Tag Archives: Samuel Pepys

March 20th

On this day in 2003 the US,  the UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and so started the Iraq war or the conflict or Operation Iraqi Freedom or “That fucker dissed my dad and he’s got oil,we’re going in!”

 

The Black Death turned doctors into scary bird creatures

The war itself was declared the day before, despite the fact that most of the world said it was wrong and we should all take a chill pill and do a bit more looking for those alleged weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that UN Resolution 1441 was in no way a permission to go to war and despite the fact that somewhere between six and ten million people in 800 cities across the world had protested against the will to go to war against Iraq. Basically George W Bush and Tony Blair had made their minds up that they would do what they wanted to do and to hell with what anyone else thought. Most of us knew at the time that the reasons for us going in were a lie and if we didn’t know then we know now. Some thought that the lie was fine because Saddam Hussein is no more and that matters more than legality, truth, honest, morality and anything else you’d like to throw into the pot. Others of us think that getting revenge for your dad, lying to the people who elected you and thinking that you have the right to decide which alleged human rights abuses you’ll get all fighty about based on oil is a fucker’s trick. And never the twain shall meet. Probably.

 

Now, we could explore this in minute detail, but you all know what happened and what’s still happening, so instead we’ll look at another, well it’s not so much a lie as the result of a bunch of academics – albeit olde worlde ones – putting their heads together and coming up with a clusterfuck of stupidity.

This day in 1345 is the day when the Black Death was created. Allegedly. That’s right, learned scholars from the University of Paris came to this conclusion because on March 20th 1345 there was a triple conjunction of the Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius. To be fair to them, I looked this up in my Dummies Guide to Astrology and it does confirm that when Saturn, Jupiter and Mars get all conjuncted up, there will be an outbreak of the sniffles, and if they do it in the 40th degree of Aquarius, then those sniffles will turn into the black death. If they do it in the 42nd degree we all get over it within a couple of days but have to be wary of a rather explosive dose of the trots.

The thing is that along with the planets doing their righteous dance, the black death also required the existence of rats and fleas

Matthias Grunewald seems to have thought that one of the symptoms of plague was "turning into a frog"

aplenty and as luck would have it, there were shitloads of the fuckers around in the fourteenth century.  Disease probably spread along the Silk Road and then the rats got on ships to go on their holidays and spread it all around Europe. There was a delightful Schadenfreude in this spread and it went as follows. Italy finds itself all infected with people dropping dead in the streets, throwing up blood and being covered in buboes (swellings, hence bubonic plague) and black spots. The Italians are, as one can imagine, shitting it, and over in Spain they’re laughing at them. “Ooh look at you! If you were good like us God wouldn’t kill you with the Black Death!”. And then what do you know! Oh dear, the Spanish are dying. Now the French are laughing and then, merde! They’re all carking it and the English are … etc.

 

Basically the Europeans all thought they were too pious and good to get it and enjoyed the suffering of other countries and regions until of course they got it. It was a bastard of a pandemic. We don’t for sure how many people died, but scholars (not the shitehawks who were all “oh when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars”) estimate somewhere between 75 and 200 million. It took Europe 150 years to recover from it in terms of social demographic losses.   It was awful in other ways. People in olden times were all about being punished by God, so rather than see the disease for what it was, they saw it as God’s judgement and as such they had to find someone to judge themselves. Enter the beggars, the lepers, the so-called witches and of course the Jews. There were persecutions, murders and torture. What was so nice about this was that even if you escaped the plague you had a really good chance of being different enough to be murdered anyway. Ain’t life grand!

The plague hung around for centuries, popping up every now and then to keep the population on its toes. The last great outbreak in England was in 1665 and we all know that the next year Samuel Pepys got rid of it by getting drunk as a skunk and burning London down.

So there we have it, boys and girls. March 20th is a day for lies and nonsense!

 

Today is the birthday of Little Miss Firecracker, Holly Hunter. She is probably best known for her role as a mute piano player in The Piano where she plays the piano and has sex with Harvey Keitel, but for me she shines brightest in the aforementioned Miss Firecracker, Raising Arizona, Broadcast News and O Brother Where Art Thou.

She’s tiny, quirky, sweet, funny and every bit of her Georgia upbringing is still present in her voice. I like her because she’s tiny (5’2″ apparently) and feisty and sometimes I’d like to be her. She is also a woman who lives her private life out of the public eye. She has

Cute little policewoman

two children, probably twin boys, but their names and ages and in fact anything about them is not up for public discussion. There are a lot of people in the public eye who could learn a bloody lot from her.

 

She’s been around as an actress for 30 years and yet manages to still give off a youthful feel, not through the sleight of hand of cosmetic surgery, but through being full of life and spirit. She may actually be some sort of pixie or elf. I am almost certain that she s a minx.

And that is all really. I just like her and I like watching her in films where I don’t have to see Harvey Keitel’s bare arse going up and down. Happy birthday Holly Hunter. I think you’re just lovely!

Oh, I also like her in Crash, but that’s because it’s a films for perverts.

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February 23rd

On this day in 1820 a dreadful and treacherous conspiracy, by a group of so-called philanthropists was uncovered. It is known as the Cato Street Conspiracy and their plot was to murder the Prime Minister of the time, Lord Liverpool, and as many members of the

It all kicks off in Cato Street

cabinet as they could take down.

