Tuesday, July 24, 2012
If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley
Lucy Worsley dishes on all sorts of activities that went on in the home from medieval time to fairly recently and the thought processes behind them. While we may consider medieval citizens to be a bit on the whiffy side without heavily scented deodorants and body wash they had their standards.
'There is an important social distinction between being afflicted by lice as opposed to fleas. Fleas were almost unavoidable, everyone had them. But to "be lowsie" was an indicator of poor personal hygiene.'
Origins of certain phrases are another fascinating subject and 'getting the wrong end of the stick' possibly came from a time when Romans would use a sponge on the end of a twig to clean their bottoms. Moving right along past the time of putting children to good use by getting them to rip newspaper into strips for toilet paper, I learned that apparently North Americans are 'scrunchers' while Europeans folded. Who knew? The natural progression from toilet paper was to feminine hygiene products. As a woman born in the 1960s I can attest to the continual improvements in this department. It was more than a bit difficult to hide the fact someone in your house was menstruating in the seventies when a box of fifty napkins was so large they took up half of your closet. These days a package of ninety fits in your lunch bag. Actually, with Kotex now marketing their product in neon, young ladies no longer to 'have a little secret', instead they are supposed to shout about it from the shop aisles!
Moving right along into the area of food and spices, the saying "above the salt" comes from being seated according to status. Since salt was kept in the middle of the table should you find yourself between the lord and master and the salt you were considered to be higher on the social ladder. Imagine the sly grins as people glanced at the salt and their guests further down the table. And if some Victorians were boiling their veggies for up to two hours to aid digestion as suggested by Dr Worsley then guests and family would be reaching for the salt just to give their food a bit of flavour.
Not only is it fascinating to learn how people lived throughout the ages but also how we see others through our own set of social mores. While I would be hard pressed to recognize every single piece of formal cutlery on the market I couldn't help glancing at how my daughter's friends would hold their fork and knife when they stayed for dinner. A clear sign as to how important table manners were in their own home. I could be as sniffy as I liked but the truth is that if a barbequed chicken appeared on the table we are as capable as anyone of behaving like we're at a medieval feast..as long as no one is looking.
I soaked up every word, no dipping in and out for me, and highly recommend this delightful book as one of the most entertaining history lessons you will ever have.
Labels: cooking, Home, Lucy Worsley, Medieval, social history
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Thank you for the review, I really want this book now and know my mum would love it too.ReplyDelete
It's all so fascinating, no dry history lesson here! I did cringe at the mention of scouring chamber pots though...blech.Delete
Oh I adore Lucy Worsley. I think she's absolutely brilliant. Even G admits to having a real crush on her! I hope Canadian television airs the series soon, as she is a wonderful presenter too. K xReplyDelete
Kristina! Thank goodness for youtube, I have resorted to sitting on a hard dining room chair and watching H,H and H in twelve minute segments. I don't blame G at all, Lucy is that perfect mixture of clever and minxtress...hard to resist. Hope all is well with you!Delete
Ooh, this looks like a much more coherent book than Bill Bryson's Home and perfect for me. I enjoyed the Bryson book but it was way too magpie like, chasing after every shiny bit of trivia he'd ever read! Worsley seems like a good author for the topic though, she's a great writer with an eye for detail. :)ReplyDelete
Oh dear, I have Bryson's book on my shelves but haven't read it yet. As a woman myself I tend to find the slant on domestic issues more appealing when written by women but try not to discount the other sex absolutely. Our friend, Simon from Stuck in a Book certainly does an excellent job of dealing with his inner 1950s housewife!Delete
This sounds fantastic! The TV series is brilliant too - even my brother liked watching it and he hates history so that says a lot! I'm going to see if the library has this because you have made it sound irresistible!ReplyDelete
Also am delighted to see that you're reading Between the Acts...hope you are enjoying it as much as me and can't wait to read your thoughts!
That's so interesting...Kristina said her husband has a crush on Lucy. Such man appeal! The book is fascinating but even I had a bit of a rethink about my connection with an inner downstairs girl. Scouring chamber pots, no thank you!Delete
Kensington or Kew? It's fabulous, Rachel!
This is exactly my cup of tea, so I'm so glad to hear that you liked it!ReplyDelete
I could read about social history all day long and never be bored. The talk about people being covered in fleas and lice did make me scratch a bit though. Enjoy your day!Delete
My cup of tea, too! And I enjoyed Bill Bryson's At Home very much as well. :)ReplyDelete
Sorry about the delay in responding to your comment, Michelle. Blogger has been the bain of my existance lately and wasn't allowing me to say 'hello!'.Delete
Speaking of a cup of tea, kettle's on the boil...must dash!
Another one for the wishlist. Though I must say I much prefer this cover over the US edition, which shows a rumpled bed!ReplyDelete
I have this on the tbr pile & I'm looking forward to reading it. I love social history when it's put together well. Have you read Judith Flanders's Victorian House? Excellent tour through a 19th century house from cellar to attic. I hope the TV series appears somewhere near me soon, as well.ReplyDelete
Lyn, I hae read Judith Flanders' Victorian House (and have it on my shelf) and excellent it is, too. And if those reading this have enjoyed Lucy's latest book, then they might try Courtesans, too.ReplyDelete