Academies, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

An Odyssean Education

1-temperance-movement-1874-granger

The fangs of the serpent are hid in the bowl,
Deeply the poison will enter thy soul,
Soon will it plunge thee beyond thy control;
Touch not the cup, touch it not….

– A Temperance Hymn

And as he stared at her intently he was struck afresh by her beauty, for it seemed to him that he had never seen her so attired. For her extraordinary yellow and black outfit was so befitting her handsome figure, and serene countenance, that she ought always to dress in this manner (weather and police constables permitting).

“I” she declared, “Am an ant! Indeed” said she fastening her bright yellow souwester firmly under her chin, “I am one of a legion of constituent ants! I ” she said, pointing one pale tapered finger heavenwards, “Am part of a veritable spiritual hive of battle-ants! Invulnerable to fire and impervious to flood!”, she buckled her yellow sailor’s waterproof tightly around her waist, pulled on a vast pair of black, oil-skin breeches and stepping nimbly from the boat anchored to the docks, waded into the shallow waters of the River Thames. Almira Fielding was not alone, for upon hearing of the Toolley Street conflagration, the entire temperance society (armed with yellow souwesters and oil skin waterproofs),hailed several hackney cabs, and sped round the corner from the ‘The Sozzled Maidshead’, to the source of the roaring conflagration. Indeed, they would have buckled on their waterproofs and sallied forth much sooner, had it not been for the river engines rendering the waterways around the back of the Tooley Street warehouses impassable.

“What does they thinks they is doing?” exclaimed Jakes Monmouth, the owner of the Rye Street distillery, “Don’ts they knows that there’s a fire a-roaring out of control but seventy yards in front o them?! They’ll be burn’t to a cinder crisp if we ain’t careful! Gilly! Gilly! Get afta them! Bring ’em back or so God elp me we’ll swing for it! There’s five amongst em at least listed in Lord Swansby’s who’s who! Get after them!”

Gilly Croft shrugged, there was blazes sprouting up all over the shop, his hands were full, besides which them temperance ladies could be marvellous spiteful if they was messed with, he’d near lost a toe on more than one occasion round them! “You seem them axes they’s carrying? Ever seen them in action over a bar? I ave and I ain’t touchin em!”

“Sister ants! Fix thy courage to the sticking place! And let us march forth!The Parnham Industrial schools lie just ahead! Our little charges lie in the path of a monstrous, devouring conflagration with none to defend them! ” drenching his cloak in the foul waters of the Thames, Lord Harry Pembroke wrapped the heavy garment around his head and shoulders and followed in their wake. In truth Lord Harry had meant to risk what little vestige of reputation he had at the Nag’s head, but the beauteous ferocity of Miss Fielding had left him smitten. He would have followed her to hell and back, indeed he was about to…..

N22Feb

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Hypocritical Cant

Reflections Upon The Milk Of Poor Law Kindness

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T’is a little after one in the afternoon (that is approximately three hours before tea-time) and  precisely seven hours before Mr Ethelbert-Smythe must find himself in attendance at the home of the eminent politician. T’is only three sleeps before Christmas but a’las the poor are ever with us, for they line the alleyway leading up to the Spitalfield’s workhouse as if the mills and the match factories scattered through London had no vacancies!

Some slouch against the grimy walls of the workhouse alley as if those were the only props that might keep them standing. Others appear to have heaped themselves one upon the other, a heap of damp, muddied, half-filled clothes on the equally muddied, cobbled, path. All form a ragged queue straggling down the length of the alleyway,through the narrow entrance way, and into the workhouse stable yard (known to the poor as the casual ward). Some will be lucky enough to spend their first night in the workhouse itself, the rest will sleep here,in their undergarments (the rules of the workhouse do not permit otherwise), amongst bales of hay.

