Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Camelot - Print and be damned

As young King Arthur grew in wisdom and the Kingdom of Camelot flourished the economy improved and people enjoyed greater wealth throughout the land. Education improved too as people learnt to read and write and teach their children to play truant instead.

In those days writing was done mainly by monks who spent hours writing beautifully handwritten manuscripts using quills made of goose and swan feathers sharpened with a knife and dipped in various coloured inks. This gave rise to the phrase “pen-knife” to denote the sharp instruments used to sharpen the feathers. Also the now not so well-known phrase “as bold as a goose”, (or swan), denoting these un-feathered birds who could neither fly nor swim and ended up being eaten instead.

The Church and Monasteries at the time made money by employing monks to write mail order catalogues for a lot of merchants, who promised to deliver the goods clients bought to their clients’ homes direct. Unfortunately, the beautiful calligraphy writing style of the monks took so long to write that by the time the catalogue was finished, either the price of the goods had changed, or the goods were no longer available because they were out of style, or perishable if they were edible goods.

A faster method of writing had to be invented, declared King Arthur, which was good news to every goose and swan in the land. Ironically, it was the King himself who was instrumental in the very objective which he had set his people.

One day Arthur was visiting the Monastery of Poverty, so named because it had lost its contract to produce mail-order catalogues. There he discovered that the monks were starving because of lack of money with which to buy food. Even the mice were as poor as church mice, only they lived in a monastery instead.

King Arthur was filled with pity for the poor monks, as well as filled with a sumptuous meal of swan pie and ale which he had earlier that day. He took out of his pocket a half-eaten swan sandwich and handed it to the Head Friar. So called because he was the one who fried the potato chips in the days of plenty when they had money and potatoes to eat. This is coincidentally, how fish and chips became a favourite meal in the Kingdom, since the monastery made extra money by selling fish and chips to the people of Camelot. You could also have meat pie and chips, mashed peas and chips, fried chicken and chips, fried sausage and chips, chips and chips, and even a fried Mars bar and chips. But I digress.

Anyway, the Head Friar, now known as the Chief Beggar on account that he was so poor, stretched out his hand in gratitude to take the half-eaten swan sandwich from King Arthur. As he did so the sandwich slipped and fell to the floor. The friar bent down to pick it up and suddenly a mouse came out of a hole in the wall and grabbed the sandwich. A fight ensued which resulted in the friar losing by a fall, a submission and a knock-out. And that’s how wrestling was invented in Camelot all those years ago.

The King was so horrified at the plight of the poor monks having to fight for food that he decreed that enough food be brought in daily to feed the mice and so avoid any further fights with the monks. Remember … he was growing in wisdom … but not that quickly.

To get back to the declaration that a faster method of writing be found.

The King was discussing with a monk of foreign origin, called Kopy, how calligraphy was done, and he accidentally lent on a table and put his hand in some ink. By the way, if I may digress again, this is how the word copyright originated. It came from monk Kopy whose manuscripts were so perfect that it was almost impossible to copy them. Unless you had a photocopier which was not invented at the time anyway.

So, to get back to the story … this is taking longer than I thought. The King lent on the table and put his hand in some ink. Can’t remember what colour it was, but that’s not important. He then moved his hand on a piece of paper and discovered that he had made an imprint of his hand on the parchment paper.

He scratched his head and got ink in his hair. Stupid or what? Anyway, he tried the experiment again, but this time with his other hand. Again he had made a different print. He tried again with different parts of his body, until the monks stopped him as the exercise was getting a little inappropriate, especially in a monastery.

And that is how the printing press was invented. By accident, King Arthur was instrumental in this brilliant invention which served the word for many years thereafter.

Slowly, then faster, but surely people started to write posters to stick on the walls advertising various events. People never realised how it felt to be wanted until they saw their names on a Police Notice Board.

From posters people progressed to writing and printing newspapers and magazines and so invented lying and half-truths and bad news to sell more newspapers and tawdry publications.

People started writing and printing books on all kinds of subjects, like the sex habits of the silver fish, and other esoteric topics on which to write many books to fill many libraries that no one visits anyway; nor read their shelves-full of books and tomes collected therein for the sole purpose of gathering dust.

