Mum sent me this so it has to be true – right?
Here are some ‘facts’ about the 1500s:
But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot, they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good byJune. However, since they were starting to smell . .. . brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the Bath water!”
Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.
(Getting quite an education, aren’t you?)
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.
England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift..) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer…
And that’s the truth!
Of course it is. My mum said so!
Its been a while since I shared any of my novel with you all, so here’s teaser number 5. In this scene are Colonel Gabriel Drax – Head of Security and resident hero, Admiral Silas Dargan – main protagonist and nasty little herbivore, Chief Science Officer Lilakoi Paige – Gabriel’s love interest, Major Katana May – family friend of the Admiral who is now doubting said friendship, and Lieutenant Nicholas Schiffiletti – Head of Communications.
Seven hundred and ninety eight million two hundred and forty two thousand nine hundred and thirteen calculations later, Chief Science Officer Lilakoi Paige had done it. Her program had finally learned how to reassemble life by studying how not to; and she was aching to test it out. Mathematically the theory was flawless but common sense called it absurd. Only a proper test would provide the answer so she contacted the Admiral for approval.
“Well done my dear, well done. I really didn’t think you would get this far so soon. Your parents would be proud.”
A backwards compliment kept her in her place and the reference to her parents reminded Lilakoi who was the boss. She hated the Admiral more than any other being she had ever known. All she wanted now was to complete her job and get out of this godforsaken place.
“When can we test it Admiral?”
“Right now of course. When else would you like?”
He always spoke down to her, treating her like a slave instead of giving her the respect she deserved. She had completed a task on her own that has taken teams of scientists decades to get nowhere. Lilakoi reflected on the different management styles of the Commanding Officers she had served under since arriving at Pine Gap. Admiral Silas Dargan was rude and callous, never caring for anyone’s opinion but his own and always treating his charges with contempt. His methods of motivation were through intimidation, fear and the threat of recriminations. There was no respect in the camp for this creature, nor was there any loyalty. Only obedience expressed under duress.
Colonel Gabriel Drax on the other hand had earned the reverence of his peers within hours of his arrival. He only exerted his authority if he perceived the situation to be getting out of hand and he always spoke kindly to Lilakoi no matter how she addressed him. He had united the troops, brought fairness and equity to the duties and effectively encouraged the sharing of skills amongst the diverse range of military experiences.
Reflecting on the handsome Colonel brought a pain to her chest and she began to wonder whether she had handled the situation this morning poorly. Gabriel was a leader, someone that they could all turn to in a crisis, and if Lilakoi wanted to be with him she would have to share him with everyone else.
Now she had identified her problem! She wanted to be with him so badly that sharing was out of the question. And she was jealous. Her irrational outburst at breakfast was due entirely to her own anxiety and the sudden arrival of the green-eyed monster. Lilakoi was ashamed at her behaviour and was at a loss as to how she would salvage a situation that may already be broken beyond repair.
The monster was screaming at her.
“Are you there? What are you doing you stupid woman? I’m giving you an order damn it and you better follow it to the letter. Insubordination is a serious charge you know.”
Lilakoi shook off the sad fog of regret.
“I’m sorry Admiral, there was a problem with the communicator. I can hear you clearly now. What do you need me to do?”
It was a nice save, if he believed it.
“One more time for the idiot in the room. Go and find Major May, Lieutenant Schiffiletti and a side of beef. I will meet all four of you at the elevators in ten minutes and please place the carcass in charge. Its undoubtedly the most intelligent of you all.”
The belligerent beast switched off the communication without another word and Lilakoi sat seething in the silence for several seconds. When she had calmed herself down she started the process of establishing a direct link between the secure terminal in the converted master bedroom of her terrace and the offline mainframe on level ninety-nine. As the two computers negotiated the encrypted passwords she called Major Katana May over the radio and relayed what the Admiral’s instructions were, down to the point of placing the dead animal in charge.
“I take it you’re learning a few new lessons about my old ‘uncle’ too then?”
“I’m sorry Major, I know he’s a long-standing family friend, but I find the man to be a bellicose bully.”
“He was my father’s associate Lily, not mine. Personally I feel that there are people here at Pine Gap who are more balanced, sensible and pragmatic than the Admiral ever was. Plenty of better choices for a friend I would think.”
Lilakoi knew what Katana was alluding to but she chose not to acknowledge her. Coming to terms with being a jealous troll was one thing, admitting it to others was another.
“Do you know where Nick is?”
“He went to see the prisoner Katarg with the Colonel. I’m not sure if they have returned as yet.”
“Ok, I’ll go find him could you please arrange for the test subject.”
“No problem, see you in ten. May out.”
Lilakoi attempted to raise Lieutenant Nicholas Schiffiletti on the communicator and found him in the process of changing cars on level thirty. She knew if Gabriel were with him he would be going through the psychic torment of the Mombaly madness so she asked after his condition.
