11.01.1890. A CURIOUS BURIAL.

(Here is a newspaper item from The East London News, 1890 about the opium den Charles Dickens based a narrative from his book upon. I found this in the newspaper archives of the local library when i was searching for material for a painting exhibition.)

A Chinaman, Finds a Resting Place in Bow Cemetery.

The Extraordinary Career of Ah Sing.

Ah Sing was buried on Sunday in Bow Cemetery. According to an old
acquaintance of the dead Chinaman, Ah Sing was “buried most comfortable.” According to Mrs. Ah Sing, or Mrs. Johnson, as she is called more frequently, Ah Sing’s troubles, of which he had more than he ever told her about, she said, are over, and he is now, she feels certain, where opium is not a necessity, and where “that blessed cough of his” will trouble him no more.
Though born in the Flowery Kingdom, Ah Sing was not laid to rest to the hollow and hungry sound of the tom-tom. No sweetmeats or paper ornaments were laid upon his grave, and no appeals were made to any Joss on his behalf. For many years Ah Sin professed to be a Christian. Whether or not he became addicted to reading the bible before his business of providing opium for those who cared to “hit” the pipe took unto itself wings, does not seem clear. There is no doubt, however, that recently he read his Bible with commendable regularity.
Upon her return from the funeral on Sunday, Mrs. Ah Sing referred with undeniable satisfaction to the strong bond of affection that had existed between Ah Sing and his Bible. She was dilating upon her husband’s taste in literature when a neighbour, who had also attended the funeral, interrupted her with the remark that she was sure the deceased “must have known the third chapter of John by heart.
Did she know why Ah Sing took special pleasure in reading this particular, chapter? The sorrowing neighbour intimated that she was not willing to certify under oath to her knowledge, oath but she felt certain it was because Ah Sing received more enlightenment from this chapter than from the rest of the bible combined. She hastened to add that it was extremely difficult to get the better of Ah Sing in a religious discussion, as he knew” to a dot” the subject of life, and she had often seen him, clasp his hands and heard him beg his Heavenly Father “to take him home.
It has been claimed since Ah Sing’s death that his opium den was immortalised by Dickens in the first chapter of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Ah Sing was always very proud to relate that his den had been visited by the great novelist, and Ah Sing’s widow says that such a visit was made. Dickens, in “Edwin Drood,” certain1y describes the court in. which Ah Sing lived, but he describes the proprietor of the Opium joint as a woman, as so hideous a woman that she could hardly have been Ah Sing’s wife, for the latter is today mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and rather pleasant-looking. In the story this woman refers to “Jack Chinaman t’other side of the court” as the only person in the vicinity who, besides herself, possess the true secret of mixing opium, adding, with an eye to business, “but he can’t do it as well as me.
This woman could hardly have been Ah Sing’s wife, though she lived in
New-court. Victoria-street, E., for about thirty years, and would have
been, there to-day, probably, if the old rookeries in which she and Ah Sing lived .and in a manner thrived had not been pulled down a couple of years ago to make room for a school building. The circumstance that Dickens’s opium mixer referred to Jack Chinaman
t’other side of the court” seems to point to Ah Sing’s widow, for she
rented Nos. 2 and 3, while he rented Nos. 6 and 7 in New-court.
Her houses, she said on Sunday, were not used for opium dens, but
boarding-houses. She was explaining that her boarders were generally
numerous in “the old times,” when the mourning neighbour added, “They were coloured men, you know, sir”. Neither the interruption nor the
unexpected colour of Mrs. Ah Sing’s boarders seemed of consequence to the
widow, but, in compliance with the wish of the mourning neighbour, she
explained that all her boarders were seafaring men, and generally Lascars. Nearly all of them smoked opium, and they were always accommodated “t’other side of the court,” where Ah Sing was the presiding genius. In those times he was known to his intimates, the mourning neighbour said, as the “dear old boy”
Though Mrs. Ah Sing had no recollection of seeing Mr. Dickens, she is
quite certain, she said on Sunday. that Mr. Dickens had visited her husband’s place. “Lots of gentlemen” were in the habit of visiting it, she said. Rubbing her hand across her forehead, as if the action would carry memory back to the old time, she turned to the sorrowing neighbour and said “You remember, Mrs. Godfrey, how many people did come to the old place.” Mrs. Godfrey blessed her “art,” and said she should think so, indeed.
