« Decision Time | Main | Where The Torture Never Stops »

London Letter: Living Longer

...The number of people living beyond the age of 100 has increased 90 fold, according to new figures just published. In 1911 there were just 100 people who had reached their century but in 2007 there were 9,300 men and women who had celebrated their 100th birthday. I was born in 1912. Hmmm!...

The indominatable Henry Jackson muses on lengevity.

Ninety-six-year-old Henry, Britain's oldest columnist and very much a man of the present day, also brings a summary of the week's most interesting news from London.

Police chief Ian Blair Resigns

Sir Ian Blair, Britain’s top policeman, has resigned and is blaming the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, for his decision. The Scotland Yard chief, who has been dogged by controversy during his three years in charge of the country’s largest police force, said he could not continue in his job because Mr Johnson had lost faith in his leadership. His sudden resignation threatens to further destabilise the Metropolitan Police which is responsible for Royal and diplomatic protection and counter terrorism at a time when it is already in a state of unprecedented turmoil. Sir Ian, aged 58, had been under siege on several fronts and arrangements for his departure had been in place for weeks with speculation that he would be forced out following the inquest into the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Harrods £34m Record Profit

Harrods, the Knightsbridge store, made a record profit of £34m last year, an increase of £10m on the previous year. Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian owner, paid himself a bonus of £600,000 on top of his salary of £2.4m. His family shared a £30m bonus. Expansion at Harrods has been boosted by a new outlet at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 and exports of Harrods branded merchandise to overseas department stores and direct sales via the Internet.

Londoners increased by 40%

London’s population has soared by 40 per cent in the last ten years despite nearly a quarter of a million residents leaving the city last year. Another 200,000 left the increasingly packed and polluted South-East to live in the quiet parts of the country. A high crime rate including a rise in fatal stabbings plus poor school and transport is blamed for this exodus. Many of those leaving headed towards the South-West, a long time destination for the retired, where the population grew by 28,000 last year.

5000 Cabs pulled off the road

Five thousand black cabs have been pulled off the roads after a string of unexplained fires. It is believed that most of these model TX4 cabs are based in the London area. Twelve taxis have burst into flames in three months leading to an initial 500 cabs being ordered off the road followed by a second batch.

Gt Ormond St Hospital blaze

Fire damaged the fifth floor cardiac wing of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and was followed by the explosion of a gas cylinder. Day and inpatients and staff were evacuated to other parts of the hospital. All children well enough to return home were discharged but no casualties were reported. In another London fire five people were rescued after a blaze in a fifth floor flat in Porchester Square, West London.

Thief strangles ex colleague

Matthew Fagan, an American national, of the Elephant & Castle, South London, was gaoled for life at the Old Bailey for murdering a former colleague after breaking into her office on a Saturday morning and stealing computer equipment. Cathy Marlow, aged 28, from New Zealand, was strangled with her own scarf and dumped in a shower at the market research firm in Kennington, South London. She had been on holiday and wanted to catch up with her waiting workload and had found Fagan and an accomplice in the office. Fagan, who had been sacked earlier from the firm, was told that he would serve at least 26 years in gaol.

Cutty Sark fire was accident

A board of enquiry has announced that the fire that caused £10m damage to the clipper ship “Cutty Sark” was an accident sparked off by an industrial vacuum cleaner that was left on for two days. The cleaner did not have a vital cut-off switch that prevents overheating because it had been adapted for a lower UK voltage. The fire caused serious damage to the 19th Century vessel while undergoing conservation work in Greenwich, South London.

Falcons take Commons seat

A pair of peregrine falcons appear to have moved into the seat of government on top of the Houses of Parliament. The London Wildlife Trust said that the rare birds of prey, which normally live on cliff edges and crags, have been spotted perched high on the roof of the House of Commons. It added that peregrines are now enjoying a resurgence after their numbers fell to just 360 pairs across the UK in `1963. They first returned to London in 2001 and wildlife watchers believe that that there are now 13 pairs in and around the capital. More pairs have been seen recently on other London landmarks including the Tate Modern, Battersea Power Station and the Millennium Dome.

Post Office queues get longer

People in London are now forced to wait up to 28 minutes before they are served at a post office, a postal service watched has reported. “Postwatch” said that the average waiting time at queues at post offices was usually up to 15 minutes They reported that last year 160 branches were shut across London which left the remaining 200 branches to deal with the extra load leading to queues. The problem was most acute in Camden High Street, North London, and High Street, Croydon, in South London, where people had to wait for an average of 17 minutes and 48 seconds before being served.

Best new London deli chosen

The British Cheese Awards have awarded the prize of Best New Deli to Yellowwedge Cheese in St Margarets, Twickenham, West London. The shop, which opened last year, specialises in cheeses from Britain and the Continent including Little Wallop, made famous by former bass player Alex James, and Stinking Bishop, made famous by Wallis and Gromit.

