Set Fair - 30 June 1858

Wandering through the orchards earlier, I was most pleased with the apple-set. The "blooth", as Charley insisted on calling it, was very heavy back in May and it would appear that the cider harvest is set to go well. Big, big crop of apples coming, by the look of it.
In just 152 short years, most of the populace will be drinking industrial cider that is a "disgrace to the name of stimmilent". Which is bad. Just a few brave cider-makers keeping a craft going.
Whereas here, it's mostly craft, home-brewed. OK, some of it takes repulsive and it's got bits floating in it. But it's all apple (except when the rain gets in) and at least nobody gets the Devon colic any more.

Mr Shiner again - 30 June 1858

I tell you, that Mr Shiner is a danger to shipping.

Round again today. He was hinting that he wanted a quiet chat alone on "business matters". Well, the Hnaefs own their share in the house, of course, but Mrs Hnaef knew I could be relied on to be fairly hard-headed so left me to it. Hnaef himself, of course, is off "supervising" the harvest. And keeping an eye on the cider jugs, no doubt.

Anyway - back to Shiner. Next thing I know he's protesting undying love and chasing me round the table. Undying love for the land and the money, more like. We're both too old for this kind of thing. Reminded me of that old Wurzels song - "I've got a brand-new combine harvester".
Anyway, I left him in no doubt as to the situation. And he limped off clutching his - ahem - middle parts in a way as best compatible with the old stiff upper lip as he could.
Which leaves me with a couple of thoughts. One from old Reuben Dewy, who saw Shiner limping out and told me that he can be a dangerous enemy. And the other being that Victorian dress isn't best designed for using your knees to good effect, and I may have to hunt out my steel-toe-caps from the boot of the Porsche.

Far from the Madding Crowd - 29 June 1858

Often the wisest courses in affairs of the heart belong not to the logical mind, but to the meanderings of an inflamed imagination.. The man  who,  looking long and deep into life sees only himself, is looking not into life but into a pond.  Or, in short, Hnaef brings more news from Weatherbury.

Apparently a soldier - one Sergeant Frank Troy - has appeared in the village and made a half-hearted and transparently flimsy attempt to help with hay-making. Hnaef finds this deeply obnoxious, presumably on the "pot and kettle" principle, but possibly also because our dashing Sergeant has been - as Hnaef so graphically puts it - "sniffing around" that Angel of the Cornmarket, Miss Bathsheba Everdene.  Hnaef says we should do something about it.  So do I.  I suggest we should make a start by minding our own business.

Far from the Maddening Crows - 28 June 1858

A man in a fever of busy-ness may be suffering from a surfeit of zeal, a restless nature, or a stirring in the loins.
And far be it from me to cast aspersions.

I'm sure that Hnaef's sudden interest in the village of Weatherbury is entirely due to his love of riding across the Heath, the bucolic beauty of the place, and his desire once again to thank young Gabriel Oak for saving our hay rick.

I'm sure that his seeing young Bathsheba Everdene yesterday, when he went over there to say thanks to Gabriel, wasn't instrumental in his setting out for the place again this morning. And again after lunch. And after dinner. In fact, frankly he's legging it about the place on that horse of his at all hours.

I'm trying to keep it quiet from Daphne. But there's no doubt about it. The fertility of the soil, the sap of the trees, the sheer pagan fecundity of the landscape - it's got deep into Hnaef's soul. I'm going to have to find some bromide to slip in his tea.

Trendy Vicars - 27 June 1858

Fourth Sunday after Trinity 

Old Reuben Dewy in after Church this morning, livid about what we used to call in the 21st century a problem with a trendy vicar. I hadn't noticed anything amiss, but Parson Maybold put some candles on the table today instead of in the window. Apparently this is bad.

"First thing he did he was be hot and strong about parish matters. Then he had the font fixed. Then he threw the old quire out, neck and crop, and replaced it with an organ. Then he started wearing that surplice - like a gen'lman's smock..  Then he started having that Holy Communion every month. And now - now it's the candles on the table. I tell you, Lady Eileen - 'a baint goin' to stop till he's turnt hisself into the Pope!"

Now I've never really associated Reuben with deep religious feelings.  He goes to church, he moans incessantly that the "Old Quire" doesn't play anymore, he goes home.  But under that strain of Anglican middle-of-the-road reactionary conservatism., he gets quite upset about the dangers of "Popery".  Reuben's view is that we should have seen this coming in '40 - that his father William warned him - and that the Pope's legions are on the way.

The local amateur fire-fighter - 26 June 1858

Would you believe it. Not even a week into hay-making and we have a rick fire.
Some say it was kids (for "kids" as a term for children is used even now, you know) and some say it was one of the local village idiots - which really still leaves us with a wide field of suspects.
But I suspect it was just Hnaef trying out his new telescope. He bought it to impress that Lady Constantine he met the other day while he was out for a jaunt visiting the stately homes round near Warborne. Instead of using it to view the wonders of the solar system, he tried using it to make ants explode in strong sunshine and I reckon he caught the rick.
But the good news is that the rick was saved just in time. That new shepherd over at Weatherbury, young Gabriel Oak, heroically climbed the rick, knocked off all the burning bits, and arranged a bucket chain to sort out the rest.
Apparently that's the third rick young Gabriel has rescued already. So my other theory about how the fire started is, it's actually Gabriel going round lighting them himself so he can make himself out to be a hero.
They say Gabriel's a good shepherd, reasonable bailiff and just the man to have around when you sheep start exploding. That's all well and good. But I'm still not letting him around our fields if we think he might be in possession of anything capable of kindling a flame.

