3 January, Yorkshire. En route to Leeds we have lunch at Betty’s in Ilkley, packed with people stir-crazy after the holiday. We are sitting facing the car park and the row of shops beyond.
Me: What is that shop called?
Me: It looks to me like ‘Hot Faeces’.
R: It’s ‘Fat Face’.
Between a shop calling itself Fat Face and one called Hot Faeces seems a difference of degree only, with both equally mysterious. Is it a shop where one gets a fat face (hence sweets and confectionery)? Or an outsize shop? Neither apparently, just a well-known fashion outlet. Still, the name seems quite odd to me, if not nearly as unlikely as what I thought it was. ‘Keep up’ I suppose the message.
Vol. 35 No. 2 · 24 January 2013
From David Woodhead
Grammar schools such as Leeds did not, as Alan Bennett says they did, ‘turn themselves into direct grant schools on the introduction of comprehensives’ (LRB, 3 January). By that time they had been direct grant for more than forty years. After the advent of comprehensives in the 1960s and then the Labour government’s abolition of the direct grant system in 1976 they had the option of becoming entirely independent, which Leeds and most of the other 177 direct grant schools decided to do – thus giving the independent education sector its biggest boost in modern times.
From Joe Swan
‘The only other notable resident of Bramhope,’ Alan Bennett writes, ‘is (or was) Saddam Hussein’s cousin.’ Other famous Bramhope residents have included rugby commentator Eddie Waring and Chris Norman of the band Smokie. It was also the birthplace of Jeremy Paxman.
Vol. 35 No. 4 · 21 February 2013
From Murray Biggs
Alan Bennett says that Joe Melia was the only person he knew who could read as he walked (LRB, 3 January). Those of us who were undergraduates at Oxford when W.H. Auden was professor of poetry there can hardly forget stepping off the narrow pavement into the Turl as that non-stop reader loomed ahead: not so much in deference to Who He Was as to that deeply graven brow signalling the direst intent. Besides, he was bigger than most of us, and moved faster.
Vol. 35 No. 6 · 21 March 2013
From Michael Robertson
It wasn’t only Pepys, Joe Melia and W.H. Auden who read as they walked (Letters, 21 February). According to K.M.E. Murray in Caught in the Web of Words, James Murray, editor of the OED, while still a schoolteacher in Hawick, ‘claimed that he learned at least two languages’ during his five-minute walk to school every day. ‘He was described by his former pupils hurrying up the street … bearded chin in the air and the cape of his Highland cloak … flapping behind him, open book in hand which he glanced at from time to time as he memorised the contents.’