Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
From the latin canicula which means “small female dog”, the other name for the star SIRIUS. Classically it meant the period of time when Sirius and the sun rose and set at the same time. A period of intense heat from July to August. Now it just means a heatwave during summer.
The weather prediction service has Mazamet at 30 today. My outside thermometer reads 32. You can take the boy out of Spain, but the heat follows him. There’s a record today of 41 degrees in Bordeaux. More records predicted for the following days.
I’ve opened the windows and closed the louvered shutters. The high ceilings help. The attic floor is hot. It must not have been fun to be part of the staff of this house when there was staff. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently. British novelists have a knack of glamourising the whole upstairs/downstairs thing (as in Downton Abbey), when the reality was something quite other. I’ll take some pictures of how staff lived 100 years ago because our staff quarters are all mostly untouched since then.
Their quarters were divided between the very top and very bottom of the house. They had their own staircase that connected the two sections. Staff was expected not to use the grand marble staircase. Their five bedrooms were in the attic and from the marks on the floor there were two beds per room. That means it took a live-in staff of ten to run the place then. They had a communal living room. All bedrooms lead off from there. In the corner there was a curtained-off toilette area composed of a sink, a mirror and a bidet. The rest of their areas were in the basement. There, by the woodstore and cave they had their own kitchen, a w/c- and for some reason, right under the stairs is another bidet. I imagine it must also have been curtained off then. It doesn’t look like an easy life at all. Just the going up and down must have been exhausting. Imagine doing it in this heat!