LONDON, ENGLAND – (Accredited Times) – Like all great public health disasters, in hindsight, the cause of the Great Plague of London in 1665 seems so innocuous, so avoidable. Accredited historians believe the plague was first transmitted to the public by a mere flea. Who could have predicted what then followed? In a matter of just a few weeks, the plague would kill a full quarter of London’s population.
Given the passage of time, we believe it unlikely there are any survivors who are still alive to tell the tale. We searched for them, but came back empty-handed, with the oldest Londoner we encountered a mere 98 years old (Agatha, from Shoreditch, found in the ‘Dog and Duck’ pub, playing the piano). We are therefore forced to revert to accounts based on contemporaneous sources:
The peak of the epidemic was the week of 19–26 September 1665 when London mortality bills recorded 7,165 deaths from plague.
Night after night, porters took piles of corpses for burial, filling large pits with the dead. Adding to the horror were rumours of the bereaved and the ill throwing themselves into the pits alive.
Ghastly. In 1665 London, death was the dish of the day, whether entrée, plat or dessert. Alas, any Londoner who was fortunate enough to survive the Great Plague then had to endure the Great Fire of London the following year. Whilst the Great Fire destroyed most of the City, it also got rid of the Great Plague, allowing the twenty or so remaining Londoners to hold an intimate street party. Unfortunately for them, in 1914, the Great War began, showing that bad tidings often come in threes and that not everything labeled as ‘great’ is in fact awesome.
But we digress before we have even begun. Why are we telling you this history lesson? Well, because a second not-so-awesome plague was only just avoided this week thanks to the quick-thinking of London’s public health officials.
Determined not to repeat history, the British decided years ago to make certain activities illegal that could cause a plague. Activities like the preparation of food for public consumption, for example. Concerns over under cooked food (which leads to food poisoning, diarrhea and death) explains why the British cook all vegetables for a minimum of four hours and always order steak ‘well-done’.
Earlier this week, public health officials in London answered an urgent call. In blatant contravention of health and safety laws, the five year-old daughter of Daily Telegraph journalist Andre Spicer sold ‘home made’ lemonade to the public. Egged on by her evil capitalist father, the young white and privileged middle-class girl decided to exploit the thirsty and underpaid proletariat by selling them her lemonade. Showing zero remorse for encouraging his daughter’s vile actions, Spicer writes:
“That weekend, after 30 minutes of labouring over the blender, we had four jugs of lemonade. My daughter drew a sign with some beautiful bright yellow lemons on it. I added the prices: 50p for a small cup; £1 for a large one. After cleaning off an old table, we packed up our things and walked to the end of the street. A music festival was taking place in a nearby park, so dozens of people streamed by every minute. My daughter stood proudly in front of the table. “Who wants lemonade”, she called out. Within a minute, she had her first customer.
The lemonade quickly disappeared and her little money tin filled up. A happy scene. And then, after about 30 minutes, four local council enforcement officers stormed up to her little table.”
Fortunately, this sordid story has a happy ending as the enforcement officers moved quickly to end the threat to public health:
“Excuse me”, one officer said as he switched on a portable camera attached to his vest. He then read a lengthy legal statement – the gist of which was that because my daughter didn’t have a trading permit, she would be fined £150. “But don’t worry, it is only £90 if it’s paid quickly”, the officer added.
My daughter burst into tears, repeating again and again “have I done a bad thing”? (ACCREDITED TIMES COMMENT: ERRR, YES!)
After five minutes, the officers’ jobs were done and they went on their way. We packed up and made the short walk home. My daughter sobbed all the way.”
We applaud the enforcement officers’ actions. Laws on the preparation on food and drink are there precisely to avoid a repeat of the Great Plague. Not that Mr. Spicer would give a flying fuck about that. Consider the following possibilities, which are all too realistic:
- The skin of the lemon is unwashed and harbours a rare but deadly disease which, if transmitted to the general population, could cause the death of hundreds of millions. Did Miss Spicer check this? No!
- The lemon was sprayed with a non-accredited pesticide (i.e. not Monsanto), which is untested and dangerous
- The water used to dilute the lemon juice was not fluoridated, thus posing a great health risk (and tooth decay risk) to all who consume this lethal concoction
- Lemon Juice is known to contain lethal doses of Vitamin C, which if taken to excess can cause various health issues including cancer, multiple sclerosis, toxic liver
- Tooth decay: because of its high citric acid content, lemon juice can literally dissolve teeth within minutes.
- Lemon juice can cause gastroesophageal reflux disorder, symptoms of which are heartburn, nausea and vomiting.
In short, but for the actions of the public health officials, London could yet again be dealing with a plague. It may seem harsh fining a five year old girl (who presumably believed she was being entrepreneurial) 150 pounds, but this is peanuts compared to the deaths of hundreds of millions. We can only hope she has learnt her lesson: Food and drink should only ever be bought from accredited food producers.