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London Letter: Love On A Summer's Day

...Michael Williams, of Shoeburyness, Essex, has completed a replica model of Tower Bridge out of 1.6m matchsticks. It took him 10 years, two years longer than it took to build the original landmark...

Ninety-six-year-old Henry Jackson, England’s oldest columnist, brings the latest news from London, and much more – history, a poem and another astonishing helping of aurtobiography.

The leader of a gang that sprayed graffiti on to property on 120 sites in London, Liverpool and Manchester was gaoled for two years at Southwark Court. He is Andrew Gillam, aged 25, of Wandsworth, South West London, the leader of the self-styled DPM Crew that caused damage of £240,000 in a three months period while under surveillance by the police. The gang concentrated on buildings, railway stations and trains between 2004 and 2006. The judge said that taking into account that they operated for a two year period the damage could easily have run into millions. Seven other members of the gang were gaoled for periods of up to 18 months.


An environmentally friendly couple in London had a green wedding by travelling to their ceremony on the London Underground. They travelled with their guests from Dollis Hill Underground to Marylebone Registry Office. The bride’s dress was made from reusable material, her wedding ring was second hand and the menus and Order of Service were printed on recycled paper. To ensure that the event was environmentally friendly catering at their reception used local produce and the wedding cake was organic.


The Queen’s Swan Marker expressed fears that the high water levels in the Thames will prevent swans from breeding this year. Many nests in the upper river have been washed away and cygnets have been drowned.


The Government announced plans to tackle knife crime by making offenders meet victims but it met with widespread opposition particularly from doctors. And another 18-year-old was stabbed to death in Lambeth, South London. A boy of 16 has been arrested in connection with the incident.


Michael Williams, of Shoeburyness, Essex, has completed a replica model of Tower Bridge out of 1.6m matchsticks. It took him 10 years, two years longer than it took to build the original landmark.


Witanhurst Manor, a 90 room Queen Anne listed mansion in Highgate, North London, has been bought by the Mayor of Moscow’s wife, Elena Baturina, for £50m. She is the richest woman in Russia with an estimated private fortune of £1.3bn amassed from her successful building contractor company that she shares with her husband. Witanhurst is the biggest private house in London, apart from Buckingham Palace, and is set in seven acres of woodland. It is in need of major repairs.


Ben Dalah, aged 21, and his mother Nadia, of Edgware, Middlesex, were killed when their car being driven by their father was in collision with a lorry and another car on the M6. They were on their way home from Birmingham University where Ben had just graduated. The father sustained minor injuries. Ben was due to start work at Deloitte’s, leading London accountants.


The City of London Corporation outlined new plans to bring back Cheapside, the City of London’s original shopping street, into a major modern shopping area again with 167 new shops, wider pavements, more pedestrian crossings and more new trees to encourage people who work there to shop there as well.


The BBC Proms. the world’s greatest classical music festival, opened at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington on Friday.


Two 17-year-old North London girls were released from gaol in Accra, Ghana after serving 12 months in gaol for attempting to smuggle drugs.


Poems for Posterity

Mourn for Me
by Henry Jackson

What a long time we spent
Talking about death---the hours just went,
I did not touch your hand or face
` Just sought to find your soul in space,
My voice was low and so was yours
Quiet discussion, no need for doors,
I remember how it all started
About what happens when we are parted,
Not for a day, a month or years
But across an abyss when death appears,
I looked deep down into your eyes
Filled with tears but not surprise,
You said to me, all forlorn,
, ` “You will go and I will mourn,’’
I still think of all those times
When you complained of clocks and chimes,
But I knew it did not matter
‘Twas just to get your thoughts to scatter,
It was not what we spoke or said
Rather what was in our head,
So I softly touched your hand
You smiled and made me understand
That what gave us our heaven on earth
Was words of love and gentle mirth


Today in History

1789. French citizens stormed the Bastille and released seven prisoners inside.

1933. All political parties in Germany except the Nazi Party were outlawed.

1958. Iraq army overthrew the monarchy.


Famous quotes

I am not young enough to know everything---Oscar Wilde

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

Kindness gives birth to kindness---Sophocles

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails---Unknown


The Women in My Life---7

I made love to Olga ten minutes after we first met in Madeleine’s Elizabethan home on the edge of a lake at Lamberhurst, near Tonbridge in Kent. It was a hot day with a burning unrelenting sun. My French was schoolboy stuff and her English was as scanty as her dress. We had just been introduced and she smiled as she took me in a little boat across the lake in front of the house. We did not speak and the only sounds came from little groups of ducks that chattered without stop and stately groups of swans that allowed us to pass but with a hiss of protest.

We landed on the other side and she led me to a little wooden hut that contained a bar and a rough wooden bench that smelled of decaying leaves. Without any hesitation she took off her dress, which was all she was wearing, stretched out on the bench and grasped my hand.

