered, for over five centuries. Not bad, huh?

(I suspect quite a few quotes have been sneaked in by Mr Fforde throughout the book - I have neither the time nor inclination to hunt them all down, but will willingly collate an appendix if people wish to collect translations of Friday's utterings)

Pg 32 - Mrs Worthing

I can't find a Mrs Worthing, certain or not, but I can tell you that Worthing, in Sussex, has been voted the worst place in Britain to be young. Known as 'God's Waiting Room', it has two cinemas compared to 15 funeral parlours and 50 old people's homes. Draw your own conclusions...

Pg 33 - Sister Bettina

There may well be a more mundane explanation of this but the first person to sleep with Casanova, when he was just 11, was a priest's sister who went by the name of (yup) Bettina. Sad to see that the decline in standards of education also applies to sex education, isn't it?

Jasper Note: Bettina, in this instance, is actually one of the reps at Hodder and Stoughton.


Stroud is a genteel Cotswold town in Gloucestershire, with a railway station built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Historically Stroud produced cloth, with mills powered by water from the five valleys above it, latterly it produced Laurie Lee - author of Cider With Rosie. Several websites link Mr Fforde with Stroud, but I'm not sure this isn't out of confusion with his cousin-in-law, Katie Fforde, who I think does live there. Never trust the internet, would appear to be the lesson. Especially if you're using this guide to do your English homework.

Pg 34 - Roger Kapok

Kapok seems the right sort of noise for a croquet ball to make, but unless I'm missing a really bad pun, there seems to be little sense to the name, the kapok tree - Bombax ceiba - produces seed pods whose fluffy interior is used for stuffing cushions and sound insulation, but this name still troubles me. Beware-

As explained in the bonus section elsewhere on Mr Fforde's website, 'Question Time' is a venerable TV programme in the UK, in which a panel of four politicians are invited to answer questions by an audience of 'ordinary people'. Rarely w Pg 35 - Evade The Question Time puns lurk about this one. ill they take up this invitation - preferring to talk rubbish about anything other than the matter in hand.

Mr Rudyard's Cakes

Perhaps the most famous UK manufacturer of cakes is Mr Kipling, whose cakes, we are told in advert after advert, do taste exceedingly good. Surely you're literate enough to get the joke already? See - just so.

Pg 36 - The Schleswig-Holstein problem

Schleswig and Holstein are two regions situated on the German-Danish border. The problem, as I understand it, is that Prussia wanted them, and so did Denmark. At the time, however, it was said that only three people understood it: one had died, one had gone mad and the third had forgotten the answer. The problem came about, in truth, because the territory was home to both Danes and Germans, and it was only settled by referendums in North and South Schleswig in 1920. North Schleswig voted to become part of Denmark, the southern portion remained German. Holstein never got a vote, as it was geographically now surrounded by Germany anyway (a vote to remain German was virtually certain in any case).

Pg 37 - Tickia orologica

As noted previously by Jon Brierley in a previous guide, Tickia orologica is the Latin name given to a plant in Edward Lear's 'Nonsense Botany'. Quite what the cod-Latin translates exactly as is a pointless debate, I'd go for 'horological ticking', Jon went for 'ticking clock' - the difference occurs as I'm more pretentious. Choose whichever flavour you prefer, and hunt for the drawings yourself to see what it looks like.

Pg 38 - Walking with Ducks

Many readers will be aware of the CGI nature spectacular of 'Walking with Dinosaurs', which I think I'm right in saying was a joint BBC/Discovery Channel venture. It was especially notable for making improbably precise statements about dinosaur behaviour that can never be proven or disproven - what, with behaviour not fossilising very well... As theatre it was reasonably engaging, as science it left quite a bit to be desired.

Most amusing (and worrying) were statements about how such and such a beast was highly coloured - colour being the one thing we have notoriously little knowledge about. Ironically, working out some of the colours of ducks from fossilised feathers would be theoretically possible - whilst reds, greys, browns and blacks tend to be formed by pigments, the iridescent blues and greens are formed by the structure of the feathers involved refracting and reflecting light via tiny striations. One team already claims success in working out the colour of prehistoric beetles from reconstructed remains, so it should work for the greens and blues on ducks, if nothing else. See, learn something everyday, don't you?

Anas platyrhynchos

The mallard to you and me - the mallard is the commonest UK duck: the one with the green head and creamy-brown body. As with most birds, the females are more demure.


There are two species of echidna, and along with the platypus they form the entire extant collection of monotremes - egg laying mammals. They are only found in Australia, and look as cute as anything.

Pg 41 - Wootton Basset

A more or less anonymous Wiltshire town, by all accounts. Well, not quite anonymous - obviously they need something to put on the maps, but you get the idea.

Candice de Floss

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. If I explain that cotton candy is known as candy floss in the UK, you'll start looking for a table to bang your head against too.

JF Note: This is actually a serious piece of hole-fillery. In the last book, Thursday references a 'De Floss' novel which I thught would be Millon. Once I started writing TN4 I realised Millon was actually a bit of a loser and certianly would never have any books published - hence the reference to a more successful but unrelated author.

Pg 42 - Compass Rose

As usual, whenever I don't know something somebody will provide the information for me to plagiarise. The 'Compass Rose' is a corvette in 'The Cruel Sea' by Nicholas Monsarrat, upon which men in duffel coats sit on a boat and watch the sea. In the film version, btw, the boat that played the Compass Rose was the Coreopsis, one of the few surviving boats of the Liverpool Escort Force in which Nicholas Monsarrat served and which had directly informed his writing. How's that for accuracy in a movie, eh? My thanks to Aunt Sassy for knowing more than me.

"And so the tabloids..."

This is a reworking of a poem by Jonathon Swift:

"So, Nat'ralists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum:
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind"

(Apparently this is the lesser quoted version, most people know a different third line, and most people forget the last couplet - in light of the reference, I think it rather important to add it...)

Pg 43 - Guinzilla

We've all seen the apocalyptic monster movies, and a giant guinea pig (or cavy, for the pedants) seems as plausible as anything else - just as well, really, as Phoberomys pattersoni was a 9 foot-high guinea pig relation that has now gone extinct. The reason for this was probably it being left with the really stupid kid over the school holidays. My betting is that its secret attack was to wee on people. Hell, that's what every single one I've ever met has done. Or is that just me?

Chapter 3 - Evade the Question Time

Pg 45 - Angles, Bruts and Flynns

It may surprise no-one to hear that at least one of these tribes appears not to have invaded England - he was a swashbuckling movie star instead. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Brut (or Brutus) is a legendary king of Britain, who along with the remnants of the Trojan race landed at Totnes in Devon and established the line of British Kings. Meanwhile the Angles, who came in from the other side, gave their name to both English and England.

'New Oppressor'

Presumably a rival to the modern 'New Statesman', formed in 1913 "with the aim of permeating the educated and influential classes with socialist ideas". It's worth noting that 'socialist' doesn't have quite the same negative tones as it does in the USA, Socialism and Communism being seen as two quite different things (although obviously there is a grey line dividing the two).

Pg 46 - Cash for Llamas

There was an infamous court case a few years back that proved a British MP had taken money for asking questions in the House of Commons, and I assume that this is what the scandal refers to. Llamas are inherently amusing, and I seem to remember a Goliath plot with them before. Or am I getting confused with the opening credits to Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Unreform Act

The Great Reform Act, and the later Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884, extended the franchise (those who have the right to vote, rather than something to do with fast food restaurants) to a much wider population than previously. The 1832 Act gave the vote to all males paying more than £10 a year in rent (£2 in rural areas) for property, or owning their own property. It also removed the notorious rotten boroughs (those with a tiny, easily bribed electorate) and pocket boroughs (those with just one voter, who could pick who he wanted as his two MPs). The Great Reform Act only extended the vote to about a seventh of the UK's male population, but marked a huge change towards democracy. Kaine's Unreform Act appears to roll back the clock to before the 1867 Act, where male lodgers paying over £10 were also enfranchised - an increase of 1.5 million voters.

Pg 48 - Fawsten Gayle

The Beaufort Scale was developed by Francis Beaufort, the commander of HMS Woolwich, in 1805. Scales had existed before to compare wind from day to day, but Beaufort's position in the 1830s as the 'Hydrographer to the Royal Navy' enabled him to press for his scale to be used above earlier, more vague, scales (his was drawn up specifically with reference to the quantity of sail that could be carried). Beaufort, incidentally, commissioned the voyage of the Beagle, upon which an unknown scientist set forth to see the world. Charles Darwin came back somewhat better known, especially after publishing a well-received account of the voyage. The captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitzroy, subsequently became the first director of what is now the Met Office.

