Mad As A Hatter 

It’s been too long since I’ve written – but like most people, life took over and for a moment it felt like I was standing in the middle of a Manhattan road, with everything and everyone passing me by whilst I stood, fixed to the solid earth beneath me.

Like Ross and Rachel , being on a ” break” from writing and doing the things that I wanted to do, but reasoning with myself that I had no time for – never really worked out. In fact, I’ve come to realise that the age old, ” life goes fast” tantra – is in fact – true. I’ve been foolish to put aside the things that I enjoy doing, for the things I have to do. Life is more than that.

I have well an truly been Mad As A Hatter.

And so with that ominous piece of reflection out of the way ( mindfulness is very a la mode) we can get to the top of the matter. In fact we can get to the top hat of the matter. (As much as I do prefer a fedora myself.)

This idiom is commonly used to describe someone who is said to be mad.  The story of this hat’s origins are somewhat dark, somewhat very 18th century.  Most associate it with Carroll’s Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865,  however Lewis Carroll’s character was in fact named – the Hatter.  It was the Cheshire Cat who described him as being “mad” and so the name seems to have stuck in popular culture. But perhaps there’s something more lurking behind the grin of the Cheshire Cat and he in fact  knew more than Carroll because we can in fact use Alice and her Adventure’s to visualise the origin of this saying.

It all begins in 18th century where the production of hats occurred by hand in factories. These hats were made from felt, which was treated with mercury in order to create the desired texture , (you can see where I’m going now. ) Employees who worked diligently for years in these factories were of course chronically exposed to the toxic element mercury. If you’re a science geek, or just remember basic school stuff, you’ll know that chronic exposure to a substance, leads to accumulation in the body beyond a point at which it is no longer harmless.  And so the ” Mad Hatter’s Disease” came to be, where it was seen that those working in the production of hats, and those who wore hats daily for many years, displayed a similar array of odd characteristics, which at the time, people attributed to mental illness. The mercury within their nervous system’s led to symptoms ranging from confusion, dementia, loss of teeth, hearing and tremors. Of course, our naive 18th century selves were quick to associate these behaviours with loss of the mind, and so the saying Mad As A Hatter, was used to describe those described as being “crazy.” Fear not, with the pioneering advancement in medicine at the time, these symptoms were finally found to be due to the exposure of mercury in 1869.

But back to Alice – the Hatter – as he should be called – is known to wear a top hat. Could Carroll have used this literary character to depict the history and going ons of the time, a clever play on current affairs, a sort of ” do you see what I’ve done here?” to the future. Or perhaps, it is just coincidence.

Either way, Hat’s off to you…no really, take the hat off.

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