Neither of us said a word but we lost control. There was no love in the air or in our minds, just plain physical enjoyment and lust. When it was over she stood up and kissed my hands tenderly and as she turned round I noticed blood trickling down her back caused by lacerations from the rough wood of the bench.

“Not worry, cherie,’’ she said in broken English. ”I hope it leave scar for me to remember.’’

Then she ran her fingers through her hair which was cut short, draped her flimsy dress across a shoulder, and picked up her slippers. The boat was where I left it abd I rowed her back across the lake to the house, naked, bloody and smiling. The house was empty and it was just like a dream.

Olga was Madeleine’s best friend and they had lived and worked in Paris after university. Olga was a beauty specialist and had never married. Madeleine had survived a stormy marriage and had a daughter before she was married for a second time to an Englishman who had made millions from inventing a car polish. She tried hard to live like a rich English country wife but never succeeded because her heart was in the southern French region of Languedoc, where she was born, and in Paris where she had lived after university.

As we parted in Sete at the end of my wine tour of France a few weeks before she kissed me on the lips and promised that we would meet again in England.

“I am sorry that I was such a disappointment,’’ she said. “but I will bring Olga over from France for you and she will make up for my failure.’’

My room was on the first floor of this vast rambling house set among gardens and woodland. The lake covered 12 acres and there was a waterfall at the end of the garden that provided its own music. Olga showed me her room that was separated from mine by a large bathroom---we entered it from opposite sides. I had a shower, changed clothes and found my own way down to the ground floor that contained a formal dining room connected to the kitchen, a library, a music room and an enormous dining room with a long bar.

Madeleine walked in and smiled.

“Olga is my greatest friend,’’ she smiled. “She knows everything about me and I know the story of her life. There are no secrets between us.’’
I smiled because there was nothing I could contribute.

“Don’t worry,’’ she added, “we have learned how to be discreet.’’

We walked across to the bar and she passed me a generous gin and tonic and poured a pastisse for herself. Olga joined us half an hour later and hovered over a large glass of red wine from Madeleine’s part of France, the Languedoc.

There was a buzz of bees as we walked out on to the sloping lawn leading to the lake in the quivering heat of the afternoon. Olga went to the edge and put her hand into the water and a few moments later there was a ripple and a splash. Olga lifted her hand and was holding a big fish lying peacefully in her fingers.

“Carp,’’ explained Madeleine. “They are very tame. She feeds them every day and they know when she is around.’’

Olga gently placed the gleaming fish back into the water.

“We have no routine here,’’ Madeleine went on. “At week-ends we get up when we feel like it, eat when we feel like it and go to bed when we feel like it. Anthony is in Houston and the only other person around is Marie-Carmen who does the cooking when I don’t feel like doing it. Two women from the village do the cleaning but they won’t arrive until Monday, and there is a wonderful old gardener, also from the village, but he has the week-end off, so we have the place to ourselves.’’

She waved a hand.

“Olga has been here many times and knows her way around and will be glad to go exploring with you”.’’ There was a sudden gleam in her eyes. “I have to write a letter and I am going upstairs to my room so you have the place to yourselves.’’

She went back to the house.

Olga stood up against the sun and it outlined her body. She led me back down to the boat, took the oars and paddled slowly along the lake. We passed several small islands inhabited by colonies of ducks and geese. Occasionally there were a pair of swans accompanied by grey cygnets but they stayed at a safe distance. Over the water small birds hovered, darted and swooped collecting food from the air. It was a perfect summer afternoon.

Olga stopped rowing and waved an oar. I stood up carefully and sat on the seat next to her and we continued paddling. At the far end of the lake out of sight of the house we stopped.

“You like me?” she asked.

“Yes, I like you. But I don’t really know you.’’

“Then you must find out.’’

She wriggled out of her dress and slipped over the side and swam round the boat with the slow unhurried strokes of an Olympic athlete. The clear water rippled through her hair and along her body and occasionally she rolled over on her back and watched me watching her.

“Come in,” she urged quietly. But I resisted the invitation.

She gambolled in the water for ten minutes then crawled back into the boat over the stern. The boat hardly rocked and I knew that she had done it before. She shook her hair to shed water that was trickling down her face, bent down under the seat to retrieve a towel and began drying her hair.

“Sun will dry me,’’ she explained and was still smiling as I examined her body carefully and she enjoyed me looking at her. It was a hard body with a flat stomach and narrow hips without a trace of any surplus, but the breasts were generous and responded to every movement. Her legs were long with ripples of muscle under the skin.

