Page 2. " Wile E. Coyote was attempting to heave a boulder over a cliff "

 Wile E. Coyote is a cartoon character that appears in a series of Looney Tunes cartoons alongside his arch nemesis, the Road Runner. Throughout the cartoons, the starving coyote comes up with ever more elaborate plans to trap the Road Runner, only to have them backfire on him in spectacular fashion.

According to the cartoon's creator, a set of rules was put in place that frame a strict formula for each cartoon. The Road Runner never actively harms Wile E. Coyote, who is spurred on in his pursuit only by his fanatical obsession with his prey. The harm that comes to the coyote at the end of every cartoon is therefore of his own creation, or as a result of faulty Acme goods.

 

Page 5. " spindle-legged crane flies "

 Crane flies, otherwise known as Daddy Longlegs, are large flies with long delicate legs that seem to break off if you give them so much as a sharp look. They are attracted to light, and do not feed at all as flies, but rather in the larva stage. Although some crane flies are as small as mosquitoes, in the tropics they can grow up to ten centimetres long.

Page 9. " She herself had fallen in with the Labour Club during John Major's premiership "

 The Conservative leader John Major was Prime Minister of the UK from 1990 to 1997, succeeding Margaret Thatcher. He slid into power rather unexpectedly following the Conservative Party's rebellion against Thatcher's increasingly erratic premiership. In stark contrast to Thatcher's more aggressive style of government, Major was seen as a conciliator by his fans and a vacillator by his critics. He governed during a time of economic hardship, plagued by divisions over the role of the UK in Europe.

Page 10. " I would achieve a first, I would gain a blue "
Oxford Half Blue Blazer
GNU Free Documentation LicenseOxford Half Blue Blazer - Credit: Rmbyoung

 A "first" is a first class degree.

A blue is awarded at certain universities for exceptional achievement in sports. The tradition began at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, where it is only awarded to students who have competed in an annual Oxford v. Cambridge Varsity Match. At Oxford, the winner of a blue can mark this distinction by wearing a dark blue blazer.

For more information about Oxford-related terms, see the official Oxford Glossary.

Page 13. " Wasn't there a parable of an inspirational spider, representing diligence or resilience? "

 This parable is taken from Scottish history. At the beginning of the fourteenth century Scottish-English relations were particularly turbulent, leading to the invasion of Scotland by King Edward I.

Robert the Bruce emerged as King of Scotland. He was crowned in 1306, and had to flee from the English immediately afterwards. Legend has it that while he was in hiding in a cave during the winter of 1306-7 he saw a spider trying to spin a web on the wall. The spider slipped many times during its attempt, but refused to give up, and eventually created a fine web. Robert the Bruce took heart from this, and was inspired to return to fight the English again, ultimately leading to victory at the Battle of Bannockburn.

This story was retold by Sir Walter Scott in his 1828 work Tales of a Grandfather. For a ripsnorting and entirely partisan rendering of Robert the Bruce's reign, try Nigel Tranter's fantastic The Bruce Trilogy.

 

 

Page 23. " The choir sang 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' "

 This is the tenth movement from Cantata no. 147 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The underlying melody was composed by Johann Schop, a violinist and composer. Bach borrowed the melody and worked it into his piece. The most commonly heard English text is a loose translation of the German by Robert Bridges: "Jesu, joy of man's desiring, Holy wisdom, love most bright; Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring, Soar to uncreated light."

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (from Cantata No. 147) on Spotify