Around & About 1984

London Portrait Magazine

London Portrait Magazine was London's first glossy, free-distribution magazine. It was delivered to the capital's more exclusive addresses and, unlike its many imitators, was regarded as a 'good read' with excellent editorial features. Eventually a combination of a change of editor and the greedy climate of the late-Eighties 'boom-and-crash' property market took their toll. Christopher Long's 'Around & About' was the regular, monthly news column.

By Christopher Long

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January 1984 — New Year Quiz (1983)

[To answer the questions it helped if you had read all the 1983 issues of London Portrait Magazine...]


Check your memory of the year that's gone with this quiz by CHRISTOPHER LONG.

The winner receives two tickets to see the hit play Daisy Pulls It Off at the Globe Theatre - followed by dinner for two at the newly redesigned Le Souffle Restaurant in the Hotel Inter-Continental, Hamilton Place, W1.

  1. Who said Good Morning to the biggest British television audience on TV?
    1. Angela Rippon
    2. Anna Ford
    3. Selina Scott
    4. David Frost
  2. Which country did Miss World 1983 represent?
    1. Colombia
    2. France
    3. United Kingdom
    4. Denmark
  3. Which British newspaper believed 'Hitler's Diaries' were genuine?
    1. The Observer
    2. The Times
    3. The Sunday Times
    4. The Telegraph
  4. Where is the official memorial to Guardsmen killed in the Falklands - unveiled in November 1983?
    1. Westminster Abbey
    2. Wellington Barracks
    3. Horseguards Parade
    4. Bluff Cove
  5. In which play did the late Sir Ralph Richardson last appear?
    1. Inner Voices
    2. No Man's Land
    3. Small Change
    4. The Real Thing
  6. Where did Bernard Weatherall find a new job?
    1. The Arts Council
    2. The House of Commons
    3. The Times
    4. The Falkland Islands
  7. How many Academy Awards did 'Ghandi' win?
    1. Six
    2. Seven
    3. Eight
    4. Nine
  8. Who won the 1983 Booker Prize for literature?
    1. Czernic
    2. Coetzee
    3. Katynski
    4. Tchiernchek
  9. Who beat Wales in a rugby match in November 1983?
    1. Hungary
    2. France
    3. Rumania
    4. New Zealand
  10. Who became Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in 1983?
    1. Nicholas Freeman
    2. Joan Hanham
    3. Neil Kearney
    4. James Arburthnot
  11. Police shot Stephen Waldorf because they thought he was:
    1. Donald Neilson
    2. Peter Tatchell
    3. Peter Sutcliffe
    4. David Martin
  12. Who burst into tears because she'd lost her marbles?
    1. Melina Mercouri
    2. Koo Stark
    3. Sara Keays
    4. Dame Edna Everidge
  13. Where did Mrs Thatcher go to re-adjust her sights?
    1. The Falklands
    2. The USA
    3. Switzerland
    4. Germany
  14. What position did Francis Pym vacate in June?
    1. Foreign Secretary
    2. Home Secretary
    3. Chancellor of the Exchequer
    4. Secretary of State for the Defence
  15. Which won the Standard Best Film Award for 1983?
    1. Local Hero
    2. Another Time Another Place
    3. The Ploughman's Lunch
    4. Betrayal
  16. Who produced the award-winning production of Rigoletto performed during 1983 at the Coliseum?
    1. Colin Graham
    2. John Copley
    3. Jonathan Miller
    4. David Freeman
  17. Who produced the controversial new production of The Valkyrie at the Coliseum?
    1. David Pountney
    2. Anthony Besch
    3. Glen Byam Shaw
    4. Elijah Moshenski
  18. Who recently bought and reopened the Old Vic theatre?
    1. Andrew Lloyd-Webber
    2. Ed Mirvisch
    3. Paul McCartney
    4. Anonymous
  19. Which Cambridge College did Prince Edward go up to?
    1. Jesus
    2. Clare
    3. King's
    4. Queen's
  20. Which of the following failed to be a British 'winner' in 1983?
    1. Richard Noble
    2. Jane Torvill & Christopher Dean
    3. Peter de Savary
    4. Sir Ranulph Fiennes
The first correct set of answers to the Quiz will be drawn by LINDA MINDEL on 6 February. The Editor's decision in all matters is final. No persons employed by LONDON PORTRAIT MAGAZINE or their relations are eligible for entry.
Please send your answers to:


Unfortunately there was no complete correct set of answers to The 1983 Quiz – so we are holding onto the prize of two tickets to Daisy Pulls It Off and dinner for two at Le Souffle Restaurant in the Hotel Inter-Continental, Hamilton Place, W1 for another quiz. The answers are:1.c., 2.c. 3.c. 4.b. 5.a. 6.b. 7.c. 8.b. 9.c. 10.b. 11.d. 12.a. 13.c. 14.a. 15.c. 16.c. 17.a. 18.b. 19.a. 20.c.

February 1984

As you read this the fate of Battersea Power Station is being decided. Fifty years after it first generated electricity for London in 1933 it has closed, and Londoners have been asked to come up with ideas for its future use. The vast building, largely the work of Sir Gilbert Scott, has 10,000 sq.ft of available space, and the suggestions for its future range from demolition to its retention as a museum, sports complex, conference centre, etc; with a heavy bias on preservation. It is already a listed building and its classic exterior and sumptuous art deco interior have been appreciated, although its original construction caused a national furore in the 1930s.

In its day it generated 508,000 kilowatts, supplying one-fifth of London's electricity from 10,000 tons of coal per week. It also supplied heating and hot water to 11,000 people in Pimlico – piped as a by-product under the Thames to places such as Dolphin Square. Now we shall see what can be done with what might be considered a vast and very popular 'white elephant' &Ω#150; lying on its back with its feet in the air.

Alarming statistics, recently revealed by a London vet, show that so many swans are dying of lead poisoning that there may be none at all on the Thames in 15 years' time. Stephen Cooke and his wife Zyllah have formed a Save Our Swans society and appealed for help to the Queen who, by tradition, owns half of all the river's swans.

In 1956 the Swan-Upping count showed there were 1,311 on the western reaches of the river. By last year this had dwindled to just 200. Lead poisoning from fisherman's weights apparently accounts for the deaths of about 3,500 birds each year nationally, though the Cookes manage to treat 30 swans at a time in their Windsor riverside 'hospital' – thereby saving about 40 per cent of their patients from slow starvation and death.

The Dyers and Vintners City livery companies have provided some money for research (they own half the swans between Pangbourne and Walton-on-Thames not owned by the Queen). But the Cookes say the future for London's swans on the river, lakes and reservoirs is bleak, unless cash for treatment is forthcoming, a ban on lead weights is introduced and non-toxic steel putty weights are used instead.

Furious Kensington & Chelsea councillors have lashed out at the GLC for a waste disposal scheme that appears to be "spending ratepayers' money for the pure fun of it". The GLC has decided to build a new £15 million waste depot in Wandsworth which involves closing the Chelsea depot in Lots Road which now serves the borough. This, says the borough council, will cost ratepayers an additional £230,000 in extra transportation costs. Without consulting the borough the GLC has also decided to build a civic amenity centre on the Chelsea depot site instead. Claiming both are unnecessary, Councillor James Arbuthnot, Chairman of the Works Committee, said: "The GLC's decision is quite extraordinary. They know perfectly well they are not going to exist beyond 1986. The GLC have no particular reason to suppose that anyone at all will want to run the Wangas Station after the GLC's abolition. We certainly won't. We will be able to make better and cheaper arrangements than sending our dust carts to Wandsworth at the end of each collection."

That remarkable organisation, the RAF Escaping Society, has moved from the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea to 206 Brompton Road. The address is highly appropriate because directly underneath is the ghost tube station, Brompton Road (Oratory), which was closed in the Thirties and only re-opened during the last war to house the secret headquarters of London's anti-aircraft defences.

The RAF Escaping Society was formed after the war by Allied airmen who wanted to keep in touch with each other – and more importantly with the French, Belgian, Dutch and other resistance workers who helped shot-down airmen evade capture by the Germans and get back to England. Its main function is to help some 5,000 survivors of the original 14,000 foreigners who helped 2,803 airmen get back alive.

One of Chelsea's more remarkable organisations is under threat this month as local health authorities and the DHSS decide whether to close the Cheyne Centre for Spastic Children in Cheyne Walk. To anyone who knows the place, founded in 1955, and has seen the superb work that is done there with and for about 150 handicapped children and teenagers at any one time, the prospect of its closure is dire. Clearly the finance-starved health authorities would love to get their hands on the potential sale price of the huge freehold property sitting on its prime riverside site, but closure, say the staff, would put paid to a quite unique centre of excellence for the training of staff, diagnosis and treatment of children, as well as pioneering work to help make the 'patients' more independent.

The Bliss Symbol system of communication (a form of shorthand) has been largely developed at Cheyne, along with purpose-made and individually adapted electronic equipment to allow palsied, deaf, dumb or severely handicapped children to communicate. "If anything we need to expand, not contract or close," says Patty Singleton who is this month expecting a full inquiry into the Centre's future. "We've had amazing support over the years from Friends of Cheyne Centre and I can see that private, charitable funding may become more necessary to survive. We just hope and pray that the decision-makers will come and see what we do here before all this expertise is lost forever and children are left with little more than daily visits to hospital out-patients departments."

Expertise there most certainly is, coupled with advanced equipment and technology as well as an expensively high staff/child ratio. One can only hope that this friendly and invaluable centre will be allowed to continue to give so many children the best chance of surviving happily themselves.

Now that Neville Conder's Ismaili Centre in South Kensington is complete – due for opening any time early this year – it's good to hear that the vandalised Yalta Memorial on the same island of land and opposite the Victoria & Albert [museum] is to be replaced.

Hundreds of thousands of Russian and East European refugees were delivered into the unmerciful hands of Stalin following the Yalta Agreement of 1945 – thanks to which most died violently or slowly at gun-point or in concentration camps. The Memorial to them was wrecked soon after it was unveiled – probably by political agitators – and is now to be replaced with a vandal-proof monument by Kensington artist Angela Conner. £7,500 of the total £11,000 needed to pay for it had been raised by New Year.

Contributions towards a bronze or Derbyshire stone replacement are still needed: further information on 229 8155.

The Metropolitan Police report a very favourable response to their Neighbourhood Watch scheme which started in Cornwall Gardens and has extended to Earls Court Square and elsewhere. Local opinion is divided between the belief that the scheme is merely a public relations exercise to mollify residents who feel the police are not effectively combating local crime, and those who feel that positive benefits are accruing. Residents are encouraged to report anything they feel is suspicious or needs investigation within their area, and are asked in return to use the police 'invisible marking' codes to help identify recovered stolen property. Coupled with this is a questionnaire to discover residents' attitudes to crime, the police, home security, etc.

