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London Letter: The Tastiest Meal Of My Life

...Retailers are reporting an alarming increase in shoplifting as the economic downturn begins to bite. Tesco detained 43,000 thieves in the first half of this year, an increase of 36% on last year. Marks and Spencer and Iceland also experienced similar outbreaks. The most noticeable change has been in the items stolen. Previously it had been luxury items like alcohol and perfume; now it is essentials like baby food...

The astonishing 95-year-old Henry Jackson, Britain’s oldest weekly columnist, brings another helping of news from London, along with a poem, a slice of history and reminiscences of visits to California.

To read more of Henry’s columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/london_letter/

Huge job losses in the City

A big wave of redundancies hit the City of London this week with City group and Royal Bank of Scotland heavily involved as part of the loss of 20,000 jobs. In addition some of the country’s biggest employers including BT, Virgin Media, GlaxoSmithKline and Taylor Wimpy have all shed jobs.

HMS Illustrious visits Greenwich

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious paid a ceremonial
9-day visit to Greenwich within sight of the Naval College, the Greenwich Observatory and the clipper “Cutty Sark”.

Poles celebrate independence

Britain’s Polish community celebrated the 90th anniversary of their country’s independence with a service at Westminster Cathedral on Sunday followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square. It is estimated that the number of Poles living in Britain has risen to 405,000.

The Queen at the Cenotaph

The Queen led the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Sunday. Other members of the Royal family, the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet and the heads of the Services also took part.

Huge Pay Off for Ian Blair

Sir Ian Blair, former head of the Metropolitan Police Force, is to get a £495,000 pay off. He is to receive a lump sum of £295,000, the amount of salary he would have received if he had stayed in his job until February 2009 when his contract was due to expire, topped up with £100,000 perks and bonuses. Sir Ian, aged 51, left the Met suddenly last month when the new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, took over. He had been in the job for 3½ years.

Thieves hit the supermarkets

Retailers are reporting an alarming increase in shoplifting as the economic downturn begins to bite. Tesco detained 43,000 thieves in the first half of this year, an increase of 36% on last year. Marks and Spencer and Iceland also experienced similar outbreaks. The most noticeable change has been in the items stolen. Previously it had been luxury items like alcohol and perfume; now it is essentials like baby food.

Indian curry minus the Ghee

Kartar Lalvani, an Indian doctor who made £100m from vitamin pills, is opening a new restaurant, The Indian Lounge in Baker Street, that will serve curry without the usual generous ingredients of butter and cream. Almost all the ingredients to be used will be organic and include a minimal amount of sunflower seed. He will be using two different type of yoghurt to get the same results. Ghee normally used in Indian cooking is banned.

Arsenal concerts go ahead

Arsenal Football Club is to stage three all-day concerts every year at the Emirates Stadium following the success of two concerts in May by Bruce Springsteen. Islington Council granted the application on condition that the concerts end at 10.30pm and noise limits are not exceeded.

New green double-deckers

The first of a fleet of 12 “Green” double-decker buses went into service on London roads this week. They are powered by electricity but switch to fuel when the motor is under too much pressure. But the “Hybridrive” only uses diesel to drive an electrical generator to top up the batteries, which are charged every time the driver uses the brakes. The bus was devised by defence company BAE and is reported to be good at slow speeds and constantly stopping and starting. A further five single-decker buses are under construction.


Poems for Posterity

by Henry Jackson

It is a foggy day in November
And the world is filled with leaves
That crunch softly under your feet,
Whisper gently in closed gutters,
Protest along the fragrant edges
Of branch strewn graves
And pile up in big brown balls
Where forgotten paths meet,
My friend Rufus greets this new world
With disbelieving grunts and groans
And digs deep into the shifting mass
That parts beneath his feet,
A moment ago it was a mountain But now just a crumbling heap.
Across my garden lies a carpet
Of yellow, green and brown,
The wind sweeps it into waves
That melt beneath a frown,
For moment the sun shines through
And the carpet is tinged with gold,
There is a hint of lost summer
But that story has already been told,
Tomorrow more leaves will fall
To mellow the earth’s lust,
Rain will sprinkle without a stop
And the leaves will turn to dust,
This sad and lonely November
Drifts slowly towards winter snows,
What will the New Year bring?
Who knows? Who knows? Who knows?