And what, you ask, does this have to do with old Fawsten? Not much, but Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale is officially a gale.

Ernst Stricknene

Ernst, presumably, comes from Ernst Stavros Blofeld, erstwhile enemy of James Bond. Stricknene, on the other hand, is a corruption of Strychnine - a deadly poison. An alkaloid, within twenty minutes of exposure strychnine starts to cause the body to convulse, and the spasms get more severe, and painful, until death comes either by exhaustion or paralysis of the brain stem causing breathing to stop. The popularity of strychnine in literature and film comes from these easily recognised, and agonising, symptoms. Not a nice way to go - the only cure is a massive dose of some kind of depressant (cyanide would work, I think, as might listening to Geri Halliwell's cover of It's Raining Men'). If you last 24 hours, however, you're likely to survive.


From the Danish 'Leg godt', "meaning "to stick painfully into the sole of the foot", Lego existed as a company name long before they came to apply the name exclusively to the 'automatic binding bricks' produced by the company. Can there be anyone in the Western world who hasn't played with Lego at some stage or another?


S¯ren Aabye Kierkegaard was a 19th Century philosopher and theologian who has been claimed as the father of existentialism, although this is debated by people with far more knowledge than myself. Kierkegaard can be hard to untangle, especially in his early work where he wrote books under pseudonyms - followed by more works arguing against them under another pseudonym...

Hans Christian Andersen

Born in 1805, HCA was considered a strange little boy even by his family. After a few lucky breaks, notably royal patronage that had him sent to school in (of all places) Elsinore, HCA attained his greatest fame through his Fairy Tales, including The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid (without the hideous happy ending and stupid singing crab of the Disney version) and The Princess and the Pea. Apparently the character of Uriah Heep was modelled upon Andersen, after Dickens met him on a visit to England.

Karen Blixen

The only one of Santa's reindeer to have achieved any literary success (Rudolph' s ' autobiography' detailing ' my cocaine hell' was in fact ghost written), Blixen wrote under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen. Her greatest success came with Out of Africa - her account of her time in Kenya, where she owned a coffee plantation.

Tudor Webastow

Tudor Webasto apparently makes sunroofs. They sponsored the Manx rally in 1985. Here endeth the lesson.

Redmond van der Poste

Mr van de Poste may, allegedly, be better known as Postman Pat. As MissPrint says, she may be going out on a limb here. (in fact, seeing as Postman Pat is well known as a member of the Japanese Yakuza, she may be closer than she thinks). In case he hasn't travelled well, Postman Pat is a postman in a remote Yorkshire village who owns a black and white cat. The fact that he smiles whilst delivering post to the right address should be a sure sign he's fictional.

Alternatively he could be a cross between the travellers Laurens van der Post and Redmond O'Hanlon.

JFf Note: Or even more simply, a Red Post Van - because I am so old I remember when the GPO used Red Morris Minor vans for post, and Yellow ones for telephone. You could always tell ex-GPO vans as they had brackets on the side where the advertising boards used to affix and a yale lock on the rear door. (Actually, I think it might have been Austin who made the vans and pick-ups. Despite looking similar the vans had a strong ladder chassis wheras the saloons were more semi-monocoque. Both had a gutless A-series engine. The strange thing is, I don't have to Google any of this.)


A Nextian version of Kwik-Fit. 'You can't get quicker than a Kwik-Fit fitter', went the jingle, and they were right. - nobody appeared to be faster at spotting parts that need replacing, often before inspecting them. One of the great joys in life is taking an old car with leaf springs to have a tire changed, and then having them say your shock absorbers have gone. After two hours of frantically trying to find them, they occasionally admit defeat.

Pg 49 - Fay Bentoss

Quite possibly a relative of Fray Bentos, the pie-in-a-can manufacturers, named (it appears) after the capital of the Rio Negro department of SW Uruguay. Learn something every day through Google...

JFf note: We always keep at least two tins of Fray Bentos pies in the back of the larder, along with s everal tims of beans and Ambrosia creamed rice. Just in case you run out of food...

Miss Pupkin

Possibly named after Rupert Pupkin, the star-obsessed wannabe comedian and autograph hunter from the King Of Comedy. Only possibly, mind...

Pg 52 - Young man with dyed red hair

It is perhaps a sign of vanity to fancy finding oneself in a book, so I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Pg 52 - Mrs Malaprop

The pineapple of politeness, and famous from The Rivals, by Sherridan. Malaprop (a condensed form of the Latin 'mal apropos') - consistently mixes up her words with 'comic' effect. Shakespeare did the same thing with Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, so one wonders why we talk of malapropisms, rather than dogberryisms.

JFf note: One of my favourite jokes in the book, incidentally. I was all chuffed I was so clever. Little things amuse me, as you can see. Chapter 4 - A Town Like Swindon

Pg 57 - Warwick Fridge

Anyone know what's going on here? He turns up writing about ratings in LIAGB, but then nothing is heard of him. Surely I'm missing a pun?

Leigh Onzolent

Lee on Solent is a Hampshire town, the Solent in question being the channel separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland. The Solent is plied by ferries with the highest fares per mile in the world, so pack your pedalo.


Arkwright, played by Ronnie Barker, was the shop-owning star of 'Open All Hours', a popular sitcom from 1973. Meanwhile, Richard Arkwright was the mill owner and engineer who invented the Spinning Frame, a machine that revolutionised the production of thread for weaving. Sadly much of the glory went to the rival 'Spinning Jenny', probably because the British prefer names that lend themselves to innuendo.

Under no circumstances should either Arkwright be confused with the Two Ronnies sketch confusing fork handles with four candles, no matter how easily confused they are. To make this error is to invite ridicule upon oneself, and I would never be so stupid.

Pg 58 - Xplkqulkiccasia

"Hard-to-pronounce medical term used to describe the 'Shock of discovering that what we thought was fiction is real' Sometimes fatal." - from the master himself.

Pg 60 - Lucky gonk

Lucky gonks were a phenomenon as mascots on children's TV quiz shows during the '70s and '80s, and no winner was complete without a mascot in front of them. They were probably provided by the producers, or something - surely at least one kid was capable of staring at a TV camera without needing a fluffy toy to help them?

Pg 64 - MOT

The MOT is a test that motor cars must pass every year once they are three years old, to ensure that they are still safe to be on the roads. The initials come from the Ministry Of Transport, as far as I can tell - although any more information would be welcomed.

Pg 65 - Porsche

How posh people say 'posh'.

Griffin-6 Lowrider

The only example of such a car on the web appears to be here: https://www.jasperfforde.com/swindon/album10.html. Which doesn't get us terribly far, does it?

Pg 66 - Mrs Barnet

A Barnett is cockney rhyming slang (you know, cockney - the accent that sounds nothing like whatever Dick van Dyke was attempting in Mary Poppins) for hair, after Barnett Fair. You can't play it in Scrabble, sadly.

Pg 70 - Zeffirelli's Hamlet

The Mel Gibson version, and mostly recommended for its brevity. I'd put my house on Claudius having an English accent.

Chapter 5 - Ham(let) and Cheese

Pg 72 - rollmop herrings

Pickled herring fillets, rolled up and stabbed with a stick. You either hate them or tolerate them...

Pg 74 - Lake Wobegon Days

Written by Garrison Keillor about a fictional Minnesota town, I have to admit I know nothing about this except the web has lots of copies going very cheaply.

Pg 76 - Cousin Eddie

Cousin Eddie may well come from the 'Hagar the Horrible' cartoon strips - the Viking Hagar has a kid called Hamlet, and a best mate called Eddie...

JFf note: There is a little-seen series of delicious TV comedy by Michael Palin and Terry Jones entitled 'Ripping Yarns' and in one of them, "Whinfrey's last case" or stand, or something, he goes to a little Cornish village to try and discover why the Germans are trying to start the war early, in 1913. Predictably the entire cornish village are German spies, and when asked to be introduced to them in a pub, they are all called 'Cousin Eddie'. This particular series has especial significance as it was the first TV show I ever saw that featured a location I had actually been to - and recognised. When Gerald Whinfrey arrives In Cornwall by steam train, he is actually at Staverton, on the Dart Valley railway, and I went to school only five miles from there. I last saw it on first transmission so some of these -or all of these- facts might be wrong. But it's the way I remember it.