With ever-escalating auto-crime, auto-theft, burglaries, bicycle theft (on an organised basis) it seems the police have little more to offer than to persuade us to protect ourselves and make better use of Crime Prevention Officers. For further information ring 741 1622.

The saga of Kensington & Chelsea's 'Juggernaut Alley' one-way system through Holland Park, Warwick Road, Earls Court and Redcliffe Gardens through to the Embankment took another turn recently.

A Government White Paper on proposals for change in the Royal Borough's responsibilities, following the abolition of the GLC, has resulted in a local thumbs-down to any plan to make the route a main trunk road.

The significance of this outright rejection by the council's Town Planning Committee is largely to pre-empt any chance of the existing route becoming formally adopted as London's sole major north-south and trans-Capital highway. More significant, the council is still determined, if possible, to bow to the freight lobby demand for a motorway down the borough boundary from Shepherds Bush to Chelsea at a cost of approximately £200 million.

Councillor Jonathan Wheeler says he opposes the Government's trunk road plan for the existing system, welcomes the Government's plans to bring the M41 within the trunk road system (because this would integrate with his motorway construction plan) and calls on the DoT to take over responsibility for Juggernaut Alley.

The Endellion String Quartet celebrates its fifth anniversary with a concert in the Purcell Room on 27 February featuring the Haydn Opus 74 No 1 Quartet, Benjamin Britten's Quartet No 2 and the Beethoven Opus 95 Quartet. The Endellion's success throughout the world in performances of Britten's Quartet No 3 (1976) encouraged them to explore the composer's earlier repertoire. It is thought that the work may have its origins in the post-war travels Britten made to European concentration camps with Yehudi Menuhin in 1945.

The Endellion String Quartet have become one of the most familiar of all names internationally amongst the younger generation of chamber ensembles. During 1983 they completed extensive tours in America, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Holland, Austria, Italy, Finland, Belgium, Greece and West Germany.

BUFORA, the British UFO Research Association, is dedicated to the scientific investigation of UFO phenomena, and stresses the importance of an objective approach. There will be two meetings held at the London Business School, Sussex Place, Outer Circle, Regent's Park, NW1, that may be of interest: 3 March (6.30pm): Adrian Shine on The Loch Ness Monster, A Case to Answer – and 7 April (6.30pm): Jeremy Lockyer on Religion and UFOs. Further information is available on 653 3016 or 09904 3759.

March 1984

Everybody, it seems, is jumping on the GLC-YES or NO bandwagon. With its future in the balance all sorts of groups, parties, lobbies and vested interests see a new opportunity to use the debate to vent their own views on an already bemused public. Take the road lobbyists for example.

West London Traffic Reform is the umbrella group representing dozens of local amenity groups throughout Kensington, Chelsea, Fulham and West London generally. What they fear is that the GLC will be forced to hand over the north-south 'juggernaut alley' from Shepherd's Bush to Chelsea Embankment, to the Department of Transport who would designate it a Trunk Road. This road, about which much has already appeared in this column, is so important to those in Central London that only the argument over the Archway ring-road compares with it.

If it were to be designated a Trunk Road the aim would be to make it even more of a race-track for heavy lorries. WLTR claim it would be a definite and permanent policy to make it suitable for more traffic travelling even faster.

On the other hand it could be handed over to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea giving rate-payers a chance to decided its future and making the possibility of a £200 million relief road (motorway style) more likely. The relief road running down the borough boundary, parallel with the present one-way system, is strongly favoured by the council. The presumption is that if we have a Trunk Road we won't get a motorway and the existing night and weekend lorry bans would cancel out any relief from the M25 when it's completed: i.e. the residents would suffer and the lorries would win. All very, very complicated.

Still more complicated is the argument about who wins what if the GLC goes. Here the lobbyists are wooing support from rate-payers. As the GLC campaigns for its survival armed with a hefty budget, public relations consultants and a bevy of ex Labour MPs to fight Mrs Thatcher's plans, Conservative councils in London are fighting back.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has collaborated with Westminster, Bromley and Wandsworth to produce a lengthy and complicated analysis of the financial advantages which abolition would, in their opinion, bring to ratepayers.

The four treasurers reckon that London ratepayers could be saved £216 million plus a further £152 million of Block Grant contribution from Central Government. This makes a total of £368 million, which would be a saving of 19 pence in every pound (rateable value).

Allowing for some of this sum being GLC revenue payments to capital, Inner London Boroughs such as Westminster, Fulham & Hammersmith and Kensington & Chelsea would theoretically end up with a potential saving of 15 pence in the pound (e.g. a saving of £75 per annum on a property with a rateable value of £500).

Whether this saving actually occurs will depend, of course, on whether the GLC is abolished as planned and also on the financial policies of individual borough councils which will have the power to pass on or absorb any savings they may inherit.

Speaking for the Royal Borough, councillor Nicholas Freeman says his council's policy will be to present rate demands which are 'significantly less' than at present.

Opponents of GLC abolition may say that some councils will be much worse off on their own and that London needs an overall strategic body to administer the Capital. Of more immediate interest, however, will be the rate increases applicable next month when the demands go out. Scare stories of a 'large increase' – say, 15-20 per cent – have been strongly refuted by the Royal Borough at least. At the time of writing, I cannot predict what the increase will be but it may be more than the rate of inflation.

Dozens of other individuals, groups and organisations are taking sides on the GLC issue too: not least, of course, the Arts. It is now a year since Riverside Studios in Hammersmith were saved from closure at the very last minute. For months staff carried on working at the former riverside television studios for little or no remuneration after their funds had been cut off and the performing arts centre seemed certain to collapse.

Finally the GLC stepped in to support a grant from the Arts Council and the local council waived their rates bill. Critics had maintained that the Studios had only themselves to blame: they were accused of profligate investment in productions that had little general appeal and no eye for commercial profit to help pay their way. The studios claimed this was their strength and purpose.

Undoubtedly their near demise has brought renewed realism to their choice of productions and although radical politics and 'minorities' still dominate their programme, the Studios seem to be much more secure. Now, a year after their last-minute resuscitation, the abolition of the GLC could put their future in question again.

"We depend very largely on our GLC grant', says Andrew Eaton. "What we don't know is whether the London boroughs will get together to support us instead if the GLC goes. For that reason we're obviously rather opposed to abolition." Like the rest of them they must think of themselves first.

A plan to clear through-traffic from residential areas in Victoria and Belgravia may bring long needed relief to local residents, the local council claims.

Westminster City Council announced plans to concentrate north-south traffic along Vauxhall Bridge Road and Grosvenor Place while concentrating east-west traffic along Buckingham Palace Road and Victoria Street.

The scheme, now opened for public debate, includes a number of small-scale schemes that could bring relief in the next year or so. Perhaps the most popular idea of all will be one which aims to reduce the 'menace' of coaches using the Victoria Coach Station. Their size and numbers have increased dramatically in recent years as coach travel becomes more popular and competitive than British Rail. The plan envisages a contraflow bus lane which would reduce traffic in Semley Place, Ebury Place and Ecclestone Square.

Other improvements include pavement widening, increased crossing times at signals and better pedestrian route signs. Longer term the council proposes a pedestrian subway from Victoria Street to Victoria Station, and improved access to the station itself. For further information, comments, etc., contact the Planning Dept, Westminster City Council.

About three years ago anti-nuclear demonstrators claimed to have aimed a replica bazooka at a spent nuclear fuel container as it passed along north London railway lines on its way to Windscale. They claimed this showed how easy it would be for terrorists to do the same thing for real. British Rail and British Nuclear Fuels refused to confirm or deny that spent nuclear fuel is transported through Kensington, Chelsea, West London and North London. They maintained the containers used are tested for maximum safety. Spent nuclear fuel does travel regularly through these areas – the most densely populated areas in Europe according to some estimates.

Last year, despite massive security arrangements and unparalleled publicity concerning the potential danger, women at Greenham Common claimed they had managed to penetrate a control room at the Cruise Missile base before being arrested.

At Colindale in North London a purpose-built laboratory is being completed which could house the pathogens unit from Porton Down which carries out research into some of the most deadly diseases and viruses known to man. A former employee has described security at Colindale as 'appalling'. The unit's director admits security could be improved and that they would like security guards "if we can afford them". Whether this move will take place in the face of mounting objections from local residents remains to be seen.

Confidence about security arrangements at such premises cannot be high when 38 prisoners can escape from the top-security Block B at the Maze in Northern Ireland; when a guarded embassy can be taken over by terrorists at Princes Gate for six days; and when a man can just walk into the Queen's bedroom unchallenged.

West London's own orchestra, the Chelsea Symphony Orchestra, is now well enough known to be calling itself the CSO. Their next performance is at St John's, Smith Square, on March 15, consisting of Beethoven, Dvorak and Brahms. This is followed by an evening of pure Beethoven at St Luke's Church, Chelsea, on March 29. Performances at 7.30pm – tickets at the door.

April 1984

Residents of Central London apparently have a high regard for their local police. An NOP Market Research survey commissioned by the Metropolitan Police shows that 71 per cent of people in Kensington, Chelsea and Belgravia are satisfied with the service they get from local police. This compares with an average figure of 72 per cent throughout the Metropolitan area and with the lowest level of satisfaction, 32 per cent, in Bexleyheath. Satisfaction is apparently linked to age and colour – the older we are the happier we are with policing, particularly if we are white.

One of the main criticisms was insufficient men on the beat who often do not appear sufficiently interested in the concerns of the public: 30 per cent wanted more police involvement in the community; 48 per cent considered burglary the major problem, while 37 per cent were most anxious about muggings. Half of all adults feel unsafe walking alone at night – particularly women – and 6 per cent are still fearful during daylight hours – mostly in Lewisham, West Ham and Shepherd's Bush. (Figures from a random sample of 4,000 people in eight police divisions in July/Aug 1983.)

An alarming increase in the cost of housing the homeless in London's temporary bed-and-breakfast accommodation was revealed recently. It cost over £6 million to provide emergency accommodation for the period 1982/3 – an increase of 37 per cent over the previous year.

Nearly 3,000 families are in hotels, hostels and similar short-term accommodation at any one time. The GLC regards the increasing costs as a serious and growing problem. Local authorities are statutorily obliged to house the homeless in their areas but it is reported that only 27 per cent can be given immediate, permanent housing while 73 per cent are in bed-and-breakfast types of temporary housing – often in appalling conditions. Six and a half per cent of London households are officially 'homeless' compared with 2.2 per cent nationwide.