The Missionary Position - 25 June 1858

Mr Maybold round earlier. Yet again. Showing me some drawings of the "restoration" he's contemplating for St Michaels. Telling me the place would be so much better suited for the worship of God - if only he could find some sponsor that had more money than sense. I nodded in appreciation but didn't pull out the treasure chest.
Maybold's also very happy that Hnaef has offered to do some missionary work. Mrs Hnaef isn't quite so convinced. Yes, sharing the Good News with the impoverished is always a good thing. But it would appear that Hnaef is busying himself with spreading the light at the Women's Skittle Alley in Dorchester. It may technically be in line with the Great Commission, but the methods appear somewhat unorthodox to me.

TXT C19 Style

Amazing really. You drop back a century and a half and you discover that some things are just the same.
The new telegraph, for example. Radical beyond belief, giving people the ability to communicate over distances of literally dozens of miles in almost no time.
It's so similar to the use of txt that I keep forgetting what century I'm in. I've managed to explain to my correspondents the concept of LOL and TBH. But there's a straight-laced lady in Woking who's not talking to me any more since I responded to one of her communications with LMAO. Apparently you don't say that these days. 

St John's Eve - 23/24 June 1858

Young Dorcas, my maidservant, has just gotten back from her St John's Eve jaunt in Yalbury Wood. Rather flustered is, I think, quite a good description of her.
I remember this was quite a tradition of the Beaker Fertility Folk back in the future - rushing off into the woods on St John's Eve. The slight difference being that they did it every other day of the year as well. Earlier on I caught Dorcas peeling an apple very carefully, so I suspect she's been trying to find out who her husband will be. Although she may have a little more idea after this evening's revelry, I suspect.

Meanwhile, Charley's in a state as well. He decided to sit up in the Church hatch to see who from the parish was going to die within the year.  Goodness knows who he thought he was going to see. But he's come in half an hour ago screaming that his hair will go grey and refusing to tell us what he saw.

All in all, I'm glad it's one Midsummer eve once a year.

Like the First Morning - 23 June 1858

I can see we're going to have to be careful with Mrs Hnaef.

I was walking past the church earlier when I heard choir practice. Nice to hear of an evening, of course. But they were learning a new song. Sure, that's good. I mean, it's 1858. A big hymn-writing period, particularly if you're into sentimental slush. Hymns Ancient and Modern is going to be the next big thing, in two or three years. And it's only last year that "Jingle Bells" was published.
But still. The point is they're all coherent, consistent with the time period.
"Morning has broken" sticks out like a sore thumb. We'll need to do something before she tries to launch them on "Lord of the Dance". It's the wrong era, and there's still some people round here take Christianity seriously.

Clym's Ambitions - 22 June 1858

Nice to see Clym Yeobright again. We met him wandering across the Heath earlier, deep in thought as to how Unitarian theology might be brought to bear on the human condition. Clym tells me he's lost the Trinitarian belief of his youth, but can't give up faith completely. So he's joined the Unitarian chapel down in Casterbridge. I don't think his Mum would approve, but I'm starting to warm to Clym. It sounds like Unitarianism is going the same way as the Beaker Folk ended up - a vague sense of the divine and no hard-and-fast moralities. I wonder if he's thought of using tea lights in worship?
Established in his new place of worship, Clym's starting to think of training for the Ministry up in London. I hope he doesn't go. Firstly, who would want a nice guy to go to London these days? It stinks. And secondly, I'm rather warming to him. Balding, thoughtful chaps seem to be just my type these days.

Old Mrs Chundle - 21 June 1858

In the old - or I should say future - Beaker days, we would have celebrated Solstice today.
It appears round here that they don't care that much. Though they are looking forward to St John's Eve. Gives all the young folk of the parish the chance to rush out into the woods together of an evening. A bit like the Beaker Fertility Folk, but without the Sexual Health lectures and prophylactics.

Anyway, while pondering how we came to be here, I thought it would be nice to have a bit of a schlep around the countryside by train. And with the length of the days, and the "new" railway system, I've been down to Abbotsbury and back with Dorcas.

While down on the Isle of Purbeck I hired a gig and went up to Enckworth and Kingscreech. We were out that way when we met Old Mrs Chundle.

I'll be honest, she was hard to talk to. And she does, as Dorcas pointed out, smell rather strongly of cider and onions. But she was so pleased that the new curate down her way has visited her a couple of times, and fitted some kind of an ear-trumpet device for her to listen to the sermons. It gives you hope for the future of the Church of England in the English countryside. What a nice man, and what a nice future for this lovely old lady to look forward to.

Making Hay - 21 June 1858

I'm ever so proud of Hnaef. With a good bit of weather lately, they're just working so hard on the early hay-making. And he's been out there all day, looking after the cider jugs. An arduous job carrying great responsibility, but he's stuck to it.  He says he knows it's tough, but he feels a responsibility to show solidarity with the workfolk.

I went out to see him just now but I'm worried he may have a touch of sun stroke. His speech is a little slurred and he's unsteady on his feet. But he's bravely said he'll stick to it. He's hoping that having a bit of a lay-down in the shade of the Big Oak may help.

