— VOTF12 Phipps’ Fire Escape

General Remarks

Chapter 12

  • The narrator is Alan Moore.
  • The date given is “AD 1995”, 64 years after the previous chapter. The significance of this date is that it is when Alan Moore wrote this chapter.
  • The indicated map location is to the northeast of the Boroughs, southeast of Kettering Road, in the Phippsville neighborhood.
  • This chapter contains a lot of references to earlier chapters; the most obvious ones are not noted.
  • Moore has mentioned that this is pretty much the only piece of his where his final product is a second draft. From Moore’s interview in Jess Nevins’ A Blazing World: (page 247)

    Nevins: […] do you usually outline in detail before you begin writing or do you just write and then revise in a second draft?
    Moore: Oh, I never do second drafts, no. No, it’s all first draft. Everything that anyone has ever read of mine, with the possible exception of the last chapter of Voice of the Fire, where that is a second draft. […]


  • “Proscenium arch” is the arch above a theater stage.
  • Papier mâché” is a construction material which is a composite of paper, glue, and sometimes other materials, often used to create masks.
  • “Caligari hulks” are buildings reminiscent of those from the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or German Expressionism in general; typified by sharp angles and deep shadows.

    “Caligari hulks”
  • “the hollow ashtray fashioned like a yawning frog” – These were somewhat common around the mid-twentieth century.

    A typical frog ashtray.
    A typical frog ashtray.
  • Witchcraft in Northamptonshire — Six rare and curious tracts dating from 1612” – First published as a collection in 1867, though Moore may have a more recent reprint.
  • “the selected poems of John Clare” – Possibly the 1954 volume Selected Poems.
  • Coritani” were a tribe in Britain at the time of the Roman conquest (see chapter four).
  • “Compendiums of murder” – Moore probably got his information about Alfred Rouse (chapter eleven) from one such compendium.
  • “The lives of saints” is possibly The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, which does mention Ragener (chapter five).
  • Zeinab Badawi” – A Sudanese-British journalist. She co-presented Channel Four News for several years, including 1995.

    Zeinab Badawi on BBC Four.
    Zeinab Badawi on BBC Four.
  • “Balkan ceasefire conference” – In 1995, Bosnia had been in the grip of civil war for several years. A ceasefire was agreed to in early October.
  • “chopped up […] to reduce the risk of choking” – Moore is comparing the reduction of news to “sound-bites” to the common practice of mothers cutting meat for young children into small pieces.
    • The image of a child choking will be central to Jerusalem.
  • “Forthcoming visits to the North of Ireland” – Clinton visited Northern Ireland on November 30, 1995.
  • “President Clinton” – Bill Clinton was President of the United States from 1993 to 2001.
  • “a peace process that’s rapidly becoming an enbalming process” – Despite Moore’s cynicism, a deal was brokered in 1998 that (mostly) ended sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Clinton contributed to that peace process throught his presidency.
  • “Kennedyesque […] hair and blowjobs” – John F. Kennedy was U.S. President from 1961 to 1963. Clinton’s hairstyle was similar to Kennedy’s. Both administrations had issues with sex scandals.
  •  “just to switch on Christmas lights” – Clinton did, indeed, turn on the lights for a massive Christmas tree on this visit – while standing behind a bulletproof screen.

    Bill Clinton in Northern Ireland.
    Bill Clinton in Northern Ireland.
  • “if Congress has […] the electric disconnected” – Conflicts between Clinton and Congress prevented the US budget from being agreed upon in a timely manner. This led to a shutdown of the governmemt between November 14-19. A temporary agreement was reached, but further conflict would lead to another, longer shutdown from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996.
  • “Two families of Irish Clintons […]” – I have been unable to document this.
  • “last night’s budget” – On November 28, UK Chancellor Ken Clarke presented the new budget.
    • Anyone have sources for Moore’s claimed analysis of this budget?
  • “Nigerian government has lynched Ken Saro Wiwa” – Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist, was executed on November 10, 1995.
  • “Shell-shocked” – Moore puns on “shellshock” (an older term for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the Shell Nigeria oil company.
  • “Momentary whiteness under the lagoons of Mururoa” – Moruroa is an atoll in French Polynesia. The French government staged nuclear tests there, some of which took place in September and October 1995.
  • “local Mercury & Herald from the sixteen-hundreds” – Wikipedia claims that this paper wasn’t founded until 1720.
  • “Rising Lights” – “Lights” is an archaic word for “lungs”. One source claims that rising lights were “any obstructive condition of the larynx or trachea (windpipe), characterised by a hoarse, barking cough and difficult breathing, occurring chiefly in infants and children.”
  • “the Purples” – More a general symptom than a specifoc disease, “purpura” are purple discolorations caused by subdermal bleeding.

  • Planet Struck” – Afflicted by the astrological influence of some planet.
  • carpet-bombing” – AKA saturation bombing, covering an area completely with bombs, the way a carpet covers a floor.
  • “sweaty gelignite” – Gelignite is a form of explosive known for its pliability. “Sweaty”, in this context, means “exuding drops of nitroglycerin”, something that can happen to old explosives, and which is indicative of dangerous instability. (Sources are divided as to whether or not gelignite actually sweats, but the phrase “sweaty gelignite” does appear fairly often in popular use.)
  • “History is a heat […] rising steam” -Moore has made frequent reference to this imagery of culture “becoming steam”. Notably in the 2003 documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore, where he almost quotes this passage:

    History is a heat, it is the heat of accumulated information and accumulated complexity. As our culture progresses, we find that we gather more and more information and that we slowly start to move almost from a fluid to a vaporous state, as we approach the ultimate complexity of a social boiling point. I believe that our culture is turning to steam.

  • Pembroke Road” – A residential road in the northern part of Northampton.
  • “new Leukemia cluster” – Leukemia is a type of bone marrow cancer that mostly affects children. Statistically significant clusters of leukemia are usually associated with hazardous waste spills of one form or another. Government studies were eventually done to try and identify a cause for this cluster, but were inconclusive.
  • “Brother Mike” – Moore’s younger brother, who is a major character in Jerusalem as “Michael Warren”.
  • “Haz-Chem suits” – Also known as hazmat suits, these are made of impermeable material that covers the full body, to protect from hazardous chemicals.
  • “from Spencer to King’s Heath” – The neighborhoods around Pembroke Road.
  • “King’s Heath had won awards for its design” – According to a local church website:

    Kings Heath estate was built in the 1940’s and 1950’s and originally consisted of predominantly Council-owned housing. In its early days it won awards for its design incorporating green spaces and “village” feel, but like many outer estates there was a decline in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s when the estate gained a bad reputation.