Then she proceeded to inform the visitor that the West End was largely represented, quite frequently, at Ah, Sing’s. As if to remove the, last lingering shadow of doubt touching the exact part of London from which these visitors hailed, Mrs. Godfrey said many of them came in cabs. She remembered that one party of gentlemen had been brought to Ah Sing’s by a police inspector, and that the party, including the inspector, had enjoyed the visit exceedingly. She shook her head and
swayed her body slowly, but impressively as she contrasted the “good old times” with all subsequent periods. Her allusions to the “persons” who
removed the old buildings and thus destroyed a once flourishing industry,
though not complimentary, were entirely fit for print. She even went so far as to hint that perhaps they couldn’t “elp it.”
Having been ousted from his famous den Ah Sing I tried hard to find a
habitation in which his industry could be prosecuted successfully. In this he failed. In the last years of his residence in New Court he had lost instead of made money. His boarding-houses put no money in his coffers.
The boarders probably spent all their spare cash in smoking opium, and were penniless when settling day came. Ah Sing seems to have had considerable faith in coloured human nature. When a boarder obtained a berth aboard an outgoing ship, and said he couldn’t pay up until the ship returned, Ah Sing would take a due bill and say no more about it, except in Chinese, which his wife did not understand, her ignorance undoubtedly saving, her from much bother.
There is a piece of paper now in the possession of Ah Sing’s widow which she thinks tells exactly how much he was owed by boarders whose ships failed to come in. He told her once that he had lost £700 through boarders. She thinks the piece of paper tells the story, but as the story is written in Chinese, it tells her nothing and nothing is about what she has to live upon. Unable to prosecute his calling under conditions greatly changed from the period in which he made money, Ah Sing lost hope and energy. Without money he could not procure a place near the docks and most of the opium dens
Are now to be found in their vicinity. AI 131, Cornwall-street, where he died, there was no accommodation for opium smokers: there was also no opium.
Ah Sing had been an opium smoker from his boyhood days. Under the
influence of religion, it is clamed, he made several attempts to put the pipe behind him and have none of it. He never quite succeed until a couple days before his death; but his success should be attributed to physical weakness rather than mental strength.
The mourning neighbour said that nobody thought Ah Sing would not
recover from his cough until “he went off his smoke” She was afterward,
good enough to explain that by “off his smoke” she meant that he could
not enjoy it, and added that when Ah Sing could not enjoy a smoke of opium, he must have been in a very bad way indeed.
Well known as Ah Sing had been in and around Now-court, very few people in or about Cornwall-street were aware of his existence. Few people there knew that he had coughed himself away last Sunday, or that his body had lain in the Cable-street mortuary for a week.
The funeral was such a modest affair that it attracted no attention. The mourners numbered only five. These were Mrs. Ah Sing, the mourning,
neighbour, and her three daughters. They drove to Bow Cemetery at two
o’clock, and in less than an hour were at home again. Ah Sing, dead, looked like a Chinaman, but was without the queue. He had cut that off many years ago, but twice bad allowed it to grow— once for a trip to Germany, and again on a trip to France. Why he had not made these visits with cropped poll his widow could not say, except that he persons who had hired him to make the trips had stipulated that he must have a full-grown queue. At the time of his death his hair was short enough to have prevented an ordinary barber from expressing a desire to cut it shorter.
At the grave the burial service of the Church of England was read. Ah Sing had so wished, thereby showing-that he had not renounced the worship of Joss purely for commercial reasons. His virtues and his trials were comfortably discussed over a hearty meal late on Sunday afternoon by the mourning neighbour and some visitors who had called to condole with Ah Sings widow. More than once the mourning neighbour thanked Heaven that Ah Sing had been “buried most comfortable poor dear, by Mr. Arthur Bradford, of Cannon Street.”
This, too, was agreed to without a word of opposition, and after a hearty meal the mourners, individually and collectively, expressed the opinion, at the same time defying contradiction that a more devout Christian than Ah Sing had not been buried in Bow Cemetery since the latter was a mere infant.

