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London Letter: French Onion Soup, Escalope Milanese and Milles Feuilles

...After my ship HMS Auricula was mined and sunk at Diego Suarez during the assault on Madagascar in May 1942 I returned in a hospital ship to Port Elizabeth in South Africa and spent some weeks in hospital. When I recovered, including getting my hearing back, the Navy sent me on leave to a place high in the history of South Africa. It was Tschaka’s Kraal, 200 miles from Durban in Natal, the outpost of Zulu culture named after Tschaka, the last king of the Zulus...

Henry Jackson continues his new series in which he describes some of the wonderful places he has visited during his world travels.

Henry, who is Britain's oldest weekly columnist, also offers his usual intoxicating mixture of news, poetry, history and personal experiences.

The London I Love

Cities have sexes. London is a man, Paris a woman and New York a transsexual---Angela Carter


The collapse of Lehman Bros, the American bank, puts its Canary Wharf staff of 4,000 at risk and a further 1,000 at the High Wycombe branch. It also leaves 1m square feet of property empty in the heart of London’s financial district.


London Fashion Week opened in the shadow of recession with leading stores putting a brave face on an uncertain season.


Temple School Hatcham, a new primary school in New Cross, South London, is offering free meals to all pupils in an effort to improve diet and sociability. Pupils and teachers will eat together.


A vintage London Routemaster bus that ran the No 19 route is being offered for sale at Ascot on October 4. It is owned by Mr Rob Hibberd who spent 2½ years restoring it to its former glory. He hopes it will fetch £35,000 and is being offered with all its original advertising stickers.


A new London station, Shepherds Bush, will open on September 28, a month before the opening of the new Westfield Shopping Centre that expects to handle 70,000 commuters every week.


A former Thames oil tanker, the 44 metre ”Bruce Stone”, has been converted into flats making it London’s first floating apartments. Each flat has four bedrooms, a sitting room, bathroom and kitchen. It is moored at Barking Reach and the flats are available at £725 per month.


An urgent enquiry is being carried out into the reason why eight London black cabs burst into flames this summer. The vehicles were in a batch built two years ago and the cause is being investigated by the manufacturer but remains a mystery. The Public Carriage Office has recalled 600 vehicles for an examination and a second batch of 500 will be brought back within a week. All were built by London Taxis International at Coventry.


The Royal Free Hospital in London has received a gift of £10,000 from the parents of boy born in the hospital who was killed at the age of two in a storm a year ago. The money will be used to provide equipment for the Accident & Emergency Department.


Herbert Crossman, aged 60, a security manager from Harrow, North-West London, suspended himself by the ankles from a crane for two hours over Trafalgar Square on Wednesday in a protest against the rising cost of living.


Eight hundred guests have been invited to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Great Smithfield Banquet of 1868 that marked the official opening of the now listed market building. Grand Avenue, the site of the original banquet, will be given a makeover to provide seating and entertainment for guests. The event, including a six-course menu by chefs from the Ritz Hotel is being organised by a group of 30 Smithfield traders who want to make sure that local residents will be part of the festivities.


Poems for Posterity

by Henry Jackson

I am a traveller lost in a desert
Thirsty beyond belief
Seeking shade and shelter
And a drink to bring relief,
Your are the distant oasis
With a breeze and soft shade
Plus all the pure ingredients
Of which wild dreams are made,
I will never stop looking
Nor give up my quest
Until we meet again
And you are my sole guest.
June 19 2002


Famous quotes

I never think of the future—it comes soon enough---Albert Einstein

I dream of painting then I paint my dream---Vincent van Gogh

Adultery is the application of democracy to love---H.L.Mencken


This Week in History

1826. Joseph Niepce of France produced the first photograph that he called a heliogaph.

1955. Commercial television began in Britain.

1981. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman member of the US Supreme Court for 191 years.


This Wonderful World---2
Tschaka’s Kraal

After my ship HMS Auricula was mined and sunk at Diego Suarez during the assault on Madagascar in May 1942 I returned in a hospital ship to Port Elizabeth in South Africa and spent some weeks in hospital. When I recovered, including getting my hearing back, the Navy sent me on leave to a place high in the history of South Africa. It was Tschaka’s Kraal, 200 miles from Durban in Natal, the outpost of Zulu culture named after Tschaka, the last king of the Zulus.

It was wild and beautiful country where the earth was bountiful, the sun shone every day, gentle rain gave life to the soil and animals grew big and fat. The Zulus prospered and became a race of smiling giants who added zest and colour to the scene by ceremonial dancing with enormous clubs, shields, songs and lyrical chants whenever they felt like it, which was every day.

The main crop of the region was sugar cane and it brought work and prosperity to the whole countryside. I landed in the centre of this wild paradise on a farm owned by a former German immigrant named Maximilian who cultivated 400 acres of life producing cane that he had carved out of the wild terrain by ploughing up the virgin land and planting the canes slowly and diligently by hand one by one. A dedicated pioneer he regarded his crop with love and affection.

