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London Letter: Spend, Spend, Spend

The inimitable Henry Jackson casts his London eye over another week's headlines.

Henry, who is 95, is also introduces a new feature in this week's column - Looking Back.

In contrast to the financial gloom over London John Lewis, the Oxford Street department store, is forecasting record sales of £100m a week for the period.
Comment: Spend, spend, spend.


The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, opened the new Langdon Park Station on Monday on the Stratford to Poplar branch of the Docklands Light Railway. It cost £10.5m and is expected to be used by 5,000 people every day. And Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, opened the First Capital Connect.
platform at St Pancras International.
Comment: Speeding up London is now a prime aim.


Seven young men from North London were arrested after a series of raids on London designer stores by men using scooters. Officers searched addresses across London and found a large number of items including handbags, jewellery, cars and stolen vehicles.
Comment: And a stash of cash.


The Metropolitan Police have extended the use of Taser stun guns and from Monday non-firearms officers will be able to use them as part of a
government trial. The weapons use a 50,000-volt charge to incapacitate
Comment: In London the stun gun was used 47 times between January and August of this year.


Sir Harold Pinter, the 77-year-old playwright and poet, has sold his manuscripts, letters and archives for £1.1m to the British Library.
Comment: Pinter was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1995.


A portrait by Caravaggio bought a year ago at Sothebys in London by Sir Denis Mahon, the 97-year-old banker, is now believed to be worth £50m.
Comment: Only 50 Caravaggios are known to exist.


Figures issued by the Metropolitan police record that more than 1,000 young people were arrested for drug dealing in London since 2004. They were aged between 12 and 17 and included children aged 12. A total of 345 were arrested in 2005, 266 in 2006 and 138 up to August of this year.
Comment: Children under 12 are now becoming involved.


Mike Ashley, a sports club and soccer club millionaire, has made an offer of £95m for the upmarket London gambling club Les Ambassadeurs but is facing opposition from a Las Vegas club who say that they had previously made an offer of £75 that had been accepted.
Comment: No bets on who will be the winner.


This Week in History

1911: Amundsen reached the South Pole.

1936: Edward Vlll abdicated.

1941: Japanese dive bombers attacked the American Pacific
Fleet in Pearl Harbour.

1980 Armand Hammer, the American oil rich collector, paid
$5m for a notebook owned by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci.

1980 John Lennon, one of The Beatles, was shot dead outside
his Manhattan apartment in New York. He was 40.


Famous Quotes

Love wipes out the tears and rolls back the years---Rupert Brooke

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.---H.L.Mencken


Looking Back

Many years ago I took my friends from abroad for a Sunday visit to Petticoat Lane Market in Aldgate for a taste of the bizarre, the unusual and the outrageous. The market has been there since 1750 and is named after petticoats and lace once sold there by the Huguenots who came to London from France to avoid religious persecution. The street was renamed Middlesex Street in 1830 by the Victorians who wanted to avoid reference to women’s underwear but the name has stuck.

In the 1900s the whole of this area was taken over by Eastern European refugees, mostly orthodox Jewish families, who dominated the way of life. They specialised in tailoring, cabinet making and trading on every level from selling gold to fancy jewellery and exotic food. The prize stall was Tubby Isaacs’ winkle and oyster stall that became famous all over the world. It is still there.

Middlesex Street is a few yards from Aldgate East and Liverpool Street Stations and now is a tightly packed collection of market stalls that sell everything from children’s clothing and presents, dolls, wallpaper, floor covering, curtains and bedding, china and glass, kitchen utensils, shoes, and, of course, shellfish and exotic Jewish food like bagels.

It still retains a favourite method of selling by holding auctions of goods on the stall and no sooner do you put your hand up than a salesman comes with the goods and asks for the money. There is a lot of good humoured laughter.

Petticoat Lane is open every day except Saturday, a concession to the Jewish Sabbath. Sunday is the prime day.



The Christmas lights went on at No 2 this week. They are stored in the attic and the installation took many hours of patient unravelling. But it came right in the end and at dusk at night a blanket of twinkling lights covers the outside of the house. Inside there is a Christmas tree also covered in twinkling lights.

Christmas lights are part of a tradition that has survived in this part of London and many more will be switched on as December 25 approaches. People smile at each other and neighbours visit each other. Christmas really means something.

The Christmas spirit also took over at Newham Day Centre that I attended twice. All the staff wore carnival clothes and the music concentrated on Christmas carols and songs and I heard Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra over and over again. Roasr turkey and Christmas pudding was on the menu more than once.

I went to a dentist for a replacement of dentures, the first visit to a dentist for more than 30 years. He is a young Pole from Lodz and shares High Street premises with three other dentists. All have their own waiting rooms and own offices. I found him firm and gentle but will have to make a third visit before I walk away with the finished product.

And to all you weather watchers, especially those around the warm Pacific, the temperature in London one morning this week was Minus 3C. My first morning glimpse out of the bedroom window revealed a lawn covered in frost. But the sun was shining. And the weather forecasters say there are increasing chances of a white Christmas.


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