One regular spot in my week’s activity is a grand English baroque hall. Tucked away, easily bypassed at the Hall is the Ice House. If you haven’t seen one its essentially a big pit, with a small entrance and it seeks to be as insulated from the outside as possible. It was used to store ice… for preservation of food, for creation of exotic dishes, and to cool drinks in the summer. It is essentially a dump of ice and it ‘hopefully’ lasted all year as enough had been collected and it didn’t melt. It would have been ‘damned inconvenient’ to have run out of ice after all.
In order to ‘stock’ the Ice-House a servant – and I can’t think it was a particularly sought after job – had to go out with a cart to all the local ponds and lakes. Once at any frozen stretch of water they had to go out onto it, break the ice into reasonable sections, then load up the cart, and then trundle the load back to the Hall and unload it into the Ice House. It was not a very pleasant job – and I doubt the servant had suitable clothing and footwear for the task or the weather. More importantly, as we all know, walking on frozen lakes is not recommended. Ice has a habit of breaking and dropping the walker into the freezing cold beneath – with frostbite, drowning as the likely outcome.
I suspect the ‘lords and masters’ shed few tears over the drowned servant lad – there would have been plenty more to take his place – such ‘lower orders’ were expendable commodities after all.
This morning’s Radio 4 Today was talking about the concept of a living wage and whether it was affordable.
As our society creaks and groans and breaks apart under the strain of the financial crisis I wonder if our “Lords and Masters’ think about those poor unfortunates walking on very thin ice, and what happens when it cracks and they fall through into the cold chill below? The odd tear is easily and publicly displayed before turning back to their banquets.
I doubt if the ‘Lords and Masters’ would have given much thought to some decent warm clothing for the servant boy who fetched the ice from the local lakes.