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London Letter: Train Tracks Buckle

Train tracks buckle and house prices tumble. The pai9ntings of a notorious gangster are sold and the fountains in Trafalgar Square are going green...A record hot day, and house prices. The paintings of a notorious gangster and green fountains in Trafalgar Square.

The inimitable 96-year-old Henry Jackson brings another helping of news, poetry, history and personal experience from the greatest city in the world.

House prices in London fell 2.5% last month, the biggest fall so far this year, the Land Registry reports. The average London home sold last month for £345,136, nearly £10,000 less than in May. The biggest drop was in Hammersmith and Fulham but in Richmond they fell 1.3%. The best performer, Kensington and Chelsea, recorded only a 1.1% increase. But the Housing Federation issued a reassuring statement saying that the decline will be over by 2010 and prices would rise 25% because of a shortage of houses.


Buckingham Palace State Rooms open for the season tomorrow and for the first time visitors will be able to see what the official dining room looks like for a State reception. Tables will be laid out with rare cutlery, glasses and tableware as used by foreign dignitaries including royalty and presidents. The Queen has hosted 77 State banquets.


CrossRail announced details of the new transport system that will run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the West through tunnels under central
London out to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the East. There will be new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Whitechapel, Liverpool Street and Isle of Dogs.


Temperatures in London reached 35.3 C last Friday, the highest ever recorded in the capital. The heat caused several train tracks to buckle and a train approaching Gatwick had to pull up to avoid damage. Seventeen trains to Bristol and five to Leeds were cancelled. The London Eye closed for seven hours. And Currys, the electrical store, sold 30,000 fans in the first three days of the heat wave.Hundreds of homes in the Kingston area were without water after a water main burst in Merton High Street. And Currys, the electrical stores, sold 30,000 fans in the first three days of the heat wave.


Plans have been approved for the sale of 1.6 acres of playing fields belonging to Holland Park Community School in West London for £72.6m. The money will be used for new school buildings, sports pitches and an Olympic swimming pool.


“West Side Story”, one of the world’s best loved musicals, has returned to the London stage 50 years after its UK debut.


Carol Vorderman, the 47-year-old presenter of the Channel Four show show ”Countdown”, has left the show after being asked to reduce her annual fee from around £1m to £100,000. She hads been with the show for 26 years.


A woman aged 89 was hit and killed by a bus outside the John Lewis store in Oxford Street in central London.


A brewery is to be built on the site of the old Naval College at Greenwich in South East London.


Eight oil paintings by former East London gangster Ronnie Kray were sold by auction for £16,500. The landscape paintings on prison issue postcards measuring 7in x 10in were painted by Kray between 1971 and 1977 in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. Kray died in 1995 at the age of 61.


A decision to expand flights at London City Airport in East London was deferred.


The fountains in Trafalgar Square are to go green to enhance the popular tourist attraction in time for the Olympics. An LED lighting system will replace the lights that currently illuminate the two fountains providing coloured lighting effects and saving energy.


Poems for Posterity

by Henry Jackson

From the soft hot sands of Brittany
Comes the lithe and lovely Veronique,
She is a bundle of French energy
In fact, really quite unique,
She fills the air with fun and laughter
And helps out with the food,
But if you overstep the mark
She can be quite rude,
Her language is quite exciting
And she lets her French help out,
If you do not hear the first time
She will give you a shout,
Her dresses are a daily dream
She knows just what to wear,
And when a little is enough
Or when to leave it bare,
So three cheers for Veronique
The lovely lady from France,
Who brings fun and laughter to my day
With a touch of elegance!
July 24 2008


The Women in My Life---7

(Last week I told of meeting Olga, a Parisian friend of the tragic Madeleine, at a rambling Elizabethan house in Kent. It was an instant melding of mind and body).

