Politicians are magicians
Who make swindles disappear
The bribes they are taking
The deals they are making
Never reach the public’s ear
The left betrays, the right dismays
The country’s broke – and guess who pays?
But tax each swindle in the making
Profits will be record breaking
Everyone swindles, this is true
So vote for who will steal for you.
As my friends could tell you, I’m not particularly obsessed with bathing and cleanliness. I shower daily but I don’t linger, and I’m not fond of baths. So why are my characters so bloody obsessed with bathing? It’s a question I started to ask myself when I finished my fifth book (not yet edited, coming in August). Okay, I am fond of a good scene in a bath, et voila…
I love writing historical fiction. I love finding a new era that fascinates me, and creating characters that fit into the setting. I love delving into the era and making my story fit into it.
I hate the smells.
Yep, back in the day there was none of the plumbing luxury we enjoy today. You know, you turn on the tap and presto, out comes water fit to drink! You jump into a glass box and way hey, out comes steamy hot water which combines so beautifully with sudsy grapefruit scented shower gel! You sit on a polymer resin seat with a hole in it and whoosh, away flushes unmentionable body waste!
In the Olden Dayz (until reasonably late in the nineteenth century for poor folks), bathing was irregular. A daily wash, which probably only meant your face and hands, came out of a jug of water. If you were lucky enough to be rich you didn’t have to haul your own hot water up two flights of stairs, or share a weekly bath with every member of your family. If you were poor and lucky, you lived near a bathhouse that was reasonably priced for your once-a-week ablutionary pleasures, and you got to share a bath with your neighbours as well.
Drinking water came from the river contaminated with… God only knows. Check your local river and shudder—and remember our rivers, nuclear waste aside, are a lot cleaner than they were in, say, 1781, when corpses and skin flakes were possibly the least nasty things to be found. Sewers were street gutters, and flushing the loo meant emptying the poo pot out of the window into the street.
And speaking of streets, in reality they were often knee deep in rubbish, dead dogs, and horse poop. I do recall reading a passage where Benjamin Franklin* complains about treading in people poop while walking the streets of Philadelphia at night (from memory he used the word ‘turds’ and paints a vivid image of them squashing underfoot). In my world, there is no ever-present smell of urine or dead animals, and rubbish is regularly taken away. In reality it would have been from the richer neighbourhoods, but I imagine the smells would have lingered.
Which brings me to smells.
None of my characters smells bad**. They are clean clean clean people who never have stinky armpits, smelly groins, or stained pants**. They do have bodily functions, but there is ALWAYS a toilet available and it’s off screen. I never mention it, but they also have toilet paper (it is referred to by Rabelais in the sixteenth century which is good enough for me, even if he does recommend the neck of a goose over paper wipes). And last but not least, THEY ALWAYS TAKE BATHS. REGULARLY. NO EXCEPTIONS***.
So, dear reader, when you come to the sweaty scenes, rest assured the boys and girls are squeaky clean and utterly lickable!
*I think it was Benjamin Franklin. It might have been some other 18th century Philadelphia resident. I’m not going to cite, I’m not at university now, hurrah!
**Except when they are meant to for the purposes of the plot.
***Except when they can’t for the purposes of the plot.
If you found my website, you probably already know that men in ancient Greece were at it with each other. But do you really know what it was all about?
The most common, and principle form of relationship for a man was a pederastic one, an older man, the erastes, with a younger man, the eromenos. These relationships could last for life, and were viewed as more important socially and career-wise than a man’s marriage to a woman. A bit like today’s private school old boys but with more shagging—at least I think the Greeks had more shagging.
Ancient Greek men did acknowledge that women could love and be loved, but this love was seen by many as an inferior as women were less developed and mature than men. Ahem. Achilles, mature? Achaean Psycho if you ask me. Not to mention Prince Pouty. But I digress.
Pederasty was as much about furthering the education of a younger man as it was about sex. But being who I am, the sex is the bit that interests me! So what did they do? Anal and oral sex were seen as shameful, reserved for slaves or prostitutes. (There was even a law in Athens that declared a man who had allowed himself to be penetrated could not be a citizen—and neither could a woman.)
The customary form of sex between two lovers was intercrural, which is a form of frottage involving one’s beloved’s thighs. (AKA Princeton style, the Oxford rub, and the Ivy League rub for reasons which I think are obvious. Snark.) There are even poems to the beauty of a lover’s thighs—how romantic were those Athenians? A lover has told me how beautiful my inner thighs are, but I’m yet to see a poem…
Of course, there’s nothing that says it has to be two men. Those among you in a hetero relationship/liaison/one night of luurve could try it with your lady friend. The important thing is that your partner, whoever he or she is, doesn’t object to having their bits covered in jizz at the end (or you could use a condom but that does sound dull).
Alexander the Great did it, Oscar Wilde supposedly preferred it to oral, and even Abraham Lincoln seems to have tried it. Not that the latter two would particularly get me in the mood, but how about Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas instead…
Not being a boy, I’ve never been the “on top” person myself, but I’m told it’s totally hot. So come on lads, get your Greek on and try a bit of intercrural!
Disclaimer: I could go into more detail about homosociality, cultural motivations, the enduring nature of the erastos/eromenes relationship across cultures and eras, and the varying status of women in Ancient Greek cultures, but hey, I’m done with uni. I just want to talk about the sex now.
After months of furtive assignations that leave Ash cold and unsatisfied, his lover leaves him for a life of riches and respectability. Angry and heartbroken, Ash has noone to confide in until neighboring farmers Seth and Dougal discover his secret. In their passionate embraces, Ash learns that a love which uses and manipulates is not a true love.