COLUM­NIST

Western Daily Press - - Opinion - DEB­BIE RUN­DLE

I’M read­ing a won­der­ful book – a birth­day present from a good friend – that’s a com­pi­la­tion of let­ters to a well-known coun­try mag­a­zine.

They date from the late 1800s to the 1940s and re­veal a Bri­tain that has all but dis­ap­peared.

A few of the old cus­toms still re­main down here in the West Coun­try, from the ter­ri­fy­ing cheese-rolling in Glouces­ter­shire to was­sail in Som­er­set. We also still burn the ashen fag­got in a vil­lage not far from us.

It’s a lot more in­no­cent than it sounds to 21st-cen­tury ears. It sim­ply con­sists of chuck­ing a log bound with with­ies – wil­low wands – or a bun­dle of stout sticks tied up with ash wands into the fire.

It’s sup­posed to guard against bad spir­its – and a fair few shots of good spir­its are sunk as each of the bind­ings snaps as it burns.

The cus­tom doesn’t fea­ture in the book I am read­ing – maybe no one down here thought to write in – but a great many oth­ers do.

I am not sure the tra­di­tion of en­rolling young boys in the Royal Navy should be re­vived – at least at the ten­der ages sug­gested by some cor­re­spon­dents – and I do ques­tion why you’d want to take a sheep on a lead when rat­tling your tin for char­ity.

One let­ter asks whether it’s pos­si­ble to keep meerkats as pets while an­other is seek­ing the best diet for a kinka­jou. There’s one who swears by cider as a rem­edy for rheuma­tism, claim­ing doc­tors pre­scribe it. Writ­ing in 1899 he says he’s not in­clined to trust medics due to an un­for­tu­nate ex­pe­ri­ence. And the wretch does not tell us what that could be.

Sug­ges­tions are made on a cure for warts – rub them with slugs – and suit­able uni­forms for maids. Ap­par­ently red dresses with white aprons would fit the bill and caps are es­sen­tial.

It made me won­der what cus­toms we could in­vent for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to puz­zle over – or what things that we do now might be con­sid­ered quaint in 100 years’ time.

No doubt the wide­spread use of plas­tic for ev­ery­thing will make the 22nd-cen­tury peo­ple roll their eyes. Well, I hope they won­der why on earth su­per­mar­kets wrapped a hum­ble root veg­etable like a swede in swathes of im­pen­e­tra­ble film.

They’ll prob­a­bly also see our re­liance on the car as crazy, es­pe­cially when they see pic­tures of sin­gle com­muters stuck in traf­fic in ve­hi­cles de­signed for fam­i­lies of six or more. Hope­fully Lon­don will be well rid of the gi­ant 4x4s that clog the streets by then – why do peo­ple think they need them when they travel at 5mph?

We could claim an an­cient tra­di­tion of throw­ing peo­ple out of the train’s “quiet car­riage” if they look at a smart­phone or de­ploy­ing a scold’s bri­dle if they start an over-loud con­ver­sa­tion about their Christ­mas shop­ping list.

“Like” can be­come, like, the worst, like, swear­word – and that goes for the l***s on so­cial me­dia.

We can tell fu­ture gen­er­a­tions that it was our 21st-cen­tury cus­tom to eat tripe and jam sand­wiches on the Satur­day be­fore mid­sum­mer and that buy­ing Ad­vent cal­en­dars with choco­late – or any­thing else but pic­tures – be­hind the tiny doors was pun­ish­able by the of­fender be­ing made to watch ev­ery episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys back to back.

Ferret-walk­ing Fri­days would have been ob­served in ev­ery town or vil­lage with a name start­ing with “F” – I am sure we could edit pic­tures of Fren­chay, Frome, Five­head and Fresh­ford to nail the myth.

We can tell them that chilblains were once a real af­flic­tion and that we needed to heat our homes from Oc­to­ber to April. We will say that toma­toes only thrived out­doors in ex­cep­tional sum­mers and gera­ni­ums had to be treated as an­nu­als.

They won’t be­lieve a word, of course, as they will be glob­ally warmed. But – maybe, just maybe – they’ll ob­serve ferret-walk­ing in Far­ring­ton Gur­ney in 2118.

No doubt the wide­spread use of plas­tic for ev­ery­thing will make the 22nd­cen­tury peo­ple roll

their eyes. Well, I hope they won­der why on earth su­per­mar­kets wrapped a hum­ble root veg­etable like a swede in swathes of

im­pen­e­tra­ble film

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.