HOLDING A WAKE
Back then, cups made of lead were
used to drink ale or whiskey, because
nobody knew that lead is a
pretty strong poison. The combination
of lead and liquor could even
knock the imbibers out for a couple
of days.
Quite often, a passer-by
would take them for dead and prepare
them for burial. The ‘corpse’
would then be 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 the person would wake
up… as some would do. And so the
custom began of holding a “wake”.

SAVED BY THE BELL
England is ancient, small, and has
always been well populated. In the
1500’s they started running out of
places to bury people. So, they
would dig up coffins and would
take the deceased’s bones back
home and re-use the grave.
On reopening these coffins,
one out of 25 coffins were found to
have scratch marks on the inside
and they realized that some didn’t
awaken at the wake and they had
been burying people alive (modern
medicine wasn’t that modern).
To prevent this reoccurring,
the undertaker would tie a string on
the body’s wrist and lead it through
the coffin and up through the
ground and tie it to a bell. Someone
would be employed to sit out in the
graveyard all night to listen for the
bell. Hence, being on the
“graveyard shift” where occasionally
someone would be “saved by
the bell” and who would become
known as a “dead ringer”.

JUNE WEDDINGS
Back then, most people got married
in June, for two reasons. Firstly, it
is the most clement and warmest
month in England and, secondly,
because it was customary for people
to take their yearly bath in May
(whether they needed it or not!).
While most people still
smelled comparatively okay, brides
began the tradition of carrying a
bouquet of flowers, to hide any
body odor.

DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT
WITH THE BATH WATER

Yes, baths in the 1500s were rare
but when they were taken it was in
a big tub filled with hot water.
There was, naturally, a pecking order.
The man of the house had the
privilege of the nice clean water
(and he was probably the dirtiest),
and then came all the other sons
and men, then the women and finally
the children. Last of all were
the babies.
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”.

RAINING CATS AND DOGS
Those lucky enough to have
houses, had houses with thatched
roofs made from thick straw, piled
high, with no wood underneath.
This was the only place for animals
to get warm, so all the pets… dogs,
cats and other small animals like
mice and rats, lived in the roof.
When it rained it became slippery
and sometimes the animals would
slip and fall from the roof. Hence
“It’s raining cats and dogs.”

DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE
Despite the skills of the best
thatcher there was really nothing to
stop things from 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 (relatively
speaking). So, they found if they
made beds with big posts and hung
a sheet over the top, it addressed
the problem. Hence those beautiful
big 4 poster beds with canopies.
“Good night and don’t let the bed
bugs bite”…

PEAS PORRIDGE HOT
In the kitchen they cooked in a big
kettle that always hung over the
fire. Every day they lit the fire and
added things to the pot. They
mostly ate vegetables and didn’t 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 in there for a month.
Hence the rhyme: “peas porridge
hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge
in the pot nine days old.”

UPPER CRUST
Bread was divided according to
status. Workers got the burnt bottom
of the loaf, the family got the
middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Everything slows down with age, except the time it takes cake and ice cream to reach your hips. ~ Maxine

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