This page is a repository for all people, places, organizations, obscure references or usages, and anything else in the Virtual Attic that needs explaining.
Where such a name, word, or expression occurs, e.g. in the letters or documents, there should be a link to the appropriate entry here. This is just an index, not intended to be read top to bottom.
— A —
The Aldridges: Mrs. Aldridge — I can't recall her first name — was Matron (that is, head of all the nursing staff) at St. Edmund's hospital in Northampton when my mother was Assistant Matron there, around 1970. Her husband, Mark Aldridge, was Secretary of the hospital about the same time. He later served as Mayor of Northampton, 1977-78.
Asda: A supermarket chain in England.
— B —
Bedford: A small town about 20 miles ESE of Northampton, capital of Bedfordshire. (The county name is abbreviated "Beds." The next county, if you continue towards London, is Hertfordshire, whose first syllable is pronounced "heart," and which is abbreviated as "Herts." Working on contract in Hertfordshire in 1981, I bought a street map of the region. The map bore the title "Herts. and Beds.," which I thought made it sound like a racy novel.)
The Berni Inn: A middle-range restaurant in Northampton's Abington Street, 1970s-80s.
Billing: Great Billing and Little Billing were two villages just west of
Northampton, on the A45 road to Wellingborough. The expansion of the town in the 1970s and 1980s swallowed them up, and they are now inside the municipal
boundaries. Great Billing was the northern village, Little Billing (which you could get to from the town along the Billing Road) the southern.
A housing estate named Bellinge was built between the two villages in the mid-1970s. My sister Judith moved to a house there (45 Coneygree Court) in May 1975, and lived there until moving to the Spring Park estate around 1980.
South of Little Billing, down towards the River Nene, was — and in mid-2008 still is — Billing Aquadrome, a small amusement park of which I have some very dim childhood memories.
Mrs Billingham: Mrs Billingham was the proprietress of Northampton's best second-hand book store, a favorite haunt of mine. The store was on the north side of St. Giles Street, on the block just west of the church. I am pretty sure the store was still in business when I left for the U.S.A. in late 1985, though I think her son had taken over by then. As I remember her, Mrs Billingham was very old, short, and short-sighted, with thick-lensed spectacles. Her bookshop was a treasure.
Black Country: The region of the English West Midlands between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, where south Staffordshire, north Worcestershire, and northwest Warwickshire meet. The boundaries of the Black Country are controversial. Most definitions include Wolverhampton but not Birmingham. Wikipedia has an article here. The center of the Black Country is Dudley, where Grandad Knowles grew up before his family moved to Hednesford (which is not in the Black Country, though the local accent is — to my ears at any rate — indistinguishable from Black Country dialect).
Blisworth: A village five miles south of Northampton.
Braunston: A village 14 miles WNW of Northampton.
Keith Brice: One of my classmates at both Far Cotton CPS and Northampton Boys' School. He is number 9 in the Far Cotton school photograph here. Keith was a solid, sensible, dependable sort of lad, and practical-minded too — fascinated by motorbikes and cars. I think he was the first of my coevals to get a driver's license. He had an older brother named Malcolm. The Brices lived in the corner house where Gloucester Close meets Gloucester Avenue on the east. Keith's father died suddenly — heart attack, I think — during our first year at the Boys' School (1956-7). Mrs. Brice sent for my mother, as neighborhood people did in medical emergencies, but Mum could do nothing for him.
Bridge Street: The main street heading south from Northampton town center towards South Bridge and the London Road. The first couple of hundred yards out of the town center are quite steeply downhill — a gradient of around 1 in 15.
— C —
Caroline: My landlady for a few months of 1973 in East Sheen (a district in west London).
Canary Wharf: The northernmost part of the Isle of Dogs (see below). This is the business part of the redeveloped Isle of Dogs, with big office towers housing major corporations, a couple of hotels, etc.