  • “neglected dogs […] hunting packs” – I have been unable to find documentation on this.
  • “local nightspot” – Not yet identified.
  • Barbarella” – A 1968 science fiction film starring Jane Fonda.
  • Repulsion” – A 1965 horror film directed by Roman Polanski. Both films feature highly sexualized imagery of female bodies.
  • emetic” – Vomit-inducing.
  • “ten Sovereign” – Sovereign is a cheap brand of British cigarettes, available in 10-packs.

    Sovereign cigarette pack
    Sovereign cigarette pack
  • “biriani-coloured” – Biryani is an Indian rice dish. A major ingredient is saffron, so Moore probably means a bright yellow color.
  • “gel-wheel” – A rotating device with multiple colored gels, to produce light of constantly varying color.
  • “knocked or banged up” – “Knocked up” is slang for “pregnant”. “Banged up” is slang for “in prison”.
  • New Scientist” – A weekly science magazine which Moore reads regularly.
  • Rainbow Drops” – Possibly multi-colored sugar-coated puffed rice sweets, though Moore may intend the older candy of this name, what is now more generally called a chocolate nonpareil. These appear prominently in the Jerusalem chapter The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron.
  • Bedford Prison” – The site of Alfred Rouse’s execution.
  • “Bunyan’s second home” – John Bunyan was incarcerated in Bedford Prison from 1661 to 1672, during which time he began writing The Pilgrim’s Progress (see below).
  • “ultimate suspender” – Punning on “suspender” as both “that which suspends a stocking” and “that which suspends a man by the neck until he is dead”.
  • “her name upon his lips” – I have been unable to document this. (London papers mostly don’t seem to have covered the actual execution, possibly peeved that the Daily Sketch got an exclusive of Rouse’s written confession.)
  • “What’s it all about, Alfie?” – The first line of the 1966 Burt Bacharach song “Alfie“, written to promote the film of the same name. Neither song nor film has any connection to Alfie Rouse other than the name Alfie.
  • “September 1681 saw a new charter […] in Northampton” – This new charter appears to have been part of the government’s attacks against the nonconformist movement (with which Bunyan was involved).
  • Holy War” – Allegorical novel by Bunyan, published in 1682.
  • “Mansoul” – In Jerusalem, “Mansoul” is used as the name for the middle section of the book, and for the “upstairs” regions of The Boroughs.
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress” – Allegorical novel by Bunyan, published in 1678.
  • spark gap” – An arrangement of two conducting electrodes with gas between them, allowing an electrical spark to bridge the gap. Used metaphorically here, possibly in reference to an internal combustion engine that ‘drives’ the process described.
  • Lucozade” – A British brand of energy drink. Now available in a variety of flavors/colors the “original” version appears approximately orange.
  • “sodium lamps” – Sodium-vapor public street lights, which cast a distinctive yellow light. These came into common usage in the 1980s, and remained the standard street lighting technology for a few decades.
  • Pickering Phipps” – There were several Pickerings in the Phipps family. Moore seems to be referring to Pickering Phipps III (1861-1937), though some other family members may be getting confused with him.
  • “He placed a foundry” – I have been unable to document this. I have found reference to a foundry purchased by one “Pickering Phipps Rice” (grandson of Pickering Phipps I?) on Bridge Street, not far from the hill.
  • Hunsbury Hill” – A hill to the southwest of Northampton.
  • “Iron Age settlement” – There was such a settlement on Hunsbury Hill, and the site was damaged by “19th century quarrying”.
  • “Most of what he paid his labourers would be returned to him across the bar-tops of his taverns” – A variant of the common exploitative practice know as “the company store“, which also funnels the vast majority of worker pay back to the capitalist company owners.
  • “Northampton had a lot of pubs back then.” – Google Maps still indicates at least six pubs along Bridge Street, but it would seem there used to be even more.
  • Plough Hotel down at the bottom” – This hotel (and bar) is still in operation. It is unclear in what sense it is “at the bottom”, since it seems roughly halfway along Bridge Street.
  • “four churches” – These would appear to be:
  • “no public houses” – This appears to still be the case.
  • “Phippsville” – Constructed in the 1880s. Seems to have been named after Pickering Phipps III.
  • “re-christened it Phipps’ Fire Escape” – I have been unable to confirm this. I have found multiple sources referring specifically to St. Matthew’s Church as having that nickname. It was built by Pickering Phipps III in memory of his father, Pickering Phipps II.
  • “turn from Cedar Road to Collingwood” – From further context, this must be a left turn. Here’s a map from 2017, which still shows a “small, uncertain row of shops”, though no “sub-post office”.

    Cedar and Collingwood
    Cedar and Collingwood
  • “platinum” – Here used as a color descriptor, a silvery-grey.
  • blagged” – Slang for “robbed”.
  • Crimewatch” – A BBC true crime program which has been running since 1984.
  • “A right turn, into Abington Avenue […] United Reform Church” – See map.

    Collingwood and Abington
    Collingwood and Abington
  • Francis Crick” – One of the researchers who discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. (DNA itself had been discovered significantly earlier.)
  • “Kettering Road” – A left turn, see map.

    Abington and Kettering
    Abington and Kettering
  • “backwater junk emporiums” – As of 2017, either these no longer exist, or Google Maps is unaware of them.
  • “Laser-Hunter-Killer Palace” – Presumably, this was one of the many laser tag establishments that went out of business after the first wave of popularity waned in the late 1980s. As of 2017, Northampton does have an operational “Laser Zone“, but not on Kettering.
  • “Abington Square” – Located at the junction of Kettering Road (A5123) and Abington Street (as opposed to Abington Road, earlier in this expedition). See map.

    Abington Square
    Abington Square
  • Charles Bradlaugh” – As described in the text.

    Charles Bradlaugh's statue
    Charles Bradlaugh’s statue
  • Toys “R” Us” – A toy store chain whose name is ‘properly’ spelled with a backwards “R”, which I am unable to reproduce here. Apparently the Kindle edition of this book also has trouble, and renders the name as merely “Toy Us”. As of 2017, there is a Toys “R” Us store some distance to the west-southwest of Bradlaugh’s statue.
  • “The night that his admission to the Common was decided […]” – On October 6, 1874, 7000 rioters clashed with police. However, this was not when his admission was decided. Bradlaugh lost the 1874 election, and the riot was because frustrated Bradlaugh supporters believed that the election had been fixed. Bradlaugh went on to win an 1800 election although, due to controversy over his atheism, he was prevented from actually serving until 1806.
  • did time” – Slang for “spent time in prison”.
  • “Theosophist and Match-Girl agitator Annie Besant” – Annie Besant was a social reformer and friend of Bradlaugh’s.
    Annie Besant
    Annie Besant
  • Spencer Perceval” – Assassinated on May 11, 1812.
  • grassy knoll” – In the context of assassination, this is an allusion to the many conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy.
  • “Abington Street” – As of 2017, this is still very much a “shopping precinct”.
  • the fag-end of” – “Fag” is slang for cigarette; hence a fag-end is a cigarette butt. This phrase is idiomatic for “the last (and least-interesting) part of an event”.
  • “Abington Street, pedestrianized some years ago” – Apparently in the late 1980s. De-pedestrianization occurred in December 2014.
  • “dangling from the gibbets” – A gibbet is a gallows with a projecting arm from which to hang criminals. Moore’s use of such a metaphor to describe a street-lamp indicates his extreme disapproval of the aesthetics.
  • “reproduction Dickens-effect” – Charles Dickens was an immensely popular and influential Victorian novelist, often writing about issues of poverty and social justice. The more common term “Dickensian” is often used to refer to things meant to evoke a Victorian setting.
  • “sub-Docklands aesthetic” – The London Docklands were subjected to extensive redevelopment in the 1980s and 1990s. The result was regarded by many as dull and lifeless. Moore is suggesting that Abington Street is getting even worse than that.
  • Trumpton” – An animated BBC children’s television show from 1967.

