Monday, 1 February 2021

The Great Plague

  •  Mindful of the current great plague, Covid, I watched a TV program about the bubonic plague that killed almost a quarter of London’s population over 18 months in 1665 and 1666.
  • It showed the outlandish garb worn by doctors featuring a birdlike leather beak holding aromatic herbs to be breathed through and a gauze to peer ahead.
  • The body was enclosed head to foot in a waxed, waterproof robe, giving full protection, along with leather boots, against infection.
  • Modern scientists tested them and stated that they were highly effective against a disease known to be spread by fleas and lice.
  • A house that contained the victims had to be emptied, a cross painted on its doors, then its interior painted with limewash and fumigated with fumes given off by water-drenched salt petre and brimstone. Quarantine lasted for 40 days, after which it could be occupied.
  • Again, scientists proved how effective these measures were. The root cause of the contagion was the total insanitary conditions in which people lived at the time.
  • Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s because I had an experience recently that made me dredge up my wariness of rats, which were blamed by the populace for spreading the disease.
  • A lid on a large jar of pickled onions was wedged tight and couldn’t be budged, so I went into my shed to look for a rubber pad to help grip it. Poking around in a tattered plastic bag where I thought I’d put it, my finger prodded into something soft. Quickly I pulled it out, soon to be followed by a dozy-looking, plastic chewing rat that stared running around in circles.
  • I thought it looked quite cute, but fearful of being bitten, I gave it a whack with the palm of my hand to stun it, wearing gloves by now, then carried it outside, to lob it over the fence at the rear of the house. Onto the deserted walkway it soared, never to be seen again.
  • The parallel is this: it is people acting as modern-day rats who are now spreading the disease. Is it thoughtlessness on their part, indifference, or knowingly deliberate?

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