Posted by Brian from Shawnee on February 05, 2004
In Reply to: "Sleeping over the rope" posted by Keith Pelton on February 04, 2004
: : : Has anyone heard of this phrase or similar in respect of how people used to sleep in doss houses?
: : : Heard it yesterday in a Hancock's Half Hour made in 1956.
: : : Many thanks, Harry
: : Was Anthony Aloysius Hancock on BBC7? In a doss house, to save space, people didn't sleep on the floor. A rope was strung across the room and people slept with their arms over it. I don't know if they were standing or sitting - it wouldn't have been very comfortable either way.
: I'm not sure this would be it, but during that time mentioned and before. Beds didn't have boards to hold up their straw filled mattresses. They used ropes and would tighten them every night before they went to bed. So one could say that that would be "sleeping over the rope". Also where the term "Sleep tight (tightening of the ropes), Don't let the bed bugs bite" came from.
: I could be wrong, you guys on this site seem to have all the right answers when it comes to these phrases. Just trying to help.
From George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, found on-line at http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/O/OrwellGeorge/prose/DownandOut/downandout_37.html
Orwell lists three places where you can sleep in London if you don't have 7 pence for a bed in a doss house. The first place is the Embankment where you can sleep on a bench for free if the police don't move you along, the third is a place called The Coffin where you sleep in a wooden box covered with a tarpaulin for 4 pence a night. The second place on his list is where you sleep on a rope:
"2. The Twopenny Hangover. This comes a little higher than the Embankment. At the Twopenny Hangover, the lodgers sit in a row on a bench; there is a rope in front of them, and they lean on this as though leaning over a fence. A man, humorously called the valet, cuts the rope at five in the morning. I have never been there myself, but Bozo had been there often. I asked him whether anyone could possibly sleep in such an attitude, and he said that it was more comfortable than it sounded-at any rate, better than bare floor. There are similar shelters in Paris, but the charge there is only twenty-five centimes (a halfpenny) instead of twopence."