Sunday, August 05, 2012

Cleaning up

Today we planned to visit the zoo and feed the giraffes, but after an eight mile run this morning I conked out completely, incapable of doing anything apart from hanging the laundry out.

Today's laundry had included a paper hankerchief, so as I hung out the clothes I had to contend with hundreds of scraps of damp tissue, sticking to me and to the clothes. Enraged, I swore at my socks and pants, then lay down in bed and didn't wake up for an hour.

We haven't had the best of luck with laundry this weekend; first there was the load from yesterday that got soaked, then today's tissue troubles, and then we laundered a pair of trousers full of ballpoint pens; luckily we didn't ruin all the clothes that we put in the machine, but I was glad we didn't put another load in, for fear it would catch fire or be abducted by aliens.

I spent the rest of the day reading a history of the chocolate industry. It's a strange and frustrating account at times: you keep wishing that the Cadburys would figure out how to make chocolate bars, and it's strange indeed to picture a world before chocolate bars existed. It's just as strange that a group of stern, bearded Quakers would end up mastering the confectionary industry of Britain for so long. I almost want to eat some Dairy Milk. But only almost.

I wonder if the modern, posh chocolate (like the stupidly dark Theo branded stuff I get in Seattle) is anything like the chocolate the Cadburys were trying to avoid making - more bitter and stronger tasting than the sweet, sweet stuff that Cadburys and Nestle produce en masse. But I haven't reached a part in the book where Valrhona or any of the other high end chocolatiers show up.

It's another book that reminds you how British industry was implicated in slavery, even after abolition; in this case, though the Cadburys built their ideal town in Bourneville, the cocoa beans they used were farmed by slaves in an island controlled by the Portuguese. This is just one of the contradictions, along with Quakers using advertising when they're not mean to be boastful, or amassing great riches while being frugal. The book argues the Quakers were stuck; their ability to influence things was limited as they only purchase a small fraction of the slave-produced cocoa bean output. I'm a bit worried about what else I'll discover as I read about nominally innocuous things like chocolate and rubber.

Next thing you know, I'll be reading something that suggests the British Empire wasn't wholly benign.


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