“The Colonel? He’s fine. I mean he looks like he’s gone five rounds with a heavyweight champion but otherwise he’s ok.”
Gabriel listened to the conversation and daydreamed about the night he had spent with Lily. In his hand he held the metallic splinter that Katarg had used to identify the destination of the shredders. As his fists clenched in a vain attempt to stave off the violent, extra-sensory assault of the Mombaly convicts the blast-honed edges punctured his palm and he knew he would need more stitches before lunchtime.
By level twenty-eight Gabriel was fine and Lilakoi was gone. He placed his hand in his pocket to hide the injury and remained silent until they all got out on level sixteen. Standing outside the doors were Admiral Dargan, CSO Paige and Major May carrying a rump roast.
Lilakoi was shocked at Gabriel’s appearance. Nick had lied to her and he didn’t look fine at all.
“Your face! What did you do?”
Drax countenance was caked in blood, with black polyester knots holding his cheek together and reddish-brown butterfly clips keeping his eye open. His shirt collar and sleeve were stained a dark vermillion and his neck had long stripes of black coagulate that resembled knife wounds. Even Silas gave a brief look of concern. Lilakoi reached up to touch him but he intercepted her hand with his own, depositing a fresh scarlet river onto her forearm.
“Don’t worry about me I can look after myself. Where are you people going?”
If Silas was ever concerned for the welfare of the Head of Security, it dissipated immediately.
“None of your business Colonel. Come along ladies, you too Nick.”
The Admiral found his path to the elevator blocked by a blood-soaked behemoth, brandishing a loaded pulse rifle and bearing a look on his face that would have scared Satan. Silas, who had only taken one step forward, took two quick steps back as Nick shuffled sideways to get out of the way. Lilakoi placed her hands to her mouth in shock and sorrow. She’d set out this morning to destroy Gabriel’s character, regretfully she may have succeeded.
The nasty little herbivore was taken aback for only a moment. He had been in situations like this before and he knew how to handle them.
“Get out of the way you oaf or I’ll have you arrested.”
“On the contrary Admiral. If you choose not to obey the lawful commands of the Head of Security during a declaration of Sovereign Law, it is you who will be arrested.”
The squad behind Drax took his lead and immediately aimed their weapons at the Admiral. It was a standoff between the indomitable force and the immovable object, the outcome of which would determine the balance of power at Pine Gap once and for all. Unfortunately for Silas the Colonel was technically correct, even though there was no real precedence for detaining a man of his rank or stature during a time when Sovereign Law was proclaimed. Silas was also keen to test out his latest toy, so he backed down.
“My apologies Colonel, you are of course correct. I am simply taking my team here on a little tour of the prison levels to get some exercise and feed the Yowie.”
Admiral Dargan tried to smile after his little fib to give it more credence but he only managed an obsequious sneer. Drax knew he was lying and Katana grimaced at the obvious nature of the Admiral’s untruth. Yet in spite of the evident falsehood Gabriel let him go.
“Thank you Admiral. My squad will accompany you on your tour.”
That was the last straw for Dargan. He had been held up long enough and as his impatience reached critical mass he let his feelings spill out.
“Now you listen to me boy. I will not be dictated to by you or any of the miscreant morons residing at this facility. I will decide if and when I need to use any of your pathetic soldiers and then I will personally choose who I take. Do I make myself clear?”
Drax still barred the path to the elevator and as blood dripped from his hand onto his boot he delivered a cool, calm and calculated reply.
“The only thing clear to me is your ignorant stupidity. My orders demand that all groups travel with a minimum contingent of four armed personnel. Major May is the only member of your team who has a weapon but you have her carrying an armful of steak.”
Both Nick and Lilakoi had retreated behind Silas at this point so he couldn’t see the expressions on their faces. Katana and the other soldiers remained stoic, yet reveling in Gabriel’s admonishment of the Admiral. The Colonel paused only long enough to take a breath and then he continued.
“I will also add for the record that I am utterly sick and tired of your continued criticism toward the staff. Personally I have found all of the inhabitants here to be resourceful and highly skilled soldiers. They work well together without any sign of racial or inter-special schism and they learn from each other. You on the other hand are a diseased dinosaur. An ancient twisted relic, perpetuating a war the cause of which has been long forgotten. So, if you dare to cast aspersions against these people that I have grown fond of, I will charge you with insubordination and incarcerate you in the dankest, dingiest most uncomfortable cell I can find. Do you understand?”
The Admiral was fuming, but Drax had won. It was time to concede defeat.
“Yes, yes I understand.”
“Yes Colonel! I’m a Colonel and you are an Admiral remember? Even though we are under Sovereign Law you do not refer to me as sir.”
“We have reached an accord then. My troopers will escort you on your tour. Good day.”
Drax watched the lift door close before he allowed himself to laugh. The confrontation had greatly elevated his mood and raised his spirits out of the dark pit from which four trips to Starca had dragged him. He smelled like sex, blood and body odour. It was time for a shower and a change of clothes.