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London Letter: A Big Blue Butterfly Tattoo On Her Bum

…The views from the restaurant across the Thames were spectacular and the raising of the bridge to allow the slow passage of a Thames sailing barge added a touch of drama. As darkness fell the lights on and around the bridge lit up and the area became a fairyland of light. We drove back past the turreted Tower of London that dates back almost 1,000 years—the beginnings of history…

Henry Jackson, a mere slip of a lad at 95, still relishes the sights of London, old and new, and takes pleasure in bringing us the city’s news.

English Heritage is planning to restore open air concerts at Kenwood House, a stately home at Hampstead, North London. They intend to hold eight concerts this year at a new location in the grounds, a change to meet protests last year of undue noise, mostly from firework displays.
Comment: The concerts have been held for 55 years and attract an audience of 60,000.


Elections for the new Mayor of London and the London Assembly will be held on May 1. There are three candidates.
Comment: Ken Livingstone, the present mayor, will stand for the third time.


The British Museum will this summer stage an exhibition about Hadrian, the first gay emperor of Rome.
Comment: Thirty one countries have loaned 200 exhibits for the show.


The National Gallery has organised an exhibition of German 15th and 16th Century paintings many of which have been removed from churches for which they were designed. There is also a selection of exquisite stained glass windows.
Comment: The artists concerned frequently used both mediums.


Jean Hutchinson, a 65-year-old pensioner, was jailed for five years at Blackfriars Crown Court for masterminding a benefits fraud that netted her £2.4m. It was organised from her flat in Maida Vale, West London, where she ran an office hidden behind a secret door at the back of her bedroom wardrobe. Her method was to scour newspapers to find information about people who had emigrated before using their identities to claim benefits. With the help of her cousin, who received a four year gaol sentence, she used tax and lax information controls to amass a fortune before ploughing it back into property and shares.


Gun crime in London rose 4% last year but the overall number of crimes dropped for the fifth year in a row, the Metropolitan Police reported. Overall crime fell 6.1% compared to 2006 with the number of knife crimes down by 13% and the murder figure falling by nearly 7%.
Comment: Serious crimes such as murder and rape have fallen sharply in the last five years.


The 30th Mime Festival has opened in London and continues until January 27. This year’s performance promises to be bigger and better than ever before with the introduction of young French circus performers and the. return of the Russian Black Sky White troupe to give widely acclaimed performances.
Comment: Arrangements have been made for the public to meet performers after the show.


Christie’s, the London auction house, is holding a sale of maritime art and ship’s models on January 30.


A 63-year-old woman street trader in the famous London street market of Ridley Road, Dalston, is being prosecuted by Hackney Council for offering fruit and vegetables only in Imperial weights and not in the European alternative of kilos and litres as well.


Poems from the Past

This Week
by Henry Jackson

In the sky
Pink clouds float in the mist,
Then the rains came.
Followed by the wind,
The storm whistled and hissed.

Beyond my garden

Graceful trees nod to the sun,
Little pools collect the rain,
Eurostar chugs along the railway line
Quiet and silent without pain.

In my kitchen

Strong smells of garlic and spice,
With undertones of sharp dill,
Brave bright flowers on the table
A lovely present from Gill.

In my bedroom

My clock is never on time,
The pillows slip and slide,
I leave the curtains wide open
Because there is nothing to hide.

In my heart

I chase back to the past,
And think of what I have yet to do,
In the last remaining time
Before the final cue.

May 12 2007


The Swan Pub in Tottenham, where a 17-year-old girl was shot dead last June, is to be closed by the Licensing Authorities.
Comment: A stern attempt to cut down crime in London.


The London Underground is playing loud classical music at the entrance to its stations not to please passengers but to scare away pigeons.
Comment: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most effective.


Chanel, the fashion house, celebrated the 25th anniversary of boss Karl Lagerfeld and its first ever London fashion show with a dinner at the Berkeley Hotel.
Comment: Celebrities past and present joined in.


Plans are under way to re-launch the historic Illustrated London News as a magazine. Launched in 1842 the ILN was the first world pictorial newspaper.
Comment: It was my favourite weekly read.


Looking Back
(Episode Two of an adventurous wine tour across France)

After arriving on Sunday at the Shakespeare Hotel, Dover, we made an early start the next morning and took the Channel ferry to Boulogne. The Mayor of Boulogne laid on an official lunch reception and we relaxed for a couple of hours before continuing on the first leg of our trip which brought us to Clermont Ferrand, the capital of France during the German occupation in the last War. It was like arriving at a big garden multiplied over a hundred times.

Big squares, little squares and flowers everywhere and the perfume was overpowering. The wine growers of the area entertained us in a big warehouse and plied us with their choice products.