I wish, I wish

There is in music a depth, an inner truth. Its sentiments, finely balanced between joy and sorrow, can wring emotion from the hardest and most cynical, heightening their joys and yet refining their pains.

Or, in short, I've learnt a new song from Kitty. Young Kitty, whom you may remember is the charming maid who carries the milking pail, has introduced me to the rather poignant song "I wish, I wish".  The story of a young lady in the family way, whose former lover has gone on to pastures new.

I wish, I wish, but 'tis all in vain
I wish I were a maid again
But a maid again I ne'er can be
Till apples grow on an orange tree

It's been truly said, in this time and place at least, that it's the Woman who pays. At least, until the local authorities catch up with the father.And a poignant reminder of young Mercy Onmey, with her five illegitimate children. There's actually far more of this kind of thing about that you might imagine, given the stereotypes of Victorian days that were common in the 20th and 21st centuries.
But back to Mercy's children, even though they're now under our protection on the Estate, Mr Maybold is still refusing to baptise them.

Something really must be done.

Radical new ideas - 20 June 1858

Third after Trinity

Much alarm in the Parish today. Mr Maybold has introduced monthly Communion! People aren't happy. The general view is that, if God hadn't meant us to have Morning Prayer followed by Litany followed by Ante-Communion, he wouldn't have made mornings so long. And what is wrong, they are asking, about having to say the Lord's Prayer five times of a Sunday morning? If it was good enough for Our Lord then it's good enough for us.

Fine, upstanding Anglicans that they are by upbringing, Hnaef and Daphne were straight up the front to receive communion. Making about five in total. Nobody else really quite sure what to do.  After all, they all made their Communion at Easter and weren't planning another one till round about Michaelmas.

After the service, Maybold asking whether I will be prepared to receive next month - show a good example. When I told him that I didn't think I would be allowed, being a member of the Extremely Primitive Methodists, he looked quite ashen. And shook like an aspen. An ashen aspen, perhaps? In short, he was shocked. So he shook.  With shock.

I received a letter later, suggesting I might like to consider Confirmation. It's a possibility. But I'm sure I've already received that, at the hands of Revd Elias Scrump in Aspley Extremely Primitive Methodists' Chapel a hundred and thirty-two years in the future - a couple of decades before I became an Archdruid. And I think that my confirmation will be perfectly acceptable when I arrive at the Pearly Gates and I don't see why I might need another.  Also, Maybold might not believe my baptism certificate. But on the other hand - if I don't then I, as one of the leading figures in the village, will have to sit and watch while everyone else (that agrees with the concept) goes forward.  What a dilemma.

Father's Day is Every Day - 19 June 1858

Who says all new traditions are spurious?

It struck me, being the 3rd Sunday in June tomorrow, that this will be Fathers' Day. So I mentioned to this to Maybold, and wondered why he took no account of this long-cherished tradition.
Anyway, he looked really quite concerned.
"There's no mention of it in the Prayer Book," he said, "but I'll check the Church Fathers, Pusey and the others for you, Lady Eileen."
Anyway, he's had a bit of a root around the most up-to-date literature from Oxford and come to the conclusion that I must have got the idea from my Methodist friends. So it doesn't look like we'll be having it next year either.
But there is the thought that, given the rate of death in childbirth is still fairly severe, and they seem to have 5 or 6 kids in most families, in the 19th century it's still Fathers' Day every day. It's the Mothers who could do with a break.

A divinity that shapes our ends - 19 June 1858

It's a funny thing, when you think about it.

I mean, the way we happened to have a bootload of aluminium, and Hnaef's "Collated Horse Races of the 1850s" on us when we plunged backwards in time. Precisely the things we needed if we were to make a fortune in 1858. No reason why we needed either in our dash out of the country. Yet I loaded up the cans for environmental reasons, and Hnaef grabbed his book at the last minute for sentimental ones.

And it was odd, the way Cytherea Aldclyffe and her dad just wanted to sell Knapwater House and move out to the Old House - and even now need to refurbish the old place - exactly the week we turned up with all that money. And how that Aeneas Manston suddenly turned up, looking for the job of Estate Steward, within a week of us needing someone to run things for us, and was instantly recommended by Miss Aldclyffe though she'd never met him before. And how he turned out to be a handy fourth for bridge -, even though Contract's not even going to be invented this century. And how it turns out he's keen on Weak 2s, even though Hnaef swears they're the work of the devil, but I've always been a big fan.
It's almost as though there's an unseen hand that guides us. One that treats us as if we were mere literary characters. One that uses outrageous co-incidence as a plot mechanism to ensure the ultimate irony in the outcomes.

One whose heroes and heroines almost inevitably end up mad, blind, drowned or hanged.

An icy hand grips my heart.

Two different ways to get a headache - 18 June 1858

So Nat Callcome is in Casterbridge stocks again.
He tanked himself up on scrumpy, and his wife Vashti hit him with a besom. Nice wristy action, those Sniff girls have. She'd have made a pretty decent 20-20 player in the 21st Century. Could pull off quite a reverse sweep, I reckon. Nat went off in a huff, met up with Joseph Poorgrass on Grey's Bridge, and had a few more at the Three Mariners. Came out of the inn and walked in front of the carrier's van on its way to Upper Longpuddle. He should think himself lucky it's just the stocks. He could have been lying next to Old William Dewy in Mellstock churchyard.

