Monday, 8 October 2012

The Undoubted Usefulness of the Travellers' Tips

                                     All this recent talk of travelling has made me think of some of the advice given to travellers in the past, advice which is very much a curate’s egg of a thing – some parts of it are quite good, other parts of it not so. 

True Humility - The Curate's Egg

When dealing with Johnny Foreigner, the English approach to languages must be followed at all times. In Chamber’s Tourist’s Pocket-Book, (1904) we are told,
Think before you speak! Speak slowly! Do not attempt to form sentences unless you know something of the grammar of the language, but say boldly the one or two words which will give a clue to your meaning.”

G F Chambers - The Tourist's Pocket-Book - 1904

So, there you have it. Do not attempt to use sentences. Slowly and preferably using sufficient pointing, shout at the foreigner. One or two words should do it. There follows a helpful glossary of words and terms that can be shouted at foreigners, in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, Russian, Turkish and Arabic, including such handy phrases as:
This coachman is drunk.
Here is an English sovereign; give me change.
Diarrhoea Mixture.
I do not understand you.
Say only ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
I feel inclined to be sick.
Has the laundress brought my linen?
Use plenty of starch.

And don’t go eating that foreign slop. Cook your own. When travelling by train, remember,
Ham-and-chicken sausages purchased at good shops in London are most useful articles of food for eating on a railway journey. They will generally keep good for nearly a fortnight except in very hot weather.”

“What to do when a Dress catches Fire: - A woman should immediately lie down on the floor, or if she has not done so, any one who goes to assist her should instantly make her lie down; or, if needful, throw her down into a horizontal position, and keep her in it.”

Cleanliness and Civility A Speciality

“Much of the laxity of tone now prevalent in the upper circles of English society as respects Religion and Morals, is directly traceable to Continental (especially French) influences; and the less the contact in future years the better for Religion and Morals on this side of the Channel.”

Biarritz Bathers

It is obvious from this illustration from William Miller’s Wintering in the Riviera (1879) just how bad this laxity of tone was in France at the time. Just look at all that palpable laxity. Disgusting. And it’s not just the French, for Miller recounts, 
… the painful habit which the generality of Germans have — occasionally ladies as well as men—of eating with their knives. English people cannot witness this fearful and wonderful operation without a nervous dread of the result.”
Blasted Huns! Consider this appalling exchange, again from Miller,
I was at one place agreeably set on several occasions beside a lively young German lady, who spoke English fluently. At our first interview I asked, 'What was their national dish? Was it Sauer-kraut?' 'No, it was larks.' ‘Oh, you barbarians,' I replied; ' do you eat canaries and parrots?' At which the fair damsel was much shocked.”

Pig-Sticking in Africa

For those intending to venture further afield, let’s start with a book by Bertram Francis Gurdon, 2nd Baron Cranworth – A Colony in the Making: or, Sport and Profit in British East Africa (1912). He begins with some helpful information for the prospective colonist new to Africa – for example, what might be expected in terms of temperature, rainfall, humidity and so on. Then, he turns to matters of health, 
The principal diseases of the country are: Malaria, dysentery, typhoid, sunstroke, lion bites, and whisky.” 
Thankfully, we are told, the latter two may be avoided by judicious vigilance, and the rest by due care and attention paid to details of diet, hygiene and standing water. He draws some interesting parallels, comparing the case of a new arrival from England in Africa with the unlikeliness of an African attempting to live his ‘traditional’ life in the balmiest of British summers. He recommends the care and attention provided at the European Hospital in Nairobi, and adds a few more suggestions, which are worth quoting: -
“Take plenty of wine after sunfall, more especially burgundy and port. They enrich the blood and are agreeable to the palate.”
“Don't go about with fever on you. Go to bed.”
“Bear in mind and act on the old maxim: Keep the spirits up, the bowels open, and wear flannel next the skin.”

This is how an Empire was built – with a stiff upper lip, by keeping yourself ‘regular’ and by always wearing clean, sensible undergarments. And, when the sun is well and truly over the yardarm, get smashed.

The Raw Material and The Made Article

The writer of "Wrinkles" Or Hints To Sportsmen And Travellers, (1874) The ‘Old Shekarry’ agrees wholeheartedly with Lord Bertram,
All experienced travellers seem to agree in one point, viz., the importance of wearing flannel next the skin.”
But he doesn’t stop there, for he turns his attention to hosiery, observing that,  
“…it is a great nuisance to have to stop every few minutes, to pull up your socks.”
The ‘Old Shekarry’ was Henry Astbury Leveson, a big game hunter who, alarmingly, advises against trouserings,
“In Equatorial Africa, during the intense heat of the day, I generally wore a kilt and flannel shirt, boots and gaiters, which dress I found cooler and less liable to gall than trousers.”
In matters sartorial, The ‘Old Shekarry’ also favours the ‘Cloak’, an item he has had made up by his tailor, Mr Cording of 231, The Strand, London. It serves as a poncho, groundsheet, tent, blanket or, should the need arise, an improvised boat. 

The Cloak

As you can see from the illustration, it is also very fetching and quite the companion to your kilt. This ‘Old Shekarry’  (a Shekarry, or Shikari, in case you are wondering, is an Indian word for a huntsman), also recommends Chinese Silk pyjamas when out on safari – I am beginning to think that his use of the phrase ‘camp-life’ does not quite correspond with my understanding of that term. 

A boat made from The Cloak

Our author is also the fan of a ‘good breakfast’ with which to start the day. If eggs and milk are available, he suggests ‘Tiger’s Milk’ for one’s petit dejeuner
Beat up the yokes of six eggs well, with "a modicum" or half-pint of spirit (rum or brandy), three lumps of sugar, a bit of lemon peel cut thin, and a little spice, such as cloves or cardamums. Add a quart of new milk, mix well, grating in the third of a nutmeg, and you will have a stirrup cup for three persons.”
Brandy for breakfast. That’s the spirit.

Francis Galton, in The Art of Travel, (1854 - 5th Ed. 1872) is equally helpful for those visiting the Dark Continent.
Savages rarely murder new-comers; they fear their guns, and have a superstitious awe of the white man's power.”
“Of all European inventions, nothing so impresses and terrifies savages as fireworks especially rockets.”
"Smell of Negro --A skulking negro may sometimes be smelt out like a fox.”
“If a savage does mischief, look on him as you would on a kicking mule, or a wild animal, whose nature is to be unruly and vicious, and keep your temper quite unruffled.”

Mr Francis Galton, it should be pointed out, was a great believer in eugenics as well as being a traveller in Africa. Such attitudes were common in the mid-Victorian age, although some travellers, like Mary Kingsley, did not hold (wholly) to them. This nonsense continued well into the last century (and can still be found in this one, if you care to look under certain stones), as this quote from Notes On Travel In South And East Africa by Percy Wagner and Tudor Trevor (1922) illustrates, 
The Native of South or East Africa … is, as a rule, a slave to superstition including a belief in witchcraft … [and] he should accordingly be treated as a man on a lower plane of civilisation but not as a wholly inferior being.”
So, bear this advice in mind when next you travel. Oh, and do not forget to pack your knitted helmet.

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