Perhaps this is a good place to clear something up about Wolverhampton. People from there, whilst superficially sounding like Brummies, are not from Birmingham. They are from the Black Country, which is part of the general West Midlands conurbation of which Birmingham forms the greater part. I only mention this in case you should ever visit a public house in the region.

Pg 80 - Tarbuck Graviport

Jimmy Tarbuck, erstwhile citizen of Liverpool, golfer and sometime comedian deserves this honour at least as much as the pot-addled, long-haired hippy who whinged 'Give peace a chance' before retiring to bed with his missus and half the world's media deserves to have the real Liverpool airport named after him. Naming the gravitube station after Tarbuck is a satire on the real 'John Lennon Airport'. Incidentally, in a Nextian twist, there are rumours that Coventry airport is going to rename itself Shakespeare International...

Chapter 6 - SpecOps

Pg 82 - Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell, Victorian author, mate of Dickens and best known for her biography of Charlotte Bronte and for her novel "Mary Barton: A tale of Manchester life.". The most interesting fact I can discover is her middle name: Cleghorn.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge was responsible for the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Kahn, and the profit margins of several opium dealers. One of Wordsworth's mates (with whom he wrote "The lyrical ballads"), Coleridge was one of the key players in the Romantic movement, and later formed revolutionary ideas in the field of literary criticism (I'm assured that one of his quotes on Shakespeare is still the essential quote on audience perception, for example).

Pg 83 - Samuel Pring

Turns up in one of the chapter headings in TEA chapter 7, as a Goliathsceptic. Doesn't really answer the question of who he is though, does it?


Rolexes are the world's most forged watches, and something that is duff fails to work. QED.

Pg 85 - Officer Jodrell

Hmm, there is a radio telescope on the Cheshire plain known as Jodrell Bank (I can see it from where I normally go climbing). This could be a misfiring pun, lots of fishing areas are known as 'banks' e.g. the Dogger Bank, the Grand Banks, and this may be a reference to that. Or it might be a lot easier to explain. Anyone?

Pg 86 - "Ydy, ond dydy hi ddim wedi bwrw glaw pob dydd"

"Yes, but it didn't rain every day" is my best shot at a translation.

Mark Twain

Not surprising that Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens get them confused - they're the same person. Clemens took the pseudonym from the river pilots on the Mississippi: 'mark twain' means the water is two fathoms deep.

Chapter 7 - The Literary Detectives

Pg 89 - Diatrymas

There were four species in the genus Diatryma, all of which were giant, flightless carnivorous birds and scary as hell. Living 50-55 million years ago (in the Eocene), the largest species, Diatryma gigantean, was anything up to three metres high, with a 50cm beak. The bite was probably slightly less painful than that from a hamster, but I still wouldn't recommend one as a pet.

Pg 90 - the Solution of Edwin Drood

'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' is what actually happens, as Dickens died before he could finish the tale. The villain of the story, conspiracy theorists note, was called Jasper.

Pg 92 - The Concept of Dread

Or "begrebet angest", published by Kierkegaard in 1844, this argues that the source of dread, or fear, is the 'eternal' within man. Without the eternal there would be no dread, and anyone feeling the dread without admitting it is doomed to despair. Or something.

Pg 93 - Cartlandromin

One of the UK's most prodigious authors, at least in terms of output, Dame Barbara Cartland was a mass of pink taffeta, inexplicable popularity, and poor make-up: she was variously described as looking like 'she'd tried to eat lipstick with her eyes' and having eyes 'like two crows that had flown into a cliff' . Her romantic novels were widely derided, yet she sold over a billion copies of some 724 titles. Worryingly, a stash of over 100 more unpublished novels has been discovered since her death.

Handley Paige

Founded in 1909, Handley Page were the manufacturers of the Halifax bomber during WWII, and later the Victor, amongst other planes. They eventually disappeared, but the Victor was still in service as a refuelling tanker plane for many years after their demise.

Basil Brush

For people of a certain age Basil Brush is a national institution. A fox puppet in hunting tweeds, he would interview quite serious guests and tell appalling jokes (always following the punch line with a hearty 'Boom Boom!') on children's TV. He disappeared from the screens in the mid-'80s, and has just made his comeback. To get an idea of the general effect, imagine Squire Weston from Tom Jones doing a puppet show... My English teacher had played a policeman on the Basil Brush show, and saw this as a highlight of his career. Compared to teaching us, it probably was.

Chapter 8 - Time Waits for No Man

Pg 95 - Celebrity Kidney Swap

The recent trend in UK television has been for reality TV shows, starring 'real' people, to be remade starring 'celebrities' - normally the sort that have become famous for showing flesh at awards' ceremonies and little else (indeed, many of them only became known through reality TV in the first place). By now we really are scraping the bottom of the barrel, although it's interesting to note that whilst the US market has gone for more extreme formats, the UK market has kept similar formats and replaced the nobodies with somebodies. I'm sure we can all think of people suitable for Kidney Swap, but only if we can swap the kidney for, say, a small alarm clock or Blankety-Blank chequebook and pen.

Pg 98 - Winston Churchill

Whilst not killed by a cab in 1932 (he was merely knocked over by one), Winston Churchill really did blot his copy book in the Great War, being responsible for the cock-up that was Gallipoli.

Pg 99 - Berwick-upon-Tweed

Berwick is the northernmost town in England, and has been fought over many times. Incidentally, if anyone tries to tell you that the North Sea oil fields are Scottish by rights, they're wrong. The border turns north to keep Berwick on the English side, and under international law borders continue out to sea at the same angle they hit the shore - meaning about half the oil fields are English, no matter how far north they are. There's no use to this information unless you get into an argument with a Scot's nationalist, when it becomes rather amusing to drop it into conversation...


As well as sounding like it ought to be part of a horse, Fetlar is one of the Shetland Islands, off the north coast of Scotland.

Pol Pot, Bokassa, Idi Amin, Mozart, Henson, Mother Theresa

Pol Pot killed up to 2 million Cambodians in his 'Year Zero' attempt to return Cambodia to a feudal state - most of the dead were executed for being 'intellectuals', Bokasa declared himself the Emperor of Central Africa after a bloody coup in the Central African Republic (wonder how they came up with the name for that?), Idi Amin was a notorious despot in Uganda, Mozart composed some annoying ringtones for mobile phones, Henson created the Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, and Mother Theresa was an Albanian nun who tended the sick in Calcutta (and who appeared to have been alive in our own world in the same year that SR is set).

Chapter 9 - Eradications Anonymous

Pg 105 - Holmes and Watson

They may not be in the wrong book, actually - they stop for lunch in Swindon in the Boscombe Valley Mystery.

Pg 107 - Julie Aseizer

With this section, I believe we may have finally passed the punning Rubicon. Alea jacta est, eh Jasper?

Pg 108 - Saveloy

A saveloy is a sort of savoury sausage in a tight, red skin that can only be found in chip shops. Presumably it contains some sort of meat, but the odds aren't good.

Toasters from Hell! And You've Been Stapled!

The 'From Hell!' TV shows started with 'Neighbours From Hell!' and rapidly got less interesting. 'You've Been Framed!' was a popular show where viewers sent in their 'hilarious' videos to some annoying bearded tit. It is now less popular, and the quality of videos is no less 'hilarious'. One to avoid, I fear.

Chapter 10 - Mrs Tiggy-Winkle

Pg 109 - Fear and Trembling

Most people are filled with this when faced with the prospect of trying to understand Kierkegaard, but here goes:

Fear and Trembling (Frygt og BÊven) is basically an argument over whether Abraham (in the Bible tale) was acting ethically when he was ready to sacrifice his own son. Kierkegaard basically argues that as he was acting from a higher imperative (the infinite part of being human) but was aware his actions were inherently wrong (from the finite part) he was demonstrating a perfect awareness of self (which only comes from the relationship between the two). If this makes your head spin, you're not alone.

Pg 110 - orange street lights

Yup, street lamps in Britain are, at least along most major roads, still orange. This has the effect of giving out light whilst simultaneously making it harder to see anything at a distance. Sodium lamps are used, apparently, as they're incredibly efficient - even if they make everything the wrong colour, they're still alleged to give good contrast. White lamps are slowly taking over, however, and not before time.


