Page 181. " intricate as a mandala "

Tibetan Mandala
Creative Commons AttributionTibetan Mandala - Credit: Wonderlane
A mandala is a circular representation of the universe in Buddhism and Hinduism.  It symbolises completeness and unity.

In Sanskrit, mandala means 'circle'.

Page 184. " sitting up in my ornate bed as on a catafalque "




A cataflaque is a platform raised off the ground on which sits a coffin, casket, or the body of the dead during a memorial service.  The word comes from the Italian catafalco, meaning scaffolding. 

Page 184. " I felt like one of Wagner's demi-gods "
Richard Wagner
Public DomainRichard Wagner - Credit: Franz Hanfstaengl

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) was a German composer known for his ambitious mythological operas. He rejected traditional forms of the opera, introducing his "complete art" music dramas that combined poetry, music, design and theatre.

The Valkyries
Public DomainThe Valkyries - Credit: John Charles Dollman
Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen, based on Nordic mythology, features a number of full gods, including Wotan/Odin, Freya/Freia, Donner/Thor, Loge/Loki and Erda/Mother Earth.  The Valkyries (Wotan's daughters by Erda), and the Norns (Fates, also Erda's daughters) might be considered demi-gods.

Listen on Spotify:

Das Rheingold - Prelude

Die Walküre - The Ride of the Valkyries

Götterdämmerung - Siegfried's Funeral March


Page 185. " spectacular display of Valhallan petulance "

Valhalla is the home of the Nordic gods, and a paradise for slain Norse heroes escorted there from the battlefield by the Valkyries.

In Wagner's Ring, Valhalla is constructed at the outset of the drama, and destroyed at the end.

Listen on Spotify:

Das Rheingold - Entry of the Gods into Valhalla

Page 188. " on the boreens and cratered side roads of South Armagh "
Crossmaglen Police Station
Creative Commons AttributionCrossmaglen Police Station - Credit: polandeze, Flickr

South Armagh is a primarily Catholic region of Northern Ireland, and has a longstanding 'Republican' (Irish Republican Army) tradition.  When the 'Troubles' began, a disturbance occurred in the border village of Crossmaglen where, in retaliation for attacks on Catholics, the IRA is said to have attacked a British barracks.

A number of British soldiers were attacked and killed in South Armagh over the years.  Many more took away psychological scars from the region.


Page 190. " his box of Swan Vestas "

Swan Vestas
Public DomainSwan Vestas - Credit: Provashanty

Page 191. " a daub of Colman's fieriest "


Colman's Mustard
Creative Commons AttributionColman's Mustard - Credit: Chris Sampson
  Jeremiah Colman started making mustard in Norwich, UK in 1814. Its taste is unique and fiery, and has long held a central place in any British or Irish pantry.

His nephew, Jeremiah James Colman, built the company up until in 1866 it was awarded a special warrant as Manufacturers to Her Majesty (Queen Victoria).  A liberal MP for Norwich, he once observed: "I make my money from the mustard that people throw away on the sides of their plate".

Page 192. " it is a sort of homeopathic cure "

Homeopathy is an alternative approach to medicine developed and pioneered by Samuel Hahnemann (17555-1843), a German physician. Practitioners administer highly diluted doses of substances capable of causing the same symptoms or conditions as the illness being treated. It is based on the principle that 'like cures like'.  Many people - not least Queen Elizabeth II - have found homeopathic remedies helpful, although their efficacy has been disputed by some scientists and medical practitioners.  In 2010, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that homeopathy has nothing more than a placebo effect.  However the NHS continues to fund homeopathic remedies.