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London Letter: A Strange New World

Ninety-five year old Henry Jackson brings us another vivid slice of London life.

Bob Quick, Chief Constable of Surrey, has been appointed Britain’s new anti-terrorist chief. He takes over from Andy Hayman who is retiring in December following an investigation into expenses claims. He had also been criticised for the police action when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell Police Station last year.
Comment: Quick’s salary is £158,000 a year. Not bad for a policeman.


Westminster Council is considering banning sandwich boards and other moveable advertising methods from central London.
Comment: A good method of cleaning up the city.


Eight suspected illegal immigrants were found in a chemical tanker on the road into South London at Abbey Wood and were taken to hospital after breathing in gas that came from the chemical. The suspects were from Eritrea, Iraq and Iran and included two boys, aged 12 and 16. All were detained after they received treatment.
Comment: The tanker is owned by a German company.


GEMoney, the personal finance headquarters of the U.S. conglomerate General Electric, is moving its world headquarters from the U.S. to London.
Comment: London is strengthening its grip on world finance.


The Natural History Museum in South Kensington is showing “Ice Station Antarctica”, an exhibition on what it is like to be at the South Pole, the coldest place on earth.


Poems from the Past

by Henry Jackson

This is the time to say farewell
On a cool summer’s day at noon,
Fragrant with the smell of new mown grass
Under a sky with patches of blue
And filled with tears I cannot quell.
This is the time for the right words
That surge like a river in flood
With extra delight in tender phrases
Invented or sometimes borrowed
Some never seen before.
This is the time, the very last time,
I will hear you speak to me
Before you sail far, far away
Beyond the sun and the moon
And over the rim of the sea.
But this is no time to be sad
About the quest that spurs you on,
New horizons will open up to you
With new people and new words
To replace those that have gone.
This is the time to remember
The happiness you shared with me,
Times you must never forget
Filled with glowing friendship
From January to December.
How fantastic were those years
From 1983 to 94,
And I want to tell you,
It isn’t against the law,
I just can’t stop the tears.
--August 11 1994


Today in History

1858. Napoleon and his wife Empress Eugenie survived a bomb attack by Italian assassins while on their way to the Paris Opera Houser in an open carriage.

1942. The “Normandie”, former French liner, capsized and sank in New York Harbour after catching fire. She was being converted for use with the American Navy.


Famous Quotes

The difference between sex for free and sex for money is that sex for money usually costs a lot less—Brendan Behan.


Thousands of revellers took part in processions across the West End of London to celebrate the Chinese New Year, The Year of the Rat. The opening ceremony in Trafalgar Square featured Chinese dragons, martial arts and traditional and contemporary music and dance. The celebrations switched to Leicester Square with fireworks and a display of food and cultural stalls.
Comment: The London celebrations are the biggest outside Asia.


The World’s Winter Swimming Championships are being held for the first time in the UK at Tooting Bec Lido in South London. Six hundred swimmers from 21 countries will take part in the event in March. The competition was launched in Finland in the year 2000.
Comment: Tooting Bec Lido has been going for 101 years and is the largest fresh swimming pool in Europe.


One hundred firemen fought a massive blaze in the Camden area of North London that destroyed part of the famous market, nearby houses and the Hawley Arms pub, haunt of visitors from all over the world. It has affected 300 small businesses.
Comment: The Market is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.


Looking Back

The discovery of a decapitated body in Kilburn, North-West London, and the subsequent post mortem at St Pancras Coroner’s Court takes me back to 1932 when as the young Editor of a local newspaper I attended the opening of the Coroner’s Court in a little park close to King’s Cross Station.

The Coroner was a young lawyer cum doctor, William Bentley Purchase, who introduced a new rigid code of conduct under which dress and speech were strictly observed, including the Press. He was ably supported by the veteran pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, who always carried with him a battered Gladstone bag that smelled of formaldehyde used to preserve pieces of human flesh. While giving evidence he invariaby placed the bag on the Press table. But we forgave him because he was always polite to us and helped us to spell difficult medical words and phrases.

The partnership lasted for many years but Purchase got into financial problems and suddenly fell from a window and was killed. Suicide was suspected but at the inquest on him the jury could not arrive at a verdict so officially gave this enquiry an Open Verdict.

His predecessor had been the venerable Sir Walter Schroeder who operated from a ramshackle building in a small park in the Holloway Road close to Highbury Corner. I attended many inquests there and acted as reporter for all three London evening newspapers and telephoned reports from the premises using the only telephone available--in the mortuary itself surrounded by bodies covered in white sheets.



I am installed in my new home on the first floor of a new block near East Ham Town Hall. I arrived on Tuesday after Giles and Lorraine put in many hours of preparation and hard physical work.

My computer has been working non stop recently although I was warned that it could be shut down for 20 days to take care of the move. For once the warning proved to be wrong so I am able to send you this week’s edition without interruption.

The accommodation in my new home consists of a large sitting-dining room that leads to a spacious, well-fitted kitchen with a cooker, microwave oven, a large fridge-freezer and lots of storage space. Across the hall is a large bedroom with double doors leading to a bathroom that contains a shower that you can use while sitting down in a chair.

All corridors in the block are lined with handrails and the lift has a chair fixed to the floor. It is all bright and shining new and a lot of thought has gone into protecting the residents and ensuring their safety. The day starts with a Carer calling on me every morning to tidy up, help with bathing or dressing if required and make breakfast. She returns in the evening to make sure that the place is neat and tidy and washes any dirty dishes.

One problem came with my arrival. The central heating was not working for the first 24 hours and I developed a heavy cold and have lost my voice. I am taking Paracetemal and hope that it will give me some relief.

Yesterday a beech dining table with dropdown leaves plus four chairs (Made in Malaysia) arrived--it had been ordered for me by Lorraine--and the sitting room now looks complete. Next week we will put up some of my paintings to make sure that I do not forget the past.

I have been down to lunch three times in the dining-recreation room and found the food plain and predictable but quite good. The lady in charge is a good looking Chinese Amazon who can carry heavy trays containing food like an Olympic champion. I am getting to know some of the other residents but have not met anyone of special interest.

I realise that I have entered a strange new world and it is interesting if not fascinating.

An aid to better living arrived yesterday at King’s College Hospital where I went for the fitting of new digital hearing aids and I hope that they will end the isolation that comes with bad hearing. In charge of the department is a Chinese nurse who I first met two years ago when she fitted my original hearing aids. At the time she was heavily pregnant and waiting for a plane to take her back to Singapore for the birth of her first baby. She is again heavily pregnant and is returning to Singapore shortly for the birth of her second baby. Life goes on.


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