According to the Sandwalk Adventures, this was the year that Charles Darwin started trying to convince a colony of follicle mites in his left eyebrow that he was not God. Elsewhere dynamite was patented by the founder of the 'Peace' Prize Alfred Nobel (who went on to invent gelignite - he thought both substances would end wars, which shows a certain triumph of hope over experience), transportation to Australia was ended, the second reform act was passed and the typewriter was invented. Any or all of the above may account for the Red Queen's fit of pique.

Pg 111 - Starbucks

Originating in Seattle, Starbucks are currently trying to take over the world, one street at a time, with their weird tasting coffees. Multiplying like mushrooms after a burst of rain, Starbucks' tend to grow in rings around the initial spore, resulting in some streets having four or five along their length. Eventually every other shop the world over will be a Starbucks outlet, most of the others will be selling cures for the chronic shaking brought on by caffeine overload.

Pg 112 - Tailor of Gloucester

Brilliantly, if you Google for 'tailor Gloucester plot' you get guides to King Lear. Rather less brilliantly, the actual work being referred to is Beatrix Potter's twee tale of a poor tailor and his mouse-torturing cat. Having heard the synopsis I find myself unable to sink to the necessary tweeness to relate it, so you can hunt on the fforum for annie.leader.biblio's excellent distillation. I still like the idea of King Lear being produced through the medium of anthropomorphic animals with Edwardian clothing on though.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Good God! We're out of our depths here! Tom Stoppard wrote this pair their own existentialist play, in which they are onstage when not onstage in Hamlet, if you follow. Ophelia will no doubt demand a role in it... Perhaps the best quote from the play is "Audiences know what they expect and that is all they are prepared to believe in" - although this may well be a recycled quote from Coleridge, of all people..

Lamb's Shakespeare

Lamb's Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb, was "meant to be submitted to the young reader as an introduction to the study of Shakespeare"; although (as Roald Dahl understood full well) the best way to hook children is often to include lots of gruesome detail, so it's a mystery why we don't just shove them in front of Titus Andronicus.

Lamb's Shakespeare shows its age a little, as seen in the preface where it states that "it has been the intention chiefly to write [for girls]; because boys being generally permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a much earlier age than girls are, they frequently have the best scenes of Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted to look into this manly book", it's also, to a modern reader, almost impenetrably dense in places due to their attempts to keep as many of Shakespeare's words as possible.

Pg 114 - 'smelling of exhaust'

It is perhaps worth noting that the easiest way to assess the hedgehog population in the UK is by a terminal sampling technique. Or counting roadkill, if you prefer to avoid euphemism.

Chapter 11 - The Greatness of St Zvlkx Pg 115 - Windowlene

Windowlene is a cleaning fluid specifically designed for, well, I'm sure you can guess. It doesn't make very good cocktails, even the non-smear version with vinegar.


Tesco's are the UK's most profitable supermarket chain. Formed in 1924 they opened their first store five years later, and by 2003 had over 2000 stores worldwide. Think 'British Walmart' and you'll be close.

Pg 117 - Cardinal Wolsey

Thomas Wolsey was one of the 16th century's supreme political operators, working his way up the ranks until he was one of the most powerful men in England. He became somewhat less powerful after failing to secure a speedy divorce for Henry VIII - this upset Anne Boleyn, who subsequently had Henry declare Wolsey a traitor. With the sort of inbred complexity common in the Nextian world, the tomb Wolsey had designed for himself was left unfilled until Nelson was selected to fill it.

Sail of the Century

From Norwich, it's the quiz of the week! Imported from the home of rampant consumerism, Sale of the Century was presented by undisputed King of the Cravat, Nicholas Parsons. Build up cash by answering questions, and then spend them on massively discounted prizes (donated from the back of a lorry, I'll bet). The format proved highly durable, and versions have been made in every corner of the globe.

The Spanish Armada, on the other hand, was a fleet of ships sent by the Catholic King Phillip of Spain to invade the protestant England. The plan was to sail to the Low Countries and escort barges across from Holland and Belgium that were carrying the troops. A series of cock-ups in the planning meant that the forces they were due to escort were unaware they were coming, and then it turned out that the coastal waters were too shallow for the Armada ships to provide effective cover. To add to the problems fireships - basically floating bombs - were sent into the anchored fleet by the English, leaving the Spanish to cut their anchors in panic and bugger off. The Armada tried to return via a long trip around Scotland, but navigational errors (they failed to allow for the Gulf Stream) and strong autumn storms wrecked a majority of the ships on the Scottish and Irish coasts. Subsequent attempts were just as embarrassing for the paella-eating conquisto-monkeys, and they eventually gave up entirely.

Pg 118 - Revealment 3, 4 and 5

The third revealment refers to King George the Third, monarch when the American states decided to rebel. Gum boots are known as 'Wellingtons' in the UK, after the famous Iron Duke who defeated Napoleon at his favourite sport, which explains the fourth prediction, and finally we all know about the 'Nasis'. Note that the Nextian timeline is different to ours at this point, although the Hollywood version is hardly any different.

Denis Compton, by the way, is a famous cricket player who did indeed score 3,816 runs in just one season. I'll save you from the complexity of cricket, but trust me that it's an impressive total, as is his average of just over 50 runs per innings.

Pg 122 - St Biddulph's Hundreds and Thousands

Hundreds and Thousands are little coloured candy strands about 5mm long that are used as cake decorations and to top ice cream with. Very decadent they are too. I have a funny idea they may also be referred to as 'sprinklies'. The brown chocolate version is often known as vermicelli, from the Italian for 'little worms'.

Chapter 12 - Spike and Cindy

Pg 125 - 3 Men in a Boat

Written by Jerome K Jerome and published in 1889, 3 Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) was originally intended to be a sober account of the local history of the Thames. It soon got out of hand, however. I recognise this affliction.


Coined by Phillip K Dick, a precog is one who can see into the future (see Minority Report for more on this)

Pg 126 - Hoover XB 23-E

Do you know, I still have no idea what this is about, except the mindless proliferation of hi-tech appellations for vacuum cleaners?

Midwich Cuckoos

Written by John Wyndham, of Triffid fame, the Midwich Cuckoos tells the tale of aliens who come and impregnate the entire female population of a sleepy British town. Nine months later a strange race of children with glowing eyes and spooky intelligence start creating havoc...

Pg 127 - Cricklade

A small town between Swindon and Cirencester. That's as interesting as it gets.

Pg 128 - Fisher-Price Webster For those not au fait with children's toys, Webster is a pull-along spider that wobbles attractively as he is pulled along on a string. With red wheels, blue legs, a yellow body and two springy antennae, he has been a fixture for decades. And quite rightly - Webster is a design classic.

Pg 130 - Hobnobs

Hobnobs are a sort of digestive biscuit, but a bit drier and with coarser flour that I presume has oats in it. They are very addictive, even if they're a bit crumbly and keep trying to choke you. Another British institution, really.

Pg 131 - Saknussum

According to Jon Brierley, this is a continued outbreak of myspeling virus - Arne Saknussemm was the person who inspired Professor Lidenbrock to Voyage to the Centre of the Earth. Logical enough name for a gravitube station though.

Chapter 14 - The Goliath Apologarium

Pg 133 - Edsel

The Ford Edsel has been described as 'the wrong car, for the wrong market, at the wrong time', and is almost universally regarded as one of the great marketing disasters. From the loo seat shaped grille to the shoddy manufacturing standards, the Edsel set new levels for poor design. Even the name was botched - it hadn't been on the shortlist, having been rejected by focus groups as sounding like the name of an agricultural implement. In a final death stroke, when it was revealed live on TV the blessed thing refused to start.

Isle of Man

Famous for motorbike racing (the island has no national speed limit), cats with no tails (the result of inbreeding) and having backward laws (birching was abolished only in the 1990s), the Isle of Man is a UK crown dependency and tax haven equidistant from Cumbria, Scotland, Wales and Ireland It is neither a part of the UK nor the EU, and its parliament, the Tynwald, was founded in 979 - possibly the oldest parliament in the world.

Pg 135 - New Goliath

Not at all named after 'New Labour' - the rebranding of one of the UK's two main parties by the current Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in an attempt to make a break with their traditional policies (socialism, mostly). Whether this was responsible for their subsequent election to power, or whether it was because the Conservative Party were viewed as being so bad they had to go, is a point of some debate. Many Labour Party members defiantly, and furiously, flag up their 'Old Labour' status as proof of their remaining Socialist ideals.