Darwin - 17 June 1858

I receive a letter from Mr Charles Darwin. He and Mr Wallace are engaged to read papers on the Theory of Evolution at the Linnean Society next month. I had previously sent to him a letter enclosing a sample of the correspondence generated on the Internet after Professor Dawkins had closed his forum.
Mr Darwin informs me he understands why I am concerned about the consequences should the Theory of Evolution be popularised, but on the other hand (a) if he doesn't publish somebody else will, (b) it's true and (c)  he doesn't see why he should pass up getting his face on the bank-notes just because of a bunch of sad-act anoraks. I'm surprised to hear Mr Darwin use such terms. But I can appreciate that this is a parallel universe to the one I'm used to.

And he very kindly sent me a recipe for Giant Tortoise Soup. So not a total loss, then.

Mr Shiner - 16 June 1858

Every time I go to church it ends up with more visitors coming round after a day or two.

This afternoon it was Mr Shiner the churchwarden coming round, wearing his best ring and watch chain. A rather odd visit - he called as "the farmer next door", which of course he is, and spoke of "potential future common interests", whatever he though they were. Then told me all about his brewing activities - which would have been of more interest to a technical person than to the layperson in my opinion. Obviously, one has a brew house of one's own - wherein our Kate produces some fairly inspiring brews, if Hnaef is to be believed - but that's as far as my interest goes. Mead and Cider have always been my special interest, as more agricultural and less industrial. But in this era, that goes without saying.
Anyway, an oily and devious chap, Mr Shiner. It was only after he'd spent an hour explaining his method of grinding barley that I realised it was his way of flirting with me. So I sent him off with Hnaef to inspect the latest earth closet that the Vicar of Durnover had delivered to us this morning in the second guest facilities. And then retired upstairs with a fit of the vapours.

How the serpents ruined football - 15 June 1858

As is often the case with traditions that are rooted in the mists of time, the annual Mellstock vs Weatherbury football match actually goes back to about 1850.

It was at this time that Parson Maybold and the vicar of Weatherbury, Parson Thirdly, decided that they needed to do something about the habit of the local peasantry, particularly of the younger age, to use their energies in drinking and wenching during the days before haymaking.

You know how it is.  In a little world's-end sort of a place like Mellstock, time hangs heavy on your hands.  And before the days of radio and TV, the other alternative occupation to sex and booze and folk and roll is to try reading - a wide selection of Jane Austen or the Bible.  And since, even today, many of the workfolk struggle with signing their names that's not getting them far.

So in order to wear the the males of the locality out in these long sunlit days, the vicars introduced the annual football match. By all accounts last year's encounter was a close, hard-fought affair that ended in a 4-3 win for Mellstock. But the parsons have decided that seven players is quite an excessive death toll, so this time round they experimented with using a ball.

On the whole, the game is as hard on the spectators as the players, due to the ground you have to cover.  The goals, being at opposite sides of Egdon Heath, are nearly four miles apart, so the average attacking move takes two hours to execute.  Having the rising ground with the Rainbarrows burial mound as the centre circle certainly makes for the long ball game from the off, but then it tends to grind to a halt as the teams of thirty smock-frocked yokels aside hack around the gorse trying to get the ball out of piles of pony droppings.  Due to the terrain, the expression "playing in the hole" is more literal than in later times, as midfielders fall into conical pits in the landscape and retrieve themselves from holly trees.

All of which is strenuous, fairly pointless but tolerable. But what makes it far worse is the decision by the former Church Bands of the two villages, and their musical descendants, to provide musical accompaniment. The Mellstock Band, or at least Reuben and Dick Dewey with their violins, are quite refined and, with the wind howling across the heath, completely inaudible. But the Weatherbury boys, having more of a Wind tradition, turned up with half a dozen clarionets, a trombone and a couple of serpents.

I don't know if you've ever heard a serpent?  Let's just say their noise puts you in mind of the so-called "brown noise" that the US government will experiment in the Second World War. And when you hear them blasting away for a few hours, accompanied by the tooting clarionets - well, it gets a bit wearing. You can't hear the screams of the players over the sound of tuneless horns being tootled away.

The game's been over a few hours now, but   the serpents have really caught on. Various old gaffers and gammers have been through their cellars, attics and wash houses, and now the village is resounding to the rasp of the serpent. I was hoping they'd pack it in before evening, but I've a horrible feeling it's going to go on all night.

Oh - the final score? Afraid the ball was accidentally booted onto the coal tender of the up train and disappeared towards Melchester. So it was 0-0 on goals at full time, but Weatherbury won three-two on fractures.

Mrs Hnaef's Musical Awakening - 15 June 1858

I'm so excited!
When Eileen had Mrs Maybold round for tea she mentioned that I had formerly managed a girl's choir.
Mrs Maybold is the organist in the church and she's asked whether I might like to sing in the choir, and maybe help out with organising the music. It's just Mrs Maybold and the children, so just sounds like my sort of thing.
We're settling in very well here. There's something to be said for being the people at the Big House. Back in Husborne Crawley i always felt just left in the background, but now - I'm somebody!

The Vicar's Wife Surprises - 14 June 1858

It was a delight to meet Mrs Charlotte Maybold this morning. I'm surprised to be writing that, but it's true.

