Page 102. " the paper orrery in my bedroom "

An orrery is a mechanical model of the movement of the planets in the solar system.

The name comes from the Earl of Orrery, a seventeenth century Irish earl who received the first mechanical orrery as a gift from its makers, George Graham and Thomas Tompion, in 1704. Paper orreries usually come in the form of mobiles.

Page 108. " Sibelius's Violin Concerto in D Minor "

 Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was a late Romantic Finnish composer famous for his orchestral compositions, and particularly his seven symphonies. Sibelius worked prolifically and productively up until the 1920s, when he stopped writing music whilst working on an eighth symphony. An alcoholic, he was extremely self-critical and prone to violent mood swings. In the mid-1940s Sibelius burned a lot of his papers, including unheard compositions. However, his seven surviving symphonies are enough to ensure his place among the world's most highly regarded composers.

Sibelius's Violin Concerto in D Minor was written in 1904 and dedicated to the violinist Willy Burmester, who sadly could not afford to travel to Helsinki in order to play the piece at its world premiere. It is the only concerto Sibelius ever wrote.

Listen to the Violin Concerto in D Minor on Spotify.

Read an extract Alex Ross's book The Rest is Noise about Sibelius.

Page 109. " The Imitation of Christ "

 The Imitation of Christ is a book most likely written by the fifteenth century theologian Thomas à Kempis. It was written as a sort of spiritual self-help book, and is now considered one of the pillars of Christian theology.

Thomas à Kempis (c.1380-1471) was born in Kempen in the Lower Rhine District of what is now Germany. He became a monk in 1406 in the Mount St. Agnes monastery, where his brother was prior.

Although The Imitation of Christ was written anonymously, most people agree that Thomas à Kempis was its author. The idea of imitating Christ is a popular one that exists to this day (think of the bumper-sticker phrase 'What Would Jesus Do?'). The book advocates withdrawal, poverty, and concentration on the inner spiritual life as opposed to the outward material world. In Catholic Christianity, it is the second most widely read book after the Bible.

Read The Imitation of Christ online at Project Gutenberg


Page 118. " a couple of famous 'telly-dons' "

A 'telly-don' is a derogatory expression for a prominent celebrity academic hired by universities in order to attract publicity for the institution, rather than for their teaching credentials. They rarely come into contact with students, but are often to be found at fundraisers and other public occasions.

Page 122. " those who had taken a formal gap year "

 A 'gap year' occurs when a student takes a year off between the end of school and the beginning of university, or between the end of university and the start of work, in order to broaden their horizons. This usually means a year spent backpacking or working in different parts of the world.

Since the credit crunch, and since the tremendous rise in university tuition fees in Great Britain, young people are finding that they cannot afford to take a gap year unless they are assured of work during that time or they come from a wealthy background.

Page 122. " his mother took him out of Ampleforth "

 Ampleforth College is a famous Catholic boarding school in Yorkshire. It first opened its doors as a boys' school in 1802, although it now admits girls as well. The school is run by Benedictine monks from Ampleforth Abbey; some teaching is also done by lay staff.

The school's academic standards are not as rigorous as in similar schools, as it focuses on providing a spiritual education as well as an academic one. Having said that, the overwhelming majority of its students still go on to attend university.

Page 123. " A Ferrari Dino. A classic "
Ferrari Dino
GNU Free Documentation LicenseFerrari Dino - Credit: Janderk1968

 The Ferrari Dino was produced from 1968 to 1976.

It was named after the son of the company's founder, Alfredo 'Dino' Ferrari, who was then thought to have invented the V6 engine used in the car, although this was later found not to be the case. Alfredo Ferrari's father Enzo had planned for his son to take over the business, but he died at an early age of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 


Page 124. " I think that must be Maison Blanc "

 Maison Blanc is a famous French patisserie and cafe in Oxford; it is now the first branch of fifteen, all serving luxurious cakes, breads and savoury snacks.

The French chef Raymond Blanc established the Oxford Maison Blanc in 1981 with his first wife. He currently runs Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, a hotel and restaurant in Oxfordshire which has been awarded two Michelin stars.