Jan. 8th, 2009

Free Bread

Jan. 8th, 2009 11:25 am
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Occasionally I get handed things at Lime Street Station. Generally, you know, small samples of deodorant or, on one occasion, a small squishy pig which, apparently, was not a toy.

Today I was handed a free loaf of Hovis which I find rather surreal. It's in a brown paper bag which says "Wholemeal Challenge" and "Feel Healthier or your Money Back!". Although, as my colleague pointed out, since we didn't pay anything for our Hovis, this is something of an empty promise. Why I should consider being given loaves of bread any more surreal than being handed squishy pigs remains a mystery to me.

If I was sufficiently interested I could find out more at http://www.hoviswholemealchallenge.com
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
My history teacher at school always maintained that the 18th century was boring. So boring, in fact, that she skipped pretty much straight from the death of Queen Anne to the accession of Queen Victoria. In my, somewhat dim, recollection this was all blamed on Cecil Rhodes in some way. The thought has gradually been dawning on me that she might have been incorrect about this as, I suspect, she may have been wrong about the tragic tale of Elizabeth I's heartbreak although she was clearly completely right about the innocence of Richard III. History was my favourite subject at school since it seemed to revolve entirely around scandal, prejudice and who's wife got on with whom.

Anyway as a scientist with an interest in the history of ideas, missing out on the 18th century has proved to be something of a hole in my education. On the other hand there is nothing like deciding to set some fanfic in 18th century London to make you actually do something about such a hole. So I haven't gone out and purchased anything on the Royal Society or the Enlightenment but instead purchased a book which revels in the details of life in London 1740-1770.

Dr Johnson's London by Lisa Picard is a strange book. It's not a history book by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn't really seek to place anything in context. It reads like a strange mixture, in fact, between a roleplaying source book and a coffee table book. It's full of short sections, packed with facts intended to provide flavour, inform or amuse. Picard has a wry sense of humour and sprinkles the book with her own personality. At the end of a section on the language of fans she comments "But the snag, as with all phrase books, was the risk of your partner having a different edition, or none at all, and this desperate semaphore getting you nowhere.". However she also has a tendency towards sudden non-sequiturs and the abrupt dropping of subjects which makes reading the book a rather disjointed experience. It's a useful and entertaining source of random facts about life in 18th century London but I didn't feel I came away with any overall understanding of any aspect of that life, beyond the vital importance of stays. 150 years later my great-grandmother was to work briefly as a stay-maker, clearly little had changed.

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