Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Devil’s Footprints

The English winter of 1854-55 was severe and one of the coldest in living memory. The county of Devon was under 5cm of snow, which fell overnight on 9th February 1855. The River Exe froze over trapping birds where they stood on the ice. As the dawn came, the countryside was carpeted in thick snow interrupted only by a trail of mysterious footprints, which ran for 150 km. They appeared as donkey hooves which zigzagged through five parishes across gardens, over rooftops, haystacks, walls and in and out of barns. Someone or something, walking upright on two legs made the hoof prints. Reports of the unusual event brought many theories but the most prevailing was these were the footprints of the devil. When dogs were brought in to follow the prints they were reported to have retreated howling dismally. Many theories were put forward to explain the prints including an escaped kangaroo. One of the more plausible explanations was `the prints belonged to a badger. Badgers place their hind feet into the marks made by their forefeet. Although the species hibernate, sometimes they come out in midwinter in search of food. Closer examination revealed the prints had not all been made overnight and there was evidence practical jokers may have been responsible for some. Despite the plausible explanations however many local people held the belief the Devil walked that night and take care to this day to avoid going out at night after sunset.

There is an old legend about Cley Hill, Warminster in Wiltshire, England. Displeased with the people of Devizes the Devil was making his way to Somerset carrying a huge bag of earth on his back. His intention was to cover the town with mud. He met a fellow traveler on the road and asked him how far it was to Devices. A cobbler to trade the man recognized the devil and to confuse him, said ,
"that's just what I want to know myself . I started for Devizes when my beard was black and now it is grey and I haven't got there yet".

The devil replied. "If that is how it is, I won't carry this thing no further, so here goes," and throw the earth away forming the hill now known as Cley Hill.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St Patrick's Day

St. Patrick of Ireland was born circa 385 AD, at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland. The parents of Maewyn Succat (or Patricius) were wealthy Romans living in Britain. His father was a deacon. When Patricius was fourteen, he was captured during a raiding party by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was sold as a slave to a Michu, an Irish chieftain and remained there for six years and became a shepherd. Patrick sought solace in his predicament and prayed while he looked after the sheep. His spirituality brought the boy strength even although his captor was cruel and demanding. Patrick was clever and taught himself the Gaelic as well as studied druidism, the predominant religion in Ireland at that time. He escaped slavery when aged twenty, and returned to Scotland to reunite with his family.

He studied to be a priest and was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre before being sent by Pope Celestine as a bishop to take the Gospel to Ireland. The young man’s heart was still in Ireland and eventually when Pope St Celestine decided to make Ireland a Christian country St. Patrick was given the mission of evangelizing the Irish. Patrick became the special Apostle of the Irish nation.

He arrived in Ireland in 433 AD and from the onset met with hostility from the Druids. Overcoming hostilities, he converted the chieftain Dichu and began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland. He was a humble and brave priest who wore rough clothing and slept on hard rock bed. Patrick went from region to region winning respect and eventually the faith of the populous. As evidence of his presence Patrick is thought to have left his foot print on one of shore rocks just at the entrance to Skerries harbor.

Wherever he went on the Emerald Isle the fame of his miracles and sanctity went before him. After 40 years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering Patrick worked many miracles and established Ireland as Christian country. He retired to County Down and died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been celebrated as St. Patrick's Day ever since. There are many legends surrounding St Patrick most of which cannot be verified. Some of the more common were:

Patrick used the shamrock (a three leaf clover) to explain the Trinity and this icon became associated with the Irish ever since.

Another legend was Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland; snakes were a popular symbol among the Irish pagans.

He used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross. The sun was a common symbol in Irish paganism and veneration of the symbol appealed to the Irish converts. By the seventh century, St Patrick was revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Leprechauns: Little People and the Little Shoe Makers

Traditionally shoe makers worked alone. Prior to the development of the turnshoe technique, where the sole and upper were stitched together before being turned inside out, shoesmakers used large headed nails (hobnails) to attach the sole to the upper.

Changes in shoe construction at the end of the middle ages rendered using tacks an old technique, more befitting a craftsman steeped in the olden ways of the gentle craft. Shoes were however, made individually and took a craftsman to match left and right heels.

