Monday, 28 November 2011

David Lynch's film, "the Elephant Man"

I first saw the film in about 1983 and have watched it numerous times since.  It was shot in monochrome, to add further impact and and better illustrate the poorest quarter of London in the 19th century. Whitechapel.  If you haven't yet seen it, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Even though there are areas that stray from the truth, it is, nevertheless, a masterpiece of cinematography, in my opinion.  I look forward to your construction opinions. Not just on the film itself, but on the way Joseph is portrayed, and, especially, the depicted relationship between Frederick Treves and Joseph Merrick, (known in the film, as 'John'.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Proteus Syndrome / Neurofibromatosis

We know that scientists have now identified the gene responsible for Proteus Sydrome, which is a fabulous breakthrough. Are they now saying then, beyond any doubt, that Joseph had Proteus? From all accounts I've read, Joseph's level of deformity is still unparalleled among present day Proteus patients, (that's common knowledge), so, I'm wondering, has the Proteus vs Neurofibromatosis mystery now been laid to rest?

Gene ID'd and Joseph's condition understood? Now that would be a breakthrough!

This Blog wouldn't be the same without your contributions. We look forward to reading your posts.

So, please post soon. :-)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Joseph Merrick Commemorative Plaque

The main purpose for my recent trip to Leicester was to attend the official hand-over of the plaque, (in ownership of the Friends of Joseph Carey Merrick), into the safekeeping of the Moat Community College.
The plaque is going up on their wall, next to the reception area. The inscription reads, "Joseph Carey Merrick, Son of Leicester, 1862-1890. A true model of bravery and dignity for all peoples of all generations. Erected by his Friends, worldwide, in 2004".

There is a connection between the Moat Community College and Joseph, even some 130 or so years later.
The college stands on what was once the Leicester Union Workhouse, where Joseph was an inmate for a few years.  Not a nice association?  Well, actually yes.  The college is a central, prominent place of learning and educates teenagers against discrimination, of all kinds, including: race; religious beliefs and background; disabilities, etc.  The FoJCM believe Joseph would approve of the location choice.

Leicester historian and fellow FoJCM member, Stephen Butt, addressed the 300-strong morning assembly, describing the association of the two buildings, and the similar structural boundaries they both share.  I also spoke, explaining the history of the plaque, e.g. how it came about; its unveiling in 2004; its subsequent unauthorised removal and disappearance in 2006; and later finding it and now gifting it to the Moat.

The assembly was followed by an official photographing session, with the Vice Principal, Stephen and myself, thanks to the Leicester Mercury newspaper.

A very appropriate location, with a prominent Joseph-history.

Joseph and Leicester

Joseph lived in the poorer quarter of Leicester - at least it was back in the 19th century. Even today though, it seems set aside, almost forgotten and has a different feel about it. If you like, (for want of a better word), it has an altogether different 'vibration'.  It's quite open, the streets are relatively bare and here and there are some precise glimpses into his day, in terms of architecture and peeping cobbles.  Of course, I am rather fond of that area, due to my growing admiration and understanding of Joseph.  However, even so, the 'differences' around Lee Circle, Gladstone Street and Wharf Street are plain to see - and feel.

On my recent visit to Leicester, this November, I walked along a number of streets Joseph would have known and trod. Particularly though, I made a bee-line for the clock tower, where he would hawk his wares of shoes laces, boot black, gloves and so on, from a tray, (or box), hung around his neck.  Standing there, as I did, I had a first hand taste of the winters in Leicester. The chill went straight to my bones.  19th century winters were bleak, so much colder than now.  Joseph would have needed to walk 1.25 miles from his home in Lee Street, (a physically painful and emotional thing), to reach there.  On top of that, people would make fun of him, because of his deformities.  Poor lad.

I'm always pleased to be in Leicester and, I noticed, the moment I stepped off the train, that it felt like home - like putting on comfortable gloves.... I walked around confidently and, as silly and as dramatic as it may sound, it felt like the city was welcoming me.