|How to keep well
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
On the trip to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, I picked up a little book called How to keep well in Wartime, issued for the Ministry of Health by the Ministry of Information, published in 1943. I've summarized the contents of this fabulous pamphlet for your enjoyment and erudition.
- Make time for your daily poop. "The first rule of health is to be regular in all the habits of living - eating, sleeping, resting, working, emptying the bowels." (I see one very important item missing from that list, but moving hastily onwards...) "Half the stomach troubles people have begin because they don't give their bowels a chance to open properly after breakfast."
- Don't be lazy. "Those masses of muscle on arm, leg, thigh, back and belly are not just ornamental. They are there to be used." (Emptying the bowels doesn't count.)
- Don't be fat. Or thin. "Being too thin is little better than being too fat. In young women, in particular, leanness is no advantage. Unfortunately, during recent years it has become fashionable for girls and young women to be slim, and they usually manage this by eating too little, rations or no rations...Besides giving energy, fat also rounds off the corners of the body and sometimes makes them look attractive." (Ah, so that's what bottoms are for. To keep the pelvis from looking too sharp.)
- Brown bread makes you strong like bull. "In peacetime people tend to eat far too much sugar and refined cereals (including white bread). Wartime necessities should become peacetime habits...Russians eat black bread, and they're a tough lot." (I bet they poop daily, too.)
- You're not Mr. Churchill, so don't smoke too much. "King James I said of smoking that it is 'a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the bottomless pit'. This was, of course, laying it on a bit thick."
(There's only one quote sufficiently overblown to counteract King James I. "Three of the four elements are shared by all creatures, but fire was a gift to humans alone. Smoking cigarettes is as intimate as we can become with fire without immediate excruciation. Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it on back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. It's not the tobacco we're after but the fire. When we smoke, we are performing a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning." - Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker)
- A Brit without beer is no Brit at all. "In wartime it is inevitable that people should seek relief from strain; and there is nothing to be said against the occasional drink taken in moderation. The world would be a dull and colourless place if it were inhabited entirely by plaster saints eating dry bread and taking sips of plain water."
- Don a wrap, avoid the clap. "A hospital full of cases of gonorrhea means loss of tanks, loss of aeroplanes, loss of guns." (And that's bad when you're, you know. Fighting a war.)
- Suffer the little children. "A man skilled in the training of dogs has declared that a dog can be brought up with kindness and that there is no need to beat it. What good can you hope to achieve by physical punishment except obedience inspired by fear? But a long moral lecture may be even more cruel than a quick slap. (Thank goodness my parents were always partial to simply roaring my full name at me.)
- Immobilize the Germs. "There is an obvious way of stopping germs getting from your mouth and throat into the air around you - and that is to cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief every time you cough or sneeze. To cough or sneeze without doing this is a rude and disgusting habit, and it is amazing how many people, through thoughtlessness, have this habit." (Dear Mike Figgis: Please make a cute poster for London transport addressing this subject, as we appear not to have made any progress since 1943.)