In Ancient Rome, many early converts to Christianity were from affluent families that had disinherited them because of their beliefs. Many found work as sandal makers. Often shoes were made at night and whilst appearing to sell their shoes during the day, they were also spreading the gospel.

Romans enjoyed wearing decorate sandals, sometimes with precious metal tacks but in times of austerity, sumptuous clothing and footwear were outlawed. Hence, most sandal makers worked clandestinely at night.

By the 12th Century shoemakers had formed guilds and many artisans were perceived as politically active and certainly viewed with suspicion as agitators.

In 17th century etchings, shoe makers were frequently depicted working solo and in poor conditions. Many were bespecktacled and usually smoking clay pipes. The craftsman’s need for full concentration on the task was paramount and many were depicted working on a lady’s shoe. A good shoe maker was highly prized and a well-crafted shoe worth its own weight in gold.

Shoemakers took on a personna in popular mythical culture as a magical fellows whose shoes or boots played a vital role in life. It is not real surprise to find supernatural little people, like Leprechauns (Neda-Ard, or plural, Neda-Ardi or Drun-ky) or elves, as shoemakers. Their profile matched reality of a solitary worker, dressed in work clothes, bespeckled, and enjoying a pipe as they tapped away on a ladies’ shoes.

Leprechauns or the Little People present as old men no taller than three feet. Many wore wore a cocked hat, red coat (not green), a leather (work) apron, woollen vest, knee breeches, long stockings and silver-buckled brogues. The fashion was reminiscent of 17th century Dandy and although Leprechauns were spoken off long before this the popular image of the Leprechaun may have come from the anti- Irish, English and American political cartoonists of the time.

It was widely thought Leprechauns held the secret to the location of buried treasure (a crock of gold). Whilst they may be coerced into telling you where the gold was buried by their nature they were mischievous and dreadful practical jokers, and almost certainly untrustworthy when dealing with humans. This could easily be taken as a metaphor for a shoemaker who has the capability to make you walk on air but unless a close scrutiny is maintained may supply you with some dud shoes. No surprise to discover it is important for the human to keep a fixed eye on the leprechaun at all times otherwise he will vanish. Leprechauns were said to serve as defenders of the faerie communities which again may be seen as a metaphor for protecting shoemaking communities. They also made brogues, the patterns of which contained ancient emblems most of which were to protect the wearer from evil.

Sexy Milestones

Until modern times the roads in Japan were little more than footpaths. Travellers were in fear of what might befall them and from the 10th century lucky talisman were used as milestones. They came in all sorts, mostly god like figures but by far the most popular were the phallic shaped milestones. The power of the stone was to remind the fearful traveler of the pleasures behind or ahead. Proper behaviour was required in the presence of deities, of course, but the jolly wanderer was left to take consolation and peace, leaving them less exposed to the dangers of the road. The earliest stone milestones were of an erect penis but these were later replacing with copulating couples. These images provoked the powerful complementary forces of yin and yang. The milestones through the ages took on powerful properties among the peasant folks and were soon afforded magical status with powers to make baron women fertile. In gratitude, grateful families left offerings of an appropriate shape. Oddly shaped carrots and mountain potatoes were especially popular. When Buddhism arrived there was a concerted effort to tidy up the countryside and so sadly few phallic milestones remain. The Japanese did keep the images but these were transferred into bald headed statues.

Jizō was the most common. The remaining examples of the stones were removed by the 19th century Victorians concerned at the apparent affront, never realising Jizō was the god of lost children’s souls.

Bishop C & Osthelder X 2001 Sexualia: From prehistoric to cyberspace Cologne: Könemann

Ballet : Charles Didelot and pointe shoes

By the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799) ballet dancers exchanged heeled shoes and heavy costumes for lighter, flat-soled slippers, pointe shoes, and flesh-colored tights. This allowed performers freedom to move and achieve greater grace. The move to en point is thought to have been the brainchild of a Swedis dancer called, Charles Didelot who had studied dance and performed in France and Russia around 1800.

Didelot is credited with advancing the art form with innovations and developments in style and costume. Among other things he created a “flying machine” of rigged wires that carried dancers into the air. This made them appear weightless which delighted audiences who came to expect more challenging movements in dance.

