Stir and sterility

8 March, in the year of our Lord 2021

The gymnaseum closed, I find myselfe all the time a-slouch, for sitting so much and turning the leafs of a book is little exercise, so today I determined I shall improve my fitnesse and will exercise more at home, and do it every day, and pay more scrupulose attention to my Diett. The tension of my Arteries, which I measured again on my fathers Contrapcion, is 5 ft. 9 in. over 3 ft. 5 in. of water, for which I am much contented, for the sistolick being the same as my height means my heart can pump my blood from ground level to the top of my head. Enquired by the Messenger of Mr. M. Jones what means exactly a Unitt of alcohole, having read two weeks since of that notion on the Health page of the gazette.
  ‘Ah,’ says he. ‘It is a very easy thing to remember. A single unitt is equal to a gallon of beer, a quart of wine or sack, or a half pint of strong water.’
  ‘Admirable,’ say I, ‘for I am inclined to improve the state of my health by being more pro Active and am to exercise more and drink less.’
  ‘Well done,’ says he. ‘And when do you propose to start these commendable activities?’
  ‘I have started already!’ say I, proudly.
  ‘You cannot have started. Last night at mine you had a pint of Ho Bryan,1 and it is still only half-past ten in the morning. Unless you have already run round the block.’
  ‘I have forsook my normal breakfast draught of strong water,’ say I, slightly put out. ‘In fact, to aid my endeavore and quench my desire for it I shall offer you all that remains, if you wish it.’
  ‘“It” being — ?’
  ‘A remaining half cask of a distillation made from local herbs and “unshelled produce”,’ say I, reading aloud the words on the barrel.
  ‘Possibly garden peas, then?’ says he.
  ‘Possibly,’ say I. ‘The cask is a little dirty and the print indistinct. It was a present from someone for Christmas, but I am not sure I like it.’
  ‘I think I remember from whom it was a present,’ says he. ‘I shall stick to the French red. But thank you for the thought. I’m sure you can palm it off on someone else.’
  Anon, to letters, not least to read again what Mrs. Cadwallader has wrote a few days since about my being a Vaxernator: that I should make myselfe out of a courtesy an account with NSH Track Jobbes, so I may make another applicacion with ease should I wish it (which I do not) and be advised of any other work of interest to me (which is none), so I do not really want to do it, though in the end, decided I would do it; but it is now two months since I had a mind to start it all and the wind is out of my sails, it hath took so long. After dinner, which I had with a tankard of rose Lemonayde from Fentyman’s shop with it, I to the Physicians, carrying before me my cask half full of liquor. Inside, perched on a stool and looking a little the worse for wear, sat Mr. Erchin, cleaning a batch of inoculacion needles with a crusty handkerchief. I set my keg before him on his counter, beside his unwashed mug of cold tea set upon a small tea tray.
  ‘Arfternoon, Mr. Peacepipe,’ says he, raising his eyebrows at the vat in front of him.
  ‘I thought I would venture to inquire of you as to progress with my vaxernator Applicacion, since I have heard naught from Mrs. Cadwallader or her teame,’ say I.
  ‘I would not ’old your breath, Mr. Paupers,’ says he. ‘Supplies are hintermittent. Plus, we ’ave used up all our Batche and are obliged to await fresh blocks of ice to keep cold any new they send us. What’s in the barrel?’
  ‘Ah,’ say I. ‘It is an alcoholick beveridge of some potency, surplus to requirements now I am on a health kick. Having recently read the Module on “Controlle of Infecktion”, I wondered to kill two birds with a single stone, and both remove it from my own temptacion and donate it for the purpose of your cleansing your needles.’
  ‘Well, that is uncommonly generouse of you, Mr. Popsy. I have a dozen such neadles ’ere, which is all we are allowed so we must re-cicle them. Your gift will ’elp enormosly, for the second Monday of each month is the day we clean ’em, but with my ’avin been too much on the ale last night, today I am a little short of spittle, so I ’ave been reliant for the purpose upon this rag I found in a pocket. It is from when I ’ad the catarrh at Christmas. I shall create a bath for these neadles and soak and agitate them for severalle minutes to remove all noxious Agents of infecktion.’
  At which he removed from the bunghole of the cask its bung, drained what remained of the tea in his mug and refilled the mug with my strong water. Into this he tipped his dozen grubby neadles, and started to stir them with a forefinger.
  ‘’Ow is your good father these days, if I may ask?’ says he, by way of inconsequential discourse.
  ‘He is well,’ say I. ‘The results of his latest envestigacions are excellent. He is to go into the magick ray Contryvance in another three months, but that is all. They are keeping the leeches as a second-line treatment.’
  ‘I do ’ope I was not too bold to inquire,’ says he, continuing absent-mindedly to stir. ‘’Ave you by the way seen that the Butchershoppe is up for sale?’
  ‘MacSporran’s?’ say I, in surprise (for I had not seen it). ‘But he hath not long been in the trade!’
  ‘I do not doubt there’ll be a story behind it,’ says he. ‘There!’ he adds. ‘We are done.’ He licks his finger clean. ‘All that now remains is to dry them.’ With the same hand he takes from the mug each neadle individually, drags it through the opposyte armpit and sets it on the tea tray. Then he examines his mugg.
  ‘Shame to waste it. Hair of the dogge and all that,’ says he, and gulps downs the entyre remaining mugfulle of spirit, which makes him pull a face, and also something out of his mouth. ‘It hath a distinctive flavour, I’ll give it that,’ says he. ‘Is this a piece of shell?’
  ‘Could be,’ say I, squinting at what he holds between finger and thumb.
  ‘The boss’ll want this barrel stored round the back. Would you oblige, if I clean it up a little?’
  ‘I have already brought it at great effort all the way down here for you!’ exclaim I with some indignation. ‘You are much younger than I. Can you not carry it yourselfe? Or have you not done the Manuall Handling module?’
  ‘I ’ave done none of them modules, Mr. Porpoise,’ says he with not a little scorn, taking his kerchief to the barrel and rubbing away at the dirt on it. ‘Complete waste of time, if you ask me. Oh! Now I have cleaned the staves, it says here what is the contents of your cask.’ He screws up his eyes to read the unclear print and blanches. ‘Snail-water?!’ cries he. ‘I have drunk a mugfulle of snail-water?!’
  ‘Ah, yes,’ say I, brightening. ‘I remember now. It was a present at Christmas from Mr. M. Jones: a fine distillation of snails, herbs and sack!’ I try to allay his obvious concern. ‘But you must not worry,’ I say, comfortingly, ‘for you have had far less than a Unitt. All you have had is a small slug.’

1. Pepys first encountered ‘Ho Bryan’ [the claret Haut Brion] at ‘the Royall Oak Tavern, in Lumbard Street’, on 10 April 1663. He pronounced that it ‘hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with’.

By andywmacfarlane

I am a retired medic who likes messing around with a bit of writing, and friends seemed to like my social media postings of "Samuel Pepys: The Covid Diaries". So I'm having a go at blogging them.

2 replies on “Stir and sterility”

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