Woman’s Hour Invasion

This extensive script was part of a Children In Need Special way back in 1988. This text was transcribed from an original radio broadcast by Jon Beare. Thanks mate for all your hard work.

For those of you not wanting to read through the whole thing below, I’ve uploaded an audio recording of the special; you can listen to it below.

This text was transcribed from an original radio broadcast by Jon Beare. Thanks mate for all your hard work.

The Woman’s Hour studio is invaded by Blackadder and Baldrick.

Blackadder: Right Baldrick stick the gag on. Good afternoon ladies, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Edmund Blackadder and this is my servant.

Baldrick: (Muffled) Baldrick

Blackadder: Baldrick, the gag goes on the woman.

Baldrick: Oh sorry . . . Ow

Blackadder: As I was saying ladies, today I am trying to raise money for Children In Need. So far I have myself generously donated the entire contents of Baldrick’s wallet. As you know I am very fond of lovely little children. I?ve even bought a poor, sweet, needy little tiny child to the studio here today.

Baldrick: Goo goo

Blackadder: Oh for heavens sake Baldrick stick you back into it. Cheques can be made out to Edmund Blackadder’s Children In Need Appeal, but right now I want you to phone in and pledge lots and lots and lots of money. Major credit cards welcome. Give them the number Baldrick.

Baldrick: Yeah, just one thing, who’s this Major Credit Cards bloke?

Blackadder: He’s related to Corporal Punishment which is what you’ll be getting if you don’t shift it Baldrick, just give them the number.

Baldrick: Right, and the number is zero, two, big number, two, three, big number, big number, three, big number, big number.

Blackadder: Oh good grief, give it to me. Zero, two, seven, two, three, seven, seven, three, seven, seven. Right start coughing up ladies. Meanwhile I’m sick and tired of continuously hearing whinging women whining on about the problems of life in 1988 so we’re going to take you back in time to see how really awful life could be. Get phoning in now. We start with the sixteenth century.

There is a sound of going back in time.

Announcer: Hello again, and as you will have gathered by now today’s is a very different Woman’s Hour. The number for Children In Need pledges again: 0272 377 377. Meanwhile, its 1599. There’s a woman on the phone, an elderly virgin dancing to hold death at bay whose collections of silks and satins, sables and fine lace is so lavish it required the the invention of the walk-in wardrobe to house it. Your dinner party guests are smacking their lips over roast swan and syllabub, our hips are bolstered by bumroles and our waists nipped by iron hinged corsets and for the nobly born woman the biggest threat to peace of mind is the queen announcing she’d like to pay you a ruinously expensive visit. And the less nobly born? Well they’re slaving away in the kitchens, being beaten by their men folk, catching the pox or the plague and dying in child bed – but isn’t that the way it’s always been? As the newly meek Mrs Petrucio concludes in Mr Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew:

Mrs Petrucio: That duty as the subject owes the Prince, even such a woman oweth to her husband. And when she is froed, peevish, sullen, sour and not obedient to his honest will. What is she but a foul contending rebel and graceless traitor to her loving lord.

Announcer: And here in the BBC’s half timbered Globe studio, I’m pleased to welcome one of our most promising playwrites, William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare: One more barmen, thank you.

Announcer: William or should I call you Will?

Shakespeare: As you like it love.

Announcer: Will, you’ve been criticised for the way that you portray women

Shakespeare: Yeah.

Announcer: Take Lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan.

Shakespeare: Which you would love (ha).

Announcer: I see or Lady McBeth, now she comes across as a monster – is she meant to be or not to be?