Pointe shoes evolved with a flat toe box as a platform. This base helped develop calf and leg muscles during strenuous routines and allowed the entire weight of the body to be precariously balanced on the rigid points of one or both feet. The new footwear enabled maneuvers like pirouettes, arabesques and the dancers required to develop skill, strength, agility, and grace.

Pointe shoes may appear pretty but looks are deceiving. Ballerinas tend to stay with the same shoemaker from their student days and the better quality shoes are hand lasted. It takes two and a half years to learn how to make ballet slippers and a lifetime to perfect them. Many are true works of art and craftsman shoe makers sign their slippers with their insignia on the sole. Ballet slippers are papier-mâché pumps made of satin, calico, card, Hessian and thick glue. The soles are made from cardboard. Many are hand lasted and made inside out. There is no right and left slipper and the ballet dancer customizes their shoes with use. The tips and sides of traditional pointe shoes are hard with the former made from layers of canvas, burlap and glue. The block is built up by layering Hessian with a form of wet tissue paper and fine card, and each layer is spread with a sticky glue like paste made form flour and dextrene. The shoes are baked for ten hours before the seamstresses and cutters trim the satin and sew in the drawstrings. Fitting shoes is considered important by experts and good fitting shoes can keep foot damage to a minimum. Tradition determines pointe shoes are supplied without ribbons and the ballerina will sew these on themselves. Professional ballerinas can wear through three pairs of ballet slippers per performance.

Some ballerinas spend hours customizing their pointe shoes. Done as a labour of love they may squash them a door frame, or scape them with a Stanley knife or cheese grater. A common superstition is if the ballerina cuts herself when sewing her ribbons she must smear the blood on the back of the shoe for good luck. Finally the shoes are coated inside with shellac, a sticky solution that seals the inside. Otherwise the heat of the dancer’s foot breaks down the papier-mâché block. Many put nail varnish around the edges to stop them fraying and stitch a seam in the she to accommodate bunions. Some will reinforce the block by darning the edge of the shoe. Most girls reuse the ribbons form discarded shoes. Unseen at the side of the stage are trays of powdered rosin. The ballerinas spray their legs and feet with water before scratch like chickens in the rosin tray to coat their feet and soles with the sticky amber residue, this stops them from slipping. Dame Margot Fonteyn’s pointe shoes sold in auction for more than $5000 a pair. When Swiss Italian Marie Taglioni gave her final performance in 1842, her fans clubbed together and paid 200 rubles for her shoes. They then boiled them and ate them.

Going on pointe for young girls (aged 11) is considered an achievable dream and rite of passage. But to the dedicated ballet devotee it takes a lot of hard work, pain and determination to achieve the epitome of dance.

Ballet dancers do suffer many foot ailments as they develop the en pointe technique. Injuries are a regular part of a dancer’s life who cope with many stress fractures and bouts of tendonitis throughout their career. A complication for many dancers is they become so used to foot discomfort they are unable to discriminate between chronic suffering and acute damage. Chronic pain in couch potatoes would prevent them from exercise.

Reviewed 25/01/2016

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Shoe forensics: Shit happens !

The introduction of cheap canvas topped shoes in mid 19th century was specifically for rest & recreation for the working classes, but this was soon put to gainful employ by a group of unscrupulous villains. House burglars wore the new sand shoes, to scale walls and roofs with the ease of a cat, hence they became known as car burglars aided by their sneakers. Later, the shoes took on a style of their own and appealed to the delinquents and the association has continued ever since.

Now forensic scientists can not only identify the make of shoe from a footprint left behind at crime scene, but also the physical characteristics of the person wearing the shoes. So burglars beware. Taking off shoes does not really help the perpetrator either because feet and socks leave distinctive patterns behind for analysis. Skin prints from bare feet are unique, and if the burglar wears socks with holes in them, then all the easier to be identified. Finding sharp objects in the dark with the big toe is not only painful but can also leave tell-tale DNA at the scene of the crime.

