Pandemic Pondering #131

The boots have left the building.

For the past year we’ve been hands- on grandparents @theoldmortuary. The period of the pandemic has changed the way we can be grandparents, just as it has disrupted aspects of many peoples lives. As of today we have become Zoomgrandparents. Google has many sites suggesting different ways to be gramdparents when the physical distance and an ongoing pandemic make actual contact impossible.

Eliminating the miles has always been a grandparent thing.

Distance is entirely relative, my dad didn’t get to see his grandparents often. It required my great grandparents to travel the ten miles between Braintree and Great Bardfield with a pony and trap. That’s 20 miles per visit and about 4 hours travelling time at a walking trot. Beyond rare visits the only other method of communication would have been a letter.

I lived closer to one set of my grandparents, a walk by road of maybe 2-3 miles. I was only about 6 when it was entirely acceptable for me to take a short cut, alone, though two dairy farms divided by a river. The other set of granparents lived 12 miles away. Unusually they both had cars. My grandad drove an Austin A40 and being picked up by him often meant sharing the inside of the car with barrels of beer for his pub.

In contrast his wife, my Nan, drove a Zephyr 6. She ran a private taxi company, lifts and visits to them were entirely dictated by their business needs. It was always a surprise as to which of these,now classic, cars would pick me up.

In contrast my children lived 100’s of miles from their grandparents. Visits were often long weekends the journeys to and fro in fairly dull cars on motorways. Contact in between visits would be by phone.

Zooming and googling, Different, but hopefully effective. A talking head.

The possession of a bleep in London. Bishops Brothels.

For the last ten years of my working life I was either based in Marylebone or the City of London. On-site, On-call was a requirement of my job. Sometimes depending on the rota I was lucky enough to be on- call with people who would be travelling in from home. That gave me some freedom when there was no actual work to do. Depending on the type of on- call I could be out walking, with the bleep, and as long as I was either 15 or 30 minutes from work everything was hunky dory. In normal hospitals this time would be spent studying, reading, or watching TV but in the centre of two historic locations walking the urban environment was a bigger pull for me. Bankside and Tate Modern was well within the half hour walking time from the City. Bankside became a favourite late night walk. It felt very safe. Historically this was not always the case.

Bankside was as well known as Amsterdam for its red-light district in the 16th and 17th centuries. The area had been historically linked to the sex trade since the development of the Roman city. Slaves of both genders provided a full menu of erotic services to military men and sailors. The area was effectively legalised in the 12th century. The Bishop of Winchester was granted the responsibility for the area.

The Bishops of Winchester made themselves the surprising benefactors of immoral earnings. They granted licences to operate for the brothels and taxed the money earned. They lived well on this income.

Prostitutes here were known as Winchester Geese. Clients travelled to Bankside by boat or horse, a dangerous journey, not only urologically but also because the area was a general dumping area for criminals and chancers who were not welcome in the city. They would happily rob or murder a man whose mind was not fully on his own safety.

Despite the luxurious life that the Bishops court maintained, thanks to the business, the prostitutes were not welcome in consecrated ground when they inevitably died. Winchester Geese were buried, or dumped on unconsecrated ground not so far from their workplace.

During early works in the 1990’s for Crossrail or the Elizabeth Line as it has become known, a graveyard was discovered just off Redcross Way. Crossbones as it is known holds 15,000 skeletons , predominantly women , one third are foetuses or infants and some older children.
http://crossbones.org.uk/

The industrial wasteland at Redcross Way has become the focus of remembrance for the outcast dead. Vigils, performances and other acts of observance are regularly created here. The gates of the site are a shrine that has become a place of pilgrimage.It is likely that a permanent Garden of Remembrance will be created here. The property is owned by Transport for London . The first recorded mention was in 1598 and the last body interred in 1853.