Kwong-Chi Chan (陳廣智): I met Mr. Chan in the fall of 1971, when I was living in Hong Kong. I had taken a job as lecturer in computer programming at New York Technical Institute, the Hong Kong branch of an American chain of private training schools. The Institute was in Old Bailey Street (澳卑利街) on Hong Kong island. Mr. Chan was the caretaker and general factotum. We remained close friends until his death in October 2005. I last saw him during a brief visit to Hong Kong in Summer 2001. There is a note here. Mr. Chan was the father of three clever and capable sons: Tin-sing (陳天成), Tin-sang (陳天生), and Tin-man (陳天文).
Jingzu Chen (陳京祖): Directrix of the Postgraduate Diploma in Modern Chinese course that I studied 1979-80 at Ealing College of Higher Education. Jingzu herself was unmarried, but her sister was the wife of the eminent Swedish sinologist Göran Malmqvist. Prof. Malmqvist came to Ealing to give us a lecture once. His topic was the use of the character 其 as a grammatical particle in early Iron Age texts. The lecture was … riveting.
Chronicle & Echo: The daily (evening) newspaper in Northampton, my home town. Known locally as "the Chron'n'Eck."
Church's: A store selling chinaware, at the north side of Northampton market square.
Cindia: A Hong Kong girl I was involved with, 1971-74 — unwisely, in the opinion of absolutely everybody, but most especially of her family. My first address in New York, in 1973, was the apartment at 279 Broome Street where she lived with her aunt and uncle (who rented the apartment), their infant daughter, and the aunt's mother.
Clacton: A seaside resort in Essex, 100 miles ESE from Northampton.
Coleridge Avenue: I was part-owner of a house at 65 Coleridge Avenue, in Manor Park, London borough of Newham, 1970-73.
Computastaff: A company that supplied computing contractors around the London area in the early 1980s. I did several contracts for them.
Cromwell Cottage: An old (17th-century, if the name is anything to go by, which may not necessarily be the case) village pub/restaurant at Kislingbury. Near the left-hand edge, just below center, of the central map here
CSFB: See "First Boston," below.
— D —
Allan Dailey: My sister's first husband. Married in 1967 or 1968, they separated in January 1975.
Daily Mirror: A London daily tabloid newspaper, favored by my parents all through my childhood, and by my mother till nearly the end of her life. The Sunday newspaper from the same stable was the Sunday Pictorial, which changed its name to Sunday Mirror in 1963.
Dicky Dent: Dicky Dent was a colleague of my father's during WW2, when they both worked for the Aircraft Inspection Department of the Air Ministry. My memories of him are very vague. He had a wife named Peggy. They lived in a flat in London, somewhere near Victoria railway station. They had no children. I have a dim memory of visiting the flat in childhood, and of Peggy being very kind, buying me a toy in a nearby store. I last saw Dicky in 1981, when I went to look for work in London. Peggy had died (from lung cancer). Dicky was living alone in the flat. It was just a courtesy call, motivated mainly by curiosity on my part. Dicky died soon afterwards.
D.H.S.S.: Department of Health and Social Services, the U.K. government department that manages pensions and other welfare issues.
Martin Draper: A classmate of mine at Far Cotton school. He is number 7 in the school photograph here. He lived in Winchester Road. Last I heard, in a 1977 letter from my mother, Martin was a Detective Sergeant in the town police force.
— E —
Enid: Enid and I lived together in Liverpool and London, 1967-71.
— F —
Gaby Feibush: Gaby Feibush was a girlfriend from my school and college days (1963-66). Her parents, Martin and Hella, were Silesian Jews who had had to flee Germany in the Hitler years, and had somehow washed up in Northampton.
First Boston, CS First Boston, etc.: First Boston was the New York investment bank I went to work for on contract in October 1985, and of which I became an employee in November 1986. The firm's name was changed to "CS First Boston" in 1988 when Credit Suisse acquired a major interest (which became a controlling interest two years later). In 1996, while I was still an employee, the name changed again, to "Credit Suisse First Boston." Then in 2006, by which time I no longer had any contact with the firm, they dropped the "First Boston."
Football Pools: (Colloquially "the Pools.") A very popular form of gambling among working-class English people in the middle and late 20th century. Every week during the football (i.e. soccer) season, you tried to predict the results, win-loss-tie, of the several dozen matches played by Football League teams the following Saturday. The more games you predicted correctly, the better your chance of winning something, though the precise amounts and methods of division (when several bettors' predictions are equally correct), I never understood. See also here.
