Tonight I am chatting with Michelle (Jia Li). Somehow we got onto the subject of the Plague. Oh I know why, I am sneezy today and quoted, "Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of posies, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down."
And we were talking of the morbid origins of that nursery rhyme. Most nursery rhymes have extremely ghastly origins...
I was first enthralled by the symptoms of the Black Death as a 12-yr old, reading Mum's copy of Forever Amber. It's by Kathleen Winsor, a captivating historical novel following the fortunes of an English country maid (Amber) who is seduced by a charming Royalist Cavalier before the Civil War, and she basically throws herself on his charity in order to go to London with him. During the Commonwealth, she marries a puritanical old man to fit in, until he dies. But Amber and Bruce always find each other like magnets throughout their parallel careers - there is a lot of love and hate there. After the Restoration, she works her way up in society as a courtesan, until she catches the king's eye, and of course attains his bed. Oh. Maybe I wasn't 12...And in the end...I think she ultimately rejects him, as he has done so many times before. In fact, I think she is expelled from the Court.
Mum and the other school girls passed that book around in sections, like a forbidden text. Well, it was the early 60s and so it was quite risque. They'd keep it under the mattress and sneak it out for a quick read whenever they could. Haven't things changed, Mum gave me the entire book to read very easily.
Anyway, back to the Plague. At one point, Amber and Bruce are forced together when they both suffer from the Plague. Amber nurses Bruce, lances his boils and all the other dangerous tasks. She makes it through about 3 public nurses coming down or dying of it in their house...Mrs Spong's death rattle in the living room...Amber dragging the body down the stairs to dump on the dead cart. Then Amber succumbs and Bruce, still quite an invalid, nurses Amber through the valley of the shadow of death.
This may have been my first reading of the portrayal of illness in a work of fiction.
Another fascination: radiation sickness. I remember Chernobyl. It is an amazing invisible killer. First watched it on film in Fat Man, Little Boy.
No wonder I went for biology!
I need to cheer you all up now...
I had dinner the other night with my best friend Lydia. Haven't seen her since January. We have been friends for 25 years. (I have friends who are younger than that!) So...I can't even remember meeting her and Tony. (He's the one I had dinner with in March.)
We did loads of girlie catching up, and no one makes me giggle like Lydia. Her mum is another one who gets me going.
She gave me a belated birthday gift: The Jane Austen Book Club and my usual supply of Body Shop White Musk in a gorgeous gift bag. She says every time she and Tony smell it they think of me. Uh-oh. Mother always told me that a lady should never tell anyone what scent she uses. Sometimes you can't help but tell.
One time at university, Vanessa and I were walking with a friend, a Viking-like, red-haired giant of a guy who could probably carry us one in each arm. (Vanessa and I are such tiny girls.) And he asked what perfume I use! I can't remember what I replied, whether I evaded or revealed. But I distinctly remember being rather taken aback by the question, specially from him! V, what was his name...?
I talked to Vanessa today in Thailand. We can talk for hours. We say bye about 5 or more times over the course of half an hour before we can finally wrap it up. There's always another segue...