Shakespeare: That is the question Jenny (ha). One thing you have to understand about the theatre business my old love is that no one gives a groat for the playwrite. You need an eye like Mars to threaten and command, just to get your name on the script. I mean, look at my old mate errr Frankie Bacon . . . I mean if he doesn?t hire himself a good agent he could be remembered as an essayist (ha ha ha)

Announcer: Surely not

Shakespeare: Oh yes, absolutely. Oh, dead soldier and I don’t mean Corelanus, Barman. Anyway, the way I first wrote Lady M, she made the beds, poured the sack, the honoured hostess bit, la di da di da – minor character. First week of rehearsal up comes the lad who’s playing her errr ‘master playwrite’ he says, I thought Uh oh here’s another one fresh out of Italia Conte dressed in a little brief authority. ‘Master playwrite’ he goes ‘I like not the size of my part’, well stuff some handkerchiefs down your codpiece I says – plenty of them left over from Othello (Ha ha). Anyway, it turns out he means his lines, you know, he wants more of them. And he’s got an errr influential uncle. Uncle me no uncles. So back to the scripting board, big rewrite job, plot goes out the window – you see in the original version Lady M shops her old man, marries McDuff and devotes herself to good works.

Announcer: What about all those weak women then like Ophelia?

Shakespeare: Ophelia, weak? Nah, she’s a bloomin firebrand. No wait a minute – which version have you been reading. Is it the one where she falls in the pond?

Announcer: Yes

Shakespeare: Oh well, that’s censorship for you. Sweet still a sweet farewell. Sweet, that’s a joke, she was a political activist for Christ sake.

Announcer: She was?

Shakespeare: Oh yeah, but you realise she’s Irish, come on: Ophelia huh. I see her as the catalyst of Hamlet’s reawakening. I mean they have a passionate debate, quick one behind the harrers, and then it’s on with the mask and get thee to an armoury and so forth.

Announcer: Isn’t it Nunnery?

Shakespeare: Nunnery? Oh thank you very much Lord Chamberlain, that lean and slippered pantaloon.

Announcer: You mentioned boy actors – what do you think of the recent controversial suggestion that the acting profession should be open to women?

Shakespeare: Oh, its dreamt of in my philosophy Jenny. In fact we just put on a special season ‘Women reclaim the Globe’ with the secret black and midnight hags drama group – lovely girls, The Taming of the Weasel, The Two Gentle Women of Verona, Julius Caesar

Announcer: Julius Caesar?

Shakespeare: No, no Julia Caesar you see huh – but I think we were ahead of our time quite frankly, you see Jenny, they please not the million. Look I’ve got some cuttings here Romsford Biggleswade huh

Announcer: So to sum up, you maintain your plays are sympathetic to women

Shakespeare: My dear old love, from women’s eyes this doctrine I derive – they are the books, the arts, the agony that show contain and nourish all the world – and I can’t say fairer than that can I?

Announcer: Will Shakespeare – thank you for talking to Woman’s Hour – just one final question though – the mysterious dedication in your new collection of Sonnets, who is this Woman’ Hour?

Shakespeare: Jenny – you have to ask?

There is a sound of going back / forward in time

Blackadder: Well as you can see, women in the sixteenth century were a good deal less well off than they are today

Baldrick: Well I think I’ll send all money to them then

Blackadder: Yes Baldrick. Two problems, A – you’re entire personal fortune wouldn’t suffice to buy the wool to knit a leg warmer for an ants pogo stick. B – unfortunately the postal service don’t run a sixteenth century mail service.

Baldrick: Oh yes they do (Blackadder punches Baldrick) Ow

Blackadder: I do the jokes Baldrick. So ladies, please send your cash to us here in aid of poor dewy eyed little mites everywhere – give them the address Baldrick

Baldrick: The address is: Blackadder’s personal slush account number 2, Banco Gigantico of Zurich, Switzerland.