Recently an armed robber was caught in Queensland, Australia because he had a clump of dog poo stuck on his shoe. Usually considered good luck, this time it was all the police needed to make a successful arrest. When officers examined a photo taken by the security camera there was a trail of tell-tale footprints into the bank. By good fortune, an off-duty detective was in the vicinity of the robbery and happened to smell something unpleasant prior to the hold-up. Instinctively he noted the number plate of the vehicle nearby which coincidently was the getaway car. Routine enquires soon found the robber and ‘a sniff test’ of his shoes, led to a swift arrest. The felon received a long custodial sentence, which will give him time to think about picking his steps more carefully in future. Shit happens!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Shoe Protest: Walk a mile in these shoes

The power and impact of the shoe and boot are unmistakable when chosen to represent the human condition. Sometime ago I was privileged to be invited to see an exhibition of shoes, children had decorated at a local infants’ school. The medium obviously caught the children’s imagination and the range of exhibits was fantastic with each one surpassing the other for originality. All too good to be singled out but the piece with a pair of overlapping court shoes, one painted in Aboriginal and the other in Iraq national colours epitomised the bond and friendship of the two originators, was outstanding.

Shoes and boots have been used to convey many human traits from those found in roofs and walls of medieval houses, to streets full of discarded shoes left by those escaping falling masonry, during September 11th. The former for luck and the latter for survival, humans place a lot more than their foot comfort in a pair of shoes.

At Auschwitz camp in Block 5 at the museum there is a display of shoes in a huge glass case that takes up half a barracks room. Other Holocaust Memorial Museums have taken a similar theme of a large pile of old shoes confiscated from prisoners. The size and smells of the leather fills the senses poignantly expressing both magnitude and depth of horror those who once proudly wore the shoes had to face. The impact is immense.

Togay and Gyula Pauer’s Shoes on the Danube is a memorial to the lives lost members of the Arrow Cross party rounded up Jewish civilians in 1945 and shot them. Sixty (60) pairs of iron shoes now line the river's bank.

Eyes Wide Open is an exhibit created by the American Friends Service Committee observing the American soldiers and marines that have died in the Iraq War. It contains a pair of combat boots to represent every American soldier and marine that has died in the war, as well as shoes representing Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives during the invasion and occupation. The exhibit was first shown in Chicago's Federal Plaza in January 2004. At that time, the exhibit contained 504 pairs of boots. As of March 2007, the national exhibit contained over 3,400 pairs of boots and had visited more than 100 cities in 40 states. However, as a result of its unmanageable size, the exhibit has been broken down state-by-state. Currently, nearly every state has its own state exhibit. The national exhibit in its entirety would currently contain more than 4,000 pairs of empty boots. Combat boots are not just personal but crucial for every soldier and a pair of empty boots is both a fitting memorial and a stark reminder of the human costs of this war. Each pair of boots were tagged with the deceased's name, rank and home state.

The 2,974 pairs of empty shoes presented at the Ocean Grove 9/11 memorial reflects the diversity of the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001

The Australian Road Safety Foundation's Fatality Free Friday campaign in 2012 was fourteen hundred pairs of shoes, representing the average number of people killed on Australian roads each year. The shoes were laid out Martin Place in Sydney on May 25, 2012.

To commemorate the deaths during the Japanese invasion of Jiangsu Province 6830 pairs of cloth shoes were laid out in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province for a memorial service.

In San Francisco 1,558 pairs of shoes to represent those who have jumped to their deaths from Golden Gate Bridge.

In Milan the victims of sexual violence are memorialized in hundreds of red shoes lining the streets. The red shoe collection was a public protest against violence on women.

To commemorate the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, 8,372 shoes were displayed at a square in Ankara. Funded and supported by the Ankara-based Association of young Bosnians and Ankara’s Keçiören Municipality.

As a memorial to the many thousands of people who have gone missing in Colombia artist Doris Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios seals shoes inside semi-opaque boxes and embeds them into gallery walls, making implicit reference to bodies bricked up inside a wall. Salcedo only reveals hints of the details of each pair of shoes, as they are partially obscured by a cow-bladder curtain. Clarity evades the audience, just as it evades the victims’ families. Each pair is displayed separately, expressing that each disappearance was a separate act, and yet over the exhibition space the number of separate boxes contributes to the sense that each disappearance was part of a much larger picture of Colombian political and social unease. The shoes are spaced apart in the gallery, as if Salcedo is imaging the loneliness that each victim must have felt in his or her final moments.