Pg 136 - 6174; 836; 329; 12,398,219

6174 is Kaprekar's constant. Take any four digit number, and rearrange the digits to get the smallest and largest numbers you can. Then subtract them and repeat. Eventually you'll get to 6174. I fail to see any earthly use for this information, and if you have a use, please keep it to yourself or use it to chat up a math's lecturer. They're people too, you know, so be charitable.

836 is a weird number, being abundant but not semi-perfect. If you understand what this means then hope that someone amused by Kaprekar's number will be looking for you shortly. The most interesting thing about 329 that I can find- apart from an energetic traffic cop nabbing 329 drivers in a week in North Wales is '329 is an odd number' : and that was from a website about ' interesting numbers' .. Mind blowing, eh? It' s widely believed that a number this boring is truly strange indeed.

12398219 is interesting only in that it was, until this was published, a Googlewhack for the draft of this guide when paired with 'interesting'.

Chapter 15 - Meeting the CEO

Pg 147 - Penguins

For more on the great penguin proposal, check out the Goliath section of Mr Fforde's website at http://www.goliathcorp.com/penguin.html It's worth noting also that in the UK Penguins are a type of chocolate biscuit manufactured by McVities with the adline "P-p-p-pick up a Penguin".

Chapter 16 - That Evening Pg 155 - Piarno Keyes

I seem to remember that Mr Fforde has already apologised for this one. Not in any way related to Keanu Reeves, of course.

Japanese Knotweed

Famously invasive plant that comes with at least a few triffid genes in it.

Jekyll Garden Centres.

Ah yes, Gertrude Jekyll - a curious case; gardening idol of the early 20th century and populariser of herbaceous borders. Not to be confused with that nice Dr Jekyll, and his awful friend Mr Hyde.

Chapter 17 - Emperor Zhark

Pg 160 - Rebecca

Written by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca stars an unnamed young woman who marries Maxim de Winter and discovers that he killed his previous wife - the Rebecca of the title. This is the book that the Danvers clones come from, Mrs Danvers was a servant devoted to Rebecca, and resents our heroine entering in her place. I'll allow you to read the book to see if Max gets away with it.

Chapter 18 - Emperor Zhark Again

Pg 165 - Brough-Vincent-Norton

All three of these are British motorcycle companies of a certain age.

Chapter 19 - Cloned Will Hunting

Pg 170 - Bacon

Thanks to intensive advertising, the product most Brit's associate with Denmark is bacon, although I have no idea why the Danes have such a big pig export market. Is it a worldwide phenomenon, or just the UK?

Pg 176 - Albert Schweitzer

Theologian, medical doctor, organist and philosopher, Albert Schweitzer was German, born in Kayserberg, in Alsace (now part of France) in 1875. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, for his humanitarian work - he used the money to build a leprosy hospital.

Pg 178 - Canon of Love

I have a suspicion that Farquitt has finally had her Spinal Tap moment with this title...

Chapter 20 - Chimeras and Neanderthals

Pg 180 - Potting sheds

In case there's any confusion, a potting shed is a garden shed designed for the potting up of seedlings and cuttings, and forms a halfway house between the common or garden shed, and a green- or glasshouse. I'm sure you already knew that, but after the confusion over 'pot plants', it seemed a good idea to check.

Pg 185 - Rumplunkett

This fellow turned up in TEA, too, and the name still puzzles me. Apparently the Return Unused Medicine (RUM) campaign in Australia has a spokesperson called Mr Plunkett, but I doubt this explanation applies...

Chapter 21 - Victory on the Victory

A quick rundown of the events of the Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar came about as the French and Spanish fleets attempted to break the British blockade that had kept them bottled up for several months. Nelson could field 29 ships of the line, against 33 for the French. The key to success in the battle was the new strategy of 'breaking the line'. As ships could field most of their cannon along their flanks, the normal tactics involved sailing on a parallel course to your opponents and firing off broadside after broadside. To this purpose the ships were built so that their flanks were massively reinforced, meaning that several hits were required to penetrate the wooden cladding. Ships were generally disabled by removing their rigging and masts, rendering them immovable, rather than by actually sinking them.

Nelson's masterstroke at Trafalgar was to sail two columns of ships across the French line, allowing his guns to fire at the less defended and more vulnerable sterns of the French ships. This left his ships open to fire for a long time before they could hit back, but as they passed they could wreak enormous damage as cannon balls penetrated the stern and went maiming and killing along the gun decks.

The problem with this strategy was that battles turned into a bit of a melee, and ships would often collide together, leaving their gun crews firing at each other mere feet apart. At Trafalgar the Victory became entangled with the French Redoutable, from whose rigging a sniper picked off Nelson. Nelson's body was afterwards taken back to London in a barrel of brandy to preserve it.

Incidentally, the message sent to all ships before the battle - "England expects that every man will do his duty" - originally read "Nelson confides that every man will do his duty" - a message only changed when someone realised there was no convenient flag for 'Nelson'. That he considered sending it shows both his ego, and the effect the 'Nelson touch' had on the crews.: he knew it would encourage them.

Nelson's last words, were not 'Kiss me, Hardy' (and certainly not 'Kismet, Hardy' - this was a later interpretation by Victorian scholars alarmed at the naval traditions implied by this statement), and nor were they 'Thank God I have done my duty'. They were, according to those in the room, 'Drink, drink, fan, fan, rub, rub' - words to the people tending him as he lay dying. So now you know.

Chapter 22 - Roger Kapok

Pg 195 - Torquemada

Torquemada was one of the most fanatical torturers in the Spanish Inquisition, and generally not a very nice man (even the Pope thought he was going a bit far). In latter days, Torquemada was the pseudonym of one of the most famous crossword composers for the Times.


There is now an OFWHATNOT for every aspect of British life, it seems. The OF always stands for Office, and the rest tells you what they regulate. OFCOM (communications) and OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) are perhaps the two major examples.

Pg 197 - Roquets

Unless posh salads have suddenly become part of the game (as opposed to part of the tea party), Kapok is talking about when two balls collide deliberately. In conventional croquet this is a legal way of belting your opponent virtually out of the game, or so I'm informed.

Pg 198 - Alf Widdershaine

Oh jeez, we really are going to town with them, aren't we? You must get the pun in Alf Widdershaine, pet? No? Not good at German farewells?

Pg 201 - Lauren de Rematte

Laundromat - popular place to take your stuff to get washed. Also another appalling pun.

Chapter 23 - Granny Next

Pg 205 - Scrabble

Also known as Squabble, The Destroyer of Relationships. One smirk as you dump 'Quiz' on a triple word score and no nookie for a month. This is probably not such a concern when playing your Gran, however. Mr Fforde played for the combined authors against the Guardian at the Hay festival in 2004. I forget who won, but suspect it wasn't the authors.

Chapter 24 - Home Again

Pg 209 - antimacassars

A bit of fabric placed on the back of chairs to stop them getting stained. They were named after the proprietary hair treatment that required their introduction, rather than the torture instrument they sound like they should be.

Pg 212 - Tupperware

Can there be anyone who hasn't heard of the company with more plastic knickknacks than Cher? Probably not. Taking up a similar place in UK society to Tupperware floggers, however, are the Avon ladies - door to door cosmetics saleswomen, famous for decades of service. I suspect it is their products that Mrs Next is selling.

Chapter 25 - Practical Difficulties Regarding Eradications

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Chapter 26 - Breakfast With Mycroft

Pg 229 - NSPB

The Nextian equivalent of our Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, being a republic, they have no royals to grant the 'royal' bit at the front. It's a society. They protect birds. (except the ruddy duck, which they shoot with wild abandon).

Pg 231 - 192

192 is the old number for Directory Enquiries. It has now been opened up to competition, with the usual consequences - higher prices, annoying adverts and a reduced service. Still, someone's making money, so it's perfectly all right.

Pg 235 - Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris is apparently schooled in Tae Kwon Do, Tang So Doo and Wat Dis Crap?, amongst other martial arts. His films appear to involve lots of hitting people. I still prefer Punch and Judy though.

Pg 237 - Wilson Lonsdale and Partners

As originally suspected, both Wilson and Lonsdale make sport-related goods, especially those for the noble art of pugilism. The Lonsdale Belt is, or at least was, a major boxing prize.