  • “airlifted out with CIA assistance […] junta” – Referring to how the CIA upheld many corrupt (but “pro-American”) regimes in various small countries. A “junta” is a small ruling council, especially in the immediate aftermath of a coup. Moore dealt with the history of the CIA in the graphic novel (and later performance piece) Brought to Light.
  • Toytown” – A children’s puppet show on ITV from 1972 to 1974.
  • “Bunny Run” – Not, as you might think, a euphemism for prostitution. A local recounts:

    Saturday night was also the scene of the ‘bunny run’ where all the young schoolgirls used to parade up and down between the Market and the Notre Dame High School. All of us boys used to do likewise on the opposite side of the road!

  • chakra” – In Yogic mysticism, a spiritual power point of the human body. Here, extended metaphorically to the “body” of the town.
  • New Theatre” – Opened on Abington Street in 1912. Was home to both live theater and films.

    New Theatre c.1914
    New Theatre c.1914
  • George RobeyGracie Fields and Anna Neagle” – English actors, all of whom had both stage and film careers during the lifetime of the New Theatre.
  • Notre Dame […] ninety years” – Established in 1880, closed in 1975, torn down in 1979.
  • “arcade of the Co-Operative Society” – The exterior of the building remains, but not the interior arcade.

    Co-operative Society, early 20th century
    Co-operative Society, early 20th century
  • “roll the final stone” – Possibly an allusion to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • wall up alive those slaves” – One might expect this sentence to conclude “who had helped construct the tomb” or “who were guilty of a terrible crime”; Moore provides a humorously mundane ending instead.
  • “Saturn” – Roman name for the Greek mythological figure Cronus, who devoured his own children until defeated by Zeus.
  • “Our castles” – Northampton Castle was mostly torn down by order of King Charles II in 1662. The last ruins were obliterated by railway construction in 1879. This is spoken of at slightly more length in Jerusalem.
  • “our emporiums” – Such as the Co-Opwrative Society arcade, above.
  • “our witches” – See chapter nine.
  • “our glorious poets” – See chapter ten.
  • “Market Square” – Located at the west end of Abington Street. See map.

    Market Square
    Market Square
  • “All Saint’s” – See notes to chapter ten.
  • Hackney cabs” – Licensed taxicabs (not generally horsedrawn anymore).
  • “Mercer’s Row” – See Market Square map.
  • “butcher’s, Sergeant’s” – There is a butcher named (slightly differently) “Sargeants of Northampton“, but, in another example of the vicissitudes of time, it is no longer located on Mercer’s Row.
  • “Geisha Café” – Formerly located on Mercer’s Row, as seen in the book Northampton Through Time. As of 2017, the site appears to be occupied by a hairdresser.
  • Bram Stoker” – Now known primarily as the author of Dracula, Stoker spent much of his life as personal assistant to actor Henry Irving, who appeared at least once at the Repertory Theatre (though possibly under a different one of the several names it has held over the years).
  • Errol Flynn” – In later life, a famous Hollywood actor, for seven months in the 1930s, Flynn worked for Northampton Repertory. “In 1934 Flynn was dismissed from Northampton Rep. after he threw a female stage manager down a stairwell.”
    • Stoker had died in 1912, but this merely emphasizes Moore’s whimsical image of overlapping times.
  • Repertory Theatre” – Opened in 1884; still in operation, though now known as the Royal Theatre.
  • John Bailles” – Allegedly died at the age of 126, though a local historian claims that he only lived to 114!

    Bailes plaque
    Bailes plaque
  • “Near six score years and ten” – That is, 130. The phrase recalls the biblical one describing a (typical) lifespan as “threescore and ten” (70).
  • “zips and Velcro” – A joking reference to other types of clothes-fasteners that tended to replace buttons, though not until the twentieth century. The joke is a little less funny if you know that, in Bailles’ day, buttons were more often decorative than used as fasteners.
  • Anglican” – Associated with the Church of England.
  • “Gold Street” – All Saint’s does face one end of Gold Street; see map.

    Gold Street - east end
    Gold Street – east end
  • Semitic” – In this (non-standard) usage, “Jewish”.
  • “shades” – In this context, “ghosts”.
  • “money-lenders” – During much of the Medieval period in Europe, Christians were forbidden to lend out money at interest. This did not prevent there being a significant demand for such loans, especially from royalty. Hence, in many times and places, Jews filled the niche of money-lenders.
  • “accused of sacrificing Christian babies” – This accusation against Jews, completely unfounded in fact, has come to be known as the blood libel. Anti-Semites still use it in some areas.
    • There was blood libel against Northampton Jews in 1277 and/or 1279. While this was in some sense “among the earliest incidents” when seen in the context of Europe as a whole, it was actually somewhat late in the context of England. The blood libel began in Norwich, England in 1144, and in 1290 all Jews were expelled from England (only allowed back in the seventeenth century).
  • “cabbalistic” – Related to the Kabbalah (variously spelled in English), a Jewish system of mysticism.
  • pogroms” – Violent riots aimed at exterminating ethnic minorities, especially Jews.
  • “a bomber crashed” – The morning of July 15, 1941.
  • Final Judgment” – A foretold event in Christian eschatology, which features angels and (in many versions) a great war leading up to it.
  • tractor beams” – Devices from science fiction (notably Star Trek) which can drag things towards themselves.
  • sympathetic magic” – A classification of magic which includes the notion “Like attracts like”.
  • speakeasy” – Originally, an establishment that sold alcohol illegally. Later applied to some retro bars.
  • “Adam’s Bakery, behind the church” – Possibly referring to a branch of what is now known as “Oliver Adams Limited“, located at 4 Mercers Row, across from All Saint’s Church.
  • “a marvelous forgotten space” – I have been unable to find outside documentation for this place. It does, however, also feature in Jerusalem.
  • jetstreams” – High, fast-flowing air currents, which can aid (or hinder) airplane travel.
  • strato-cumulus” – A type of large, dark cloud.
  • “One lone cyclist with a broken arm” – “Pete41” claims:

    My father Ernest Gross had been on duty that night fire watching from the roof of Cleaver’s building in Wood St (now demolished as part of Grosvenor Centre site). He was cycling home along George Row when he saw the Stirling coming towards him up Gold Street. He tried to get in to Bridge Street but was hit before he could get there. He suffered a broken leg and fractured skull and was off work for 6 months.

