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London Letter: Naked Sun Worship

...She was striking rather than beautiful with the tanned face and body of an outdoor athlete and she discarded her clothes whenever the sun provided the opportunity to add to the bronze. To her being naked was an act of sun worship and nothing to do with sexuality. But she remained an unconscious sex goddess and the role did not trouble her although it worried every man she met, including me...

Henry Jackson meets a French lady, Madeleine - and the verbal fireworks begin.

Henry, who has just celebrated his 96th birthday, serves up another delicious combination of news, autobiography, poetry and history in the tastiest weekly column to be found on the Net.

Security services report an upsurge in demand for the services of personal bodyguards following attacks on wealthy residents in Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington and Hampstead. Fees of up to £50,000 a year are being paid.


The car park of the “City Parks” public house near Canary Wharf has been sold to developers for £32m and will be the site of yet another big office block.


The appeal by 48-year-old Barry George against his conviction for the murder nine years ago of Jill Dando, the 37-year-old BBC presenter, began on Monday. The evidence against him is convincing but circumstantial because no-one actually witnessed her being shot in the back of the head at point blank range on the front doorstep of her home in Fulham, South West London. George lived 500 yards away and has a long recorded history of obsessively spotting and taking photos of famous young women. In his home there were hundreds of photos of other celebrities including more BBC presenters.


London basked in sunshine at the beginning of the week when the temperature went up to 82F. But it got cooler with cloud and drizzle.


A ceremony to mark the beginninng of the construction of the first Hindu State School in England took place in Edgware, North London.


Scotland Yard is to close up to 60 ageing London police stations and will replace them with modern shop-front offices. Officers will be stationed in patrol bases in industrial areas and prisoners will be held in “Custody cells” that can house up to 40 men or women.


The owners of Mahiki, the exclusive nightclub in Piccadilly opposite the Ritz Hotel, are to open a second club on the site of the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane. It will be named Whisky Mist and will be aimed at rich over 40’s men. Prince Harry is often seen in the Mahiki.


Westminster Council is starting trials of a scheme under which motorists will pay as little as 20p per hour upwards for parking depending how full the car park is at the time they enter. If successful the scheme will be extended to all of the Council’s 14 car parks.


The Metropolitan Water Board is considering installing tap water vending machines on the London Underground and rail stations where travellers can refill their own bottles free or at a nominal charge. And Westminster Council is introducing free tap water to replace bottled water at the Town Hall.


Poems for Posterity
The Hug
by Henry Jackson

A smile from Anita Ekberg
Would melt a Polar iceberg,
A frown from Ariane
Would split the Boulder Dam,
A kiss from gentle Lisa
Would boil my kitchen freezer,
But a hug from you, my friend,
Would send me round the bend.


The Women in My Life---6

Madeleine was married to a rich English industrialist but she was as French as the Metro, the franc and that revolting drink named Pastise that she drank frequently. It was her second marriage that survived because she was free to return to her beloved France as often as she wished, which was at least once a month. She had lived in Paris for most of her life but came from the Languedoc, to the south and west of Marseilles, peopled by rough farmers, uncompromising peasants and criminals.

She was striking rather than beautiful with the tanned face and body of an outdoor athlete and she discarded her clothes whenever the sun provided the opportunity to add to the bronze. To her being naked was an act of sun worship and nothing to do with sexuality. But she remained an unconscious sex goddess and the role did no trouble her although it worried every man she met, including me.

We met for the first time in the Shakespeare Hotel in Dover, the first stop in a tour of French vineyards that I was taking under the guidance of a Fleet Street colleague whose real job was in the British Secret Service. I did not know it at the time but it provided a convenient cloak for his activities. I was involved in negotiations with him to buy his travel magazine and he said that the trip would provide an opportunity for me to drink a lot of excellent wine in the company of interesting people. To add spice to his invitation he persuaded me to give a lift across France to the daughter of his friend who lived in Sete, 80 miles west of Marseilles, the final destination of the trip. Her name was Marie-Francoise and she was 19 and beautiful.

It was Sunday afternoon when we arrived at the Shakespeare and the lounge was filled with participants of the tour. My host, Geoffrey, who was a long-standing Regular Army officer, greeted me with the warmth a general gives to a junior officer and allowed a greeting on the cheek from Marie-Francoise.

