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London Letter: Living With A Caged Tiger

In a few short days Maggie took charge of my domestic arrangements and in a few long nights she took charge of my private life. But I learned very quickly that it was like living with a caged tiger. She was a brilliant cook,
a brilliant organiser, a brilliant entertainer, a brilliant talker and a brilliant drinker. She dazzled the neighbours and the constant stream of visitors to the house. But her moods changed constantly and occasionally the typhoons thundered.

Ninety-five-year old Henry Jackson, Britain’s oldest columnist whose words never fail to astonish and entertain, presents another choice helping of autobiography, news, history and poetry in his latest London Letter.

Visitors to London in 2008 are expected to drop by 1% from the record 16.1m that came last year. The credit crunch and faltering economy are blamed. Last year visitors from the U.S. fell by 5.3% but visitors from Europe were up by 3.7% and India by 3.7%. Visitors from China totalled 89,000 and Australian visitors increased by 20%. Indians were the biggest Asian spenders.


CCTV is to be used to tackle crime and other anti social behaviour in the 791 acres of Hampstead Heath, one of London’s most famous parks.


The Islington Museum has been opened in St John Street and tells the story of how the hamlet of Iseldune developed over the past 200 years from a sheep driving village into a bustling North London borough. It contains a bust of Lenin, who lived in nearby Clerkenwell for many years, and records the experiences of former residents on how they survived two wars.


More than 700 couples with 45,000 years of marriage between them are to renew their vows during a “Mass for Matrimony”at Westminster Cathedral. The couples are all celebrating significant wedding anniversaries during 2008 including nine who have been married for more than 60 years. They have been personally invited by the Archbishops of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, who is leader of Catholics in England and Wales During the Mass the couples, who are all Catholics, will be blessed by the Cardinal.


The front of Harrods store in Brompton Road is to vanish shortly behind a curtain of scaffolding while a 10-year renovation programme is carried out.


Anthony Costa, aged 18, of Walthamstow, East London, was charged with the murder of Steven Bigby, age 22, who was on bail for rape and was stabbed to death in Oxford Street, near MacDonalds, London’s most famous shopping street. It happened during the course of a quarrel between two rival gangs. In a separate incident the previous night two 18-year-olds were stabbed in Peckham, South London, and one is critically ill in hospital. The Oxford Street attack is the sixth fatal stabbing in London since the new Mayor took office two weeks ago and the total number of stabbings in London has risen to 100 this year.. Scotland Yard reacted swiftly to the news and announced that it is setting up mobile airport-type metal detectors on the streets to carry out searches for weapons in areas where there is imformaion about people carrying knives. The Mayor has already announced that he wants more scanners at railway stations, more police on the streets and for young people to be diverted away from a life of crime.


The Londoner, the Mayor of London’s free newspaper, is to be scrapped and the money used to plant 10,000 new trees around London. Mr Johnson is to resume his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph that he gave up in January and will donate the £50,000 fee to charity.


Manjaros, a West African night club in Holloway Road, North London, has been closed by the licensing authorities following two stabbing incidents.


Vandals scratched 80 parked cars in Crescent Lane, Clapham, South West London, causing £250,000 of damage. Car owners are now parking their cars streets away to keep them safe.


Poems for Posterity

by Henry Jackson

The route to tenderness
Is through your eyes,
Then my voice saying to you
The words you want to hear,
My breath on your face
And my lips on your mouth
Then on your breasts,
It is a journey ever new,
Embarked in wonder,
Each step always fresh
And taken with care,
Like a floating butterfly
Hovering in the morning mist
Before it comes to rest.
Today was the same
With magic in the air,
And your inner sparkle
Lighting up your eyes,
Urging me quietly
To hurry on the journey
And complete my quest,
So I began the new trip
On a track I knew,
And each step I took
Was a tender milestone
Along the route of love
To your beating heart
And deep eternal rest.
August 4 1997


The Women in my Life---4
Maggie (2)

(Last week I described how I met Ted and Maggie, the amazing couple from Hong Kong)

On his third leave Ted, who was head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong, returned to England haggard and worn, a man stricken with terminal cancer. But he still insisted on coming to my house and cleaning the silver and went back to die on his tiled patio overlooking his beloved Hong Kong among his Chinese friends and secret conspirators. Maggie could not bear to live in Hong Kong without Ted and returned to Kent and sought temporary refuge in my house. By this time I had experienced a domestic upheaval that ended in divorce and was living alone in a big house surrounded by 75 acres of beautiful countryside and in the care of one housekeeper, one chauffeur, two gardeners and two Spanish domestics. I was also in charge of a young son and two adopted children that my wife Copper had abandoned.