  • “townsfolk file out through the Welsh House” – This is depicted in the Jerusalem chapter Malignant, Refractory Spirits.
  • Jane Russell” – Famous American actress of the 1940s. It was common during World War Two for airplanes to be decorated with pictures of sexy women, including at least two planes that explicitly featured Russell. I could find no information on what nose art (if any) was on the plane which crashed in Gold Street.
  • From Gold Street over […] Horsemarket” – See map.

    Gold Street - Horse Market - Mare Fair
    Gold Street – Horse Market – Mare Fair
  • “more horse-power […] than ever” – Horse Market and Mare Fair were, as indicated by their names, major horse-trading districts in former days. Though there are few actual horses there these days, there are many cars, whose collective engine strength (traditionally measured in terms of horsepower) far outweighs that of the former equine inhabitants.
  • Fritz Lang” – Famous film director. The allusion here is probably to Lang’s Metropolis, a science fiction story dealing with (among other things) oppressed workers in vast factories.
  • “Carlsberg Brewery” – Still in operation. Before this site was purchased by Carlsberg, it was a brewery for Phipps NBC, founded by Pickering Phipps I.

    Carlsberg Brewery
    Carlsberg Brewery
  • “it was in the Copenhagen branch of this establishment” – This stretches the truth more than a little. Wikipedia:

    In 1914, Carl Jacobsen, the heir to Carlsberg breweries, bequeathed his mansion to be used for life by the Dane who had made the most prominent contribution to science, literature or the arts, as an honorary residence (Danish: Æresbolig). Harald Høffding had been the first occupant, and upon his death in July 1931, the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters gave Bohr occupancy.

    This was several years after the discovery of the uncertainty principle (see below). However, many sources conflate the occupancy of the mansion with Bohr’s Nobel Prize (in 1922), which may be the source of the date error. While there was a brewery located next door, it seems unlikely that Bohr actually did much work there.

  • Niels Bohr” – Famous twentieth century physicist.
  • “his axiom” – Moore appears to be thinking of the uncertainty principle, actually discovered by Heisenberg in 1927, but which Bohr did quickly embrace and help demonstrate the validity of. It is not an axiom. Moore’s interpretation of it, while fairly typical of literary treatments of quantum mechanics, is likely to make actual physicists gnash their teeth.
    • Commenter rmaghirang points out a Bohr quote which may be what Moore was thinking of: “Naturally, it still makes no difference whether the observer is a man, an animal, or a piece of apparatus, but it is no longer possible to make predictions without reference to the observer or the means of observation.”
  • Special Brew” – A particularly strong Carlsberg lager, brewed only in Denmark and the UK.
  • “Cross Horsemarket into Marefair” – See previous map.
  • Barclaycard” – The first British credit card company. Their Northampton headquarters has since moved to a new building.
  • “Thatcher years” – Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.

    Margaret Thatcher
    Margaret Thatcher
  • Here we go” – Frequently chanted by football (soccer) fans in support of their teams. Moore may be drawing a comparison between ardent (drunken) team loyalty and the nationalist fervor typical of Thatcherites.
  • “council offices” – Hazelrigg House, now the site of a theatre. The location features in the Jerusalem chapter Sleepless Swords.
  • “Cromwell” – Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Roundhead faction in the English Civil War. He is reputed to have slept at Hazelrigg House the night before the battle of Naseby.
  • “breach birth” – More typically spelled “breech birth“, the literal meaning is when a baby is born feet first instead of head first, a situation likely to injure the child.
  • Royalists” – The opposing side in the Civil War, who lost the battle of Naseby (and the war).
  • Ecton” – A village just east of Northampton.
  • Globe Inn” – Still exists, though under its new(er) name of World’s End (see below).
  • William Hogarth” – Eighteenth century political satirist and painter, often credited as one of the grandfathers of sequential art. His creation of the sign is disputed.
  • “World’s End” – While a fairly common name for an inn, it also reflects Moore’s abiding fascination with apocalypse.
  • St Peter’s Church” – This church was (re-)built by the son of Simon de Senlis from chapter six.
  • “Uncle Chick” – This appears to be Walter John Moore, the person that Walter Warren in Jerusalem is based on. Walter Moore died in 1979.
  • “a wide boy in more ways than one” – Presumably including the literal “a large male” and the idiomatic meaning of “one who lives by their wits, a wheeler-dealer, who is ‘wide-awake'”.
  • “a supernal toad with diamonds in his brow” – “Supernal” means “lofty” or “heavenly”. This description recalls both folklore of toads having jewels in their heads, and Moore’s own visualization of Belial; see note to chapter nine for both of these.
  • Edmund’s severed head […]” – Moore’s account differs somewhat from the actual legend. A wolf spirited the head away from Edmund’s killers. When Christians searched the woods for the missing head, they heard the wolf cry out “Here! Here! Here!” So, rather than “would not let them near”, the wolf was offering the head back to them.

    Edmund and the wolf
    Edmund and the wolf
  • “cryptic suits” – In Jerusalem, Moore offers up a different quartet: penis, skull, tower, cross.
  • Black Lion Hill” – Just west of Marefair.
  • “the crossroads and the bridge beyond” – There are many crossroads and bridges near here; it is unclear exactly which ones Moore means.
  • “St Peter’s Way” – AKA A4500. See map.

    Marefair west
    Marefair west
  • “St Andrews Road” – AKA A5095. See map.
  • Jurassic Way” – In chapter one, Moore ascribes its creation to Hob and his fellow shamans.
  • “Glastonbury” – Most sources say the track starts in Banbury; I could not find any information linking Glastonbury to the Jurassic Way.
  • “Becket came to trial” – Thomas Becket was tried in 1164.
  • “not long after” – Northampton Castle was (mostly) torn down in 1662 (see note above). An interesting use of “not long”!
  • “Castle Station” – Since the 1960s, the official name has been Northampton Railway Station.
  • “relocated postern gate” – This was moved when the railway station was built, in 1879.

