17th February 1831

I have been ill lately with an ague. Never before have I realised how badly it doth go with a person to be ill in the town; ‘tis no wonder at all that those who live in cities do look poorly, with parchment skin and rickety bones and hawking coughs.

Not that all those living country lives do wax healthy and blooming: the troubles within this land on account of the weather these late years has meant hardship for many.

There was an old gentleman upon the shingle last time I went to meet the boats for my fish: he was proclaiming loudly to all and sundry how these latter days do signal the end of the world. Many folk did nod their heads sagely and speak of the storms, the wet summer two years ago which spelt havoc for the crops from which the land hath not recovered, and this latest Christmastide which was the coldest since we have come to Brighton and the snow piled still in the yards now at the end of February.

Notwithstanding the turmoil and hunger in the countryside this illness hath but convinced me that as our towns grow larger and march inexorably across our native land, people do lose knowledge of how to live within the natural world.

When first I began to wheeze and neigh I bethought me of the Spring fever which attacked me often as a young girl, and so I asked Eliza to fetch me some nettles for to make a decoction. Now who would think that nettles had become exotics? Yet along our streets and roadways nettles no longer have a place and the poor girl must trudge far up the hill towards the Farm while I, despairing of relief, remembered my Grandam’s advice and did sup dish after dish of coddled onions... which do bring about such winds and gales within me that I were mortified .

When I were young great purple or white blossoms in every ditch and beneath the hedgerows did signal sweet yarrow, to help reduce fevers, to settle the stomach, to ease young maids of monthly pain. But here in Brighton flowers do rejoice the eye and not the body and yarrow be reviled as a weed and removed where e’re it show its sweet face. My poor Eliza must need search the fields and meadows behind the town in wind and rain to bring back meagre handfuls of leaves.

But the thing which sorrows me the most is the lack of dainty chamomile. The Woman’s Herb by mother and grandma called it. Once, every woman in every household from the highest to the low did sip chamomile in front of the fire to allay the pains and cramps and headaches and fever which do beset us on our journey through life.

In truth I have been aware of this shrinking of the countryside for some time and so carried my chamomile plants and my peppermint and pretty lavender with me when first we moved from Tunbridge Wells. But never did I think to import humble nettles nor yet the plentiful yarrow! From the kindness of her heart Mistress hath sent down some of her vile nostrums and potions bought in the shops of apothecaries within the town. Cost the earth, they do. And the Lord hisself perchance has no idea what muck lies therein!

Eliza says we do be forging on ahead in this modern world. But I wonder often to myself if we are throwing God's great gifts right back in his face as unwanted: - no wonder he sends us strange weather.