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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Edgar Allan Poe and the Craven


There are only two types of person who can strike terror onto my heart, owing to the havoc they could wreak in my life: my hairdresser and my dentist. Yesterday I went along to the latter for a routine check-up. Although the practise is located on the other side of London in Islington, I have been going there since childhood. The original dentist retired a number of years ago. Even though the practice is no longer convenient for me to get to, I value the level of expertise and service that I receive. Equally important is the fact that I am treated on the NHS (National Health Service), saving me a small fortune compared to what I would have to pay if I went private. It always strikes me as irritating when Americans perpetually mock the condition of English teeth. They should take a good hard look at the teeth of the poor in their own country. For such people, a dentist is often deemed a luxury they simply cannot afford. Judging by pictures of him taken before he became a major Hollywood star, Tom Cruise’s teeth were no paean to American dentistry before he became a screen success.

I hate going to the dentist but I would hate having to wear dentures even more if I failed to receive regular treatment. My dentist checked my teeth and said I needed a filling. Then he added that if he were me, he would have the tooth taken out as it was just a nuisance.
“Where is it?” I asked, fearfully, imaging returning home with a visible gap at the front of my teeth.
“It’s your wisdom tooth.” the dentist explained, pointing it out on a chart.
“Then I can’t have it done now, “I said relieved. Based on my horrendous experience of having wisdom teeth extracted in the past, it would be something I would need to psyche myself up to have done again.
“Yes you can have it done today and it would be more convenient and cheaper too.”
“Okay.“ I said reluctantly, trying to calculate the additional costs of the treatment. It came to the princely sum of £45.00 in total. The dentist handed over yet another form for me to sign agreeing to the treatment before he began to yank out the troublesome tooth.

My original dentist always used to have me read through magazines while I waited for the injection to kick in. Consequently, it rather alarms me when modern dentists want to start working straight away.
“That hurts,“  I squawked as I felt the clamp tightened on the doomed tooth. The dentist apologised and waited a little longer before starting anew. This time I did not feel any pain but the intense pressure and the gruesome sound effects were not pleasant. The tooth extracted the dentists placed a pad of gauze in my mouth to stem the flow of blood.
“Ann kooo, “ I mumbled, glad to escape the lair of the dentist once more.

I decided to make my way to Stoke Newington to examine anew some of the sites I mentioned previously in other posts. Now closed for major renovation, the Georgian mansion in Clissold Park is where I took my mother for coffee the day before she died. The neighbouring Tudor church of St Mary’s was immortalised by Edgar Allan Poe in his story William Wilson.” Poe wrote (I) “thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.”  

I wonder if Edgar Allan Poe would have spotted the tomb of Elizabeth Pickett in the graveyard of St Mary’s? The unfortunate young woman died on 11th December 1781 "in consequence of her cloaths taking fire the preceding evening.” If he did, I wonder if it later inspired a story?


Close to the ancient parish church of St Mary’s is the site of the former manor house school that Edgar Allan Poe attended from 1817-1820. Now it is a wine-bar called the Fox Reformed. Having established which side of the road the manor house school was actually located on and given its antiquity, it must surely have been the very same building that had once been owned by the Dudleys, kinsfolk to the great Earl of Leicester. Being related to the Queen’s evergreen favourite, the Dudleys were honored with a visit by Queen Elizabeth I when she came a-calling in the 16th century. Across the road is Sisters Place, built in 1714 and the site of the former medieval mansion of Edward de Vere.  The latter is thought, by some, to be the true author of Shakespeare’s plays and poems.

I then went to Yum Yum which had been featured on Gordon Ramsay’s the F-Word and came second in his contest to find the best rated Thai restaurant in the UK. Housed in a former 18th century mansion, it was one of those buildings I had never been able to access as a child. The restaurant ground and basement floors show no trace of the original mansion inside, but it is possible that features remain in the upper floors, which appear to be used as offices. Queen Mary I of England was reported to have been devastated by the loss of Calais, the last English possession in France. She is said to have claimed that if her corpse should ever be cut open, they would find the word “Calais” engraved upon her heart. Red duck curry would be engraved upon my stomach as it is one of favourite dishes of all time 
 
In homage to Edgar Allan Poe, I ended my day with a trip to the atmospheric 19th century Abney Park Cemetery. Poe would not have been familiar with the cemetery itselfm as it was simply parkland attached to Abney House when he was at school. Today the cemetery is a nature reserve and seems very popular with dog walkers. I did not wander far from the entrance, being of the belief that I had more to fear from the living than the dead and wanted to be able to leg it to safety should the need arrive. The most famous grave I found was that of William Booth, the 19th century founder of the Salvation Army. I took a number of photographs of the various stone-angels close by. One of which caught my attention, had roots growing up its back. As it was both snowing and growing dark, I decided the cemetery was becoming far too spooky for my liking and made my way home.

En-route to Chateau Brimstone Butterfly, I passed the former Highbury home and artist’s studio of Jack the Ripper. The crime-writer Patricia Cornwall holds the belief that Jack the Ripper was none other than the painter William Sickert and has spent considerable time and effort trying to prove her point. Credited with creating the detective fiction genre, Edgar Allen Poe would doubtless have revelled in trying to unmask the true identity of Jack the Ripper, had he been alive to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent work as always. I can tell you how to put in a link to earlier posts if you like? Email me.
    Tina

    ReplyDelete

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