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London Letter: Old Fashioned Fish And Chips, With Guinness In Tiny Sips

A poem, reminiscences, famous quotes, today in history, and news, news, news. Henry Jackson sends another hugely entertaining “parcel’’ of words from Britain's capital city.

Turmoil around London’s City Hall increased this week as the election of the next Lord Mayor on May 10 got nearer. Mr Lee Jasper, the Lord Mayor of London’s advisor on race relations, resigned following allegations concerning the misuse of public funds. The resignation followed claims made by the London “Evening Standard” that Mr Jasper had sent intimate Emails to a woman involved with organisations that received City Hall cash.
And more news about the election. Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP opposing the present Lord Mayor, Ken Livingstone, issued a manifesto in which he said that if elected he would do away with “bendy buses” and replace them with a new version of the double-decker bus and would bring back conductors.
Comment: Expect more fireworks as the election gets closer.


Paul Raymond, who made a fortune from striptease, girlie magazines and property, died at the age of 82. His fortune is estimated at £650m. He was the son of a Liverpool lorry driver and began by opening a striptease club in Soho in 1958 and went on to publish a string of magazines featuring naked women. He invested heavily in property in the W1 area and became known as “The King of Soho”.
Comment: In 1992 his daughter Debbie died from an accidental overdose of drugs.


Harrow Council in north-west London is to extend anti-social drinking laws to cover the whole borough. At present only the centre of Harrow, South Harrow and parts of Wealdstone are covered. The ban will give the police powers to stop people they believe are causing or may cause anti social behaviour or disturbance from drinking in a public place.
Comment: Groups of youths are the main targets.


A mother who claims that the London Jewish Free School discriminated against her child is taking her case to the High Court. The woman who converted to Judaism is being backed by the British Humanist Association.

In its defence the school declared that it is following the doctrine of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation who says that to be Jewish one’s mother had to be born Jewish. The school confirmed its belief that the decision was religious and not racial.

Comment: There is intense interest in the case that is expected to take three


Chinese restaurant owners in London held a meeting to protest against new immigration laws that they say will result in many restaurants and takeaways having to close because of lack of staff.
Comment: The Home Office states that the new laws are not specifically targeted against China.


Buster Martin, a 101-year old London working plumber, is to take part in the 26-mile London Marathon in a bid to become the world’s oldest competitive runner. He returned to work three years ago because he was bored.
Comment: Mr Martin has 17 children.


The High Court awarded damages of £3m to a scaffolder who was severely injured when a London crane collapsed five years ago.
Comment: The accident happened in high winds.


Famous quotes

Rrage is fear that has said its prayers—Dorothy Bernard.
It’s not what you look at that matters---it’s what you see.
---Henry David Thoreau.


Today in History

1899. German drugs company Bayer patented aspirin.
1929. Seven opponents of gangster Al Capone killed in a St Valentine’s
Day massacre in Chicago.


England’s first Bollywood acting school will open in Ealing, West London, in September. Students will enrol for a three months course and will be taught by Bollywood actors and film-makers.
Comment: It will cater mostly for Indian students.


The London Undergrounds is launching a campaign on Monday urging all passengers to give up seats to pregnant women, women with children and to disabled passengers.
Comment: The campaign is aimed to reduce stress.


A man climbed to the roof of the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly on Thursday, lowered the Japanese flag to half mast, then unfurled a banner protesting against whaling. He then returned and chained himself to the front of the building.
Comment: In January the same man and his daughter chained themselves to an indoor staircase of the embassy.


Poems from the Past

I Like
by Henry Jackson (February 25 2003)

Porridge on a Sunday morning
Even if I spent the night snoring,
The haunting look of a woman’s desire
Especially if she sets me on fire,
Old fashioned fish and chips
With a Guinness in tiny sips,
A beautiful woman in complete repose
Without the benefit of any clothes,
A magnum of Krug 49
` With friends and lots of time,
A voice reciting Kipling’s “If”
Any similarities bore me stiff,
Maria Callas in full flow With an hour or two to go,
A selection of French cheeses
A hint of toast and mignardiese,
The smell of burning incense
Acid, fuming and intense,
Los Angeles from the air
Always makes me stop and stare,
Tower Bridge at night,
Floodlit beauty, white bright light,
The bridge of a warship at night
Hushed voices, a feeling of might,
A glimpse of The Mail first edition
With a threat of pure perdition,
The “Gateway of India” from the sea
Followed by an invitation to tea,
A big white shark just beneath the sea
Waiting for a bit of me.

Little scenes flash into life
As lost steps I now retrace
A reminder of bright days
Bring big smiles back to my face.