Florrie Forde: Florrie Forde, 1875-1940, was a music hall (= Vaudeville) singer from Australia. She specialized in slightly risqué songs. The Australian Dictionary of Biography has an entry for here here. Here she is in action.
— G —
G.C.E.: General Certificate of Education. This was the standard "quality" qualification you hoped to acquire at secondary school in England in the second half of the 20th century. There were several examining boards, all with slightly different procedures. All examined at Ordinary Level (which everyone called "O-level") and at Advanced Level ("A-level"). You generally sat for your O-levels at age 15 or 16, for A-level two years later, if at all. At good schools like mine, pupils were encouraged to take a wide range of subjects at O-level, then specialize for A-level. I took, and passed, nine O-levels at age 15: English Language, English Literature, History, Latin, German, Chemistry, Physics, Math, and Additional Math. At age 16 I took three A-levels: Pure Math, Applied Math, and Physics. I flunked Physics, though. I also took, and passed, two more O-levels: Art, and Engineering Drawing. A year later, at 17, I re-took and passed A-level Physics, and took and passed S-level Pure Math and Applied Math. S-level (for "Special") was a level beyond A-level offered by my examining board (which was the Oxford board). I don't think other boards offered S-level; I have never heard of it since taking it. In adult life, 1973, I took O-level Chinese (London examining board) for my own amusement, bringing me up to a total of 12 O-level passes. This was by no means exceptional. Some people would take O-levels as a hobby, amassing dozens of them. The whole examination system has been radically changed since the 1970s, and I no longer understand it. People tell me it has all been dumbed down, but I really don't know.
Giro: Giro was a bank run by the British government. In my brief spell as a government employee, 1969-71, my paychecks were deposited in the Giro, and I seem to have kept up my account for some time after that, to judge from remarks in my parents' letters.
Gog: The TV, in our family's microdialect — short for "goggle box."
Howard Gotch: Howard Gotch, whom we all called "Gary," for reasons I have forgotten, was a classmate of mine at Northampton Boys' School. We kept in touch on and off for some years afterwards. Barbara was Gary's wife.
Mrs. Griffiths: A nursing colleague of my mother's from St. Edmund's hospital.
— H —
Halifax Building Society: A savings & loan that held the mortgage on the house at 62 Friars Avenue from 1981 to 1991.
Herne Bay: Herne Bay is a resort on the north coast of Kent, about 60 miles east of London.
Houghtons: Great Houghton and Little Houghton are two villages about three miles east of Northampton.
— I —
i/c: My mother used this in writing as an abbreviation for "with." I don't know its origin, and have never seen it anywhere else. It may be a medical term of art, but I can find nothing on the internet.
Irene: A friend in Hong Kong.
Jean Isherwood: Jean Isherwood was my mother's best friend in the later years of her life. The two had been nursing colleagues at St. Edmund's Hospital, Northampton. Jean lived with her husband, Bernard, in a bungalow in Hardingstone village.
Isle of Dogs: Part of the Docklands region in east-central London, redeveloped in the 1980s and 1990s as a business and residential center. Not really an island, the Isle of Dogs is formed by an oxbow where the River Thames, on its way generally eastward to the sea, turns south, then back east, then north, then back east again. The Clippers Quay estate, where we owned a flat at 50 Whiteadder Way and lived 1990-91, is at the south end of the Isle of Dogs.
— J —
Jubilee: References to the Jubilee in my parents' letters from 1977 are to the various celebrations in that year commemorating the 25th anniversary of Elizabeth II's accession.
— K —
Jimmy Kirwan: Our family doctor when I was a small child.
— L —
Derek Lamb: Derek Lamb was my sister's boyfriend all through her late teens. His mother, referred to in my parents' letters as "Mrs. Lamb" — I don't know her first name — was a family friend through the 1970s at least. My mother went on vacation with her once or twice, I think.
Land's End: The southwestern-most tip of the English mainland, in Cornwall.
