Last week, during flooding in my local area, I ended up living several days essentially on an island. I live up on a hill, but the main road at the bottom of the neighborhood was closed, the power was out a conserve-and-boil-water order was in effect. My children and I talked about earlier days when no one had electricity, TV, etc… I toyed with the notion of whether this was giving me a taste of Regency life, but quickly rejected it.
As we figured out ways to cook everything on a barbecue grill, I realized that in the Regency we would have had a wood, or more likely, coal-burning stove of some sort, as pictured here (the kitchen at Pickford’s House, Friar Gate, Derby, built after 1812). More importantly, I (or more likely, my cook-let’s keep it a proper Regency fantasy) would know how to use it. Instead of worrying about the food in the fridge and freezer spoiling, we’d have cellars or get fresh stuff from the home farm or local market.
As far as personal hygiene was concerned, in my Regency fantasy I’d have a nice avante-garde bathroom such as the ‘bamboo bathroom’ at Plas Tag in Wales. The bath includes a shower with its own coal-fired water supply. Of course, I’d also have the means and the servants to bathe daily, as Beau Brummell is supposed to have done.
Inconveniences aside, the most striking thing was the feeling of isolation. We had only the radio to keep us advised as to the situation. Up on out hill everything was almost surreally normal–kids played outside, I did some gardening, lots of people were out grilling. It was just very quiet with no one driving in and out. Without the visual images on TV or a storm of Internet news, it was hard to grasp the extent of the devastation in lower areas. As it turns out, we were very lucky compared to some. Fortunately, there were very few fatalities in our area, but many people’s houses and businesses have sustained serious damage.
Anyway, after a few days of isolation, we learned that a somewhat roundabout, country road way of getting out of our neighborhood had opened up. We were expecting houseguests coming from Chicago, but they called, telling us the western routes to our town were still closed, so we arranged to meet them further to the north. We ending up “roughing it” together in a Fairfield Inn, conveniently located close to a children’s museum, a zoo, restaurants and boasting a pool. What I enjoyed the most, though, were the hot showers and hot coffee each morning. The best thing was getting home to find the power back on ahead of NYSEG predictions, our pet fish still alive and only moderately unpleasant smells from the fridge.
So I’ll admit it. I’m a wimp, I like my modern comforts and my Regency fantasy has to include all the most up-to-date conveniences of the time. And many, many servants. 🙂
Hope all my Risky friends and guests are safe and reasonably dry!
LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, Golden Quill Best Historical Romance
Congratulations, Elena, on surviving what could’ve been a scary ordeal with aplomb and making it so for your kids, too.
Sounds like not so much fun! Like you, I am a wimp.
Plus I just found out people used to use sheep wool as bathroom tissue. Ugh! Toilet paper as we know it wasn’t invented until the 1890s.
So even with all those servants, I wouldn’t want to live back then. Plus the fact that I’d have been dead anyway, what with the asthma and all. Yay for the 21st century! Glad Elena and her family have their power back!
Reasonably hot is what some of us are! And far too dry.
Glad you survived your ordeal, Elena, and glad the power was on before predicted! That makes a very nice ending to the story. I’m sure your kids will remember this for a long time, and I bet they actually had some fun. (As for you, glad the Fairfield Inn could take you in, and properly caffeinate you.) 🙂
BTW, Megan, wool was definitely not the worst thing people used for toilet paper. But as you can’t handle even that, I will kindly refrain from relating things that would gross you out even more. 🙂
Glad you made it back to the 21st century in safety, Elena! I hope your ordeal was not too trying.
Your comments reminded me of some thoughts I had a few years ago watching the PBS special “The 1900 House”–a family who grew up in that time would not have found things nearly as difficult as a 20th (or 21st) century family transported back in time, who had no experience in operating a coal-fired stove or doing laundry without modern detergents.
I recently read “Inside the Victorian Home” by Judith Flanders, about Victorian domestic life. The book concentrated in great detail on things like how dirty coal fires and gas lights were, how hard the work of servants was, how the new chemical dyes were poisonous and the sewers were overloaded. The whole thing left me with the strong feeling that Judith Flanders doesn’t really *like* the Victorians. Not that what she wrote wasn’t true! Everything was thoroughly documented. But she seemed to focus almost exclusively on the negatives. To someone born at the time, conditions that we would have difficulty enduring were everyday facts of life.
Anyway, I hope you’re settled back at home and none the worse for wear.
I’m glad you’re home safe, Elena! Last year, we had a power-outage for a couple of days around Christmastime. It was the first time I had ever lit a fire in my fireplace, and I considered trying to write by candlelight with a quill pen, but then didn’t. 🙂 It was kind of fun for a day, but wouldn’t want to live like that!
I’m fascinated by those “House” programs on PBS (“1900 House” is still my favorite, I think). It’s amazing how whiny and full of interpersonal conflicts people get when they’re out of their comfort zone…