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London Letter: Opera On The Net

...Opera fans will be able to watch the whole of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” from next month after a major redesign of the Royal Opera House website. The performance was filmed earlier this month and will be put on the Royal Opera new site on October 5. Archive material for this site will include first night cast lists going back to 1946, trailers, interviews with artists and documentary footage. http://www.roh.org.uk/

The inimitable Henry Jackson brings us his usual enticing melange of news, personal experiences, history and poetry from the greatest city on Earth, London.

Henry is England's oldest weekly columnist. To read more of his lively writing please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/london_letter/

The London I Love

I love London society. I think it has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what it should be---Oscar Wilde


Opera fans will be able to watch the whole of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” from next month after a major redesign of the Royal Opera House website. The performance was filmed earlier this month and will be put on the Royal Opera new site on October 5. Archive material for this site will include first night cast lists going back to 1946, trailers, interviews with artists and documentary footage.


A force of 150 police arrested seven suspected members of a London gang believed to be connected with hundreds of robberies all over London. They targeted the notorious Peckham Boys in a series of simultaneous swoops at 17 addresses in the South-East areas of Peckham, Brockley and Kennington. The police suspect that the gang have been
behind raids on gaming machines at High Street betting shops, arcades and public houses. At one flat in Kennington specialist equipment was used to break down a reinforced door and dog handlers had to restrain two pitbull like dogs that attacked police.


The threat to the London staff of the American bank, Lehman Bros, was eased after it was announced that Nomura, a Japanese bank, has bought the bulk of its Canary Wharf
operations. The owners of Canary Wharf, Songbird Estates Ltd., announced that the value of its properties had dropped by more than £599m since Lehman collapsed.


Hundreds of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan marched through London to mark their return home. London’s Second Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
exercised its ancient privilege to march through the City of London in a rarely seen custom. City workers applauded the troops who were greeted by the Lord Mayor of London, David Lewis, one of only six regiments to be honoured in this way. The battalion will carry on with largely ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle before it resumes active service next year.


Nazaire Djoukan, a driving instructor, of Croydon, South-West London, was gaoled for eight months for posing as his pupils to take their tests for them. He charged ten pupils £150 each for sitting their tests. Djoukan, who arrived from the Cameroons in 1997 and is an asylum seeker, is not qualified himself. Four of the men who admitted conspiracy to obtain property by deception, were disqualified from driving for a year.


Developers working on plans to improve the area around Victoria Station have modified their proposals that had included the building of three new skyscrapers and would have
loomed over Buckingham Palace. They have scrapped the proposal to erect two 134 metre high towers and are limiting the tallest building in the development to 90 metres. The area concerned has been reduced from 13.3 to six acres with 800,000 square feet of office space in three buildings, one private block of flats and two buildings containing 35 affordable homes and a library. There will be no money for the earlier proposed £250m contribution to the improvement of the Underground interchange and Terminus Place.


Poems for Posterity
by Henry Jackson

A shining Rolls Royce
With a seat just for one,
A block of dark chocolate
That weighs a ton,
A girl with big breasts
To kiss and caress,
A table at the Savoy
With four waiters, not less,
A suite on The Queen
Skimming over the sea,
Or a seat on Concorde
With no-one else but me,
Some call it dreams
Or the fruits of success,
I sit back and enjoy
Because I love excess.

December 3 1997


Famous quotes

We build statues out of snow and weep to see them melt---Sir Walter Scott

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you---Jean Paul Sartre

Disappointment is to the soul what thunderstorms are to the air---Friedrich Schiller
Forgive you enemies but always remember their names---John F.Kennedy


Today in History

1914. A German U-boat sank three British cruisers.
1949. The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear bomb four years after the U.S.
1955. First broadcast by ITV.


This Wonderful World—3
The Magic of Mahe

The Seychelles are a group of coral islands in the Indian Ocean 250 miles south of the Equator and north of Madagascar and cover a stretch of ocean 300 miles long and in the middle of World War II it was a forgotten part of the world. I arrived there in HMS Fritillary in May 1942 and stayed six weeks and was captivated by this paradise in the sun with its shining white sandy untrodden beaches, the fragrant vegetation, the
spiralling trees that bent to the wind and the blue mountain that was green right up to its distant tip in the whispy clouds.

The main island was Mahe and it was surrounded by a coral reef that prevented ships from getting close and the only way in was through a gap in the reef by a small boat or canoe. We anchored outside but there was always a group of smiling boatmen ready to take us ashore. The capital of Mahe is Port Victoria, just a collection of huts and small buildings with a large statue of Queen Victoria in the centre of the market place. And apart from the odd hut or two the only building there was a large corrugated iron roofed store owned by a Chinese family. A long line of produce filled sacks lined one side of the building and the other walls contained sacks holding rice and other cereals.

