Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Filth, muck and germs

Thinking of all the filth, muck and germs about in medieval times is enough to put me off my breakfast. Well, you do sometimes, don’t you? You don’t? It must be just me, then. It makes me want to vomit, I can tell you.

That’s why it’s advisable not to. Not to think of filth, muck and germs at the breakfast table. But I’m a bit like one of those people who can’t resist talking about mammalian bodily excretions at mealtimes.  You know, disgusting, smelly stuff leaking out of assorted holes. As soon as they see you pouring gravy over your mashed potoatoes they blurt out how much dog poo there is on the streets these days. And how difficult it is to get off your shoe. Or how it gets all over the carpet before you notice. They might mention how they saw a man picking his nose at the traffic lights when you’re just about to pop a piece of trifle in your mouth. “And he only went and ate it,” they tell you.

Once I start thinking of dirt and bacteria I can’t stop. I blame my Norwegian grandmother. She saw germs wherever she looked. Usually on my hands, my face and round my mouth.

As a child I used to have one of those tongues that made adults exclaim: “Surely you’re not going to put that back in your mouth.” I’d blush and  feel gulity. Like I’d have to let it hang out a little bit longer. Drying. At least till they were safely round the corner. At the same time I’d try to think where else to put it. For want of anywhere, in the end, I’d have to slip it back.

Talking about personal hygiene, an intrepid traveller once told me most Frenchmen don’t change their underwear on a regular basis. Or bathe.  I’m not sure how people get these statistics. I suppose that’s what makes them intrepid; they have to sneak around sniffing Frenchmen’s underpants. Have you ever noticed it’s only travellers who get called intrepid? You don’t get intrepid cobblers, or intrepid hamburger flippers. Or intrepid toilet attendants, for that matter, though I expect toilet attendants have to be very intrepid at times.

Back on the subject of food, imagine the amount of rotting offal and diseased filth the average olde yeoman must have eaten over a lifetime back in medieval days. Not on purpose necessarily. They didn’t have fridges and their houses were pig sties. Quite often, literally, pig sties. It’s a wonder they didn’t all die. Well, they did, of course. But it’s incredible they didn’t do it earlier.

If you think about it, it must’ve been a very hungry man who first thought of eating something he saw drop out of a chicken’s bottom. Or picking up a snail shell and slurping the contents into his mouth when he felt a bit peckish. Mm, that’s tasty. All it needs is to be braised in butter garnished with garlic. That would have to have been a very stinky Frenchman. And heaven knows what first tempted the first Chinaman to wander into a dark bat cave to emerge carrying a bird’s nest sopping with avian spit thinking he could make a nice soup out of it. Someone must have.

And, before I go, here’s a little something to whet your appetite, click here

Copyright © 2012 Bryan Hemming               Conil

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