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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Dirty bugger

I remember growing up reading a story about ‘Piet de Smeerpoets’ (transl.: Shock-headed Peter) This story describes a young boy that refrained from brushing and cutting his hair and cutting his nails for a year… His end is rather gruesome… I remember this story well, as it somehow taught me the importance of washing behind the ears…

The stories originated from around 1845, when a German doctor produced it as a Christmas present for his children. The first edition was titled: ‘Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder mit 15 schoen kolorierten Tafeln fuer Kinder von 3-6 Jahre n’ (transl.: great stories and fun pictures for children of 3-6, including 15 prints) In later years this book was better known as ‘Der Struwwelpeter’. Doctor Heinrich Hoffmann (1809-1894) had been so bored with all the goody goody sugar-sweet moralistic stories for children, he decided to make his own. In his practice he had found that telling stories and drawing pictures had a brilliant effect on his young patients, so he had plenty to source from.

Poor Paulientje...

In total the book describes 9 short histories, teaching you not to play with matches, how you can get blown away holding on to an umbrella, how you shouldnt kick your dog (off course), how sucking your thumb could mean you get them cut off etc etc. Brilliant yet gruesome stories…

I am sure the Peter story really helped my parents to keep us in check, but over the years I never really understood why to wash behind the ears… What kind of dirt would land there anyway?!

Yesterday I got the answer to that, when I found both my ears covered in black coarse powder… also known as:

Soot.

The Great London Smog of 1952...

I guess growing up in the countryside I never really ran into the stuff. But in modern-day London, it only takes a small walk down the pavement to be covered in the stuff from the exhausts from busses and cabs. May be even some chimneys…When I leave my bathroom window open there is always a thin layer of black dust that covers the window sill.

So now in London, when I come home I always wash my hands (not ears) and blow my nose…

I wonder if the same will be needed in Cambridge MA…

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