« November | Main | Mirror Man »

London Letter: The Two Dons

...I had dinner with Donald Nixon, younger brother of the President, at his luxurious home that was filled with gifts from foreign celebrities when they visited them abroad. There were only six other guests---I am told that normally at least a dozen people sat round the table....

Henry Jackson tells of his meetings with Don Nixon and Don Ameche.

Henry, Britain's oldest weekly columnist, also brings the week's news from London, along with a poem and a dash of history.

First gambling clinic opens

The National Problem Gambling Clinic, the first NHS clinic to treat gambling through therapy and financial advice, has opened in Soho in the heart of London and will be on trial for a year. Families will also be offered therapy to cope with their addictive impact. According to the Gambling Commission more than 250,000 people in Britain last year were found to be problem gamblers and many were from young age groups. The Commission also found that more men than women had the problem.

College issues secret cards

Postcards designed by some of London’s finest artists are to go on sale by the Royal College of Art. A total of 2070 cards costing £40 each will be on offer, some of them by famous artists and the others by students, but the artist will only be discovered after a card is purchased.

Founder of Synfonia dies

Richard Hickox, founder and musical director of the City of London Synfonia, died of a suspected heart attack. He was 60.

2m shoppers storm Westfield

The new Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush, West London, attracted two million visitors in its first three weeks of opening despite the general shopping slump. Some of the Centre’s new shops like Versace, Louis Vuiton and Mecom are yet to open.

Yard racist claim withdrawn

Assistant Police Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has agreed an out of court settlement in his race claim against Scotland Yard and will retire from the service. He will receive a pay off of about £300,000 and his full pension after 34 years as a police officer. The agreement follows weeks of acrimonious behind the scenes confrontations. Mr Ghaffur has now withdrawn his proceedings and his claims that Sir Ian Blair, the former Commissioner of Police, and Mr Bryan, a second police officer, acted in a racist or discriminatory manner.

Rogues gallery goes on view

Scotland Yard has issued CCTV pictures of dangerous gangs and individuals wanted for a series of robberies across London and the South-East. Some are blamed for the rise in the number of raids on bookmakers in recent months.

The latest figures show an 18 per cent increase on last year. Bookmakers blame the recent credit crunch as well as new late night closing hours for bookmakers. The CCTV images show one unnamed raider who uses brute force to overcome security guards delivering cash to banks. Another wanted man, Peter Day, aged 29, makes no effort to disguise himself and has now struck 12 times in five months. Yet another wanted man, Anthony Perry, is suspected of being a member of a gang behind a series of betting shop robberies in London and Bristol.

Frigate arrives in The Pool

HMS Westminster, a Type 23 frigate, arrived in the Pool of London for a short visit and berthed alongside HMS Belfast. The Freedom of the City of London was bestowed on this ship three years ago and on Sunday the crew of 180 exercised their privilege to march through the streets of London for a service at Westminster Abbey.

Congestion charge to end

The western extension of London’s congestion charge that costs motorists £8 a day is to be removed but not before the Spring of 2010. It covers parts of Westminster, Chelsea and Kensington and Transport for London will lose an income of £20m a year.

Siamese twins for18-year-old

Laura Williams, aged 18, gave birth to Siamese twins at University College Hospital in Bloomsbury and has named them Faith and Hope. She was transferred to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital where a team is standing by to separate the babies who are joined from the breastbone to the top of the navel. Mrs Williams was advised to have an abortion when it was first discovered that the babies were conjoined but she refused the offer.

Cardinal seeks a masterpiece

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, has asked the National Gallery to give up a Renaissance masterpiece on the grounds that it is more of a work of faith than a work of art. The painting is “The Baptism of Christ” completed by Pierre della Franceska in the 1450s and has been in the gallery since 1861. The cardinal wants to hang it in Westminster Cathedral. The artwork is painted on wood from the poplar tree and is so delicate that its preservation has to be ensured by constant gallery care with temperature, humidity and light levels all controlled.

PM mourns Damilola Taylor

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and David Cameron, the leader of the Opposition, attended a memorial service at Southwark Cathedral to mark the eighth anniversary of the murder of Damilola Taylor, the 10-year-old who was stabbed to death on a staircase near his home in Peckham, South-East London. The service was attended by hundreds of mourners.


Poems for Posterity

The Lighthouse
by Henry Jackson

Down my garden beyond the fading rows
Of tangled echoes of the last month but one
A shining yellow radiance glows
In the dim light of the dying sun,
Alone on a slim willowy stem
Two roses challenge the piercing wind
Like a lighthouse in the service of Man
Keeping danger at bay from the rising tide,
Everywhere she soft perfume of paradise
Hides the decay of the passing year,
A sorrowing process without a surprise
With no cause for joy, just lonely tears.

October 3 2003


Today in History

1434. River Thames freezes.

1553. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, removed from office and charged with treason.

1858. “Origin of the Species”, a scientific book by Charles Darwin, was published.


Famous quotes

What is love? It is the morning and the evening star—Sinclair Lewis

Truth is a great flirt—Franz Liszt

What we think we become---Dalai Lama


This Wonderful World –13
The Two Dons

1. Don Nixon
2. Don Ameche

I had dinner with Donald Nixon, younger brother of the President, at his luxurious home that was filled with gifts from foreign celebrities when they visited them abroad. There were only six other guests---I am told that normally at least a dozen people sat round the table. Clara Jane, his wife, and a friend of Paula’s, made all the arrangements and it was a triumph of organisation with personal introductions made in the adjoining room before we sat down and an elaborate printed menu with the back page reserved for autographs.

It was a noisy affair and Don was the noisiest one present. But the food and the Californian wine were excellent and we moved to the adjoining room for more drinks and more talks. Someone had informed Don about my publishing background and he asked me for details but lost interest in my answers.

He asked about my sightseeing programme and said that I ought to visit Disneyland and he made a note to help me if I decided to make a visit. A week later I received an elaborate printed invitation from the Disney Corporation and it turned out to be the most interesting trip of my life.

A car picked me up from my hotel and took me to Disneyland where I was met by two good looking girls in the traditional Disney uniform and we spent two hours visiting the various shows and by-passed the long queues for every show.

At midday I was taken to the Disney executive offices for lunch and it was as exciting as the rest of the trip. It was a block at the top of a big gantry and there was no other way of getting there so security was 100 per cent. I was greeted by name by an official with two beautiful assistants and the food was a gastronomic triumph. Music from Disney films played quietly in the background. I left with a big bag full of mementoes.

I met Don on two of his subsequent visits to London but he was always surrounded by a tight team of advisers so it was difficult to talk. Then the Watergate scandal took over involving the President himself and Don was also involved so I lost touch.

Don 2—Don Ameche.

I met Don Ameche as a result of his friendship with Harland Braun and we had lunch together on two occasions in his favourite Italian restaurant near his home in Santa Monica. The main topic of conversation was horseracing and I discovered that Don was a very successful racehorse owner and spent all his spare time at the stables or at race meetings. He lived in a large apartment and went to great efforts to protect his privacy. He dressed quietly and maintained a vast wardrobe.



I am sleeping badly and wish I had a remedy. My throat is still giving problems and I eat toffees that give a temporary cure.


Friends & Family

Samantha (Mid Wales)
Had a nerve operation on her foot that has been painful since one of her horses fell on it and now feels a lot better. Husband Ray had a cataract removed and can watch TV more easily.

Polly (Bristol)
Tour boss Polly is taking her mother on the holiday of a lifetime---three days in a Cairo hotel with a view of the Pyramids out of the window and then eight days on a luxury cruise down the Nile.


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