As you brace yourself for rate demands, which go out this month, bear in mind that a portion of any increase will undoubtedly be due to the ILEA which has announced a spending increase of £43 million this year. This increase came just days after the GLC announced that it would cut its demand on ratepayers by a slightly smaller amount. Result: the average property in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea with a rateable value of £530 will get a rate bill of £424 instead of last year's £408 PLUS any increase levied by the Metropolitan Police and the local council itself.

The ILEA planned for a £912 million budget for this year with special allocations for deprived children, black youngsters, girls and pupils from working-class homes. Announcing the budget, ILEA Leader Mrs Frances Morrell was angry that the government is still 'withholding' a £150 million grant which she claims the ILEA should be getting and which the government regards as a penalty for over-spending. Tory ILEA Leader Professor David Smith was 'horrified' at increased ILEA spending when no attempt was being made to curb financial extravagance.

The future of Marylebone Station's rail-to-road scheme is still uncertain. The National Bus Company estimated that it might cost £10.3 million to convert the tracks to a purpose-built road for use by buses instead of trains. In addition to criticism that the tunnels would be too narrow to accommodate buses passing in opposite directions at the same time, without causing a hazard, independent consultants say the NBC have got their sums wrong. The consultants estimate the conversion could cost twice the amount estimated.

The NBC's plan is to concrete over the tracks and channel coach traffic from all over the country into Central London along the 'railroad' via a major interchange close to the North Circular.

Ironically British Rail finds itself lumbered with a potential offer for the line which, if it went ahead, would present it with major new competition from coach services which have poached a lot already. Estimates show that BR might earn £2-3 million in tolls from the coach operators but could also lose up to £15 million if rail users convert to coaches instead.

BR is studying the consultants' report before commenting on the likelihood of the rail-to-road scheme going ahead and is still coy about making any announcement about the future of the station concourse itself. It is known BR would like to transfer existing services into Paddington and 'dispose' of the station if they can find an advantageous way of doing so.

While the rest of the country feels the springtime of renewed economic buoyancy, London, it seems, could miss out on the new boom. The Confederation of British Iindustry is lobbying the Government, local authorities and MPs to warn of the dangers of London seeing no new hope. According to the CBI, London has lost one seventh of its jobs since 1973 and a third of its manufacturing employment, while Britain as a whole has only lost a quarter of its manufacturing jobs in the same period.

In the past 10 years jobs have halved in industries such as metals, textiles, leather goods and clothing, while 130,000 jobs in engineering have vanished and there's the equivalent of 200 Centre Points of empty office space throughout the Capital. Local government policy and improved road communications are encouraging more and more industrial employers to leave London for the provinces while many others are simply closing down altogether.

With the closure of two sex shops in Earls Court there are now none at all in the Royal Borough, according to a council statement. All such establishments now have to seek special planning licences and rigorous criteria are now employed to determine whether such licences will be granted. Councillor David Campion of the RBK&C says that there is no blanket policy to outlaw all sex shops in the borough but it seems the council will be very tough in preventing them from operating in residential areas or where there is a policy of improving the environmental aspect of such places as Earl's Court.

A spate of police raids on sex shops, brothels and 'disorderly houses' suggests that the police too are cracking down on prostitutes, organised vice and related offences.

However, a more difficult problem is posed in Westminster where most of London's traditional red-light areas are situated and where residential status is harder to apply when considering licence applications for sex establishments.

Little Dominic Harter suffers from an extremely rare condition known as Olliers Disease which leads to shortening and distortion of the limbs and which can sometimes turn malignant. His parents know that there is no cure for the condition at present but have been encouraged by their consultant, Professor Tanner of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, to contact the families of other sufferers.

Mr and Mrs Tanner are appealing to Portrait readers to contact them if any other Olliers Disease sufferers would be interested in joining a self-help group. They believe that it would be a comfort to many to have others to share the burdens and problems with them and, perhaps, press for medical research. The BBC's Jimmy Young has already taken an interest in Dominic's plight and the Harter family would be pleased to hear from others at: 4 Camp Hill Court, Little Casterton, Stamford, Lincs., PE9 4BE.

Once upon a time it was Queen Charlotte's Ball which kicked off the London Season. Nowadays The Rose Ball has taken its place, successfully raising around £30,000 each year which it distributes to small, deserving charities. Linked to Alexandra Rose Day and commemorating Edward Vll's queen, the ball attracts about 1,400 revellers and this year takes place at Grosvenor House on May 17. For information regarding tickets, etc., ring 730 8153.

Another first for Selfridges, the Oxford Street department store which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Mr Leonard Sainer, Chairman of Selfridges Limited, has announced that the store will be awarding The Selfridges Anniversary Scholarship for Fashion Design – worth £12,000. This is the first time that a British retail store has created a fashion scholarship. The award will be to a full time student of fashion who will have graduated with a Bachelor's degree in June 1984 at a recognised college and who will be starting a post-graduate course at the Fashion School of the Royal College of Art in the autumn. Professor Joanne Brogden, head of fashion at the RCA, is delighted with the scholarship. "This is exactly the type of support the Royal College of Arts needs. We are a design university and need to be strongly linked to the worlds of commerce and manufacture."

A massive seven year plan to enlarge and improve the Imperial War Museum in Southwark has been announced. At a cost of around £2.6 million each year (total £20 million at today's prices) the former Bethlem Royal Hospital for the insane – commonly called Bedlam – is to be restored and provided with 22,400 sq.m. of additional space.

The Imperial War Museum has struggled manfully for years to provide a comprehensive collection of wartime exhibits from 1914 onwards in a Georgian building that does not adapt well to use as a museum. In addition to hundreds of thousands of objects ranging from aircraft and vehicles to guns, badges and buttons, the building houses 40 million feet of film; 5 million photographs; 10,000 works of art; 50,000 posters; and 100,000 books in a library that also includes 6,000 hours of sound recordings and untold quantities of pamphlets, maps, periodicals and other documents.

The imaginative new scheme involves filling in the central courtyard and other areas, so as to double the display space and make much more of this vast collection available to the public.

The trustees, architects and the government are confident that the original building will be properly conserved and that the museum will soon be equipped for the 21st century.

Originally the collection, formed in 1917 to record only The Great War, was housed in the Crystal Palace until 1924. Until 1935 it was in the Imperial Institute in South Kensington before moving to 'Bedlam' in 1936.

Sadly it has had many more British and Commonwealth wars and conflicts to record since then – even being bombed itself in WWll. This month the museum takes over responsibility for the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall, soon to be opened to the public, in addition to administering HMS Belfast and Duxford Airfield.

The Kensington & Chelsea National Trust Association has an interesting event coming up on Wednesday 11 April that is open to non-members. It's an evening at the Royal Geographical Society for 'Animal, Vegetable or can it be Mineral!' – where unusual objects have been lent by Museums to perplex the panel of John Drummon, Sir David Hunt, Sue MacGregor, John Julius Norwich and Lord Gibson. Tickets are £5 for a single or £9 for a double. Please send a stamped addressed envelope and cheques made payable to Kensington & Chelsea National Trust Association, to Miss Maunsell, 6 Collingham Gardens, SW5, if you are interested in attending.

STOP PRESS: Kensington & Chelsea Council have just announced that they have increased the rates by 2.3 per cent (domestic) and 2 per cent (commercial).

May 1984

PHEW! – only 2.3 per cent in the Royal Borough and just 1.4 per cent in Westminster. The rate rises announced last month must have come as a considerable relief to many residents who were scared into believing inaccurate predictions (like my own!) that we were in for a rise in excess of the rate of inflation.

Some, including the Fair Rates Association and the local Chambers of Commerce, believe that they are already paying too much and see any increase as punitive. Nevertheless, the cold wind that blows around the executioner's block (even now being erected by the present Tory government across the river from the GLC's headquarters in County Hall) has resulted in severe pruning of the GLC's 1984/85 budget and rate precept.

No doubt with an eye to winning favour with ratepayers at large this has resulted in only a small extra levy on the Inner London boroughs – largely attributable to the ILEA's plan for greater spending this year. In Kensington and Chelsea, where the commercial rate rises by 2 per cent to 152.9p in the £ and the domestic rate to 134p in the £, this low rate increase has been achieved despite a Block Grant contribution from Central Government being reduced by £3 million to £15.8 million. Inevitably this has resulted in further trimming of council expenditure.

The merry month of May is indeed a delightful and joyous month for Londoners. All that's best seems to happen now, and the buds of culture and cultivation are truly busting out all over. The cultivation part begins at the Chelsea Flower Show (May 22-25) in the Royal Hospital Gardens and continues throughout the summer at the Chelsea Physick Garden on every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon (2pm-5pm, admission £1, or 50p for students and children) until October 21. If you enjoyed the Chelsea Flower Show don't miss the chance to see this botanical secret garden, founded in 1673, just a few doors away at 66 Royal Hospital Road.

On the culture front it's hard to know where to begin and there certainly seems to be no end... here are a principal few:

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the last to be supervised by its retiring president Sir Hugh Casson, concentrates somewhat more this year on architectural design and drawings. Open from May 19-August 19, the Summer Exhibition just overlaps with The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse exhibition which closes at the RA on May 27 and which the organisers must hope will be more popular and profitable than the somewhat disappointing reception given to the Genius of Venice blockbuster earlier this year.

As if this was not enough the Tate Gallery are offering a superb and spectacular show of paintings from The Pre-Raphaelites, on until May 28 and arguably the 'show of the year'. Vying with the Tate, however, is the Victoria & Albert Museum's Rococo: Art & Design in Hogarth's England which opens May 16-September 30 and which neatly records that high-point of British art and decorative excellence that comes between the era of the English Renaissance Miniatures (shown last year) and the Pre-Raphaelites now showing down on Millbank.

The Victoria & Albert, incidentally, is congratulating itself on 'a magnificent year' in 1983 with 9 per cent more visitors to the South Kensington museum and a total of 2,221,207 visitors to the V&A group which includes Apsley House, the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, Ham House and Osterley Park (8 per cent up on the previous year). How much of this clientele is drawn in by big, blockbuster, special exhibitions is not said. Nor are there any statistics to show whether British and foreign visitors feel they've been enriched by the dreary and unimaginative permanent displays at the South Kensington museum.

This year the whole establishment comes under the control of a Board of Trustees for the first time. We can only hope that the Board will make it a priority to see that all the departments are open at the same time and that as much care is taken to enthuse, explain and entertain in the permanent displays as is taken in the prestigious, kudos-winning special exhibitions. The V&A is ripe for a kick up the back-side and with so much expertise and such vast reserves of decorative art treasures within its dingy portals we must look to the new trustees to do just that.

Hotelier and councillor Adrian Fitzgerald is expected to be adopted as the new Mayor of the Royal Borough at the council's AGM on May 23. He has represented Chelsea's Church Ward since 1974. In addition to being chairman of the Chelsea Community Centre in World's End since 1977 he has served as a Majority Party (Tory) Whip and on a wide variety of council committees. He is expected to appointed a City Liveryman and Freeman, Councillor Jonathan Wheeler, to be his Deputy Mayor.

