Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday extracts: More Sea Views

My narrator waxed a little lyrical yesterday. I think he might be doing that a lot over the next six days!

Of course they’ve been saying for years that a trip to the seaside does you good. They used to recommend a sea retreat for most things that ailed historic folks. All kinds of people were sent here for the good of their health back in Victorian times – the graveyard’s full of them. You think I’m joking don’t you, but I’m not. Just take a stroll up to the parish church and check out their inscribed list of renowned residents. Writers, musicians, people who were famous just for being famous, seems all very familiar really. These days they end up on a reality TV programme when their careers are dying; back then the less-than-great and not very good were sent away for a coastal sojourn when they were fading.

Some of them took the waters, as they used to say. That meant they draped themselves over plush couches in ornate halls and drank glasses of smelly stuff dripping out of a cracked cliff. They got around to putting a tap on eventually so it appeared more official but however you market the stuff you can’t alter the fact that it’s little better than untreated sewage. You can even try the cure today if you like, the tap’s still working, though no-one makes ludicrous claims about it any more. Those Victorians believed spa water would solve everything from a hangnail to the Black Death but the only thing it actually affects is your digestive system. The quacks and sawbones thought bloodletting and extracting other bodily fluids improved your chances, so they probably believed in beneficial effects of the water. It certainly clears out your system. I tried once. That was quite enough.
They didn’t just drink grimy fluids, though, they bathed in them as well. Doctors told people their ailments would improve if they just lowered themselves up to their waists in ocean water; cold ocean water. Can you imagine suffering from consumption and coughing your lung linings out while you stood shivering in your undies and the tide lapped in around your personal bits? Gives you the creeps if you think too hard, how all those sickly types came for their treatments but never went home. Kill or cure must have proved fatal much more often than it offered a reprieve. I think we probably have the healthiest bunch of historic corpses in any cemetery up and down the country.

1 comment:

Sandra Davies said...

Loved this - and clearly you were as puzzled as I when reading about 'taking the waters' Well done - keep it up!