November 10 1993


This Week in History

1500. Antwerp Cathedral opened after construction work lasting 158 years.

1512. The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel opened to the public.

1864. Charing Cross Station opened in London.


Famous quotes

A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew---Herb Caen

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

A man never tells you anything until you contradict him. ---George Bernard Shaw


This Wonderful World—11

I have spent more holidays in California than anywhere else in the world. And by California I mean Los Angeles because that is where my oldest and closest friend Paula lives. We met the first time in the early 1950s when I lived in Bayswater on the edge of Hyde Park. She occupied the flat above me that she shared with a friend named Bette and they both worked for Douglas Aircraft that was setting up a chain of defence centres all over the Britain/

And when she left she returned to San Diego and it provided the opportunity for me to visit the bustling HQ of the U.S Navy and on two memorable days I visited the San Diego Zoo and went on to travel round the Nature Reserve where wild animals rescued from cages were free to live unfettered in large separated enclosures around the side of a mountain.

Then Paula married Elmer and they went to live in the fashionable area of Hancock Park and left to buy a house in the even more fashionable Bel Air district with views over the picturesque Stone Canyon where wild animals inspected the garden at night. I spent some memorable holidays there with them.

Elmer made a big career change and they went live in Tokio where he opened a branch of his law office. And when this was accomplished they both returned to LA and bought a house in Palm Desert, 120 miles from LA, and I was their most frequent guest. The house was built in a development surrounding a golf course but because of the heat the turf had to be re-laid every year.

I got to know the rest of the family including Janell, Lee and Jean and saw them on almost every occasion which was about once a year. With the exception of Janell who went to live in Honolulu.

In case this sounds too much like a biography I would like to tell you how I first met up with a great American culinary masterpiece---The Waffle.

It happened when Paula was driving me one day to San Diego. We made a very early start and as dawn was breaking we stopped for something to eat at a place named La Jolla and to my surprise it was full of customers. We went through the menu and I made the fateful decision---I ordered a waffle because I had been told that it was a gastronomic experience to remember.

It arrived 15 minutes later and I was staggered. Two big squares of waffle sat on the plate and I was told to cover it with butter, then pour on golden syrup and be careful not to dislodge the little strips of bacon that sat uneasily on top. Then I began my treat and I can say without hesitation that it was the tastiest meal of my life. Of course, it needed two large cups of coffee to complete the feast. I got back into the car slowly and fell asleep five minutes later.

More next week


Hampstead Theatre is Fifty

The Hampstead Theatre in North London is celebrating its 50th anniversary next January by putting on famous past hits from playwrights like Noel Coward and Michael Frayn. In between it will introduce plays by newcomers like Ian Kennedy Martin, the creator of “Sweeney”, who has written “The Berlin Hanover Express”.

Babylon at British Museum

The British Museum opened a new exhibition yesterday about the ancient city of Babylon.

V & A extends art history

The Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington is to open its new Renaissance and Mediaeval Galleries in November next year. It will tell the story of European art and design from The Fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the Renaissance. It will contain 1800 objects and include the Becket Casket depicting the martyrdom of Thomas a Becket, Gothic altarpieces and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. The museum will contain the most comprehensive collection of ceramics in the world. It will also be the new home of works by Clarence Cliff, Bernard Leach, Wedgwood and Ming porcelain. One gallery will be devoted to the works of the 15th Century sculptor Donatelli and his contemporaries

Thai gang ran 16 brothels

Nine members of a Thai gang were sentenced at Southwark Court to up to two-ansd-a-half years in prison for running a prostitution gang that forced 30 Thai women to work in 16 brothels in Kensington, Bayswater and Paddington. They were detained against their will until they repaid a £28,000 bondage “debt”.



Armistice Day reminded me of six colleagues who escaped with me when “Auricula” was sunk by a mine at Madagascar in 1942 and were transferred unharmed to another ship that sailed to Tobruk where it hit another mine and they all died.

*A new neighbour moved into Hedgerow Court this week. Her name is

Rosetta Stone

I hope you are intrigued. Why? The answer can be found in the British Museum collections. The Rosetta Stone that is now housed in the museum is a stone tablet that was discovered in 1799 in Egypt and is written in three languages that enables students to decypher and understand ancient hyroglyphics. The naming of the newcomer must have been made by very history conscious parents.



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