At long last, thanks in great measure to many Portrait readers, the Royal Marsden Hospital has taken delivery of the CT Scanner which Britain's leading cancer treatment hospital so desperately needed.

It's an extraordinary fact that a very significant proportion of the £750,000 needed has come from local people – much to the surprise and delight of Dr Colin Parsons who expresses his 'enormous gratitude'. When I first wrote about the subject a year ago it was not thought by the fund-raisers that readers of The Standard, London Portrait, and the local press would respond significantly to the appeal. The fact that they did means that the first patients will be treated with it in July, and the Fulham Road hospital will have the most modern scanning unit in the country.

The breathtaking size, strength and ingenuity of the structures built by animals, birds and insects are the subject of a remarkable exhibition at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Everything from birds' nests and cobwebs to burrows, dams and termite hills is examined as feats of often miraculous structural engineering.

Well worth a visit, Animals as Architects is a contribution to the 1984 Festival of Architecture organised by RIBA. It should perhaps be obligatory viewing for the incompetent jerry-builders who got rich quick in the 1960's by putting up buildings we're now having to pull down because they're more dangerous and slummy than the slums they replaced.

It will be interesting to see whether the demolition men now at work in Liverpool, Glasgow and Southwark (to name but a few) will eventually find work on estates in North Kensington now that it has been found that the contemporaneous Moravian Tower in King's Road, Chelsea, does indeed suffer from serious structural defects. The skills of a dozen bees or several million termites living in a single, giant, self-made hill could well teach us a thing or two, I suspect. (Open May 3-September 1.)

And while on the subject of wildlife... Can anyone identify the tiny creatures that live out their tiny lives on the barren and unwelcoming tracks of the Circle Line at Notting Hill Gate tube station? Are they field-mice, shrews or dormice? And what, I wonder, are their long-term chances of survival as they play Russian roulette just inches from the high-voltage 'live' rails?

The Rose Ball, charitable highlight of the Season, takes place at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, on May 17. Tickets at £30 each buy you dinner and a Ball programme and are available from Mrs B Weston, 1 Castlenau, Barnes, SW13.

To the amazement of many, no doubt, one of Trafalgar Square's most familiar buildings could now be due for demolition – to be replaced by a modern office block. Westminster City Council had stoutly refused planning permission to pull down the massive, curve-fronted building on the corner of Northumberland Avenue. It took an appeal to the High Court in mid-March for this to be over-ruled. The decision is surprising in that it allows a precedent in London's most famous square which until now has been remarkably unspoilt by new development. The National Gallery, Canada House, South Africa House and the Cockspur Street frontage have remained intact. Furthermore there is no visible evidence of the doomed building in the south-east corner being structurally or specifically unsuitable as it stands.

Further news on this subject next month.

Another subject that deserves further inquiry is how Hammersmith Bridge came to be put out of action so suddenly and so inconveniently for local people.

At the time of writing, investigations and a full report are still not disclosed though it is known that sheer weight of traffic caused vital ironwork to snap. Built in 1827 the suspension bridge was clearly not intended to carry present-day pay-loads, and no one then could have seen how vital the bridge would become as a link from the south-west to the M4 and the hub of road communications that exists in Hammersmith. It is curious, however, that the frail, two-lane bridge was not more suspect earlier than this.

It will be interesting to see whether Hammersmith & Fulham council will be able to get together with Kensington & Chelsea to make this unexpected turn of events a good excuse to build a new bridge across the river. If they grab the moment imaginatively there seems no reason why such a bridge could not form part of an ingenious plan to relieve through traffic from Cheyne Walk and Juggernaut Alley in Kensington and Chelsea while siphoning off traffic through Hammersmith and Fulham via the Hammersmith Broadway area – which is in any case due for major redevelopment. Meanwhile the suspension bridge is unlikely to be opened for heavy transport before next Spring.

June 1984

Long-suffering residents of Kensington are to be relieved of the hideous eye-sore that was once the old Town Hall in Kensington High Street. The council has been recommended to accept a £5.3 million offer from Guinness Peat Property Services who plan to develop shops, offices and a flat on the 39,185 sq.ft site and will landscape the rear.

The original demolition a couple of years ago came as a considerable shock to local people who woke up to discover that the council had secretly instructed demolition men to pull the late Victorian building down in the early hours one morning – just before the GLC could put a preservation order on it. Council leader Nicholas Freeman has defended his controversial decision by saying that the GLC's aims could have deprived ratepayers of a large capital profit. His critics maintained that there should have been an opportunity for local consultation before such an important, drastic and irreversible step was taken.

Now that the matter is a fait accompli, it is only left for residents to visit the Planning Department – at the New Town Hall, of course! – to see what the developers have in mind for this prime High Street site.

Any organisation that can boast 355,000 members must be a force to be reckoned with. This month Londoners are likely to discover just that when the largely rural Women's Institute comes to Olympia for a week-long exhibition to promote a new image.

Those of us who feel that the WI already has an excellent and refreshingly unselfconscious image are likely to be puzzled that the full paraphernalia of a publicity campaign is necessary to convince us that 'The WI is Ahead of the Times'. Nevertheless, there is to be a WI Life and Leisure Exhibition at Olympia from June 26 to July 1. Anne Harris, chairman of the National Federation of WIs, says the extent of what the WI offers has been overlooked for too long. She cites the discussion of VD in 1922 as an example of progressive thinking. She is now anxious to remind us that the WI has fought for everything from equal pay to help for rape victims – not to mention more women police officers, free school meals and reform of the divorce laws.

Those who believe that the strength of the WI was the quiet way it went about improving the quality of life for all, may be in for a shock as a strident new image is launched this month.

As Portrait reported a year ago, the problem of parking in Central London has reached crisis proportions.

Earlier this year a group of Kensington and Chelsea residents threatened to block streets and withhold their rates unless urgent action was taken to protect the interests of local people.

Mr Robert Parsons, Miss Joan Wade and Miss Ann Taylor attracted much publicity in April, when they complained to Councillor James Arbuthnot that there were far too few residents' parking spaces for the number of cars issued with permits. At a formal meeting they gave the council three months to do something positive and effective, failing which they would consider suing the council, here or in the European Court. Interestingly, it appears that Councillor Arbuthnot had some real sympathy for the protestors and their supporters. Among suggestions put forward is a Hotline to wardens to make sure traffic laws are obeyed. Another suggestion is that residents should be allowed free use of parking meters and that residents' bays should be restricted to permit holders 24 hours per day.

It remains to be seen whether the council can meet the deadline given by the protestors – July – bearing in mind that most traffic regulations are beyond the control of local councils.

Just about every famous name in the theatre, and the arts generally, seems to be backing Jonathan Miller's appeal committee to restore and bring new life to Islington's famous Almeida Theatre.

Originally opened as the Literary and Scientific Institution in 1837, the Grade ll Listed building has had a varied career, being a music hall from 1874 until the Salvation Army took it over as a Citadel. From 1956 it became the factory and showrooms for Beck's British Carnival Novelties, until the murder of the notorious 'Mr Beck' in 1971 by his step-son – an event which revealed dramatic and curious goings-on!

Since then a veritable Who's Who of the theatre and arts have championed a £480,000 scheme to restore the original facade and re-vamp the interior to provide a 300-seat centre for the performing arts and a home for its own company – the Almeida Theatre Company. The appeal is now being launched. Your help and interest is requested.

An exhibition entirely devoted to the sun will hopefully attract summer sunshine to Holland Park from June 24-30 when A Ray of Hope takes place at The Orangery. Included will be 39 awesome and beautiful panels measuring up to 5ftx4ft. Open 11am-7pm, admission free.

Those who follow the fortunes of the Victoria & Albert Museum will have seen that the current 'Coming Events' brochure is entitled Crisis Issue – a fair assessment of the situation which faces the board of trustees, who now look after the nation's greatest collection of the decorative arts. Among the tribulations facing it are the following:

This situation is a grave and rather appalling reflection on the way the museum has been managed in past years. Most of the matters are the result of poor housekeeping, bad planning and bureaucratic bungling.

If as much attention had been given to the mundane but essential matter of conserving the building with its contents and displaying both properly, as has been given to endless prestigious and élitist special exhibitions, many of these tribulations wouldn't exist now. Nor are these the only inadequacies, as regular visitors will know.

If nothing else it only demonstrates how very much better these things are handled at the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and other cultural shrines.

Some building sites, it seems, are too important to be left to the mercies of architects, planners and bureaucrats. Trafalgar Square appears to be one of them.

Many people probably believed that here at least was a place so well filled with fine buildings that the developers would never get a look in. They may have forgotten however that in the north-west corner is the vacant site awaiting the extension to The National Gallery. The highly controversial plans for this new building, put forward by architects Ahrends, Burton & Koralek for the developers Trafalgar House, have been the subject of a planning enquiry which first sat down in April.

What has been christened 'the National Gallery fiasco' is the result of a two-year power struggle between the aesthetes of The National Gallery's trustees and the holders of the public purse, the DoE (prop. M. Heseltine). Between the two sides have been architects charged with producing a scheme to complement the square, the National Gallery's exterior, the existing gallery's interior and still satisfy most of the people all the time. Whether ABK have succeeded (bearing in mind the colossal Greek versus Roman struggle/muddle) Londoners will have to decide for themselves. In the meantime, the controversial new building, to cover the derelict car park site beside Whitcomb Street, could be thrown into architectural disarray by the plans to redevelop the massive building on the opposing south-east corner of the square. Certainly Westminster City Council don't like it. Nor does the Georgian Group. Even Sir Hugh Casson describes this scheme by private developers putting up a public building as "putting the National Gallery into the maid's bedrooms".

July 1984

Good news and bad news for residents of Central London who find car parking a nightmare. In Westminster, at long last, the council has decided to abolish miles of unnecessary yellow lines to allow more on-street parking for 448 residents, 340 meters and 231 motorcycles. Why this couldn't have been done years ago defies all logic but we must be grateful, I suppose, that they've at last recognised that more cars can be parked on our streets without causing obstruction or inconvenience. Needless to say Westminster City Council will make a healthy profit from the meters though it's unlikely we'll actually see much change until the end of the year. Two questions arise: will Kensington & Chelsea follow suit and will there be adequate provision for local residents – with sufficient traffic wardens to enforce the law over the added miles of parking space?

Meanwhile this will be cold comfort for the millions of motorists who've paid tens of millions of pounds over the years for parking tickets which, it now appears, were unnecessary in the first place.