“Touch me,’’ she said looking deeply into my eyes. I wanted to and looked round to see if we were alone. There was no-one in sight. I searched for words and could not find them and my brain failed to communicate with my hands. She smiled and I took the oars from her and we drifted in silence. I kissed her on the shoulder and she shuddered. We sat still for half an hour and listened to the ducks and geese chattering and the sun was so hot that it felt like a furnace on my back. Olga sat still and her eyes made holes in my brain.

A big splash near the boat broke the spell and Olga smiled and trailed a hand in the water.

“My friend talk to me,’’ she explained. I looked closely at her face and saw little trickles of perspiration glistening. Two more trickles were collecting in the hollow of her neck and her mouth was moist. There was pain in her eyes.

She started singing quietly in a low voice, almost imperceptibly at first, then slightly louder. It was an Edith Piaf song and I knew the words. The tiny breeze fell away and there was a slight movement from the water around us as the ducks, geese and swans edged in towards the boat.

“Je ne regret rien ….” drifted across the water and it was my turn to shiver.

We were surrounded by a convoy of birds that had arrived without a splash or a flutter. From the sky a squadron of swifts dived down from the clouds cutting through the air in a wild swoop of primitive joy. The silence was overpowering. Ten unforgettable minutes ticked by. Then the peace was broken by the flash of a big fat carp leaping through the air and falling back with a loud splash. From the far end of the lake came a thudding sound and a flock of geese took off just above the surface of the water and slowly gathered height. The pulse of the lake began to beat again.

Olga looked at me and smiled but tears mingled with the beads of perspiration running down her cheeks. I lowered the oars into the water and with the first splash the birds surrounding the boat came to life and there was a burst of wings flapping and splashing. We made slow headway and they parted reluctantly with noisy protests.

We glided back and as we touched the shore Olga picked up her dress and ran back into the house. I tied up at a post at the end of a little wooden pier and followed. The house was silent as I went back to my room. From the bathroom I heard Olga singing quietly and I waited for silence then had a quick shower and went back down to the room overlooking the lake.

Olga and Madeleine were sitting at the bar. And there was a drink for me already poured and Olga gave it to me without a word.

“The lake is lovely at this time of the year,’’ Madeleine said. “Olga swims every morning but I like to linger in bed.’’

Olga did not say a word just looked at me over the top of her glass. Then Madeleine took a photo album from a shelf and began showing snaps of the wine trip to Sete. They relaxed into their own French and there were gurgles and little bursts of laughter.

I asked about Marie-Francoise.

“She has gone to university,’’ Madeleine informed me. Olga interrupted with questions and wanted to know more. The afternoon trickled by slowly and as a haze began to collect over the lake both women went into the kitchen and brought back food from the fridge with ham, strong smelling garlic sausage, cheese and French bread. We ate slowly and there was almost no conversation but there was quiet harmony.

Madeleine broke the silence and began closing the doors and windows before going to her room. Olga took my hand and led me upstairs to her room and we went quietly to bed together like a couple who have known each other for years.

(More next week)


Chester Dauda, aged 21, of Plaistow, East London, a native of Nigeria, was gaoled for life at the Old Bailey yesterday for stabbing a teen-age male student through the heart outside a pub in the early hours of New Year’s Day. He will serve a minimum of 14 years and the judge recommended deportation back to Nigeria at the end of this term.


After taking 168,000 samples all over the country last year scientists rated London’s tap water as the best in Britain.


The British Museum is staging a major exhibition about the Roman Emperor Hadrian.


Two police officers were attacked and injured by an angry mob in North End, Croydon, South London, after they asked a girl to pick up litter she had dropped. One of the officers had to receive hospital treatment for a bite wound.


The Mayor of London has asked all London councils to back his plan to ban the sale of alcohol to everyone under the age of 21.


Friends and Family

Lorraine (East Ham)
Began an additional career as Administrator at the school where both children are pupils. Her day starts at 7.30am so she takes the children along as usual and brings them home at 4pm. In between she does the complicated back room work and admits that it is challenging. One big advantage is that she has the same holidays as the children. Of course, she still has all of her home chores to carry out. I am amazed by her dedication and energy.

Sue (Mid Wales)
Has just returned from a successful but exhausting concert tour.

Gillian (Totnes)
Planning a three week holiday in the U.S beginning August 10 with Alan and the boys that includes a visit to their friend Tony in Cambridge, a stay with her brother in Redhook, New York, followed by three days in a Manhattan hotel. On her birthday (August 23) they will fly to Orlando‘s Disney park and finish up at Coco Beach and hope to visit the local Space Station. The boys start at their new school soon and she hopes that they will remember this fun holiday while they settle down to serious studies.

The boys celebrated their last day at their present school with a Leavers’ Ceremony where they performed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller'' dance, sang songs and reminisced into a microphone about their favourite school memories. Then they were each presented with a dictionary by their teacher.


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