Page 402. " like the halo on a Flemish madonna "
Flemish-influenced 15th Century Madonna
Public DomainFlemish-influenced 15th Century Madonna - Credit: Stefan Lochner

A halo is a luminous disc or ring of light which surrounds the head of certain figures, such as the Virgin Mary (the Madonna) and saints, in religious paintings.

Flemish art, which flourished between the early 15th and mid 17th Centuries, is the work of painters from the ancient County of Flanders, which comprised parts of Belgium, the Netherlands and northwest France.

Some of the best known Flemish artists are Jan van Eyck; members of the Brueghel family (Jan and Pieter); Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.


15th Century Flemish Madonna
Public Domain15th Century Flemish Madonna - Credit: attributed to van der Weyden (or his school)
Page 410. " 'There's a public-house near Cable Street,' "

Cable Street is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the area often referred to as Shadwell.


Google Map
Page 410. " The girls call it The Boy in the Boat "

The boy in the boat is slang for clitoris.

Page 414. " steaming packets of tripe and trotters "
Uncooked tripe
Public DomainUncooked tripe - Credit: Lissen, Wikimedia Commons

Tripe is the name given to the rubbery material which lines the stomachs of cows and sheep.

It is no longer popular in Britain but is still widely consumed in other parts of the world, notably in France.

Recipe: Tripe and Onions



Trotters are animals' feet (usually pigs) prepared as food.

Recipe: Oriental Pigs' Trotters


Boiled pigs' trotters
Creative Commons AttributionBoiled pigs' trotters - Credit: Gilgongo, Flickr


Page 414. " Diss Street, Sclater Street, Hare Street, Fashion Street, Plumbers Row, Coke Street, Pinckin Street, Little Pearl Street "

Diss Street, Sclater Street, Fashion Street, Plumbers Row and Coke Street are all actual streets in the Poplar district of London.

There are also streets called Hare Row, Pinchin Street and Pearl Street in the same district.


 Location of Coke Street and Plumbers Row:

Google Map
Page 414. " and a garish sign - The Frigate "
Frigate appears in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) as a term for a well-dressed wench.

A Frigate was also a fast square-rigged warship, in use between the 17th and 19th Centuries. Today, it is the name given to a warship smaller than a destroyer which is generally used for escort duty.

Page 415. " two rum hots "
Hot toddy
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHot toddy - Credit: Ann Larie Valentine, Flickr

Probably rum topped up with hot water and sweetened with sugar.

Drinks combining alcohol and hot water with sugar, spices and citrus juice are traditionally known as toddies; they are often drunk to combat coughs and colds, or to cheer someone up on a rainy day.

Hot Rum Toddy recipe

Hot Buttered Rum recipe

Page 416. " then tipped the velvet "
Tipping the Velvet
Public DomainTipping the Velvet - Credit: Mihály Zichy
This is the first reference to the title of the book. Nan King, like many readers no doubt, is not familiar with the term tipping the velvet.

It is defined in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) as tonguing women, and in the Dictionary of Victorian Sexual Slang as tonguing a woman's mouth, or if you were very naughty,  her muff.

Page 417. " like Venus in the sea-shell, in the painting "

A reference to the painting by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli (c.1445-1510), entitled The Birth of Venus.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, a sea-shell is said to have symbolised a woman's vulva.


'The Birth of Venus'
Public Domain'The Birth of Venus' - Credit: Sandro Botticelli


Page 419. " as if I had just said, 'I am Lord Rosebery'. "

Caricature of Lord Rosebery (1901)
Public DomainCaricature of Lord Rosebery (1901) - Credit: Leslie Ward
 Lord Rosebery (1847-1929) was a Liberal politician who served as British Prime Minister between 1894 and 1895.

He is reputed to have had a homosexual relationship with his private secretary, Viscount Drumlanrig, the son of the Marquess of Queensbury and elder brother of Oscar Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. 



Page 421. " What was that one you used to sing - about winking at the pretty ladies, with your hand hanging on to your sovereign ...? "



Does anybody know what song is being referred to here?
Page 424. " Jews and Lascars, Germans and Poles "

Lascars were sailors or militiamen from India or the East Indies (now usually described as Southeast Asia) who served on European ships between the 16th and 20th Centuries.