A moment later Marie-Francoise gave a little gasp of surprise and ran over to a tall, tanned woman with the poise of a model on the cat walk. It was Madeleine. Marie-Francoise, who I had met only 24 hours before, waved to me and made the introductions. I was aware of intense blue eyes scrutinising me closely, the deep tan of Madeleine’s smooth and mobile face and the generous amount of her that was on display. As an admirer of the unconventional and the beautiful I approved the deep plunge of her neckline. I made an instant assessment of her as I always did the first time I met a woman. Highly emotional, primitive, unhappy, age about 38. I was wrong. She was 35.

“Geoffrey told me about you”, she said with a smile full of beautiful teeth and burning lips. ”Now come and tell me your version.'' Her English was almost perfect but with an occasional Gallic improvisation that made every phrase a masterpiece of sculptured perfection. I sat down on the chair she found for me and sipped the drink she found for me. It was pastise, not my favourite drink, and I tried to cope with those piercing blue eyes.

“I work in the magazine publishing business,'' I told her.

“Not quite accurate, I believe,'' she countered. ”You own three magazines and are trying to buy one from Geoffrey. Am I correct?”

The eyes glittered and I agreed.

“You are well informed,'' I said.

“Don’t be so modest. I like men who give orders to other men.'' She hesitated for a moment and added “As long as they don’t try giving orders to me.''

I caught her mood.

“Can I make a suggestion then?”

Her eyes sparkled and she waited for me to go on.

“I hate pastise,'' I said. “And I’d like a gin and tonic.''

“So English, so bloody English.'' But she was smiling and put a restraining hand on my arm and quickly went to the bar and returned with a full glass.

“I’m sorry,'' I said. “I should be getting drinks for you, but thank you.''

“Thank you, Madeleine,” she corrected me.

“Thank you, Madeleine.''

“You could say, Madeleine darling,'' she corrected me firmly. “But that would be too English.''

“Thank you, Madeleine, you very beautiful lady - but I expect that is too English as well.''

“I like you, Henry.'' She smiled as she pronounced the word Henry, as if she had just come from afternoon tea in Tunbridge Wells. “You are unlike any Englishman I have ever met before. You catch on fast. And you know how to talk to a woman.''

“But I have hardly said a word to you.''

“You have just hit me with words. And your eyes speak to me. I can feel them on me.''

I found the quick exchanges difficult to continue. “And you know how to talk to a man, French or English,” I said.

We were now both smiling and it was as if someone had thrown an invisible thread around us and pulled it tight. I stopped staring at Madeleine and looked towards Marie-Francoise. She was also smiling and held up a hand and kissed it gently. It was only five minutes since we had arrived at the hotel. The lounge was filled with almost a hundred people but I was aware of only two.

We finished the drinks and I suggested that we might try wine.

“Any special preference?” I asked looking towards Madeleine.

“No, I leave it to your judgment and then I will make my judgment on you.''

I went to the bar and asked for the wine list. The Shakespeare had an international reputation so there was hope of something special. The list contained twelve pages of good wines and four pages of exceptional wines. Going back quickly over my memory I chose Batard Montrachet.

The wine waiter looked at me closely.

“Yes, we have it, but it is expensive,'' he said carefully. “I hope you don't mind me mentioning it.''

“No, I don’t mind, but make sure it is properly chilled.''

He nodded approval.

I returned to the table and both women looked at me expectantly.

We havc to wait a little while,'' I announced. “But it will be worth waiting for.''

Madeleine was puzzled.

“Waiting for service in an English hotel is not unusual,'' she explained, “but waiting for wine is even more unusual. I hope I won’t be disappointed.''

“You must rely on my judgment.''

“Now you are on test, I am very critical.''

I smiled and said nothing.

The waiter was equal to the occasion. He replaced the white tablecloth, brought and polished three crystal glasses and added a dish of olives and little rounds of cheese. Then he went back and returned with the Batard Montrachet which he handled carefully and with respect. He opened the bottle with a flourish and poured a little into my glass. I took a sip.

It was excellent and I said so and his eyes lit up. Then he poured first for Madeleine then for Marie-Francoise and then for me. Then he placed the bottle carefully in an ice bucket and went back to the bar.

“Such ceremony,'' exclaimed Madeleine and there was excitement in her voice. She leaned over and examined the label carefully and her eyes glowed approval.