T’is festive enough for the destitute is it not? After all did not Our Lord spend his first night in a cow shed? Safely swaddled and laid a-bed by sweet Mary in a cow’s crib? And attended by no fewer than three eminent sages? Now step forth the guardians of the gate-way, Billy, Gilly and Alfie Croft, known to all as knows them as ‘The Croft Brothers’ and to their betters as the work house porters. At a glance they can tell who can be touched for a sovereign (ere they be let through the gate) and who is likely to be bringing in opium pipes or gin and will thus need throwing out again. “What? You ‘ere is you Milty? Still on the swell I takes it? Well my boy you ‘ad better hook it! And fast! We ain’t feedin none as is destined for Newgate! Hook it proper!” the brothers advancing as one muscular force, their hint is at once taken.

In they advance as one, the wretched armies of the poor, exposed to the brutal unflinching gaze of porterhood. In staggers Queenie McKillen with her baby, little Ellen, clutched to her scrawny chest. Oh she has tried her best to dress herself appropriate for the scrutiny of them that governs who is fit to enter the workhouse; but it is not these pitiful efforts which gain her entrance. Gilly Porter takes in her fragile, heart shaped face and the worn once-costly garments she wears. ‘Whore’ thinks he and visibly bridles with righteous indignation; but then his hard unflinching gaze takes in the child carried close to her bosom. The child whose pitiful pain-wracked whimpers send chills down his spine, though the heart rending cries are as nothing next to the faint reek of vomit emanating from the shawl she is wrapped in.

Gilly Croft stops her as she reaches the entrance and is about to slide through the iron gates. “Where is thy ‘usband gel?” he enquires but she does not hear him, raising a pale trembling hand to her brow Queenie pitches forward, the child falling out of her hands and into those of Gilly Croft who looking with dismay upon the child, cries out for the infirmary nurse to be sent for right quick. The nurse, or rather such as may be named one, arrives in due course. A gin bottle hidden none too discretely in her pocket, she weaves her way through the stable yard until at length she reaches Queenie, now dragged to one side and propped against the iron -gate “Cholera is it?” she enquires loudly squatting down in the mud to examine the face and hands of the half-conscious mother, “Cholera no doubt” mutters Gilly gently clasping the babe in his hands “She’ll be dead by the morn, t’is Bobbish Todger’s woman”

The nurse rises abruptly she does not look at him, but he can see that despite the gin, a rosy red flush grows on her cheek that is indicative of anger. Bobbish Todger as laid his hand to any work he could for the sake of wife and child and now lies dead; hanged by the neck at Newgate.”She’s gawn! Bury er, an gie the babe to me” gently Gilly hands the child over to the nurse who clasping the swaddled babe to her, staggers back toward the infirmary. There is room for four more in the workhouse, besides the child who need never suffer the scrutiny of the workhouse committee.

Alfie Croft looks over the worn and weary souls that have passed through and now lie slumped in the yard. A handsome man of average height, rippling with muscle, soberly dressed, is never likely to know the suffering and hardship that has assailed and assaulted the destitute souls sitting on the ground before him or so one would think. “Felicia Tarpin! George Wedum! Luke Crudd! Amelia Fard! Get ye in through that door right quick! You’re to stand before the committee this eve!”

“And who is he as ‘eds the committee?” one brave soul loudly asks, “Ethelbert-Smythe!” Alfie replies glancing at the expressionless faces of his brothers, “The Right Honourable Ethelbert-Ruddy-Smythe?!” Alfie nods his head. There is much dark muttering all around at this, for was it not he who shut down the Spitalsfield Orphanage, on the grounds that the toddlers nurtured and nourished therein was fit for work? And was it not he ‘as shut down the Infantrymens’ Rest-Home for the Disabled and then forced men as had next to no health onto the streets a-begging? “Tell us true Gilly! Tell us true!” everyone cries in panic,”Is there any as makes it  through that door into the workhouse?” Gilly glances at Alfie who in turn looks across to Billy, “Some do” they declare in unison, “Now!” bellows out Alfie Croft. “The rest of you kit orff! And into the stables you goes!” this time another brave soul cries out, “I say! Is the straw heated?”

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