Eleanor Morton has emerged this year as one of our favourite comedy acts around, with an endearing, awkward quality that is fun and silly and other great things.
She’s heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with her new show Allotted Mucking Around Time, which says will feature heavily with rats.
I used to have a rat. His name was Indy, and he was lovely. Which is why I’m glad to present Eleanor’s favourite plagues, and explain how they were not all entirely down to the lovely fluffy things.
Ahhh disease. Long thought to be bad for us, disease has shaped history, culture and even fashion for the last two thousand years. And who is normally blamed the spread of dirt, filth and illness? It’s our humble friend, the rat. Since my show features my own run-ins and relationships with rats, I thought I’d give my rundown on the top five plagues in the world, and show that not all (only a lot) of them were caused by our rodent friends.
5. Spanish Flu 1918-1920
Now this is where I get a plague with a personal touch. My great-grandmother had Spanish Flue while she was was pregnant with my grandpa, but amazingly both of them survived. This is probably where I get my immunity to all diseases except asthma, eczema, the common cold and heat rash. Spanish Flu does the nasty jobs your World War doesn’t want to – namely wiping out remaining civilians and causing people to drop in the street like an episode of Walking Dead. Not the most famous plague, but it does get extra points for its amazing Second Wave, where most of its classic work can be found.
4. Native American Blanket Epidemic. 17th Century
There’s an ancient Native American Saying which roughly translates to ‘Oh, come the fuck on, for serious?’ This saying is thought to relate to that time Native Americans brought some corn to a Pot Luck Dinner and came home coughing up blood. Contact between the indigenous American population and white settlers spread smallpox and other diseases (possibly on purpose) through the tribes and gave the Native Americans their first taste of what would later be called ‘A good example of white people’. The settlers later said sorry, and to make up for it they done some well good films about Native Americans, like Peter Pan, Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas II, Journey to a New World.
3. Great Plague of London, 1666.
Very much the 2012 of its time, 1666 meant London was the hot spot to be, whether it was plagues, fires or Charles II’s hair. Sadly, London during the Great Plague soon became a desolate place of empty houses and closed businesses, where only the rich could afford to survive. Hard to imagine today. Samuel Pepys gives us much of our primary evidence about the plague, in-between shagging his chambermaid and burying his cheese. As he recorded in his diary at the time; ‘More plague. So boring. Everyone smells. FML.’
2. Biblical Plagues of Egypt. BC
Now largely thought to be a load of balls, the biblical plagues nonetheless set a standard for plagues worldwide, and were much admired for their wide range of different plagues which included frogs, boils, rivers of blood and other stuff Enoch Powell was really into. Thought to have been started by a man known only in source material as ‘God’ these plagues went on until the Egyptians agreed to free the Jews from slavery. And then there was no more slavery or exploitation or religious hatred ever ever again.
1. Black Death (Peak 1346-53)
A classic, and one of the biggest players on the plague scene. The Tommy Cooper of disease, if you will. Everyone loves a bit of Black Death. Where would any of the other plagues be without it? A pandemic that spread from the Middle East all the way across Europe, it is estimated to have wiped out up to 60% of Europe’s total population, which was only 12 to begin with. People were convinced that the infection spread through bad smells and started walking around with a focaccia worth of herbs up their noses. This did not work, as all those drawings they did of dancing skeletons will tell you.
Eleanor Morton: Allotted Mucking Around Time
5-30 August, 1.20pm
£7 – £8