Drop-in centre. Photos & text Manuel Capurso (5/5)

© Manuel Capurso.

Manuel Capurso writes:

In a metropolis like London, people tend to exist in their own world: their existence as social creatures rapidly diminishes. The result is a sort of public culture that promotes detachment over engagement and where the basis of social solidarity loses significance.

In this contest the drop in centre in Church Street represents a sort of unique experience, where old people can create and maintain “personal communities”. For most of the users the centre is their main form of social contact.  Some of them are poor, in poor health or without family support. By contrast, others have friends outside the centre, from whom they bring stories for those who are more isolated, and they represent a sort of virtual bridge to the outside world.

I spent one week there, the first couple of days trying to engage with them, introducing myself, talking to them, as I was aware that I was breaking their routine. Only after few days, when the novelty effect was over, I started taking pictures, getting varied reaction but being generally accepted as a silent presence. I tried to represent their dignity in the face of the social marginalisation they suffer in the outside world.

… for The London Column. © Manuel Capurso.

Drop-in centre. Photos Manuel Capurso, text Roisin Tierney (4/5)

© Manuel Capurso.

Diogenes Syndrome by Roisin Tierney

Old man, we can barely enter for the stench,
the ever-ripening fetor that swarms your flat,
that creeps beneath the door.  Your carpet dappled
with piles of your own manure.  Your bath piled high
with ‘stuff’.  The toilet blocked, a floating Vesuvius at its brim.
It’s been some time.  We interview you elsewhere.

The doctor notes your gentleness and filth,
Your gummy smile, lank hair and jovial good humour.
You swear you eat, mention cans of beer.
(You even lie, and say you exercise,
which makes us laugh, oh how we laugh at that!)
You only cry once, when you mention ‘rent’.
You fear perhaps the landlord wants you out.
You don’t know why.

My dear, its not too late, we’ll scrub you up,
allocate you your own social worker.
It’ll not happen again, not to you,
And we’re sorry that it even happened once.
Not that you even know what we’re on about –

nor we enough to force aside
that thing, that whatever-it-is, that blocks your light.

© Roisin Tierney.

All the poems in this series are from Dream Endings, by Roísin Tierney, Rack Press 2011, and used by permission.

N.B.: Editor’s note: the subject of Roisin’s poem is not the gentleman in Manuel’s photo. 

Drop-in centre. Photos Manuel Capurso, text Roisin Tierney (3/5)

© Manuel Capurso.

Vera by Roisin Tierney

Vera, eighty-something, sprightly yet,
lives with her daughter in her council flat.
She keeps it spick and span – immaculate.
Her short term memory’s gone, or going fast,
her grandchildren a blur.  She loves them all,
but cannot place a face.  Her keys are not
where she last laid them, the front door
flies open in the middle of the night.
She knows her husband’s dead these twenty years,
that they were happy, but can’t say what he did,
still manages to shop and use the stairs,
takes all her meds and likes to watch TV,
has only one perceptual delusion;
each night she sees a soldier in her room,
standing in the corner, leaning on
his rifle, looking towards her.
She thinks he’s real.  This does not disturb her.

© Roisin Tierney

All the poems in this series are from Dream Endings, by Roísin Tierney, Rack Press 2011, and used by permission.

N.B.: Editor’s note – the lady in Manuel’s photo is emphatically not the Vera of Roisin’s poem. 

Drop-in centre. Photos Manuel Capurso, text Roisin Tierney (2/5)

© Manuel Capurso.

Dream Endings by Roisin Tierney:

Horses stand and plume the air with breath.
They bow and dip their heads.
Feathers are fitted to their foreheads.
They are well-feathered now!  They stamp and sweat.
And someone is getting a right send-off.
Someone is getting the feathers.
See that glass carriage.  O Cinderella!
O dream world of happy endings!
Look.  A leaf is floating like a feather.
Look at the usher’s kind face.
He is dressed in tails.
He pats a horse. Flicks from his cuff
a tiny feather.  O Methuselah!
He mounts the rig.
Watch the children watching, open-mouthed.
Watch the horses shake their dressy heads.
They are ready to go now.  They are ready and willing.
The carriage is turning. O Hallelujah!
Watch red and yellow leaves floating in the air.
Watch the glass carriage disappear.
There is nobody in it. There is nobody there.
See the blackbird fluffing his feathers.
See the boy kick a ball down the street.
It is starting to rain. They will get wet.
There will be pall-bearers.
There will be a family, lipsticked and brave.
The carriage will open and shut. Then they’ll be off.
Recently Deceased One!
May your ceremony be simple, sincere.
Rain fills the puddles that edge your grave.
O Tinkerbell! Lao Tzu! Narnia!