The monsters on the mountaintop

There was a road that went through the village. The road went north to the mountain range, to the highest mountain there.
The village was a peaceful village with shoemakers and blacksmiths, weavers and millers.
Late in November there as a ferocious storm, it slid down the mountains like hammers hammering and like a hail of arrows falling on the village. Then at midnight the storm suddenly abated and the skies appeared above. The people of the village came out to draw water and to tend to the animals. Then they looked north to the north mountains and there on the highest mountain was a blood red glow of supernatural light and the sound of booming voices that rolled across the plain and across the village.
The villagers then all came out of their huts at midnight and looked with north to the mountains and to what had happened in the highest mountain and they felt terror at what they experienced.
A young man all alone took his horse and rode to the foot of the mountains to see close up what was going on up there. He left his horse and he climbed up the steep mountain side path to the place called the lightning sleep and crouched there concealed looking up at the peak.
On the peak of the mountain, he could see many monsters dancing and drinking and acting in a war like way. They had scaley skins and horned heads like devils. The leader like a giant sat on a large rock like a throne before them. His skin was lit by coloured lights from his life source. He held up a huge sword by the hilt with the point digging right down into the rock like it was ordinary soil. He stood up and pointing his sword at the stars above roared like thunder, the monsters all stood still. Tomorrow he said we begin the war. They all roared, they all roared a war cry and the dancing and carousing carried on.
The young man hurried back down the mountain to his horse and rode back across the plain to his village. He told the villagers what he had seen. They did not believe him. Then the keeper of the books spoke out to the villagers and told them about a terrible prophecy about the mountain and about it becoming the throne of monsters and at last they believed the young man.
A fighting man then spoke out to the villagers and said that they must muster an army and when the monsters came down the mountain that they should go out to meet them at the little book that flows through the middle of the plain. That they must make a stand there against the monsters and maintain their position until the whole region was alerted and came with the king of the region with a great army with many swords and bows to defeat the enemy that was threatening the whole world.

The Tardigrade

Samuel 1;13

Eli took her for a drunk

This experience of ancient lady Hannah has often come to mind. It is an early record of religious police almost, with Eli the priest critical of Hannah as she was praying to God for a son.

12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked[e] woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”

When in my place of worship, it was often said that when you pray to try to visualise what God is like. Visualise Him as a King on a throne or some other mental picture. But I realise this may not be the best thing to do. Prayer is made in spirit and in truth, that is, in your heart like Hannah and in your thoughts. This fits with the idea of what faith is, that we cannot see God because he is a spirit but we can communicate with Him, only it needs faith that, as a spirit, he is listening to our spirit, our thoughts and feelings, which we know we have but that cannot be seen by anyone else, except a spirit in the realm of the spirit world where God is.

Well I find this works easily for me, father than praying to a visualisation in my mind of what God looks like. Because he doesn’t really look like anything we can visualise.

Then I began to understand something else about God. The humble tardigrade. A microscopic animal taht can survive in extreme conditions. It is kind of cute in a microscopic way with its little caterpillar like legs and podgy body. Puzzling though. How can it even exist? As a part of God’s creation like in human artists who leave their own personality stamped in their work, God’s personality is also stamped into this work of His. It says that he can make something to exist anywhere and everywhere in any condition and environment. And animals in general can reveal his personality in how they live or in what they do.

The food queue.

The problem was they were always hungry. Hyper-Inflation was ridiculous and the republic responded by printing more money. Political unrest was everywhere; this was the days when Hitler had grown in popularity. You had to grin and bear it. Except on this day, the day of her audition for another an up-market cabaret.