The bad news – so far as residents are concerned – is that traders in Kensington & Chelsea are campaigning to resist any council proposals to turn more meter spaces over to residents' bays. George Sivewright of the Kensington High Street Association claims such moves would damage business interests – which may of course be true. It's unfortunate that business and residential groups are in conflict and it will put an increased responsibility on councillor James Arbuthnot, who is examining the whole issue, to balance the equally valid claims of the two strong lobbies.

I hope I speak for us all in offering hearty congratulations to whomever was responsible for the delightful and inspired colour scheme used in repainting Albert Bridge in Chelsea. It must have taken some courage to choose the fair-ground combination of colours which is a joyful improvement to what is already London's prettiest bridge.

P.S. Could someone now make sure that the light-bulbs are regularly replaced? Last month about 60 per cent of them weren't working – making the remainder look rather pathetic.

Another encouraging development is the plan to replace the ornamental iron railings in Ennismore Gardens at a cost of around £27,500. Miles of elegant Georgian and Victorian railings were scrapped in 1940-43 – supposedly to be turned into tanks and support Britain's hard-pressed war effort. The result was a devastation of London's architectural townscape – made more tragic by the fact that much of this ornamental ironwork joined tons of pots, pans and other contributions on the bed of the Thames because the government couldn't actually process the material.

The exercise was thought valid at the time because it gave a morale-boosting opportunity for Londoners to contribute to the war effort. Forty years later the Ennismore Gardens Railings Appeal held a fund-raising garden party last month which may lead others to follow their example. It's worth noting that the Royal Borough's council can sometimes assist, financially or with materials, anyone wanting to restore railings to their pre-war condition.

Westminster City Council has approved plans to clean up the shabby post-Sixties squalor in Carnaby Street. The council will probably agree to share the cost of restoring and re-paving the former jeans-and-junk precinct with the Peachey Property Corporation which has progressively acquired most of the area for re-development. Not before time it has been decided that listed buildings there deserve attention, and this prime Oxford Street site should be brought up-market with street furniture and decoration to match a new image.

Following on my item in May about London's faulty towers it was announced recently that jerry-built tower blocks are likely to cost tax-payers and rate-payers about £10,000 million to repair or replace nationally. London's bill will be at least £100 million alone. The architects, politicians, planners and bureaucrats of the Sixties who authorised these incompetent schemes are no doubt sleeping soundly, comforted by gongs and honours. Nevertheless such a national scandal should surely be prevented in future by ensuring that a water-tight system of 'development insurance' is introduced to cover all major publicly-funded building schemes to last for a major portion of the buildings' intended life expectancy.

London probably has a higher proportion of leasehold properties than anywhere else in Britain. Introduced by the Norman invaders almost 1,000 years ago, the system had great advantages in a rural economy when applied to land owned by hereditary, absentee landlords and occupied by poorer tenants. It is less appropriate to urban houses and flats in 20th Century London. Which is why it is interesting that a Law Commission enquiry chaired by barrister Edward Nugee is apparently considering the whole question of leasehold tenancies.

Such tenants are well aware that, in addition to paying a virtually 'freehold price' for a deteriorating asset that will be worth nothing by the end, the leaseholder also pays a heavy premium for his dubious 'investment': e.g. ground rent, service charges, a maintenance sinking-fund and an often inflated 'management fee'. What Mr Nugee will conclude is as yet uncertain but there are alternative systems such as that in operation in Australia. It appears that most of the rest of the world survives well enough without any such antiquated form of 'ownership'.

For those who feel they'd like to give Mr Nugee the benefit of their opinions there is comfort in the fact that the Building Societies are also very anxious to see reform to the system which requires us to invest tens of thousands of pounds plus thousands more in annual premiums for the certainty of knowing we'll have nothing to show for it at the end and no ultimate security of tenure.

This month sees the opening of a new exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea depicting the development of military uniforms 1780-1880. The ceremonial dress of one generation is largely based on the combat dress of the previous generation and these two forms are depicted in four of the Army's most splendid uniforms and 77 watercolours and drawings which have never been shown before.

While we might hope that future ceremonial dress will not be modelled on the stark styles seen in the Falklands and the Lebanon, the colourful past goes on show at the NAM on July 11.

A small but highly significant step along the road to Christian ecumenism took place in Chelsea recently when Cardinal George Basil Hume officially opened and took part in the dedication of the new Methodist church and pastoral centre in Chelsea Manor Street. It was an inspired move by Methodist minister David Horton to invite the Roman Catholic cardinal to endorse formally the £175,000 development which includes 21 flats for the elderly (courtesy of Servite Houses Ltd) and which provides a base for the Westminster Pastoral Foundation and AVEC, in addition to the new church built over the site of the original one blitzed in 1940.

Having been burnt down twice in its history it is good to hear that Alexandra Palace is to be rebuilt and restored for a new lease of life as a centre for exhibitions, sports, arts and general recreation. Plans are also being considered for the creation of Britain's first television museum (Ally Pally was, after all, the home of 2LO, forerunner of the BBC) and the restoration of the world's most famous Willis organ – a 6,000 pipe masterpiece built in 1875. The cost of all this? – £35 million.

A distinctive programme devised to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Edward Elgar is Wood Magic, a combined musical and dramatic presentation of the life of one of the greatest British composers. It comes to the capital for the City of London Festival (July 23rd).

Most of the major tributes to Elgar in 1984 focus understandably upon his great orchestral works. Wood Magic represents one of the few events to use the composer's haunting chamber repertoire as a cornerstone. A central work is the Piano Quintet Opus 84, which the Medici Quartet have just recorded for Meridian Records.

With yet another bumper tourist season predicted for this summer, ever more coaches are predicted too. Residents and business people in and around the Victoria Coach Station in Westminster fear that matters can only get worse in the noisy and congested streets that carry the coach traffic. Jeannette Norell, who has a silk flower shop in Elizabeth Street, SW1, says conditions are becoming intolerable. Noise, fumes, vibration and the danger to pedestrians have become quite appalling, she maintains.

Westminster City Council has plans to introduce traffic management schemes to alleviate some of the disruption but Miss Norell would like more people to lobby the council too. Some people may even question whether the Coach Station should not be relocated now that coach travel can only become more popular.

I thoroughly recommend the new ABC London Street Atlas which is based on the most up to date surveys carried out by Ordnance Surveyors working in the London Area.

Published by Ordnance Survey and Newnes Books, it is a most comprehensive record of the roads and streets in London. Central London is shown at a scale of 6 inches to the mile, whilst the rest of the metropolis is depicted at the scale of 3.5 inches to the mile.

Main through-routes, dual carriageways and one-way streets are clearly shown. More than 20 categories of public and important buildings are included along with libraries, major hotels, hospitals, parks and recreation areas.

The index of street names – with its enhanced National Grid based reference system – makes for quick and easy reference to any street in the atlas. The pocket sized ABC London Street Atlas costs £1.95.

On Friday 6th July, The Chelsea Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Dodd, will be performing The Wilderness Suite, Peter and the Wolf, narrated by Gerald Harper, and the 1812 Overture at St Luke's Church, Sydney St, Chelsea, as part of the Capital Music Festival '84. The orchestra's members are aged between 18 and 25 and this promises to be a very exciting evening. There will be special lighting effects and tickets can be obtained from Chelsea Old Town Hall, priced £3 for adults and 50p for children.

August 1984

As you and I are evidently the only people we know who haven't flown off to fry themselves under hotter skies I suppose we can comfort ourselves that we at least won't have to fight our way back into London from Heathrow via the GLC's Talgarth Road nightmare. The right-turn 'improvement' at North End Road, Fulham, may well have been introduced deliberately to irritate and discourage driver-commuters but that will be little comfort to the tourists, delivery vans, local residents and others who have to use the main western approach route to Central London.

The GLC maintains that there are good traffic management reasons for introducing its scheme and is quite unmoved by the distress caused to road users who sit in traffic jams that need not exist. Equally clearly this experiment is not 'working for London' as the GLC's slogan maintains. Indeed, Londoners are suffering most of all – as are the handful of people who might want to turn right into North End Road!

Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the Transport Committee expects the 'right turn' policy to continue experimentally until November. What will be really interesting is to see how well the new system would cope with the 8 million extra passengers generated by the opening of Heathrow's fourth Terminal in 1985 – let alone the additional 15 million who will aim for London if the Fifth Terminal ever opens.

At the opposite end of London another traffic snarl-up is brewing. Ever since the London's M25 outer orbital road was planned there has been a claim that another Thames crossing point would be needed. An inquiry was due to start recently into the pros & cons of a £200 million road bridge across the estuary linking the northern and south-western arms of the M25 near Dartford. Opponents of the scheme claim that acres of housing would be destroyed needlessly and that removal of the toll on Dartford Tunnel would attract optimum use of the existing tunnel. The pro-bridge lobby says that the existing tunnel cannot cope with the predicted demand and that a bridge is cheaper than a tunnel for geological reasons.

At long last the new 30-minute Gatwick rail link with Victoria has opened and is proving a success with passengers who take the non-stop, specially converted train service from newly designed platforms. Overhead, at Victoria, Greycoats London Estates and Norwich Union are now offering 200,000 sq. ft of office space at £22 per sq.ft in their development over the old Brighton Line platforms. The only regret is that the familiar Victorian iron pillars that towered up to the old station roof have vanished. According to the station manager, Mr Mackay, they were smashed up by the contractors – which was a great pity since they might well have been used elsewhere in the redevelopment of the station. Nevertheless, as Heathrow's Fourth Terminal still isn't in full operation (owing to noise pollution restrictions) Gatwick is bringing in ever greater numbers of visitors to London now that the new satellite terminal is open there. When yet another terminal is opened at Gatwick in 1987 it will generate 25 million travellers each year. The rail link has cost £25 million but the Rail/Air terminal at Victoria is still just an empty concrete non-entity owing to financial cuts. Private investment is being sought to complete the scheme.

A tiny pump implanted into patients suffering from cancer of the liver gave rise to cautious celebration at London's Cromwell Hospital recently.

Guy Jones, 59, a general manager with Unigate, and Robin Braid-Taylor, 53, a defence consultant, were the first British patients to be kept alive thanks to the miracle £2,500 Infusaid pumps which release exactly 3mls of the drug FUDR to their livers.

The surgeon who brought this treatment for secondary cancer to Britain from the USA is David Rosin who introduced the technique here earlier this year with his colleague Roger Williams of King's College Hospital. After watching a video film of the operation they had undergone, the two London patients were understandably overcome with gratitude to the Cromwell Hospital's surgeons and staff who hope to do more of the £6-8,000 operations which are available to full-rate BUPA and PPP subscribers.

The operation could extend life for many of the 15,700 people in Britain who die of stomach cancer each year – one third of whom develop liver cancer as a secondary – if or when the NHS provides the service too.

