Last week, Ken and I finished a fascinating series we stumbled across together on YouTube: The Worst Jobs in History.
Think of it as Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs meets PBS’s Pioneer House meets Blackadder (this last because it’s hosted by Tony Robinson, who once played the turnip-loving manservant Baldrick on that lovely old BBC gem).
In Worst Jobs, Robinson works his way through various epochs in British history, from Anglo-Saxon times through the Victorian era, trying his hand at the most awful livelihoods historians can find to throw at him.
From cultivating fields with wooden(!) plowshares to wiping kingly bottoms to pulling loaded coal trolleys through dark mine shafts, these jobs weren’t (and aren’t) for the faint of heart. Many were physically brutal. Many were dangerous. A disturbing number of them involved poo.
As I go through life and bloggerdom merrily calling myself “old fashioned,” then, I suppose a brief clarifying word is in order:
I do know that not everything in days of auld lang syne was strawberries and cream. For every happy yeoman farmer, there were many others not so happy — serfs and servants, impoverished peasants, industrial wage slaves.
And I must confess (though it won’t surprise you to know) that there are many newfangled innovations for which I’m very, very grateful: flush toilets, for instance. Epidurals. Window screens. Poly-cotton blends. Refrigerators. Kleenex. Not having to work twelve hours a day in a nineteenth-century textile mill.
It is yet another modern luxury, I suppose, that I have the privilege of choosing the ways in which I am old fashioned. I get to work in the garden — and I love to work in the garden — but I don’t have to work in the garden, at least not in the way that most of my great great grandmothers did. If a groundhog eats a third of the crop (as one pernicious beastie did last year), I know we won’t go hungry.
That’s a comforting thing, because as much as I love timeless living, I’m still not all that good at it.
I must say, though: thanks to Tony Robinson, I’m pretty sure I could now build a fairly decent wattle and daub hovel, if I ever had to.
I’d just need to get my hands on lots and lots of poo.