Calliope was a young girl who danced in the cabaret. She wore a bright shiny costume of red and yellow patches and white stockings. She had red hair. She lived in Berlin a long time ago. Her local area on the outskirts of the city was a run-down medieval looking slum area. She lived in a cheap apartment block and her best friend Candice, an unemployed singer whose dream it was to go to live in Hollywood, lived below her, on the 2nd floor.

She had nothing to eat. She was thin and weak and dancing took up all her energy. Her wages were very poor but she was young and ambitious. She went down the winding staircase and knocked on Candice’s big wooden door. Candice came out after a while and after exchanging kindness’s they began to talk about going to the bakery. The queues were always lengthy and the loaves of bread expensive, nearly 200 trillion marks, people were carrying their money around in wheel barrows. But it was worth a try.

They walked down the cold cobbled streets to Karl’s bakery with the blackletter, hand-painted lettering above the window and the red swastika banner hanging by the door.

Dialogue:

“They are saying that the new chancellor is going to change things Cally”. Calliope was not listening. “Let’s hope the queue isn’t too bad today, Candy”. “Have you got any money” –“Ha, I burnt the last of it, last night to keep warm”. “My neighbour was taken away last night, bag of bones she was”. Cally, give us a twirl” Cally smiled and twirled gracefully around slightly losing balance. “Mind yourself, girl” Candice looked sad, she knew how desperate Calliope was.

At the bakery they found a long-ragged queue as expected. Many old people, many mothers with babies, their hungry children too tired to cry. One woman fainted. She crashed onto the cobblestones from hunger and was left there lying on the street. Two mothers driven crazy by crying, hungry children began to fight, tearing each other’s hair out. Also, in the queue was a party spy, Klara, queueing for food but also on the lookout for undesirables. She noticed the two women at the end of the queue caliopes shiny costume under her old overcoat, she felt jealous. A young boy jumped in front of her. She gave him a kick. “No, you don’t, get off you brat”. One old man, a Jew, was leaning forward onto the shoulders of the one in front. “Poor old guy, what chance has he got” whispered one middle aged woman. “He’s not long on this earth,” said another.

Karl came out. He had thick curly hair and a blond moustache which usually made the girls giggle. But not today. His long-drawn face said it all.

“That’s it I’m afraid. There’s no more bread. Go home now, try tomorrow”, there were moans from the crowd, a woman who had lost her baby to malnutrition cursed out loud.  

The crowd haggard and downtrodden began to disperse, but one woman in a black velvet cap stayed behind. Candice noticed this and watched her.

“What’s she doing” “Who?” “Her, – the little madame”

Karl took her inside and through the window Candice could see Karl give her a loaf of bread from under the shelf. “Right, we’re square now, Klara”, “We’re Square now”. Then she hurried out with the loaf hidden under her coat. Candice’s face went red. “That’s her, that tell-tale, that Arschloch, special attention for her, humph, – because of her snooping for ‘em, verdamt party’”. They both decided to confront the baker. “Away with you” he said. There’s nothing left”. They were angry. Watching a little way of from the street corner was Klara, she saw that she had been rumbled and had to do something about it.

She went down the street to the police office, a little bare room in the side of a house. There inside was Adolph, sitting in his black uniform, grim and unsmiling. She told him about the two gypsies causing an affray at the bakery. “They’re tramps I tell you, they have no respect”.  Adolph knew his duty. He put on his police tunic and buckled on his gun belt, put on his shiny helmet and locked the door, and then strode stiffly down to the bakery, his hard heel echoing on the cobblestones.

There was Candice now sitting on the curb distressed and Calliope standing hand on hips. Calliope picked up a stone and threw it at Karl. It missed him and broke the bakery window. Karl grabbed her by the arm and cursed her. Adolph running towards them called out, “Halt. Stop there, I warn you”. Calliope seeing him coming towards them shook herself free and ran as fast as she could down the street. Adolph took out his police pistol and shot her dead. Candice in shocked silence crept away and escaped.

