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December 1, 2020 | Montreal Dickens Fellowship

Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

December 1, 2020.

II. Judith’s talk on the history of Opium:

Judith gave an excellent review of the history of Opium from ancient times to the end of Dickens’s life in the late 1800’s.

There was a great deal of interest in the topic and a very lively discussion followed. We all acknowledged that opium use was still a very serious problem in our current society. The topics of Oxycodon and Phentanyl abuse were introduced. I promised to research these drugs a bit further and present my findings in a future e-mail. Lynn talked about recent reports of opiate adulteration and severe illness and death resulting from international opiate delivery interruptions due to COVID 19. I raised the question of the mid Victorian age Opium Wars between China and Britain. Judith gave us further history of this terrible time leading up to the relatively recent return of Hong Kong to China and the continuing unrest due to the loss of civil liberties and human rights there all stemming from China’s failure to completely uphold the treaty. Renee asked if the phrase: “Pipe Dreams” came from opium smoking. Judith believed this was so. Philip commented that opioid abuse is a growing problem in small town America throughout the American “Rust Belt”(parts of the Midwest and North-Eastern U.S.) We all agreed that understanding the history of an issue helps us so much in understanding current events. Thanks to Dickens for directing us and focussing our learning on such an important current issue!

The lack of anaesthesia in Medicine was discussed along with the widespread use of opium for pain relief in soldiers. Dr. Alan Woodcourt (a navy surgeon) would have been very familiar with its use when prescribing it to Nemo, although shipboard amputations would likely have been done using nothing at all except biting on something or perhaps some alcohol when available.

Tony inquired about Marco Polo’s role in introducing opium to Europe. Judith suggested there wasn’t a big influx at this time. Throughout the years ~1300-1500, the opioid problem here was relatively low, possibly due to the massive influence of the Catholic Church who preached that everything coming from the east was “associated with the devil!”

Several members shared the titles of books and films highlighting the serious problems of opioid abuse. These include Quincy’s ‘Confessions of an English Opium Eater”(Sharon), “The Last High: A Thriller”(Lynn), “Peaky Blinders”, and a trilogy by Amitov Ghosh) Averil). I will forward details of these suggestions in a future e-mail.

III. Trivia Quizzes: (See previous e-mail):

Location Quiz: won by Judith! (With Louise a close second) Nicknames and Aliases Quiz: won by Louise and Lynn! Opening Lines Quiz: won by Louise, Lynn and Averil!
Congratulations to all our participants! We had a lot of fun and acknowledged how much we have learned through the Fellowship!!

IV. Toast to the immortal memory of Charles Dickens and a hope for a speedy end to the pandemic!

V. Open Discussion:

Our discussion covered a very wide range of topics. Louise shared with us that Charles de Gaulle was a very literate man and read all of Dickens’s works. Many members wanted to share T.V. and online viewing experiences, chiefly but not exclusively related to British programming. Brit Box, Acorn, Net Flix, etc.. I will post details in further e-mails. Comments were made about Norm’s beautiful ZOOM backdrops and he shared that we can find a variety of these virtual backgrounds on the ZOOM site. Members lamented the absence of Maura’s amazing mince tarts and latkes and Hanukah gelt this season.
Unfortunately at ~ 3 P.M. (a half hour prior to the end of our meeting, we were all shut down by ZOOM for unknown reasons. 11 of us re-entered the meeting, but many did not. Our discussion continued until 3:35. So sorry!!!!! for those who could not re-join the meeting.

Many, many thanks to Norm, Judith and all our participants for another successful ZOOM meeting!! I want to wish you all a healthy, safe holiday season. Lets look forward to much better times in the not too distant future!!!!