Chapter 27 - Weird Shit on the M4

Pg 239 - George Formby

A real person, and as explained by Mr Fforde: "Formby was indeed the biggest box-office draw in the UK before the war and an entertainer of some skill. He was the first entertainer into France after D-Day to amuse the troops, did huge ENSA tours during the war and was of impeccable Northern spirit - during a post-war tour of South Africa he and his wife Beryl were sent death threats for wanting to go into the townships to entertain everyone and not just the white minority". Better than that, when kicked out of the country by Daniel Malan for kissing a little black toddler, Beryl was heard to ask him "Why don't you piss off, you horrible little man?"

George Formby is best remembered for his music-hall routines, especially his songs (often packed with innuendo), but he had a successful film career as well. Something of his humour can be grasped from his opening words to troops in the North African desert, "Ee, it's just like Blackpool Sands..." Finally, if you need to know how popular he was, 150,000 people turned up for his funeral.


The Entertainments' National Service Association was set up to entertain the troops during wartime with concerts, revues and other activities. It was set up in 1939, and disbanded in 1947. The American equivalent was the USO.

Pg 242 - Dowding and Parks

Sir Hugh Dowding was in charge of the Battle of Britain (well, at least on the British side), and Keith Park was in charge of 11 group, which covered the south-eastern corner of England, and thus met the brunt of the German attacks. Mallory, on the next page, is named after Leigh-Mallory, who was in charge of 12 group to the north, and Robert Saunby (who later became promoted to Air Marshall) was 'Bomber Harris' second at Bomber Command from 1943 onwards.

Pg 247 - Orpheus

Orpheus, according to Greek legend, went down to the underworld to rescue his love, Eurydice. Orpheus was such a talented musician that his playing won over Hades himself, and he was allowed to lead Eurydice back to the world above - on condition he didn't look around to see her until they were both back out. On reaching the surface he span around in triumph, only to realise that she was not yet out in the sunlight, and she was snatched back.. Orpheus is also reputed (in some versions of the myth) to have travelled with the Argonauts, where his playing was sweeter than the singing of the Sirens. This brings us neatly to...


...which is both the ship Jason et al sailed upon, and also the name of a catalogue store in the UK with a queuing system reminiscent of Soviet states - you fill out a coupon, go to one till to pay, and then go to a counter where you wait until your purchase arrives, at which point everything is stamped in triplicate. Deeply odd, but useful for cheap paddling pools and inflatable boats.

Chapter 28 - Daunsey Services

Pg 251 - Longfellow

The first American poet to be placed in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, Longfellow was responsible for The Song of Hiawatha, amongst other things. Gloriously, the poem quoted at the top of this chapter was first published in the Knickerbocker Magazine, which raises all sorts of interesting questions...

Pg 252 - CPR

Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation - the bouncing up and down on someone's chest routine. Now frowned upon by determined children playing Doctors and Nurses, as defibrillation is more exciting. Just make sure the iron is cold before they pinch it to use as a paddle,

Chapter 29 - The Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire

Pg 261 - Banjulele

The stringed instrument of the devil, a banjulele is a cross between a banjo and a ukulele, and is guaranteed to annoy the neighbours. It has the uke stringing and fretboard, but a banjo resonator and hoop. A symbol of man's inhumanity to man, and truly terrifying.

Pg 263 - Fish Fingers

A national institution, fishfingers are mashed white fish pressed into a cube and covered in worryingly orange breadcrumbs that remind you of the worst type of fake tan. They can't possibly be good for you, but taste great anyway.

Pg 264 - Pinocchio

Written by Carlo Collodi and published in 1880, the original version of the Pinocchio tale has the little sod hung at the end for his wickedness, but sadly the happy ending seems to have stuck instead. Originally it was written as satire, which fits neatly with endless cartoons of politicians with extended noses. Pinocchio, incidentally, means 'pine eye'.

Pg 265 - Vanity Publishing

The noble art of paying somebody to print your book when you can't get anyone to agree that it might have commercial possibilities. A few authors have managed to get 'proper' deals this way, the majority appear to be sadly deluded. Quite a few publishers effectively prey upon desperate authors who are convinced they have what it takes.

"At Long Last Lust"

Worryingly, a book of this title, by one Candy Wilde, appears to have been published, although I have found only one reference to it so far.

Pg 266 - "Get it?"

Apparently this is a running gag in the Danny Kaye film "The Court Jester". So there you are.

Pg 269 - Tesla Beams

Nikola Tesla was responsible for some huge advances in manipulating electricity, and his Tesla coils were some of the most worrying. Whilst a bit of a crank, it's clear that he was also a genius, and his transformers produced previously unheard of voltages - although they had a worrying tendency to leak plasma with predictably dangerous results. One of his experiments had the impressive, if expensive, effect of blowing out the generators at the nearby power station, after current managed to sneak back down the cables... He claimed to be able to transmit power across huge distances without wires, but never produced proof of this. Fantastically, it appears he stopped making his more outrageous claims shortly after the Tunguska explosion flattened a huge area of Siberia. Guilty conscience or good PR?

Chapter 30 - Neanderthal Nation Pg 271 - Richard Dixon

Presumably nothing to do with the 37th American President

Pg 272 - Didcot

Didcot is another station on the Great Western railway that serves Swindon. From the train the major landmark appears to be a huge power station about half a mile from the town centre, making it look a rather soulless place. Perhaps I'm biased through commuting past it every day though?

Pg 273 - Penelope Hrah

In British society there are a certain class of young posh people who like to wear pink shirts and talk a lot about how much land Daddy owns. You get them in every student bar, and every student bar appears to have its own word for them. "Rah's" was the Durham version, and I assume Hrah is another variant. They tend to come from posh schools, and being trapped in a room with them can be a terrifying experience, hence the origin of the term 'Harrowing'...

Pg 277 - Birmingham and the Elan Valley

Birmingham, the jewel of the Midlands, is England's second city after London, both in terms of size and economic importance. An early metal industry compensated for poor transport links with high skill levels, and with the dawn of the industrial revolution Birmingham kicked on - with the new canals (Birmingham famously has a longer canal network than Venice), easy access to Black Country coal and a central position, Birmingham was the home of Boulton and Watt - legendary steam engine manufacturers, and its goods travelled the globe. Birmingham has an unfair reputation in the UK for being a dull, grey monotonous shell of a city, but in recent years it has started to shed this image.

In the 1800s it had no such image. It was one of the first cities to get proper sewers, and corporate gas and waterworks. The latter are where the Elan Valley comes in. Determined to provide clean water to the city, Joseph Chamberlain (the then mayor) managed to push through the compulsory purchase of the entire Elan Valley catchment area via an Act of Parliament. The Elan was favoured as it was higher than Birmingham (water is moved the 118km by gravity alone), had a high rainfall, impermeable bedrock and narrow valleys - allowing dams to be built efficiently.

The Elan Valley is one of the hidden gems of Wales. Well, not hidden - you can't really hide 180 square kilometres - but remarkably little-known. Gentle uplands roll down to the reservoirs, which are kept in by steep, picturesque dams, faced in carved stone. It really is worth a visit.

Chapter 31 - Planning Meeting

Pg 281 - Cormorants and bears

As Christopher Isherwood wrote:

The common cormorant or shag / lays eggs inside a paper bag / the reason you will see, no doubt, / It is to keep the lightning out. / But what these unobservant birds / have never noticed is that herds / of wandering bears may come with buns / and steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

It has been pointed out that cormorants and shags are different birds, but the true pedant would maintain that the important issue is that they surely use more than one bag between them. At this point sensible people will walk away quietly, and I encourage you to do the same.


A Brummie is a denizen of Birmingham (from Brummagem, the old pronunciation and spelling). They're quite proud of their accent, but it's the one English regional accent that is still frowned upon by advertisers.

Pg 282 - The ovinator, and usage thereof.

It has been observed that this is the Jedi Mind Trick rehashed. However, it gives me a chance to quote Phil Jupitus on about light sabres and the fascination men have with them. "Two words: luminous condoms".

Page 285 - Area-21

Just a typical British low-budget version of an American original, really. Any significance in 21 though, I wonder?

Chapter 32 - Area 21: The Elan

Pg 289 - Hay-on-Wye

Hay is a welsh border town (and guess which river runs through it), famous for its book trade - there are over 40 bookshops there - and for declaring independence from the UK as a publicity stunt. So far there has been no reoccupation, but as long as they pay their taxes it will be overlooked discretely. Since 1988 Hay has had its own literary festival, which has drawn some of the biggest names in literature and beyond, including our own Mr Fforde.

