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London Letter: Henry Is On The Move

Ninety-five-year-old Henry Jackson brings another lively news letter from the heart of Britain's capital city.

Henry's entertaining mixture of news and memories, prose and poetry, makes for one of the best reads in any week.

The Ministry of Defence has sold Chelsea Barracks for £959m in the UK‘s most expensive home property deal. It has been bought by the Qatari Government and the Candy brothers for redevelopment. The plot between Sloane Square and the River Thames fetched four times its original estimate.
Comment: The site was the former home of the Royal Guards.


The 288-ton Thames pleasure cruiser Millennium City hit the buttress of Westminster Bridge at 10.30 pm on Friday but was saved from sinking by a London Fire Brigade rescue craft that pumped it out for four hours. The vessel is now safely back in dock for repairs.
Comment: The crew of six were rescued by the Thames River Police.


The women’s only Sanctuary Spa in London’s Covent Garden has been sold to P.Z Cussins, the soap and perfume makers, for £74m. The Spa attracted 64,000 women last year,
Comment: Believe it or not Cussins earns most of its money selling soap and health products in Nigeria.


Heathrow’s new Terminal Five will open on March 27 and is designed to handle an additional 30m travellers.
Comment: It has taken 5½ years to build.


A man in his mid-50s died in hospital from injuries caused by an attack by his own Rottweiler in the street in Newham, East London.
Comment: The dog was destroyed by the police for public safety.


Seventeen inmates of London’s prisons took their own lives last year, the highest number for more than a decade. In the last 10 years 104 have committed suicide and almost half of them were on remand.
Comment: Updated prisoner treatment strategy is planned before April.


The UK’s first family drug and alcohol court will open in London shortly with the aim of helping parents beat their addictions so that they can keep their children.
Comment: Currently two thirds of children taken into care in inner London have parents with drug or alcohol problems.


The Disney film “High School Musical” is to be made into a stage show and will run for 10 weeks at the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in June.
Comment: Book your seats now.


English Heritage that looks after historic buildings is to spend £8m on the restoration of Horace Walpole’s 17th Century mansion in Strawberry Hill, Richmond, Surrey. Restoration experts have already begun work on the scheme and when removing faded decorations recently they found wallpaper 250 years old.
Comment: The house was built in 1698 and in 1717 Walpole, the son of England’s first Prime Minister, bought it and converted it into a Georgian Gothic masterpiece.

London is to recruit another 1000 police officers next year that will bring the total to 36,000.
Comment: And make it a safer place to live.


Poems from the Past

Adam & Eve
by Henry Jackson

In the beginning God created the world
With Heaven, Earth and the Seas
But it was lonely desolation
Until God created Man,
But this was not enough
So God created Woman,
And that is when trouble began,
Her name was Eve, just plain Eve,
In shape just like a Man
But in a softer form,
And this is what caused the storm,
Why, Adam asked, was she like him,
But not exactly so,
And why did that little difference C Cause him so much woe?
So he touched her
To see if he could find out
What really troubled him,
And felt his heart leap,
Yes, she was soft and smooth
And liked what he was doing,
Of that there was no doubt,
Adam looked round the garden,
Found the apple of knowledge,
And took a great big bite,
Only then did he understand
The truth about Eve,
That eluded him before
And forever set the world alight. -

September 24 1984


Today in history

January 26 1788. Captain Arthur Phillips in HMS Sirius escorted a 11 ship convoy of convicts into New South Wales and established the new colony of Australia. The day is now known as Australia Day,

January 27 1945. Russian forces liberated Auschwitz concentration camp where 2m Jews were exterminated by the Nazis.

January 28 1986. Seconds after take-off at Cape Canaveral the US spaceship Challenger exploded killing all seven astronauts.


Famous quotes

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
---Winston Churchill


London City Airport in East London that handles mostly short haul flights registered a record 2.9m passengers last year.
Comment: The total will go up again next year.


A large group of Turkish and Chinese illegal immigrants were arrested by the police in London and Worcester while investigating drugs and people smuggling. At one house in Peckham, South-East London, 23 illegal immigrants were discovered.


Looking Back

(Final episode about a trip to the wine centres of France)

It was early evening when we arrived in Carcasonne, a walled city in south-west France that stands on the banks of the River Aude and the Canal Midi. It has turreted landmarks that go back to the 13th Century and even earlier to the days of Julius Caesar. It is now divided into traditional and modern sections. Our destination was in the modern section that houses 12 new and beautiful hotels. Soon after we arrived my passenger Madeleine took off to find her own room and I was joined by Marie-Francoise who confessed that she did not enjoy the last day because her driver was too amorous and asked if she could stay with me for the rest of the trip.

