Scary Times

Posted: July 20, 2011 in History Stuff, Scary Stuff
Tags: , , ,

  I remember watching my first horror movie “The Shining” when I was seven.  I was forbidden to do so.  Mam said “If I catch you turning on that telly, you’re in big trouble!”.  She closed the bedroom door and went down the stairs.  I listened for the bang of the sitting room door, jumped out of bed and turned on the telly.  It was an old black and white TV with twisty knobs that made a loud click when you switched it on.  I watched, wide eyed and glued to the screen.  I was terrified but I couldn’t stop watching.  One ear on the movie and the other listening out for a footstep on our creaky stairs.  On hearing the tell-tale creak, I would jump up, turn off the telly and then hide under the covers.  Pretending to be asleep.  Breathing like a baby off the ads on the telly.  Gentle and even.  I’d hear the bedroom door slowly open.  My heart was pounding in my chest.  I was doubly scared.  Scared of the little boy in the movie shouting red rum over and over again and scared of getting into big trouble.  I did not sleep a wink.  So I don’t know what possessed me to go into the House of Horrors near my hostel in Florence…

Off with their Hand

Turns out, it wasn’t so scary after all… Only if you lived back in medieval times… Times were tough.  Hygiene was lax and disease spread quickly.  Crime was rampant.  Punishment severe.  Hanging if caught swearing, thieving or committing sodomy.  If you were lucky, you got your hand chopped off instead.  Burnt closed.  They would then wave your hand to the public.  That would put you off robbing an apple or two… There were smells everywhere.  Body odour mingling with rotten fish, emptied innards, gone off food and urine thrown in the streets.  It makes Naples look clean in comparison.  Food stands were for the wealthy and the poor survived on grains i.e. cereal and bread.  Even more shocking… Potatoes and Chocolate didn’t exist back then.  America brought them over in the 16th century.  Thank feck…

Dodgy Teeth

You still had bad teeth though… Poor nutrition and lack of hygiene.  I thought it was only chocolate and coke that caused them to rot and fall out of your head.  The solutions were drastic.  You had your teeth removed by a pincher with no pain relief.  You only had a 40 year lifespan and probably had most of your teeth gone by then.  That’s if you survived that long…  The black rat also came over on a ship.  He brought “The Black Death” with him.  The plague killed indiscriminately.  It didn’t matter if you were poor or wealthy.  It was mostly the poor classes that died due to lack of hygiene.  They were blamed for it.  Doctors came up with unusual remedies to try and cure the wealthy sick e.g. venom of scorpions, saffron and deer antlers…Quacks… They didn’t know it was the rat though.  Brothers abandoned brothers.  I’m sure sisters did too… No-one felt safe… Other diseases struck.  Glad I didn’t live back then.  Especially ‘cos there were no spuds, chocolate or pain relief…Scary times…

Close up Time


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