Pg 292 - Rhaydr (or Rhayader, or Rhaeder, or...)

A hard to spell town at the foot of the Elan Valley, Rhadyr is one of the best places in the UK to see red kites and was the epicentre of the Rebecca Riots. Not a literary event, sadly, but a protest against tollgates in which the rioters dressed in women's clothing as a disguise. The 'Rebecca' either comes from the woman who had the idea, or more likely, an apposite bible quote: "And they blessed Rebecca, and said unto her, Thou art our sister. Be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gates of those that hate them."

Pg 294 - Cairngorm yeti's foot

Yetis are a mountain ape rumoured to exist around and above the snowline in the Himalayas, and are one of the key areas of study for cryptozoologists. Reports of them being in the Cairngorms of Scotland, however, are new to me - although there are apparently tales of 'the old grey man of Ben Macdui', which appears to be a Scottish relative (true climbers refer to this mysterious beast as 'Norrie Muir'). It's interesting to note that few areas of the world are without their legends of mysterious human-like creatures that live in the woods or other uninhabited areas.

Chapter 33 - Shgakspeafe

Pg 297- Blackfriars, Westminster, Southwark

All areas of London adjacent to the Thames. Southwark was home to five prisons, numerous brothels, bear-baiting and a little building called The Globe. Over the river, meanwhile, was Blackfriars, whose eponymous theatre saw the King's Men performing during the winter months. The borough of Westminster, finally, is upstream from both, and is the home of the nobs (the Houses of Parliament and most government offices are still concentrated there).

Pg 301 - Bonaparte

Napoleon, sometime emperor of France and famous for being short and Corsican. The most interesting fact about him was that he instructed his wife not to wash when he was on his way back from campaigns.

Pg 302 - Wellington

When Napoleon picked a fight with Wellington, he really put his foot in it. The Iron Duke was one of the greatest military commanders of his or any other era, his career was only marred by his disastrous spell later on as Prime Minister.

Chapter 34 - St Zvlkx and Cindy

Pg 305 - Martin Piffco

The Pifco (Provincial Incandescent Filament Company) brand, as if you wanted to know, 'has been established for over 100 years' according to the blurb I see before me. Not being terribly fascinated by electrical items such as light bulbs and fans (look, I may live in the sticks, but we're not that backward), I was unaware of this. My thanks to all those who pointed it out before feeling superior.

(JFf note: 'Martin' and 'Pifco' are here named in memory of two of girlfriend Mari's favourite guinea-pigs when she was little. The 'Guinzilla' joke is also a nod towards this, a joyful period in Mari's life.)

Bournemouth, for anyone wondering, is a seaside resort in Dorset with a wonderful sandy beach but rather too many people there to allow you to enjoy it fully. It's a fairly traditional seaside resort, though, and has a reasonable pier (unlike Weston Super Mare, which has Jeffrey Archer).

Pg 309 - Wanborough

A suburb of Swindon, as far as I can tell. It really is as interesting as that.

Pg 313 - Corduroy

Corduroy is a ribbed, velvety fabric. Folk etymology suggests that the name comes from 'Cord du Roi' (cord of the King), but the word really comes from cord and 'duroy' - an obsolete type of fabric. Whilst cords were seen as the definitive clothing of old men who smell of wee a few years back, they are now back in fashion - when cut right and only in certain colours, and preferably a little distressed. Although not as distressed as I would have been five years ago if you'd told me I'd be in cords by the time I was 23...

Pg 314 - Steinway Baby

A baby grand is the smallest size of grand piano, being typically 1.5m (5ft) long. Steinway are probably the world's best known piano manufacturers - started by the German immigrant whose name the pianos bear, the New York company essentially invented the grand piano - and by proxy Steinways are one of the world's best known visual jokes.

Chapter 35 - What Thursday Did Next

Pg 315 - Oswestry, Rutland

Oswestry is yet another Welsh border town, this time in Shropshire. Rutland, meanwhile, is England's smallest county. Whilst researching this I stumbled upon the following survey - http://www.rowdymusic.net/stuff_goldfish.php - which has no relevance to anything whatsoever, but I quite like Anna Ryder's music, so I'll plug it anyway.

Pg 316 - Kingsdown home

Lord Kingsdown's Act - or the Wills Act 1861 - basically says it doesn't matter where you die, if a will is valid in the place it was made, it's valid where you die. This has nothing to do with Cindy, you understand, I just thought I'd show off my Googling again. Kingsdown is really another suburb of Swindon, but I have nothing amusing to add about it.

Pg 318 - the horse joke

For those who really have to know the joke, a white horse walks into a pub. Before he can order a pint, the landlord says 'We named our pub after you!". "What?" says the horse. "Erich?"

Pg 321 - Branner

Hans Christian Branner was apparently a leading Danish novelist after the Second World War, who specialised in short stories.

Catherine Cookson

Born in the North of England, Catherine Cookson wrote some 90-odd books, most of which are romantic family sagas set in 19th century England, with a young girl rising from poverty through education, and most of these books appear to have been made as TV mini-series. Despite this, or because of it, her books sold in their millions and she was for many years the most borrowed author from public libraries. To be fair to Ms Cookson, she put thousands of pounds back into the arts and charities before her death in 1998, and she should therefore be put forward as a heroine of literature.

Chapter 36 - Kaine vs Next

Pg 323 - Smercc, Pascoe

Smercc is quite possibly a rival to SMERSH, the instant mashed potato wing of the KGB.

Pascoe is almost certainly a play on Pascal, whose famous wager says you're better off worshipping some kind of god, as if no god exists you haven't lost, but if one does you've given yourself a chance of going to heaven. Frankly he would have been better off putting twenty quid on the 2:15 at Haydock. Philosophers have been ripping the wager to shreds ever since it was put forward. (Pascal' s Pager, on the other hand, bets that you' ll only hear people talking too loud into a mobile phone if their conversation is boring.)

Pg 324 nacelle

A nacelle is the streamlined carapace for an aircraft engine, or, in Webster's 1913 dictionary, the framework for a dirigible balloon.

Pg 326 - Medusa

Slain by Perseus whilst she was having a really bad hair day, Medusa was one of three sisters - the Gorgons - who had either been punished for their vanity or (there's always a better version of Greek myths when you look) for having intercourse in a temple of Poseidon - the punishment was to be turned into a monster with snakes for hair and a stare that turned anyone who caught her gaze to stone. Bearing in mind Poseidon was also responsible for the Minotaur, it appears he wasn't the most tolerant being. The hair and stare treatment served to stifle Medusa's dating opportunities; she was put out of her misery by Perseus with help from Hermes and Athena, the latter of whom placed Medusa's head on her shield forevermore.

Pg 328 - Beowulf

Hero of the oldest surviving English text (from the 10th century or so, and the tale itself may be two centuries older), Beowulf is a Geatish hero who defeats the monster Grendel, who has been attacking the hall of Hrothgar, a Danish King. The next night, Grendel's mother comes looking for revenge, so Beowulf is obliged to kill her too. Fifty years or so later, Beowulf is now King of the Geats (or Goats, in the more surreal versions) and has to defend his people against the attack of a giant dragon; both are killed at the end of the tale. If you haven't read it, you really ought to get hold of a translation sharpish.

Tyrannosaurus rex

The 'tyrant lizard king' is arguably the most famous dinosaur discovered. Standing up to 4.5m high, and some 12m long, T. rex was one of the largest land carnivores ever. Debate still continues whether T. rex actively hunted or was merely a scavenger. Evidence for scavenging includes the large olfactory lobes (needed for smelling dead meat from a distance), smallish eyes and the famously stumpy arms. Opponents of this point out that smelling prey could be useful even if it isn't dead, hawks can see for miles with small eyes, and anyone who thinks that you need arms to be dangerous is invited to take an experimental bath with a hungry shark. The actual truth, as ever, is likely to be between the two extremes - most animals will scavenge dead meat if it's available, even animals thought of as active predators.

Incidentally, it appears to be a myth that T. rex is the largest ever land predator - Giganotisaurus, from Argentina, appears to be even larger - 3m longer and an estimated 8 tonnes in weight, compared to T. rex's 5.

