After An Octave, I Certainly Wouldn’t Complain

Okay, a brief refresher course on the long unused English Liquid Imperial Measurements. Ready, okay:
4 gills = 1 pint
2 pints = 1 quart
4 quarts = 1 gallon
9 gallons = 1 firkin (you knew that, right?)
18 gallons = 1 kilderkin 
36 gallons = 1 barrel (this is NOT the barrel used to measure crude oil, which is 42 gallons)
54 gallons = 1 hogshead (but pay attention, this is not always true)
72 gallons = 1 puncheon
108 gallons = 1 butt (two hogsheads are one butt … there’s an obscene joke in there somewhere)
216 gallons = 1 tun (two butts are a tun … that too is an obscene joke)
1 gallon of wine = six quart bottles
1/4 cask = 13 dozen quart bottles
Octave (or 1/8 cask) = 6 and 1/2 dozen quart bottles
Which means that 
1 cask = 52 dozen bottles, or 624 bottles of wine
Which is an awful lot of wine. Enough to drown perhaps an entire brotherhood of monks for a week at least, depending on how many brothers there are how they hold their wine. And how stingy the abbot is.
But careful, because
1 Hogshead of wine = 43-46 gallons
(and just for fun, and to make sure you’re paying attention)
1 Hogshead of rum = 45-50 gallons
Now that you have a passing familiarity with measurements that aren’t used anymore, this little advert from the back of a 1946 issue of Blackfiars, the monthly journal of the English Dominicans:

Obviously, Albert H. Wetz was selling wine in staggering amounts. For communion, of course (wink wink), but I find myself wondering: who on earth would complain about communion wine not being strong enough? Or is there something going on in English Catholicism in the middle of the 20th century, perhaps a Great Weak Wine Crisis, the kind of wine that didn’t give Father Marsh quite the nip and tuck he needed after a long Sunday of confession and baptizing and dominus vobiscum. And what is the highest strength of wine “permissible by Canon Law?” I suppose I ought to google that. Someday I will.

(Approbation is a good thing. No, I didn’t know that, though it’s fairly easy to ascertain from the context.)

Apparently, these folks still make and sell wine. I wonder if I can still get a firkin of the stuff. Sorry, an octave. That’s still a lot of wine.

(And I’m going to write the nice people at Mt. Gay Rum and see if they sell rum by the hogshead. The proper rum hogshead, and not some piddly wine hogshead…)

Quite Possibly the Strangest Dream I Have Ever Had

I have had some very strange dreams, but last night’s was as strange as it gets and deeply unsettling.

I was a student in some kind of school of wizardry and magic, only it looked like a modern university, and I was staying in a small dorm room that was painted some color of dark tan. I had apparently discovered an enchanted rum that, if you took a swig of it before bedtime, would allow you to go wherever you wanted to in your sleep. So, taking a swig, I slept, and (of course) decided to go to Libya. Where else, right?

Once there, I started to wander around. I was in a city I did not know the name of, and things were unsettled. For some reason, once I got there, I decided to needed to go someplace and wait for a phone call. From whom and about what I do not know. At some point, I am waiting beside a bank of phone booths in a public place when I’m spotted by the militia — which is manned by nothing but in 11-year-old boys in gray-green jump suits wearing too-large helmets. They decide that my waiting by the telephone is suspicious and they call somebody. An expensive Mercedes with darkly tinted windows soon arrives, and they hand me over to a woman who looks like Hillary Clinton but who has short curly hair and speaks with a British accent. She is alone, commands me to come with her, and I do.

Soon, we are at a five-star hotel, which is more like a maze as we walk. She does all the talking, while I am wondering why I am not attempting to escape. The only things I remember her saying are, “you need to tell the nurse if you have any health problems,” and congratulating me on being able to navigate a particularly challenging passage. (It felt a bit like portions of Quake II, even as it looked like a five-star hotel.) Finally, we are in a first-floor loading dock where we are met by some people — men in shiny Italian suits (Arabs and Brits) and one Arab man who looks like a cross between Toichiro Mifune (from “The Seven Samurai”) and Omar Sharif. He holds a long staff in one hand, and it turns out he’s a senior sorcerer and torturer.

It is at this point in the dream I wake up to find myself in my dorm room surrounded by fellow students. They ask me if the rum works. I tell them no, it was only a dream, but then a package arrives — a half-drunk bottle of wine with the message “We’ll see you tomorrow” written with a grease pencil on the label. For whatever reason (dream logic), this convinces me that I really was in Libya. I scream.

Suddenly, I am back in the loading dock, chained to the wall. The woman is still talking. In fact, she does all the talking. She tells me the torture the sorcerer has planned for me is unique — he has made a drawing of me and posted it on the internet, along with various weapons. People will be able to use those weapons to hurt me as much they like when they use them on the drawing. (Enchanted Flash!) No one will be able to rape, decapitate, or kill me. But they will be able to inflict a great deal of pain. There doesn’t seem to be any purpose to any of this — no one has asked why I was there, or how I got there, there were no requests for information.

Finally, at this point, I really wake up. I’ve had much more terrifying dreams, but this one was very, very strange and deeply unsettling. I never really went back to sleep after this.