Li Xiaolong: Xiaolong was a graduate of Siping College, a year ahead of Rosie. He came to England in 1984, married an English girl, and worked in London for some years before settling in Leicester.
Peggy Lister: Proprietress of Lister House, the
residential care home where my mother
spent her last years. Peggy was a victim of multiple sclerosis. She managed to run the place from a
wheelchair — was in fact (my
impression) quite an astute businesswoman. Born July 1931, Peggy had had a career in nursing, and I think my mother
had known her professionally
during her own working years.
Peggy employed local women, mostly young and unqualified, as "carers" to look after her tenants. My mother names several of these in her later letters: Angela, Ann, Cathy, Chris, Jan, Judy, Linda, Lynn, … They seem all to have been very kind, so here, for what it's worth, is a collective "thank you" to them all for looking after my Mum.
Louise: A lady I dated 1976-77. Jonathan was her son.
— M —
Micky: A pet of the minor sort, almost certainly a fish, resident at the Derbyshire household in Huntington, 1997.
The Marsh Farm: A farm located at Uckington in Shropshire, seven miles west of Oakengates. It was owned by Basil Marsh, husband of Joyce, daughter of my Dad's childhood friend Ernie Padmore. We stayed there once (at least) when I was small. One of Basil's dogs bit me on the jaw — I still have the scar. There was a dash to Shrewsbury hospital for an anti-tetanus shot. Basil wanted to have the dog put down, but my mother wouldn't allow it. She said, probably correctly, that it had been my fault for annoying the beast. That incident aside, I remember the Marsh Farm very fondly. Basil and Joyce were a kind and loving couple, and there was much fun to be had on the farm, which is in some of England's loveliest countryside. I remember riding the combine harvester, watching with interest as it consumed a rabbit (which did not survive). There was a disused WW2 airfield nearby, a wonderful place to ride a bicycle along the concrete runways. Basil was a fine countryman, who knew every inch of his fields, and the entire history of the place (which goes back to Roman times — the ruins of Viroconium Cornoviorum are just a couple of miles away). I last visited the farm in 1978, for the wedding of the Marsh's daughter, Elizabeth. On that occasion I spent some happy hours with Basil, walking over the property, listening to him talk about the place … after which I felt I was ready to start a farm myself. Basil told me that in the great drought of 1976, the fields were so bare, the outlines of the old Saxon village of Uckington could be made out on them. (The modern Uckington is basically just the farm.)
Ada Moore: Mother of Philip Moore, my sister's second husband.
Mounts: "The Mounts" is a main street in central Northampton (top center in the center map, lower row here), going from Abington Square northwest to Campbell Square; but it is also used as a tag for the public swimming baths situated there.
— N —
Peter Nalder: Peter Nalder was a classmate of mine at University College, London, 1963-66. We lost touch for a few years, but in the late 1970s he moved to Northampton with his wife Anni Ruzicka. They adopted a little boy, Michael, in (I think) 1979.
Newquay: A seaside town on the north coast of Cornwall.
N.H.S.: National Health Service.
Nikita: A tropical fish, I forget the details, resident at the Derbyshire household in Huntington, 1996-97.
The Nook: A pub in Great George Street, Liverpool, where I worked as a bartender 1967-69.
— O —
Oakwood Nursing Home: Oakwood Nursing Home was a small maternity facility in Northampton during the 1940s. My sister and I were both born there. It's on the southern corner of The Drive and Collingwood Road, facing the back of St. Matthew's Church (top right map here).
The building is still there and still in business; though by some apt symmetry, it is now an old-folks home. Visiting Northampton in November 2013, I took this photograph. Click for a larger version.
O.A.P.: Old Age Pension, the British equivalent of Social Security. It can also be used to designate persons: "I'm an O.A.P. now."
— P —
Ernie Padmore: Ernie Padmore was a childhood friend of my father's. His daughter, whose name I think was Joyce, married Basil Marsh, thereby becoming mistress of the Marsh Farm. Ernie died in 1979 or 1980. All through my childhood it was a standing family joke that every Christmas my Dad would send a card to Ernie, with a pound note enclosed for Ernie to have a drink with; and Ernie would send Dad a card containing the same amount and the same instruction. "You send him a pound, he sends you a pound. What's the point?" we'd scoff. "It's friendship," replied Dad with a shrug. Older and wiser now, I understand.
