Tag Archives: history

Cheer Yourself Up With The Plague

In these days of Brexit and Trump, I have decided that it is my duty to hand out stirring advice. In fact, I’ve nominated myself as the cheerer upper of the people. It’s a role that I relish and in these coming days, I hope to erase your feelings of discontent once and for all. So without any further waffle let’s get stuck into cheering ourselves up.

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However bad you may feel, be glad that you were not alive in Tudor England when there were three main illnesses which could easily kill you. In those days, influenza was a serious killer. In fact, it travelled through the army so quickly that the generals had to call off an attempt to recapture Calais in 1557 – 1558. No flu vaccinations there then.

Carried on a flea

Another option was the plague and to be fair, with the plague there was a choice: Bubonic or pneumonic. This was caused by a type of bacteria which was carried on a flea on a rat. There was no cure for it during the Tudor reign and outbreaks occurred from time to time. In 1603, 38,000 people died in London and the plague doctors were little more than useless. Henry VIII had the best way of dealing with the plague – he got out of London as quickly as he could. It also broke out again in 1665.

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If the plague or the flu didn’t get you, you still couldn’t relax because the sweating sickness might not be far behind. This broke out in England in 1485, 1517 and 1551. Talk about living for the moment, you really needed to when this illness was about. You could be singing a ditty, having a tumble in the hay and knocking back the mead at lunchtime but be dead before you got your supper; that was how quickly it struck folks down. Although saying that, it did not always kill. It is now believed that it was a type of flu and was named Sudor Anglicus because for some strange reason only the English caught it.

black-death-doctor

If you did get ill, you had a choice of who to turn to. You could go to the apothecary who handled drugs and herbs. Much of what they handed out was experimental so it was a bit of a risk seeing them. However, if you visited a barber-surgeon you would get an amputation. Perhaps, a physician might be a better choice because they would just stick leeches on you to suck your blood.

Well, that concludes my cheering up session for today. I hope it stirred you.

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Filed under About Loony Literature, Being Buoyant, The Cheerer Upper, The Peculiar Past

Trouble in the Coffee House? Get Writing.

Writing is good for your spirit and you don’t have to stay in to do it. It’s really good fun to go to a coffee house armed with your writing paraphernalia and to set your short story in there. If you really want to chance your arm you can create characters for your story from the other folks that are supping coffee around you. Whatever you do, don’t let them see. Coffee gets some people excited and you don’t want a black eye when all you are doing is creating a story.

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Take down the details of the room you are sitting in and you have a setting readymade. Of course, if you wish to add or take away from that, you can do. This is the beauty of writing fiction; you can build the world to suit yourself.

Sneakily look at the people sitting nearest to you. Are they story fodder? If not, why not? If it’s an elderly couple that are talking about the cost of drinking chocolate, don’t forget that everyone has a past. She could have been a spy during World War II. He could be a retired private detective. Basically, they can be whatever you want them to be – run with your fantasy.

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For those that love historical fiction, you will find that coffee houses have been around for a while and so if you wish to write a historical piece and set it in the coffee house then that is no problem. In fact, if you read on, you will find a true and hilarious situation that you can use as a basis for your story, if you so wish.

If you love popping out to the coffee house to have a good laugh and titillating gossip with your mates, you may be interested to know that this type of behaviour has been going on since the 17th century. However, back then it was purely the male that frequented the coffee house. Men would spend hours making business contacts and talking about politics in the coffee house. This did not go unnoticed by their female counterparts and trouble started to brew. (Do forgive the pun.)

Sterile and impotent

Women who were fed up of being coffee widows got together and published a hard hitting pamphlet. “The Women’s Petition Against Coffee” (1674) suggested that when men drank coffee daily it made then sterile and impotent. Obviously, this was a cause for concern in society because it would mean a reduction in the birth rate.

Women tearfully told how their husbands were turning their backs on them to enjoy the company of their peers in the coffee houses. They spoke of how this action threatened the social and economic future of the country because men were becoming incapable of fulfilling their marital duties. One woman even declared that all that coffee drinking ‘made men as unfruitful as the sandy deserts where the unhappy berry is said to be brought’.

For a moment, the men were truly speechless but only for a moment. They rallied back with “The Men’s Answer to the Women’s Petition.” They were having none of it and were rather blunt in their reply. The men suggested that drinking coffee made the erection more vigorous and then went into detail about how it actually made the sperm more potent. In other words, they fought back saying that coffee would actually make the birth rate rise.

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Well that is certainly something to write about. You could write a television sitcom or a short play. It doesn’t have to be a short story. The whole idea of the exercise is to get you into the coffee shop setting and then to let your mind run wild. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy doing this. Just remember not to put pressure on yourself to produce War and Peace, this is meant to be fun.  Anything that has been written can always be improved upon at a later date if you so wish. For the time being, just have a giggle.

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us, The Peculiar Past

Story Ideas To Get You Writing – Getting Married in the Buff!

Stuck for something to write about? Here at Loony Literature, we are pure suckers for history so when we come across something which we think might be a good springboard to get you folks writing, we will shout about it. Even if this doesn’t make you start writing frantically, it will inform and entertain you – hopefully.

To write or not to write.

To write or not to write.

