Not so long ago I came across one of those wonderful, useless pieces of general knowledge with which to irritate other people. In mediaeval England it was not uncommon for some people to wash their hands just once a week.
Even given their lack of understanding of germ warfare I am not sure how they managed this. I assume the author of the book was referring to deliberate handwashing. Soap, as we know it, did not exist. Shampoo did not exist. Cleaning fluids, as we know them, did not exist. There must have been dirt everywhere.
In "The Woolpack" Cynthia Harnett has the young hero, Nicholas, taking a weekly bath and grumbling about it. A 'dip in the river' is different. Taking a weekly bath meant the water had to be heated by the servants. His father went into the tub first. Nicholas followed. The servants followed Nicholas. The scullion boy came last. The water must have been filthy by then - and cold as well. When the sullion boy was finished the water would have been tipped outside. It was all a lot of work.
Dirt is work. It creates work. There is the plumbing, the people who manufacture the pipes, the people who design the pipes. There is the water supply and the people who work for that. There is the washing machine. There are people to design those, make those, sell those, install them, and write the instruction manuals. There is the washing powder which has to be manufactured and put in a box. The box has to be designed and manufactured and marketed. It has to be packed and transported and put on the supermarket shelves. The list seems endless.
I like to think there is dirt and clean dirt. I like to think there is a difference between dirt and 'filth'. The latter is the real health hazard. It is what is caused by the failure to remove dirt and potential decay within a reasonable time. There is also 'pollution'. We will not head in that direction. Back to dirt.
I started thinking about dirt this morning because of the shirts. There were brown smudges of dirt around the collars and cuffs. That means my father has been in the garden. This weekend we begin daylight saving. It is time to plant summer things. There will be more smudges of dirt. Dirt is good.