Page 236. " single blades of marram grass growing up through the sand "
marram grass
GNU Free Documentation Licensemarram grass - Credit: Ellywa


Marram grass, also known as beach grass, is found exclusively on the edge of coastal sand dunes, especially along the coasts of the North Atlantic.

Page 244. " a fishwife throwing fish into a creel "


Creative Commons Attributioncreel - Credit: healthserviceglasses





A creel is a woven willow basket often used to hold fish.  It also has been used in Irish cottages to hold turf (peat) sods.

Page 245. " someone should go for the Guards "
Gardaí in Dublin, 1954
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGardaí in Dublin, 1954 - Credit: Alison, Wikimedia

The Guards, or Gardaí, are the police force in the Republic of Ireland.  The full name is Garda Síochána na hÉireann, meaning "Guardians of the Peace of Ireland".  A police officer is a garda.


Garda, 2004
GNU Free Documentation LicenseGarda, 2004 - Credit: Ideru, Wikimedia


Page 245. " like a Zulu warrior shaking his knobkerrie "


Zulus with Knobkerries
Creative Commons AttributionZulus with Knobkerries - Credit: Sander van der Molen


Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeKnobkerrie - Credit: NJR ZA, Wikimedia
 Knobkerries were weapons of war, particularly among the Zulu and Xhosa tribes of South Africa.  Typically they have a ball or knob at one end, but a stick that thickens at one end will serve just as well for clubbing or throwing.

The word  comes from the Afrikaans knop (knot or ball) and kerrie (cane).

Page 245. " like poor demented Ariadne on the Naxos shore "
Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian
Public DomainBacchus and Ariadne by Titian                                

Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete.  She fell in love with Theseus, and it was she who helped him slay the Minotaur by providing him with a sword and a ball of thread to find his way out of the Labyrinth.

She eloped with Theseus, and sailed for Athens with him.  They stopped on the island of Naxos where, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Theseus abandoned her, sailing away while she slept.  Some versions of the story suggest Dionysus (Bacchus), god of wine, appeared to Theseus and told him that he wanted Ariadne for himself.

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Whatever the reason, Ariadne awoke to find herself deserted by her beloved, hence the "poor demented" descriptor.  Dionysus promptly arrived to claim her, although not before she could curse Theseus, causing him tragically to forget to change the colour of his sail... but that's another story.

Page 248. " keen like a banshee "

To 'keen' is to wail or cry for the dead.  Keening is an ancient tradition in Ireland, stretching back to the Romans whose custom it was to employ keeners for funeral ceremonies. 

A banshee is a wailing  harbinger of death. The word comes from the old Irish meaning 'woman of the fairy mound'. 

Page 250. " bring out the not so latent Gilles de Rais in me "
Gilles de Rais
Public DomainGilles de Rais - Credit: Éloi Firmin Féron

  Gilles de Rais (1404-1440) was a Breton knight who fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English. He was hanged as a child serial killer.

He murdered a large number of children, possibly hundreds.  During his trial, he confessed the true horror of his actions: he would sodomize the children, then decapitate, dismember and disembowel them. Even after death, their body parts were not safe from his sexual attentions.

It is a truly extraordinary character comparison for Max to make of himself.