Page 129. " Books like The Wooden Horse and Reach for the Sky were full of these moments "

The Wooden Horse is a 1949 novel by Eric Williams, a former pilot and POW. The book details an actual escape from Stalag Luft III. The name derives from the wooden horse (i.e. a piece of gymnastic equipment) which was placed over the entrance to the escape tunnel, from which POWs would vault in order to disguise the vibrations caused by the digging activity. Read more about the escape plan here.  

Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill is the story of Douglas Bader, the second world war pilot whose piloting skills were legendary. As a POW his tin legs had to be confiscated in order to prevent him from escaping. Paul Brickhill is also the author of The Great Escape (see bookmark p.405 here)



Page 132. " a great Thelwell-style underhang of a belly "
by cm

Norman Thelwell (1923-2004) was an English cartoonist with a particular skill in drawing tiny girls trying to control big-bellied ponies.  Some examples can be found here.


Page 136. " a friendly talk on Pelagianism "

Public DomainPelagius

Pelagius (354-420/440) was a heretic who denied the doctrine of Original Sin and upheld his belief in the doctrine of free will. His fame – and his infamy – spread throughout Rome, and despite his heterodoxy he was referred to by Augustine as a 'saintly man'.

Page 148. " that Whitman poem "

Walt Whitman (1819–92)
Public DomainWalt Whitman (1819–92) - Credit: George C. Cox.

Walter Whitman (1819-1892) was an American poet whose self-published collection Leaves of Grass was controversial at the time, not least for its challenging sexual content.  "O Captain! My Captain!" (1865) is perhaps his best known poem, and is popularly seen as concerned with the death of Abraham Lincoln. The extended metaphor revolves around the 'ship', which represents the United States, whilst the 'fearful trip' becomes the American Civil War. It begins:


O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.


Read the full poem here.