Sandcastles by James Kramer in Convergence Summer 2018


The poem Sandcastles by James Kramer will be featured in this season’s Convergence literary journal.

Follow the link to read the Summer 2018 issue.

Convergence Summer 2018

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Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Three Men Make a Tiger


James Kramer continues his monthly correspondence between Nottingham and Beijing, this time advocating castle burnings and the benefits to reclaiming northern English black lung.

Keep up with the good people at Leftlion.

Leftlion’s Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Three Men Make a Tiger

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James Kramer’s Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Just Add Oil

James Kramer continues his work as Beijing correspondent for Nottingham’s own Leftlion magazine, this time looking at keeping fit and chasing away unwanted pigeons (to be fair, when is a pigeon ever wanted?)


Follow the link to read the article:

Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Just Add Oil

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Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Homeless, Housing & Hutongs


James Kramer, straight from his construction site squat, brings in the newest NFTMK to discuss accommodation in Nottingham and Beijing, and all the awkwardness in-between.

Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Housing & Hutongs

As always, please read, subscribe and support those good people at Left Lion.

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To the dogs

When the people fell, they looked to her like little specks of dirt upon a monitor. They looked small and round and very dark. Charlotte thought of words like moss, and bracken and heather.

The sky was a pale blue green. It looked, Adam thought, like the bottom of a pond. Not a lake, but a pond. He drank coffee by the window. He stood over the radiator, the hot air blowing up his shirt, and he thought about Marilyn Monroe. Charlotte slept in the next room. She kicked in her sleep and turned violently around. She was unhappy when sleeping and often broke out into fits of crying. She referred to these, as her troubles. Adam worried about her, and held her even tighter when she felt lost.

When he got dressed in the morning darkness, the flashlight on his phone fading, the cold would keep him moving. Adam felt as if he was cold all the time, right from the moment he woke up. Shivers ran through his body and anxiety gripped him that it was symptomatic of something else, bigger and more deadly. He drank his coffee by the window and tried to feel less cold and less tired and less anxious about the part of the world in which he and Charlotte still lived. Then, he dressed in many layers of clothing and walked off to work.

Charlotte often dreamt about couples that formed suicide packs. They jumped off of rocky cliffs together. Sometimes it had been agreed upon beforehand. Other times, one jumped and the other, not knowing what to do, followed them. Nobody ever screamed in these dreams, and Charlotte didn’t know if it was because they were calm, or because she was always watching from very far away. When the people fell, they looked to her like little specks of dirt upon a monitor. They looked small and round and very dark. The landscape in the dreams was always barren and windswept. Charlotte thought of words like moss, and bracken and heather. Had she liked reading English Victorian novels, she might have thought that she had stolen a lot from them. But instead she preferred films based upon English Victorian novels and so still felt ashamed and embarrassed that so much of her dreamscapes scenery was plagiarised from movies that she’d watched knowing that they were shitty.

She read advertisements about when to plant tulips, and how to save 35% off dinners for two. Then she heard a person screaming outside and so lay under the sofa and cried.

There had been an increasing number of feral dogs, roaming the streets in packs. The dogs looked menacing and starved. They had ribs, heavy tongues and wide, searching eyes. The fur on the dogs was long and mangy. To Adam, they no longer resembled dogs, but now looked like wolves again. When they first became to accumulate, commuters fed the dogs. They thought they might be hungry, and so bought an additional croissant from the Tesco Express in the morning and broke the pastry into buttery pieces on the floor. Then the dogs started to attack people, and now nobody fed them. Nobody tried fighting off the dogs. Adam had watched once as a man dressed in a long winter jacket jabbed at them with the end of a golf umbrella, but the dogs slowly surrounded him and so the man gave up and lay down and was soon gone. Instead, people walked to work and hoped that today wasn’t going to be the day that the dogs attacked them. And when it wasn’t, they were momentarily glad.

When Adam left for work, Charlotte got up and bolted the locks on the doors. The locks were cheap and fairly useless, but she felt better knowing that they were on. She re-plastered the windows with newspaper that had fallen off during the night. She read from the paper as she stuck it back on the glass. She read advertisements about when to plant tulips, and how to save 35% off dinners for two. Then she heard a person screaming outside and so lay under the sofa and cried. She lifted her clothes up to her nose. Everything smelt of dust, and made her feel old.

At his desk, Adam forwarded emails that badgered people for financial records, and monthly predictions. He asked them to anticipate, to predict growth. He used expressions like “best practice” and “going forward.” He splayed his hands across the keyboard and made large exaggerating typing sounds. He wrote rows of nonsensical gibberish, then looked up and shooed a raven off his desk. Even with diligently keeping all of the windows closed and guarding the door, the birds managed somehow to get in and so people had come to largely ignore them. They speculated that as all of the leaves outside had disappeared, and the trees seemed unable to grow any more, the birds had seen the plastic plants inside buildings and decided they wanted to live inside instead. But there was no food for them and one by one most of the birds died. Trying to use the photocopier, people nudged them out of their way on the floor. The bird’s bodies lay there, bloated and fat. Their feathers stuck out like Mohawks. Sometimes, if a co-worker was having a bad day, they would kick one of the dead birds like a football, and it would explode and leave a terrible smell. But nobody cared about the smell. They focused instead on quarterly reports.