Peter Paterson: Peter was first my agent, when I went looking for contract work in London in 1981 and he was an associate at Computastaff. Then he was my landlord for a few months in 1981-2, when I lived in the spare bedroom of his apartment in Ealing. He has ever since been a good friend, though we see each other much too infrequently.
Petroushka Ball: A charity event sponsored by the Russian Children's Welfare Society, held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City every year, usually in early February.
Pitsford: A pretty village a few miles due north of Northampton: see the map in the first row, second column here. At some date later than that map, in the early 1950s I think, the river north of Pitsford was dammed, creating a reservoir that now stretches east to Holcot. My Sea Cadet contingent used to go sailing on the reservoir.
Pontefract Cakes: Little medallions of chewy licorice candy, a favorite of mine. Pontefract (where my Auntie Nell lived) is the licorice capital of England. It is in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Note the plainly Latin root of the name: "Broken Bridge." We didn't completely forget the Romans. John Betjeman wrote a lovely poem about the place:
The Licorice Fields at Pontefract
In the licorice fields at Pontefract
My love and I did meet
And many a burdened licorice bush
Was blooming round our feet …
Possunt quia posse videntur: Some of Dad's letters to me in the 1970s were written on notepaper headed with this motto. It comes from the Æneid (V.ccxxxi), and translates as: "They can because they think they can." (More literally: "They are able because they seem [to themselves] to be able.") It was the motto of the RAF's 19th fighter squadron, but under a different device. Possibly Dad kept this notepaper from his wartime days working at the Air Ministry, I really don't know.
Pounds, shillings, and pence: Britain changed her system of
currency in 1971. Before
that, British money was counted in pounds, shillings, and pence. "Pence" was the plural of
"penny." Twelve pennies made one
shilling; twenty shillings made one pound. A halfpenny (prounounced "HAPE-nee") was of course half a penny;
a farthing was a quarter of a
penny. (Though farthings were barely used after 1960. I can remember getting farthings in change, and even spending
them, but the memory is
remote.) The written abbreviation for "pound" was, and still is, "£"; for shilling,
"s"; for penny,
"d." The whole system was sometimes referred to as "L-S-D." Small sums were written with a
slash: "6/8" would
be six shillings and eight pence (a common amount, as it was a third of a pound). This might also be written
"6s. 8d." A round number of shillings was written like this: "6/-" while a number
of pennies was just written
"11d." If halfpennies were involved: "6/8½d." and so on. Once you got up into pounds
the sum would generally be
written more formally: "£12 14s. 9½d." or
"£8 0s. 10d."
A shilling was colloquially a "bob," so that "thirty bob," for example, would be
£1 10s. A guinea was
£1 1s. Professional people stated their fees in guineas; furniture was usually priced in guineas; and
there were one or two
other applications I can't recall. It was common to walk past a furniture store and see a sofa priced at
"12½gns." You needed
to be good at arithmetic back then. (Note: 12½ guineas is 12½ pounds and 12½ shillings. That's
plus 12s. 6d. Total £13 2s. 6d. Piece of cake.)
From 1971 on, pounds were retained but shillings were dropped, and pennies were recalibrated to give 100 pennies per pound. £13 2s. 6d. became £13–12½p, and a little bit of color went out of life.
Prudential: An insurance company. In her later years my mother had a life insurance policy with them.
— Q —
— R —
John Raphael: A doctor, a geriatric specialist, in my home town. My mother knew him through her nursing work at St. Edmund's Hospital. He was one of Northampton's small Jewish contingent, and a friend of the Feibushes. Gaby Feibush and I used to babysit the Raphael kids, ca. 1963-4. John had, as we say nowadays, "issues." I found him rigidly and intolerantly argumentative. There was much gossip about him in Northampton's little medical community. He was divorced in late 1974, and died almost immediately (December 1974).
Rates: "Rates" = property taxes. The whole system was changed in the late 1980s to a "council tax." The new system was unpopular — was in fact a major cause of Margaret Thatcher's downfall — but it seems to have survived somehow.