The big L

This shape has always intrigued me
a big foot or an L plate or a piece of a house

a seat in an old village pub, a Cromwellian seat
a harsh religious seat (puritan) in a harsh cruel church

where corpses sit in their body bags beaten by iron maidens with willow canes
as police dogs bark incessantly in parked car outside

a shape that’s used in old tube trains as seats
or new corporate buildings in terracotta and cream as niches

or of shapes mistakenly sat in unbalanced ways
struck dumb or flocking on the pavements like architectural pigeons
of unplanned monuments

or standing in roundabouts where a woman balances precariously on top
a she throws her baby to the crowd below

or lined up on the parade ground
or across the street where protester march towards them singing

How blogging has changed me, commentary

How blogging has changed me! Well not me exactly, but how I write and so on. Before I took up blogging seriously I used to write poems every day and never show them to anyone, because in normal life, where I live, who I live amongst, poetry is practically despised or laughed at, or/and not seen as a real form of communication. How can you put your feelings/thoughts into poems and yet get passed by, by those close. A shorthand typist is taken more seriously than a poet/poem.

Am I a poet, I believe so, I have been writing since I was about 18 or 19 years old. It’s not about the “high falutin’ “ English degree type who seems to write to prove something but a need to communicate a little bit more, a dissatisfaction with everyday communication, a lacking in it – that poetry fills out more, despite any sort of education you may have.


Blogging has been changing how I write poetry. Illustration seems to becoming important. Poem/picture is being explored. Now I might draw a picture and write something to it because it just works well I suppose. But Covid pandemic has been like putting the cart before the horse. I feel like I am dragging a cart full of poetry along, that no one is bothered about and dangerously, because it’s about me, in-the-world/on-the-earth, it is ultimately myself that no one is bothered about.


So that brings me to comments its odd that I put so much into poetry and yet get so few comments about any of it yet paradoxically I do seem to have some success with a steady increase in followers.


So here is how blogging is changing me. I am struggling to understand how my poetry is read with a kind of detachment by the reader. And the content is little commented on. So, here is a problem…
(maybe not just with my way of doing things but poetry in general. It’s a teenager thing or is it a minor entertainment thing. But, it is, I say, a communication, it is for everyone to join in and use, it’s real, from the person in love to the person thinking of death, from the person writing about the environment to the person writing about God, how much more real can you get).
Looking at other people’s poetry I am probably doing the same thing as I complain about. We’ve lost something I think in our communication with each other, the ability to humble ourselves and take what they say seriously, we would rather put on a face and gloss their words of pain, happiness, etc over when we find it; we just don’t ask each other why?

Big Value Pack

Yes as i walk through the valley of the desert of death
I will now go hungry with me big value pack.

You think upon studying this photo that I have taken the samoas and bhajis out of the box and put them in the draw, I can assure you this is not so.

Anyway the best before date is 17 august 2022, but they should be gone before then. Please book a seat if you wish to pop by and help me eat them all.

Bonanza

He worked in a small Parisian Zoo

He worked in a small Parisian zoo
Caring for the animals

He was a young man
That went home to an empty apartment

One day in the zoo
He saw a beautiful Italian woman

The zoo seemed empty but for her
The animals were slightly peeved

He lost interest in life
He forgot to feed them

He watched her walk out of the zoo gates
And climb into the back of a sleek fast car

Next day as he was feeding the chimps
She was there watching him

She joked about his long hairy arms
She brushed her hair over her ears and laughed

The next time she came to the zoo it was raining
He gave her an umbrella and escorted her to the snack bar

Sitting with him at the table her humour returned
She made fun of his work in the zoo

He got tired of being the butt of her jokes
He made his excuses and left her alone

The animals were concerned
All day he wasn’t himself

He argued with the macaws
He shoo shooed the lions who sneered at him

He broke down in the reptile age
His floods of lonely tears moved them

Next day he came to work in a tuxedo
And continued like that for weeks and months