The smoke from the fire made his lungs hurt, and sometimes he would find himself laying on the floor, having slept, or fallen unconscious.

Charlotte boiled water, making it safe to drink. She pulled large sections of the plaster wall away with her hands. The plaster was rotten and came away like wet paper. She broke through the wall and climbed next door, where her neighbour was curled up on the sofa.

“I like to sleep there too,” Charlotte said.

“Shouldn’t you be somewhere else?” her neighbour asked.

“Do you have any food?”

“I don’t think Henry’s coming back. Henry used to be my husband. Are you married?”

“You’re sweet,” Charlotte said, “I don’t really care.”

She held the neighbour woman like a baby across her chest, and dug her fingers roughly in between her ribs.

“shhh” Charlotte said.

“You’re hurting me,”

“No I’m not.”

Charlotte cradled the woman, and rocked her slowly back and forth. She listened outside to what sounded like a building burning down, and wondered why it was that she couldn’t see billowing smoke. After an hour had passed, the woman lay cold in her arms. Charlotte stood up, and buried her neighbour under the sofa cushions, leaving one of her arms exposed.lewis_manchu_03

Adam came home and the two of them prepared dinner together. They selected a ready meal for two, . They waited for the oven to heat up the room, and then ate sitting together.

“It’s still getting colder,” Charlotte said.

“Does it matter?”

“Not really.”

Adam dug out a small piece of what felt like lamb and fed it to Charlotte from the end of his fork.

“I think it’s really endearing that we’re both still here,” he said, “I know that you want to, but lets not die together. I want one of us to burry the other. I don’t want us both to go to the dogs.”

“But they’ll get the second one,” she said.

Adam smiled, then leaned over the table and kissed her.

“I’ll let you go first,” he said.

“I love you” Charlotte replied.

Charlotte cleared the table, while Adam searched online to see which websites had been updated. They watched a video diary from Quebec. The videos ran from August until March and then stopped. After that there were no more.

“Maybe she got bored,” Charlotte said.

“It must be cold in Quebec, colder” Adam replied.

In bed, the two of them wrapped tightly around one another. Gradually, they lost the feeling in their arms, but felt better being pressed together. When the sounds of large animals passed by the window, Adam held his breath and tired to silence the sounds Charlotte made when she was sleeping. When she started to cry, Adam knew that her dream was over and another Victorian couple had thrown themselves from off a cliff onto the rocks.

When there was no electricity for the radiator anymore, Adam burnt small piles of newspaper in the morning. The smoke from the fire made his lungs hurt, and sometimes he would find himself laying on the floor, having slept, or fallen unconscious. He left Charlotte sleeping in the morning and walked to work. In the supermarket the shelves were mostly empty, expect for spaces cleared out by the mothers who tried to hide their children there, thinking it was safer from the dogs. Adam found a tin of sugar at work in the staff canteen and licked his fingers. He rolled them around in the communal sugar and sucked them. He poured streams of the white sugar into his pocket, and then hid in the corner when he heard two of his co-workers fighting. When he left the canteen to return to his desk, he stepped over the co-worker that had been left on the floor with the birds. He wrote a memo about overall corporate productivity, and then decided to go home, where he found Charlotte still sleeping.

The ground had been hard and frozen and impossible to break open. Behind their home, was a large, unlocked dumpster that was mostly unused. Across the street there had been a park named after the actor Hugo Weaving. The park had been turned into a campsite, where a makeshift wall had been erected, and for a week people sang campfire songs and seemed genuinely happy. Then people grew tired and lazy with keeping watch and soon the walls fell down and they left. Adam walked to work through the campsite and thought about the last time when he had last warm. “Hugo Weaving was sort of an interesting person,” the publicly paid for Hugo Weaving Memorial Park sign had read, “Why not build a park in his honour?” Someone had scratched something underneath. When Adam leaned in to try and read it, he realised that they hadn’t been trying to spell anything out, just hold onto something. Then, it grew dark and he realised that he hadn’t made it to work, but had been lying on the grass for the whole day.

At night, he couldn’t finish the made-for-two ready meal all by himself, and the cold, pre-cooked rice tasted hard and waxy. Adam left the box on the floor and rubbed out the last of the burning newspaper with his foot. The ink from the paper turned his toes blue. He climbed into bed and held himself closely, wrapped under the covers. Outside he heard the sounds of large and dangerous animals. Adam inhaled, feeling almost ready to shout. He sensed all around him, a world that was cold and incredibly dark.

Photo art by: Vincent Delbrouck & Lewis Manchu


Notes from the Middle Kingdom: Trotters of Love and Respect

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James Kramer continues to feature as Leftlion’s China correspondent, this time turning his attention to the celebration of Women’s Day and all things slightly questionable.

Click here to read the article

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Notes From the Middle Kingdom: In this Our Year of Dog

James Kramer is back in Nottingham’s LeftLion, this time discussing the Chinese Year of the Dog, and slathering underwear with Paprika.

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Notes From The Middle Kingdom: In This, Our Year Of Dog