I've really only seen Mrs Maybold twice so far, both times at Church. And she tends to be well hidden under a rather matronly bonnet when she's there. She's not a bad organist, although I'm told by those that know that Mrs Fancy Dewy is a better one. Maybe Mrs Dewy doesn't play because she's practically always pregnant or nursing, whereas Mrs Maybold hasn't been blessed with family just yet.

But Mrs Maybold is a revelation. Much younger than her husband. And full of life and racy stories. I've no idea where Maybold found her. Given the write-up I received from him - "holy, sober and hard-working" I was expecting something totally different.

She's got this afternoon scheduled for visiting the deserving poor. And she had some very rude words to say about them. Apart from Old Mrs Endorfield over in Upper Mellstock. Apparently Elizabeth is getting on for 80. But she still knows every bit of gossip for miles around - who's the father to which local illegitimate child, which marriages might be enforced in the near future, who's wandering further than he should on his furze-cutting errands. Sounds like the sort of old woman that any diligent Lady of the Manor ought to be paying a visit to as well. Whatever the stories they tell about her.

A regular pattern of worship - 13 June 1858

Second after Trinity

I've been missing the old pattern of worship since we were so rudely ejected from Husborne Crawley. The morning pouring out of beakers, and then their filling-up in the evening.

But I've made a discovery. I've been getting up to date on this Church of England business, and it turns out that their priests are expected to conduct Morning and Evening Prayer every day.
So I collared Maybold after the service this morning. And asked him if he's up to snuff on this one. And he confirmed that yes, he and Charlotte (Mrs Maybold) and their servant Sarah-Jane do indeed carry out their devotions regularly.

So I've informed him that he can start holding the services in church in future. And our servants up here have been told they can get their carcasses down there as well. The Hnaefs and I will ride in the Landau, of course. And I've asked Maybold to ensure the services are held at convenient times. Don't want anything too early.

Probably as part of his campaign to get me to hand over some loot for his restructuring plans, Maybold's arranged to send his wife round to see me tomorrow. Holy, good and diligent, apparently. Sounds exciting.

Anyway, looking forward to Evensong. Apparently they've been practising something to the tune of "Cambridge New". There's always a bit of excitement in Victorian England.

A long morning ahead - 13 June 1858

A long morning ahead. I wonder why everyone calls it the day of rest?

You've got to be early to fit in two and a half hours' worth of worship, prayer and preaching before lunch. And then you've got to get out from lunch fairly sharpish to be ready for evensong. It's all go, on a Victorian
country Sunday.

I look back to the traditions of the 21st century rural or suburban Sunday and it all seems so different. In 2010 you could stay in bed all morning, disturbed only by those annoying church bells. Or, if you were more traditionally-minded, you would head down to the Car Boot Sale, and pick up cheap CDs, the contents of someone's garage, or even - in the right place - Polish fags at bargain prices. Then you could come home, wonder what you were going to do with another copy of "OK Computer", a broken clock and a life-size inflatable Louis Walsh, and decide you weren't up to cooking lunch. After phoning round your favourite pubs to discover they'd all been closed, you would eventually wander down to a carvery on a ring-road and queue for an hour to get your slice of lamb. You could chip the outsides off the roast potatoes while sitting under a picture of what the local countryside could have looked like before they built the ring road and the carvery on it, go back home, see the time and wish you had some kind of day of rest to get over it all before Monday.

But enough. There is much to do. Even now Dorcas is waiting to brush my hair before she carries out the bucket from the earth toilet to put in the compost heap. (We really must get Charley to move the compost heap further down the kitchen garden). Mrs Morris is putting the finishing touches to the fried breakfast. And Ned the groom is brushing down the horses prior to driving us all down to Church. As I say, it's all go in a Victorian Sunday.

The Quality is not Strained - 12 June 1858

I really feel sorry for poor young Mercy Onmey. I mean, unmarried mother of five, and threatened with an indefinite stay in the "underserving poor" division of the Workhouse.
It's interesting that, although the local hierarchy and lesser gentry disapprove of this kind of thing, the average village pauper is too busy trying to keep his or her own head above water to worry about Mercy's morals.
So I've taken a decision. Mercy and her brood can have the second-best shepherd's cottage. Apart from anything else, it will be handy for her when hay-making starts next week. She won't have to walk so far to work. And Mrs Hnaef will be keeping a close eye on things, to see if we can find out who the father is. Currently one of the Dewys is favourite, but I hear down at the Three Tranters they're offering 6/1 on it being Parson Maybold. We'll judge when he comes round to tell me I'm encouraging sinners.

Wessex Translator - 12 June 1858

I'm really annoyed with Hnaef.

I came into his study earlier because I heard strange words coming through the door - things like "ik woll" and "er sholl". I thought I'd better warn him, if he's planning on speaking in tongues, that Azusa Street isn't going to happen for another half a century.

But no. It turns out he's been down with old Mr Barnes, the rector of Wherrybourne and notable local dialect expert.

Hnaef keeps telling me it's because he has a life-long interest in the language of the Ancient Saxons. But I reckon it's so he finds it easier to flirt with milkmaids. I told him that if I caught him getting all Anglo-Saxon with any of them I'll put him in a corset.

Of Corsets and Casterbridge - 11 June 1858

There are many thoughts on the corset. Many people regard them as the cause of various kinds of illness. Some think them the very thing to enforce the perfect feminine figure. And some know they're not putting them on under any circumstances.

