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London Tonight Tonight

Good afternoon.
I have an enduring soft-spot for Dagenham.
In the 1980s and 90s, I counted Bryan Gould, the then Labour MP for Dagenham, as a personal friend and find the current MP, Jon Cruddas, an impressive chap.
I even owned a Ford Escort in the days that they were known as Dagenham Dustbins.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was with the "entertainment" when I went to a fabulous birthday party a few weekends ago at Claridges. The birthday boy was one of London's top show-bizz lawyers and the finale was the spectacle of the Dagenham Girl Pipers band marching in and playing "Happy Birthday". He was a fan as was his father before him. Not a dry eye in the house, or the hotel.
And tonight we anticipate Kleenex and red-eyes in sitting rooms across the capital as we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Ford plant that provided so much employment for so long and for so many of the fine people in that part of east London. Lots of lovely old pictures too of Cortinas, Consuls, Anglias etc. to bring back the days of black and white "go-faster" stripes, nodding dogs and dangling dice.
Tears for very different reasons in the Gray household tonight, I imagine: eight years ago, Private Geoff Gray died from two gunshot wounds at the Army's Deepcut training barracks. His parents have never been satisfied with official verdicts and today went to the Ministry of Defence to hear the latest and possibly last version, from the Army's perspective, of what happened. Why they didn't like what they saw nor how they were treated will be explained by Ronke who has been chatting to mum and dad Diane and Geoff.
Also not liking what he has seen, read about and been told of is the Prince of Wales. Not snide snap-dragons nor noisy nasturtiums but angry architects. What they want to do with the old Chelsea Barracks clashes with what he wants in a way that would do justice to the best of battles fought over the centuries by the Coldstream Guards who used to be based there. HRH is opening a "second front" at the Royal Institute of British Architects tonight but the men and women with the set-squares and sharp pencils are poised in their salients as I speak. (Well, "write" but "salient" allows me a better alliteration.) Harris, more of a Palledeo man than a Foster fan, methinks, chooses between the Dorics, Ionics and Corinthians to find a handy hiding place from which to eves-drop on this elegant row.
Richard Briers is surely one of our most elegant actors.... apart from in the Good Life when he was a muddy smallholder covered in the stuff one Tory MP claimed rather a lot of money for, for several bag-fulls. He was hosed down and went straight for a while, producing some fine work. But the call of the soil and the temptations of the allotment proved too strong. But why would the international jet-set take his latest adventures amiss? Phil, our very own Monty Don, dons wellies to discover.
The lovely Lucy is with me for a second evening. "Hurrah", I say. "Hurrah" says Nick, even louder I fancy, because her being with me means he can be on the Red Carpet in Leicester Square. "Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian" is the clunky title of the second episode from this new Hollywood franchise. Never saw the first one so I am poised to learn. Ricky Gervais, I am told, and Steve Coogan make appearances: whether this is to do with the "museum" bit of the title or the "battle" bit I don't know but they are both fighters and have both been around a while. Nick will enlighten us, no doubt. The Smithsonian, incidently, is Washington DC's equivalent of our Cromwell Road based Victorian collection halls, (V&A, Science Museum etc) but without the busy traffic or elegant architecture.
Robin has worrying tidings on the weather front and refuses to step outside in case it is misunderstood as an invitation to fight. Take what comes, I say, and take it like a man.
The papers - the Evening Standard was free last night at Waterloo: how worried are they??? - will be there in front-page-competition for your clarification or, if they are all the same, confirmation.
And that, I think, is that. There are some other bits of "news" on the back-burner but I am not sure which will "set" or "rise" to perfection first so you'll have to be there to know.
See you at 6.

Alastair & Lucy.