Nervous laughter from Blackadder before another punch

Baldrick: Ow

There is a sound of going back / forward in time

Announcer: So far we have amassed £320 in pledges for Children in Need, 12 year old Lucy Wallace has pledged £2 from her pocket money. One man says he’ll offer us £5 if Woman’s Hour stays in the Middle Ages. We’ve an offer from a listener in Northumberland of a days salmon fishing on the River Tweed and that will now be going to the highest bidder by the end of the programme – can we start the bidding at £50, the number to ring 0272 377 377 (repeated)

Blackadder: Right, the money raised so far is a disgrace. I can only assume that most of you are getting on you’re potholing gear prior to venturing into your handbags – so while we wait for you to scramble down through the rubble, we are now going to the Nineteenth Century. When we get back I want to see an improvement or there will be trouble.

W T Stead: The Pall Mall Gazette 6th of July 1885. The report of our secret commission will be read today with a shuddering horror that will thrill throughout the world. After this awful picture of the crimes at present committed as it were under the very aegis of the law has been unfolded before the eyes of the public, we need not doubt that the House of Commons will find time to raise the age of consent.

Announcer: And at Woman’s Hour, we’ve been following with interest Social Reformer Josephine Butler’s campaign to raise the age of consent from 13. Now, amongst women, Miss Butler already has thousands of followers. This week though, sees the trial of one of her most influential male supporters. The journalist W T Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. Our reporter Jenny Cuff’s been in court throughout the case, and she reports now live from London on its final day. Jenny, could you remind us first what Mr Stead’s charged with?

Jenny: He’s charged with abducting thirteen year old Eliza Armstrong from her home in Marylebone – that sounds very dastardly, but to understand it you’ve got to be aware of the campaign he’s been running in his newspaper, The Pall Mall Gazette.

Announcer: Which of course has been one of the most shocking articles that Victorian England has seen in print.

Jenny: It has, I think it’s shocked the whole nation. In July if you remember, those articles appeared under the heading: The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. In them Mr Stead chronicled the story of a thirteen year old girl called Lilly, we now know she is Eliza Armstrong. He tells how she was sold by her drunkard mother for prostitution, taken to a brothel here in London, and left in a bedroom to receive a male client. Well during this trial we’ve learned that this whole thing was set up by Mr Stead and others, but it was used to illustrate what he claims is a common practice. The information that he and his secret commission acquired, was made public under some eye catching headlines.

W T Stead: Violation of Virgins. During a confidential interview with one of the most experienced officers, who for many years was in a position to possess an intimate acquaintance with all faces of London crime, I asked him: ‘Is it or is it not a fact that at this moment if I were to go to the proper houses where introduced the keeper would in return for money down, would supply me with a maid – a genuine article I mean, not a prostitute tricked out as a virgin, but a girl who had never been seduced’ ‘Certainly’ he replied without a moments hesitation. ‘Do you mean to tell me,’ I said, ‘that actual rapes in the legal sense of the word, are constantly being perpetrated in London on unwilling virgins, procured to rich men at so much a head, by keepers of brothels – the very thought of it is enough to raise hell’ ‘It is true’ he said, ‘and although it ought to raise hell, it doesn’t even raise the neighbours’.

Announcer: So you mean to say that girls – virgins – are deliberately being sold to brothels and men are seeking them out?

Jenny: Well I know its hard to believe, but the evidence seems conclusive. They?re being sold, sometimes by their parents, sometimes on a systematic basis. A few years ago remember, Josephine Butler and Alfred Dyer exposed a white slave trade by girls who were being shipped abroad to brothels in Paris and Holland and Brussels. Well Mr Stead has revealed that the same thing is happening on our own doorstep. And the villains who run it talk quite openly. One said he had ruined two thousand young girls, another boasted of a client who took seventy virgins a year. In my own research I have been astounded by the frankness with which brothel keepers discuss their affairs. Like this woman who owns an outwardly quite looking villa in West London.

Woman: In my house, you can enjoy the screams of the girl with a certainty that no one else hears them but yourself. The house stands in its own grounds, the walls are thick, there is a double carpet on the floor. The only window which fronts onto the back garden is doubly secured – first with shutters and then with heavy curtains. You can lock the door and then you can do as you please. The girl may scream blue murder but not a sound will be heard.