Looking Back
The Women in My Life---Eileen (Part 3)

After my ship HMS Auricula had seen some stormy service on Atlantic convoys we were sent to Londonderry in Northern Ireland, where new radio directional gear was fitted, and we took part in several convoy runs to Gibraltar and Malta, during which we lost several ships to German bombers that were based in Spain. On the last occasion we shot down a big Focke Wulff bomber whose wing broke away after a burst of machine gun fire and it plunged into the sea near us and all that came up was large bubbles.

We returned to Liverpool and a few days later were ordered to join the Eastern Fleet that was based in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, on the fever belt of West Africa. On Christmas Day 1942 I awoke and went up on deck to discover that two of England’s biggest warships, the Duke of York and Repulse, had arrived during the night and two days later left for the Singapore area of conflict. We followed the news on radio and were horrified when both ships were sunk by Japanese dive bombers.

After several months of uncomfortable but trouble free patrols we sailed further down the coast to Takoradi, on the Gold Coast, where beautiful young women loaded ships with cocoa beans carried in huge wicker baskets on their head, then on to Lagos in Nigeria where huge clouds of mosquitoes filled the air after nightfall carrying malaria and I fell victim to this terrible disease. My ship carried on to Walvis Bay, on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, where I was cured in a field hospital by the primitive remedy of unlimited doses of whisky and swigs of quinine.

Finally we arrived in the beautiful city of Cape Town in South Africa where there was such a glut of grapes caused by the reduction in shipping that the growers filled huge barrels with grapes, placed them on street corners, and offered them free to everyone. After three months of what seemed like Heaven we sailed up the East Coast to Durban and then joined the fleet that carried the force for the invasion of Madagascar where Vichy French forces had provided supply facilities to German U-boats that were attacking British convoys sailing up the East Coast of Africa with supplies and troops for the North Africa campaign.

At midday on May 4 1942 Auricula was part of the screen leading the invasion fleet into the attack on Diego Suarez and hit a mine and was badly damaged but did not sink until the next day. I suffered a fractured skull and lost my hearing. The injured including me were taken to a command ship then transferred to the former Greek liner “Atlantis” that took the injured back to Durban. We stopped at midday every day to bury those who had died during the night.

I recovered in hospital from the head injuries and the deafness but never from the break in communications with Eileen. Her letters ceased and I did not hear again from her for eight months until I was in another ship that arrived in Mombasa in Kenya when I receive a single brief note and if she had written ”Dear Sir” it would have been more affectionate.

I returned to England after being away for two years and eight months during which time I discovered some of the most beautiful and colourful places in the world including Mahe in the Seychelles, before the tourists arrived, a tiny island paradise almost on the Equator in the Indian Ocean,
St Pierre, another lush island run like a farm by a benevolent but crippled French despot, Lake Tanga, that was just out of the story books, Bombay,
a stinking, seething port and capital city filled with beggars and lepers,
Adu Attol in the Maldive Islands, where the ruler visited us in a war canoe paddled by eight young men all suffering from elephantiasis distorted arms, and a little village paradise named Nani Tal high up in the remote Himalayan Mountains.

When I got home I discovered that Eileen was living in my home with a Canadian soldier and she refused to give him up. I managed to see my son Michael in a prep school in Oxfordshire but was whisked away to join the Normandy invasion after only two days of leave. Minesweeping was a tiring and dangerous assignment because apart from the mines that we hunted from dawn to dusk the Germans used fast speedboats packed with high explosives that they launched at our ships during the night. Everyone concerned including me suffered from physical and mental exhaustion but the pressure never let up. We worked a 12 day spell before returning to Portsmouth for four days for refuelling and food supplies and spent all spare time sleeping and recovering.

Leave was infrequent and when I did come back to London for a short leave I found solace with another woman, a former neighbour who lived round the corner. I did not love her and was just seeking relief from grief, hate and the blackness of war. I divorced Eileen shortly after leaving the Navy in 1946 and she left England and made a home with her Canadian soldier in the bleak and primitive area of Edmonton, Alberta.

She got busy and opened a beauty salon and worked hard to keep both of them because he degenerated into an arthritic wreck and had to be cared for day and night for the rest of his life.

I saw Eileen once more when she came to London 13 years later to visit her son whom she had abandoned when he was ten. Michael invited her to dinner at the Café Royal to meet his new wife and me but never turned up himself nor gave an explanation for his absence. I spent an uncomfortable evening with both women and found to my surprise that I was glad that I was no longer married to Eileen. The hurt that I had nursed for so many years just melted away. She gave no hint of what her life was like in Canada and only recalled events that happened while we were together and which
I had forgotten. After dinner I invited her to my flat in Chelsea for drinks and she sat at my bar, drank gin and tonics and in a Canadian accent declared it was “Wunnerful, just wunnerful!”

Then I called a taxi and she kissed me on the cheek and was gone and I did not feel a thing. She died four years later worn out by the harsh climate of Canada and the struggle to survive single-handed. Michael did not hear about it until two months later when her invalid husband persuaded a neighbour to write a letter he could not manage himself.



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