There was no public transport and people got around on a donkey or a cart drawn by a horse or a donkey. Time did not matter and when people went to the store to shop they
drew up outside in a long line and waited patiently for their turn. They carried out long conversations in a loud voice and sometimes it looked as if they were spoiling for a fight but it was all good fun.

Only a few women bothered to get married in this predominantly Catholic community. Young women produced children in their early teens and the older women cared for the
babies. Women outnumbered men by three to one and their main occupation was dressmaking. Early every day they dragged their Singer sewing machines into the square where they formed a rectangle of unceasing clatter and produced dresses and other apparel from patterns they found in the latest Parisian fashion magazines they imported from France. But the war interrupted the regular arrival of transport---we were the first ship to arrive in five months---so the patterns were slightly dated and the delivery of the finished product back to France was also delayed.

Apart from those who grew their own food most of the men were engaged in fishing and the waters were bountiful. Long lines of little boats circled the spots where fish were most plentiful and the scene was like a well rehearsed drama where a fisherman and his two assistants baited a long shining thread, dropped it into the sea and then picked up the next line that was quivering with newly caught fish. The process only stopped when the boat was full.

Our seamen looked on with envy because they never caught any fish however hard they tried. They even bought fishing equipment from the natives but never landed even one fish. They experimented with different bait but it made no ifference.

The Governor of the Seychelles, a career diplomat of the Colonial Office who owned the only car on the island, decided to mark our arrival with a dance and party for the crew and a dinner party for the officers at the rather grand sounding Travellers Club, an empty shell because no-one ever went there because no-one ever arrived. When the day came the party took place in a rather dilapidated building off the main square but the girls turned up in droves—they outnumbered men by three to one. They all wore spectacular home-made dresses and shoes with high heels that made it difficult to walk
and even more difficult to dance.

Music came from an ancient gramophone with a long curved speaker and had to be cranked up with a large handle before each dance. The tunes were the tunes of old time Paris and the girls hummed or sang with a big grin on their faces. I danced each dance and my partner changed each time.

There was an interval for food and drink and girls wheeled in three huge trolleys filled with snacks and appetisers and French wine, liqueurs and West Indian rum. The noise llevel escalated and after a few drinks some of the girls broke out into impromptu solo dances that got wilder and wilder. In the process dresses got loose, unwrapped and fell to the ground but the girls continued dancing showing long lovely legs and tiny knickers. The scene was a Mahe version of the Paris Folies Bergere.

The party ended after midnight and we were escorted back to the ship with a girl on each arm. It was a slow process but it gave us time to enjoy a huge yellow full moon and the heavy fragrance of the flowers and bushes. Saying farewell took more than hour.

We sailed three days later but I will never forget the beauty and the perfume I left behind.


A patient being moved from one East London hospital to another terrified the ambulance crew by pulling a gun on them, taking over the driving after they fled and crashing into
five stationary cars. The man fled on foot but was captured by the police a few streets away.


Safety procedures for cruisers on the River Thames are to be tightened and mooring practices overhauled after a man fell overboard and was drowned. The man slipped, struck his head and fell into the water as he was getting off a pleasure cruiser at Westminster Pier in August. His body was recovered five days later. Vessels have now been ordered to moor safely rather than follow the current practise of depending on one
mooring line.


A new indoor sports centre is now planned at Emirates Stadium following a major change of mind by Arsenal Football Club. The club has drawn up a revised planning application for the Queensland Road site which includes a replacement for the former TV Centre at the old Highbury Stadium. The moved follows a huge campaign to get the popular centre built for the benefit of the local community.


Adult World, a sex shop on Islington Green, North London, has caused an uproar by applying to open on Sundays and to extend its daily opening hours until 10 pm. And “For Your Eyes Only”, a basement strip club in City Road, Finsbury, has applied to stay open 24 hours instead of closing at 3 am.


Camden Council in North-West London has written to model Kate Moss asking her to repair the 7ft wall round her £7m home in Mortimer Crescent, Kilburn, NW6, where a huge crack has appeared and presents a danger to pedestrians.



I put the central heating on today for the first in months. Tonight the temperature will drop to 5C but after a very foggy morning it will climb back to 20C.


Friends & Family

Ariane (Portugal)
Taking a well earned rest in Bavaria from recent work on the flat. She and Fritz are staying at her aunt Gisela’s home in Grafrath in Bavaria while she goes on holiday but Ariane will move on to her own flat in Munich in a few days.

Polly (Bristol)
Polly’s two boys will be 10 next month and Polly has made them a birthday cake that she is storing in the deep freeze.


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