PERHAPS I should be writing about the right-wing’s apparent failure – indeed humiliation – to muster 48 names so Jacob Rees-Mogg can begin the process of ousting Theresa May. Perhaps I should be writing about why the Democratic Unionists think it is acceptable for Northern Ireland to have different laws to the rest of the UK on, say, abortion but not on trade.

Or I could be drawing on one Tory MP’s concern about “European bureaucratic pettifoggery” – what a great, and genuine, word for “legal chicanery” which dates back to the 16th Century – or I could have found entertainment in the Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, accusing the former Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, of being a “carpet-bagger” – a serious insult, to anyone who knows their political history.

However, the only story which has occupied my mind this week has been one I accidentally stumbled across in The Northern Echo of July 1909 when I was looking for something else.

“Fatal shampoo fumes” was the headline that drew me in, and when I learned that the fantastically-named Miss Helenora Catherine Horn-Elphinstone-Dalrymple, the 29-year-old daughter of a baronet, had been killed by shampoo while having her hairwashed at Harrods, I was hooked.

Shampoo is from a Hindi word, champo, which originally meant “head massage”. In the mid 19th Century, it was found that the massage oils used in a champo were also efficacious at cleaning the hair, and so the meaning changed.

The problem was the ingredients of the shampoo lotion. For instance, in the 1890s, the “petroleum wash” became very fashionable, although on July 23, 1897, Mrs Fanny Samuelson, of Breckonbrough Hall, near Thirsk, was killed in a London salon when her head exploded in flames. Strange to say, the publicity surrounding her death boosted the popularity of the petroleum wash.

By 1909, though, Harrods had refined its methods and was using a tetrachloride carbon dry shampoo – the lotion was applied to dry hair and then towelled off in a waterfree process.

Our generation knows that tetrachloride is very toxic – it was used in refrigerators until it was discovered to be eating away the ozone layer – as did Harrods back then. They warned customers in advance that they might feel faint during the eight-minute process. They covered their faces with towels, so the tetrachloride didn’t dribble into their eyes, and they blasted powerful electric fans in their faces to blow away the noxious fumes.

Harrods had doused at least 20,000 customers in six years with tetrachloride, and in 1909 employed 20 assistants working on 100 women a day, and only three had ever come over “a little queer”.

But two minutes after assistant Beatrice Clark applied the lotion to Miss Horn-Elphinstone-Dalrymple, she turned very pale, slid off the chair and expired on the floor.

A post mortem discovered that the unfortunate lady had an “undiagnosable condition” of weakened heart muscles which predisposed her to sudden death, and so the jury returned a verdict of “accident death accelerated by the fumes” of the shampoo.

The Northern Echo concluded: “The process is absolutely safe if one could ensure no vapour being inhaled by unhealthy subjects.”

So I hope my sad story has washed away the woes of Brexit, although I fear we will all soon be succumbing to the toxic fumes of the pettifoggery of the political declaration.