Recently at GRL, I gave away two gift bags to two attendees of GRL. Out of all the folks who signed up to enter, only two could win, which left many wondering what was in those gift bags! Since I had such a good time putting the gift bags together, and since the winners have long since opened their respective prizes, I thought I’d share.
Peppermint circles show up in In Axminster Workhouse, Out In The World, and In London Towne. They are what Oliver purchases for Jack, whose stomach cannot handle the lurching of a coach – the 1846 version of motion sickness. Jack does not enjoy being delicate in this way, but Oliver never teases him about it, as his response to Jack’s needs is always gentle and loving. I selected Altoids Peppermints on account of they are like the peppermint circles in the books (white without any food coloring), plus I can never resist a good looking tin!
Playing cards show up through the series as Jack participates in games of whist and toro and teaches Oliver how to play patience, which is what they call solitaire on the other side of the pond. On Jack’s birthday (May 5), Oliver gives Jack a set of La Rue playing cards, which was the brand favored by Charles Dickens, who called them the king of cards. I would have loved to include a set in this prize, but a deck of La Rue playing cards starts at $300 on ebay! Instead, I found these Bicycle brand playing cards, which are “distressed” to look old and that, incidentally, are marked! I think Jack would like that.
Balm shows up in In Axminster Workhouse, Out In The World, On The Isle Of Dogs, and In London Towne. In 1846, there was no equivalent to K-Y jelly or even Vaseline or other modern sexual lubricants, so I determined that the lads would use what they refereed to as “balm” when really going at it. Later it occurred to me to wonder what exactly the balm was made of. Bear grease? Goose fat? After examining over 20 different products (most of which came in tins, as that is how Oliver and Jack would have purchased their version), I judged them on smell, consistency, and the tin. I picked out Dr. Bronner’s Organic Magic Balm. It’s gentle on the skin, and is made from a soothing blend of organic beeswax, organic coconut, organic avocado oil, organic jojoba oil, and organic hemp oil.
Beeswax candles show up in all of the books in the series because the smell of a beeswax candle is capable of sending me right back in time to 1846. Granted, most folks of Jack’s status would have used rushlights (reeds soaked in fat; they burned fast, in about 20 minutes, so you had to have a lot on hand), or tallow candles, which were entirely made of animal fat, wend bad very quickly, and smelled terrible while burning. But because I love beeswax candles so much, I gave the lads access to them at every turn. When you burn a beeswax candle, they do smell a bit like honey, and when you blow them out, the lovely smell lingers for a few minutes. Oliver, I think, would have abhorred using anything else.
The red silk bracelet has a long history that weaves its way through all the stories in the series. The idea of it began with the red wool scarf that Oliver wears in Fagin’s Boy when he goes for a walk, and which Jack soon takes from him and uses as a decoration in his room at the Three Cripples. During their journey to Lyme Regis (At Lodgings In Lyme), the scarf is destroyed, so later when the lads are in Winterbourne (In Axminster Workhouse), Oliver makes sure to purchase a silk cravat for Jack that is of the same cheery red color. During the events in On The Isle Of Dogs, the cravat becomes much worse for wear, and Jack makes a red silk bracelet out of it for Oliver to wear.
What Oliver & Jack story would be complete without a scene that includes soap? Oliver is a fastidious sort and is always on the lookout for hot water and soap to wash with, and eventually gets Jack to join him in many a steamy bathing scene. My search for soap resembled my search for the perfect balm; I wanted something old-fashioned and with a scent that was not overpowering, as I couldn’t imagine that either Oliver or Jack would want to smell like a perfume factory. After much browsing in local health food stores, I came across a soap that seemed to fit the bill: “Since 1847, Thayer’s Soap.” I picked a citrus scent for Jack, and, of course, a rose petal scent for Oliver.