It being quiet, I thought we'd drive in to Casterbridge for a little shopping. Weather's picking up so it was a nice day for the ride.
Well, Mrs Hnaef and I have had a whale of a time buying some new gowns, skirts, bodices and what have you. We took Kitty with us. Kitty is a charming maid, whose normal job is carrying the milking pail, and gave us some good advice on what we're supposed to be wearing. Up to now I've been aware that we've been a bit random in costume.

But you're not getting me into one of them corsets. No way. Although Mrs Hnaef was quite taken with the idea of an instantly smaller waist, and bought three. Mind you, she's not spoken much since she put one on. Amazing what we do to look attractive. I suppose the corset is the Victorian equivalent of a body piercing or tattoo.

Noisy place, Casterbridge. Obviously, none of the traffic queuing for the Waitrose car-park that you get in the 21st century Dorchester. But every shop's got scythes, rakes, waggons and pitchforks up for sale. That time of year, apparently. Hnaef I'm afraid got carried away and bought a brand new yellow waggon and a whip. He's really getting into the "Country Squire" role. But still, the real problem, for all the lack of noise and traffic - no Waitrose yet.

In the square, we saw Mr Farfrae, who we're told is the former mayor. The ruthless beggar's steadily buying up land all down the Valley of the Big Dairies at the minute. Him and Diggory Venn between them. It's enough to make me oppose enclosure. Until I look at our own farm. And then I remember what a good idea it is.

The Time-Travelling Porsche - 10 June 1858

I think we're starting to understand what happened back in Husborne Crawley in the future.

After we'd flogged off the Great House to those blokes with the Lithuanian accents, the plan was to clear off with as many belongings as we could pack in the Cayenne and head for the coast.

But unfortunately in amongst the stuff we shoved in the car, we had the drained-out remains of that Black Hole from the Science service. When we hit 88 miles an hour going down School Lane, the black hole interacted with the Thomas Hardy Plot Generator and catapulted us back in time, but also shifted us sideways into a slightly different universe. String theory or something, I don't doubt.
Hence although this looks rather like Dorset, it's called South Wessex. And many of the people round here are vaguely familiar.

But the irony is we have half a million quid in readies, thanks to our dodgy sale of the Great House. And it's going to be worth nothing until the late 1990s at the earliest.

So Young Keith - if you're reading this - we've buried it under the Nether Moynton crossroads - or, as you would see it, the Owermoigne Roundabout. We know there's the slight problem that you're in a different thread of space-time quantum reality, but you never know your luck. We've also put all the valuables from the Community in there. They're not much use to us here, and if anyone mucks around with the Ipad we're liable to be burnt as witches. I know that's not the law anymore, even in 1858, but you try telling the people round here that. Most of them still won't catch the train in case they suffocate.

Who goes? The Governor Decides - 9 June 1858

Mercy Onmey's situation has made me look more closely at the interesting institution they call the Casterbridge Union Workhouse.

The way it works seems to be this: They get all the people who can't get proper jobs, and who they don't think are making a contribution to society. And rather than let them starve in the streets they gather them all into the Workhouse. Once they're in, they're subjected to near-starvation rations, looked down upon and generally badly treated. They're kept in cramped conditions, given unpleasant tasks to do at the whim of the Governor and staff and eventually thrown out into the world. Everyone hopes the experience may help them to work hard and be more useful in future.
It's funny, but I seem to have seen something like it before. Can't remember where...

Our very own Village Idiot - 9 June 1858

I've always wanted a Village Idiot.
I mean, we used to hear about them, but in the 20th and 21st century there was a distinct shortage. But here in 19th Century Wessex... I mean!
Anyway, Tommy Leaf was looking for something to do. And I was in need of employing an idiot. So it's sorted.
But for a good sixpence a day, Leaf gets to hang over the gates around the place with a straw in his mouth. For falling into a ditch in a particularly impressive way, he can earn himself a shilling. And he's got a lovely voice as well. Shame he looks so odd.

Single Mother of Five - 9 June 1858

We now see the element of folly distinctly disturbing healthy natural urges that make up the character of Mercy Onmey. Of whom there is good news - but also bad.

The good news is that Mercy's been delivered of a healthy boy. The bad, that she's in Casterbridge Union Workhouse again. One of these days she's going to have to tell everyone who the father is (or fathers are). Rumour has it that it's one or more of the Dewys, or possible a Smallbury from out Weatherbury way. But that's not narrowing it down too much.

In the 21st century we'd think Mercy was a fun-loving, normal woman of 33 or so. Maybe just about ready to settle down. In the 19th, they use some much harder words. And she's the mother of five.

Earth to Earth - 8 June 1858

To dwellers in a Victorian environment, there is one thing that is never mentioned, yet leaves the healthy abashed, the unhealthy imprisoned and those of a keen sense of smell shaken.

On a chance remark from Mr Maybold yesterday, today up and to Casterbridge in the gig.
There I hunted down the Vicar of Durnover, who is a small-scale inventor in the manner of what would in the 21st century be regarded as green technology.