Following the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, and prior to the Global Climate Summit hundreds of empty pairs of shoes were placed on the streets downtown Paris to symbolise the canceled march environmental activists had planned to hold before climate change talks.

In 2016 in London, a sea of empty shoes filled the grounds outside the Department of Health, Whithall, representing the millions of uninsured people who die each year from treatable conditions. The "#MillionsMissing" protest was part of an international day of action highlighting the plight of untreated people and calling for more help and greater funding from governments. Activists remained completely silent, some wearing gags over their mouths, as they protested alongside the pairs of shoes . The empty footwear referenced the millions of people are missing from their careers, schools, social lives and families across the globe due to the debilitating symptoms of the disease.

The latest empty shoe memorial is on the ground in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Thousands of small shoes were placed there in memoriam of the estimated 7,000 children who have died from gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The Monument for Our Kids, is part of an effort increase pressure on US Congress to pass additional gun control legislation. The shoes, all worn, were donated by thousands of people across The US. The shoe installation was created by Avaaz , is a global organization that coordinates demonstrations for progressive causes. The National School Walkout on the 14th March, was a World Wide call for students to leave their desks empty for 17 minutes to represent the 17 people who were fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The March for our Lives on the 24th March 2018, is a larger demonstration against gun violence and is a collaboration between the student survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Everytown for Gun Safety.

More information
Empty Shoe Memorials

Reviewed 14/03/2018

Leprechaun: Mischief makers and shoe makers

The origins term leprechaun (Modern Irish: leipreachán) remains unclear but it thought to have came from the Irish word “lupracan” which evolved from the Old Irish word “luchorpan” meaning, a very small body. It first appears in the English language about 1604 in Middleton and Dekker's The Honest Whore.

“As for your Irish Lubrican, that spirit
Whom by preposterous charms thy lust has raised.”

The original meaning was of some kind of spirit which was not specifically associated with the Irish mythological character. Some alternative spellings of the word leprechaun that have been used throughout the ages are; leprechawn, lepracaun and lubberkin. Others believe the name is contrived from the Irish, leath bhrogan or shoe maker.

Leprechauns were shoe makers or cobblers and when seen were always making or mending a single shoe. The shoe was a fairy shoe. Oral history is full of tales of the Little people but are difficult to date the earliest reference to leprechauns is in the tale 'The Death of Fergus Mac Leite' which was composed about 1100 ad. This tale was supposed to gave Johnathan Swift his inspiration for 'Gulliver's Travels'.

Leprechauns are Ireland’s national fairy and were thought to have come from the north Leinster area. This lies in the south east of Southern Ireland and comprises the counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. They are a class of "faerie folk" associated in Irish mythology and folklore, as with all faeries, with the Tuatha Dé Danann and other quasi-historical races said to have inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the Celts.

There are two groups of leprechauns i.e. leprechaune and cluricaun, both enjoy partaking in mischief. Leprechauns are quite often seen by humans although they like solitude and appear after rain and at night. They are described as bespectackled, old men, well dressed in old-fashioned clothes with a cap, leather apron, and buckled shoes. In the 19th century Leprechauns were described as dressed in red whereas green clothing replaced the traditional red and the modern leprechaun wore a red hat. They are two foot tall. Traditionally Leprechauns were sly and malicious and definitely not to be trusted by a mortal but modern interpretation has them as afflable types. They were also very fond of the drink and could become real mischief makers. Leprechauns were shoe makers for the fairies and could hold their grog, (a home brew made from heather, unusual herbs and cereals, called poteen), and no matter how drunk they got they could still handle a hammer without affecting their work. Over the years they developed dexterity, strength, leathery impenetrable skin, remarkably thick ear lobes, enlarged organs, and a flighty fear of humans.Leprechauns are usually old man and said to be very rich with many treasure crocks buried in the country side. Leprechaun always carries two leather pouches. In one there is a silver shilling, a magical coin that returns to the purse each time it is paid out. In the other he carries a gold coin which he uses to try and bribe his way out of difficult situations. This coin usually turns to leaves or ashes once the leprechaun has parted with it. When speaking to a leprechaun you must always keep your eye fixed upon them, otherwise take your eyes off him and he will dissapear. In the leprechaun culture there is no difference between commerce and thievery, to them they are one of the same. Small in stature with characturesque features, typical Leprechauns are strong willed and very skillful. They keep to themselves, appearing only in darkness and after rains. There are frightened of water and never wash, yet stay remarkably clean. Of the fairies they have the greatest ability to vanish.

