Page 327. " in Oxford, drifting out through the Meadows to the Isis "

The Isis is the traditional name for the part of the River Thames which flows through the city of Oxford.

The Meadows is a reference to Christ Church Meadow, a large green open space in central Oxford which is owned by Christ Church (one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford).

Part of the meadow is used for grazing cattle and part of it is given over to sports fields. At its southeast corner are the University boathouses which are on an island at the confluence of the Isis and the River Cherwell. Christ Church Meadow is open to the public every day between 8.00 a.m. and dusk.


Christ Church Meadow, south of Merton College
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChrist Church Meadow in the vicinity of Merton College, Oxford - Credit: Ozeye


The Isis and University of Oxford Boathouses (2007)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Isis and University of Oxford Boathouses (2007) - Credit: Nigel Cox

Google Map


Page 330. " the Romanesque narthex "
Narthex of the church of St Philibert Abbey, Tournus, France
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeNarthex of the church of St Philibert Abbey, Tournus, France - Credit: D Villafruela

 Romanesque is the name given to the European architectural period which precedes the 12th century Gothic period. The starting point of the Romanesque style is loosely dated as being between the 6th and the 10th century.

Characteristic of Romanesque architecture are solid massive walls, large towers, and rounded arches. Overall, the style conveys a sense of simplicity, particularly when compared with the Gothic style. In England, Romanesque architecture is usually described as Norman architecture.

In early Christian churches, the narthex was the entrance area or lobby, situated at the west end of the nave. Traditionally, it was not viewed as part of the church itself, and its original purpose was to allow individuals who were not allowed into the church to listen to, and take part in the service.

Page 332. " and feeling the AIDS question rear up "

AIDS stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. It is the final stage of infection by the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) when the body drastically loses its ability to fight off illness.

HIV is transmitted through various forms of sexual intercourse, through transfusions of contaminated blood, through the sharing of hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding.

The HIV virus originated in west-central Africa during the early 20th century, but was not identified as the cause of AIDS until the 1980s. By today, about 25 million people worldwide are known to have died of AIDS, and about 34 million are living with HIV infection. However, HIV infection is now under better control than previously because of the  the use of antiretrovirals drugs, which prevent the virus from multiplying within the body.

Click here to read 10 facts about HIV/AIDS.

 Click here to read some detailed statistical information about HIV/AIDS in Britain.

Click here to read an article written in 2011 about the effect of AIDS on the gay community in Britain.


Estimated no. of people living with HIV/AIDS in 2008
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEstimated no. of people living with HIV/AIDS in 2008 - Credit: Roke (source: UNAIDS 2008 global report)
Page 334. " He was Benedick to my Beatrice "

Benedick and Beatrice are two characters from William Shakespeare's comedy drama Much Ado About Nothing.

At the start of the play, Benedick and Beatrice, who have previously had some romantic involvement, engage in mutual insults and witty repartee designed to show how much they hate one another.  However, Benedick is tricked by match-making friends into believing that Beatrice is madly in love with him, and Beatrice is similarly tricked to believe that Benedick is madly in love with her. The culmination of this at the end of the play is that the couple eventually come round to making a public declaration of their love for each other.



Page 334. " ' and indeed Hector Hushabye to my Hesione "
George Bernard Shaw in 1914
Public DomainGeorge Bernard Shaw in 1914 - Credit: unknown

The husband and wife Hector and Hesione Hushabye are characters in George Bernard Shaw's play Heartbreak House.

Heartbreak House was written just before the First World War, although it was not performed until 1920. It is a complex play, which according to Shaw himself was an allegory of life in 'cultured, leisured Europe before the war'. The relationship between the Hushabyes is essentially an unhappy one, characterised by deception and unfaithfulness.


Page 337. " it was a study of the poetry of John Berryman "
Extract from 'Dream Song 14'
Creative Commons AttributionExtract from 'Dream Song 14' - Credit: Anthony Easton

 John Allyn Berryman (1914-1972) was an American poet and university teacher.

Berryman belongs to what is known as the Confessional school of poetry, which emerged in America in the 1950s and 60s. His best-known work is a collection of poems published under the title The Dream Songs.  He committed suicide in January 1972, after suffering bouts of depression, and problems with alcohol abuse.

Click here to see the full text of the poem 'Dream Song 14'.

Click here and here to see images of John Berryman.


Page 338. " I'm reviewing it for the THES "

Oxford University students in academic dress (2006)
Creative Commons AttributionOxford University students in academic dress (2006) - Credit: James
THES stands for Times Higher Education Supplement, a weekly newspaper published between 1971 and 2008 which dealt specifically with issues in higher education.

In 2008, the newspaper was re-launched as a magazine entitled Times Higher Education, which is still in publication today.

Page 350. " I'm just looking up Paraquat "
Backstreet in Périgueux
Creative Commons AttributionBackstreet in Périgueux - Credit: Ben Salter

Paraquat is a widely-used herbicide which is highly toxic to people and to plants!

Presumably, Alan Hollinghurst is making fun of Catherine's extremely anglicized pronunciation of Périgueux.