An extraordinary dilemma now faces London councils such as the Royal Borough. Strictly speaking, there are very tight regulations controlling the opening hours of shops – regulations which for years local authorities have not enforced.

Recently a small number of local traders complained when Sainsbury's opened their vast new branch in Cromwell Road and competed with existing businesses by staying open late.

The Royal Borough found that it is obliged to honour these complaints and impose the prescribed times laid down in the Shops Act.

Over the years Londoners have come to value the late night and Sunday trading practices of innumerable stores ranging from Peter Jones to small grocers shops. Clearly the strict letter of the law is no longer appropriate to London's cosmopolitan and up-all-hours way of life. Equally clearly the council finds itself obliged to act against its own better judgement and the wishes of the vast majority of residents.

"We feel that we have no alternative but to institute proceedings in the Magistrates Court where necessary," says council leader Nicholas Freeman. "We know, however, that the overwhelming majority of our residents greatly value the opportunity of being able to shop both at night and on Sunday."

If prosecutions are brought, it seems likely that many smaller shops wouldn't be able to afford even the paltry £25 fines on a regular basis. They might go out of business resulting in more unemployment and loss of amenity to many who can't shop within the prescribed hours. The council has now written to the Home Secretary asking for new legislation to bring the law up to date as a matter of urgency.

Residents of Chelsea may be interested to know that the two latest Conservation Areas, Thames and Cheyne, are the subjects of special reports available from Town Halls at £2 and £2.50 respectively. These outline planning policies and contain a wealth of historical information. More than two-thirds of the Royal Borough has now achieved conservation status as areas of architectural and historic interest.

If nothing else, the GLC's attempts to blackmail and intimidate athlete Zola Budd earlier this year demonstrated the poor provision of sports facilities in Central London. The London Youth Games, endorsed by the Duke of Edinburgh, has struggled to survive since it was founded in Jubilee Year and its venue at Crystal Palace is about the only comprehensive centre of its sort – and that is in an outer London suburb. If anyone is yet planning a sound scheme for the development of the derelict and vast riverside site near Chelsea Creek and Lots Road, surely this is where Central London should have a modern Wembley of its own with field, track, river and indoor sports facilities to give us some chance of doing a little better at a future Olympic Games.

This summer has seen the sad deaths of many national heroes, not least the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman. If ever a man deserved a memorial in London it must be he. Now that the council has removed the benches at the top of Royal Avenue in Chelsea's King's Road, in order to discourage the skinheads and punks, surely this is where a Betjeman memorial should go: looking south to the Royal Hospital, built by the man who re-built London – Sir Christopher Wren.

What better position for the man who taught us to open our eyes to the architectural heritage of London and who lived just a stone's throw away in Radnor Walk. And just in case nobody knows how to go about commissioning such a memorial, Art Within Reach, recently published by Thames & Hudson in collaboration with the Arts Council and the Crafts Council, describes just how the government, authorities, industry, hospitals and educational institutions can successfully set about commissioning any form of art for the pleasure of the public.

Unfortunately we omitted to credit the Imperial War Museum for the loan of the excellent photographs that illustrated the article on General de Gaulle in the June issue of Portrait. To make up for this oversight here's a plug for two excellent exhibitions worth seeing 40 years after D-Day.

A temporary exhibition, open till April next year, is European Resistance to Nazi Germany 1939-1945 which illustrates the many and fascinating ways in which civilians, fugitives, agents and prisoners of war were able to survive and contribute to the Allied war effort behind German lines. The exhibition includes escape aids, secret agents' equipment, wireless sets and transmitters, as well as Special Operations Executive's [SOE] methods of gathering intelligence and organising escape routes.

Another of the Imperial War Museum 'productions' is the permanent re-opening of the Cabinet War Rooms beneath Whitehall. What many visitors to this subterranean rabbit-warren may not realise is that they are only seeing a fraction of Churchill's bomb-proof headquarters. Preserved almost intact are acres more of departments of wartime derring-do. Not included are Churchill's underground dining-room; Mrs Churchill's bedroom and the Chiefs of Staff conference room. Curator John Wenzel admits that it would be valuable to open these and the all-important cabinet kitchens to the public but says that the best of the pre-1941 set-up is already visible. Nevertheless, this intriguing new museum should surely be expanded.

September 1984

'Gimmicky and tasteless' are the adjectives the majority of Londoners have applied to a plan to turn Battersea Power Station into a massive theme park. Of the various alternative schemes put forward, the winning Roche & Co. Consortium's proposal was put bottom of the list by half of London's voters. Only 6 per cent agreed with the judges that Battersea would provide a suitable site for a fantasy entertainment area similar to Disneyland and the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

The Roche plan leaves the power station and its four chimneys outwardly untouched. Inside there would be four levels of entertainment space including a 'Tudor look' inside one of the turbine halls would double as an ice rink. There would be a 'creative play area' based on The World of Dickens in another turbine hall and such attractions as 'magic castles', 'haunted theatres' and 'dark rides' through the history of mediaeval England and the British Empire. Outside in the present coal store area would be the Tivoli-style gardens.

The judges' report announcing the winning entry acknowledges that a strong body of opinion had a "dislike for Disneyland and American influence and of Mediaeval/Tudor/Dickens/Tivoli shams; and that it was a once-only experience which would soon decline".

There has been criticism too that there is insufficient use of the Thames and that some architectural changes will not be suited to the Grade 2 listed building. Some feel that London's favourite white elephant, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and opened in 1933, does not deserve the indignity of becoming a temple to mindless and mundane mass-tourism. The judges, however, were somewhat hamstrung. The Roche proposal had the best chance of paying its way, which was more than could reliably be said for schemes ranging from sports complexes to giant rubbish-burning incinerators by way of the usual shops, offices and residential development ideas.

As it is, Roche (the people who gave us the Alton Towers entertainment complex in Staffordshire) would spend £34 million on the project and win themselves 3 million visitors a year.

It is now known that 100 sub-Post Offices in the London area are due for closure. A second wave of redundancies will follow when up to 30 of London's 360 main branches are closed as well.

The Post Office says that the closure of up to 8 per cent of London's sub offices will be achieved with the minimum inconvenience to the public. Nevertheless the news is likely to cause considerable controversy among the elderly and the business community at least.

The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters has apparently agreed severance payments ranging from £2,000 to £40,000 but the main branch closures may meet far stiffer resistance from postal workers and the public. MPs are taking up the issue in several London constituencies where it seems that young mothers and pensioners may have a much longer walk to collect pensions and family allowances. All this comes at a time when the Post Office Users National Council reports that the delivery performances of First and Second Class post is again deteriorating – at a time when Post Office profits are well up and stamp charges are due for a rise as well.

The Post Office plans to revamp its sorting/delivery system by introducing 90 van journeys across London during evening hours in order to streamline deliveries to main sorting offices. Whether this will do anything to reduce the 11-day delays in postal deliveries reported by one London MP remains to be see.

The massive London Transport shake-up which has resulted in control passing from the GLC to the new London Regional Transport Board will almost certainly result in a fares increase any day now.

The LRTB, under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport, has a new list of board members, all of whom have practical management or economics experience from their public or private sector full-time careers. Dr Keith Bright, the Board's chief executive, foresees large-scale government investment to improve ticket handling and to reduce fraud.

Some bus routes will be offered to private operators acting as contractors or in direct competition with London Transport. The long mooted plan to bring greater unity and integration between LT and BR services is also promised – yet again! But Dr Bright's brightest hope is that he will be able to reduce the current £400 million LT subsidy which is currently being borne by rate-payers (two thirds) and taxpayers (one third). At the time of writing it is only known that the impending fare increases will 'be in line with inflation'. With regard to the new board's plans to improve the overall public transport system we shall have to wait and see – something we've all been doing for years and years – if you'll excuse the scepticism.

It seems a very long time ago that four of us sat down and decided to form a society called the Friends of Holland Park. It was, in fact, in the summer of 1978 when the GLC's management of Central London's richest semi-natural wildlife preserve was giving grave cause for concern.

Since then the FHOP has flourished as surely as the hundreds of trees they have planted and the flora and fauna they have helped to preserve during the past six years. It took some tricky negotiations in the early days to persuade County Hall officials that local residents were not prepared to see this haven turned into a barren municipal skate-board rink; that far from being a collection of middle-class do-gooders, the Friends numbered some considerable experts in the fields of nature conservation and park management. Since then, and since my departure, the Park has owed the society a great debt of gratitude.

Now, with the imminent demise of the GLC the future of Holland Park is again uncertain. Who will be responsible for it? Is the Royal Borough at all interested in looking after it properly? Is council leader Nicholas Freeman as uninterested in its future as some people fear?

The importance of the current Friends of Holland Park campaign to protect its future should not be under-estimated. Sir Hugh Casson, president of the Friends of Holland Park, is appealing to all the park's neighbours, users and friends to get in touch with Christopher Wood at 37 Buckingham Court, Kensington Park Road, London W11 (727 1792) to join the society (£3 pa) and help secure its future as well as enjoy the extraordinarily rich variety of social, cultural and nature study events organised throughout the year.

The Royal Borough's council leader, Nicholas Freeman, caused some dismay recently when he publicly stated that he did not believe that bicycles were a suitable form of transport for Central London. Adding that he would not therefore be calling for any special provision for cyclists Mr Freeman made it quite clear that he was not one bit interested in them or their problems.

Apart from the fact that most people will have noted his preference for juggernauts, road freight and through-traffic, which he presumably regards as more suitable for his borough (since he is anxious to provide them with a £200 million relief road through the middle of London), it is surely his job to represent the interests of all his ratepayers – including the ones of which he personally may not approve.

Unlike Westminster and many other principal London boroughs, Kensington & Chelsea will not be getting cycle lanes and safety routes – because Mr Freeman says so!

It now seems certain that the massively impressive bronze statue of 'Leonardo's' Vetruvian Man will next month find a permanent home in Belgrave Square – appropriately enough opposite the Italian Embassy.

Sculpted by the late Enzo Plazzotta who was one of Britain's foremost sculptors until his sad death three years ago, the larger than life-size bronze seems certain to be a notable addition to Belgravia's townscape. If final negotiations with the council and the Grosvenor Estate are successful it will be unveiled at a top-level ceremony which will include, it is hoped, British and Italian ministers of state and the Duke of Westminster. The Italian Ambassador has been asked to do the honours.

Members of the Mayfair, Piccadilly & St James's Association are viewing yet another controversial GLC traffic scheme with apprehension.

This time the GLC want to create a special bus lane running west-to-east along Piccadilly, coinciding with a major alteration to Eros's island in the Circus. Some of the Association's members feel this will only add to the traffic problems and make deliveries more difficult and more obstructive to other road users.

