I thought it was time we wended our way back into the mists of the past to re-visit our old friends from the 17th century.
And one or two from the 18th too.
And since it is Twelfth Night shall we see what they are up to at the end of the Christmas festivities?
Yes…it is Twelfth Night and no…it’s not just a play of that name by one William Shakespeare. Twelfth Night marks the end of the Winter celebrations which began with the ceremonies of All Hallows Eve…Halloween to you.
A person would be appointed to be the overseer of the festivities and this person would be The Lord Of Misrule.
The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day, even the King and Queen and all those who were highly placed would become the servants and the servants and the peasantry got a chance to see what it was like to GIVE the orders! To a point of course.
Special cakes were baked and eaten. Other food was prepared ( remember this is a lean time of the year… not a lot of food about) and for many, it was a chance to eat drink and make merry, for you never quite knew where your next meal was coming from. Winter was still biting hard.
SO who is to be our Lord of Misrule?
Let’s eavesdrop on the household of the 17th century dummy board, V&A Gentleman with Cane otherwise known as Sir Bumptious Grandly!
Ah yes…here he is….and Oh dear… I think he has been overdoing the port a bit over Christmas… maybe he has gout….he seems to have a gammy leg!
” Gammy leg indeed” we hear him cry…” Nothin’ to do with the port. Damned icy steps.. I’ll crack the head of the servant , if I ever find him, who failed to sweep the step properly and lay down salt.”
( Actually we happen to know that Sir Bumptious is rather mean and he forbade his poor servants to use up the rather expensive salt rations, on the outside steps. Hmmmmm)
” Goin’ about my lawful business at the coffee house and th’exchange was Hellish labyrinthine I can tell you. Me Sedan men were slippin’ and slidin’ all over. And it was Mortal cold …I can tell you.
( Sir Bumptious is not known for his plain speaking.
Shall we translate. ) ( See I like Coffee, I like Tea )
” Going to work at the Coffee House…no he doesn’t wait on tables but sits around drinking the stuff till it sends him dizzy, talking to his friends, playing cards and speculating on stocks and shares..oh and pinching the bottom of the (only) lady who is allowed in, The Coffee Drawer or maker of the drinks. The Exchange of course is where he goes to actually fiddle about with his money.Labrynthine? He just means it took him a long time to get there and that his Sedan chair men, those poor unfortunates who are engaged to lift him up in a covered seat and ferry him to and fro, were rather uncertain of their foothold on the ice.
The servants are all standing in a row in front of him.
He points his stick at them.
” Now….in this season I want no daffing about, no darraigning and any man I see deboshed will go straight in the ice house! ”
Ah- this means that anyone who fools around too much, who sets the place in disarray whilst drunk, will go straight in the cold pantry.
” Who have you chosen to be the Lord tonight then? ”
The French Chef steps forward.This is the much celebrated Monsieur Yves Grosseteste. ( IN English he would be Ivor BigHead…but you don’t tell him that!)
” T’is Moi Sir….I ‘ave all thee fud orgeenized. Zere ees little to do now. I go and put on my corstume.”
This is the only member of staff Sir Grandly cannot intimidate. Something to do with the large French meat cleaver he likes to stuff into his belt. His Hachoir…mmm sounds scary doesn’t it?
Anyway off goes Ivor to get ready for his role as Master of the revels. The others disperse and Sir Grandly goes back to his bottle of claret.
Ivor is to wear a special outfit for the Lord of Misrule.
He has a small hat for his head with a peak and a feather. He wears a many coloured striped doublet, which just about fits around his skinny middle, pantaloon breeches for his rather large bottom and an enormous ruff. He carries a staff with ribbons and bells on. He looks frankly, quite a sight. He will give the orders and the rest must obey. Oh and he still has his meat cleaver in his ( straining) belt, along with his gentlemanly sword. Remember, he is no longer a servant. ( If he ever though he was !)
We can hear him singing in his kitchen!
To the tune of Lilibulero ( a very famous 17th c. tune )
” Champs Elysees, et La Tour Eiffel
I’m going to geeve zem all merry ‘ell!
Feexing a meal to fill zem all up
Somesing quite naughty in ze wine cup.
Drinkit, stinkit, I am so clever
Zey will be running all night to ze pot
Zey never will guess it, zey never no never
Zey never can blame me, never can not!”
Oh dear it looks like Sir Grandly’s household is in for a bit of a shock! Of course he is quite right….. they can’t blame him. He’s the BOSS! He can do what he likes.
I think we will go down the road and see what is happening in the house of our other friend, Sir Filthy Looks and his wife, Lady Bonnie Looks.
Here it’s a little more decorous it seems. There is quite a bit of partying going on but no one is drunk yet and the chef isn’t threatening them with a meat cleaver, ( or with a nasty potion in the wine).
Ah…our little maidservant, the one we met doing the shopping in A Messy Business, I think her name is Iris Kalot, she is putting the finishing touches to the Twelfth Night Pie. She is a maid of all work and so she has to do some of the cooking as well.
She too is singing. It’s a nice sweet, three four melody… ah that’s better….
“Ha ha ha, he he he, how I love little fish, love to buy and to serve little fish!
First I cut off their heads, then I pull out their bones,
However they are -they’re delish!
Ha Ha Ha He He He they are all food to me,
With a cleaver I hack them in two
Then I pull out what’s inside and I serve it up fried
‘Cos I love little fishes don’t you?
Oh dear…can’t we get away from cleavers in this street?
“Here is something for tempting the palate
Prepared in the classic technique.
First you pound the fish flat with a mallett
Then you slash through the skin, give the belly a slice,
The you rub some salt in, ‘cos that
m a k e s i t t a s t e n i c e.”
Ah…I think she has been having lessons from Monsieur Grosseteste….
Deary Me, don’t forget, that we must keep you wet
Ah… I think she means moist but of course it doesn’t rhyme. Ivor…sorry, Yves, doesn’t know that word.
Then we stuff you with bread, it don’t ‘urt ‘ cos yer dead
And yer certainly lucky you are.
‘Cos it’s goin’ to be ‘ot in my big boiling pot,
Tooda loo, little fishy, au revoir!”
Oh dear… I think we know what is being served up in the Looks household this evening.
Sounds a fishy business to me.