Cluricans can never be trusted and steal anything. The following is a description of a clurican from the 19th century.

...A wrinkled, wizen'd, and bearded Elf,
Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
Silver buckles to his hose,
Leather apron - shoe in his lap..

Clurichauns are always drunk and solitary and surly. If you treat them well, Clurichauns will protect your wine cellar bit when mistreated, they wreak havoc on the home and spoil your wine stock. They are known to harness sheep, goats, dogs and even domestic fowl and ride them across the country at night,

Interesting Sites
Theleprechaun watch The webcam

Reviewed 13/01/2017

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Would you believe it? : Foot Factoids

During the late Middle Ages (about 1500s) men wore long toed shoes (sometimes 24 “longer than their feet) and so it is reported enjoyed under table shenanigans with the fair ladies of the court. This became known as “footsie footsie.”

Perhaps it was distance, which led to enchantment, or just stopped would-be lovers from being overpowering by body smells, which often prevailed. The custom then was for people to bathe only once a year and the annual wash and scrub up took place in May. “May Day” traditionally was when people washed themselves in the morning dew. Some experts believe this accounts for why so many people got married in June.

In any event to mask body odours, brides carried a bouquet of flowers.

Bathing was a family affair and the senior man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water. Sons preceded the women of the house then children and finally the baby. By this time the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Most homes in the Middle Ages had thatched roofs where the domesticated animals lived. When it rained the roof became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off. The term "It's raining cats and dogs," derived from this time.

With no wooden roofing nor ceilings to protect animal droppings and bugs frequently fell on the occupants beneath. Only a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection, hence the four-poster bed.

There was no floor surface other than dirt in commoner’s houses and hence the saying “dirt poor." The better off had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way and this was called the threshold. Carrying the bride over the threshold was quite literal and meant lifting the new woman into her house.

Cooking was less sophisticated than today and took place in a big cauldron suspended over the fire. Each day the fire was lit and new ingredients were added to the pot. The staple diet of the peasant was vegetables with little meat. Stew was the main meal and leftovers were kept in the pot. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the old rhyme,

"Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

For most pork was a delicacy and kept for special occasion, the display of bacon was common sign of how well off you were and became encapsulated in the phrase “bringing home the bacon”. Visitors were treated to a nibble of the precious meat and all sat around the fire “chewing the fat."

More affluent households had pewter plates which meant food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leak onto the food. Many died from lead poisoning. Tomatoes were especially vulnerable to lead uptake and for centuries were considered poisonous.

Alcohol was drunk from lead cups and the combination and quantities consumed made for a heavy dose which rendered the imbiber unconscious for a couple of days. Collapsed drunks were frequently taken as dead and prepared for burial. Laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days the grieving family gathered around, eating and drinking to see if their loved one would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

The death toll of the Black Plague and high infant mortality was so immense as to create the problem of no spaces to bury people. The English custom was to dig up coffins and take the remains to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening the coffins, about 4% were found to have scratch marks on the inside, indicating 1 in every 25 people buried, were buried alive. Desperate matters required desperate measures and corpses henceforth had a string tied around their wrist lead through the coffin and up to the surface where it was tied to a bell. Night watchmen sat in the graveyard listening for the bell. This gave rise to the sayings “the graveyard shift" and "saved by the bell" as well as “dead ringer."

Breads were divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Trades people were not always as honest as they might and often punished for cheating. The favoured corporal punishment was foot beating (falanga). British bakers were in fear of being accused of shonky practice and adopted a policy of giving an extra roll with every dozen sold, hence the Bakers’ Dozen.

Reviewed 13/03/2018