« Up The Pole | Main | Two Ethans »

London Letter: Fun And Games At Heathrow

Ninety-five-year old Henry Jackson, who is probably Britain's oldest weekly columnist, brings us another spicey and unmissable mixture of news, poetry and autobiography.

The flamboyant French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his new 40-year-old Italian wife, Carla Bruni, a former Schiaparelli fashion model, arrived in London on Wednesday for a two-day State visit and met the Queen and the Prime Minister. Sarkozy’s wife was brought up in an Italian convent and speaks perfect English in contrast to her husband who still has trouble with the English language. The Queen speaks perfect French. During their visit the Sarkozys were entertained at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, the Guildhall and the French Embassy and also visited Greenwich. The president laid a wreath on the Cenotaph and addressed both Houses of Parliament. Then he went to 10 Downing Street for talks with the Prime Minister. And just before he returned to Paris it was announced that he had been awarded the Order of the Bath.
Comment. A bid to improve Anglo-French relations (300,000 French people live in London).


Six hundred police made a dramatic swoop on Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, North London, in a move to clean up the activities of drug dealers who fund their activities by stealing popular domestic equipment including mobile phones. They seized 350 stolen items including 120 laptops.12 iPods, 20 Sat-Navs, 47 fake passports and driving licences. They made 70 arrests.
Comment: Blackstock Road is the home of a large Algerian community.


The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden has signed a deal that will enable pre-recorded shows to be seen in cinemas all over the world. Later it plans to broadcast live shows.
Comment: Probably the best culture deal ever made.


The opening of Heathrow’s new Terminal Five was marred by luggage handling problems and 35 flghts were cancelled. The chaos continued on the second day. But it did not prevent the arrival of British Airway’s first woman pilot who flew the first plane to arrive. She is Captain Lynn Barton, aged 51, who joined BA as a pilot in 1987 and she was in charge of a flight from Hong Kong.


St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, is to lead experiments in which terminally ill cancer patients will be given drugs that have not been tested on human beings. Doctors say that they will only be given the drugs if they have no other hope of recovery.


Motorists in London were allowed free parking for four days over Easter.
Comment: A welcome respite.


Hundreds of protesters, including many exiled Tibetans, marched through central London to protest against China’s violent crackdown against demonstrators in Tibet. They also sang the Tibetan national anthem in front of the Chinese Embassy.


The Thames Barrier was closed on Saturday following storms in the North Sea and fears that sea levels will rise far higher than predicted.
Comment: It was the 107th time the barrier has been closed.


Thousands of motor cyclists took part in the 10th annual “Shakedown” ride from London to Southend-on-Sea, Essex, on Monday. More than 25,000 went on the 51 mile ride that began at the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Road and ended on the Southend sea front. The Ace is celebrating its 70th anniversary and was built to cater for users, particularly hauliers, of the new arterial road from London to the Essex coast. But it soon became popular with motor-cyclists.
Comment: Cockneys have a soft spot for Southend and call it “London-by-the-Sea”.


And more news about Southend:

A major collection of paintings of Thames paddle steamers is on show at the Beecroft Gallery in Westcliff-on-Sea (next to Southend). They are by Derrick Smoothy, a local artist.
Comment: The vessels were the mainstay of the Southend tourist trade for many years.


Poems for posterity

by Henry Jackson

I know you have been weeping alone
When we talked last night by phone,
Your tiny voice was drowned in tears
Filled with aching pain and tears,
I was five hundred miles away
Had not seen you for one whole day,
So vent your anguish to the moon I will share and end it soon.
---October 25 1988


Four hundred passengers were stranded on the London Eye for almost an hour and a half while a mechanical fault was fixed. It happened when engineers decided to change one of the mechanical wheels but a normally short procedure took longer than expected. No one was hurt.
Comment: The Eye, a popular tourist attraction, has been used by more than a 27 million passengers since it opened in 2000.


The Women in My Life---3 (Eve)

Eve lived in Potters Bar, a little village in Middlesex 16 miles north of London. Her father was a tyrant who owned a car hire business and terrorised Eve’s mother with intolerance and harsh words seven days a week. To those who knew him only outside the home he was a slightly eccentric and generous bar warmer who stood more than his share of pub rounds and his clients were quick to praise him. But at home things were different.

Eve worked at home doing the office work for her father. She and her mother were so close that they thought alike, talked alike and were predictably soft and kind to each other and to everyone else. When her father was away they shared everything, especially their thoughts and hopes. But Eve loved her father with a blind affection despite his excesses and the harsh words that ripped through the home without warning.

I was introduced to her by my friend Joan on her 21st birthday six months after getting a divorce from my wife Eileen and we were married three months later and had a brief honeymoon in a noisy riverside hotel in Maidenhead. It was a relationship inhibited by my unsocial hours on the Daily Mail five nights a week, and a further eight hours on Saturday working on the Sunday Dispatch or other Sunday newspapers. This meant that I was away every day from 5 pm until 1 am when everyone else was at home. It was the Fleet Street disease that killed many of the marriages of those who were slaves of the drug of daily newspaper work.