The next day we moved on to Epernay, France’s premier champagne growing area, and the province of Jacques Mercier, master champagne craftsman. After a light lunch we were invited to visit the eight miles of caves and tunnels where millions of bottles are stored and mature. An electric train took us through..

In the evening we were entertained to dinner in the Mercier Banquetting Hall where I found myself sitting between Marie-Francoise and Madeleine, the two most attractive women in sight, who drew admiring glances from all the other men around.

Madeleine had persuaded Marie-Francoise to hire a special outfit for the occasion and they both looked stunning. Marie-Francoise had a peach coloured outfit with a high neck; her hair was piled high and she looked like a queen. Madeleine showed off a plunging neckline in a long black gown and added a touch of mystery with a gauze veil that failed to diminish the piercing green eyes that challenged the world.

The food was interrupted every few minutes by the sound of a trumpet followed by the appearance of a string of leather coated henchmen carrying large bottles of champagne who topped up the glasses. I was quite surprised to see that my two companions were keeping pace with the flow of champagne and were full of the joys of life.

They left together and I spotted a friend and had drinks before following them back to the hotel. Our rooms were adjacent and without thinking I tapped on Madeleine’s door and was rewarded by a muffled response and a littl4e later the door was opened to reveal her smothered in a huge white towel.

“It’s a little late for a call”, she smiled, invited me in and then offered to make coffee in a little bedside machine. I made no comment and waited patiently and when the cups were filled she leaned over to hand one to me and caught her drapes on the edge of a little shelf. There was a moment of turmoil then the towel fell to the ground and revealed Madeleine in all her feminine glory.

She looked me straight in the eyes.

“A little accident”, she smiled, but made no attempt to cover up. And I could do nothing more than stare.

“Do you approve?” she whispered.

I struggled to reply but only said “I had better leave” which I did and heard a little giggle as I closed the door. Marie-Francoise’s door was next but I hurried past and collapsed on my bed and fell asleep. I awoke three hours later, undressed and was asleep again minutes later.

Breakfast next morning was little more than a ceremony and we struggled with toast and black coffee and our throats were dry.

Madeleine was the first to speak.

“I have a suggestion”, she said. “A friend of mine has offered to drive my car on the next leg and I wonder if I can be your passenger?

I asked about Marie-Francoise.

“She has also found an old friend and would like to go with her”, Madeleine replied. And Marie-Francoise nodded agreement.

The next part of the trip was a long haul of more than 500 miles to the ancient walled city of Carcasonne so we packed quickly and were on our way.
(Continued next week)


Today in History

1853: First performance in Rome of Verdi’s opera “Il Trovatore”.

1996: An earthquake in Kobe, Japan, killed 5092 people.


Famous quotes

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see ---John Burroughs



A dull week with a bright spark of relief on Sunday when Giles took us to lunch at the Tower Hotel, just below Tower Bridge, with a clear view of the river and a dock full of beautiful boats. A traditional Sunday lunch with Roast Pork, Roast Lamb or Roast Chicken and all the trimmings was on the menu at a reasonable price. The views from the restaurant across the Thames were spectacular and the raising of the bridge to allow the slow passage of a Thames sailing barge added a touch of drama. As darkness fell the lights on and around the bridge lit up and the area became a fairyland of light. We drove back past the turreted Tower of London that dates back almost 1,000 years—the beginnings of history.

A bad week on the London Stockmarket with the FT100 index falling to 5902, the worst for 14 months and below the strategic 6000 mark. Wall Street is doing even worse.

I went to Newham Day Centre twice and the second visit was memorable for two events:

1. I was pressed into dancing with one of the attractive helpers while recorded music blared old fashioned songs from the past. She twisted and twirled and then I thought I should take charge and reversed the process. So I twisted and twirled her while everyone looked astonished and when we finished I kissed her hand. Everyone applauded and the lady said: “No one ever kissed my hand before!”

The second event concerned one of the new helpers, a very attractive young woman of about 30, who joined in the turmoil with a smile. She was wearing tight slacks and a loose black jumper and when she bent over the jumper crept up her back and the slacks edged down to reveal a big blue butterfly tattoo on her bum.

Lorraine told me that the Council Housing Committee telephoned to say that they had found a place for me to live and I will be able to view it next week.

Giles supervised the removal of my last belongings from Ivydale ánd while this was taking place two of my ex neighbours came up and asked him if I had died. Slightly premature.

I am battling every day with images, names and shapes that cruise through my brain while I try to identify them. One name that worried me for a week was Colette Marchand and then the memory flooded back. She was, of course, the star performer at the Paris Folies Bergere, the world famous stage show, when I went there on holiday on my own at the age of 20.

The show took an exciting three hours and ended up in spectacular fashion. Its world famous troupe of beautiful, long legged, big busted dancers got into a little quarrel while they were singing and the quarrel worked up into a fight and in the end all the girls were stripped of all their clothes but continued singing softly stark naked. Curtain.


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