The M, P & St J Association, a lively local amenity group made up of residents, local traders, hotels and institutions of all sorts, is calling for comments from anyone in the area on this or any other matter of local concern. Chairman William Addison, his deputy Capt. John Rumble or Association stalwart Jack Creed would be delighted to hear from members or prospective members via the Association's secretary Penny Kennedy Scott on 930 1040. M, P & St J Association gatherings are well worth attending, by the way!

The excellent work carried out by volunteers in our hospitals in order to make like more pleasant for patients and staff often goes unnoticed. The Brompton Hospital League of Friends runs a shop and an Outpatients canteen staffed entirely by volunteers who also run fêtes, raffles and a Christmas party for children each year. Money raised provides for redecoration and the supply of equipment and resources which the NHS can't provide and which make the Brompton that much more pleasant for all.

They urgently need some younger volunteers to inject new ideas and ask those interested to contact Miss Mitchell on 531 5995 or Mrs Levitt 0n 602 1849.

October 1984

Those romantics who believe that London just isn't what it once was will have been glad to hear that the Mayfair Hotel is in the process of being returned to its pre-war glory. Nostalgia for the hotel's hey-days of the 30s and 40s is clearly not the only reason why its owners, Intercontinental, are lavishing £13,000,000 on restoring the place.

Opened in 1927 by King George V and Queen Mary, the Mayfair was London's favourite retreat for top show business and theatrical visitors – an image which led to the creation of a cinema and theatre within the complex. Equipped with some of the most luxurious penthouse suites in London, it has retained an intimate charm despite a period in the doldrums over recent years.

The now rather tatty Beachcomber bar is to make way for restoration of the old ballroom – familiar to those who remember the days when a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square – just a stone's throw from where there were angels dining at the Ritz.

Presumably the Mayfair's cocktail of rediscovered style and glamour appeals to French tastes. A camera crew have recently finished shooting a new Maigret film there due for release on TV in 1985. A third of the action in Le Revolver de Maigret takes place at the hotel.

There is a curious irony in the proposal that County Hall should be handed over to the Inland Revenue after the GLC is abolished in 1986. Providing that the government's Paving Bill does indeed pave the way to the extinction of the world's largest metropolitan authority, the vast London County Council headquarters is probably one of the most valuable riverside properties in London and could well fall like a ripe plum into the hands of the tax-man if Environment Secretary Patrick Jenkin gets his way.

One senior Tory member of the GLC has already predicted that the building would then be just as unpopular with Londoners as it now is with the many people who find it hard to love the Livingstone régime. Those ratepayers who have been wincing at the millions of pounds handed out to feminist, ethnic and other minority groups should have guessed that the Revenue men wouldn't miss a tit-bit like that – while Londoners pick up the tab, of course!

Those who found the coach menace in Central London as bad as ever this summer will have been pleased to hear that Westminster City Council are considering plans to relieve the burden in Victoria. The National Bus Company is actively pursuing plans to use Marylebone Station as its major London terminal in place of the coach station in Buckingham Palace Road.

The council might go along with this plan if a special road, along the line of the present railway track, linked the North Circular with Marylebone. This would relieve Victoria of hundreds of coaches each day and would require only a simple, single shuttle coach service between the two terminals. Westminster City Council says that any future planning permission will depend on environmental considerations – e.g. they will not simply solve the Victoria problem by shifting it to Marylebone instead.

Good news from Help the Aged! Its appeal for £200,000 to fund a Day Centre for the elderly in Chelsea, announced in these columns last November, has been successful. Building work at the Alan Lennox-Boyd Centre on the Guinness Trust Estate in Draycott Avenue should be completed next month and open to its first customers in January. All thanks to those of you who contributed so quickly and generously.

Those of us who live as tenants or leaseholders in privately owned blocks of flats may get a 'right to buy' and a lot more say in the way our properties are managed if a report from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is adopted. The report goes to the Committee of Inquiry into the Management of Privately Owned Blocks of Flats (the Nugee Committee).

It claims that there should be a statutory right for tenants or leaseholders to buy the freehold of their block if the landlord or his agents fail to manage the block properly. A similar right would apply if the landlord wishes to sell out. In addition the council calls on the Nugee Committee to recommend a register of who owns, or has interests in, blocks of flats and that managing agents should be legally liable for the landlord's responsibilities. This is very relevant now that so many tenants find that their landlord lives abroad, is unknown or unwilling to reply to correspondence or injunctions.

The Council also calls for absentee landlords to be required to provide an address in this country where notice and proceedings can be served. The same should apply to tenants and leaseholders. Further recommendations are that the appointment of managing agents should be notified to tenants who should also have the right to challenge appointments and that the law should be changed to safeguard sinking funds, eliminating the present confusion and inconsistencies over the taxing of such funds.

Quite correctly, the council feels that a change in legislation is long overdue. Let us hope that the Nugee Committee will recognise that the present situation is a nightmare for some and unsatisfactory at the very least for others.

The fifth Chelsea Crafts Fair opens at the Old Town Hall in King's Road this month (Oct 17-23). Thanks to the tireless efforts of Lady Philippa Powell, wife of the architect and Royal Academician Sir Philip Powell, this fair has now become one of the premier showcases for craft talents in this country. Last year £300,000 worth of goods were sold by 150 craftsmen, guilds and groups, offering knitwear, textiles, furniture, toys, glass, ceramics and jewellery. The recipe this year is as before but with stunning quilts by June Freeman and Polly Hope as well as American jewellery from Barbara Rockefeller who also opens the show. Prices £2 to £20,000 and admission £1.50 (concessions 70p) or season tickets at £4.50.

Since traffic wardens apparently issue an average of just six tickets each per working day, one can see the attraction of letting robots do the job better. This autumn Middlesex Polytechnic is experimenting with spy TV cameras and electronic detectors in the hope of finding more cost-effective ways of planning and controlling traffic and car-parking facilities. According to lecturer George Williams, ignoring yellow lines is not regarded by the public as an offence but as an economic gamble worth taking because enforcement is so weak. Ninety per cent of on-street parking in Central London breaks a regulation, he says.

The Chelsea Symphony Orchestra appears at St John's, Smith Square, on November 22 at 7.30pm – one of several concerts in a busy autumn schedule. This time they're offering Wagner's Die Meistersingers, Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor and Strauss's Death and Configuration featuring soloist Anup Kumar Biswas. (Tickets £4; unreserved £2 from St John's box office.)

Regular readers will have noted the horrific costs involved in repairing or demolishing almost 700 faulty tower blocks on 200 council estates throughout London. The GLC claims the total cost will be about £1,200 million, of which they've recovered less than £0.5 million in compensation from the builders. The repair programme would take eight years but of course local councils will be responsible for all this long before then if GLC abolition goes ahead. At present the government seems unwilling to help pay this astronomical bill, so one wonders who will have to fork out. Not prizes for guessing who, I hasten to say!

Doctors have come in for some considerable criticism in a report from The Patients' Association which reports the 'horrendous plight' of many pensioners who are abandoned by GPs. "Some doctors will not take old people on their lists," the report says. "This means that changing doctors, for whatever reason, can be impossible. Some doctors even strike the ageing from their lists."

The Patients' Association describes sample cases such as:

Etcetera, etcetera...

Central London has an abnormally high proportion of young and old residents – the young making a relatively low demands on doctors' time and resources, unlike the elderly. The position is complicated by the large number of 'ghost' patients on doctors' lists – mostly younger people who register with doctors and then move away without being removed from the list and who therefore clutter up the per capita lists at the expense of the elderly.

Added to this it becomes increasingly difficult for young GPs to set up practice in Central London owing to the high costs involved. The result is an increasingly ageing population of established doctors faced with a large population of elderly and demanding patients, many of whom are housebound and time-consuming.

Nevertheless, while the Family Practitioners' Committee has a duty to provide a GP for each and every local patient who needs one, it seems that far greater attention needs to be given to the plight of the elderly patient whose anxieties are made all the worse by being isolated on the fifth floor of a mansion block in what may appear to be an increasingly frightening concrete jungle. If elderly doctors refuse to make home visits for one reason or another, or GPs find the elderly too tiresome to deal with, the NHS must see that proper provision is made as a matter of priority.

November 1984

As you read this, Oxford Street should be basking in the brightest Christmas decorations ever. Esther Rantzen is due to switch on the lights on November 8 to achieve a 'Roman' banner theme costing up to £60,000 over the Christmas season.

Meanwhile, however, shoplifting is reputed to be costing a staggering £65 million a year, and a local policeman has claimed that the Oxford Street traders and hoteliers should give clearer warnings about the increasing dangers to shoppers who face the risk of muggings and other street crime.

Constable Nigel McNichol was speaking soon after actor George Cole's wife was robbed of a gold necklace and needed five stitches for a head wound. He claimed that Oxford Street traders should give greater attention to the security of customers and tourists.

The Oxford Street Association recognises the problem but says the dangers are no greater than in Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea.

Nevertheless, Westminster City Council is concerned enough about the long-term future of Britain's greatest shopping street to have launched a major policy study involving property owners, the police, major stores and local residents.

The aim will be to halt the decline in standards and plan for the year 2000.

"This seminar will bring together everyone with an interest in what should be done to revitalise it," says chairman Alan Bradley. "What everyone is agreed on is that it should not remain as it is."

A £40 million proposal to turn the street into a pedestrian precinct under an overhead roadway has received a cool reception from the Oxford Street Association, representing the stores, but it must be hoped that a formula will be found to restore greater safety and more style to this grand thoroughfare under the Christmas lights in years to come.

Just north of Oxford Street in Regent's Park a curious building, which could claim to be the very first cinema, is to be restored.

The Diaorama, designed by Nash, housed Louis Daguerre's public lantern-slide performances to an audience of about 80 and opened in 1823.

A lot of money will be needed to restore the facade which should be preserved now that Environment Secretary Patrick Jenkin has backed Camden Council's refusal to permit an office redevelopment by the Crown Commissioners in conjunction with Greycoat Estates.

Smart Central London must have one of the highest concentrations of trendy log fires, but the Institution of Environment Health Officers claims they can be dangerous unless properly made and installed. Bad fitting and poor ventilation can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide poisoning leading to brain damage or death.

Around 60,000 such fires are sold each year and anyone in any doubt should contact the gas board to make certain they can enjoy a festive fire without fear!

One of Sir John Betjeman's favourite churches has had its exterior restored successfully at a cost of £130,000.

St Mary-le-Strand, built in 1717, had been in a dangerous state thanks to pollution and bomb damage. The rector, the Rev. Edward Thompson, now hopes that well-wishers will contribute towards the restoration of the magnificent interior, described by the late Poet Laureate as 'a baroque paradise'.