© Roisin Tierney.

All the poems in this series are from Dream Endings, by Roísin Tierney, Rack Press 2011, and used by permission.


Drop-in centre. Photos Manuel Capurso, poems Roisin Tierney (1/5)

© Manuel Capurso 2011.

The Suicides by Roisin Tierney:

Softly they settle round me now,
gentle birds come home to roost,
dropping and shuffling one by one
onto the desk, open drawers,
heaped directories, nursing tracts.
They do not breathe and yet we might
be swapping breath, in for out,
so close they are, so present.  They
are weightless, obviously and yet,
so great their need, or mine, we press
forehead to forehead one by one,
each for a second only, until
we have all touched.  The hospital,
Victorian and beautiful, is still.
My list is cruel.  Their various ends-
Hanged. Fell from a height. Overdose.  etc.
make for hard reading. Some were very young.
Many received the best of care.  I sigh.
We, the Suicides and I, put down
our books, pens, burdens, leave the building.

© Roisin Tierney

All the poems in this series are from Dream Endings, by Roísin Tierney, Rack Press 2011, and used by permission.

Boxers of Bethnal Green. Photos: Alex Hocking, poem: Naomi Woddis. (5/5)

York Hall, Bethnal Green. © Alex Hocking 2011.

This Victory Means Something by Naomi Woddis:

Sometimes Jasmin stays up late
while all her school friends
are safely tucked up in dream beds
she watches the boxing with her dad

Scarlett says any woman
who loves the fight, has a man
in her family with gloves
her father, five uncles.

Fi’s boxed in the RAF.
She remembers the special time
by his side, witness to swinging
punches on TV, the Rumble in the Jungle.

All three learned early that this
victory means something.
The neat rules of a fight, what it is
to be invited, the chance of a win.

© Naomi Woddis. 

Boxers of Bethnal Green. Photos: Alex Hocking, text: Charles Jennings. (4/5)

York Hall, Bethnal Green. © Alex Hocking 2011.

Boxing: 1810 – a compilation by Charles Jennings:

 Gentleman John Jackson – Dear Jack, Byron called him…
Jackson, a former bare-knuckle champion, retired from the ring and started his own school at 13 New Bond Street…
Foreigners can scarcely understand how we can squeeze pleasure out of this pastime; the luxury of hard blows given or received; the great joy of the ring; nor the perseverance of the combatants…
A prizefight to be held in a country town, such as Grantham or Derby, would attract spectators from as far away as London or York…
A crowd of seven thousand…
The gentlemen of ‘The Fancy’…
a bit of muslin…
Not to have taken lessons from Mr. Jackson was a positive neglect of a gentleman’s ordinary education…
Bob Gregson, the ‘Lancashire Giant’, fifteen stones in weight and over six feet tall…
Exercise is good, and this the severest of all; fencing and broadsword never fatigued me half so much…
A fight could last up to fifty rounds…
Not a bad boxer when I could keep my temper, which was difficult…
Holding a man’s hair to keep him in place to be hit…
This cover-me-decently, was all very well at Hawthorn Hall, I dare say; but here, among the pinks in Rotten-row, the lady-birds in the Saloon…
the legs and levanters at Tattersall’s…
it would be taken for nothing less than the index of a complete Flat…
The Prince Regent withdrew his patronage, and refused to attend any further prizefights after a man he had promoted was killed in the ring

Italians stab their friends behind,
In darkest shades of night;
But Britons they are bold and kind,
And box their friends by light

 High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period; Lord Byron; William Hazlitt; and others.

… for The London Column.