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London Letter: "I Want To Kiss You!''

I was taking part in a Christmas carol rehearsal at the Cumberland Day Centre yesterday when the lady next to me leaned over in her wheelchair and whispered:

“I want to kiss you!”

I could not believe it so I waited a minute and leaned back and whispered:

“Why do you want to kiss me?”

She looked back and smiled and whispered...

Ah, to find out what she whispered you really must read Henry Jackson's latest newsy letter from London.

(Our sincere apologies to Henry, Britain's oldest weekly columnist. This letter should have appeared in Open Writing on Sunday. Blame the editor - not Henry.)

Another 50,000 new London homes

The Mayor of London announced plans for the construction of 50,000 new affordable homes in London including 30,000 social units. The cost is £3bn to be spent over the next three years.

Recession causes major job losses

The depth of the recession hitting London is revealed in the following estimates: Camden, Westminster, the City of London and Hillingdon are expected to see the biggest job losses by Christmas. More than 3,500 residents in Westminster are expected to lose their jobs, almost 1500 in the City of London and 1300 in both Camden and Hillingdon. Across the City there are predicted to be nearly 24,497 fewer positions by the end of the year with financial services, retailing and hospitality all shrinking in response to the credit crunch. The redundancies in Hillingdon, which includes Heathrow and a series of industrial parks, will be caused by a slump in transport and storage services. The unemployment rate in London is now 2.4% with 298,000 people out of work.

Small City retailers facing collapse

Hundreds of small businesses including cafes, bars and restaurants around Canary Wharf are on the verge of collapse following the recent economic blizzard. More than 5,500 banking employees have been made redundant recently and a further 11,000 are under consideration.

1 in 4 foreigners cram London gaols

London’s prisons contain more than a quarter of foreigners although the Government is trying to increase deportations. Wormwood Scrubs is the most affected where 457 out of 1650 are foreign and Brixton is similarly affected. The position is caused by the fact that London now has 11,500 fewer places than convicts forcing many to be sent elsewhere in the country to serve their sentences.

Royal Marsden speeds up treatment

The Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital in Chelsea made medical history this week when it opened a pioneering centre offering “fast track” treatment.This means that it will provide diagnosis within hours for skin cancer, breast tumours and patients with a family history of the disease. New equipment will enable cancer specialists to provide quick results from biopsies and skin tissue. This means that patients referred by GPs will no longer be treated in Outpatient Clinics with those already receiving treatment.

Fighting dog bites one-year-old

A 1-year-old baby boy and three grown ups were attacked and injured by a dog in South Lodge Avenue, Mitcham, South London. The police were called and shot the dog. Its owner, Clare Vernour, will appear in Court to face charges of owning a fighting dog and allowing a dog out of control to cause injury.

68% fewer London sparrows

The number of sparrows in London has dropped 68% in the past 30 years due to the shrinking number of green spaces, reports the RSPB.

Hospital ambulance clamped

An ambulance from Hampstead Royal Free Hospital was clamped outside a kidney dialysis unit in Mandela Street, Holborn. It had been there only one minute while the driver helped a seriously ill patient into the building.

Rich Iranian steals rare documents

Fahad Hakimzadeh, a 60-year-old Iranian multi millionaire scholar who lives in Knightsbridge, has admitted in Court stealing 150 plates, maps and illustrations from rare 16th Century books in the British Library in London and the Bodleian Library in Oxford between 1997 and 2003. He used a kidney knife and was careful to avoid being seen on monitoring equipment. The library estimates its loss to be at least £1m.

Oliver opening at Canary Wharf
Jamie Oliver, the TV chef, is to open a branch of the “Jamies Italian” chain in Canary Wharf.

Bogus doctor treated hundreds

Omar Antonio Becerra Pardo, aged 31, was sentenced to 3½ years in gaol at Inner London Sessions for setting up a bogus GP surgery at Draper’s House, Elephant & Castle, South London. His fake surgery came to light when he was arrested at Heathrow Airport in April and found to be in possession of a large number of prescription drugs from South America. At his London office the police found 975 patient files and 188 relating to children. The police stated that Becerra Pardo obtained clients through advertising in local Latin newspapers
Flats to replace South Ken Odeon

Plans have been approved to turn the Kensington Odeon cinema site in Kensington High Street into a housing development of 35 flats, five Town Houses as well as a multi screen cinema complex under the site. The cost of the scheme is £92m.

