Saturday, March 29, 2008

World's oldest columnists' sexpert tease

London's Henry Jackson (95) is the favorite to succeed Rose Hacker (101) as the world's oldest columnist. Rose, a socialist, sex educator, writer and social justice campaigner, died on February 4.

"Mrs Hacker had her first column published [in the Camden New Journal] in September 2006 - when she was 100," said a BBC report

The Camden newspaper is continuing to publish her articles:

Henry Jackson, her probable successor to the Oldest Columnist crown, has been in the newspaper trade all his life, starting as a junior reporter on a local newspaper, then working for Odhams Press, the Associated Press of America, the Daily and Overseas Mail, the Sunday Dispatch and The Observer. He launched his own motoring magazine in 1953 and then added more titles to what became the Bugle Press Group.

These days he's a weekly columnist for Britain's daily literary newszine Open Writing, published in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

"Henry's entertaining mixture of news and memories, prose and poetry, makes for one of the best reads in any week," says editor Peter Hinchliffe, who often writes feature stories about life in Britain for OhmyNews.

Henry and Peter have given us permission to publish these extracts from three recent columns in a series of candid confessions headed "Looking Back: The Women in My Life":

I was just 23 and working hard five days a week at a job I loved, and to earn more money I took an extra Saturday job on the Sunday Dispatch newspaper. Eileen had her clients and most evenings I would bring her home from somewhere in Chelsea or Kensington. Later on I taught her how to drive and she drove me to work then used the car during the day and brought me home at night.

I was a total sex novice and Eileen was an accomplished teacher. But I was too young and unpractised in the complex art of love making and never achieved sexual equality with her and this caused me great sorrow...

I changed jobs twice quickly on my way up the publishing ladder, each time for more salary, and when the war came I had three jobs at the same time---as a sub editor on the Daily Mail, as a sub editor on the Sunday Dispatch, and as assistant to the Editor of the Overseas Daily Mail. I earned a lot of money and worked seven days a week.

I also changed cars and bought a family car, a Morris saloon, that took us all over the country on holidays. And after I crashed it in the wartime blackout at 1a.m. on my way home from the Daily Mail I bought a Fiat 500 which ran on a whisper of fuel.

Then I left my rented house in Hampstead Garden Suburb and bought a three bedroom house for £16,000 in Mill Hill, on the northern outskirts of London, just when London became a target for German bombers. I built a concrete bomb shelter in the garden and continued on the Daily Mail until I received a call to join the Navy.

Eileen drove me to Paddington Station and I took a train to Torpoint in Cornwall and joined HMS Raleigh, a Royal Navy training camp, as an Ordinary Seaman. My pay was a pitiful 24 shillings and sixpence a week, one fifteenth of my previous weekly earnings. While at Torpoint the camp was bombed by German planes and during the attack one bomb demolished the shelter next to mine and killed all 46 occupants.

From Torpoint I was moved to HMS Raleigh, the Navy barracks at Chatham, then to HMS Wildfire training centre at Sheerness and finally to HMS Auricula, a Flower Class corvette engaged in Atlantic convoys and based in Liverpool.

The war at sea was at its peak and leave was rare but Eileen drove up to Liverpool once to spend the night with me at the aristocratic Adelphi Hotel where they did not like letting rooms to ordinary seamen but the manager changed his mind when he discovered that I was a friend of the owner of the world famous Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

[Fast forward nine years.] The year 1944 was an important year for me. I had returned home after two-and-a-half years abroad in the Royal Navy and the war at sea was still raging. I came home to find my wife living in my house with a Canadian soldier and she refused to give him up.

I was serving in a Fleet minesweeper at the time and the Normandy invasion had just begun. After a minor scuffle with a German mine off Arromanches we came in for repairs at the Royal Albert Dock in London and I managed to scrape some leave. I was 32, angry with the war, angry with my wife, lonely and bitter. My life had fallen to pieces.

The latest instalment of this real-life soap opera begins:

Last week I described my return from overseas during the War to find my wife living in my house with a Canadian soldier so I telephoned Joan, a former neighbour.

