Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tan Gents---The Beginning

It has taken me a week to recuperate from my last post. What with the wool-gathering, rewrites, and condensing (yes, it was actually condensed), I was exhausted. Dreams, apparently, are difficult to transcribe. Makes me wonder how John the Evangelist and Nostradamus ever pulled it off.

So, with a nod to June, who initially nodded to Friko, I am going to attempt brevity with my contribution to the cult of Miss Ella Knee but will call it Tan Gents instead. I wrote in a comment that brevity was the very soul of sincerity and I do know the importance of being earnest. Hope you enjoy the cogs within wheels of my addle-pated world.

In the 15th century a law was enacted in England that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Hence we have 'the rule of thumb'.

I contend that had the law said he could beat his wife with a stick no larger than the dimensions of his penis, domestic violence for the most part would have been greatly diminished--if not eliminated--600 years ago.

I enjoy the sound of the chickadees singing matins during my morning coffee on the porch. Lets me know I'm not alone.

I like it when a leaf wafts and wavers on the breeze before it settles on me. It has never been caressed by anything but Mother Nature and has made its way on nothing less than the breath of Creation. I consider it a gentle reminder that I am "a child of the universe; no less than the trees and stars". This also holds true for snow flakes. I have been reminded a lot lately.

And lastly, I get a huge sense of joy watching my fabulous furry flock of felines lose all dignity and decorum when the squirrels are doing their 'Flying Wallendas' routine in the trees outside. No matter how refined and evolved they purport to be, their baser instincts kick in and the noises that issue forth are a caterwauling cantata. Always makes me feel a little less inferior to listen.


  1. Wikipedia states, "It is often claimed that the term originally referred to a law that limited the maximum thickness of a stick with which it was permissible for a man to beat his wife, but this has been discredited."
    Instead, the "rule of thumb," says Wikipedia, refers to woodworkers' agreement that the width of a thumb is, give or take, an inch.
    Considering the extent to which human males employ exaggeration in reference to the other body part of which you speak, I wonder if domestic violence would have been diminished or if tree limbs might have been taken up as tools for same.
    I suppose it would depend on the conduct of and proof presented at the trials.

    Wafting leaves and snowflakes...nice images. Here, all that stuff is not wafting but blowing past at an average speed of 45mph: Less romantic.

    Just yesterday, my cat was on the bed, watching birds perched on the roof outside the window. No cantata there. Just "angch! aeik! acht!" In her excitement she had lost her power of speech.

  2. I love you. You are so awesome. Thank you for always being my friend.

  3. June--Wow! Your cat speaks German!?


  4. June--Wikipedia may very well be correct. However there is a reference to my particular 'rule of thumb' in the collected correspondence of the Paston family who lived in England during the 15th century and were prominent during the Wars of the Roses. Apparently, Mr. William Paston Jr. felt compelled to apply the 'thumb switch' to the person of Mrs Paston Jr. (the Lady Anne Beaufort) after she unceremoniously turned his mistress out of their town house. She brought suit against him but since it was his 'legal right' to do so the case was dismissed. Oh, and the mistress was given her own house as recompense for "the insult to her honour".

  5. Well.
    There's nothing like a contemporary account to blow Wikipedia all to hell.

  6. Oh dear, I hope I didn't come across lecture-esque. It was by no means my intention! My Doctorate is in Medieval/Renaissance Studies and I do tend to get carried away--force of habit. It is an area of study very dear to my heart. I do apologize.

  7. Not a bit.
    I always feel a little foolish citing Wikipedia, although I do it often. I'd rather have the real story! did Mrs. P. have the power to toss out the mistress? How'd she do it? Did she throw the woman's clothing out the windows?

    My late uncle was a scholar of the middle ages, but we never conversed about it, or, in fact, about much at all. I stand ready to be educated about the times.

  8. Technically the London house was a Beaufort property that was placed at the disposal of the couple upon their marriage. Mrs. P was informed of the mistress' installation and, since her husband--in service to the Court-was away on business, she gathered up a few male Beaufort retainers and went to London to extricate said mistress. She was turned out with little more than what she had on--which wasn't much. She was not aristocratic but was of gentle birth and that's where her family stepped in to address the 'scandal'. The mistress' father made veiled comments that this sort of thing could disrupt the young Mr. P's career if it were not 'made seemly'. The official story got spun into Mrs. P was merely assisting the young woman from a temporary accommodation into her new permanent abode. It was the gossiping peasants who turned it into something salacious. The mistress had three children --all of whom became 'wards' of Mr. P. So, a convenient husband (a 'gentleman retainer' in service to the Paston family)was invented to explain these events and the new house was actually his. Mrs. P. of course received the 'thumb switch' for her role in the inconvenient situation which she claimed was unwarranted since she was only putting a trespasser off of her family's property. She lost the gamble of semantics since the relationship was well known. The Beauforts did not intercede--they held high places at Court as well. The whole thing blew over eventually and nothing more is said of it or the mistress ('Mrs.' Nemon--from the Latin meaning 'no one') and the 'wards' in any following correspondence.

    This proves that everything old is new again. It could just as easily be a headline in the Washington Post today.