Camden News
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published:18 December 2008

William Hall’s widow Jean with the couple’s children Juliette and Will on the day of the writer’s funeral earlier this year
Movie man’s explosive end

ON what would have been his 73rd birthday in November, our late film critic William Hall had his final wish granted.
William, who died in May this year, loved fireworks and had founded the Fleet Street Gunpowder Club. He left instructions in his will that he desired “half my ashes placed in a rocket and fired from Blackfriars Bridge London in the direction of Fleet Street”.
On his birthday, a group of mischievous friends converged on Blackfriars Bridge as night set in. While one carried an ice box of clinking Champagne bottles, a relative brought up the rear with two carefully prepared jumbo rockets concealed under his cloak.
They had earlier strapped a rocket launcher to the side of the bridge, and spent the afternoon working out the best way to get William’s ashes into the rocket.
“I was a little bit nervous,” one of the party told me. “I had shopped around for the largest rocket I could find, but wasn’t sure how much of William I could fit in and still ensure that he would make it over the buildings and on to Fleet Street.”
Instead, they made two rockets... just in case.  
“In the first one, I sliced open the top and pushed in some ashes, then sealed it up with tape,” the friend told me. “The second one was more ambitious, and I bagged up quite a bit of Hall and taped him around it. An old friend had sent over a goodbye message so I taped that on as well. But I really wasn’t sure if it would be too heavy to go anywhere.”
After raising a glass to the much-missed journalist, author and Highgate face, they toasted his birthday and got ready for launch.
“It was a beautiful night, and there was hardly any wind, but it was still hard to light the darn thing,” I am told. “After three attempts, the touchpaper caught. Suddenly – whoosh! – and the firework ripped away from the bridge and soared into the sky.
“It looked as though Hall was aiming straight for the big building in between Embankment and Fleet Street, but then it soared higher and deployed right on target. There was this most beautiful array of colours. It was a perfect shot,” says one of the gang. “Hall would have loved it.”
The second proved two heavy for the launch tube. “Each time either of us turned it to face Fleet Street, it rolled the other way, facing the South Bank, and we knew Hall wouldn’t have wanted that,” said my source.
Instead the rocket was lit while one of the mourners held it, and proved to be another perfect shot. William’s ashes were scattered from on-high, and our man at the movies went just the way he wanted.

Thanks for nothing! Writer denied chance to say goodbye

I HAVE few addictions, but the one I enjoyed on Mondays has had to be abandoned!
I’m afraid it was my best Monday read – AN Wilson’s column in the Daily Telegraph.
I wouldn’t wish the hollow feeling it leaves me with on my worst enemy.
With an upper stiff lip, Wilson told me on Tuesday evening when I rang him at his Camden Town home: “Yes, I have been sacked!” Rarely do I indulge in flattery, nor did I mean to when I replied: “How can they do this? The first thing I turn to on Monday is your column. Are you the only one to go?”
“No, they’ve also sacked Craig Brown.”
He thought, perhaps, the Barclay Brothers who own the Daily Telegraph, are going “bust”. Quite a few journalists have had to go on the paper, he added.
When I asked him whether he had been given the chance to write a farewell column, Wilson said that had been arranged until the editor had “decreed” he couldn’t.
“I can’t remember the editor’s name, but he made the decision,” he said. “Many readers used to write to me. The other week they thanked me about my piece on Herman Melville and Moby Dick – and I just wanted to thank them. But I never got the chance.”
He didn’t sound angry at being sacked. There was just a hint of sadness in his voice.
I asked him whether his last withering column on the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, had anything to do with his demise, and he said: “No. Anyway, Motion has sunk beneath the waves, hasn’t he?”
Did he have anything on the go?
Wilson, who has authored excellent novels and biographies, says he is working on a biography of Dante.
“I want to be able to say to the reader, ‘You’ve heard of Dante, no doubt, well this is what he was like’. A simple, straightforward, easy-to-read biography.”
Happy hunting, Mr Wilson!

Priya shelves her law career for curry

FROM the courts to the kitchen, Priya Lakhani has put down her wig and gown and taken up an apron.
The Belsize Park lawyer has discarded her briefs – and set up a curry sauce-making company instead.
Her company, called Masala Masala, specialises in fresh curry sauces, and is celebrating after selling her product to some of the country’s most exclusive food halls. Her sauces can now be bought in Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Waitrose.
“I decided to give up a comfy law job,” Priya (pictured) revealed.
“I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur and had lots of ideas, and thought, ‘why not go for it?’”
She told me her family were keen cooks and she had spent her childhood learning how to make the perfect chapatti.
“I’d noticed how there are hundreds of fresh pasta sauces available in the supermarkets, but no fresh curry,” she said.
“You can buy jars, but they have been pasteurised, so they keep for six months. Also, there are basically four different types available, and they are basically anglicised versions, like a vindaloo or jalfrezi. They are not curries my parents would recognise.”
So, after raising some capital, Priya set about creating her perfect sauces. Expect her sauces to be rapidly appearing on supermarket shelves near you.

Story of the great Dame Sybil

SEX and Dame Sybil Thorndike, perhaps the greatest actress of the past century, did not go together.
Though she bore four children, sex wasn’t of the same importance as it was to her husband, actor and director Lewis Casson.
How do I know all these, admittedly, titillating facts about the great lady? All garnered from an entertaining evening at the Cottesloe Theatre, South Bank, on Tuesday where Jonathan Croall, author of Sybil’s biography, talked to columnist Polly Toynbee, whose great-grandfather Gilbert Murray had been a close friend of Sybil’s.
For readers who never saw the great Sybil – she died in 1976 at 94 – she was a brilliant pianist who played at the Wigmore Hall at 11, went on the boards at 21, and became a hit in St Joan, written specially for her by George Bernard Shaw.
In between, she was an active Suffragist, a “red hot” socialist, and was still acting at 90 when she played St Joan again at the Shaw Theatre in Euston. What a woman!

*Jonathan Croall’s Sybil Thorndike: A Star of Life is published by Haus, £25


Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)






Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions