ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

The Bells Of St. Sepulchre

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Silence. In the streets that surround Newgate, in the Old Bailey that stern, unyielding matriarch that, emptied at last, squats stolidly alongside the prison, having supervision of its inmates. Silence, falling warmly upon the householders of Sloane Square, wrapped snugly in eiderdowns in well-heated bed chambers.

Not so for the men of Newgate prison, tossing and turning fitfully in their beds as the bells of St. Sepulchre toll sombrely overhead. The iron clanging of these bells in no way resembles the delicate wedding chimes of St Paul’s Cathedral, for the bells at St Sepulchre’s have only one main purpose and that is to act as harbinger’s of impending death. There is to be another execution a’fore the gates of Newgate and several more will pass unremarked at Wandsworth Gaol for the ruling classes have not yet finished doing as they would have wished with the silk mill workers of London. Does Father London weep for his infants that are no more? He may weep in vain, the hearts of the rich are unmoved.

The Nunneries have been shut for months all the well-fed employees lying restfully a-bed; the music halls have aggressively stood their ground, there will be no unbridled frolics, no licentious entertainments, no debauched drinking sessions whilst the working classes of the capital are forced to bleed, and starve, and tramp about in mourning weeds! And all for asking that their wages and their working conditions be improved!

Silence, cold and unyielding, mired in death and disease in the midst of a prison whose tenants sleep uneasily. And yet there is one who does not sleep, and yet another, and another and another. Slipping across the walls of the prison, opening prison gate after prison gate. Quietly oh so quietly! They steal from cell to cell opening doors, letting prisoners out, who in turn steal across other walls, and slither across other courtyards, till at last nearly all who are sane, and who wish to live are awakened and ready. “For better pay and conditions!” the cry rings out and soon becomes a roar,”For us, our children and our children’s children!” cries another.

The prison governor is asleep, the Union Rep reclining in his cot takes time to stuff his pipe, and slowly lights it. He savours the first puff, langourously draws in the next, pauses on the third, for he now hears the increasing clamour and see’s the torrent of freed inmates pouring into the courtyard from left and right. Now the prison governor is awakened and creeps from his bedchamber to that of the Union Rep who is sat fully dressed pipe in hand.

“Well, they are all gathered” says he calmly, taking a seat on the only chair the room furnishes. A prison Governor seated calmly in discussion with a prisoner who has just incited an uprising in his prison? How can this be? Like the black death or the pox, a malaise has spread throughout the chattering classes of London, quite unlike the deathly torpor those diseases bring. For this malaise is typified by a staunch and intractable determination to see justice of a kind never before seen, done. The judges and the barristers are perplexed by this intractability. Present the evidence as the barristers and the judges might, they can persuade no more juries to vote in favour of hanging the remaining five hundred silk mill workers Newgate prison holds. No more than they can persuade them to vote unanimously in favour of the transportation of anymore prisoners, to the harsh penal colonies of Australia.

The Broadsheets suggest that the governments reaction to the demands of the silk mill workers has been excessively harsh. And then of course there is the disappearance of Lord Grid-Iron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and those unbridled revelations of his licentious behaviour and financial immorality. Is it true he had a hand in arming the insurrectionists who attempted to blow up the Theatre Royal? Heaven forbid!

“Prosperity! For our children! And out childrens children!” the cries ring out, gather force and bring the Union Rep and the prison Governor to their feet. “Well old friend” says the prison governor firmly shaking the Union Rep’s hand,

“T’is time!”  but the Union Rep shakes his head. In spite of the flaming pyres being held aloft and carried to and fro by prisoners, whose running feet patter thunderously across the prison yard, in spite of the roars of determination, the time is not yet. He pauses, lights his pipe, cocks an ear and listens intently and then, he hears it, t’is like the first slight wave to hit a shore and t’is greeted instantly by silence. It builds it rises and it overtakes that of the men and women within the stone walls of Newgate, but that is because of the immensity of their silence. T’is the shrill war cry of the Chimney Sweeps! The prison Governor looks at his friend in stark disbelief, “but the last of them’s only got out of Great Ormond Street Hospital yesterday morn!” the Union Rep puffs slowly on his pipe, a triumphant look stealing over his face,”T’is Time to mount the battlements!” he declares.

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

Carpe Diem!

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‘The tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me!’

-Alfred Tennyson Lord

Eliza Garrett is non-plussed, for Lords Molesworth is like a a devoted daschhund that having been kicked once, twice, nay, thrice a day, will insist upon waddling back to its master and slathering over his boots.

“Will ye leave go of my waist! Leave go of it! I’m warning yeah!” says she wriggling sufficiently out of his grasp to be able to reach backwards for the letter opener and put it to his throat,”You’ll not make a fallen woman out of me! I’ll slit your throat as soon as look at yeah! And get your hands off my bustle!” says she lashing out with a booted foot.

Panting and wide-eyed, Lord Molesworth does as he is bid, edging slowly away to the side of his Cherrywood desk, nearest the door. Eliza’s eyes narrow momentarily, for here she spies a second conundrum, how is she to pass through the narrow gap between the book case and the desk with her hands full of dishes and avoid his Lordship’s depraved wanderings? Backing slowly away from the potential  encounter (and adjusting her bicycle clipped skirts, so that her dress is bunched securely at the knees once more), Eliza perceives a means of escape; hurling two dinner plates at Lord Molesworth’s head and leaping over the desk, she manages to get to the door which is smoothly opened from outside by Fitchett, the butler. Fitchett smiling sweetly takes the dishes from her outstretched arms and thrusts her back into the room, “Silverware!” he bellows loudly before shutting the door and leaving her alone once more with Lord Molesworth. His Lordship is rapt, his eyes shine with love, his bewhiskered face is flushed, he trembles visibly.

“You are splendiforous Eliza!You are no beauty t’is true! But I thrill to you Eliza, as I have thrilled to no other! The very sight of you makes me feel as though the years are falling away from me, like a garment! Come here my gel! Embrace me!”

But Eliza is long gone having leapt back over the desk, dived for the silverware and wriggled out of the ground floor window. His face is flushed and his bosom heaving with repressed ardour as he climbs out of the window and follows her. Eliza sprints towards the hedge maze for once she has lost Lord Molesworth here, she is certain that she may proceed in peace through the rest of her day. But a’las it is not to be, for with every twist and turn of the maze Eliza becomes more and more lost until, at length, exhausted and confused, she finds herself trapped at its centre with no conceivable means of escape.

What to do? She examines the silverware in her pocket, pulls out a gleaming silver fork and hides herself in a hedge wall in readiness for his lordship’s emergence. Oh how have things come to such a pretty pass? She is a good girl full of good intentions, aspiring to one day run a boarding house along the Blackpool sea front! What appalling twist of fate could possibly have brought her to this?

“Eliza? Lizzie dearest!Where are you my love?”

Eliza waits until she has him full in her sights before emerging from the bushes and launching herself full upon him, there then ensues an epic struggle in the midst of which Eliza loses both fork and bicycle clips. Administering a hefty slap to his lordship’s cheeks causes his spectacles to fly off; indeed such is the ferocity of their encounter that it is safe to say that neither party dare exit the hedge maze in broad daylight, for fear of the scandal that might ensue.

“I’m ruined sir! Ruined! I’d slap you once more had I the strength!” and with that Eliza falls silent. Lord Molesworth surveys the prone figure of the exquisite housekeeper wistfully, what a woman! He feels and thinks these sentiments but dare’st not utter them, so apt to fly into a passion is she. And so there they lie, on the floor of the maze, panting with exhaustion and silent at length, each pondering the folly of the other, until, at last (and with much trepidation), Lord Molesworth asks Eliza if she will be his bride. Eliza rolls her eyes, has the man heard nothing she’s said?

“Will you free the workers unjustly imprisoned in Newgate? Do that and I’ll plight you my troth” declares she triumphantly as she leaps to her feet, for she is sure that this member of the moneyed classes will baulk at the very idea. Poor child! Wholly unenlightened as to the transformative effects of passion! “My love!” declares Lord Molesworth,

“My dearest Eliza! Ready yourself to marry me this Sunday hence!”

Robert Liston

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, The Hearthlands of Darkness

A Friendly Caution To The Silk Mill Workers of London

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“There’s many a praying penitent and well might they pray in this place! For I ne’er saw the like of such as gaws on ere!”

“You’ve been to chapel?” asked Nathaniel Spate,

“Aye! I’ve been!” replied Bart Tobin, “once and went no more after spying them great lumpen things stood in front of men as ‘ad lost their sweet hearts and their wee ones. An them never knowing when they may see them more, whether in this life or the next!”

“You talk of the coffins?”

“The coffins! Placed on the ground in front of them wots been condemned to hang, an them set there a-gazing on ’em all through the service!The wailing and groanin’ an gnashin’ of teeth that went on in there! I ardly ad heart to utter the creed!”

“Christ ave mercy?”

“Christ ave mercy!”

“Lord ave mercy?”

“Lord ave mercy!”

“An the union rep? Wot ‘ad ‘e to say about all this?”

“Im? Why he ‘ardly said nothin’ but he wore a terrible look on his pallid face, dreadful it were, pure lunatick! And him sat there awww the while, staring at his coffin, put on the bench beside ‘im, till iz face were cold and still like a grave image!”

“He’s to hang then?” Nathaniel enquired eagerly, for this was news to him, Owen nodded. The news had run throughout Newgate prison like wildfire, the Union Rep was to hang for his part in occasioning an unlawful gathering and inciting a riot, the like of which had ne’er been seen this side of a chartist’s hanging.

“It only remains for the recordings to be read an then he’s for the long-drop, word is his will be a special occasion, Marwood ‘as been brought down from Lincoln for the purpose”

Each man looks at the other and then across the exercise yard at the Union Rep who now stands close by the visitors grate, deep in conversation with a modestly dressed and highly respectable looking woman. The Union Rep smokes from his pipe at intervals and from time to time holds it aloft; he is smiling and looks to be in rude health. He is smartly turned out as becomes a man of his stature, he even laughs occasionally. In short there is nothing in him that would suggest to any passerby that he is destined for the gallows this week hence, t’is very strange. “We’re for a riot then?” opines Owen, Nathaniel nods, a wide smile making all the difference to his pinched and half-starved features. A riot dear reader? In a place such as this? What folly! What suicidal wickedness! Step closer dear reader to the visitor’s grate and witness the earnest conversation twixt the prisoner and his ‘beloved’.

“Aggie Brandt, Hernione Bradley, Martha Watts,Edna Ryley, these are the women holding both tinder box and dynamite, they will take up their positions tonight when all are asleep. Arthur Thorpe, Sam Distleman, Jack Gyp, Thomas Skarry, turnkeys all, these are the men that have hidden both muskets and bludgers, and when the signal is given they will do their part, only make sure” and hear the Union Rep still smilling, his gaze intense, pauses “Make sure Esmeralda, that by tomorrow’s morn you have done yours” smiling brightly Madame Guacamoley reaches through the bars of the prisoner’s grate and gently squeezes the Union Rep’s hand.

“The eminent politician has taken to his bed with the street walker’s lurgy and now Sir Molesworth stands in his stead, and I ere he’s taken a fancy to Eliza Garrett”

The Union Rep chuckles at this,”Little Eliza?! Sweet Gove!He’s in for a rude awakening!”

Madame Guacamoley let rip a mirthless chuckle, “He’s already ‘ad it! I hear each time he called for her to clean the fireplace grate or bring some dish or t’other into the library,there’d be banging and crashing to be heard and raucous cries of distress such as no woman could ever make! He’s bruised from ‘ed to toe by now, for all that they say he has a passion for ‘er! From scullery maid to house keeper in three months! Mayhap he’ll be easier to negotiate with Thomas my love, else all is lost!” she squeezes his hand once more and smiles brightly, but there is stark worry in her eyes for t’is a terrible risk he takes.

The Union Rep shrugged, “I’ve seen two hundred men transported and a hundred hanged and all for protesting their lack of safe working conditions, scarcity of wages and of work. M’lord treats his horses better than his workers! Mayhap Molesworth i’ll be different, we’ll see.”

“If you die the comrades will lose all heart! And don’t these leeches on the flesh of the poor know it! Be careful my love!”

With that Esmeralda Guacamoley squeezes his hand once more and is gone, the Union Rep watches her elegant receding figure as it proceeds down the poorly lit alleyway and then disappears. Now, he thinks smiling all the while to himself, the dice are in play and let us proceed to the matter at hand…

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Transported

Of Transportation & Genetic Algorithms

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Statistically speaking,there are degrees in murder and therefore life must be held sacred; not merely from the insidious invasion of choleric disease, nor only from the heinous onslaught of stubborn, homicidal intent, but from that most sinister and dare I say it, most nefarious of transports, the London Omnibus. In this vast metropolis, with it’s streets mired in mud throughout the greater part of Winter, travelling abroad on foot, bag in hand, with one’s skirts held aloft, all the way from Hay Market to the Spitalfield’s Workhouse, is unthinkable.

For one, there are the little ragged children, masquerading as street sweepers, who importune one so aggressively for a farthing here and a shilling there, that one is rather apt to call the fire of jove down upon their little heads. Then there are the penny steamers, a much safer, and one might say picturesque mode of transport via the River Thames. That is, until one recalls the maiden voyage of the SS Princess Alice, sunk in collision with a collier (650 lives lost), or the explosion of the boiler aboard the Superbiam (400 lives and an entire livelihood lost).

Indeed, it might be said that the safest way to travel is upon one’s feet; though many centuries have past since man felt inclined to demonstrate his affinity with mother earth by treading barefoot upon her. Hence Cabriolets, Hacks and Drays and the nefarious evolution of the Omnibus. Generations of gentlefolk have clambered delicately aboard these vehicles; just as generations of working folk have driven ’em and made ’em profitable.

Observe the honourable Miss Peepy the elder, as she daintily ascends the ‘Halfway Dilligent’ and is expertly manhandled into a comfy seat by Mr Herbert, the cad. Observe Mr Herbert tip his hat, and proffer a courtly bow, as a precussor to his assuring Miss Peepy the elder, that the journey from Paddington to Spitalfields will cost no more today, than it did yesterday.

“A good day to you Miss Peepy! I ‘opes this day finds you in pwistine ‘ealth Miss Peepy! That’ll be six pence Miss Peepy!” Miss Peepy responds in kind, gently inclining her head and offering up a contrained smile (it doesn’t do to be too familiar!), “A good day to you Mr Herbert! Spitalfields if you please!” and Spitalfields it is, though Mr Herbert and the driver have calculated that if they turn up Tenter Street, instead of turning left at White’s Row, they should be able to make a further thruppence out of Miss Peepy and so increase their profit margins.

The Omnibus driver canters on picking up one gentle-person after another till the bus is suffuse with the the scent of Rose Water mingled with Eau de Cologne. And now the Omnibus is packed nearly to the rafters with a dozen over dressed, esteemed persons seated cheek by jowl. Ah but there is always room for more! And so the driver pauses first at London Bridge, and then at Liverpool Street, and then again at Phoenix Street, picking up several gentlemen along the way for the princely sum of 2 shillings a piece. Nice and gently the Omnibus canters along, that is until Mr Herbert, leaning out of the door and surveying the whole breadth of Commercial Steet says he espies Squivers in the distance and a-picking up speed.

“Oi Oi! It’s Squivers! Comin up off-side! Look sharp Mr Gubbins!” and with a ferocious twirl of the whip on the horses’ back sides they’re off! The gentle canter becomes a trot, the trot becomes a gallop, and the gallop becomes a  headlong rush down Commercial Street, a mad cap dash up Hen Cage Row. Now the Omnibuses are neck and neck and Squiver’s twirling his whip like a man gone insane turns briefly to observe Gubbins and his Omnibus falling behind. “Ha!” he screeches, “Ha Ha Ha!” a look of exultant triumph lighting up his face, he is oblivous to the screams and wails of fear issuing forth from the mouths of his passengers.

And indeed, just as he is about to turn into Fashion Street one of his gentleman passengers is thrown out of the bus and left clinging onto the doors leathern strap for dear life. On the corner of Church Street the gallop slows to a trot and the trot to a most subtle canter, until at length they’ve arrived at Montague Street, whereupon all the passengers hastily disembark, straightening their clothes, re-adjusting their hats and tossing many a baleful glance behind them. They are horrified by the behaviour of Squires! They are outraged! But then they contemplate the prospect of having to walk all the way from Paddington to Church Street (as the poor do) and become resigned.

As for Mr Squivers, he climbs down from his perch and is soon joined by the bus boy who congratulates him on his triumph over Herbert and Gubbins. Cantering gently down White Street they pull up outside the Brass Bell pub, there they will count up the surplus profit they have made off the passengers and Squivers will recount his racing triumph, to any that care to give him their ear.

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

The Musical Scuttle (Part 2)

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‘If my child lies dying (as poor Tom lay, with his white lips quivering, for want of better food than I could give him), does the banker bring the wine or broth that will save his life?’

