Bargain time not for James

BRAVING arctic conditions and treacherous roads I risked my life last week as I returned to Ipswich. After a few days in the bosom of my family in the west of the county I knew the ever urgent clarion call of The Evening Star newsroom was about to beckon.

BRAVING arctic conditions and treacherous roads I risked my life last week as I returned to Ipswich.

After a few days in the bosom of my family in the west of the county I knew the ever urgent clarion call of The Evening Star newsroom was about to beckon.

I started up the trusty Rover, whacked the heating up high, negotiated a few flurries and eventually arrived at my little Ipswich home to find several unopened Christmas cards and three pizza delivery menus sitting on my welcome mat.

After checking I hadn't been burgled or any of my pipes had frozen, I took a seat and began an evening of post-Christmas-pre-New-Year relaxation with my friend Jack Daniels and a Christmas bumper box of Cadbury's Fingers.

As I tuned into yet another Miss Marple mystery and got out the fountain pen and parchment writing paper with matching envelopes I use for writing to relations, I thought to myself thank god that's over and how lucky I am that Christmas is only once a year-no more ghastly shopping.

My thoughts were short-lived.

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The following day I returned to the fast pace of the newsroom to find the women I work with in rapture about the sales.

“I must have a look in Debenhams,”one colleague excitedly announced.

“I need a pair of trousers and wouldn't mind a bag, and some boots.” said the other.

Taking a short luncheon break from Evening Star newsdesk this week, I was joined by two lady journalists as I popped into town to post a few thank-you letters and pick up a bottle of cough mixture. I wish I hadn't bothered.

As we swung into Tavern Street it seemed the streets of Ipswich had turned into a river of human misery.

Hundreds of people were swarming looking for a bargain.

“Let me just pop in here,” said the younger of my colleagues pointing to a young ladies clothing store.

For nearly twenty minutes I hung around inside the ghastly over-crowded over-lit shop searching for a non-existent sofa to rest my weary legs as some frightfully loud music blasted out obscenities above my head. And people do this for fun, apparently. I am sure if they were forced to there would be a revolution.

As my lady colleagues “ooheed” and “ahhhed” and touched and stroked clothes with comments like.

“That's a bit green for me.” and “That's not real fur James.” I maintained a disinterested decorum. There didn't seem to be any bargains in there to me-just a lot of strangely coloured garments that no one else wanted - no wonder they were cheap.

Despite my protestations these girls seemed to actually enjoy “just having a look”-of course they bought nothing. The only nice things weren't in the sale anyway.

AS I was sitting in bed the other evening drinking a Horlicks and listening to The Westminster Hour - a thought struck me.

I have decided what I shall do when I become Prime Minister.

After kissing the Queen's hands and walking through the famous black door, posing for the world's press on the way, I shall walk straight into my new office and execute my duty to the Great British public-I shall tax chewing gum.

I think it is about time people stopped depositing yucky gum on our pavements. I think people who do that are beneath contempt. Whatever must foreigners think?

Chewing gum is common anyway and not a very nice habit so I have decided it should be taxed heavily to pay for its removal from our streets.

Smokers pay for the NHS so why shouldn't chewing gum users pay for the clean up operation their habit requires?

Then, after putting the legislation in place-without anything as tiresome as a consultation or public inquiry-I shall ban spitting.

Just last week I narrowly avoided a glob of flying saliva as I promenaded along Carr Street. I blame the footballers. It seems that people feel forced to copy every aspect of their lives to the extent they think spitting is socially acceptable and indeed necessary.

Well it isn't. I shall enforce heavy fines and possibly bring back flogging when I am PM.

What do you think? Should the streets of Ipswich be subjected to gum? Should spitting be outlawed? Write to James at Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to

I note with interest that my friendship with Camilla Cornwall - we are on such intimate terms since she wrote to me I feel I may refer to her informally - has done little to get me invited to the Palace.

I remain left out in the cold when it comes to cosy fireside chats with the family and it seems they have little use of my candid advice and cheery bonhomie that which I am itching to share.

This week's New Year's honours list again proved to have a missing a vital ingredient-my name.

Where was my OBE? I hear my fans wailing? Why didn't you get a knighthood? A flurry of emails has demanded.

I am afraid I do not know why I have been missed out this year.

I know my services to East Anglian journalism are hard to equal, I know my comedic timing is genius, I know I could have been a model, I know I might yet slim down and join a boy band, I know I am amazing.

The problem is letting other people know without sounding big headed and big headedness is something, my dear dear readers, I always avoid.

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