Page 76. " She's at All Souls, you know "
All Souls in winter
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAll Souls in winter - Credit: Bill Tyne

All Souls College is unique in that has no undergraduate students. All members of the college are Fellows. Each year the most outstanding Oxford undergraduate students are invited to take the All Souls examination in order to become Examination Fellows.

The examination is widely considered one of the hardest in the world. It consists of four three hour papers sat over two days. Until 2010 one of the papers consisted of an essay written on a single word, such as 'novelty', 'mercy', 'integrity' or 'possessions'. A handful of finalists go on to an oral examination with the Fellows, and then a dinner; up to two are then chosen as Examination Fellows. Sometimes none at all are chosen. Once selected, the successful applicants are given a seven year fellowship, without teaching responsibilities, in order to pursue their academic studies.

Page 86. " We were dressed in subfusc "
Students in sub-fusc
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeStudents in sub-fusc - Credit: Mike Knell

 Sub-fusc is the academic clothing worn by members of the university at formal occasions such as matriculation, examinations and graduation. For women, it consists of dark trousers or a skirt and a white blouse with a black tie; men wear a dark suit, white shirt and white bow tie. Both sexes wear a black gown and mortar board on top.

Legend has it that this outfit has an opposite number: a full fusc consisting of a complete suit of armour that, if worn to examinations, entitles the wearer either to a First or to a glass of sherry. Sadly this is not true.

Page 86. " The previous afternoon I'd purchased red carnations, which showed that this was our last day of exams "

 During examinations at Oxford, students wear carnations: white for the first day of exams, pink for the subsequent days, and red for the last.

Page 87. " just before the longest day in the year "
The midsummer solstice at Stonehenge
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe midsummer solstice at Stonehenge - Credit: Andrew Dunn

The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere is 21 June. It is the midsummer solstice; the day when the sun is perfectly aligned with the stones at Stonehenge; the day of Hannibal's defeat of the Romans in 217 BC; the last official day of the English asparagus picking season; and, most importantly, this contributor's birthday.

Page 87. " you did the one on de Gaulle? "

 Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) was the President of France from 1959 to 1969.

During the Second World War, de Gaulle commanded the Free French who were stationed overseas, seeking to overthrow the Nazi occupation of France. As leader of the Free French, de Gaulle was also seen as the head of the French government in exile.

As President of France, de Gaulle put forward a nationalistic and isolationist policy that established France as a separate power independent of British or American influence. During his time in office, dozens of assassination attempts were made against him, but he survived them all; in some cases, he is suspected of having set up the assassination attempt himself as a political stunt. His overbearing style of government caused trouble especially during May 1968, when students and workers rose up in protest, organising mass demonstrations in Paris and around France. Although he put a stop to the demonstrations, de Gaulle's popularity plummeted and he resigned in 1969.

Page 90. " if you just rename the house Chequers, I expect that'd sort it "

Chequers in Buckinghamshire is the country residence of the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Although there has been a house on the site since Medieval times, the present house dates from the sixteenth century. It has long had a role in British politics: it was used to detain Lady Mary Grey, the sister of the nine days' queen Lady Jane Grey. The estate was given to the nation for the use of the Prime Minister in 1920.