Time travel has been a popular topic in fiction for a very long … well… time. All of us could come up with a heap of examples, starting with HG Wells’ Time Machine and including the Back to the Future trilogy, episodes from Star Trek etc etc etc. It seems to be very common in the Scottish Highlander romance mythos, Regency… you name it.
Sure, it’s fun to read about it, but would you really want to do it? Especially the romance bit.
Tell you what, you can have my seat. No, really. Yes, miss out on the dishy Highlander, naked except for his kilt, rippling abs bared to the world.
Don’t look at me like that. I have my reasons.
Unless you’re talking about heathen countries like Japan, bathing wasn’t a big deal in the middle ages. You’d find very few bathrooms (meant as a place to bathe, not a toilet) in European palaces, let alone a more common house. I LOVE my morning shower, folks. With hot water.
Relieving oneself is something (unlike bathing) that Humans have always had to do every day. Flushing toilets and sewers are modern inventions. Back in the day, you used a garde robe or a potty if you were flash, and if you weren’t, well you might use a latrine. If not, a bush would do. What did you do with the potty when it was full? Chucked it out on the street, what else? Remember that scene from Shakespeare in Love? Geoffrey Rush dodging out of the way of a potty full of…? It’s true.
Go back more than a few hundred years and you’d have trouble understanding a word anybody said. It’s hard enough to understand a Scot today, let alone what they spoke back then.
Given the above, that’s obvious, isn’t it? But it gets better than that. You know those elaborate hairdos the ladies at Versaille wore? They were set in place with animal fat and tended to attract an assortment of insects. Apparently, scratching with a special stick was permissible. Same with the men. Rats liked to nibble on pig fat treated hair, like braids. And washing of clothes? Are you kidding me? With all those sequins and lace and ribbons? And while we’re at it, modern dentistry wasn’t top of the list, either. No tooth brushes and mouth wash back in the olden days. Halitosis was, without a doubt, King!
You might well be okay drinking the water from the pristine springs of the Highlands etc but water in the cities wasn’t a great idea. See the entries on modern plumbing and sewerage systems. Take a city like Amsterdam, famous for its beautiful canals. That’s where they dumped the sewage. The canals are opened once a day to ‘flush’ the system. This still happens. And… um… they used that same water in the over one hundred breweries that made beer. Maybe the yeast and hops killed the bugs. You may have noticed that in medieval times people drank a lot of wine, beer, cider, mead. It was safer than the water.
What with all the rats, mice, bugs etc, diseases tended to be endemic in the big cities. Plague raged through London many times in Shakespeare’s day. That’s apart from the devastating Black Death which decimated Europe around 1350. Then there was cholera and dysentery and consumption.
Cold and Dark
No electric light, no gas heaters, no freezers full of food sourced from all around the world. Fires provided warmth, smoky candles light. If you could afford them. Winter was a time of deprivation, when you hoped the food you’d stored in summer would last you through the long, cold, dark. Christmas was a festival where you prayed for the return of the sun.
And the biggest factor of all? For me?
I reckon if I went back to anything earlier than about 1900, I’d die in a month. Apart from anything else, I’m violently allergic to horses.
No, thanks. I’ll stay here with my computer and make up stories of the future.
What about you?