The group took their philosophy from  Thomas Spence, a noted British radical, and called themselves the Spencian Philanthropists.  Where many philanthropists exhibited their charity by baking pies for paupers and thrashing themselves after having touched a prostitute, the Spencians were a little bit more proactive and killy. One of their number, James Ings, who had once been a butcher, wanted to cut off the heads of the Prime Minister and the cabinet and put some of them on Westminster Bridge. He is the great-great-great-great grandfather of Damien Hirst who has inherited his ancestor’s love of butchery and displaying the fruits of his labour in public places.

Their beef against the government was twofold. They were pretty annoyed about the Peterloo Massacre, which was only right as it was an act of great barbarity by the State and wanting to kill the leaders of the country in its aftermath, whilst probably a little bit on the harsh side, was also pretty understandable (Precis: There was a big meeting in St Peter’s Field in Manchester, a crowd of about 60,000-80,000 gathered to demand parliamentary reform, especially in regard to representation. The local magistrate asked the military to arrest the organiser and disperse the crowd. They thought the best way to do this would be to send in the cavalry with sabres drawn. It’s a miracle that only 15 people were killed and somewhere between 400-700 injured. The name? Irony, darlings. Waterloo was a defining moment of triumph in 1815, Peterloo was a defining moment of shame in 1819). The Spencians were also not best pleased with the Six Acts that they government were bringing in on the back of Peterloo. Given that the acts were all about denying rights and restricting liberty, when Peterloo had shown that the people who needed to wind their necks in were the military, it’s again hardly surprising that hackles were raised and feathers more than ruffled. So it was that the intrepid traitors set about putting a cunning plan together.

The problem was that the plan was far from cunning and their leader was a fud. Arthur Thistlewood, for that was his name, was  man who had thus far failed at everything he had tried in life. He had  radical fire burning within him, but while the fire was bright, he was dim. The plan was to storm a dinner party held by Lord Harrowby and attended by the PM and his cabinet. The fact that this dinner party had been announced in The Times, didn’t seem at all fishy to him, he chose as his second in command a man who was a police

William Davidson

spy and was suspected by his band of merry marauders. And Thistlewood was arrogant. On the night of the 23rd, William Davidson – who had been a servant of Lord Harrowby – visited the Harrowby residence and had a chat with one of his mates. He discovered that Harrowby was not at home and there was no dinner planned. He rushed back to inform Thistlewood who refused to believe him. Looking at the picture of Davidson, one cannot help but think that Thistlewood was a bit of a racist as well as a blithering idiot. By now, it really didn’t matter. The police were on to them and camped out in a pub across the road. At 7.30pm they decided a little apprehension was in order and went off to collar the miscreants. A brawl ensued, a copper was killed by Thistlewood, some conspirators escaped (to be later found and arrested) and the rest were taken into custody.

The tale does not have a happy ending for most. All eleven men captured were tried, found guilty and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. Yes, that’s right, it was 1820 and hanging still wasn’t quite enough, they had to draw pictures of them as well and then cut them up into quarters!  Realising that they might be being a bit too bloodthirsty, the sentences were commuted to just plain hanging and beheading, which was nice of the liberal-softie judiciary. Later still five of the men had their sentences commuted to transportation, but Thistlewood and Davidson were hung and decapitated along with four others.

It is never a good idea to try to murder people you’re outraged at, but it’s not hard to see that this group of radicals were pretty shit at the whole conspiracy thing. In the aftermath of the whole affair the government were accused of entrapment for the purposes of putting their Six Act Farce through parliament. Liverpool and his cronies came out of the whole thing rather badly. As did their farce. The Six Acts were eventually dropped with the most heinous one, all about being seditious if you had some mates around for tea, getting repealed four years later in 1824.

Today was the birthday of the famous bewigged diarist, Samuel Pepys.  Old Sam was born in 1633 and has been dead for a couple of years now, but my the things he saw! He was around for the plague, the Great Fire of London, and that time Nell Gwynne’s tit fell out of her dress at the King’s Theatre and everyone laughed.

His diaries are a wonderful legacy, we’ve learned so much from them and his accounts of daily life and great events alike was vivid and detailed, bringing us far closer to the events and the time, than most dried out historians whose name might rhyme with llama

Jon Bon Jovi's hair was inspired by his great love of Samuel Pepys

ever could. However, along with those entries we treasure there are numerous less noteworthy ones. This one, for example, could have been written by any emo teenager from any era: The twenty-third day of February 1646 – ’tis my birthday, but am I in receipt of fine presents. A fizzle on the arsworms I call friends, I have had nothing! The cook has made sweetmeats. Whatever. [later] Mother agreed that I had reason to be aggrieved on this day, so did let me stay up late and watch Buffy the Slayer of deadly Vampires. Why does nobody understand me!”

He was also a dreadful one for the laydeez and often wrote about all the jiggery pokery he got up to in his diary. These entries are to profane to sully my good readers’ eyes with … oh okay November 18th 1671 – Mrs _________ let me fiddle with her merkin while she jiggled her fine boobies. Hawt! Really not very edifying at all. But! While we should not forget that he was a randy little bugger with all manner of tics and sillinesses about his character, look at what he left us – a window on a world that would otherwise be lost to us!

Props, Mr Pepys and thanks, and while you’re in some fantasy afterlife, writing about how Marie Antoinette is all about the muff these days, take a moment to enjoy this, the anniversary of your very fine birth. Happy birthday Sam the Man!


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