Read on…

An alarm clock went off somewhere and I automatically reached out for Olga but she was not there. Still half asleep I was slightly puzzled and looked at the bedside clock which registered 8 am. Then I heard water gurgling and was reassured by the sound and went back to sleep again. The sound of a woman singing brought me back to the surface and I looked back at the clock and it was after nine.

I got out of bed and put on the first thing I could find, a woman’s dressing gown, and went into the bathroom. It was empty so I walked through the opposite door into Olga’s bedroom. She was not in bed and my sleepy eyes travelled round the room until I found her. She was in the far corner upside down with her head resting on a pillow. She was naked. I remembered that she practised Yoga.

I went over and tried to talk to her but found it impossible to speak to a naked woman whose head was on the floor and whose beautiful body
was moving gently up and down.

“Richietto!” she said from somewhere near my feet. “Bon jour, cherie!”

The words were almost inaudible.

“Bon jour!”

“Embracez moi!”

I tried to get my face down to hers but she shrugged off my effort.

“Embracez moi,” she repeated a little more urgently and she moved her legs slightly. Then I understood what she meant and what she wanted. I kissed her and she held my head in place while I kissed her again. She sighed and let me know that she was enjoying the moment. Then she shuddered and for a moment I thought that she was losing her balance. But the crisis passed and she looked up at me brimming with love, wonder and fulfilment.

“Run a bath,'' she whispered. “Go quickly and I will come to you.''

I filled the bath and added a large measure of fragrance, got in, relaxed in the water and closed my eyes.

A minute or two later I heard her come into the bathroom and join me in the bath. She sat facing me and wriggled so close that we were touching. Then she wriggled again and I was inside her. I stayed still and she took over the movements. Most of the time she was still then she gave a tiny movement that sent waves of feeling all over my body and into my brain. Then she started to talk to me in French softly and with a caress in her voice that matched the caresses of her body. I lost all contact with the world and all I knew was soft words, the fragrance and warmth of the water and the smell and fragrance and warmth of a beautiful woman. Then a ripple started in my feet, crept up my legs, engulfed my body and took over my mind and I felt the world erupt in a great explosion. I burst into loud sobs and she held me in her arms as wave after wave of pain exploded inside me and around me.

Then the agony ebbed and finally went away and I heard a voice saying words I did not understand but comprehended perfectly. It was Olga and to my surprise I was in bed and she was holding me in her arms and it was warm and peaceful and I was happy to close my eyes again. I slept for an hour and awoke to see her standing with a tray in her hands. She put her arms round me and pulled me upright and gave me coffee to drink. Then she cut the bacon and egg into little pieces and fed me, then gave me tiny pieces of buttered toast and waited until I finished two slices. She filled a second cup of coffee and held it to my lips until it was empty and while I was sitting she quickly tidied the bed and pushed me back down again and covered my face with tiny kisses.

She told me to go back to sleep and I did so and when I woke again the clock pointed to 3.25. She appeared from nowhere dressed in a loose silk shirt and slacks and led me back into the bathroom and I had another bath. While I relaxed in the water she sat on the edge of the bath and washed me tenderly and sang another Piaf song. Then she left and I felt strong again and got out and dressed.

I found the two women sitting by the edge of the lake and Madeleine took a quick look at me, smiled and then kissed me on the mouth while Olga filled a glass with champagne. We emptied the bottle and without saying a word he took me down to the boat again and we paddled gently .away from shore. Now the sun was beginning to dip into the top of the trees and the air was still. We sat silently as the shadows lengthened and little birds moved in for a closer inspection of the intruders and foraging birds cut acrobatic patterns in the sky.

When we returned Madeleine had gone up to her room leaving a note to Olga to lock up. We made the rounds and followed hand in hand up the wide oak staircase and flopped into bed. I held Olga in a tight grip with both arms until I fell asleep.

Then it was Monday morning and I was alone again. And there was an urgent impact about the day because I had to go back to work. There was a smell of breakfast as I came down the stairs and Madeleine greeted me and served egg and bacon.

