« Tunning t’Clocks Back | Main | Head Piece »

London Letter: Four Glasses Of Champagne

…Giles drove me to Brampton where we celebrated his 44th birthday and I managed to sink four glasses of champagne from a beautiful fluted glass…

Ninetyfive-year-old Henry Jackson knows how to enjoy life.

Here’s another delectable slice of news, poetry and autobiography in Henry’s latest London Letter.

Transport for London has issued a report stating that London “will grow and prosper” in the next 20 years with 800,000 extra people and 900,000 extra jobs.
Comment: Where will they all live and how will they get around?


The Queen cancelled a lavish party at the Ritz Hotel to celebrate her diamond wedding anniversary on the grounds that it would be inappropriate to spend a lot of money in the face of the threat of a national recession.
Comment: Guests would have drunk champagne from crystal glasses and dined on tablecloths covered with sparkling jewels.


Chaos continued at Heathrow’s new Terminal Five all week and it was revealed that 28,000 pieces of luggage have been misplaced and have been put into storage and it will take a week to sort them out.
Comment: Heads should roll.


A green plaque was unveiled at No 80 The Strand in Central London to mark the 80th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. The site was formerly the Cecil Hotel where the RAF had its first headquarters in 1918 and was the result of a merger between the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Reserve towards the end of World War 1.
Comment: The anniversary was marked by a fly past of four Typhoons of the Red Arrows Squadron along the Thames to the London Eye.


The Olympic Flame will arrive in London on Sunday as part of the Global Olympic Torch Relay in the run up to the Beijing Olympic Games.
Comment: The Torch will travel from Wembley through ten boroughs with stops at 10 Downing Street and Hyde Park and a grand finale at the North Greenwich arena.


Ruth Morrison, aged 36, a former dinner lady, of Harrow, North-West London, was gaoled for 15 months at Harrow for dishonestly obtaining housing benefits, Council tax rebates and income support amounting to £71,000 over a five year period. While owning a house in Ilfracombe, Devon, she had bought a second house in Harrow on which she obtained the benefits without reporting it to the authorities. She later sold the house in Ilfracombe.
Comment. A court will decide if her assets should be confiscated.


Channel Five TV announced that Natasha Kaplinsky, the former newsreader on the BBC’s Six o’Clock News, is three months pregnant. She married Justin Bower, an investment banker, in August 2005. Natasha, aged 35, came to England from South Africa in 1997 and worked for three different stations before joining the BBC where she became an instant success. She joined Channel Five as a news reader two months ago.
Comment: The fee is reported to be around £1m.


The Islington Gazette is celebrating its 150th anniversary this week by issuing a commemorative colour supplement.. The newspaper was launched on September 20 1856 and claims to be the oldest surviving weekly newspaper in London.
Comment: The first office of the paper was above an eel and pie shop in Islington High Street.


Three security guards at the Whittington Hospital, Highgate, were dismissed for watching pornography on hospital computers.


A Dinky Toy van displaying a rare Highgate shop logo has sold at auction for a record £19,975. The original owner recalls buying it from the cycle shop, W.E.Boyce, on Archway Road, Highgate, as a little boy for the equivalent of seven pence.


Poems for Posterity

Ship of Dreams
by Henry Jackson

She was like a ship of dreams
That passes slowly at night,
A picture of silent beauty
Drifting gently from sight.

We had never met before
And it caused a gasp when
I chose to sit next to her
Instead of between two men.

“Do you mind if we swap places?”
I said to the men by her side,
That was how it was done
And I look back on it with pride.

Then I gazed down on her
As she sat there soft and sleek
With misty eyes glowing
So I kissed her on the cheek.
“My name is Henry” I said
“We’ve never met before,
“Tell me the story of your life
And I will keep the score”.

She whispered her name to me
But it vanished from my mind
All I remember to this day
Is that her beauty made me blind.

There were ten other people
Around the table that night,
But for me there was only one
Who shone with soft delight.