The local wine producers put on a magnificent banquet in the largest hotel and we stayed until midnight before retiring exhausted but filled with good food and wonderful wine.

We set off next morning for the tiny mountain republic of Andorra in the Pyrenees which has only 70,000 inhabitants and relies heavily on tourists that provide 80% of its economy. Our hotel was in the middle of the picturesque centre of the city. We were all stunned by the beauty of the mountain scenery that included a nearby torrent that rushed right down from the sparkling sun.

The town put on a ceremonial lunch and the speeches of welcome and the responses from Geoffrey took more than two hours. Marie-Francoise sat next to me but on the other side she was flanked by a tall, handsome newcomer who had nothing to do with our party.

She left with him and as she passed she said: “Come and have a look at Brian’s new Jag”. So I followed and in the courtyard saw a beautiful white Jaguar two-seater coupe.

“He’s taking me for a spin to see some of the beauty spots”, she said. And they took off with a roar that sent the birds flying. I did not see her again until the next morning when everyone was preparing to walk over to a soft green grass field on the edge of a stream where a barbeque was being prepared.

I took a long look at Marie-Francoise. She was glowing with an inner fire and visual contentment reflecting a state of bliss. When I said “Hullo” she did not reply but just smiled. I knew the reason for her womanly contentment.

As the preparations speeded up she came over to me and said that Brian was taking her for another tour and she would like me to come along, too. Brian hovered in the distance but said nothing and we piled in and took off in a roar of power.

The roads in Andorra are all around mountains and most of them are narrow with unprotected edges that overhang huge drops into the valleys below. This did not deter Brian who took off at high speed and I shut my eyes in horror. There was, of course, traffic coming in the other direction and the inevitable happened. As we cut a corner at high speed we hit a glancing blow on a car coming in the other direction and the Jag reared up and plunged over the edge. We careered through the air, bounced and came to rest on a grassy bank 50ft below. The crash threw Marie-Francoise and me out of the car that came to a stop on the edge of a ledge close to a drop of 1500ft. There was instant silence then a roar of protest from the occupants of the other car who ran towards us with shaking fists.

I looked for Marie-Francoise. She was lying on her back on the ground but raised herself slowly and I saw that she was bleeding from the mouth and had a big gash on her right cheek. My back felt broken but I managed to get into a sitting position and slowly and painfully stood up. Brian was still in the car apparently unhurt and he managed to get the engine going again.

We disentangled from the protesters and drove back slowly to the hotel where Geoffrey’s wife turned up out of the blue and organised medical help for Marie-Francoise. I struggled back to my room and had a painful bath
then went to bed and tried to sleep but it took a long time.

There was a lot of furious activity the next morning and when I got down to breakfast I heard that Geoffrey had contacted the police who told him that Brian was a suspected car smuggler but he and his car had vanished. Marie-Francoise appeared with a black eye and a huge plaster on her cheek and managed to smile although she could not eat. I gathered that she had confided in Madeleine who whispered that she would tell me all about it at the first opportunity.

We all set off just before noon for Sete, our final destination. When we cleared the mountains it was a long and smooth road and we made quick progress. But I had a piece of bad luck. I got a puncture and had to pull into the side of the road and change the wheel. When we arrived in the picturesque spa and fishing port I took Marie-Francoise to her home and met her parents who were horrified at the sight of their bandaged and plaster-faced daughter. There were a lot of tears.

The next day was the big event of the tour--a Concourse d’Eleganse for the cars on the tour. My Jaguar won first prize, not because it was the best car, but because I had looked after Marie-Francoise and her parents were the big shots in the town. And Madeleine won the second prize not because her old Ford Prefect had any glamour but because Madeleine was beautiful, she came from Paris, and all the men fancied her.



I have a new place to live, a small flat in what is known as Sheltered Accommodation. It is on the first floor of a 12-months-old building close to Newham Town Hall with a fitted kitchen, a sitting room, a bedroom and a bathroom. In addition there is a residents’ lounge and dining room where lunch is served every day at the tiny price of £19 a week and a Visitors’ Hall where friends or family can stay at a cost of £15 a night.

The flat has a 24 hour alarm system and help is on hand at all times. I got it as a result of Lorraine’s untiring efforts.

I am due to move in on February 11. Furniture, lights, equipment and curtains are still to be installed so there is a lot more to do.


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