Announcer: What?s been done to protect these children?

Jenny: As you know, Mr Stead?s campaign to raise the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen has succeeded and that should help protect children if it?s properly enforced. But many people believe the root course is poverty, I mean girls go into prostitution in order to survive and that?s the problem we should now address.

Announcer: What about Josephine Butler, what part has she been playing in all this?

Jenny: She?s been campaigning for women for many years now. First she started in a higher education field. She got involved with the issue of prostitution when the contagious diseases acts were passed in the 60s. They gave the moral police the right to stop any woman suspected of being a prostitute, subject her to a rigorous, unpleasant medical examination and if necessary send her to the lock hospital at prison. All along, Josephine Butler has been fighting for appeal of those Acts. I?ve been talking to one of her fellow campaigners, Jenny Uglow.

Jenny Uglow: Josephine Butler was asked to head errr the Ladies National Association to protest against these acts and she had been involved with the rescue work with Prostitutes in Liverpool before. And as she and all the women campaigners became more and more involved, they realised it wasn?t simply a question of Women?s Rights – these women were being made into second class citizens deprived of the rights of the rest of the population, but that also err that a terrible double standard was being employed, in that it seemed perfectly alright for the soldiers to use a prostitute or indeed for the aristocracy as in this recent case or other people to have access to working class girls and working class women. But the women that were so used were being made into an outcast group.

Josephine Butler: Its quite the fashion I find in London among the upper classes, to talk of this subject as though women were tempters, harpies, devils, while men are wholly innocent. You know very well that young men go through two or three years of profligacy or as it is mildly expressed when applied to men ?to sow their wild oats?, well its exactly the same with these women and yet you never hear anyone say, ?have you found any conscience in these men, or are they entirely unhumanised? Have they any spark of modesty or manliness left??

Jenny: She and the people who?ve worked with her have been called a shrieking sisterhood, but she is amazingly brave – not only has she lobbied Parliament and talked to influential people but she?s travelled all over the country, there ahev been huge meetings all over the country, and at some of these meetings, excrement has been thrown at her once, bales of hay were set on fire below the room she was speaking and she has been set upon by a mob of men. Well the police who were supposed to protect her, but also the people that were implementing these acts simply looked on. And err she has campaigned now for many years and sometimes has felt ill and weak but has continued with the, with the struggle.

Announcer: How do you think this present court case, this Eliza Armstrong affair will influence her campaign?

Jenny: I think that it will influence her campaign in that it will make and has made many people see the wide spread nature of the exploitation of women and of girls and I?m quite sure that this will help towards the eventual repeal of the acts, but I hope also, I mean what we really want is to bring about a change in attitude of men towards women err which is really the way that most women involved in this campaign feel that the solution to the problem will come.

Announcer: And as to Mr Stead Jenny, I understand he?s been found guilty.

Jenny: Yes, and sentenced to three months in prison but without hard labour.

Announcer: Perhaps deservedly, since his journalistic techniques were somewhat questionable. Jenny Cuff, thank you.

There is a sound of going back / forward in time

Blackadder: Right, lets see the total. Ha, another miserable effort.

Baldrick: Oh ladies, ladies I appeal to you.

Blackadder: Baldrick, that is a lie. The only woman you have appealed to is your mother. Where should we send them to next?

Baldrick: What about the Crusades?

Blackadder: The Crusades? There weren?t any women there.

Baldrick: No, but there were plenty left behind. Must have been miserable for them without any real men about.

Blackadder: Sitting here alone with you Baldrick, I know how they feel.