– Mary Barton

“Are we in ‘eaven muthah?” the little boy asked wondrously, Martha Sitwell shook her head, she dabbed at her eyes and cheeks with a hanky, t’was all she could do to stop herself from bursting into tears,

“If ever I dies mutha an my soul is in good standing with Jehovah,he shall lift me gently into ‘is everlastin arms and t’will be such a place as this that he will bring me to! I know it!” he crumpled the last fragments of his third sugared bun into his mouth, and slid off his stool. Martha Sitwell half blushed with shame, for now there was food to be had little Martin had taken on the habit of eating like a pig at the trough. Cramming every pastry, pie, and pudding, quickly into his mouth, and then devouring it, as if at the next minute there might be none to be had. All fine and good on an ordinary work day, but today they had visitors.

“Well Martha Sitwell what think you?” Martha inclined her head shyly, she durst not look at the gentle eyed man on her best stool; the very fact of his presence made her nervous, as did the idea that she might wake up one morning and find this to be nought but a dream.

“Madame Sitwell speak! You ave a voice Madame! Use it!” Madame Le Breton furrowed her brows and adjusted her shawl irritably.

“T’is just as our Martin says” she murmured, “t’is like ‘eaven”

Madame Le Breton clapped her hands together in delight!

“C’est bien! Now I want ze grande tour! You will show me all you know and when I tell Maggie of all you show me she will be at peace!” Martin giggled, he clapped his plump little hands together with glee, Madame Le Breton noted the healthy flush in his cheeks, and the brightness of eye, indicating the positive effects of an abundance of fresh, healthy, air, combined with a hearty diet.

“Not you my child” admonished his mother, “Off to work with you!” smoothing out his newly starched smock and snatching up his ploughman’s lunch, Martin skipped merrily off to the Cotton Mill which lay just down the road from their little cottage.

Standing by the door Martha watched her son skip merrily to work and tried to recall the pale, wan, listless, child he had been, she could not. A profuse number of tears slid down her cheeks, clasping her worn hands to her sodden breast she turned suddenly to Mr Robert Owen, her benefactor and her son’s employer,

“I don’t know how to thank you sir and I have nought to give ye but these two hands, worn as they are!” Mr Owen shook his head,

“Here at New Lanark we prize happiness, health and dignity above all else. Are you happy Mrs Sitwell?” wiping her eyes she nodded, “Now are you healthy? Do you feel your dignity restored to you ?” again she nodded,”Then that is all we at New Lanark can ask, it is all we dare ask. I have spoken with Mrs Emilia Joseph, the school ma’am, she tells me that if you wish it, you may spend your days attending her at the village school”

“Oh sir!” cried Mrs Sitwell her face a-glow “I do wish it!”

“Quite so, tomorrow then at twelve?” he clasped her hands in his and smiling gently squeezed them, at which she burst into tears once more and had to be comforted by Madame Le Breton,

“What a philosopher! What a genius! Such kindness! Such generosity of spirit! All zee people fed! All zee people paid well! All zee people turning a profit! La! This is not genius! This is witchcraft! ‘Ow iz it possible madam?” Mrs Sitwell shook her head,

“I know not! I ain’t left the cottage since you an Lady Grid-Iron brung us ‘ere, I keeps thinking if I ever tries to leave the cottage it’ll go up in a puff of smoke an I’ll find myself back in London, in that ‘owse! The one Lord Grid-Iron owns” a cloud descended upon her brow, but it was soon gone, she smiled tremulously.

“Owned” Madame Le Breton corrected her,”Zat evil man is gone” or at least by tomorrow morning he would be she thought, “And your old life is over” she said, getting to her feet and extending a heavily beringed hand, “All my days I ave wanted to see what a peoples’ republic would truly look like, come, show me this wondrous place!”

