Monday, 24 August 2015

Could Baths and Privies save your life?

            Two things I have to give the Romans. They were good civil engineers and the baths. In the west, at this time, we take abundant water, and hot water, for granted. This hasn’t been the case throughout most of human history. The Romans, with their heated floors and aqueducts, were a marvel of the ancient world. Admittedly the Romans just soaked and the Norse used soap, so the Norse got clean and the Romans got wet, but even so it was something for its time.
            The Romans also tended to build public baths wherever they went. This opened up some interesting opportunities in Horn of the Kraken, though I will admit that Ragna is annoyed with me. It seemed her head kept finding its way to the privy.  

            Ah, the privy. Something so essential but so often overlooked. John Glen, the first American in space, had to ask permission to wet his space suit because the engineers hadn’t thought of this simple, biological function. This blind spot tends to be more pronounced with the wealthy; who can pay someone to deal with their waist. The Romans, with their baths, had a form of public washroom that worked well enough. In medieval castles there was often a hollow wall that would be cut back as the floors went by. These cut backs were used to create shelves that served as drop toilets. The refuse was either collected into a wagon every few days by a scat man and hauled away through a special gate made for that purpose, or a water course was diverted to sweep it downstream. Trust me you didn’t want to swim in a medieval mote.
            In my version of Avaldsnes I included the medieval castle version of refuse removal. I’m not sure if this was done before the twelve hundreds but the fortress of Avaldsnes was supposed to be a magnificent structure advanced and wondrous; possibly made by dwarves, so I exercised some dramatic licence. The important thing is this type of drop hole carries sound from one privy to another offering a perfect opportunity for a Maiden of Ratatosk to snoop on let’s say a Jarl who talks to himself when he gets frustrated.
            I use privies and baths in Horn of the Kraken for several things. No one ever wants to look too closely at a scat cart.
            A final note on the modern world. Have a look at methane composting sewer treatment plants. If we want energy for our grand children we need to start using the resources we have now.


  1. It was Alan Sheppard who was A) the first American in space (but not orbit) B) who wet his pants after many hours of holds. They had the basics sorted out by the time they got to John Glen and he did comment how much they'd improved the process when they finally let him fly again on the Shuttle to become the oldest in space and clearly the longest between flights.
    As for the end process of a modern sewage treatment plant, offering Chocolate TimBits (donut holes) to coworkers as we go by the solids being loaded into a dump truck can result in smackage for having done so at that time. (we could really smell it at that point too)

    1. Thank you for the correction. My information came from a video documentary where they said in adjoining sentences that the wetting occurred to the first American in space then said that John Glen was the first American in space. Evidently there was confusion in my source material and in the general perception of society. No one is perfect.

      Sewage is going to stink, though I do like the methane composting sewage systems that are coming on. Energy as an end product and less stink because much of the process must be containerized.