So I was reading Just Jane by Nancy Moser and at one point in Jane Austen’s life she traveled to sea. Later she, her mother, sister, and friend actually moved by the sea and lived there for a while.
They talk about sea-bathing and the sea-bathing machines they would use.
Sea-bathing machines? What?
So sea-bathing started in the later 18th century, prescribed by two eminent doctors, Dr. Russell and Dr. Crane. By Regency times it was super popular.
So like in today’s world, when people go swimming, or sea-bathing, we just jump right in, or tread a little in the water. But not back in Regency times.
Instead they would go into a bathing machine, a large carriage like structure. There the bathers would change into their bathing suits and a horse would pull the carriage into the water.
When the reached the desired depth, the horse would be unhitched and go back to land, or take a carriageful of bathers that had finished back to land.
As the women and men would change in the machines, they were not shared by the sexes but divided between the two. Most often men and women bathed on completely different beaches as women wore muslin shifts, and men wore drawers or were naked.
By 1815 there were 40 bathing carriages and were busy nonstop between 6am-12pm every day.
Doctors prescribed being dipped into the water for one’s health. Often sturdy women were the dippers, traveling with the bathers in the carriage and dipping them so many times under the water. Kind of like being baptized, but more than three times.
For all you know, a witch might be living next door to you.
So I’m a giant fan of Roald Dahl, I’ve read pretty much everything he has written.
One book I had never read before was The Witches. I wasn’t really interested in reading about witches.
However, I was able to get a free copy of the book for free and decided to read it. The next step after reading-of course checking out the film version.
Luke Eveshim visits his grandmother in Norway and she tells them all about Witches. Witches hate children and wish to wipe them off the face of the Earth. They can smell a child a mile away.
Helga: Real witches are very cruel, and they have a highly developed sense of smell. A real witch could smell you across the street on a pitch-black night.
Luke: She couldn’t smell me. I’ve just had a shower.
Helga: Oh yes, she could. The cleaner you are, the more a witch can smell you.
Luke: That doesn’t make sense.
Helga: Oh, yes it does. A dirty child, it is the dirt she smells. A clean child, it is the child.
She then goes on to tell him how he can tell a woman is a witch:
“They always wear gloves–A real witch will always be wearing gloves when you meet her because she doesn’t have finger-nails. Instead of finger-nails, she has thin curvy claws, like a cat, and she wears the gloves to hide them.”
“They’ll be as ‘bald as a boiled egg’–Not a single hair grows on a witch’s head. You’d think this would make them easy to spot? Wrong! Real witches always wear a wig. And not just any wig. An expensive first class wig that looks like real hair. The only way to check is to give it a pull to see if it comes off.”
“They’ll have large nose-holes–Witches have the most amazing powers of smell and therefore have slightly larger nose-holes than ordinary people. They can even smell out a child who is standing on the other side of the street on a pitch-black night, and the cleaner you are, the more smelly you are to a witch. Witches call them stink-waves.”
“Their eyes change colour– Look carefully into their eyes, right into the middle of the eye where there’s normally a little black dot. If she’s a witch, the black dot will keep changing in colour, and you’ll see fire and you’ll see ice dancing right in the very centre of the coloured dot. It will send shivers running all over your skin.”
“They have no toes– Witches don’t have any toes. They just have feet with square ends. A real witch will hide her ugly feet by squeezing them into pretty shoes, which they find extremely uncomfortable. Look very closely and you might see a real witch limping very slightly.”
“They have blue spit– Real witches have blue spit, like ink (they even use it to write with). If you look very carefully you might be able to see a slight blueish tinge on their teeth.”
Shortly after, Luke’s parents die and he is to go live with his grandma. He doesn’t mind it too much, but then his grandma becomes ill and can no longer eat sweets. The doctor recommends visiting the English sea to improve her health.
They head out with Luke bringing along his pet mice, even though the manager is very much against it. He warns them that if the mouse is found anywhere not in its cage, they are out of the hotel.
Luke tries to train his mice in secret, running into an overweight boy, Bruno who only wants to eat and then finds an empty conference room. It soon is filled with the RSPCC-the Prevention of Cruelty to Children group. But this group turns out to be something much different.
When I saw this scene I was like:
And I was an adult watching it. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to a child.
The Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston), the boss, goes over her new plan to destroy all the children in the world.
Grand High Witch: Now, this is my plan: Each of you will go back to your homes… and resign from your jobs. Give notice. Retire. You will then buy with the money I give you…[Irvine gives her the money from the case box] Sweet shops. Candy stores. The best and most respectable sweet shops in England. [throws the money, the ladies are picking up the money] Upstairs: I have a trunkload of this English money… So, you’ll be able to offer three, maybe four times what these shops are worth. Go, go, go.
Yes, her plan is for them to sell chocolate that will transform children into:
Yep, their plan is pretty sound. The only thing that throws a wrench in it is that Luke has heard the whole thing and is preparing what to do to stop them.
That is until his mouse gets away from him and reveals that he is in the room. The witches see him and turn him into a mouse as well.
Luke has to navigate the hotel, one of which does not allow mice and has said if they find any about the Eveshims will be out.
Luke hurries back to his room as fast as he can in the hopes he can make it to their room without being squished. He hurries as fast as he can and tells his grandma the whole story. The two come up with a plan to steal the Witches formula and stick it in their special banquet soup, turning them all into witches.
There are only two problems: 1) How to get past the hotel staff without being caught.
And how to change Luke and Bruno back to boys again?
Will they succeed and save the world? Fail and every child be turned into mice?
So I really liked it.
It isn’t like American film, slower paced and has more dialogue than action but I really enjoyed it. Best of all they kept it almost exactly like the book.
When they showed the way the witches looked it was amazing! Completely perfect in how terrifying it is.
I liked the ending of the book better than how they changed it in the end, but the film’s ending would appeal to children more I’m sure.