The good old days...


Do you remember the good old days when we used to have stale old bread hollowed out to make a bowl for holding food? Well, probably not, since this was actually a reality in England back in the 1500s. But just imagine how yummy it was to have food out of the bowl given how many worms would have found their way out of the bowl and into the next meal after it was reused several weeks later!

For those people today who complain about how good the old days were, here are some facts concerning how things used to be around the 1500s:

  1. Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odour.
  2. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot, clean 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 - had their wash in that order. 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."
  3. Houses had thatched roofs - that is, thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats, birds and other small animals (mice, rats, and the countless numbers of bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the old saying "It's raining cats and dogs."
  4. There was nothing to stop certain things from actually falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed ("What's that new country cologne your wearing tonight my love?"). Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some flimsy protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.
  5. The floor was dirt (i.e. no tiles or carpets). Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the old saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entry way - hence, a "thresh-hold".
  6. 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 the stew had food in it that had been there for quite some time - hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
  7. Sometimes these poor people could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show it off because 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."
  8. Those people with money to spend had plates made of pewter considered in those days a kind of social status. But what they did not know is that food with a high acid content caused the lead in the plates to leach into the food. This meant lead poisoning and death at an early age to the wealthy people who ate the lead-laden food on a regular basis. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
  9. Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale paysan bread which was so old and hard that they could use them for quite a while. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mould got into them. After eating off wormy mouldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."
  10. Bread was divided according to social status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust." Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Then someone walking along the road would take them for dead and start to prepare their bodies for burial. Otherwise 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."
  11. England is an old and small country and people back then started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and take out 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 which made them realize they had been burying people alive. So they thought it would be a great idea if they tied a string on the wrist of the corpse, pass 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 (i.e. the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell. Thus, someone could be "saved by the bell", or was considered a "dead ringer'.

Do you still think the old days were really that good? Well, on the bright side, at least most people back then didn't have to contend with a serious case of fat arses blocking the sunshine because they have to sit in front of a computer for days on end! Like the Australian Science Festival in Canberra 2001 magazine mentioned on page 5:

"[MS Megabyte Enterprises Pty Ltd] explains how it is possible to go from birth to death without leaving your computer. Banking, shopping, studying, working, even falling in love, can be done on the superhighway without leaving home."

Then the Guiness Book of Records for the biggest arse in the world would certainly be open to everyone! Yes, we have certainly progressed from Homo Erectus to Homo Situs!

The choice of the past or present is yours to make.