    Postern gate
    Postern gate
  • “Railway Club” – This appears to have been the same establishment as the “British Rail Sports and Social Club“, which shut down circa 2013. (The link may be of interest to Jerusalem readers. It reports of a 2016 initiative to turn the disused building into a shelter for “rough sleepers” (homeless).
  • “destination” – We don’t know how far down Cedar Street Moore started from, but the walking distance from the corner of Collingwood to the Railway Club, along the route described, is a little over 3 kilometers, or about 1.9 miles.
  • “mum’s death four months ago” – According to the book Alan Moore – Storyteller, Sylvia Doreen Moore died in August 1995. If accurate, that would place this meeting in November, as so many chapters have been.
  • “bingo caller” – Bingo is a gambling game in which players purchase printed cards with numbers on them. The caller then calls out numbers generated randomly (traditionally by selecting balls out of a tumbling mechanism). Players check off any called numbers which appear on their cards, winning the round if their numbers form specific patterns. (UK bingo differs from the American version in several details, but this description covers both kinds.)
  • “kippered laugh” – “Kippered” is of unclear meaning here. Possibilities include:
    • Slang for “drunk”
    • Metaphorical reference to a voice hoarse from too many cigarettes (“smoked”)
    • Slang for “utterly defeated” (perhaps at bingo).
  • “crematorium ” – Possibly Counties Crematorium. If so, their online records (still) show no sign of either Moore parent.
  • “Soylent Green is people” – Reference to the 1973 SF film, Soylent Green, where a late revelation is that (spoiler!) popular food product Soylent Green is made from human corpses. (The fact that someone decided to market an actual food product named “Soylent” in 2014 may be taken as evidence that we live in a postmodern world.)
  • “antipodean surf” – “Antipodean” means “from the opposite end of the world”. This would seem to suggest that Michael is drinking an Australian beer, which has left foam on his lip.
  • panning” – A low-tech process for extracting gold dust from water. Here used metaphorically, for extracting writing material from conversation.
  • strip mining” – Another mineral-extraction metaphor, but a much more violent, destructive one.
  • “rag-picker’s litany […] old iron?” – A ragpicker is someone who makes their living salvaging street refuse that can be recycled. A litany is a patterned recitation, such as a ragpicker might make on their rounds, asking for material, such as “old iron” (iron goods that are old or broken, but whose metal content retains some value to the ragpicker).
  • “Power Ranger-Jugend” – Power Rangers is a children’s action-adventure franchise that debuted in 1993 and is still going as of 2017. Moore, ever aware of the fascist implications of heroic fiction, compares these playing children to the Hitlerjugend, or “Hitler Youth“.
  • “strums a tripwire” – A more typical English expression here would be “rings a bell”. “Strums” is similarly musical, but tripwire suggests a dangerous boobytrap. Perhaps Moore is commenting on both the power and danger of memory.
  • “Thirty years ago, Jeremy Seabrook […] The Unprivileged” – The Unprivileged was written in 1967. Seabrook was Moore’s French teacher in 1966.
    The Unprivileged
    The Unprivileged
    • Early editions of VotF misname the book as The Underprivileged.
  • Marmite” – A British food paste made from yeast extract.
  • “tarts with hearts” – Similar to the cliche expression “hooker with a heart of gold“.
  • “we-were-so-poor-rickets-was-a-luxury” – There are a wide variety of “we were so poor” jokes, perhaps the best known of which are to be found in the Monty Python “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch. They often gain their humor by relating some devastating poverty, and characterizing it as a luxury. Rickets is a common childhood disease in developing nations, caused by vitamin D deficiency.
  • “the Silver Cornet” – Formerly a pub in the Kings Heath neighborhood. As of 2017, the space is occupied by an accountant.
  • “None of this is speakable” – Of course it is speakable, as you just wrote it down… At the time of this writing, Moore had only been a practicing magician for about two years, and was still somewhat concerned about sounding “mad”. By the time Jerusalem was published, about two decades further on, he was far less reticent, and more willing to just speak his mind.
  • “gecko-eyed evasion” – Geckos are small lizards whose eyes can rotate to an extreme degree. A person who is being evasive is often referred to as “shifty-eyed”, but Moore always likes to make his imagery more extreme than ordinary language.
  • “the girlfriend’s” – Melinda Gebbie, see note below.
  • “Mayorhold” – As described. See map.

    The Mayorhold
    The Mayorhold
  • Tom-of-Bedlam” – Either a madman, or a beggar who feigns madness.
  • “chain of office” – See the final chapter of Jerusalem, Chain of Office.
  • “Semilong” – A neighborhood just to the north of the Boroughs. See map.

  • swagger-stick” – A short stick or riding crop, often carried as a symbol of authority.
  • “accreted coral” – Coral reefs are the accreted skeletons of many, many generations of small polyps.
  • “remote acquaintance […] stabbing” – Possibly Peter Howe, a drug dealer who was stabbed to death in 1994. I have been able to find scant information, though, so this is extremely tentative.
  • “Fiery Fred” – Possibly the same person who appears in Jerusalem under the name Roman Thompson?
  • “Murder Squad” – British colloquialism for a Murder Investigation Team of the police.
  • Lynda LaPlante” – Writer (and later producer) of many popular UK crime shows on television.
  • “The Amsterdam Connection” – Possibly a reference (by the police!) to a drug smuggling scheme known as the French connection from the 1930s through the 1960s. The story of the French connection became immortalized in film in the 1970s.
  • Double Dutch” – Incomprehensible language.
    • A second layer of allusion is to the incomprehensible last words of American gangster Dutch Schultz. These last words inspired works of fiction by William S. Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, both significant influences on Moore. Moore also uses this phrase/allusion in the gangster-centered “Litvinoff’s Book” track of 1994’s The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels.
  • sunspots” – Dark spots that appear somewhat periodically upon the surface of the sun. Moore seems to be suggesting that crime is less a matter of human motivations than of (poorly understood) physics.
  • “A sexual tourist” – Identity unknown.
  • Milton Keynes” – A large town about 20 miles south of Northampton.
  • rentboys” – Young male prostitutes.
  • Ronson lighter” – Ronson Limited is based in Northampton.
  • “child found […] fifteen years ago” – Unidentified.
  • “retarded boy […] breadknife” – Unidentified.
  • Mecca” – A holy city in Saudi Arabia, to which all muslims are obliged to make pilgrimage. Metaphorically, any location which draws people or behaviors of a specific type (here, murder).
  • Midlands” – The central region of England.
  • “Dave J […] Godfather of Goth” – David J is a Northampton musician and longtime friend of Moore’s. As a member of Bauhaus, he can be considered one of the founders of gothic rock. This theme is expanded upon during the Jerusalem chapter The Rood in the Wall.
  • Melinda Gebbie” – Moore’s collaborator on Lost Girls. During the creation of that book, they formed a romantic relationship, and were married in 2007.