There is a sound of going back / forward in time

Rosalind: The diary of Rosalind Vilius, dictated in secret to sympathetic old scribe. Saint Bonifass? Day 1388 Woke early to sound of dogs tearing stag to pieces beneath my window, and cousin John practising on the Crum Horn in the next room. Had a headache but dare not tell nurse as I cannot face anymore of her foxglove tea. After chapel, mother summons me to her chamber to say that father is leaving for the crusades next month. We both try to hide our relief. Loud noise is heard in passage – father whipping Jeffrey the new kitchen boy. Mother says what father needs is a couple of years whipping Saracens and Turks. Mother also reveals that she has good news. ?My chastity belt is to be taken off!? Cannot believe my ears and burst into tears of joy. Try to remember what it was like to sit down comfortably and rejoice to think that I will soon be able to. Also look forward to walking without clanking. I embrace mother gratefully but notice she looks guilty. ?A marriage has been arranged for you? she says, ?with Robert the Unhinged. We are very pleased for you my dear, he is of Royal blood?. Mother asks me if I do not find him a fine bridegroom. I say ?yes, admirable – apart from his being 56, fat, mad and covered with warts?. Mother locks me in my room in a fit of vexation. I am to be without food and drink for 24 hours. Nurse smuggles in piece of marzipan, specially prepared for me by Jeffrey the kitchen boy. My heart leaps as I find there is a note hidden inside. A declaration of love surely. Unfold note with trembling fingers, but alas cannot read. Neither can nurse, but she takes note to lonely hermit on hill who can. Nurse returns four hours later disappointed. Hermit says message not fit for young girl?s ears – I wonder sometimes what is. After ten hours mother relents and says I may join her for a little needle work in the gallery. Two hours tapestry work with mother. Ask her why we can?t do a tapestry with more excitement in it, like great, great, great aunt Mathilda?s. I love that bit where Harold gets that arrow in his eye. Mother retorts that flowers are more suitable subject for young girls. Plead with mother for longer engagement to Robert the Unhinged and point out that I am only fourteen and he is fifty-six. ?You had better marry him quick then?, she says, ?before he dies!? Mother observes that Robert the Unhinged is bound to die soon, or go away on the Crusades. And when he dies I will be a rich widow and able to do as I please. I have always fancied myself in black. I wonder if Jeffrey will be head chef by then. At the thought of the Crusades, mother?s eyes light up and at the next moment there is a knock on the door. It is Uncle William come to give her Viol lesson. Uncle William is unable to go on Crusades owing to flat feet, pigeon toes and ingrowing toe nails. But I have to admit, he?s not bad looking from the knees up for a middle aged man of thirty-two. Mother insists she must take her viol lesson alone and I am banished to the battlements. Cannot hear much sound of Viols, but expect there is a lot of theory to get through. From the battlements, I catch a glimpse of Jeffrey pulling up cress in the kitchen garden. I shout and wave but the wind carries my words away. Then suddenly, as if he senses something, Jeffrey looks up, sees me, falls on to his knees and burst into song of desperate love. Unfortunately, I cannot hear him as wind blows his words away too. Father and friends return from hunting and father smites Jeffrey playfully onto the dung hill as he passes. Robert the Unhinged is among the hunters and gives me an odious leer. His teeth are all black stumps. Mother receives letter saying that Aunt Alison, Aunt Agatha, Aunt Joan have all died in child birth. We weep for several hours. Afterwards, alone in my room I sit up thinking until the candle goes out. I am determined not to die at fifteen giving birth to fat unhinged baby with warts. Will dress as boy and run away to sea. Nurse agrees to make me suite of boys clothes or steal some of my brothers?. Unfortunately, Nurse getting very forgetful these days and I fear she will make a dress for my brother instead. Go to bed hungry and awoken at midnight by sound of fox decapitating geese. Feel sometimes that there must be more to life than this. I think I?ve been born ahead of my time.