But with the invention of the printing press, thanks to King Arthur, people started writing and printing anything on everything regardless as to whether it was needed or not.

People started writing to each other. They started to keep diaries of their daily boring uneventful lives. They wrote shopping lists with just one word, like bread, or milk, because that’s all they could afford anyway. They wrote graffiti on the walls just to show they could write. Some got careless and wrote love letters which came back to bite them in the backside when they eventually but surely had a row with their spouses.

But all this writing and printing was good. Because it created work for everybody. The ink makers, the paper makers, the people who made printing machines, the printers, reporters, editors, publishers, news-agents, booksellers … you get the idea. Everyone benefited by the invention originating from King Arthur making an impression of his derrière on a sheet or parchment paper.

And all was well in the Kingdom of Camelot.

The moral of the story, (so far), is: My uncle used to say, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Then one day a printing press fell on him.   

12 comments:

  1. This also lead, i presume, to people sometimes yelling "stop the presses!" That's something i always wanted to do.

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    1. I'm hard pressed to answer right now, Mimi. But I'll check it out.

      God bless.

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  2. I never realized history could be so fascinating! (Funny, too.) I remember pressing something called Silly Putty onto comic strips to duplicate them ... for whatever reason I don't know. Just because we could, I suppose.

    PS - I was growing hungry until I read swan pie. Please tell me that's not really a thing?

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    1. In Mediaeval times Royalty ate swans. Swan meat is very lean there is about a quarter of a teaspoon of fat on each breast so it is important not to over cook game as it can become tough and dry.

      Anyone caught hunting or eating a swan that was not a member of the upper class (royalty) was charged with theft, a practice that still occurs (though today these charges relate more to wildlife conservation than treason against the Crown). Swans were never illegal to eat—they were just illegal for poor people to eat.

      It is believed King Henry VIII ate from a large selection of food at every meal. A first course might be chines of beef, venison in brews, mutton, carp or young veal, swan, green geese, stork or capons, garnished custard or fritters. But I wasn't there to confirm this. I'll ask Merlin when I next see him.

      I'm glad you're enjoying this series, Mevely. I am fascinated by your story about the Silly Putty. I'll check it out.

      Have you ever been fascinated? I was once ... years ago ... a nurse did it with a needle in my arm!

      God bless you.

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  3. Never knew King Arthur invented so many things, Victor - lol! I guess he felt he was under "press-ure."
    Blessings!

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    1. He was indeed under pressure, Martha. As am I. I look forwards to reading what happens next, and I haven't even written it yet! Thank you for your continued support.

      God bless always.

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  4. Victor, you cracked me up on the last line. "but words will never hurt me”. Then one day a printing press fell on him. Love it! :)

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    1. I'm so glad there's something there to make you laugh, Bill. Hope I do the same tomorrow.

      God bless, my friend.

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  5. Things are always progressing in Camelot....Next it will be the tabloids...haha.

    Always a break in the day, and a chuckle and my own refection of what my dear friend Victor really looks like. I only see you as one of your delightful characters. What will you come up with tomorrow...I'll be here to see.

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    1. I look like my photo in the "About the author" tab at the top of this Blog, Wanda. Looking forwards to tomorrow's episode in the life and times of Camelot. I write these stories daily as I go along, so even I don't know what will happen next. So glad to hear you're enjoying them.

      God bless always.

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  6. Fried Mars bar & chips - I've always wondered about that...
    Great installment, Victor:)

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    1. Yes Chris, I understand fried Mars bars were a delicacy of some fish and chips shops in Scotland. Apparently, they dip the Mars bar in batter of water and flour (rather thick) and then put it in boiling oil for a few seconds. The batter creates a crispy covering to the Mars bar. I've been to Scotland many times, but sadly I never tried this delicacy. I tried fish and chips with "broon" sauce though. Also Scotch pie - a small, double-crust meat pie filled with minced mutton or other meat. The top "crust" (which is soft) is placed about 1 cm lower than the rim to make a space for adding accompaniments such as mashed potatoes, baked beans, brown sauce, gravy or an egg. It is traditionally accompanied by a drink of Bovril.

      Now that made me hungry.

      God bless, Chris.

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