I obtained Joan’s number from the new occupants of her house and she gave me such a warm welcome that I went round to see her. The shapely Joan was still an attractive blonde but she had put on a pound or two and she wore a flowery apron that made her look exactly like her mother.

From the bottom of a cupboard she produced a bottle of wine and we drank to Old Times. Then she produced another bottle of wine and we drank to More Old Times. Then the outlook became very misty and there was no outlook and I woke up in bed with Joan. We were both naked....

To find out what happened next, you'll have to read Henry's entertaining column in Open Writing:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Intrepid Housewife’s Desert Walk

While soldiers of many nations face danger and hardship in the deserts of Iraq, Israel and Palestine, a party of adventurers from Britain have each paid 250 pounds ($US507) to enjoy a luxurious "desert walk" in neighboring Jordan.

"I have had a few text messages saying that all is well apart from the gruelling temperatures, the swimming in the Dead Sea, having your dinner cooked for you every night and sleeping out under the stars in a desert. What a hard life it is!" stay-at-home husband Simon Elmont scoffs in his family blog.

"Liz is hoping to get back to Guernsey on Sunday evening and back home on Monday morning in time to make my lunch."

Liz Elmont, 29-year-old mother of two young children, had responded to a fund-raising appeal by the British charity Dogs for the Disabled, which required every Desert Walker to raise at least 2500 pounds ($US5075) in sponsorships.

"This is a truly spectacular five-day trek through the Arabian desert in Jordan starting at the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth – and finishing in the ancient rock city of Petra," the organizers said on the official website

"Your personal challenge is to raise funds to train puppies for Dogs for the Disabled – offering confidence, companionship and independence to disabled people across the UK.

"Sleep under the stars each night as we trek with our Bedouin guides through areas of amazing solitude and great beauty.

"Our route takes us from the bottom of valleys to the top of mountains over terrain that is exciting and challenging. The shared experience of this very special hike is guaranteed to be full of friendship and fun as well as a wonderful way to raise money to give disabled people increased independence and companionship."

Here are a few edited extracts from the Elmont blog, recounting Liz's adventures:

Friday, March 9. So this is it! I'm off to Jordan this weekend! I'm flying out of Guernsey tomorrow and should be back in about ten days time all being well. If I manage to get any info through to Simon I'm sure he'll update the blog while I'm away. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, March 9. I'm stuck in Heathrow Airport waiting to meet up with all the others travelling to Jordan for the Desert Walk. I successfully managed to get here without getting lost once - nothing short of a miracle for me! Hopefully that's a good omen for the rest of the trip.

Thursday, March 13. ...and the headlines tonight:

BONG - Liz got up the mountainsBONG - She doesn’t know what shes been eating for the last few days but is glad she hasn't seen the insides of the catering tent!BONG - she should reach journey's end tomorrow at PetraLiz has inadvertently strayed into a mobile phone area so managed a quick call home earlier this evening to relay the story so far.

Dodging rockets fired from Israeli gunships and whilst trying to pick out the camel meat from her dinner she informed me that all was well apart from a very sore toe and the obligatory dodgy knee.

The Desert Walk was scheduled to be held from March 9 to 16, so it may have ended by the time this story is published. For a last-minute account, click on Liz's fascinating blog

Simon's Own Efforts
Simon Elmont isn't always a stay-at-home childminder. He took part in The 2005 Polar Race from Resolute Bay in Nanavut (the former North West Territories) to the Magnetic North Pole. Pulling 70kg sledges, competing teams walked or skied more than 400 miles in temperatures as low as -40 degrees centigrade.

The team of Simon Elmont and Steve Wright won third prize, completing the course in 14 days, 22 hours, 7 minutes.

""With all this time on my hands, it has been very easy to get into my own expedition planning mode - that'll teach you to leave me on my own for a few days," Simon wrote to Liz last week.

"I have an offer of a job in Baffin next year for a two week guiding trip followed in 2010 by Steve and me attempting to ski across Greenland, following the famous Nansen route.

"As always, a sponsor is required, so any corporate directors reading this please get in touch!"

This story was first published by the South Korean journal OhmyNewsInternational: