Those of a certain age will remember the final scene in the original 1960s film Planet of the Apes. Charlton Heston is riding a horse across a post-apocalyptic planet when he finds a crumbling relic, and suddenly realises it is the remains of the Statue of Liberty. This strange new world is none other that the earth some time in the future, after some awful calamitous event.
A similar thing happened to me yesterday as I was walking the dog down an old footpath in Rastrick. I looked down at the stones making up the rough path …. and there I saw it.
With nothing much to do other than read old newspapers, I found this article in a copy of the local Brighouse News from exactly 140 years ago. It was a report by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Britton, on efforts being taken to combat the outbreak of scarlet fever (Scarlatina) in the town. Reading through the list of measures – social distancing, quarantining, closing schools, limiting funeral ceremonies, even gratuitous disinfectants – you are suddenly reminded that little is new in this world. Granted, we have yet to see the reintroduction of “Nuisance Inspectors”, but it is probably just a matter of time. All I need to do now is to find a copy of the newspaper from a year later to see whether things will ever return to normal.
Precautions Adopted: I now come to a very important part of this report, viz. – the precautions already adopted to put a stop to, and limit the spread of, the disease. I may say that everything has been done by your authority, and by your officers, with one exception, and that is “isolation”, to which I shall refer later on. Bills of “Precautions” have been twice distributed from house to house, and have also been posted in the district. The masters and mistresses of the various schools have been visited, and requested to exercise the greatest caution not to admit children from infected houses. All cases of which we have had any information, and also all suspected cases, have been regularly and systematically visited by your nuisance inspector, in many cases daily, and by myself at intervals of a few days. Not only have the cases been visited themselves, but careful inquiries have been made in the immediate neighbourhood of any cases, in order to ascertain if any more could be heard of. This has been done both at the inspector’s daily rounds, and also at my occasional visits. At these visits to infected houses, the occupants have been cautioned about admitting friends into their houses, and especially children; if they have had any children who remained well, they have been requested to keep them away from school, and not to allow them to mix with other children. They have been supplied with disinfectants gratuitously, and shown how to use them; they have been instructed to use every care in disposing of the slops and secreta from the houses; to observe thorough cleanliness, and to admit as much fresh air as possible into their houses. In cases of death, they have been requested to bury early, to avoid funeral teas, and not to allow children and friends in, to see the corpse; to make a thorough cleansing of house and contents afterwards, as well as after every case of recovery. This is a thing. I am happy to say, that the public generally do.
Kids these days! They’re surgically attached to their mobile phones. Never off them. You can’t have a good old fashioned conversation with them any more, because they are glued to their phones. Now, when I was a lad ……
I received through the post today, a copy of Lilliput Magazine from October 1947 (has anyone else noted that postal deliveries are slower than normal these days!). Within it, is this wonderful cartoon that sums the telephone situation up perfectly.
Consider the journey, if you will. This beautiful photograph of a young woman was taken at the studios of P & H Koch in the city of Crefeld (now Krefeld), just north of Dusseldorf in Germany. The reverse of the Carte de Visite makes reference to the Koch studio having won medals at a photographic exhibition in Dusseldorf in 1896, so that probably dates this portrait to around the turn of the twentieth century. How did this young lady get from pre-Great War Germany to a box at the end of my desk?
Did she dance at balls in Rhineland-Westphalia and shop on the elegant boulevards of Dusseldorf? Did she lose a lover or a son in the mud-caked trenches of the Great War? Did she scrape for food during the Great Inflation and the depression years that followed? Did she hide in the shadows, or cheer in the streets, during the rise and fall of Hitler? Did she survive to see hope and prosperity again?
Her secrets are hidden deep within the pasteboard, at rest – and at peace – in the box at the end of my desk.
This is a rather strange picture postcard featuring the Victorian and Edwardian entertainer, Marie Studholme. The photograph is fetching enough: she sits suspended in a hammock next to a table bearing a tennis racket. The table, however, also contains a basket full f some strange unidentified objects that look rather like a cross between a modern polythene-wrapped sandwich and a folded pocket handkerchief.
The photograph is signed CN, which is clearly not Marie Studholme herself. Marie – who was one of the original Gaiety Girls and a noted animal lover – was renowned for charging sixpence each time she signed postcards, and gave the proceeds to an animal charity. One can only assume that whoever sent this card to Miss Pattison was no great supporter of such charities.
The expansive address field clearly indicates that no message was required.
A moment in history captured by a cheap picture postcard. It is April 1906 and MBD is in Washington DC. He – or could it be, she – is there for the day: and that can mean either Washington or, more specifically, the Pensions Building. The building is a grand affair, built in the mid 1880s to serve the needs of Union veterans after the American Civil War. The message says, “Hand Still Improving“, and it was sent to J Hemmings Esq, Nobel House, Scotland. Nobel House was the Scottish headquarters of Nobel’s Explosive Company and was situated on West George Street.
When you have nothing better to do, you can let your mind explore the land of possibilities. MBD, in a fetching kilt, wandering around the battlefields of the Civil War with his travelling salesman’s suitcase full of samples of explosives. A missed footing, a stumble, a small explosion, a damaged hand: and a thirty-year old pension claim? More likely, a Victorian tourist doing the rounds of the sights of Washington. More likely, but less engaging.
It was a glorious Spring day today and we were tempted outside. Wanting to respect the Government advice on social distancing and the avoidance of parks and beauty spots, we decided to attempt the ascent of Mount Blackley by taking the old footpath from South Lane in Elland to the top of the hill in Blackley. It was a long and arduous climb – and an even longer descent – but we managed to avoid the crowds without any difficulty. If we were attempting to avoid beauty spots, we failed miserably: the scenery was spectacular.