In the 18th century ‘smock weddings’ were a type of ceremony. A ‘smock wedding’ would see a bride getting married in the nude or barefoot and wearing only a chemise or underskirt, as we call them these days. The idea was that if she brought no clothes or property to the marriage, her new husband to be was not liable for any of the debts of her past life.

The smock wedding was particularly useful for a widowed woman whose husband had died leaving a lot of debts. We know because of a newspaper report in September 1775 that a Mr Richard Elcock who was bricklayer married Mrs Judith Redding. It seems that so Mr Elcock would not be liable for any of the debts that Mrs Redding might have been left with from an earlier marriage, she went into one of the pews in the church and stripped off everything except her slip.

A few years earlier, at Saint Michael’s Church in Ashton under Lyne, Nathaniel Eller married the widow Hibbert. Both of them were around fifty years of age. The widow went through the ceremony with her hair tied behind with horse hair and wearing only a shift so that her new husband would not have to pay off any of her former husband’s debts.

In December 1797, several newspapers reported from St Philips parish church in Birmingham that the bride wore nothing. She was a woman of wealth and property but she was marrying a debt ridden husband and she believed that getting married in the nude would prevent her new husband’s creditors from seizing her property. She was not the only lady to be married in that fashion. It seems that some women would turn up to church in a cloak and nothing else. With a flourish they would remove the cloak and the ceremony would begin.

Happy writing.

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, History, The Peculiar Past

Lincoln Gaol

Sometimes we take our children on days out which we think are educational but exciting for them.  All too often we pay out our hard earned cash and the only thing they are interested in is the shop at the venue.  Little ones mostly enjoy anything but the older ones are not so easy to impress.  Exciting excursions therefore looks at the more grisly side of our heritage.

LINCOLN GAOL HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING HAUNTED!!!

The Victorian prison is set in the grounds of Lincoln Castle in the historical city of Lincoln.

The Lucy Tower is perhaps one of the most unusual graveyards that can be found.  The visitor has to climb many steep steps to get to the graveyard.  Once inside, we find ourselves in an enclosed cemetery.  The other bizarre aspect of the graveyard is that all the graves are of prisoners who were hanged in Lincoln Gaol.  One of whom was William Frederick Harry who was hanged on April 1st, 1872 for the murder of his wife.  Others who were hanged at Lincoln Gaol were : Peter Blanchard  -1875, William Clark – 1877, James Anderson -1883 and Thomas Garry in 1868.  The first private female hanging was that of Pricilla Biggerdyke in 1868.   Apparently she was having an affair with the lodger and her husband died of rat poisoning.  Although Priscilla actually bought the poison she maintained that she was innocent up until her execution.  Years later, the lodger confessed to the dastardly deed on his deathbed.  Priscilla was pardoned – too little, too late.

Older children seem to enjoy these grisly tales and it brings history to life for them when they actually visit the spot where it happened.  This case is well documented and it is good for their I.T. skills to do further research on real life historical cases.  Sometimes, older children also seem to be more interested in grisly tales of everyday people of the past.   The violence of the Kings and Queens often seems unreal and more like something from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.

There is a bench for visitors to sit upon in The Lucy Tower.  It could be imagined that sitting up there in unhallowed ground, amongst people who had suffered violent deaths, would cause an atmosphere of unrest – that is the strangest aspect of The Lucy Tower.  It offers a feeling of peace and tranquility bordering on sanctuary.

Lincoln Gate.

 

The original mound upon which The Lucy Tower stands was built in 1068.  It would have been built with a mixture of earth and stones and then covered in clay.  The first tower would have been made of wood.  If the enemy had taken over the castle, The Lucy Tower most probably would have been the last line of defence.  It was not made into a prison graveyard until 1824.

Standing in the pulpit of the prison chapel is intimidating; it is something which I will never forget.

In 1849 the Separate System came into force.  It was believed that if prisoners were kept in isolation they would become rehabilitated.  They were only let out of their cells to go to the Chapel and for exercise.  If strangely enough, The Lucy Tower gives the visitor a pleasant feeling, then the Chapel does the opposite.  It is said to be the only one of its kind left in the world.  The Separate System meant that the inmates would sit in closed in seats, in The Chapel, so that they could not see or speak to anyone else.  The seats are tilted, therefore if any prisoners dared to fall asleep during a sermon they would fall forward and be punished.  There was an open bench at the back which was especially for condemned criminals; obviously it was thought that they were beyond redemption.  Debtors also were not included in the separate system and they would be seated in the gallery with the men above and the female debtors below.  There were sloping seats at the front for the women.  Each criminal in the Separate System was locked into his seat before another could be let in.  In addition to not being allowed to see others, the prisoners also had to wear masks to cover their faces.  In 1851, it was realized that this system did not work and it was abandoned.

The remarkable aspect of all this is that visitors to the chapel today can stand in the pulpit and have the view which the prison chaplain would have.  Some seats are fitted with a dummy criminal wearing a mask.  The vision is intimidating and the atmosphere is awful, it gave me shivers down my back.  If it made me feel so uncomfortable when the situation was simply being portrayed, I can not imagine what it must have been like to be there in reality.  It is places like this which really help children understand what the past was like.

There is also the castle and the castle walls to visit.

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Filed under Exciting Excursions