My 10-year-old son Michael was a boarder at a prep school in Sussex and we only saw him in school holidays.

I had returned to the Daily Mail after five-and-a-half years in the wartime Navy and found that those who had stayed behind instead of joining a Service had been promoted into senior positions and were earning a lot more than those who went to war. I felt that this was an injustice and it dulled the excitement and thrill of newspaper life. I also looked round and discovered that the wear and tear on the survivors was showing with broken marriages, excessive drinking and what seemed like chronic degeneration of the mind and body. I decided to play safe and have a second string to my bow and bought a small restaurant in Paddington and worked there from 9 am to 5 pm and then went on to do a night’s work on the Daily Mail.

It was a punishing routine but I made money fast and when the restaurant staff drove me mad I sold it to a Greek at a large profit and took over a grocery business in West Hampstead that was run for me by a smart young man who pocketed some of the profits himself. The long hours once again took their toll and I sold out once again at a profit and left the Daily Mail and started a wholesale book business and when the opportunity arose I sold this to a large book distributor.

In all this get rich quick turmoil Eve was my No 1 assistant. She was a waitress and part time chef, part time grocery assistant and then my secretary in the books venture. Everyone loved her. I loved her, too, but never told her because I never had time to catch my own breath.

She became more and more beautiful but fragile, lost weight and got thinner and thinner.

She started smoking, adopted a defensive veneer in complete contrast to her friendly country ways and lapsed into periods of silence. I was so busy that I did not notice the change.

I made another strategic career change and went back into publishing and joined William J. Brittain, the former editor of the Sunday Dispatch, and soon became second in command of his group that owned four local newspapers, four business magazines and The Recorder, a right-wing financial weekly. My workload increased but my social life began to boom. With the help of generous entertainment expenses I rediscovered famous restaurants, great hotels, first nights at the theatre and basked in the company of successful men and their glittering wives.

Eve trailed along but kept her balance by frequent visits to her mother. I started buying cars again and offered to teach her how to drive. But she never accepted the challenge---driving a car reminded her too much of her father who was responsible for so much agony to her mother.

Then I bought a house in a North London suburb and we plunged into a spree of furnishing and decorating and I became a gardening enthusiast. Eve made friends with the wives in adjoining houses but never ventured further.

(Continued next week)


Famous Quotes

Friendship needs no words---it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness. ---Dag Hammerskjold
A woman knows the face of the man she loves like the sailor knows the open sea.
---Honore de Balzac
Plan for the future because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life.
---Mark Twain


This Week in History

1769. Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, a French engineer, built a steam engine to power the first
self-propelled road tractor, a military vehicle.
1852. Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children opened in London.
1912. Both Oxford and Cambridge boats sank in bad weather in the university boat race.
1973. Women stockbrokers were allowed on the floor of the London Stock Exchange for the first time in 200 years.
1989. The Iranian leader Ayatolla Khomenie issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie,
a British citizen, for his book “Satanic Verses”.


Paintings by Henry Matisse and Andy Warhol are included in an auction at Sothebys in New Bond Street next Tuesday.
Comment: They have been entered by a private European collector.


A timber and glass walkway is to be built in Hyde Park and will provide a covered path from the park to the Serpentine Gallery. A pavilion will also be created with glass canopies hanging from a wooden structure to protect the interior from wind and rain and provide shelter from the sun.
Comment: It will be a temporary structure to last two months.


Sammy Ofer, an Israeli shipping magnate who served in the Royal Navy in the last war, gave £20m to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The money will be used to build a new wing for new exhibitions, an open archive centre, new learning spaces, a restaurant and cafe and a shop.
Comment: The total cost of the new centre is £35m.


The starling is the most popular common bird in London gardens, according to a survey by the RSPB. But like all the other birds its numbers are declining due to lack of food and shelter. Other species in order of popularity are: house sparrow, wood pigeon, blue tit, robin, magpie, great tit and blackbird.
Comment: More than 20,000 people carried out the survey in January.



I have a sore throat and have trouble in sleeping and I seem to be in the fashion because Giles and many of my friends have the same problems. The intense cold with flurries of snow does not help. And London is not the only place under siege. Jean telephoned from Bournemouth to tell me that they had been without central heating for several days. Brrrh!

Good news from California. My friend Elmer, who was 90 in January, had a hip replacement operation and was able to take a few steps on his own two days later. Elmer was a marine during the War and took part in the battle for Guadalcanal. He recently had another operation to remove bomb particles from a knee that was damaged in the fighting. Marines are a tough bunch and like most brave men Elmer has a soft voice.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.