Saturday, 26 May 2012

Second to none

I had one of these once. I found it, years ago when we were house-hunting in France. It was almost the same as in the photo, only the curved members were extended to join at the ends, so that it looked like a kind of sledge. It was called un moine, a monk. There was a time when no house in this part of the world was without its monks.

I took it home to Scotland, hoping to sell it at a vastly inflated price, both for its curiosity value and for its practical usefulness, more appropriate for the frozen North, it seemed to me, than the sunny South.

I was let into the secret early.  And I'll let you in too. No, no, please don't thank me. It's just my nature. It's a bed-warmer. There's a metal plate, top and bottom centre. The practice was to heat a brick or stone by the fireside, wrap it in flannel, place it on the metal plate and slide the whole thing between the sheets.

(In the photo there appear to be embers or coals in the hanging pan. I never heard of that before and don't think this can be quite right.)

I think I eventually sold it for about £3. How dreams dissipate, like a freshly warmed bed on a cold night.

I wouldn't like to be thought sexist, so to ensure balance I thought you might enjoy this photo. Not a monk in sight.


Liz said...

£3?! The Scots were living up to their reputation a bit there!

Christopher said...

Hello Liz. Actually it might have been £3.50 that somebody paid for the privilege of having a) an interesting conversation piece to hang over the fireplace and put geraniums in, or b) having yet another useless piece of junk to clutter up the garage with.

Martin said...

The effort of getting this contraption between the sheets would probably be enough to raise my body temperature. The nuns look happy, though, in their divine dodgems.

Rog said...

I suspect the expression "having a right monk on" is derived from the practise of warming just one side of the bed.
It's now gone the way of the Crianlarach "All you can Eat" luncheon house, following my Uncle Hughie's famous visit there in 1956.

mig bardsley said...

It must have been a bit disappointing to find one of these when you were looking for a house. Unless it was very late when you found it and you happened to be carrying a bed with you on your house hunt.

Mike and Ann said...

The item you illustrate is described in Pinto's book on 'Treen and other wooden Byegones' as a bed wagon or bed airer -"to be placed on the bed, under the covers, in a little used bed chamber". He describes it as "a cage, sometimes of iron, but more often of wood, usually with steamed and bent ashwood hoops and spars, enclosing a pan of charcoal in an iron brazier. Iron plates above and below, protected the bedclothes from burning. Bed wagons are said to have been in use in England in the 16th century."
Hope this helps- Regards, Mike.

Tim said...

In Italy it's called 'il prete'. I can't imagine what they thought monks and priests had to do with warming beds.