Robbins & Robbins: A firm of kosher caterers on Drake Avenue, New Rochelle, New York. I worked there from November 1973 to April 1974 as dishwasher and kitchen help.
Rushden: A small town 13 miles ENE of Northampton.
Rustington: A small English seaside resort, in West Sussex between Worthing and Bognor Regis. My mother had a friend there, a Miss Armet or Arnet.
— S —
Savin Business Machines: My employer from April 1974 to October 1978. At that time located in Valhalla, NY. Later, after much reorganization and at least one takeover, in Stamford, CT. Since 1995 a subsidiary of Ricoh Corporation, headquartered in Japan.
Saxon Hotel: A large, ugly hotel in west-central Northampton, built in the 1970s. We occasionally held family functions there, e.g. my parents' 40th wedding anniversary in September 1982. Now apparently extinct.
Angela Scott: A long-time friend of my sister Judith's.
Jimmy Shao: A dear old friend of Rosie & myself. Jimmy was one of Rosie's classmates at Siping College when I taught there, 1982-3. He went to England in 1985 on a student visa and stayed with me for a while in London. In 1986 he came to New York, staying with me again until I brought Rosie to join me in fall of that year.
Sometime in the early 1990s Jimmy moved to California, where he lived with his wife Michelle and daughter Sara Fei. In the late 2000s he fell victim to severe mental problems. He lost his job and his family and returned to China. I don't know his current circumstances.
Anthony Sheil: A London literary agent with whom I tried to place a book in 1982-3.
Siping: A small town in Jilin Province, northeast China, where I lived 1982-83. The town's name is 四平 in Chinese. The first character there means "four," the second means "flat, level, even" and also "peace, peaceful." The story locals tell you is that there were four great battles there during the Chinese Civil War, 1946-48, and only then was there peace. There were indeed battles; but as etymology, that's just a bit of communist history-rewriting. H.E.M. James passed through the town in December of 1886, recording in Chapter XV of his book that:
The road passed through a succession of fine villages, or rather towns — Ta Pa-chia-tzû, Hsiao ch'eng-tzû, Mai-mai-kai, Ssû-ping-kai, Yü-shih-ch'eng-tzû — all flourishing and increasing, and distilleries also were frequent.
"Ssû-ping-kai" (四平街, Sipingjie) is today's Siping. The jie means "market." The frequency of distilleries was, as James explains, due to the poor transportation infrastructure. The land is fertile, so you can grow plenty of grain; but this part of China — the Manchu homeland — had not long been opened to agricultural settlement, so roads were poor. Furthermore, the rivers ran in unhelpful directions. Having grown a large quantity of grain, therefore, your best economic option was to turn it into liquor.
The actual origin of the name is almost certainly that Siping is located in a part of south-central Manchuria that is flatter than normal for the region. Standing in Siping and looking around, you see flatness in all four compass directions. Hence the name I gave to my fictionalized version of the town in Fire from the Sun: "Flat All Around."
For the academic year 1982-83 I was a lecturer in English language and literature at Siping Teacher's College (四平師範學院). The college has since been upgraded to university status, I believe.
Snap: "Food taken by a collier during his shift" — OED
Spar: Name of a supermarket chain in England.
Spinney: A spinney is: "A small wood or copse, esp. one planted or preserved for sheltering game-birds; a small clump or plantation of trees," according to the OED. I have never heard this word used outside Northampton..
St. Crispin's: St. Crispin's was the big mental hospital at Duston, just west of Northampton. It is on the map in the second row, first column here, bottom left-hand corner. St. Crispin's was opened in 1876 as the Berrywood Asylum. In my childhood local people still used "Berrywood" light-heartedly to indicate the place you'd be taken to if you did something exceptionally foolish.
My father spent the last few days of his life at St. Crispin's as an Alzheimer's patient, and died there. The hospital was closed in 1995, and the whole site has been redeveloped as a residential estate.
St. Edmund's: St. Edmund's was the hospital where my mother worked for the last few years of her nursing career (i.e. to her retirement in 1972). It is in the center map on the bottom row here, near the top right-hand corner.