I'm not saying his "earth closet" is my greatest dream in terms of what a lavatory should be, but it appears to be a lot more pleasant than the current arrangements. So a few units are being assembled for us in Casterbridge, hopefully to get here before the hot weather really kicks in. And I'm warning the domestic staff that there will be a lot more carrying to be done in future.  And I'm getting Mrs Morris, when not cooking, to knit some of those woolen ladies that go over toilet rolls.  They'll be really handy just as soon as someone invents the toilet roll.  And meantime we'll just carry on tearing up the Times to use instead.  Just like 2010, really.

And I'm counting on it being good for the garden.

Image [Amended] courtesy User Musphot on Wikimedia Commons

Quick, it's the Vicar! - 7 June 1858

Maybe it's my Methodist upbringing, but I've always had this thing with when vicars come round. I always feel like I've wandered into a Whitehall farce. I'm expecting to let the guy (or - in your time - possibly guy-ette) in, and then Hnaef's trousers will fall down and we'll find a pantomime horse and the local UKIP candidate hiding in the drinks cabinet.
So all these thoughts ran through my mind today when Mr Maybold the vicar was announced. I had been expecting him to be round fairly swiftly, but that was moving.

It turns out that some things don't change. Mr Maybold caused a certain amount of fuss a few years ago when he sacked the string quire (sic) and installed an organ and choir (sick). Then he caused a bit more fuss when he had the West Gallery partly removed. Now he's hoping to have the rest of the gallery removed and replace what's left of the box pews with the most up-to-date modern Victorian-style pews. And guess who he's hoping might be encouraged to divvy up some of the folding stuff to help? Right first time.

Well, of course I was Lady Gracious. I had to keep Hnaef away a bit - was coming over all Cambridge, and Maybold's an Oxford boy - but we can't go jumping on people with safety boots when we don't agree with them. Not, at least, when they're gentry. So I told Maybold we'd love to discuss it more another day.

Meanwhile I left the poor fellow a little confused. I congratulated him on sticking to the Bible and the liturgy in the traditional language. He seemed a but unsure as to what the alternative might be.

The Liturgy Laid Down - 6 June 1858

First after Trinity

The type of morning when the sleepy gain rest, the spiritual refreshment, and the intellectual gnaw their own hands off in frustration.

After all those years of making liturgy up every time, today we had it enforced upon us. The Book of Common Prayer, ancient even now, imposing its cadences upon every heart - even long after the power of the faith is lost, the power of the religion continues. It quite spoke to my heart.

Another thing that inspires me - the number of children! Say what you like about birth control (and in these mid-nineteenth century days, people don't say much about it) - so many children in one place lifts the heart. The thought that many of these children, so full of brightness (on the inside, at least - they're pretty grubby on the outside) will live to mourn their own children and grandchildren, mown down in the Somme and such like places - that soon returns my heart to its more usual minor key.

Now to Mr Maybold's sermon. My considered view is that it would have been a very good sermon, had he been able to get it out from his pen nib. It could well have been a very guessable sermon, if I had any idea what he was talking about. But I doubt it will have much benefit for we mortals, either here or hereafter, whether his sermon is any good at all.

Now I must rest awhile. This morning's worship was two and a half hours long.  Longer even than Burton Dasset's much-lamented (by those who were there) "300 interesting spiritual conclusions to be drawn from double entry book-keeping", in which he drew attention to the way the credit and debit columns are like the Yin and the Yang.  And we said the Lord's Prayer, if I did not miss one somewhere, four times.  Not at Burton's do - at Church this morning.  My Sunday luncheon is now heavy upon me, and we've got to be out for Evensong in an hour or so. A landed gentlewoman's work is never done.

Excitement in Lourdes - 5 June 1858

To a man with energy, a sufficient income is liberty. To one with intellect, it makes him a nuisance.

An intellectually illuminating chat with Mr Clement Yeobright, whom we happened to pick up on the way along Hollow Hill in the landau. Being a single, childless man in possession of an independent income, "Clym" is able to spend his time as a freelance agnostic busybody. There is said to be great sorrow in his past, for which he is universally held responsible, and he wears a deep-brimmed hat, as if to hide the world from the sadness in his eyes.

Mr Yeobright is in the habit of outdoor, non-sectarian preaching. On this occasion he was on his way to Casterbridge, to discourse on the events in Lourdes in France that have been reported these last few months. He tells me that a young girl has been having visions. Having spent some time in that troubled country himself, his view is that this is the type of Popish superstition that will in time be erased by logic and cold reason. If Mr Yeobright is correct, within twelve months nobody will even remember where Lourdes is.

Political Matters - 5 June 1858

Very odd, the political situation in 1858.

I mean, take the current Prime Minister - the Earl of Derby's clinging on in a minority government. Seems to specialise in the things. They have an election every six years, then the Government falls every twelve months and they have to try and find another PM - normally the bloke before last, having another go.

Not like what I'm used to. It turns out that strong governments, with decent majorities delivered by the First Past the Post system, are a thing of the future. If I were still in 2010, I daresay David Cameron would be in with a stonking great Conservative majority by now. And, with a brand new government, Expenses scandals would be a thing of the past.

Out for a walk - 4 June 1858

To a man of spirit, two energetic women are a challenge. To a man of the Spirit, they might be an irrelevance. To one without spirit, they are a threat.

Out for a walk on the heath today. We took Charley Dewy along to carry our coats, doncha'know. I could quite take to this 19th century lark.

