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London Letter: London Is The Culinary Capital Of The World

I’ve got you under my skin
Dear mechanical Pacemaker,
And can sing with Dolly Parton
Don’t be a little heart braker...

Despite a distressing attack of food poisoning Britain's oldest columnist Henry Jackson makes it to the keyboard to bring another weekly helping of poetry, history and news from the great city, London.

To read more of 96-year-old Henry's columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/london_letter/

The London I Love

London is a roost for every bird---Benjamin Disraeli


The Zagat Restaurant Guide announced that London has overtaken Paris as the culinary capital of the world. It states that London not only serves better food but also better service and more reasonable prices than their French counterparts. The guide, based on a global survey of thousands of restaurants, found that London also beats Paris for food satisfaction and service. The average meal in London also cost £5 less. According to the guide London’s top restaurant is Restaurant Gordon Ramsey in Chelsea, the capital’s most popular restaurant is Wagamama, the Ritz has the best décor and The Dorchester was the best newcomer.


Tariq Ghaffur, London’s most senior Asian police officer, has been temporarily relieved of his duties. The decision was announced by Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, after Ghaffur lodged a £1.2m racial discrimination claim against the Metropolitan Police. Sir Ian said that he took the action because of the way Ghaffur “had chosen to conduct himself”. Gaffur claims that he was discriminated against on grounds of race, religion and age.

And more problems: Yasmin Rehman, the Yard’s £60,000 a year Director of Diversity, is to lodge a claim of race discrimination against her employers.


Forty photographs spanning the last 100 years have gone on display at St Pancras Station. They include a portrait of Queen Victoria taken in 1897 celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, Winston Churchill addressing a crowd in 1945 and street scenes when the end of the Great War was announced. The exhibition celebrates the 140th anniversary of the Press Association and the station.

A blue plaque to honour the former heavyweight boxing champion Sir Henry Cooper is to be placed on the wall outside the Henry A Becket gym where he trained in Southwark Bridge Road, South-East London. Cooper’s boxing career lasted 17 years in which he won 40 of the 55 fights he took part in. He won the British and Heavyweight Championships in 1959.


Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, announced that he is considering cutting the staff at the Greater London Authority by 100 and saving £7.1m in wages every year.


Hampstead Council have granted planning permission for a new Tesco Express store on Belsize Road despite vigorous opposition by local residents. It will be built on the site of the former Britannia pub.


Six people have been arrested on suspicion of money laundering after a raid on an unlicensed pawnbrokers in central London. Police believe that the shop in Mayfair was used to “clean” millions of pounds obtained illegally through false companies, credit cards and fraud. A 49-year-old woman was arrested at the shop while the others were held during raids on properties in Knightsbridge and South London. A 35-year-old man believed to be the ringleader of the group and a 34-year-old woman were both arrested on Park Street, Mayfair.


Poems for Posterity

Dear Pacemaker
by Henry Jackson

I’ve got you under my skin
Dear mechanical Pacemaker,
And can sing with Dolly Parton
Don’t be a little heart braker;
Protect me from my aches and pains
And other problems minor,
Especially when it rains
And causes the dreaded angina.
Save me for another day
When I can sit in the sun
To watch the lovely dolphins play
And join with them in fun.
But most of all I plead
To my dear mechanical bug
Please make it possible with great speed
For me to give you a mechanical hug
November 10 1994


I have decided to discontinue “The Women in My Life” even though I know that this is what most readers read first every week. Any topic however interesting can get boring after a time. And I am replacing it with “This Wonderful World” that gives a glimpse into some of the most beautiful, scenic, astonishing, interesting and primitive places I have visited. Here goes:

This Wonderful World---1

I was in the Royal Navy during the War and my first ship was a corvette named HMS Auricula. It had a crew of 80 and four officers and was based in Gladstone Dock, Liverpool. My quarters were in the front part of the ship called the forecastle, and I slept in a hammock with 30 others in a compartment the size of the average suburban sitting room. After a gruelling year in the North Atlantic guarding convoys we were transferred in 1941 to Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa 500 miles north of the Equator. In the shifting fortunes of war the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet was temporarily located there and our task was to join a small group of other vessels to patrol this inhospitable coastal region and guard against German U-boats.