    Alan and Melinda by Jose Villarrubia
    Alan and Melinda by Jose Villarrubia
  • “underground cartoonist” – Descriptive of a strain of English-language cartoonists from roughly the 1960s through 1980s whose work was published by small presses. Underground comix were characterized by willingness to tackle topics that “mainstream” publishers would not, especially explicit sex and drug use.
  • “former bondage model” – During the 1980s. Gebbie wrote about her experiences in Dodgem Logic #6.
  • “quarkweight boxer” – Some boxing classification systems go as low as “atomweight”. As a quark is a particle much smaller than an atom, Moore is joking about Gebbie’s size. I have found no other information about Gebbie’s boxing.
  • black hole” – Moore is making an extended metaphor here. A literal black hole is an astronomical object whose gravity is so strong that light cannot escape it. It is thus invisible to light, but can be detected by the way that light rays passing nearby have their paths bent, or by accretion disks of superheated material on its way into the black hole.
  • A45” – A major British road which passes through Northampton.
  • atavistic” – Reverting back to the nature of an ancestor.
  • “Washington” – Wikipedia entry on Sulgrave (see below) includes:

    In 1539 or 1540 the Crown sold three manors, including Sulgrave, to Lawrence Washington, a wool merchant who in 1532 had been Mayor of Northampton. Washington’s descendants retained the manor until 1659, when one of them sold it. In 1656 a descendant, John Washington of Purleigh, Essex, emigrated to the Colony of Virginia. He is notable for being the great-grandfather of George Washington, who from 1775 commanded the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and in 1789 was elected first President of the United States.

  • “Franklin” – Wikipedia entry for Ecton (see below) includes:

    Ecton is a place of pilgrimage for many Americans. Benjamin Franklin‘s ancestors lived here for over 300 years, many generations of them being the village blacksmiths, on a site where now stands the Three Horseshoes Inn. There are still headstones for members of the Franklin family in the village churchyard; inside the church there is a bronze plaque, provided by a group of American visitors in 1910, which has a quotation from one of Benjamin Franklin’s speeches. Franklin’s parents emigrated in 1683.

  • Sulgrave” – A village in south Northamptonshire.
  • Ecton” – A village in Northamptonshire.
  • “Sulgrave village crest” – There does not appear to be any official “village crest”; however, the village does contain a number of representations of the crest of the Washington family, which shares some elements of the American flag (see picture).

    Washington family crest
    Washington family crest
  • “aftermath of Civil War” – The English Civil War ended in 1651. Emigrations in 1656 and 1683 could be considered “aftermath”, though the latter is something of a stretch.
  • “bar and mullet” – Official heraldic names for “stripe and star”.
  • yellow taxis” – Primarily associated with America; English taxis are black.
  • “leaping upstream […] spawning ground” – The metaphor is to salmon, who travel upstream to the place they were born when it is time for them to breed.
  • “Fauvist” – Fauvism was an early twentieth century art movement that emphasized bold use of color over straightforward realism.
  • “only visible to dogs or bees” – Probably an exaggeration – but dogs and bees do perceive some colors that humans cannot.
  • “Action Men” – Action Man is a British brand of action figure, based on the American G.I. Joe. Originally produced in the 1960s, it had been reintroduced in 1993, a few years before this chapter was written.

    Action Man 1993
    Action Man 1993
  • “Barbies” – Barbie is an American brand of fashion doll, in constant production since 1959.
  • “Fymo” – Fimo is a brand of modeling clay. The misspelling with a “y” is not uncommon.
  • Mrs. Doubtfire” – The main character of a 1993 comedy film of the same name, portrayed by Robin Williams (in drag).
  • “Gulliver among the Lilliputian” – Referring to Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, a famous satirical fantasy novel in the form of a travelogue. One of the fabulous lands which Gulliver visits is Lilliput, whose inhabitants are tiny humanoids.
  • “the huge skull of a spectral dog unearthed, identifiable by gaping, monstrous sockets” – Personal note from annotator Alexx Kay: My freshman year in college, I would often take long walks through what passed for wilderness near the school. On one such walk, I noticed that a stream had unearthed the formerly-buried skull of a dog. There was a hole between and above the eyes, perhaps from a bullet. Irrelevant to Moore, but after all this effort annotating, you can put up with the occasional creepy anecdote from me.
  • “statuettes of toads” – Possibly meant to represent Belial? See notes about Belial in chapter nine.
  • “beautiful late Roman snake god” – Glycon, who Moore began to worship circa 1993, as spoken of in many different sources.

  • myrrh” – A resinous perfume/incense, with many mystical/occult associations.
  • Shamanism” – There is no universally-agreed-upon definition, but the term usually refers to entering altered mental states in order to access the spirit world.
  • “Qabalah” – AKA Kabbalah (variously spelled in English), a Jewish system of mysticism.
  • “Spare” – Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), an English magician and artist much admired by Moore. Moore wrote an introduction for a 2010 biography of Spare. Spare appeared as a character in Moore’s Promethea.

    Spare self-portrait
    Spare self-portrait
  • “Crowley” – Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), an infamous English sorcerer, and significant influence on Moore’s magical thought. Crowley also appeared in Promethea, often paired with Spare.

    Aleister Crowley
    Aleister Crowley
  • “Dr Dee and the Enochian Host” – See notes to chapter eight.
  • “Five years ago […] personal involvement in that occupation” – Moore began writing this book in 1990. In 1993 (on the occasion of his fortieth birthday), Moore announced his intention of becoming a magician.
  • “mother lately dead […] elusive rose-yards” – Just as Boy lost track of his mother’s corpse, so, in real life, the crematorium personnel could not find the ashes of Moore’s mother.
  • “loose tooth […] on tongue” – Recalling images from chapters three, four, and ten.
  • “the Gorgo and the Mormo” – Alternate names for Hecate, goddess of magic. These names’ association with her date back to at least the third century AD. They became more widely known in the twentieth century, first via the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and thence through the work of H.P. Lovecraft.
  • ju-ju” – Magical power. Originally a West African term.
  • “the Wig & Pen” – Still in business, as of 2017.
  • “ceiling decoration […] John Clare” – I would be most grateful for a picture of this (Google has failed me). The mural no longer exists 😦
  • “third-storey roof” – This incident also appears in Moore’s song “Fires I Wish I’d Seen”:

    I’ve got this friend, his name is John, he should by rights be dead.
    He fell three storeys off a roof and landed on his head.
    His skull remained intact, but cracked the paving stone instead.
    Heaven must be full, they’re turning folk away sight unseen.