The lovely stillness in the air. Just the sounds of birdsong and the songs of happy peasants starving in the fields. Now I know that, up in London and in the northern mill towns, the air quality is far worse than anything I ever knew in the 20th or 21st century. I know the Thames is in a hideous state - and if my history is correct I expect this summer to be the worst on record - but out here life is sweeter, with small fields and birds that we had long forgotten.

As we wandered along, we first heard and then saw the Melchester train steaming on its way. Needless to say, Hnaef was immediately rushing across the fields to try to get its number. I remarked to Mrs Hnaef how nostalgic it made one, to see and hear a steam train. And young Charley looked quite startled. Of course, to him this is the cutting edge of technology - as exciting to him as the Etch-a-sketch once was to us.

We had quite a walk across Egdon, and feeling a little thirsty pulled up at an inn. I've no idea whether we did this right, but we went into the "Quiet Woman" and demanded four pints. You should have seen the scowl we received from the landlord's mother. She sits in the fireplace, smoking a clay pipe and growling at the customers. A shame, as Mr John Nonsuch seems to have a nice little place there. The sort of quiet, out-of-the-way inn that tells you of a happy, merry England.

There was also one of the locals in there. When he first saw two women in the inn, Christian Cantle was terrified. I gather he thought we were a couple of lost street-walkers and Hnaef was our - for want of a more genteel word - minder. But after we assured him we were the new owners of Knapwater House, he spent the next hour tugging his forelock and begging us not to send him up to Casterbridge Assizes.

Hnaef had a couple of refills and then we headed on our way - but rapidly realised that the local brew, being heady and rather strong, can have quite a potent effect. I tell you, it was all Mrs Hnaef and I could do to stop Hnaef falling in Shadwater Weir. And all the way home he baffled Charley by singing "Raindrops keep falling on my head". We had to tell him it's a traditional French folk song.

The Water Pump - 3 June 1858

Blooming row that Water Pump was making.
I don't know when the Aldclyffes last had it greased. Anyway, we just sent Charley down to sort it out. Much quieter, and I thought they'd be grateful. But old Captain Aldclyffe's spent the afternoon hopping up and down in his front garden complaining. He reckons he can't sleep without all that creaking and bashing going on. Well, he should thought of things like that before he took all that money off us.
I've recommended there's a little manor house in Bedfordshire that might be worth putting in a bid for - I remember that my family had a little monetary problem back in the mid-19th century, caused by my great-great-great-great grand-dad Reuben's habit of betting on moth racing. But they seem determined to stay round here regardless.
Meantime I've suggested to Capt Aldclyffe that the chinking sound that gold makes may soothe him to sleep at night. Certainly it seemed to inspire his daughter, Cynthia, or whatever it was she said her name was.

Settling In - 3 June 1858

Well, what a few weeks.

The good news is about all that aluminium we had in the boot. Worth more than gold, that was. Once we'd found someone who knew what it was we were able to offload the entire contents of the Beaker Recycling Bin on them for a small fortune. Who said saving the planet can't make you money?

And then once we had a few quid we were away. This appears to be a parallel universe to the one we left, but the good news is that the horse-race winners were all the same. So we've taken everyone to the cleaners.

OK, we've had the odd bit of covering up and explaining to do. Not least because they're a bit of a superstitious lot down here in what I shall have to learn to call "South Wessex". And there are rumours about the "Giant Silver Toad" that has been seen in the lanes late at night. Well, they can call it that. I'll still think of it as a Porsche Cayenne. But it's just about out of petrol now. So it's going to be a few years so we can refuel it. Meantime we've hidden it in the stables of the new gaff under a few bales of hay.

Oh yeah - the new place. You know, it's amazing how quickly an estate can change hands when you've the money in readies. Well to me it will always be "Kingston Maurwood". But round here they call it "Knapwater House", or just "The Big House". That seems very familiar and comforting somehow. Although "comforting" is not how I'd describe the toilet facilities. It was nice of Miss Aldclyffe to sell up so quickly. You'd think that you'd be more attached to a big pile like this. But you know, I get the feeling she'd taken quite a shine to Daphne Hnaef. Anyway, she's gone off with a big sack of gold to live in the old Dower House. She seems quite happy.

We've kept the old staff on, of course. And the tranter, Old Reuben Dewy, is around the place the whole time doing the fetching and carrying while we get settled in. Getting on for sixty, but he's got an awful roving eye. So I'm staying well clear (and advising Mrs Hnaef to do the same).

But I'm really impressed with what Mrs Hnaef has done here. We raised a few eyebrows installing the telegraphic device. Still, they are getting quite trendy so we've just about got away with that. But somehow Daphne managed to create an IP tunnel from the telegraphic apparatus, back through some kind of residual link across the dimensions, to 21st Century Blogger. I've lost Twitter (we think this may have something to do with the Pauli Principle) but as far as Blogger goes we're off and running. Bad news for Hnaef, though. We've appointed him in charge of rich content. Any images we want to post have to be converted into binary by hand, and he's fast getting RSI.

Archdruid No More - 2 June 1858



Is this thing working?

Is anyone there?

I tell you, this place is even more backward than Husborne Crawley.


Hnaef, I'm not sure this is actually getting through... Can you get Daphne down here? I think we need to "ping" it or whatever she did.

And can you tell the servants to stop singing? If I hear "The Barley Mow" once more I'm going to put a lock on the brew house. I need some peace and quiet here.

Hang on, I think it's working now. Where's the "Publish Post" button?

Image modified from here.