The Lost World

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (inventor of everyone's favourite drugged-up sleuth), this boy's own adventure sees a group of explorers visiting a raised plateau, upon which dinosaurs still remain - isolated from the outside world for millions of years. It's a load of tosh, but entertaining tosh nonetheless, and one of my favourite books from childhood.

Jurassic Park

Best known for the Spielberg film adaptation, Michael Crichton's book envisages dinosaurs being cloned from DNA preserved in a mosquito preserved in amber. Nice idea, but inherently unlikely: at best you'd just get a pissed off tree with six-inch teeth and a need to suck blood.

Or something.

Pg 329 - Smaug

Smaug was the dragon from The Hobbit, precursor to The Lord of the Rings. He had a bit of problem with Bilbo Baggins, but not as much as I have a problem with the song about him by Leonard Nemoy.


Beware the jabberwock, my son. This one is taken from 'Through the Looking Glass', by our old friend Lewis Carroll., and the drawing of the Jabberwock considered for the frontispiece of the book so terrified Carroll that he insisted it be removed and replaced with one of the White Knight..

Alan Quartermain

Quartermain is sort of proto-Indiana Jones, starring in novels by H. Rider Haggard.

Pg 330 - The Kraken

Legendary sea-monster of the depths, the Kraken was first described by the bishop of Bergen, Erik Pontopiddan, in his Natural History of Norway. The legend entered English via Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1830, and then grew from there. The kraken is believed to be an inflated version of the giant squid, of which little is known except it's the official coinage of the tall folk.

Blue Fairy

The Blue Fairy was responsible for making Pinocchio into a flesh and blood boy. The Green Fairy, on the other hand, just makes you feel unwell the next morning (which reminds me - who thought of naming a washing up liquid after absinthe?),

Pg 331 - Crumpets

Crumpets are made by pouring a bubbly batter into rings in a frying pan until they set. They are also sold ready made, in which case you toast them. They are the ultimate winter warming food, and in my humble opinion even nicer than toast. Incidentally, crumpet is also a slang term for an attractive woman, and less pejorative than 'tart'.

Chapter 37 - Before the Match

Pg 338 - Wheel-Tappers

Intuitively, one would assume that wheel-tappers tap wheels. Amazingly, considering the habit of the English language to eschew such obvious definitions, they do. By tapping wheels of railway engines and carriages, it's possible to hear if they have cracked. This is apparently a bad thing.

Diving quickly off at a tangent, British TV in the 1970s had a show called The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club: a sort of variety show set in a working men's club. These smoke-filled clubs were generally run by the trade unions, and were the traditional breeding grounds for new talent. They still survive, and anyone wanting a contemporary take on the clubs is advised to check out the excellent sitcom Phoenix Nights.

Chapter 38 - WCL Superhoop '88

Pg 345 - The teams

I already know that Emma Longhurst is Mr Ff's publicist, Louise Sherwin-Stark is 'something at Hodder' (cheers, Carla), Ralph Spurrier is an Essex bookmonger who graciously outed himself, Tim O'Fathens is plausibly Timon of Athens (star of one of Shakespeare's less well known plays, best performed with a Cole Porter score, don't you know?) and Wapcaplet appears to have wandered in from Monty Python's 'string marketing' sketch. Others remain to be identified, however.

JFf Note: The "Linesman" here is the copyeditor responsible for the book. In the Penguin version it is the US copyeditor, Bruce Giffords. I wanted to spell their names wrong as though a typo; a sort of 'in-joke's in-joke' but after politley asking, I decided not to. 'Carolyn 'The Mark' Mays is, predictably enough, my editor. In the US version it is my US editor

Pg 350 - Chelsea Buns

Chelsea buns were allegedly invented at the Chelsea Bun House (right next to the Pan Cake Research & Development Co., I'll bet), and consist of dough rolled into a spiral around sugar and currants before baking. Chelsea Buns even have a literary history - Jonathan Swift mentions 'great cakes frothed with sugar and decorated with streamers of tinsel' in 1712. Modern versions are less gaudy, even if tinsel is acceptable on the Atkins Diet.

Chapter 39 - Sudden death

Either there's nothing to say, or someone's eaten my notes. For the sake of laziness, let's say it was the former, okay?

Chapter 40 - Second First Person

Pg 360 - EHS Presumably the English Health Service, as opposed to the National Health Service seen in our time stream (or the Notional Health Service, as cynics would have it). Pg 363 - Wind in the Willows Featuring the adventures of Toad of Toad Hall, Ratty, Mole and Badger, Kenneth Grahame's bucolic countryside tale is notoriously short of Martian invaders. Toad would only want one of those fighting machines for himself, anyway. Chapter 41 - Death Becomes Her Pg 369 - Mr Garrick

Presumably David Garrick, superstar of the 18th Century stage. It is habit of cab drivers anywhere to tell you which famous passengers they've conveyed. There is no way of avoiding this, but at least Charon is unlikely to tell you he won't go to the other side of the river this time of night.

Chapter 42 - Explanations

Pg 373 - Wigan

Wigan is a northern industrial town near Manchester, whose favourite son may well be the ukulele carrying megastar George Formby. George Orwell's 'Road to Wigan Pier' is a sociological look at conditions in the city, and Bill Bryson gleefully notes that Wigan, being several miles inland, has no pier. Bryson, for once, is misinformed - Wigan Pier is on the Leeds to Liverpool canal, and is a pier in the original sense - somewhere to load and unload boats. To drag this back onto topic, Formby claimed to have invented Wigan Pier, saying it was his favourite bathing place. Finally, on a note of pedantry, Formby is buried next to his parents, in Warrington. The Cat'll be pleased.

Pg 377 - that joke

Yup. Here it is. You can read the rest of the book knowing you don't have to face it now.

Chapter 43 - Recovery

Pg 379 - Underwood Typewriters

This is a real company, unsurprisingly. Slightly surprisingly, however, some versions have been proved to be fully upgradeable to work with the latest technologies. Well, near enough - http://www.ahleman.com/Props/ElectriClerk6.html. As explained here - http://xavier.xu.edu:8000/~polt/tw-of-month-97-06.html - Underwood typewriters are the genuine old typewriter.

Pg 382 - Steve Schultz

Okay, worrying synchronicity here. There is more than one Steve Schultz out on the web, and one of them likes to talk about the role of 'personal prophecy in the life of a believer'. Anyone who can both hold a position of 'crusade organiser' and use the word 'indwell' with a straight face deserves to be hit by a bus...

Chapter 44 - Final Curtain

Pg 390 - The Faerie Queene

Widely acknowledged as deeply boring, the entire poem is basically one big arse-lick. As such it was highly successful - Elizabeth the First granted Edmund Spenser a pension for life on the back of it. Purposefully archaic in tone, it links the Tudor dynasty and Arthurian myth. Each stanza consists of 9 lines, 8 of them iambic pentameter, followed by a single line of iambic hexameter, with the rhyme scheme abababccd. I can immediately see how this becomes tedious, and even The Oxford Companion to English Literature feels moved to observe that it 'suffers from a certain monotony. The only good news is that only half the twelve books were published.


My Credits:

Having spent another portion of my life conjuring up excuses not to finish a guide, I guess I ought to thank everyone who prodded me into completing it, not least Anke, who took care of the editing, proof-reading and a large portion of cajoling. Without her effort this guide would still be in the limbo of a draft stage. There are too many people to credit individually for their comments, feedback and useful snippets, but I wish to single out Skiffle, Carla, AuntSassy and MissP for comments I have used virtually verbatim ­ this in no way diminishes the thanks I owe to everyone else who added information and removed my wilder flights of idiocy. Also a massive thank you, and a puzzled Œwhy?¹ should go to Mr Ff, unless it turns out the red-haired young man is someone else, in which case just the Œwhy?¹ should suffice. JFf Note: Well, it might have been Mil Millington, I suppose. He has red hair, too - and wrote a very funny book called 'Things my girlfriend and I have argued about.'

My sources for this guide included, but were not limited to, The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Wikipedia, The Guardian Style Guide and Jon¹s previous guides. I include this information just in case any more university students demand top see my sources ­ rest assured I¹ve learnt my lesson and won¹t impersonate journalism again.

Finally, at the end of the guide to WOLP I dedicated it to someone who has subsequently become a permanent part of my life. Working on the theory that if one guide can work some romantic magic it would be entirely possible for another to manage it, I¹d like to dedicate this one to Nibsy as a belated wedding present and a thank you for giving me my signed copy of SR. May their days be happy, long and energetic.