Everything about Freetown was harsh and difficult. The weather was hot, humid and stormy, the waters were turbulent and treacherous and filled with hungry sharks and snakes, the locals were unfriendly and local food supplies almost nil. In the local village the solitary chicken picked around the rubbish looking like a skeleton on sticks. But Freetown it also had a certain savage beauty with fantastic sunrises and sunsets, tall coconut trees that bent over in the high wind and snow white sandy beaches without a single footprint. Electric storms sizzled every day and a furious gale could blow up without warning.

Operations were controlled from a former Union Castle Line passenger ship, the Edinburgh Castle, and a retired Royal Navy commodore was brought back to run operations. He thought that anything less than a battleship was not worth considering and if you were not career Royal Navy you were useless.

Our routine was to patrol the Atlantic coast for ten days and we occasionally stopped a stray cargo vessel for interrogation then returned to base for four days, then went out again. It was a dull, monotonous and tiring routine. Some of the crew got sunstroke even though we wore old fashioned Army sun helmets and everyone lost weight. Our biggest enemy was the sun.

Back in base we took part in the usual Navy routine of taking on fuel, water and food supplies and a large part of this was food canned in large tins from America. I made my first acquaintance with Spam and I liked it. But my pet hate was baked beans that were on the menu almost every day. Bananas were so cheap at eight for just one penny that they were almost given away. Work stopped at midday and those off duty were allowed to go ashore. But apart from a prolific string of drinking shops the only other outlets were brothels in tiny shacks with corrugated tin roofs and these were well patronised. But there were little or no safeguards and sexual diseases were rampant.

To remain safe all Navy personnel had to return on board by 6.30pm because it was too dangerous to be around in the dark. Crime ashore was rife and there were around four or five murders every night.

I forgot. There was a large Catholic church in the centre of the town and I went there on a Christmas Day and was kissed by a long string of buxom beauties. But there was a strange haze about them. They were wearing white face powder and looked like ghosts!


Today in History

1895. First night of Tschaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” in St Petersburg.

1895. August and Louis Lumiere gave the first display of a film to an invited audience in Paris.

1897. George Smith, a London cab driver, was the first person to be found guilty of drunk driving and was fined 25 shillings.


Famous quotes

Bad men are full of repentance---Aristotle

I don’t think when I make love---Brigitte Bardot

A sweetheart is a bottle of wine; a wife is a wine bottle.
---Charles Baudelaire


London City Airport in East London has received planning permission that will enable it to expand flights from 80,000 to 120,000 a year.


A spectacular night carnival involving 2000 performers with lanterns and a firework display will end the Mayor of London’s 11th Thames Festival this week-end. A 50-meter Chinese dragon will lead musicians, dancers and masqueraders with illuminated costumes and flaming torches from Victoria Embankment over Blackfriars Bridge and back to the National Theatre on Sunday night. The colourful half mile troupe will leave a traffic free Embankment at 6 pm and arrive at the National Theatre around 9.30 pm. The fireworks begin 15 minutes later. Stages set up along the South Bank from City Hall to the London Eye will feature bands, choirs, workshops and lessons on how to dance, knit and act in a film. Up to a million spectators are expected for the event.

The festival begins at noon on Saturday with The Feast on the Bridge when Southwark Bridge will be shut to traffic and covered in trestle tables, food stalls and a stage. Like a traditional Harvest Festival the public will be encouraged to tuck into seasonal food such as pumpkin soup.



I have just gone through a very distressing experience—an attack of food poisoning that filled me with intense pain, caused sleepless nights and many hours of acute embarrassment. But I am slowly recovering.

How did it happen? I have two theories:

1. A week ago my visit to the Day Centre was the scene of utter chaos because they had taken on an extra large contingent of visitors for the day and could not handle the extra demand and the mid-day meal was 1½ hours late. A day or two later I began to suffer.


2. My refrigerator got switched off off accidentally and some of the contents went off and I did not know. It may have been caused by a series of fuses blowing and I was not aware that the fridge was affected, The doctor diagnosed gastro enteritis.

Whatever the cause I suffered severe pain and acute mental misery. Fortunately the situation is improving slowly and I have received a lot of help from Giles and Lorraine.


Friends & Family

Samantha (Mid Wales)
Ray has been diagnosed with cataract in both eyes and is not allowed to drive. Diccon came is on a short visit to Wales---his wife Emma’s father died at the early age of 58.

Averil (New Milton, Hants)
Returned after a week in Scotland with fine weather. A surprise for Eric when they had dinner at Loch Lomond with a cousin he has not seen for 40 years. She was invited secretly by Avril. They also visited Ben Nevis and had four nights in Tayport with her sister and husband.


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