Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Journalist tells of life covering politics and war in America and Europe

MEMBERS of Henley Rotary Club have not been able to attend meetings at the Red Lion Hotel but, thanks to immediate past president Peter Thomson, they have set up informal Zoom get-togethers with the hotel meeting room as a backdrop.

These have taken place at the normal lunchtime or “twilight” slots but the one that took place on Tuesday last week was a little more formal in that 11 members were present and president Barry Prior asked that the loyal toast should be drunk as usual, mentioning Her Majesty’s 94th birthday. The highlight of the evening was a talk by member Jeremy Gaunt, who recently joined the club with his American wife Brenda.

Jeremy told members that he was born in Oxford when his father had worked at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell.

Travel started early with two moves to and from America by the time he was nine.

The family moved to Henley in 1966 and Jeremy shared a photograph taken years later of himself as a long-haired 20-year-old student standing by a red Sunbeam Alpine outside the house in which he now lives again with Brenda.

He studied philosophy and sociology at the University of Surrey and was awarded a BSc in human sciences before going live in Washington DC, where he met Brenda and their son Joshua, now a film-maker, was born.

After receiving an MA in communications from the American University, Jeremy became a reporter for the Congressional Quarterly, where he stayed for six years.

After moving back to London, he wrote on American politics and culture for The Economist.

He attended the Atlanta Democratic Convention when Michael Dukakis was selected to unsuccessfully oppose George H W Bush in the 1988 presidential election and also visited some of America’s overseas territories, such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Returning to the United States in 1990, Jeremy began a 27-year stint with the Reuters news agency, starting as a desk editor at their New York office, mainly covering business and finance.

In 1992 he was sent as Reuters’ chief writer to the Earth Summit in Rio when he “nearly” met Fidel Castro. It engendered in him a life-long concern about climate change and biodiversity.

After three years in New York, he served as the agency’s chief EU correspondent in Brussels for four years. He was then promoted to bureau chief for news and television in Athens, covering Greece and Cyprus.

He reported on Greece’s application to join the euro and the war in Kosovo.

In 2002 Jeremy returned to London, mainly writing about economics and investment in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

He also began writing about music — rock, jazz, blues and folk — and interviewed the likes of Jimmy Page and Kenny Rogers.

He retired from Reuters in January 2018 and now works as a freelance, running his own consultancy specialising in economics and the environment. He estimated that during his Reuters career he reported from 25 countries.

A vote of thanks was voiced by the meeting moderator Peter Thomson.

It was later reported that club members had donated another £860 to the Nomad food bank to match the savings made on their normal dining fees during April.

The club was unable to hold its annual jazz jamboree in April so musician and honorary member Ken Fitt wrote the following poem, called Litany for a Departed Jazz Night.

Let us sing the blues
For a jazz night now
Gone, gone, gone
With the music never started.
This should have been a
special one
On that you must agree.
A stunning blast of music
A real jazz jamboree.
A special evening planned,
All others to eclipse
With a tempting finger buffet
Instead of fish and chips.
Tickets all prepared
Already going strong
But quick, recall the posters
We’ve spelt Art’s surname wrong.
Dennis up and running
The programme set to go
But up comes covid-19
And buggers up the show.
All that written music
Two hours or more to fill.
But the sax that once in Christchurch Hall
Is tacit, strangely still.
But are we downhearted?
The answer must be “yes”.
Too old for cancellations
It’s a blow you must confess.
Perhaps we’ll see the end of this
And we can start again
And re-commence the
To hear that jazz refrain
When the Saints Go Marching in once more,
Will slake our music thirst
That’s if the bloody virus
Doesn’t get us first.

John Luker

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