All in the right spirit

MY routine varies. The launderette, a mooch about Ipswich town centre, a drive to the Suffolk countryside - it's all glamour. But once you've done the housework, caught up on your correspondence, polished the kitchen table and rearranged your little Ipswich sitting room, there's often not much to do on a Sunday evening.

MY routine varies. The launderette, a mooch about Ipswich town centre, a drive to the Suffolk countryside - it's all glamour.

But once you've done the housework, caught up on your correspondence, polished the kitchen table and rearranged your little Ipswich sitting room, there's often not much to do on a Sunday evening.

And I don't know if you'll agree but I find it a strange time of the week.

Your options are limited. It's either Antiques Roadshow and a bit of cheese on toast or, back in my younger days, a possible pint or five at the pub quiz.


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Anyway, I was listening to a spot of Debussy and flitting between the diaries of Samuel Pepys and a selection of short stories by Alan Bennett, when I heard the unmistakeable 'beep beep beep' of a textual message.

“R U around l8tr?” enquired the plain-speaking photographer friend of mine Lucy “want 2 go 2 church?”

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I knew what she meant.

Lucy and I, on returning from a particularly interesting morning visiting Freston Tower for a brilliant and potentially award-winning feature written by me to slip into the pages of the Evening Star, had driven past Horley Spiritualist Church on London Road.

She had expressed an interest and ever curious, I'd said I'd go with her if she liked.

So it was at 6pm on Sunday night that I put down Alan, switched off the radio and walked out of the front door in to the early evening to be driven to church.

Neither of us knew what to expect and, I'm ashamed to admit it, on arrival I was pretty close to hysterical nervous laughter, so incongruous was the scene.

I've always been a bit on the religious church going side - highly strung my grandmother calls it-but I'm usually to be found in the safety of the Anglican liturgy where I know what to do, when to speak and when to stand.

After buying a strip of raffle tickets and saying hello to some extremely friendly and welcoming members of the congregation, Lucy and I found ourselves sitting in what appeared to be theatre seats facing a platform with a lectern and some lovely flowers.

There was no crucifix, no rood screen and the architecture was definitely more 1972 than 1472 but I wasn't too uncomfortable.

The room filled up, in fact the congregation was much larger than I envisaged, and we belted out How Great Thou Art and Nearer to my God, To Thee.

Keen members of the world of am dram, Lucy and I had no problem with a spot of music.

Then a terribly pleasant woman from Derby called Kathy, started an address. She told us a nice story about how she was a nurse as well as a medium, and had worked in South Africa.

We had another hymn. Then Kathy started.

“I'm going to come to you. The lady in the white t-shirt right at the back. I've got your mum here. Ohh you still miss her don't you? She's saying she's okay and not alone. She's got lots of company.”

After each brief interchange, Kathy moved on.

“Does anyone know anyone who had one leg?”

“Yes” a voice said behind me. “I think he's your brother? Oh he's ever so grumpy.

“He's saying he didn't mind losing his leg but didn't want everyone helping him. Oh gosh he is grumpy and he swore a bit didn't he?”

“Yes, he did” the voice agreed.

Fascinating though this was, I was terrified each time she scanned the room with a message from the “realms of light” as she called it, that she'd pick me out.

As a celebrity it happens, and at the time I was wearing a rather distinctive mauve jumper which would have been easy to describe. “The large boy at the back with the strange coloured top and high opinion of himself” was running through my mind.

But it didn't happen. Neither I nor Lucy were spoken to by the spirit world.

Kathy, who I have to say seemed uncannily accurate in her skill, finished and we sang Amazing Grace and headed back to Midsomer Murders and a slice of Madeira.

“Well that was interesting wasn't it?” Lucy said as we got into the car.

“Yes and we got to have a sing song.” I replied, still slightly taken aback.

I'm undecided if we'll go back.

We might. It was intriguing, interesting, pleasant and they were very friendly but as you all know I'm not at all happy about being the centre of attention. Perish the thought.

I couldn't bear to be picked out with a message of support and admiration from a fellow celebrity super star in front of all those people.

If Elvis offered friendly advice, or James Dean wanted to discuss acting techniques, I'd probably die, or even pass over, of embarrassment.

Not that it would matter much.

MY request for advice, made in last week's celebrity column, on the tricky subject of giving up smoking has proved successful.

Adrian, a newspaper big-wig here at the Evening Star and one of the few men I have seen at close quarters in his underwear - he was a fellow actor-cum-singer-dancer in my changing room during the Ipswich very Operatic and definitely Dramatic Society's production of Summer Holiday - has kindly offered me the benefit of his experience.

He said: “Do not throw out your fags, nothing is more likely to make you want to smoke than knowing you have none in the house.

“Keep a pack but put a label on it and write. “Are you sure you really need one. Get through this pang.”.”

Adrian, who admitted he failed a number of times added: “Whenever I got pang I would say to myself get through this one and if you still want one have one, and then the same argument.

“The pangs become less frequent and less strong. Occasionally I did have one during this period but to be honest I didn't really enjoy it and believe me I loved cigarettes before 30 -40 a day, 60 on a big night out.”

I do believe you Adrian but what happens if I fall off the notoriously unstable non-smoking wagon?

Adrian advises: “Too many people tell you that once you have one the good work is undone, you are a smoker again, I believe they are wrong. You are a non smoker who has had a cigarette.

“As soon as you can start thinking of yourself as a non smoker the quicker you can make this mind shift.”

But I fear smoking will leave me bereft in a social situation. What will I do without my friendly crutch?

Wise Adrian even has this covered.

He said: “Sometimes the biggest challenge is what to do with your hands instead of smoking. A man of your persona could carry off a string of worry beads, a hobby of macramé or even an elaborate fan.”

I'm not sure what he means by that but he assures me his step father who went from 60-a-day to none overnight is now a compulsive beer mat model maker.

Perhaps giving up smoking will open up a whole new world of arts and crafts for this already highly creative celebrity genius.

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