Annual crime statistics for Kensington & Chelsea show a slight decline in burglary although the overall figures are still very worrying. Most worrying of all is the steady increase in most other categories of crime. Out of a total of 8,702 crimes in Kensington alone, there were 1,917 burglaries and 1,669 motor vehicles thefts (of and from). In Chelsea there were 1,256 burglaries (of which 852 were residential break-ins) and a massive 2,209 vehicle crimes. On top of that Chelsea recorded a further 4,907 offences such as theft, assault, criminal damage, fraud, robbery and shoplifting. In Notting Hill a similar pattern emerged among the 7,293 crimes reported there.

Overall the lesson seems to be that as we become more security conscious the burglary level stabilises but our cars are more at risk than ever – including their contents.

On the other hand, a report from Cambridge University Institute of Criminology published last month shows that burglars are not much deterred by sophisticated locks but do avoid houses with signs of occupation and that few of the burglars regard themselves as opportunists (as the police maintain). Two thirds of the burglars interviewed said they would steer clear of houses with dogs on the premises.

If London ever appears to be overrun with foreigners the truth is that it is! In the first seven months of this year there were 7,700,000 overseas visitors alone. This is 11% up on last year and is still nowhere near the final total figure for 1984. The population of London is generally put at about 8,000,000 – so, since most visitors to Britain travel through London, we really are outnumbered these days.

While Kensington, Chelsea, Westminster, Fulham and Hammersmith face yet another planned reorganisation of health service administration (fiercely resisted by all the boroughs concerned), major London hospitals are hoping to recoup much needed cash from tourists. There is no plan to charge visitors for emergency services but St Mary's, Paddington, alone expects to earn about £100,000 from overseas patients seeking non-urgent treatment on the NHS.

At present one-third of these patients are American and another third come from the Middle East and Far East. A DHSS spokesman said that in future overseas visitors will need to pay or produce a guarantee in advance of treatment.

A portrait in words and music of the history of Holland House, Kensington, takes place on November 4 at The Orangery, Holland Park. Daphne Slater will perform on an 1824 Broadwood piano reflecting the years 1797-1845. Proceeds from tickets (£5 at the door, starts 8pm) go to the Friends of Holland Park.

Tube fares are to be increased as from January 6 – relatively painlessly for those taking short trips. All fares now costing 50p or more are expected to rise by 10p along with some 40p fares.

The zone system will be retained with most 40p fares unchanged and the Heathrow-Central London price will be pegged at £1.50 (representing a decrease in some cases) – why? Along with a variety of other fare adjustments the overall increase should be around nine per cent. These figures were leaked to the London Evening Standard and are not official – nor are they yet confirmed by the London Regional Transport Board.

Whatever the competing claims of other department stores, Whiteley's was once London's smartest and grandest emporium until it went into decline and Selfridge's had the field to itself.

Founded in Westbourne Grove by William Whitely at the turn of the century, the present building in Queensway was built in classic art deco style in 1927. Three years ago the store finally closed after a dismal post-war decline. Whiteley himself was found murdered in his office in 1907 and 30 years later 'north of the park' went downhill. Now it's going up again!

United Draperies, which owns the building, is seeking permission to develop the site (listed Grade II) to provide a vast shopping centre, car parking for 250 vehicles and 30,000 sq.ft of office space, incorporating a public library. Total cost £40 million. Whether the 'Universal Provider' will be allowed to go ahead with this scheme which retains some of the best of the art deco features depends on public consultation and planning permission.

You may just have time to get tickets for an all-star show business tribute to the late Eric Morecombe at the London Palladium on November 9. The Duke of Edinburgh presides and every name you can think of will perform in return for tickets at £5 to £50. Proceeds to the British Heart Foundation.

Hammersmith Bridge will be closed at weekends for a few more weeks, it is thought, now that the structural damage is found to be more serious than at first expected. Fears are growing that other London bridges may face similar problems as traffic and axle-weights increase. Is it time for a new tunnel in West London?

In East London, Tory MP Cyril Townsend is calling for an urgent decision to build a third tunnel to cope with extra traffic at Dartford when the M25 is completed next year. Transport Minister Lynda Chalker says there is no plan for a feasibility study at this stage.

The ban on smoking in tube trains has been very effective, according to London Transport. Only one woman has been prosecuted for breaking the rule and a tube driver told reporters that he had seen passengers letting trains go by while they finish a fag on the platform!

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has recently published a guide listing almost 70 London restaurants which offer no-smoking zones. One advantage of these restaurants is that you won't find me or my editor there!

Not satisfied with the bad publicity it earned itself over the Chelsea Rectory property deal two years ago, the Church of England is tempting providence again. This time it wants to re-acquire a small piece of park opposite Scotland Yard in Caxton Street, Westminster, which could be worth an estimated £6-10,000,000 if developed for offices. A 21-year lease on the site to Westminster City Council has just expired and the London Diocesan Council wants to fence the area off from the public (who have used it for 350 years) and sell it without any limitation on its use.

The council, Scotland Yard and several large companies nearby are resisting the Church's efforts to sell the garden for as much as they can get for it. Will Environment Secretary Patrick Jenkin decide to back God or Mammon?


December 1984

If you are accustomed to abusing your body with seasonal Christmas excess, may I recommend a fascinating book out this winter called Bodysense (Thames & Hudson, £6.95). Based on a series of personal questionnaires the book will tell you how long you're likely to live, what diseases you are most at risk from and, most refreshingly of all, gives some extremely down-to-earth and non-trendy advice on what you should be doing instead.

Dr Vernon Coleman's unique home-screening programme allows you to assess your current position in detail, then offers a truth file on straightforward facts (not loony theory) known to medicine now, and then gives you an action plan to improve your chances of surviving contentedly and without pain.

A friend, whose opinion I trust, tells me that Mahler fans are in for a treat at the Royal Festival Hall on December 9, when a rank amateur conductor is let loose on the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of The Resurrection. American critics had to swallow their sceptical words, apparently, after hearing Gilbert Kaplan's interpretation. Doubts about his amateur abilities were replaced by enthusiastic admiration – so go and see (hear) for yourself!

It's good to know that when the department store Bourne & Hollingsworth closed down last year, someone thought to save its famous art deco style clock (which miraculously survived a 'V' bomb in WW2). Today you can see its four-sided face in the 20th Century Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum to whom it has been lent by its present owner.

The London Zoo, which still suffers so badly from financial problems that it's almost as endangered as most of its inhabitants, offers a fascinating series of lectures from now until May. This month's offering, on December 13, is entitled Coals to Newcastle – Camels to the Desert by David Jones, director of Zoos.

For further information about this and other informal lunchtime talks about the work of the zoo behind the scenes, ring 01-722 3333 (and don't ask for Mr Lyon!).

Just in case you thought that someone had pulled the plug and this sceptred isle is sinking fast, the organisers of the 31st London International Boat Show have chosen Britain Afloat as the theme for January's exhibition at Earls Court next month (Jan 3-13).

It looks as though sailboards will yet again dominate the proceedings, reflecting the popularity of this relatively cheap, simple and thrilling way to enjoy wind and waves. But of course there'll also be a forest of masts around the central pool to feed fantasies of sailing away from it all. Admission varies from £1.50-£6.50, according to the date – children half price.

It has been strange to see two such controversial bodies as the Arts Council and the GLC locked in conflict over the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. The Arts Council has often been accused of being &eactute;litist, aloof and remote (not to mention downright loony on some occasions). The GLC has suffered, perhaps, from being more populist than many people can stomach (not to mention downright loony on many occasions).

The fact is that the GLC has executed its right to re-claim control of the Hayward now that the Arts Council lease is up. In fact, if the public would only exercise an opinion, this rather silly row could offer a golden opportunity for Londoners to say what they would like it used for. And if anyone suggested it would make a superb hypermarket-cum-DIY centre, who could blame them? A plague on both their houses – and would someone please ask us, not tell us!

Meanwhile, an exhibition of sculpture and drawings by Henri Matisse is showing there until January 6.

At least £1 million is going to be needed to conserve over half a million precious documents and drawings at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington – unique records that are already disintegrating. One vital collection will be rescued in the race against time thanks to a grant of £45,000 from IBM. This is the collection which resulted from Captain James Cook's three voyages of circumnavigation (1768-80) which include beautiful and meticulous drawings of now-extinct species. The value of these items is beyond price, the museum says. Because it relies on scientific rather than arts funding, the rate of disintegration and the size of the problem are now beyond its control. Not surprisingly, the NHM is hoping someone else will step forward to help with finance before it's too late.

Back on the subject of health, a new audiology clinic has opened at the Portland Hospital for Women & Children designed for anyone up to the age of 16. Hearing difficulties can be distressing and often go undiagnosed. Clinicians can offer a menu of 16 different tests at charges from £13-£180 at the Marylebone hospital, which accepts private patients direct or by referral from a GP (necessary for BUPA and PPP claimants).

If you enjoy exploring London's back-waters, do get hold of a copy of Historical Strolls No 1 recently published by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. For just 45p it offers a selection of 30-40 minute walks with a guide to what you should look out for on the way. More issues are planned and other boroughs should follow the RBK&C example. Available from Town Halls and libraries.

An extraordinary planning loophole which allows some property owners to build penthouses on top of blocks of flats or collect a compensation fee from local councils in lieu is causing great concern among London's boroughs.

The issue came to light again recently when the Royal Borough found itself 'obliged' to allow planning permission for an additional storey at Whitelands House, King's Road. Under existing legislation, provided that the addition does not constitute more than 10% of the original content, local authorities can find themselves bound to pay compensation if they refuse permission despite virulent opposition on nearly all grounds imaginable from local people.

The ramifications of this are that many other property owners are ready to climb on the band-wagon and it is even believed that properties are changing hands so that new owners can cash in on the bonanza. Needless to say many local councils are now pressing even more strongly for an urgent change in the legislation.

Christmas just isn't Christmas without a carol concert, so do make a note of the annual Dickens carol concert at St Peter's, Eaton Square, SW1, which is guaranteed to be the real McCoy. It takes place at 6pm on December 12.

This year has seen the 1984 Festival of Architecture so the Queen will be paying a visit to an exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects at 66 Portland Place, W1, which contains The Art of the Architect – treasures from the RIBA's collections. Open to the public until January 27 (admission £2 and children £1). No doubt there's a hefty surcharge for anyone asking to see examples of fallen masonry from London's crumbling tower blocks!

These items were written in 1984 and therefore none of the names, organistations, addresses, telephone numbers, etc., can now be relied upon.

© (1984) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The text and graphical content of this and linked documents are the copyright of their author and or creator and site designer, Christopher Long, unless otherwise stated. No publication, reproduction or exploitation of this material may be made in any form prior to clear written agreement of terms with the author or his agents.

Christopher Long

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