  • took the cure” – Slang for entering an addiction treatment program.
  • Stayed clean” – Slang for remaining free from addiction.
  • “tumble from the wagon” – “On the wagon” is also slang for remaining free from addiction; hence, falling off the wagon indicates a return to addictive behavior.
  • on the nod” – In an opiate-induced stupor.
  • “kicking ” – Ambiguous. May refer to “kicking the habit” (breaking free from addiction) and/or “alive and kicking” (living and healthy).
  • mash” – British slang for mashed potatoes.
  • “Hang five” – “Hang ten” is a (wave-)surfing maneuver, where the surfer hangs all ten toes over the edge of the board. Weston, of course, has only five toes left.
  • tramp-marks” – Pictographic symbols placed on houses by vagrants to inform each other whether a house is good (or bad) to beg at and similar information.

    some typical tramp marks
    some typical tramp marks
  • “denoting […] the trail” – Arguably, this book is all about marking trails, starting with Hob’s song-trail in chapter one.
  • “Mary Tudor” – Presumably an error for Mary Stuart (aka Mary, Queen of Scots), who was beheaded in Northamptonshire. (Mary Tudor wasn’t beheaded, and has no obvious connection to Northampton.)
  • Cerberus” – A mythical three-headed hound from Greek mythology, said to guard the entrance to the underworld.
  • chthonic” – Relating to underground spirits.
  • Odin […] Mimir” – This is attested to in the Poetic Edda.
  • “Time passes” – The following scenes take place sometime after the day described previously.
  • Liverpool” – Large city in northwest England.
  • “Ringpulls” – Ambiguous; may refer to rings attached to drawers or doors for use in pulling them open, or to the rings attached to canned beverages. In either case, Moore is probably just making facetious allusion to more standard rings in Leah’s various piercings.
  • “as if her […] head were full of hidden pockets” – To quote Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: “Aren’t they all?”
  • Leah” – Born 1978, so seventeen years old at this time. She is now a published comic book writer in her own right.

    Leah Moore
    Leah Moore
  • “‘Cow'” – In English slang, “cow” can mean “unattractive woman”.
  • “Amber” – As of this writing, Amber Moore hasn’t got a wikipedia page of her own, but she has got a Twitter.

    Amber Moore
    Amber Moore
  • “fifty-foot-tall Goth” – While Amber is notoriously tall, Moore is making an exaggerated reference to the film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958).
  • “Morticia Adams” – Properly spelled Morticia Addams, she is the dangerous, dark-pig-tailed daughter of The Addams Family, originally appearing in cartoons by Charles Addams, later adapted to television and films.
  • “the World Trade Center” – At the time of writing, the WTC was most famous for its extreme height, having been the tallest building in the world at the time of its completion (1972). Although it only held that record for two years (in 1974 it was supplanted by the Sears Tower), it remained both extremely tall and famous for that height.
  • “Hunsbury Hill” – See notes above.
  • halal” – Meat which is butchered/prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
  • “Broadmoor buttons” – Broadmoor is another name for Naseby Field. Possibly the reference is to buttons of soldiers slain in the English Civil War?
  • “panto-demon ginger brow” – Panto (short for “pantomime”) is a form of British theater traditionally performed around Christmastime, featuring comic adaptations of fairy tales. The “demon” character (when included) usually wears a bright-red costume with horns and a tail. Hence, this phrase is an elaborate way of saying “red hair”.
  • Pig Bodine […] hyeugh” – A character who appears in several Thomas Pynchon novels, including Gravity’s Rainbow. The novel V. includes the following description: “Hyeugh, hyeugh approximates a laugh formed by putting the tonguetip under the top central incisors and squeezing guttural sounds out of the throat. It was, as Pig intended, horribly obscene.”
  • “He has the courage […] outstanding” – A fine doubled example of zeugma, where a single word (here, first “convictions”, then “outstanding”) is applied with multiple meanings to different parts of the sentence.
  • “the night that […]” – I have been unable to date this precisely. The ensuing description refers to The Stumbling Block, which was published December 31, 1990, so the reading probably was some time after that date.
  • Iain Sinclair” – A British writer; friend of (and influence on) Alan Moore. Sinclair was one of the people who helped popularize psychogeography, a subgenre into which both Into the Fire and Jerusalem fall.

    Iain Sinclair
    Iain Sinclair
  • golem” – A mythical creature of Jewish mythology, a humanoid clay statue brought to (pseudo-)life by magic. It is unclear why Moore refers to Catling as Sinclair’s “golem”.
  • Brian Catling” – Another British writer and mutual friend of Moore and Sinclair.

    Brian Catling by Simon Thompson
    Brian Catling by Simon Thompson
  • “stroll-by shooting” – Referring to the infamous late-twentieth-century urban phenomenon, the drive-by shooting. Moore is perhaps suggesting that Northampton’s criminals are more laid back than those of most cities. Or perhaps that they just can’t afford cars.
  • occult” – Though commonly used today to refer to the supernatural, “occult” originally just meant “hidden”; Moore is referring to an underworld that is not (solely) mystical, but that is literally hidden underneath the everyday world.
  • “webs of tunnels” – There are certainly some tunnels under Northampton, though how extensive these are is a matter of debate.
  • “burrows” – The similarity to “The Boroughs” is, perhaps, not accidental. This is discussed in the first chapter of Jerusalem.
  • “passage […] to the abbey out at Delapré” – Perhaps leading from St. John’s Church.
  • pellucid” – The word literally means “clear, transparent”. In the context of an underworld, however, it is also an allusion to Pellucidar, a fictional underground realm created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • “crypt beneath […] concrete off the opening” – This appears similar to an account given in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. The account differs from Moore’s in some details (indicated in italics below), suggesting that one – or both! – are in error, or perhaps not quite connected.

    John Kightley, a founding trustee of the restoration trust set up for Northampton’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believes more investigation could reveal some interesting detail about the tunnels beneath the town.

    He said: “Around 20 years ago the road collapsed in Church Lane, near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and my fellow church warden rang me to ‘come and look at this’.

    “I looked down and there was quite clearly a bricked tunnel. I thought I should get to the bottom of this but it panicked the council and they came to fill it in.”

    He continued; “Some years later my son Peter, who was a geophysicist in training at Birmingham University, brought in some ground radar scanning equipment.

    “He scanned the inside of the Crusader Round (at the church) and scanned the church yard. “When he scanned the centre of the round the equipment went bezerk.”