“Where’s Olga?” I asked

“Out in the garden,'' she replied. “She looks a wreck, a happy wreck!”

After breakfast I walked out into the garden and found Olga sitting on a mossy stone above a tiny waterfall where water was feeding into the lake. She stood up and I saw the outline of her body through her flimsy dress as the glittering morning sun beamed a strong searchlight across the lake.

I said good morning and she smiled softly but did not reply. Madeleine came along and led me to my car and when I opened the door I saw that it was filled with newly cut roses.

“Olga’s been busy,'' she said with a sad smile.

I went back to Olga, took her in my arms and kissed her long and hard.

I started to talk but she put a hand on my lips and stopped me.

“I understand,'' she said as if in a dream, “I understand.'' Then she put her face close to me and added softly: “Je t’adoree.''

I let her go and walked back to the car which started first time. Then I edged back to where both women were standing and waved.

Madeleine put her hands to her lips but Olga did not move. As the car pulled away I took a last look and saw her outlined in a burst of early morning sun that glittered on the tears rolling down her cheeks.

I never saw her again.


Famous quotes

If everyone minded their own business the world would go round a lot faster.
The Duchess in “Alice in Wonderland”

If you make money your god it will plague you like the devil. - ---Henry Fielding

I don’t want my wrinkles taken away. I don’t want to look like everyone else. ---Jane Fonda


This Week in History

1845. The French Army introduced the saxophone to its military bands. It was invented by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian.
1976. More than 200,000 people were killed by an earthquake in China that registered 8.3 on the Richter scale.
1981. Prince Charles married Diana Spencer.


Staff at Harrods, the up market store in Knightsbridge, are to vote on strike action about pay and time off.


A 35-year-old man was shot dead with a machine gun outside Club Red in Cable Street, Limehouse, East London. He was shot at close range at least three times in the head and neck by his attacker who produced the gun from the boot of his car outside the club. A man has been charged with his murder.


A T-Shirt showing a knife stab wound on the front has been withdrawn by Selfridges, the Oxford Street store.


A memorial of 52 pillars in stainless steel is to be erected in Hyde Park next July in memory of the 52 victims of the July 7 2005 terror bomb attacks. The pillars will be erected in four clusters to mark the four separate attacks on the day.


Plans have been approved for the sale of 1.6 acres of playing fields belonging to Holland Park Community School in West London for £72m. The money will be used for new school buildings, sports pitches and an Olympic swimming pool.



I missed an appointment this morning at Barts Ear and Nose Clinic because traffic was so heavy into the City that we could not get there on time. Giles who was taking me in allowed an hour for the 8½ mile trip and we were still a mile away at the appointed hour. The next appointment: Late in August.

Received a card from Malmo, Southern Sweden, from the elegant and lovely Camilla who is on holiday there with her family. I have known Camilla since the 1980s after she left university and took a job in London for a Swedish engineering company while I was re-launching the “Naval Architect” magazine. Camilla has a mind as sharp as a razor, a body that still turns mens’ heads and you remember a kiss from her for a week.

And another card from Takako (who lives in Los Angeles) on holiday in Spain and on the way to Paris. She admits to loving tapas and paelle**


Friends & Family

Gillian (Totnes)
Gillian and family are off to America for a holiday next Friday. She was shocked to discover that she had lost her passport and there was a strike at the Passport Office in London. She rang the office and was surprised to receive a reply and was told that she could make an application for a new Fast Track passport at her local Passport Office which is in Gwent in Wales. She travelled there by train for 2½ hours, was in the office for eight minutes and took the train back home that took another 2½ hours. Success. The new passport arrived two days later.

Gillian is due to become an aunty twice more. Her youngest sister is
expecting a baby on August 30 and her brother’s wife is expecting a baby in January. Her twin sons Sean and Lewis celebrated their 11th birthday on Tuesday with a session of Ten Pin Bowling followed by a nosh at a pizza bar.



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