Feeding the animals and caring for them
And his tuxedo was clawed and dirty

He was looking like a tramp
When she came once again

The leaves in the trees were turning gold
The flowers in the hedges had lost their petals

The windswept pathways were getting colder
The darker nights were arriving

A tall man with a square jaw
Battled through the wind as the night fell

He searched angrily up and down the zoo
The keeper told him he should leave

The young zookeeper was locking up for the night
When he saw something move in the hedge

He reached in and grabbed a shaking hand
And told her the man had gone

She squeezed his hand in gratitude
So he walked her home in the sunset

The animals became very rowdy
For that time of the season

A fool’s guide to a calorie controlled diet

Hunger: you have to wait for the next meal
Appetite: You have to control your appetite
The desire of the eyes: you have to be on guard

Your sorrows: emotional pain, grief, depression
A food balanced intake: regular meals to avoid an eating disorder

?Freeing the muscular system from carrying extra weight to do more energetic things
?Freeing the pressure on lungs as you breathe
?Freeing the worries of your mind about your weight

Bad days and sleeplessness:
Exercise = a good night’s sleep
Exercise: Ten minutes a day take the blues away

Endurance: identifying how you feel
Socializing?

Sometimes you feel you don’t want to eat, that you need support;
make sure that one isn’t influenced by the other
you don’t want to eat full stop or
you don’t want to eat because you enjoy feeling hungry in a martyred way

stick to your instincts about food
stick to the plan even when under attack by unreasonable thoughts and feelings
get back onto your diet feet and carry on

in reply to people who say
I’m overindulging today
-why don’t you join me
say
I’m not hungry, thankyou
And tell them a joke

Guilt: you buy a chocolate bar for your self
It will nudge out a proper meal for that day
Let it
Let nothing stop you
Losing calories,
using up fat tissue and keeping to the mission

Exercise
Is exercise the beall & endall
Or is it a back up and support

When you start dieting you may not want to exercise
But then later on out of the blue you might feel that you want to
The more you begin to lose weight the more you feel like a little exercise

Because you were overweight
and you were in a system where you ate
because the weight made you feel tired
and you needed energy to support the weight

if you decide to use the gym
remember it’s not a tea party
you go into a strange environment
a factory setting, a gym factory
and you go to do battle

food: eat what you enjoy
eat what you need
try to keep it balanced
in a tipsy turvy kind of way

eat what you enjoy if you socialize
but not more than what you need
eat what you need if you feel down
and get an early night
and get some exercise
even if all you can do is a few push-ups
keep the momentum

giving up is like going belly up
going belly up is giving in to the beast that stalks you
a hungry lion

maybe we lose weight exponentially
maybe it starts of very, very slowly
and then gets slowly better
whatever the fact of the matter
don’t lose control on the downhill ride

calories, begin as if you were
1/ eating for a normal weight so that
when you reach a normal weight you’re ok with it
If you have a bad sleep pattern
Notice it, take control
Don’t let it own you, you own it

There are weaker parts of our sleep
Where we might wake up
Early morning is great for your strange dreams

Losing weight is complex
It is emotionally grueling to deal with

But if you want to improve your self confidence
And enjoy life it is worth it

Put your agreed amount of calories in your wallet
You have maybe 2,500 calories a day to spend
When your wallet is empty that is it

Fat – there is fat under your skin
And worse there is fat around your organs

If you’re of sound mind – use the bathroom scales
If not – don’t worry about it

If you eat an unscheduled chocolate bar
Then you maybe shouldn’t eat the roast beef for dinner
only the spuds

If you are or are not on a diet schedule – it doesn’t matter
You must learn how to control your appetite

You might have brought too much food in the shop
and feel you have to eat it all and not waste it
Wrong
You must learn to shop wisely and fill your plate wisely

How does the body start to use up fat?
Try to picture it,
try to find out about the process and how it works

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