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Academies, Academy status, ACCESSIBILITY

An Invention of Thomas Crapper Comes to Kings Free

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T’was a once in a lifetime experience; a thing wondrously invented and for many weeks to come we did wonder, nay, marvel at the lavatorium which the Reverend Robert Bruce had erected in the midst of our rugby playing fields. “What the deuce is it doing there?!” muttered Reggie La Grande, stepson of the Viceroy of Umbongo Bongo, “Damned if I know” replied Turpin Sleath, the Latin Master, “It’s going to be ruddy hard trying to organise a scrum around that thing! What the devil was the Reverend Bruce thinking?!” that he should have so publicly aired his views augured ill, for him. Still there was much touching and caressing of the lavatorium; with its ebony wood cabinet and gleaming bronze toilet seat. The toilet bowl beneath the seat we were told, had been hand-painted by at least a dozen craftsmen, who had festooned the hollow, ceramic interior of the toilet with roses on intertwined stems, held aloft by winged cherubs with little feathery white wings and plump, rosy red, cheeks. “How much did E’ pay for that?!” shrieked Monsieur De La Faux Chien

“Six hundred pounds” murmured Master Turple-Sleath tapping the dregs of his pipe into the lavatorium, “the window panes of the main school hall barely remain in their rotted frames, the kitchens serve up nought but pickled bloaters on toast, and I cannot recall the last time the school room fireplaces had fuel in them” Monsieur De La Faux Chien refrained from commenting, after all, at King’s Free even the air had ears and he wished to keep his job. “Why do I teach here Faux Chien? The pupils are apt to turn up to class without quills, quills with which their aristocratic families can well afford to furnish them, and yet, which the Right Reverend Indolent! Would have me supply out of the limited stipend he pays me,what am I doing here Faux Chien?”

T’was only a week later, (the day after Master De La Faux Chien had been forced to tender his resignation by the Headmaster), that I could be espied taking a stroll through the grounds of Kings Free with the most reverend,reverend, ” Smarsbee walk with me sir! Walk with me!” exclaimed Reverend Robert Bruce, hands clasped tightly behind the back of his elegant jet black frock coat, “Tell me, what do you think of her eh? What do you think of her?”

“Of who sir?” I politely replied, “Of the crapper! Sir!” he exclaimed, “What think you of the crapper!”

I coughed politely into my hand,”Of what sir?”

“Damn it Smarsbee you’re one of our brightest scholars! The Crapper child!” he gestured violently towards the water closet, now relocated by order of the Headmaster in the middle of the gym,” This work of unbridled genius! Designed and built by Master Verkritable, a close friend of the original inventor, Dr Thomas Crapper, what a work of genius eh? A work of genius my lad!”

I pomdered his words as I slowly scratched my head,”But it’s too tall to leap over, though Master Foster does make us try” the Headmaster frowned, and I giggled inwardly, this was sure to mean that like Master Turple-Sleath, Master Foster’s days at the school would soon be cut short. Opening the door to the privy the Headmaster ushered me inside, I gasped for new brass fittings had been added,”Sir” I asked wonderingly, “Is that an elastic-valve closet? Such as Lord Grid-Iron is rumoured to have had in his home?” Reverend Robert Bruce bristled with pride, “The very same Smarsbee! In fact it is not at all dissimilar to the lavatorium constructed for the boys at Eton, albeit our fittings and fixtures are moulded from brass and not gold!”

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On Sunday morning, prior to Matins, George and I decided to engage in a minor perambulation through the English Hall of Master Brooks. There it now stood, the privy, in all it’s ostentatious glory, “I say!” exclaimed George, “It’s moved again!”

“‘Wots he fussing over where it’s placed? It’s only a jake after all” a weedling voice complained, this complaint was accompanied by much occasional and occasionally frantic hammering “T’is a ruddy marvel this Jake!” the caretaker muttered sarcastically,” A spanking brand new one too! And where it hasn’t been deconstructed and reconstructed in these halls over the last week I ruddy don’t know!And I wouldn’t dare ask!”

Victorian Toilet Paper Holders

T’was tuck shop day and as George and I wended our way down the hill from our lodgings we could not help but to espie the lavatorium which had now been placed beside the math’s block. ” I say George this is going too far!” I opined having observed the many woodland creatures that had fallen comatose around the perimeter of the lavatorium, George espied the privy too and shook his head, “ten masters have objected and been made to pack their bags, the servants are up in arms over having to clean that thing, and yet that privy is all the Headmaster can think about!”

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

Let The Right One In

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Around Sloane Square all has ground to a halt, all is quiet and although it has been a most busy day for Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe, he cannot help but to look back upon it with a degree of tremendous satisfaction. Three hundred ragged dependants sought the refuge of Spitalfields workhouse today! Three hundred! And of those sifted through by Willoughby Croft and then presented to the board of guardians, only twenty could in all good consciense be admitted. The casual ward held two hundred more, the rest being tainted by their association with the Grid-Iron Square riot, were turned away. Most workhouses in the poorer neighbourhoods were burgeoning with those who were supposedly destitute, Martin-in-the-Fields was one such example, but Spitalfields had a surplus of places. Only those he deemed truly deserving where admitted to the main building, the rest (whose claims were dubious at best) were consigned to the casual ward, where they might either survive the night or freeze to death, depending on the state of their health, and the life choices they had previously made.

