The Reader’s Gazetteer: Q

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You get ten points for putting down this Scrabble tile, because Q is a tricky one.

I don’t think I can give myself Qualling (which we knew only as Q- for the first few years of The Comfortable Courtesan) – while the residence of the Duke of Mulcaster is undoubtedly very fine, I said the other day that I wasn’t going to allow Netherfield Park.

Thank goodness, then, for Thomas Hardy, and Quartershot. True, he only uses it twice. The first time, he’s triangulating another location, and dismisses it as an ‘important military station’, but I’ll take that. Later in the book, we learn that it has a music hall. Jude has been doing some masonry work there.

Quartershot is a beautifully apposite name; better, I think, than the original Aldershot. Not only does ‘quarter-‘ pick up the sense of ‘barracks’, but, echoing ‘quarterstaff’, it doubles the martial allusions. Of course, the ‘-shot’ is a gift.

The last time I was in Aldershot was for a hen party last summer. I spent quite a long time sitting on the wall outside the station after the coffee shops closed, waiting for an AirBnB owner to come down from London to let me in. It was a strange couple of hours, watching the minibuses full of care assistants arrive and depart, wondering if my host was going to arrive before I finished reading One Day, trying not to notice that I was getting chilly. I didn’t go looking for any music halls.

 

Books mentioned in this post

The Comfortable Courtesan series, L. A. Hall

Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy

 

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