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Medieval Messenger Paperback – 1 Aug 2005
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Some titles of articles include, "Becket Kicks Bucket," "Partisians Upset as King Paves Streets," "What's New at the Spanish Inquisition," and "I'm Not Dead!" Insists Corpse" ("Oh yes you are," says priest).
There's an advice column by, (who else, but) Mistress Manners. One medieval reader writes, "I am deeply ashamed. I went last week to a public bathhouse. To my horror I emerged clean and fresh as a daisy. Now everybody shuns me because I do not smell like them, i.e. like an old midden. What can I do to rectify this appalling gaffe? Name and address withheld by request.
Mistress Manners replies, "Dear Peter Parsnip of 32 Castle Lane, Warwick, You have been very improper indeed. As everyone knows, bathhouses are sinks of vice and iniquity, and while it is quite proper to indulge in vice and iniquity it is not done to flaunt the fact by being clean. What you must do it find the smelliest dungheap in town and roll in it. This will restore your normal, socially acceptable stink. In the future, avoid bathhouses at all costs. If you want to wash, may I recommend a thorough scouring with a mixture of mutton fat and wood ash. This is used by the majority of households and will allow you to smell like everyone else.
On a page about superstition, in a quiz that tests how superstitious you are, one of the questions asks:
You come across a wishing well. Do you:
a) Have a drink.
b) Throw in a coin and make a wish.
c) Storm the well, declare it your own, then take out all the money except for one small penny which you attach to a string and drop in and out to make multiple wishes?
The advertising is eye-catching. An example: "Qualified Barbers Wanted Urgently. Do you cut hair? Expand your horizons! A new career awaits you in the world of surgery. You may not realize it, but your barbershop skills entitle you to amputate legs, set broken bones, cure cataracts, drill skulls, fix hernias, and basically, STOP AT NOTHING! Maximize your potential. Become a surgeon, and display your striped pole with pride. Call in at the Royal College of Barbers instantly."
What newspaper would be complete without a personals section? Some examples: "Professional knight seeks dishy damsel. My interests include fighting, arson, fighting, murder, fighting, warfare, battles, sieges, fighting, chainmail, fighting, weaponry, fighting, long walks and cozy evenings by the fire. What are yours?"
"Magnus of Pomerania. Please send another letter. Your last was accidentally eaten in a famine."
My ten-year-old son's favorite part of the book is a question posed to Mistress Manners which tells of a servant in a castle who heard some fighting, walked up to the ramparts, was overcome by vertigo, and accidentally lost his lunch over the edge and onto the attackers. He was horrified by his bad manners and asks what he can do to make amends. The answer left everyone in my household in stitches.
The book is so much fun that we've all read it multiple times. But I must warn you, as you are enjoying the book and laughing, you just may learn something in the process!
This book is part of the Usborne Newspaper Histories Series, which also includes books in a similar style on Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Vikings, and the Stone Age.