Our parting was filled with sadness
We hugged like two lost souls,
Then she glided out of my life
Leaving my ship full of holes.
--February 15 1998


Famous quotes

A man is not old until regret takes the place of dreams.
---John Barrymore
A kiss wipes out the years and makes the heart young again.
---Rupert Brooke
Any idiot can face a crisis---it’s day to day living that wears you out.
---Anton Chekhov
My problem is in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.
---Errol Flynn


This Week in History

1556. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was removed from office by Henry V111 and charged with treason.
1795. Beethoven made his debut as a concert pianist in Vienna at
the age of 24.
1889. The Eiffel Tower opened.
1949. The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, convened for the first time.
1980. Brighton opened Britain’s first nudist beach.
1981. President Reagan was shot.


Looking Back
The Women in My Life---3 (Eve 2)

(Last week I reported leaving the Daily Mail, taking part in several successful financial ventures, and returning again to publishing).

Big changes were looming in the company where I was second in command. The owner, William J. Brittain, who had enjoyed a meteoric career in Fleet Street that ended when as Editor of the Sunday Dispatch he broke a Downing Street embargo, decided to convert The Recorder, his small financial weekly, into a national daily. He made the decision against all advice and was convinced that his skill would guarantee success. I did not share his views and tried to convince him to give up his dream but he decided to go ahead and appointed me as News Editor.

It faced several almost impossible hurdles. The most important was that the editorial office was in Farringdon Street in the Fleet Street area and the printer was in Brixton, six traffic congested miles away. This meant that news took longer to process and last minute news could not be handled at all because copy was sent to the printer on a motor cycle and critical minutes were lost. And most impossible of all is that we were hopelessly understaffed. As News Editor I had only two reporters and there were no staff feature writers. And when the pages were finally completed in Brixton more motor cycles took the page impressions to the News Chronicle in Fleet Street to be printed.

The fateful day arrived and the Daily Recorder appeared but it was full of mistakes, printing errors and out of date financial news and share listings. It was a resounding flop and never recovered but staggered on mortally wounded.

By this time I had publishing plans of my own and in my spare time (what spare time?) I prepared to start a weekly magazine devoted solely to used cars. I collected a small team, arranged a printer and finally launched “Motoring Weekly Advertiser”. It made a profit from the first issue and I led a double life with two jobs at the same time.

After the second issue appeared Brittain called me into his office and produced a copy of “Motoring Weekly Advertiser” and asked me what it had to do with me. I said that I only had a financial interest but nothing more and resigned from his newspaper that staggered on for four months and then collapsed.

Once again previous domestic work patterns were repeated. But this time Eve worked full time with me as we prospered and moved from our one room office near the Mansion House to bigger quarters in New Street Square just off Fleet Street and then to our own office block in Soho. Then as the staff increased and the money rolled in Eve decided to work only two days a week but the pressure on me never relaxed. I worked hard six days a week and talked business seven days a week. Eve never complained. But she seldom smiled and never laughed.

Our love life never flourished. In my first marriage I was the initiated and all those great mysteries that had intrigued and worried me all my life became routine and I enjoyed them and was anxious to expand my experience. But now I became the initiator.

Eve was a beautiful but fragile wife and never lost her shyness. We never made love---I always made love to her and she insisted on turning the lights out and I never saw her deliberately naked. In our tender moments she never made a sound, not even a murmur. It worried me but we never talked about it.

A long time after we parted I asked her about it and she said that she was ugly and could not bear me looking at her breasts because they had inverted nipples. I had hardly given it a thought and then found out that it was a minor imperfection that could have been corrected by a surgeon in five minutes.

We began travelling abroad on holidays, first to Sicily where she had a rich family friend, then to Portugal that was an undiscovered paradise filled with kind and beautiful people who sang sad songs. On our second visit we stayed at a luxury hotel in Estoril, 16 miles from Lisbon, and Eve mystified me by taking long walks alone on the beach. I could not understand why.

We were in the middle of lunch one day when she asked me to get cigarettes from her handbag in our room. I did so and found £500 in cash and a letter to her from another man, a client of “Motoring Weekly”. It was a love letter saying all the words and phrases I wanted to hear from her but never did. In ten seconds I understood everything and felt that my life was falling to pieces.

I returned to the restaurant, handed her the cigarettes and the opened letter. She looked up and her eyes filled with tears. She did not try to deny anything. After we returned home we talked about it non-stop for days. I raged. I pleaded. I promised. But I got nowhere.

“I tried to love you”, she pleaded. ”But you only loved your work”. She did not cry but tears were streaming down her cheeks.

“I wanted to have a baby, your baby, but you said it would interfere with your life and you already had a son”. She looked me straight in the eyes and added: “I even had a miscarriage”.

“What miscarriage?” I broke in. “Why didn’t I know anything about it?”

“I went over to my mother for three days when you were busy”, she replied.

“It happened there. It happened because you did not want a baby”.

At that moment I knew that I had lost her. We became strangers.

Soon afterwards I went on a visit to our Manchester office and when I got back I discovered that she had left quietly without telling anyone, not even our next door neighbour, her closest friend. She did not leave a note but just took her own personal possessions. I telephoned her mother and although I am sure that she knew everything she said nothing. I spent a frantic week-end telephoning friends but no one knew anything or said they did no know.

On Monday I went to the office and Eve turned up at 9 o’clock and worked steadily until 6pm. I asked her into my office and she just smiled sadly but did not respond. She returned on the following Friday and again worked the whole day, This time she did come into my office and told me that she was in love with one of our clients and had gone to live with him in Surrey.

I drove her to Charing Cross Station and asked for her telephone number but she just smiled and said “Thank you for the lift” and disappeared into the crowd. Everyone in the office knew what had happened and one or two knew more than I did. Apparently she had been assisted in her departure by a senior manager and I got some relief by dismissing him on the spot without giving a reason. He complained that he was only trying to help a lady in distress. Eve kept working at the office until I realised that there was no hope of reconciliation and I began divorce proceedings. The day the notice of court action was served on her I left a note on her desk asking her not to come back.

She disappeared from my life for two years then telephoned and asked if we could meet for a drink. We met in the Café Royal and she told me that Stephen, the man she had been living with, had left her for a younger woman.

I could not believe it.

“But you are only 35,’’ I reminded her.

She smiled sadly. Then she asked for help and told me that she had moved to Swanage in Dorset where she was working in a hotel and had seen a flat that she would like to rent or buy. Could I help? Without seeing the property I set in motion its purchase and when the deal came through and I had paid everything I sent her the deeds.

I did not hear from her for two years then she telephoned.

“I wish I could thank your properly,’’ she said in a voice that sent shivers down my spine. “But it is too late.’’

What I did not know was that she was suffering from cancer of the tongue that caused great pain and suffering.

She died alone two years later and only five people attended her funeral on a black, stormy and rain-lashed day. The only flowers were from me.


A writing desk and chair that belonged to Charles Dickens are to be auctioned at Christie’s in June and are expected to fetch £80,000. Proceeds will go to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
Comment: It is thought that Dickens wrote some of his later works at this desk.


Hundreds of skaters are thundering through the streets of London every Friday and Sunday night in a new way of keeping fit and making friends. The route varies between 10 and 15 miles and traffic wardens make sure that the streets are safe.
Comment: It is catching on because the numbers are growing every week.


A woman aged 24 who grew up in the London borough of Ealing was awarded damages of £70,900 in the High Court for enduring physical and mental abuse from her father from the age of three. She had been regularly beaten with a wooden clothes brush, a leather belt with a steel buckle and a length of cable. Her father who was an excessive drinker also forced her to dress in front of him.
Comment: The father did not defend the case.

The Automobile Association is bringing back patrolmen on electric bikes and scooters to enable help to arrive more quickly at breakdowns in congested London streets.
Comment: The experiment will last three months.


The contest for the new Mayor of London got murky this week when Ken Livingstone, the present Mayor who is seeking re-election for a third term, admitted having three previous children by former lovers in addition to the two children he has with his present partner.
Comment: The revelations came as a newspaper threatened to give the details.


Vandals have smashed 30 to 40 graves and headstones at a Jewish cemetery at Plashet Grove, East Ham, East London.
Comment: The police are treating it as a racially motivated attack.



Giles drove me to Brampton where we celebrated his 44th birthday and I managed to sink four glasses of champagne from a beautiful fluted glass.

It went down quite easily.

Lorraine and I have bought him a present he will enjoy---three sessions at Brooklands Race Track where he will be able to drive a Mercedes racing car up to the limit---he expects to top 100 mph.

I visit the Newham Day Centre on Tuesday and Thursday where I spend a few hours with the old, the frail and the weary. Lunch is served at midday. Noel Coward would have described lunch there yesterday as



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