He built his own farmhouse and outbuildings over the years by hand and they straggled unevenly over the landscape. He also built up a herd of cattle that were beefy, grumpy and comforting companions. He knew them one by one and gave them individual names.

The kitchen-dining room was the heart of the settlement and a huge pot of black coffee simmered away day and night in a corner. It was like black ink and the aroma added a pungent zip to the atmosphere. His wife Erika ruled this domain with gentle serenity. She was a stunning blonde with long flaxen hair that followed her like a smoky cloud and a smile that verged on unshed tears. She had a tiny upturned snub nose that gave a hint of a distant tribal encounter and wore a succession of billowing gowns. She had a sister named Magda whose life centred round cleaning the pots, the pans and the floor. The harmony was serene.

There was no mains electricity for this outpost in the wilds. This was provided by an enormous collection of old fashioned batteries lying on the ground that had to be serviced every week. So it was a precious commodity and was used sparingly.

The room that I shared with another Auricula survivor contained two enormous beds with puffy quilted eiderdowns that originated somewhere back in Germany. The chairs and other furniture were made by hand and guaranteed to last a lifetime. It was so heavy that moving any piece was a major feat of strength.

The working day for Max began at dawn when he made a ceremonial inspection of his territory and the straggling collection of huts that housed his workers. He always advised them to keep their doors closed at night because marauding killers moved quietly in the shadows. He hailed each hut from a distance and the response came with traditional chants and song. The round up ended at 8 am when Max returned for breakfast that consisted of a huge steak and a mountain of chips, two ragged slices of toast and two mugs of coffee. We joined in the feast and half an hour later accompanied him on his second round of the plantation and the culling of the crops. It was a musical affair because cane was cut by a measured stroke from a heavy machete to the rhythm of a song and the thudding thumps mixed with the songs in the crisp morning air.

The estate was divided in two by a 100ft ravine and Max built his own frail bridge to bring the two sides together. He strode across this swaying connection with a smile but I found the challenge difficult and had to take a rest on each occasion to get my breath back and restore my racing heart.

Magda had her own dominion—an enormous flock of chickens. No-one knew how many they numbered and they needed no housing. Every morning the hens waddled out into the neighbouring fields and laid their eggs in the furrows and Magda followed them later and filled up a huge basket. Sometimes she had to return because it was not big enough. Every morning a trail of tiny chicks that had come to life in the fields trickled back to the house and joined the throng. The night time roosting problem was dominated by a giant red and black cockerel that strutted up and down beneath a group of trees and did not stop until the last hen had taken off into the safety of the branches.

My escape into this earthly paradise came to an end after 14 days when I felt completely renewed and relaxed. I had learned to sleep like a log and felt I had put on pounds in weight. Max bundled us into his ancient truck and took us to the nearest railway station and we embarked on an overnight trip to Durban. It was a slow, rumbling expedition that took us across the rugged Drakensberg Mountains and included a dawn stop at a village named Bethlehem. Then back to the Navy and the normal abnormalty of war.

Next week: The magic of Mahe


Five thousand people are expected to take part in The People's March to Hyde Park tomorrow to protest against the epidemic of London knife crimes. The March has been organised by 26-year old Gemma Alway and her school friend Karen Singh and so far has gained support from celebrities such as model Naomi Campbell, singer Jamelia and TV presented Vernon Kaye.


An air ambulance landed in Kensington High Street during the rush hour on Thursday to help a young cyclist who had been trapped under a lorry. He was taken to hospital.


Beijing Olympics cycling heroes Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton will join the Mayor of London on Sunday to lead London’s biggest ever free cycling event. The gold medal winners will be among an estimated 50,000 cyclists at The Sky Sports Freewheel when many of the City’s busiest streets will be closed .The circuit runs from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square before cutting down to the Victoria Embankment and following the Thames to the Tower of London. Along the road cyclists will be entertained by jugglers, mobile sound systems and demonstrations of old and unusual cycles.


This is Open House London week-end and 700 of the finest buildings of architectural design will be open to the public. They include Lloyds of London, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a whole range of magnificent private homes and skyscraper icons.



I am a diligent dabbler in the Stock Market and I am happy to report that in the turmoil of the past week I came out with a profit of £200. Not much when you think what some others lost but a profit is a profit. But there were some hair raising moments! And I will try again next week.

I have recovered from my food poisoning and Giles and Lorraine are encouraging me to eat more and put on some weight. I started this week by making a big pot of home-made soup and have asked Lorraine to get me some of the basic old-fashioned ingredients like leeks, rice, minipasta, onions, parsley, tomatoes and bacon. Whatever else it does it fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma.

I have been dreaming of my favourite meal which is:

French Onion Soup,
Escalope Milanese,
Milles Feuilles

and if you don’t know what this is you should find out.

And there is only one place where the quality can be guaranteed

The Savoy

I have one more food weakness—Fresh hot French bread plastered with butter—one of the world’s greatest taste delights.


Friends & Family

Paula (Palm Desert, Cal)
Has computer problems and will be getting a new machine soon.


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