Effluvia of the Rivers (478 – 534) – one of the dregs of history

Oswyn and Beatrice of the Rivers were two status-oriented river traders who plied their wares on what are now the Trent and Humber Rivers. Being upwardly mobile and relatively wealthy, they spent much of their time working out how they could show their superiority over other villagers.

They spent their time trading silks from the orient and anything else they could get their hands on. This included a burgeoning business in antique Roman pottery that was becoming popular with the more wealthy members of the populace. They worked tirelessly trying to ingratiate themselves with such people. This led to an interest in all things Latin, and when they had their first child, they searched around for a suitable name. It was unfortunate that they spoke no Latin, for they settled on what sounded like a perfect name for their little girl – Effluvia; it had a ring to it that just rolled off the tongue.

Effluvia of the Rivers was christened by a jovial monk named Offa. He had a very good knowledge of Latin and went bright purple with the effort of keeping a straight face during the ceremony. He was seen to be sweating profusely and afterwards was heard to comment that he thought he was going to burst a blood vessel. He settled for retreating to a quiet spot by the river after the christening and laughing hysterically for twenty minutes before having a good lie down to compose himself.

Poor Effluvia grew up without any knowledge of what her name really meant, but it was ingrained in her, by her parents, that she was a cut above all the ‘common people’. She soon realised her parents were snobs and did everything she could to annoy them; she was the ultimate misbehaving rich girl who was never satisfied. After a rudimentary education she joined her parents in river trading. They thought this would keep her grounded, but the only thing that became grounded was one of their boats.

By the time she was a teenager, some loose words from the clergy meant that she had acquired the nickname Shit Creek. As she grew older and much to the growing unease of the parents, she discovered boys. It was then that she found ways of misbehaving even more. She used to take boys them out onto the river in one of her custom-made coracles and just drift down the river with the current getting up to no-good. Because of her apparent friendliness, there was a line of boys queuing up to see if they could have their way with her, and then they would brag about it afterwards. It is rumoured that the phrase ‘up Shit Creek without a paddle’ is a reference to that time spent with Effluvia drifting on the river.

As she matured Effluvia, took over the river-trading business from her deceased parents, and set about building an empire. She married one of the many suitors that found her (and her affluent business) attractive. She and Gawain (her husband) had three children – Offa, Osric and Oswyn, all boys. They were all big and brawny and, as they grew up, were used to settle disputes with unruly customers. These people were put on Effluvia’s blacklist, often called the shitlist, but only out of earshot.

Effluvia eventually controlled trade on the Trent, Penk, Sow, and Humber Rivers, and built up quite a fortune. At age 50 she passed the business on to her sons, who in the true tradition of such brawny offspring, proceeded to send it broke within two years. In their efforts to extract money out of unwilling customers they all ended up drifting face-down in the Trent.

This didn’t bother Effluvia or Gawain, as they had long since moved to the South Coast and settled at Fishbourne, an old Roman town. It was in her 54th year that she found out what her name really meant and it caused her quite a shock; however, true to form, she passed it off as a bad joke and made sure that anybody who laughed too loudly woke up the next morning to find a pile of steaming cow manure on their doorstep as a gift, with a bill for her services, of course. Ironically, this became quite a thriving business, and Effluvia the Manure Merchant was born. Unfortunately she died before she could expand her empire along the coast and the world was robbed of a colourful and feisty character.


This is an extract from The Complete Dregs of History Available here

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon). Real name Peter Tapsell...just started off writing under a pseudonym and kept going.

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