“You know about wine,'' she said solemnly, then sipped slowly.

“A little.''

“You know about French women?”

“Not enough.''

" Hmmmm...''

“But I am willing to learn.''

“That’s better. But I must be careful. You are dangerous.''

“And you are unhappy.''

“Me unhappy? Why do you say that? And how would you know?”

“Your mouth tells me. It is too hard and it would like to be soft. And your eyes are troubled.''

“Are you a psychiatrist?”

“No, just an observer and an admirer of beautiful women.''

“I said you were dangerous. Now you frighten me. We meet out of the blue and suddenly you are inside my brain.''

Marie-Francoise did not say a word but her eyes were shining. There was a ripple of excitement in the air that I had felt the moment I first set eyes on Madeleine.

We lingered over the wine while the conversation swirled around cars, road conditions and the weather. Geoffrey came over and introduced a tough looking middle-aged woman who asked if I would like to join the Jaguar team and I put her off because she put me off.

“So you drive a Jaguar?” Madeleine queried after she left.

“Yes, it is my second Jaguar. It is fast but docile and handles well.''

“A bit of a show off, isn’t it?”

“Not at all. It is obedient and does what I ask.''

“Just like you to say that.''

She admitted to driving a Ford Prefect.

“Isn’t it too docile for you?” I responded to her taunt.

“No, it gets me there and back without any problems. It is very reliable. Just like me,'' she added with a gurgle.

The evening rushed by quickly. The three of us had dinner together followed by a quiet walk in the garden. As we parted Marie-Francoise kissed me on the mouth and Madeleine kissed me on both cheeks and the contact reminded me of butterflies. Then they went upstairs holding hands and talking to each other in French.

(More next week)


History Today

1934. Donald Duck was born.

1935. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio.

1946. Italy replaced its monarchy with a republic.


Famous Quotes

Hardening of the heart ages people faster than hardening of the brain. - ---Unknown

The man who follows the crowd will get no further than the crowd.
Alan Ashley-Pitt

I don’t think anyone should write their autobiography until they’re dead.
---Samuel Goldwyn


Forty drain covers worth £15,000 have been stolen from roads in North-West London in two weeks.


A German company is to run tourist flights over London in a Zeppelin from
next month and the season will last six weeks. Each Zeppelin will carry 12 passengers and the cost ranges from £185 for 30 minutes, £295 for 45 minutes and £360 for an hour. During World War 1 Zeppelins carried out bombing raids on London and other cities causing 550 deaths.


Police who raided safety deposits in Park Lane and the suburbs found £53m in cash believed to have been amassed by a gang engaged in armed robberies, drug trafficking and smuggling of prostitutes. They also discovered four handguns, gold ingots, gold dust, a large quantity of jewellery and a stock of fraudulent passports.


Four hundred schoolchildren were moved to safety when a fire broke out at industrial premises nearby in Tennison Road, South Norwood.



The management at Hedgerow Court gave a birthday party for me last Friday and when I turned up the reception hall was full of the golden oldies who share the building with me and they were ready to do battle. There were birthday cakes and wine and music came from an Elvis Presley Look-a-Like who sang his famous songs accompanied by Elvis music. Then the girls got dancing, mostly with each other, and it was just like an old-time ball at the Palais-de-Danse.

I was dragged in and had a succession of partners who jigged quietly and kissed quietly and hopped to and fro and supported each other. They held on tight because if they had let go they would have fallen over.

I made a speech about The London I Love and the war years and recalled my early days in Fleet Street, the German air raids, my 5½ years in the Navy and my successful venture into magazine publishing. To my surprise everyone cheered. The singing and the dancing carried on until l had to stop before I collapsed and when I left the celebrations continued.

Giles took me to Brampton and there was a birthday barbecue the next day and I drank too much wine. Presents were heaped on me including three shirts, pyjamas, a huge bottle of fine brandy, two bottles of port and a bottle of Turkish wine. Turkish wine? I will remember all I can remember.


Friends and Family

Polly (Bristol). The amazing Polly, who owns the Marco Polo Travel Service in Bristol, sent details of her latest holiday opportunities in far off places like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Vietnam, Mozambique and Turkey. Polly is a seasoned traveller and visits most of the places herself before making recommendations.


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