Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Mrs Beeton and the Art of Early Rising

June 4, 2010

Waking early has always given me an inexplicable sense of calm and order.

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Ever since I can remember, I’ve always awoken at the first glinting hint of dawn, if not before.  In the past, I generally stayed up until nearly midnight, quite happily surviving on 6 hours of sleep or a little less.  I can’t say I always fly out of bed trilling and tango-ing gleefully (especially in the shivery chills of winter), but it always feels somewhat, oddly right to arise while the world still slumbers.

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These days, I’m still an absurdly early riser (even when our three cats don’t mew wake me at 4.40am, like they did this morning, begging to be fed.  I was away on a solo cycling holiday for 4 days until yesterday, leaving my boyfriend in charge of their two ‘wet’ meals a day.  But, as he’s a guy who snores louder than an erupting volcano and can – indeed, has proven that he can, will and must – sleep through hailstorms, cat fights, being poked, jabbed and hollered at, as well as frenzied vacuuming, the poor little dears had to wait until at least 8am to be fed.  No doubt they’d have hot-lined the RSPCA if they could).

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4.40am, thankfully, is not the usual time I’m up.  My alarm is generally set for 5.45am (6.30am on Sundays), although I more often than not awaken a few minutes before the alarm pings me out of bed and causes my boyfriend to grunt and roll over in his sleep.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to, I don’t seem to last the distance in the evenings as long as I used to (I don’t think it has anything to do with age, I’m only 33!).  With a full-time ‘official’ job, and a full-time job at home (I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that cleaning, cooking, taking care of family / pets /household etc. is more than a full-time job, leaving precious little time for hobbies or other forms of relaxation.  And I don’t even have children yet!).

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I’ve also recently noticed that a glass or two of wine after dinner is enough to have me crawling desperately into bed, with barely enough time left to clean the kitchen, tidy up the living room, put away the cats’ bowls, fold the dry laundry, set up for the morning, pre-prepare the coffee maker, put out my clothes for the morning and other assorted pre-bed activities).

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And yet, I don’t think I really mind.  Too much. Who was it that said ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’?  Everything I do is my own, instinctive choice.  My boyfriend is usually stunned and peskily delighted (“Ha!  I actually got up before her!”) when I very, very infrequently stay in bed a bit longer.

Interestingly, here’s what Mrs Beeton had to say about early rising – especially for the ‘mistress’ (or hausfrau, homemaker, housekeeper, housewife, serving wench, domestic slave or whatever else we like or tend to call ourselves!)

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EARLY RISING IS ONE OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL QUALITIES which enter into good Household Management, as it is not only the parent of health, but of innumerable other advantages. Indeed, when a mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well-managed. On the contrary, if she remain in bed till a late hour, then the domestics, who, as we have before observed, invariably partake somewhat of their mistress’s character, will surely become sluggards. To self-indulgence all are more or less disposed, and it is not to be expected that servants are freer from this fault than the heads of houses.

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Aside from the comment about sluggardly domestics, her advice still rings true today.  At least, I feel it does for me.  There’s not enough time in the day for everything as it is.  Even in the 21st century, early rising seems – to me – essential for some sense of order in the household, no matter the size.  Not to my boyfriend, however, who is at this very moment snoring lightly, wrapped cosily in both his own blanket and mine, too.

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On balance I think, even if I had the choice to stay in bed later, I probably wouldn’t.  For, to quote Mrs Beeton (quoting ‘The great Lord Chatham’):  “I would have inscribed on the curtains of your bed, and the walls of your chamber, ‘If you do not rise early, you can make progress in nothing.’”

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Mrs Beeton’s Advice for the Mistress of the House: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/01-chapter1.html#3

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Doctor, Doctor

January 12, 2010

My poor boyfriend is ill.

It started yesterday with a complaint of back ache, followed this morning by a sore throat, runny nose and puppy dog ‘have-pity-on-poor-me’ eyes.

Unfortunately, Mrs Beeton doesn’t list ‘man flu’ in the index of her chapter, ‘The Doctor‘.  However, by close questioning and logical deduction, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s suffering from a wee bit of a cold.

Before turning to modern remedies, I took a look at what Household Management has to offer.

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TO CURE A COLD.—Put a large teacupful of linseed, with 1/4 lb. of sun raisins and 2 oz. of stick liquorice, into 2 quarts of soft water, and let it simmer over a slow fire till reduced to one quart; add to it 1/4 lb. of pounded sugar-candy, a tablespoonful of old rum, and a tablespoonful of the best white-wine vinegar, or lemon-juice. The rum and vinegar should be added as the decoction is taken; for, if they are put in at first, the whole soon becomes flat and less efficacious. The dose is half a pint, made warm, on going to bed; and a little may be taken whenever the cough is troublesome. The worst cold is generally cured by this remedy in two or three days; and, if taken in time, is considered infallible.

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It all sounds rather fascinating,(and where can I get a piece of real liquorice in 2010?) but I can’t say I have the time or inclination to put together such a concoction when a speedy cure is required.  Although, I have to admit that I can see the merits of using a purely natural remedy, as opposed to something full of sweeteners and chemicals from the local pharmacy.

While reading through the section ‘The Doctor‘, I came across some rather amusing – and apparently quite common – Victorian ails.  This one is my absolute favourite:

Hysterics.—These fits take place, for the most part, in young, nervous, unmarried women. They happen much less often in married women… (the fastest way to get a ring on my finger if ever I heard one)

And how about this one:

How to Bleed: In cases of great emergency, such as the strong kind of apoplexy, and when a surgeon cannot possibly be obtained for some considerable time, the life of the patient depends almost entirely upon the fact of his being bled or not. We therefore give instructions how the operation of bleeding is to be performed, but caution the reader only to attempt it in cases of the greatest emergency. (‘…his being bled or not…’ – so ‘she’ wouldn’t be bled in an emergency, too?)

It’s not entirely fair of me to poke fun of the entire medical chapter, because there are some wonderful pieces of advice mixed in. For starters, I intend to try this cure tonight on my two blue bruised knees (a result of ice-skating for the first time in 20 years):

BRUISES AND THEIR TREATMENT.—The best application for a bruise, be it large or small, is moist warmth; therefore, a warm bread-and-water poultice in hot moist flannels should be put on, as they supple the skin. (However, it would take a very brave soul to try out the advice given in the very next sentence, “If the bruise be very severe, and in the neighbourhood of a joint, it will be well to apply ten or a dozen leeches over the whole bruised part, and afterwards a poultice…”)

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I opted instead – to my boyfriend’s great relief – for some hot chicken soup from the local Chinese take-away, as well as plenty of love and attention.  If not the speediest of cures, at least he can’t say it isn’t a pleasant one!