Helen liked her job. The dark was deep and intense down in the sandstone caves beneath the city, but the temperature was always constant. During the long winter months, she would happily stay down in the near darkness for hours, away from the freezing cold conditions above ground. She was given a tallow candle so that she could see enough to do her work.
Climbing down to the wells she was expected to clean wasn’t difficult as there were hand and footholds cut into the smooth walls. She was a good climber and always had been. It was one of the reasons she was selected for this particular job. The water was cold but it never froze and Helen was able to scrub away any accumulations of dirt in and around the well using a cloth and ash.
A picture of the foot and hand holds above the medieval wells in the City of Caves, Nottingham
In the distance she could see the gong man clearing out the cesspit. She was glad that she was far enough away not to smell the human excrement he were shoveling into buckets to be taken away and used as fertilizers by the farmers. It was a disgusting job and he had to leap down into the pit once its smelly contents were out of reach of his spade, and shovel it out from within the pit.
The water from the wells was owned by the wealthy individuals of the town, with the poorer people, like Helen’s family, having to get their drinking water from the river. Sometimes it froze over and they had to make a hole in the ice to get to the water or melt snow over a small flame. Fuel was scarce so obtaining water was the better option. The townspeople were careful not to pollute their drinking water and Helen thought it was funny that the drinking water in the wells was so near to a cesspit.
A picture of one of the ancient wells in the City of Caves, Nottingham
This post was written for Sue Vincent’s weekly photo challenge here: https://scvincent.com/2019/08/29/thursday-photo-prompt-frozen-writephoto/