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London Letter: Back In Action!

It takes more than a couple of falls and a stroke to stem the flow of words from a a craftsman journalist and wordsmith.

At any rate it does when the craftsman is 95-year-old Henry Jackson.

Back in September Open Writing ran one of Henry's news letters, The Week In London. The intention was to carry Henry's news hightlights - and keen comments on events - weekly in Open Writing.

Henry has had a rough time over the past few months - but he's back in action again. And his mind has lost none of its youthful vigour!

He begins with an account of what has been happening in his own life in recent times.


I am back again on line but there have been many changes in my life and things will never be the same again. It all began in September when I was staying as usual for the week-end with Giles and family. Early on a Monday morning I had a fall in the bathroom and hit and cut my head and two hours later I fell again and did more damage. Giles came to my rescue and said that my speech was blurred and took me to see the local GP. I had more examinations and the verdict was that I had a minor stroke and if you have one there is a chance that you may have more.

The final decision was that it was dangerous for me to live alone in future and I needed to live somewhere with immediate help on hand day and night. And somewhere where Giles or Lorraine could look in during the day just to check if I was all right. There is such a facility known as “Sheltered Accommodation” in Newham, where Giles lives in East Ham, and I applied to be put on the list. But it may take a long time.

It also meant that I had to give up living at Ivydale where I have lived for 19 years in a large house surrounded by belongings that I had acquired and cherished over the years---paintings, lovely furniture, collections of china and glass, 1st Edition books, many photo albums recording my trips all over the world, war souvenirs, books of poetry including my own three volumes with 200 poems written over the years, and a fully stocked and mature garden with views over green playing fields.

However, the decision to leave has been made and I now live with Giles and family awaiting a permanent new residence and I occasionally visit Ivydale but it is a painful and heart-tugging process.

One new door has opened. Newham Council run a Day Centre for people with disabilities or living alone and I now spend half a day there twice a week among a wide selection of people, many in wheelchairs, and most of them lonely. I am picked up at 9.30am and on arrival have breakfast and then take part in various activities that include discussion groups, computer learning classes, music sessions and even Bingo. Lunch is provided and I am taken home around 4pm. A worthy and praiseworthy effort with a devoted staff of helpers but it takes place in a hidden atmosphere of sorrow.

Soon after I arrived at the Centre one of the staff discovered my publishing background and I now write a weekly document for the Centre’s magazine called “Looking Back” in which I go back into my life and history and hope it will stir recollections among my readers.

So now in addition to writing “The Week in London” I also write “Looking Back”. It keeps me busy.


The Week in London

Wimbledon murder trial surprise…The £90m home… Minicabs inquiry…Pub pole dancing…Christmas traffic curbs...Drugs gang lawyer gaoled.

Robert Napper, aged 41, from Roehampton, West London, appeared at Westminster City Court on Tuesday charged with the murder of Rachel Nicoll on Wimbledon Common on July 15 1992. Rachel, a 23-year-old former model, was stabbed 48 times and sexually assaulted in a frenzied attack while she walked on the Common with her 3-year-old son. Napper was remanded in custody to Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital and will appear for trial at the Old Bailey on December 20. The attack on Rachel was followed by one of the biggest murder hunts ever in the UK. A man named Colin Stagg was arrested and charged with her murder but a judge threw the case out on the grounds that the police had used a “honey trap” plot to encourage him to confess.

Comment: A consideration of mental instability is clearly a vital part of the proceedings.


A new national medical health centre costing £500m is to be built near the British Museum in Bloomsbury. It will house 1500 researchers and will open in 2013.
Comment: The plot for the site cost £87m.


The London Assembly is to hold investigations into the licensing of minicabs in the city and will also try to find out how many unlicensed minicabs are still operating on the streets.
Comment: There have been a series of attacks recently on single women passengers taking trips in minicabs.


Naveen Sagar, aged 32, a solicitor, of Wembley, north-west London, was gaoled for 14½ years at Kingston on Wednesday for helping a London drugs gang to escape justice after making millions.. The court was told that his practice included elaborate plans to portray the police falsely as corrupt by recording and editing conversations. He also arranged false alibis and bogus witnesses and regularly tipped off the gang about police activities. When the police raided his home that he shared with his parents they found £75,000 in cash and a radio scanner tuned into police channels.
Comment: Two members of the gang have already been sent to gaol.


A six-storey house in Belgrave Square that has been restored over the past two years is shortly being offered for sale fully furnished at a record price of £90m. The building, formerly a block of offices, will have 12 bedrooms including a master suite, 12 bathrooms, a “grand salon” and a lift. The basement will contain a swimming pool, a gym and media rooms and garaging for four cars. In the garden will be a mews house suitable for staff.
Comment: The owner is a Lebanese man who paid £6,870,000 for the property two years ago. A similar house in the square was sold recently to a Saudi sheikh for £35m.


More property news. Tiffany, the luxury jeweller, has renewed its lease on its premises in Bond Street at the staggering price of £650 per square foot.
Comment: Bond Street is one of the best addresses in the world for luxury goods retailers.


A new film starring Nicole Kidman has used Greenwich Naval College in South London as its location to tell the story of “The Magisterium”, a mysterious religious organisation seeking to take over the world.
Comment: The college was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.


The Norwegian Ambassador switched on the lights on a Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, a gift from Norway, a ceremony going back to 1947.


The National Heritage Fund has awarded £1.9m to Newham Council for the restoration of East Ham Central Park, a popular venue for local community events such as “Under the Stars”.
Comment: The park is now my new local park.


Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street have been banned from private cars over the Christmas period to enable shoppers to spend their money more freely.
Comment: The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, hopes to make the ban permanent.


Famous quotes:

A man does not live on words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them. - Adlai Stevenson


An Indian family doctor living in a luxury flat in Mayfair has applied for a licence to start a pole dancing club at the Archway Tavern, an old fashioned and traditional English pub in Highgate, North London. They propose to charge an extra £20 for a “sensual” table-side performance.
Comment: There’s many a slip between pub and hip.

This Week in History

December 1 1990
The two sides of the Channel Tunnel met 150 feet under the sea.
December 12 1671
Francesco Stradivari, Italian violin maker, was born.

The Countess of Wessex, youngest of the royal wives, is due to have a baby on Christmas Day.
Comment: A good choice of day.`


Nineteen pieces of Roman tableware 2000 years old have been unearthed during excavations on a site near Moorgate in the City of London. They are believed to have belonged to a nobleman and originated just before the Romans ended their years of occupation.


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