Announcer: And the latest on the pledges: £450 we?re up to including £10 from Baldrick the cat from Brighton – perfect, thank you – but we need more to take us back to the twentieth century and make a better future for children today. The number to ring with your pledge is 0272 377 377. Now, what I haven?t added in so far is the money we?d already raised even before we went on the air by asking you to write in to Woman?s Hour from whatever century you chose. Well, we?ve had a terrific response from women and men all over the country. One of you even sent us a cheque for £100, bringing the total we raised just from those letters to £611.50 which according to me means we are over £1000 already.

A selection of the best letters are then read out by those who wrote them before Blackadder and Baldrick return to the programme.

Blackadder: So, did you enjoy sex in the Seventeenth Century Baldrick?

Baldrick: Blimey, no sir – the last time I enjoyed sex was ooh 1327 I believe.

Blackadder: 1327, pathetic.

Baldrick: Well hang about, its only just gone quarter past two now.

Blackadder: Yes Baldrick, when I said pathetic I was anticipating that punchline. Kindly remember that this is Woman?s Hour, not the Antiques Roadshow. How?s the money total?

Baldrick: Uhm

Blackadder: Good grief they?re a tight fisted lot – come on fork out the cash.

Sound of going back / forward in time

Announcer: But what was the woman?s perspective on sex in the Seventeenth Century? Well once Cromwell and his Puritans had been disposed of and the Monarchy was restored, sex was restored to a more prominent position in people?s lives. In fact as Dilly Barlow?s been hearing from writers, Elaine Hobby and Germaine Greer it seemed to become a rombustuous free-for-all.

Germaine Greer: Women lived a lot more in the society of other women. Though, were some extraordinary takes in the Seventeenth Century that talk about the embarrassment for men when women were talking together, because they always talked about men?s sexual performance and they were highly satirical about it and called them ?dry boots? because they didn?t come, or ?wet boots? because they came to soon and discussed the size of the member or its willingness, its, its perkiness and so on.

Dilly Barlow: But if a man?s performance was good for a laugh amongst the women, women?s sexuality and pleasure were taken far more seriously by them.

Elaine Hobby: If a teenage girl was going through a period of depression they called it green sickness. And they thought a good cure for green sickness was sexual pleasure. And there are records for instance of midwives teaching young girls to masturbate, so they could have sexual pleasure and stop feeling depressed.

Germaine Greer: I think they were better educated about sex than people were for two hundred years afterwards. Because even if you look at things like the anatomy books of the seventeenth century they?re marvellously explicit about the structure of the vagina and they all show the clitoris and they talk very exactly about how the clitoris is what creates a woman?s pleasure. That little tiny thing disappeared from the diagrams for another two hundred years. And then if you look at popular culture, women boasted of the size and veraciousness of their vaginas, their silk fringed purses and there?s lots and lots of sexual innuendo.

Elaine Hobby: You see in those days they thought that if a woman didn?t have an orgasm in sex then she wouldn?t conceive. So a man had to give his wife sexual pleasure if he wanted her to get pregnant.

Dilly Barlow: So a good time for women it seems: they knew about their bodies, they enjoyed their sexuality. Aye, but there in lies the rub.

Elaine Hobby: Women had thought of themselves as sexual beings, with a sexual appetite. But they were not meant to explore or enjoy that sexual appetite, with anybody other than their husbands. A woman had to be a virgin to be acceptable as a marriage partner and once she was married she had to be faithful to her husband. And her husband quite literally legally owned her. Look at Restoration Comedy and it is full of flirtatious couples – and you would think that women would have a wonderful flirtatious time.

William Whitchal: Your women of honour as you call them are only cheery of their reputations not their persons. And it is scandal they would avoid, not men. Now may I have by the reputation of a eunuch the privileges of one and be seen in a ladies chamber in the morning as early as her husband, kiss virgins before their parents or lovers and maybe in short the pass par tu of the town.

Dilly Barlow: William Whitchal as Hero Horner in The Country Wife employed the age old ruse of pretending to have the pox which made him impotent and was therefore allowed free run and free reign in the ladies bedchambers. All Restoration Comedies were full of such wenching and womanising including those of Affra Ben the only female writer of the genre. But there are subtle difference.