Yes, all is quiet throughout the home of the Right Honourable Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe, the Ethelbert-Smythe children are all a-bed, Edwina curled around her brand new doll’s house as though it might grow legs and leave her. And young Thomas, his thumb in his mouth, wears the astrakhan trimmed dressing gown his mama bought him to keep him warm in the dead of night. Downstairs in the hallway the grandfather clock lets out a steady tick-tocking that serves as an undercurrent to the warmth and stability of that happy home environment. The servants all lie fast asleep in their attic rooms, worn out by the days ministrations to the wants of the right honourable Smythe and his guests. Being as it is the festive season, they have barely been off their feet since five in the morning, indeed not till twelve past midnight were they permitted sufficient peace, to be able to disrobe and take to their beds. The hours served in this household are many and hard, the times laid aside for rest few and far between, staff turnover is high, still, nobody dare complain, t’is either this, the mills or the workhouse.

Tick-tock! Tick-tock!The clock strikes three and at the foot of the stairs the household guard dog barely stirs in its sleep. Three thirty and a gust of cold air drafts through the narrow gap between cherrywood panelled front door and hearth, it is a dim, grey nebulous breeze that wafts up the spiral stair case pausing for a moment at each bedroom door until at last it reaches that of Mr and Mrs Ethelbert-Smythe and slips over the threshold. The Ethelberts being most comfortably esconsed in a four poster bed carved of ebony wood, replete with an immensity of linen bed sheets and woollen blankets, over which have been thrown two goose feather stuffed quilts (for it is deadly cold at this time of year). The most honourable Ethelbert-Smythes are deeply and tranquilly asleep or should be, but except that there is much tossing and turning beneath the comfy load for that pater familia,Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe.

“Let me in sir, it’s me sir. let me in! Let me in sir!” a little voice cries out, surprisingly it touches the heart of Hardy so that on mere paternal instinct he leaps out of bed , strides to the bedroom door, and opens it believing the distressed voice to be emanating from one of his children, but as he opens the door peering out into the darkness he spies no one their. Uttering an irritated sigh he clambers back into bed, smooths the covers over his side and closes his eyes. “T’is I sir! T’is Dommy! Dommy Woodbine! Let us in sir! I’ll be good I swears! Let us in sir, please!” at this Ethelbert-Smythe leaps out of bed for now he is certain that there is indeed somebody (other than his wife), present in the room. T’is pitch dark and so he spies them not, but he is certain that somebody (something) of that workhouse ilk, has broken into his home. He might be enraged at the fact where it not for the hairs standing up on the nape of his neck, and the goose pimples springing up all over his body. “Let me in sir! Let me in!” two little cold, damp hands fasten themselves around his neck, two little damp legs around his waist,”Don’t sends us there sir! Don’t sends us to Master Turple-Sleath! I swears I’ll be good! Honest I will sir!”

“Let go of me and I will let you in” replies the right honourable gentleman who upon being freed leaps for the bedroom door, forgetting that having left his wife in bed and asleep she may be in some danger. All at once the workhouse child whose face he has yet to see leaps upon him, wrestling him to the ground with a prodigious display of inhuman strength, Crying out in a frenzy of terror Hardy rolls frantically to and fro, to and fro in a desperate attempt to dislodge the pint-sized monster. “Let me in sir! Let me in!” the child cries hysterically until his cries and the screams of Ethelbert-Smythe mingle as one and are indistinguishable, “Aaargh! Dear God! Help meeee!” crying out to the very god his daily actions refute, Ethelbert-Smythe awakens, chilled, clammy, but still very much esconsed in his plush and comfy bed.

Of course there is no child assassin present in his room there is merely him and his wife, a lady grown expertly accustomed to feigning sleep whilst her husband works his way through his night terrors; something he has consistenlty done ever since taking on  responsiblity for poor law relief in their parish. These night terrors are the one thing that have prevented her from leaving him; they assure her that though he may not be a true Christian he does at least have something reasembling a consciense and is therefore still human.

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