Stone: British people of my parents' generation used the full range of the old "Imperial" units for weights and measures. A person's weight was expressed in stones, one stone being 14 pounds.
Swanage: A seaside resort in Dorset, on the southwest coast of England.
Swanns: A men's clothing store in Northampton — in Gold Street, I think it was.
— T —
Thurman: A ginger cat who shared living quarters with me and Jay Bodo at 14 Legion Drive, Valhalla, 1975-77. He went to live with Jay and Mary after they got married in 1977. He was named after Thurman Munson, catcher for the New York Yankees.
T.S.B.: Trustee Savings Bank, where both my parents had accounts.
— U, V —
Alan Van: The Vans (Alan and Audrey) were old friends of mine from my Liverpool days. Alan was Chinese, from Ningpo. Audrey was half-Chinese; her father, Johnny King, had a fish & chip shop in Great George Street, in Liverpool's little Chinatown. The only Chinese name I ever knew for Alan was 范阿三. That would be Van Ah-sai in Alan's home dialect, Fan A-san in Mandarin. He signed his name "A.S. Van." Since 阿三 just means "number three," and since Alan was in fact the third son in his family (girls didn't count) and had a younger brother in Taiwan named 阿四 ("number four"), it occurs to me to wonder if he didn't have an actual name that he just didn't like to give out, perhaps for superstitious reasons. Too late to find out: Alan died, much too young, in 1980. I received much kindness from him and Audrey, and learned much, mostly in an indirect sort of way, about China.
V.A.T.: Value Added Tax, introduced in Britain around 1970.
Violet: A small purple fish, resident at the Derbyshire household in Huntington, 1996-97.
— W —
Terry Waite: A Church of England emissary who went to Lebanon to try to negotiate the release of hostages held by jihadist groups, and was himself taken hostage in January 1987. He was held for almost five years, most of it in solitary confinement, before being released on November 18, 1991.
Brian Walden: Brian Walden was a TV interviewer, his subjects mostly politicians. He had a Sunday midday show that was very popular. Walden was very good at his job. British politicians were all terrified of him, but a little more terrified of the accusations of cowardice that would ensue if they turned down his invitations for interviews.
Wanstead: Wanstead is a middle-class district of northeast London, not far from Manor Park, where I lived 1970-71.
Watling Street: (In ordinary speech, usually the Watling Street.) The main trunk road going northwest across the English Midlands from London to Wroxeter. It follows the line of a Roman road. The Watling Street passes within seven miles of Northampton. As a trunk road, it has been superseded by the modern motorway system, but it's still busy.
Weston Favell: Weston Favell was in my childhood a village just outside Northampton's municipal boundary at the west, along the Wellingborough Road. "Weston Favell" was also used loosely for the western / northwestern region of countryside just outside the town: "He lives over Weston Favell way …" Now of course it is just a suburban district.
Wood Street: Wood Street was in central Northampton,
going north from Abington Street.
It passes through the red pointing hand in the center map on the bottom row
my father first came to Northampton in 1943, he reported to an office of the Air Minstry in Wood Street.
Office, Wood Street, and the Air Ministry itself have all ceased to exist. However, a neighboring office was occupied by an optometrist, Mr Howe. When it was discovered, circa 1958, that I needed glasses, I was sent to Mr Howe, by that time a middle-aged bachelor. He had a large red birth-mark down one side of his face. For ever after I cannot go for an eye exam without it summoning up Mr Howe's dark, atmospheric little office, all lined with wooden racks and cabinets of lenses, frames and other optometric paraphernalia. Mr Howe eventually had the birthmark removed and got married.
Worthing: A seaside town in west Sussex, on England's south coast.
— X, Y, X —
Yeayea: A girl I dated in Spring-Summer 1976. (It's an approximation to her Chinese name.)
Doug Young: My form master for my first year at Northampton Boys' School, 1956-7. Doug was an excellent schoolmaster who lived for his work. We thought him a bit eccentric at the time, but looking back I feel great affection for him. Those are his Form Master's Report comments on my school reports here, here, and here.