Elaine Hobby: There are threatened rape scenes in many of her plays. Women constantly being frightened by men. Women being persuaded to have affairs with men and once they have agreed, realising that in the man’s eyes, they have become no better than whores.

Dilly Barlow: But not all her characters were cowered by men. Eleanor in The Rover speaks up loudly for women?s rights.

Eleanor: I am as inconstant as you, for I have considered captain that a handsome woman has a great deal to do whilst her face is good. I see our business as well as humours are alike. Yours to cozen as many maids as will trust you and I as many men as have faith.

Dilly Barlow: But of course in reality, women were not only treated as whores and as possessions but literally as whipping boys too, according to the evidence of another midwife.

Elaine Hobby: Louise Bouchois talks about women being kicked by their husbands so hard, err, a particular woman she describes as having been kicked by her husband so her perineum was broken and her womb was jutting out of her body. And Loise Bouchois talks about having bound this woman up with bandages so she could carry a child to term. And in her description there is great rage but also powerlessness. There was nothing she could do to get this woman away from her husband.

Dilly Barlow: But under any circumstances child birth was a gruelling experience. Oddly enough, even then men were trying to take control of this traditional female domain with dire consequences.

Elaine Hobby: If we go back to Jane Sharp and her Mid-wives book, she talks of the practice she says of some men midwives who would give women scezarian sections of course without anaesthetic, and of course the women always died.

Germaine Greer: You actual find child birth becoming more dangerous as you go towards the end of the century. The appearance of the men midwife who didn?t have the foggiest idea what he was doing. Who had an interfering attitude toward the natural process, whereas the female midwives just tended to let it happen – I mean it?s a rare woman who survives a full child bearing career. Old wives are rare and that?s another problem because they are so rare that they get treated like witches because people are afraid of them. There is something in human about a woman who has lived to the age of seventy or eighty.

Dilly Barlow: Even that was not the worst.

Germaine Greer: I suppose the overriding reason for women to want to escape from the seventeenth century though is that most of them had to experience the agony of child death and some of them experienced it time and time again. Would bare fourteen or fifteen children and bring up two or three. To lose it at birth was bad enough, to lose it at two or three when you?ve got over so many hurdles – you?d weaned it without it dying and the women slid downhill sometimes very fast just dazed by grief and disappointment

Announcer: Germaine Greer looking back at Women?s lot in the seventeenth century. More bids please for the days salmon fishing on the Tweed – we are now up to £80 which frankly is pathetic. It won?t get a terribly good day in the season. We?ve also been offered a day?s shooting on the Range at Bisley and that will go again to the highest bidder by the end of the programme. Meanwhile our total for Children In Need so far has zoomed past £2000 and there?s still plenty of time to get your pledges in.

Blackadder: Send the money to us at Children In Need, I have my letter opener at the ready. And unless I get thousands of pounds immediately, I shall stuff it into the soft squashy part of Baldrick?s useless personage which he sits on in lieu of a cushion. I refer of course to his brain. The number again please Baldrick.

Baldrick: 0 2 7 2 3 7 7 3 7 7

Blackadder: They must be punished Baldrick – what?s the worst possible time we could send them to?

Sound of going backwards / forwards in time

Announcer: Its hard enough being a provincial woman living here a little west of Aqua Soules far from the comforts of Rome, but spare a thought for those at the very frontiers of the Empire in the barbarous north. Little wonder that villa prices are so startlingly low there. And lets face it you can?t get much more front line than Hadrians Wall, where our reporter – Julia Shaw – has been visiting the wife of Prefect of High Rochester, Allia Lucila.

Julia Shaw: Allia, we?ve come into your kitchen, it?s a bit dark and its very hot and really rather smelly in here – there?s a lot of people moving about. You?re preparing for a very important meal tonight, you?ve got important visitors.