    Examining the results of the scan, John believes there appeared to be a tunnel going across the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

  • Civil Defence” – Per Wikipedia: “a civilian volunteer organisation established in Great Britain in 1949 to mobilise and take local control of the affected area in the aftermath of a major national emergency, principally envisaged as being a Cold War nuclear attack.”
  • “bunkers of nuclear-exempted bureaucrats” – That is, the underground spaces have been converted to bunkers where bureaucrats will be saved (“exempted”) from the dangers of a nuclear war.
  • “dressing rooms where they will underwrite the Apocalypse” – “Underwrite” has multiple meanings here: “financially support” as a theatrical show (emphasized by referring to the bunkers as “dressing rooms); and also “insure against losses”.
    • Some early editions have “understudy” here, not “underwrite”.
  • “Briar Hill estate […] neolithic remains” – See notes to chapter one.
  • close” – In British English, a dead-end street.
  • “A solitary sighting in the 1970s: a motorist on the A45” – I have been unable to corroborate this; any further information would be welcome.
  • “Borges’ bestiary” – Book of Imaginary Beings, by Jorge Luis Borges, does not actually mention shagfoals, though they would certainly have fit.
  • “Why did its Iron Age inhabitants abandon this place with such haste” – I have not yet been able to document this hasty abandonment, which forms much of the background for chapter three.
  • “Corn querns” – Corn, in pre-modern English, referred to any edible grain, not specifically to New World maize, as it usually does now. Querns are simple stone tools for grinding grain.
  • “Was that a dog?” – Or was it perhaps a Shagfoal?
  • “Some time, thing change and come like other thing.” – A brief return to the language of Boy, from chapter one. Moore is having an experience similar to Boy’s, in that he isn’t sure he is correctly interpreting what he sees.
  • “earliest line engravings of the place” – There are several eighteenth century engravings of Northampton from similar viewpoints.

    View of Northampton, 1771
    Engraving of Northampton, 1771
  • “Pernod-coloured stars” – Pernod is a yellowish-green liqueur. Moore is presumably referring (again) to the color of the sodium streetlights.
  • “Blackthorn […] Ecton Brook” – Various neighborhoods east of Northampton’s center. See maps.
    Bellinge; Ecton Brook
    Bellinge; Ecton Brook

    Blackthorn; Maidencastle; Rectory Farm
    Blackthorn; Maidencastle; Rectory Farm
  • “former Eastern Bloc” – The Eastern Bloc was a group of eastern European nations dominated by the USSR from roughly World War II until the 1980s.
  • cat’s cradle” – A game involving making figures of string loops arranged between the fingers of multiple hands.
  • “Galileo probe” – Technically, the Probe was just one component of the Galileo spacecraft. It was launched on October 18, 1989, so actually more than six years before the date of this chapter. The Probe “entered Jupiter on December 7 1995, 22:04 UTC and stopped functioning 23:01 UTC, 57.6 minutes later.”

  • “Some chapters back” – Chapter two.
  • necromancy” – Magic that involves communication with the dead.
  • Dreamtime” – A sort of myth-space, outside of the normal flow of time. (The term originates from Australian mythology.)
  • “the Iron Virgin’s legacy” – Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) became Prime Minister in 1979, sixteen and a half years before this chapter. Though she left office in 1990, the damage she did to the social fabric was long-lasting. She was often referred to as “the Iron Lady”. Moore presumably found that term too complimentary, and so compares her to an iron virgin (better known as an iron maiden), a brutal torture device.
  • “cardboard box […] doorway” – Traditional “homes” for homeless people.
  • “John Merrick” – The “Elephant Man (1862-1890)”, who appears briefly in Moore’s From Hell. (His first name was actually Joseph, but the mistake is a common one.

    Joseph Merrick
    Joseph Merrick
  • Fawsley” – A hamlet in Northamptonshire, where Merrick visited.
  • “Hawksmoor” – Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736) was an English architect. His work features significantly in From Hell.
  • “Eastern Neston” – A mistake for Easton Neston, a country manor in Northamptonshire, near Towcester, remodeled by Hawksmoor. (Curiously, it was spelled correctly when mentioned in From Hell.)
  • theodolite” – A surveying instrument with a rotating telescope.
  • Greens Norton” – A village not far from Towcester. The alignment of Easton Neston with it is true.
  • “Charles Wright” – I have been able to find little information about him. He appears to have died in May of 1914.
  • “Bell Barn” – Possibly Bell Barn Street, which once went diagonally between St. Andrews Street and Grafton Street.
  • “Mutual Improvement Hall” – Volume 1, issue #2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen listed, on the credits page, “Fresh from an acclaimed season at the Eltham Mutual Improvement Hall […] Mr. Kevin O’Neill”. I have been unable to find any information about a Northampton MIH.
  • alderman” – A member of a city council.
    • There may also be an allusion to “the Alder man” (presumably named after the tree) who appeared in Sandman #44, who was a Lapp shaman.
  • Faxton” – A now-abandoned village. Judge Nicholls (narrator of chapter eight) was from there.
  • “It is the last night of November” – Either this section was written earlier than the previous one, or Leah came down “for Christmas” rather early.
  • cordite” – An explosive used in gun ammunition.
  • “working” – In this context, a piece of ritual magic. It compares interestingly with the use of “making” in chapter one.
  • tallow” – Metonymy for candles.
  • “imaginary serpents” – The snake reference is presumably connected symbolically with Moore’s patron deity, the snake-god Glycon (see above).
  • “Idea is the only currency in this domain, and all ideas are real ideas.” – This ties in with Moore’s conception of “Ideaspace”, which appears in many works and interviews from the 1990s onward.
  • passionflower” – A flower, named after the Passion of Christ.
  • “a loft-ladder” – Possibly anticipating the staircase-ladders and “Jacob’s Flights” that appear throughout Jerusalem.
  • “an Escher staircase” – M. C. Escher (1898-1972) was an artist known for drawings of geometrically impossible structures, which often included staircases.

    Escher's "Relativity"
    Escher’s “Relativity”
  • “the venom surges up […] yawning porcelain” – Moore is vomiting in the toilet, possibly (partially) due to a bad reaction with some “magic mushrooms“. (While no use of psychedelic drugs for the ritual is explicitly mentioned here, Moore has made numerous interview references to his ritual use of mushrooms during this period.)
  • glamour” – In this context, it should be remembered that, in addition to its modern meaning of “sophisticated beauty”, glamour originally meant “magic spell”.
  • “Pale snakes of light” – Glycon again, in a different form?
  • “new Crown Court” – A courthouse, constructed between 1985 and 1990.
  • Corby” – A town in northern Northamptonshire.
  • “the victim’s head: they couldn’t find it” – Probably James Edwardson, who was killed in March of 1994. (Unless Corby has more cases of missing heads than seems likely!)
  • “Found by a black dog” – I have been unable to corroborate this yet.
  • Labrador” –  A breed of dog. Also known as “Retrievers”, due to being trained to retrieve game — which this dog, in one sense, certainly did!
  • Anubis” – Egyptian god who ushered souls into the afterlife. His head was that of a black jackal.

  • full stop” – Another way of describing the period at the end of a sentence. From a large or distant point of view, a severed head may appear as just a dot. And it definitely forms the end of its owner’s life-sentence.

Closing Remarks

  • In addition to trying to provide thematic closure, Moore uses this chapter to recount many interesting pieces of history that, for one reason or another, didn’t fit in any of the preceding chapters.
  • Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve helped enhance your enjoyment and understanding of this remarkable book!
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