I started watching 1900 Island, streaming on Acorn, which is a show in the same vein as Manor House or 1900 House or Colonial House. Essentially it’s a very long cosplay where people of the 20th century live as they would in one of the above.
This is one is gorgeous, taking place on a now-uninhabited island off of Wales, with sweeping, windy views of the sea. But the thing that always gets me is how unprepared the people who sign up to do it always are.
They perpetually seem surprised by the food or the lack thereof, by the close quarters, by the clothes. By the chamber pots and toting water. Here the living comes from the sea; there has never been a time in history that that’s an easy way to exist.
It makes me wonder why they signed up in the first place, what they thought they would be heading toward. People have this idealistic view of the past, but the reality is life was hard in so many ways we don’t even think about now.
Usually the retort is that it was simpler, but was it? What’s simpler than a washing machine versus an entire day wringing laundry? What’s simpler than running water? Indoor plumbing?
A chamberpot-less existence?
I think by “simpler” people tend to mean less diverse. I think by “simpler” people tend to mean more closed. And I think by “simpler” people mean they think people didn’t have to think.
But if you weren’t resourceful, it wasn’t going to go well for you.
The past isn’t some shining place where all was well before modernity ruined it. Modernity serves up solutions for the problems of the past. Not always perfectly, of course, but I will never regret flush toilets.
Be grateful for yours on this Wednesday, and have a fantastic one. Day or flush toilet, that’s up to you.