Boost for Gothic landmark

An £8.9m programme to restore one of London’s most architecturally important buildings is to begin next month after English Heritage announced that it was donating an extra £400,000 for the restoration of Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham. The house was bought in 1747 by Horace Walpole, the essayist son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, who turned it into one of the first and grandest examples of the Georgian Gothic period. Conservation work on the windows has been under way since the beginning of the year but the main work is due to be completed by May 2010 to coincide with a Horace Walpole exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

New London concert centre

London’s newest concert centre, King’s Place, Battlebridge Basin, King’s Cross, opened this week with a programme of 100 concerts in its first five days, The centre ha an office block abovsdea that will make money to support the venture but the rest of the building will be devoted to the arts. Apart from the concert halls there will be two gallery spaces as well as waterfront bars and a café. After the first five days there will be a a mini festival starting on Monday.

Carers win £7m jackpot

Nine care workers from East London won £778,000 each in a £7m EuroMillions jackpot payout. The women, aged between 43 and 60, work at Upminster and all said that they will continue working.

US Embassy leaving Mayfair

The US Embassy is planning to move from Grosvenor Square in Mayfair to Nine Elms in South London to improve security.


Poems for Posterity
Lonely Lady
by Henry Jackson

She was beautiful but sad
And when we first met
Was unsure and unhappy
Avoiding my eyes
Or contact of any sort
That might betray her thought.
I watched and wondered
Why someone with such grace
Could live isolated and alone
In a big silent house
While the world outside
Drifted past like an ebbing tide,
Then one day I sent flowers
And a little note that said:
“Don’t be so sad, dear lady,
I’m also feeling lonely.
And at the end of my tether,
So let’s be lonely together”.
It was the beginning of the end
Of her loneliness and mine,

A tiny spray of kindness
Reached deep down
Unlocked the fears
And washed away the tears,
Now she talks all night and day
Smiles, grins and touches
My hand or my cheek,
Silence and misery have gone
Because love so slow to start
Is locked for ever in our hearts.


This Wonderful World---4
The Malevolent Maldives

The Maldive Islands are a string of more than 1,000 coral islands on the Equator in the Indian Ocean. The Navy took me there in 1942 and I found it a bruising, unhappy experience. A harsh, unrelenting sun hammered down from a blue sky from dawn to dusk, a strong gusting wind blew all day and bathing was not possible because of the patrolling sharks and huge snakes lurking just below the surface.

Our base was Addu Atoll, one of the larger islands, but we never met any of the inhabitants. We did have a surprise visit from the local Sultan who arrived without warning in a richly decorated war canoe propelled by eight giant paddlers and six of them had arms grossly distorted by elephantiasis.

We also had a visit from the crew of a British tanker who got wildly drunk and fired handguns into the air and we were scared.

The Indian Army had a base on the island and their field hospital was a row of tents. They coped with the weather better than we did.

The RAF were building a base at the neighbouring Gan Island and another little island next to us contained seven cemeteries for RAF personnel who had caught local diseases and died. Malaria, bush typhus and enteric were common and if you bruised your arm or leg on the coral the wound never healed. The only solution was a return to a more temperate climate. One of our seamen on board went crazy and had to be restrained and when we returned to our base in Mombasa he was put on the first plane back to England.

We spent most of our time fishing and caught one huge hammer headed shark and several other predators that carried out a sinister patrol of the ship. I fired six rounds from a heavy hand gun into a monster shark just below the surface and it did not move an inch.

Since then the Maldives has cleaned itself up and made it possible for holidaymakers to enjoy the sun. But I don’t want to go back.


This Week in History

1829. The London Metropolitan Police Force was formed.

1881. Edward Leveaux of Sussex was granted a patent for the first player piano.

1933. First issue of Esquire Magazine.

Famous quotes

Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it---Confucius

Women love us for our defects---if we have enough of them---Oscar Wilde

The whole purpose of a husband and wife is that when hard times come knocking at the door they should be able to embrace each other---Nelson Mandela



The Cumberland Day Centre that I attend on Tuesday and Thursday has just added a brand new snooker table and I could not resist a challenge from one of the girls to see how well I could perform. I must tell you, of course, that a long time ago I was very good at this pastime and played almost every day on my own table at home. So I approached the challenge with confidence. But I soon found out that I was miscuing almost every shot and it drove me mad and then to my sorrow I had to admit that I would never be able to enjoy the game again. The reason is that my vision has dwindled down to sight in one eye only and this prevents me from focussing properly and I am unable to judge accurately the vital distance between the tip of the cue and the ball and I fumble almost every shot. B….s!

The number of people living beyond the age of 100 has increased 90 fold, according to new figures just published. In 1911 there were just 100 people who had reached their century but in 2007 there were 9,300 men and women who had celebrated their 100th birthday. I was born in 1912. Hmmm!


Friends & Family

Averil (New Milton, Hants)
Went with Eric to see the stage version of “Calendar Girls” starring Linda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge and Gaynor Faye. They thought it was funny and tasteful and also had the right amount of pathos. Yes, they thoroughly recommend it.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.