Tate exhibition of 130 Van Dykes

An exhibition of 130 paintings by the 17th Century portrait artist Sir Anthony Van Dyke will open at the Tate Britain Gallery on February 7.


Poems for Posterity

The Tower
by Henry Jackson

I wandered lonely by The Tower
Now the gardens are in flower,
And looked upon our history
Rejoicing that we still are free,
1066 was a long time ago
Since when we’ve faced many a foe,
From time to time we’ve been at bay
Invaders came and went away,
Both Napoleon and Hitler planned
To take away our precious land,
But when we were hardest hit
We found we had that extra grit
To fight on land and air and sea
So that we were always free.
Thus passing by this ancient fort
I came to this conscious thought:
Stand fast, Be bold, Three Cheers!
We’ll last another thousand years.


Today In History

1875. Thomas Edison patented the talking machine.

1986. Mike Tyson became the world’s youngest heavyweight boxing champion at the age of 20.

1991. The Rev Terry Waite was released after being kept four years in captivity by Shiite Muslims.


Famous Quotes

Ambition and love are the wings to great deeds---Goethe

I was the first woman to burn my bra---it took the Fire Dept four days to put it out---Dolly Parton

I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end. --- Margaret Thatcher

This Wonderful World---12
The Big Three

Three remarkable men gave me an insight into the beating heart of the United States in the 1950s as I began my colourful adventure into the discovery of California, the booming centre of the most influential country in the world.

It all began with my friendship with Paula who came to London as part of a team that was setting up area defence regions against Russia and when she returned to California I made friends with her new husband and met:

1, Harland Braun, hide merchant,
2. Don Nixon, brother of the President, and
3. Don Ameche, the film actor.

Harland rose to prosperity through setting up and running a company that processed and sold animal hides all over the world. It was based near Los Angeles and the staff spoke French, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and all the Eastern dialects.

Harland had the gift of finding people who were dedicated to the job and he rewarded them well. Their job was to promote sales in every possible way and they found and developed their own methods. This freedom of operation worked and the company prospered. Harland kept away from the office but received detailed reports every week. And everyone, especially the company, did well.

After Paula introduced him to me I entertained him for a week when he first came to London and stayed at The Hilton in Park Lane. In turn I introduced him to my friends at parties in my home and in local restaurants and there was an upsurge of laughter, noise, and happy eating and drinking during the whole of his visit. He liked it, too, because he came back frequently..

In some of our quiet moments he told me of his early life in New York when he bought a tiny plane and devoted his time off from work by taking part in dangerous air stunts that delighted thousands of spectators.

Harland was of German origin and married a 6ft Amazon of German origin who spent her time drinking, buying expensive jewellery and chasing other men. They eventually broke up. He lived in the resort of Marina del Rey, home to 5,000 pleasure boats, and took me on two memorable trips to Las Vegas and also to visit the Boulder Dam on Lake Mead. I also accompanied him on a never to be repeated visit to a giant slaughterhouse where a large bulk of the hides originated. It took me two days to recover from the anguish of this experience.

Harland was a rich but unhappy man and had few friends but this was his own choice. He had a remarkable son who became one of the leading defence lawyers in the country and a daughter who died from lung cancer caused by smoking too much. He damaged his own heart and lungs by smoking too much. Towards the end of his life he found it very difficult to express himself but sent me a final farewell in ten words by post a few days before he died and included a cheque for $1000.



I was taking part in a Christmas carol rehearsal at the Cumberland Day Centre yesterday when the lady next to me leaned over in her wheelchair and whispered:

“I want to kiss you!”

I could not believe it so I waited a minute and leaned back and whispered:

“Why do you want to kiss me?”

She looked back and smiled and whispered:

“I said I wanted a tissue!”


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