Night Air

A2C7D9EB-AA83-45DF-B425-CCE72984400D photo curtsy of Dale Rogerson.

Fredrick took a deep breath of fresh night air, it would be the last sweet air that he sampled this night. He tightened the string holding up his latest pair of trousers collected yesterday from the rag and bone man. Then picking up his shovel he followed Ned and the cart into the back alley. It was six months since he had emptied the cesspits in this part of town, but the stench was bad. Particularly at Evergreen House, where they did not deposit ash into the privy, since they had adopted the craze for electric lighting and gas fires.

A fine day at Mevagissey

A fine day at Mevagissey

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. neilmacdon

    There’s a sort of romance about “night soil” men

    1. Michael Humphris

      For me there is often an element of romance in looking back in history. But I doubt Fredrick had the time look back. Whilst Ned the horse just enjoyed his nose bag of oats.

  2. rochellewisoff

    Dear Michael,

    Fredrick doesn’t have the greatest of jobs, does he. Atmospheric right down to the stench.



    1. Michael Humphris

      Rochelle… Sorry about the description of the pungent smell related to this type of employment.

      1. rochellewisoff

        Nothing to apologize for, Michael. The stench comment was meant as a compliment. 😉

        1. Michael Humphris

          And is gratefully received, thank you Rochelle

  3. Iain Kelly

    I like that you took the prompt back in time.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Iain, it was a stories that just pushed to the surface. However I am really enjoying all the other offerings this week,

  4. draliman

    An unintended consequence of the electric era.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Much as the pony express gave way to the telegraph, one change leads to another and so on.

  5. pennygadd51

    What a delightful take on the prompt! I really enjoyed that story, especially the twist at the end.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Penny, even today each technological change leads us to another.

  6. patriciaruthsusan

    Poor man. My mother said they used to put lime, I think, in the home privies. Back in the 1950’s the state of Ohio in the U.S. used to build fancier privies at the state rest stops along the highways. I don’t know how they cleaned those multiple-seat ones. An interesting and well-written historical story, Michael. Your descriptions were great. 🙂 — Suzanne

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Suzanne, I had forgotten the horse shoe shaped ‘communal semi circles of toilet seats’ which once graced county agricultural shows

  7. Liz Young

    Yuck! A miasmic slice of history there, Michael!

    1. Michael Humphris

      The miasma must have been quite ripe 🙂

  8. Abhijit Ray

    Frederick had a bad job. What a man had to do to earn a living. Some still practice manual scavenging. Inventions like electric light and gas burner probably were bad for Frederick’s profession. You have highlighted the importance of sweet night air in Frederick’s life. A blessing we often ignore or forget.

    1. Michael Humphris

      I still love the night air… As a child I remember scavenging on the local tip. These days I thank god that I had a better career

  9. Sandra

    Such a job. You described this well, Michael.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Sandra, I guess that many Victorian jobs where worse

  10. patrickprinsloo

    Interesting. That must have been the case. Inventions benefit some, penalise others.

    1. Michael Humphris

      It is the way of the world, sometimes for good and sometimes for the worst.

  11. Inside the Mind of Isadora

    Interesting take on the prompt, Michael.
    Horrible work but I suppose someone has to do it.
    Your description took me right into the cesspit.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Sorry Isadora, I guess that the where worse careers

  12. Tannille

    My nose is still scrunched up trying to get rid of the fictional bad smell!

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Tannille, it was a smell hard to ignore

  13. Brenda's Thoughts

    A very descriptive piece, I could smell the smells and cringed at what Frederick and Ned had to do. Well done!

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Brenda, fortunately times have changed,

  14. gahlearner

    What an interesting story with so much loving detail. It makes me think… running water put men like Frederick out of a job (just like electricity and other inventions) — and today new technology makes other jobs obsolete. If we don’t change with the times, we’re left behind.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Thank you Gabi. It seems that each new generation learns and adapts.

  15. lisarey1990

    Great atmosphere.

    1. Michael Humphris

      Even pungent perhaps 🙂

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