Allia: Yes we have, the Emperor Julius Ceverus is coming up north on his way to Scotland, so we have to prepare a special meal because he?s staying the night.

Julia Shaw: What are the scaves doing there? It looks like they?ve got a suckling pig.

Allia: Yes, we?re having suckling pig, spit roasted and then we?re going to have it with a sauce of barley and figs – I?ve been saving those figs especially for ages now. To start with we?re going to have eggs and oysters and salad in sauces. For afters its going to be stewed fruit – plums, cherries, apples and a sort of, I don?t know how you describe it really, its bread that?s soaked in milk and fried in honey – its all good.

Julia Shaw: But the figs, that must be something special you must have got those from Rome?

Allia: Yes I was sent those as a present and have been saving them for a special occasion.

Allia: Well this is my dining room, welcome to my dining room.

Julia: Well this is a large room and I expected it to be rather cold coming especially as we have done from the kitchen – but in fact it?s really quite warm.

Allia: Well this is our public room our best room so here we have underfloor heating, which makes the room nice and warm but takes the toll on the furniture, because things like our very expensive shale table there – if that gets too warm it dries and splits and has to be kept regularly oiled.

Julia: You?ve got two young children, a little girl Flavia and a son Marcus – he?s just five.

Allia: That?s right yes.

Julia: Do you plan on having any more?

Allia: Well I?m hoping not to, I do take precautions – my mother recommended that I used wool soaked in olive oil with douches, vinegar or lemon juice. Lemon juice is quite hard to get here though. There are various methods. My sister in law swears by hanging the dried uterus of a mule round her neck – I don?t know whether that would work, she?s got four children so I suspect it doesn?t work but she reckons that we don?t know how many she would have had if she didn?t tie the dried uterus of a mule round her neck so I suppose that?s a possible argument.

Julia: And of course you actually breast-fed your children. You breast-fed the first one didn?t you?

Allia: Yes, I breast-fed the first one because there was no one else to do it, there was nobody available. One of the Greek doctors Ciranus recommends that one has the baby breast-fed by a wet-nurse for the first three weeks and then the mother takes over but that didn?t work I?m afraid.

Julia: What do Roman women feel generally about breast feeding – is it something you enjoy doing?

Allia: I don’t think enjoys the word – I mean if you can pay someone else or have someone else available to do it then why do it yourself. But I think that a lot of people feel that the mother breast-feeding forges links between the child and the mother. I don’t know whether this has been proved or not.

Julia: It’s really very much frontier territory here. You’re very much at the furthest edge of the Empire – you’re quite a distance from the wall. Do you feel in any kind of danger, a woman here?

Allia: It is quite dangerous – I’m not allowed to go outside the fort by myself without a guard of soldiers. The native Northern tribesman tend to wander round the hills in small bands.

(This woman goes on for a bit longer explaining the way of life for a Roman woman in Britain before Blackadder & Baldrick take over again)

Baldrick: In those days of course I marched with the Legions.

Blackadder: Did you?

Baldrick: Yeah, I was a Roman centipede.

Blackadder: You do’t mean a Roman Centurion do you? No, no you don’t!

Announcer mentions more donations coming in and items to be auctioned off. Our total so far is £2,500

The is the sound of the announcer being hit over the head.

Blackadder: Right Baldrick, got the money?

Baldrick: Yep, there’s quite a lot actually.

Blackadder: Right – give it to me. Lets scarper!

Baldrick: What?

The sound of Baldrick being hit

Baldrick: Owww!

Blackadder: Did you get my drift?

Baldrick: I can’t do that Mr Blackadder. The money belongs to Children In Need.

Blackadder: Get out of my way Baldrick.

There’s the sound of another punch.

Blackadder: Owww!

Baldrick: I’ve wanted to do that for centuries.

Announcer: And safely back in the 20th Century at last with all the money safe and sound.

END

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