A tale of two days out
ANOTHER night, another three course meal and dancing.
ANOTHER night, another three course meal and dancing.
As close friends of mine who knew me before I became an almost celebrity will know I like a drink on a Friday - doesn't everyone? - and this Friday I found myself at the Ipswich and Suffolk Press Ball.
But, dear readers, I decided that this year a drop wouldn't pass my lips - mostly because last year I indulged in one too many rather ridiculous conversations.
Of course, I looked fantastic, as always, and swapped my smoking jacket - used for more informal dining - for a dinner jacket - a garment which my colleague Tess described, rather amusingly, as “generous”.
Anyway the night was excellent and I managed to have a conversation with a lady called Tracey who works at Suffolk New College that at least one of us wants to remember.
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THERE'S nothing like the thunder of the hooves and the roar of the crowd is there?
And it was at Newmarket races in the west of the county I found myself this weekend with a copy of the Racing Post in one hand, a cider in the other, trying to study the form.
I don't know about you but I'm not really a gambling man, preferring to limit my occasional flutter and charitable arrangements to the National Lottery.
But as the skies over the heath were beginning to bruise on Saturday afternoon, I found myself egged on by the atmosphere and excitement and uncharacteristically placed a bet on number 5 Lesley's Choice in the 3.50pm.
It was a long shot at 33 to one but I thought it just might romp home.
Of course, I was to be mistaken.
Lesley's Choice didn't even seem to come close but by the time I'd trained my field glasses on to the track and then on to the horses they were galloping past ever so quick I had no idea what was happening.
My friend Liz, a lady due to marry shortly in a ceremony in which, as regular readers will know, I am reading the bible out loud, backed the winner -who's name I forget - while I cursed my luck at missing out on my �102 potential win.
For those of you who know what you are talking about when it comes to gambling - I always struggled with maths - it will be apparent I only wagered about �3.
An insignificant amount which would have bought me almost nothing, not even the Newmarket sausage in a baguette, and another cider with which I consoled myself.
DON'T forget, my dear readers, I shall be treading the boards at the Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion 100 anniversary show this weekend.
I'm even singing a solo - even though it's with another person!
Costume-wise I'm wearing a bright T shirt, a satin shirt and a sparking cummerbund - two sewn together - though not at the same time.
I'm also doing a lot of standing at the back and throwing my arms around and swaying occasionally, which, according to the choreographer, saves me the hassle of too many intricate foot movements - a euphemism, I suspect, for “Just stay where you are and do as you're told.”
DID you hear about the shark?
It's been like Baywatch over here on the Felixstowe peninsula after a basking shark was spotted in the sea - how exciting.
Since I've lived in my small flat with sea views (distant) in the Edwardian spa town of Felixstowe we've hit the headlines a few times with some nearly floods, a bomb that got lost, and a mysterious helicopter that killed a cow - for my colleague Richard, a journalist who has worked here man and boy, it's been all go.
This latest scoop was very intriguing and apparently these basking sharks can be as big as a double decker - the bus not the chocolate bar - and hoover lots of plankton.
Tempted though I was to don my red swimming trunks and run along Felixstowe beach shouting “Shark! Shark” Richard informed me they aren't dangerous - unless one sits on you.
WE journos have the answers to everything.
Not only do we inform opinion, we shape and reflect it - there's simply nothing we don't know. At least that's what we tell ourselves.
But there is a question that I have been posing to myself and even I am not sure of the answer.
Does the lemon in a gin and tonic count as one of your five a day?
If it does then I've been ever so healthy as the sun has passed over the yardarm this week.
James' jokes of the week:-
Q What's yellow and hides in Afghanistan?
A The Talibanana.
Q What do hippy horses eat?
A Hay, man.
FOR those of you who have kindly written to me and requested the occasional spot of poetry, I have found a little Betjeman gem about the Edwardian spa town of Felixstowe, to where, as regular readers will know, I am particularly attached.
Felixstowe, or The Last of Her Order
By John Betjeman
With one consuming roar along the shingle
The long wave claws and rakes the pebbles down
To where its backwash and the next wave mingle,
A mounting arch of water weedy-brown
Against the tide the off-shore breezes blow.
Oh wind and water, this is Felixstowe.
In winter when the sea winds chill and shriller
Than those of summer, all their cold unload
Full on the gimcrack attic of the villa
Where I am lodging off the Orwell Road,
I put my final shilling in the meter
And only make my loneliness completer.
In eighteen ninety-four when we were founded,
Counting our Reverend Mother we were six,
How full of hope we were and prayer-surrounded
"The Little Sisters of the Hanging Pyx".
We built our orphanage. We built our school.
Now only I am left to keep the rule.
Here in the gardens of the Spa Pavilion
Warm in the whisper of the summer sea,
The cushioned scabious, a deep vermillion,
With white pins stuck in it, looks up at me
A sun-lit kingdom touched by butterflies
And so my memory of the winter dies.
Across the grass the poplar shades grow longer
And louder clang the waves along the coast.
The band packs up. The evening breeze is stronger
And all the world goes home to tea and toast.
I hurry past a cakeshop's tempting scones
Bound for the red brick twilight of St John's.
"Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising"
Here where the white light burns with steady glow
Safe from the vain world's silly sympathising,
Safe with the love I was born to know,
Safe from the surging of the lonely sea
My heart finds rest, my heart finds rest in Thee.