In a few short days Maggie took charge of my domestic arrangements and in a few long nights she took charge of my private life. But I learned very quickly that it was like living with a caged tiger. She was a brilliant cook,
a brilliant organiser, a brilliant entertainer, a brilliant talker and a brilliant drinker. She dazzled the neighbours and the constant stream of visitors to the house. But her moods changed constantly and occasionally the typhoons thundered. Without reason and without cause. The air crackled and her voice, the voice with soft, sibilant French and Chinese inflections, ripped through the house, tore holes in the air, in the walls and in my peace. It would last for an hour or two then die away like a typhoon along the China coast and the doves would flutter again in the sunshine. But the scars never healed.

Maggie dressed Chinese style with a bewildering assortment of kimonos and her choice of clothes followed her mood. And the way she spoke followed her mood. And the way she drove followed her mood. And the way she drank followed her mood. And the way she loved followed her mood.

The caged tiger followed a regular love pattern. Most of the time she was a gentle purring companion, then a capricious and fickle girl, and then a raging demanding female. The whole house was her domain and she would discard her clothes and roam round the rooms and select one she needed. Then she became the seductive temptress.

Maggie had the body of an athlete with smooth, hard and rippling muscles. Her stomach was flat, her legs strong with a grip of steel, her hips like a young man’s, her breasts big, round and soft and in times of ecstasy which went on and on and on she erupted into an unbroken storm of English, French, Chinese and Arabic phrases. I knew the English and the French but I guessed the rest.

Maggie used the F word, the C word and the B word long before the media she wolves and the Sloane Rangers discovered them. And when she did the words sounded like a lady asking for cucumber sandwiches at the Ritz. But when she screamed in anger and lapsed into Chinese or Arabic the crystal chandeliers tinkled in protest.

The short romantic dream began to fade when Maggie’s teenage son turned up on school holidays, then moved in for short periods after leaving school and finally moved in permanently when he started work as a trainee at a local restaurant. My son of about the same age discovered that they had little in common and there was a discord that spilled over into my private life with Maggie. It then developed into full scale warfare and Maggie and I stood aghast and helpless as the wounds opened and finally the tenderness melted away. Maggie left and once again I was alone.

She left no address and I found out later that she was living in a rented flat in Pimlico. I had a telephone call from her telling me that she was selling insurance and would like to introduce me to her company. I was fully insured at the time and told her so. Then she asked me for the addresses of everyone she had met under my roof. I promised to give her this information but never did.

A year later I rang her Pimlico home but she had gone and I have never heard from her since.


Two churches in East London, one in Shadwell and the other a mile away in Bethnal Green, have been given police protection after attacks on their vicars.


Hundreds of new parking bays are to be installed in Westminster but for the first time motor cyclists will be charged £1.50p a day for using them.


Mme Tussauds, the waxworks exhibition, announced that it will not be putting a model of Prime Minister Gordon Brown on show because a public
poll had voted against it.


Four synagogues in Clapton and Stamford Hill in North-East London were daubed with anti Jewish slogans such as “Jihad to Tel Aviv” and “Jihad to Israel”.


Paul Saffron, a 43-year-old lawyer living in Highgate, North London, and a member of a leading law firm, was disbarred from further practice after being found guilty of stealing £200,000 of clients’ funds and spending it in strip clubs. Saffron is the divorced father of three children.


Today in History

1526. Sir Anthony Weston, Mark Smeaton and seven others, alleged lovers of Ann Boleyn, wife of
King Henry VIII, were tried for treason and beheaded.

1588. The Spanish Armada consisting of 130 ships and 30,000 men set sail from Lisbon to invade England but were defeated at sea by the Royal Navy and only half of them got back to base.

1911. The Festival of Empire opened at London’s Crystal Palace.

1929. St Valentine Day massacre. Seven opponents of Chicago gangster
Al Capone, murdered at a party.

1911. King George V crowned king at Westminster Abbey.

1969. Minimum voting right lowered from 21 to 18.

1981. Pope John Paul shot.


Famous Quotes

Sex is a momentary itch—love never lets you go---Kingsley Amis

Charity begins at home and justice next door---Charles Dickens

After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible
is music---Aldous Huxley



Paula, who lives in Palm Desert, Cal. and has been my friend for 52 years sent me the following story that made me chuckle:

A husband and wife went in for counselling. When asked what the problem was the wife went into a passionate, painful outburst listing every problem they ever had in the 15 years they had been married. She went on and on---neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable, and an entire laundry list of unmentionable needs she had endured over the course of their marriage.

Finally, after allowing this to go on for a lengthy time, the therapist got up, walked round the desk, asked the wife to stand up, then embraced and kissed her passionately. The woman sat down quietly as if in a daze. The therapist turned to the husband and said: “This is what you need to do to your wife at least three times a week. Can you do it?”

The husband thought for a moment and replied: “Well, I can drop her off here Tuesdays and Thursdays but on Fridays I fish”


Inner Circle
Friends & Family

Gillian (Totnes)
Husband Alan took part in a 100 km bike ride across Dartmoor.


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