Beasts on the prowl here, too

SO what's all this about the beast of Essex?

James Marston

SO what's all this about the beast of Essex?

Now this large black cat has been spotted by a copper it seems to have gained even more credence. I'm not convinced though, are you?

Apparently the policeman in question heard some growling but that could easily have been the estuary English you hear in those parts and the cat, which he spotted running down the side of the police station in Wivenhoe, mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again.

I was most amused to hear that the officer declined to talk about his ordeal being reportedly “too embarrassed” by the attention his big cat sighting had generated - I bet he was.

Though it was 3am, perhaps he had a long night.

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A councillor in the area went on to suggest they install CCTV as a deterrent, though I fail to see how a puma going about his business is likely to be too worried if he's filmed.

Here in Suffolk we don't have such things - though I stand to be corrected - apart from those awful muntjac deer you see around.

Isn't it time they were culled and eradicated from our countryside? We did it with those coypu things didn't we?

I'm not too bothered about hunting and shooting - though I like a brace of pheasants, plucked - but surely, like the credit crunch and chewing gum, these awful deer ought to go.

But life's too short to get all worked up isn't it? And it's far too cold.

I love a bit of snow. I like the way things go quiet when the white stuff falls - though perhaps someone might enlighten me as to why that happens. I also like looking at the countryside, not always sensible when on the A14 but visually striking nevertheless.

Not that a spot of Siberian weather bothers Her Majesty.

She braved the icy weather at the weekend and went to church as usual. Bless her.

And she kept the cold at bay with a three-quarter length peach coat, matching hat and clear plastic umbrella.

As regular readers will know I like Her Majesty and also rather like Sandringham - I went there on my last birthday for a cappuccino and a snoot round.

Of course, she's leaving Norfolk soon and heading back to London but I hope she's enjoyed her Christmas and new year break in the eastern region.

I wonder is she's troubled by muntjac?

DON'T you just love a Mint Imperial?

Sucking on a mint is one of life's greatest pleasures and in our hectic newsroom we often have the occasional sweet.

Last week it was pear drops - not my favourite because they make me wheeze for some reason - and chocolate raisins.

An old fashioned out-of-a-jar sweet is the highlight of a Friday afternoon.

Do you have a favourite old-fashioned sweet?

ISN'T it refreshing to listen to Ken Clarke talking politics again?

I happened to listen to a most fascinating interview with him as I drove over Stoke Bridge this morning.

I do like him, not least because he likes a drink and a cigar. I met his wife once - well, saw her having a gin and tonic in a London club, and she was nice too.

Not that I'm much of a political animal, well not now.

I did once interview Theresa May early on in my journalistic career and I hadn't got a clue what to talk to her about.

All I could think of was to ask her was what she thought of Stowmarket - she said she'd never been asked that before.

Clearly I was at the cutting edge of East Anglian journalism.

James' Mailbag:-

WELL, my dear readers, a large mailbag once again this week.

I am particularly impressed by Mrs Salt from Frinton-On-Sea who wrote at length about superstitions - surely the letter of the week.

Also isn't it nice to see that spring is finally on its way?

To prove it a lady I know in Felixstowe called Brenda sent me a few pictures from her garden which I thought was nice.

I am glad, aren't you?

And thanks so much for the epistles


Dear James

Re: Jonathan Ross.

OH, how I agree with you.

Whoever thought that this arrogant ass was worth that much money in the first place?

And how about all those guests he had, who seemed, for the most part, to be intelligent people, just sat there and giggled like naughty school kids at his appalling 'jokes'.

Embarrassment I hope but then they knew what he was like.

I enjoyed Ball and Baker who did the Saturday morning slot when Woss was on the side lines. Light- hearted banter and chat, lovely.

Now, I switch off.



Dear James

Re: People who should be honoured

MY husband was a special constable.

For 31 years he patrolled the streets of various villages in Suffolk ending up in Stowmarket.

Nearly every week in all weathers, in the evening and to the early hours giving up his sleep, he helped drunks and calmed the young folk who should have been in bed.

He never claimed his “boot allowance” and is now 68 years old.

To my mind, people like my husband should be honoured, as he did all those years for the love of it and claimed not a penny.


Norwich Road,

Creeting St Mary.

Dear James

I LOVE reading your column.

I had to drop you a line to say, yes, spring is on the way.

I live in sheltered housing accommodation and under the window of my flat is about 16 daffodils, some still in bud others fully out.

Glad you are enjoying living in Felixstowe.


Colimer Court,

Walton High Street.

Dear James

I READ your piece about whether spring is on the way and you don't like January. Well I have bulbs now showing green in my front and back gardens so I am sure spring is not far away.

Also the evenings are getting lighter which is a good sign.


Mill Lane,


Dear James

SEE a pin, pick, it up, all the day you'll have good luck

Regarding your column about Suffolk superstitions.

Most of them are new to me, but you asked for any other Suffolk ones. I don't know if the following are Suffolk, but they come down from my grandparents on both sides and my parents, and we are all dyed-in-the-wool Suffolkers from the beginning of the parish registers.

My father was particularly superstitious, and here are one or two of his specialities:

If when setting off from the house you find you have forgotten something and have to go back for it, you must sit down and count 10 before leaving the house again.

New Moon. You must bow to it three times, at the same time turning your money over in your pocket.

If you put an article of clothing on inside out, on no account must you remove it until you undress at bedtime. You must simply wear it as it is for the day.

If you see a white horse, spit for luck, but do not look at the horse after you have done so.

My mother, a Lowestoft girl (dad was Beccles born) had one or two of her own. Never bring May into the house, as mentioned in your article, but this also applied to white lilac, white chrysanthemums and ivy.

If you touch the back of a sailor's collar without him noticing, you will have good luck for the day (I rather suspect some girls hoped the sailor would notice!)

If you see a man wearing a straw boater, a particular ritual was needed, thus: Lick the tip of the middle finger of your right hand, tap the palm of the left hand with it, then make a fist with your right hand and thump the same left hand palm, at the same time saying “my first luck a cheesecutter”. The “my first luck” bit had to coincide with the ritual, thus: My (lick finger at same time) First (tap palm at same time) Luck (thump palm) then finish the sentence.

Go on, try it next time you see a straw boater, you might win the lottery!

I don't know where this one came from, but my grandparents certainly used it, and I am 78-years-old, so it is not very new.

If you see a lump of coal in the street, pick it up, chuck it over your left shoulder, for luck. (Best to make sure nobody is behind you).

There were many others, but I think they were universal, such as the new shoes on the table, saluting Magpies, not walking under ladders, never walk widdershins round a church and if you spill salt throw some over your left shoulder.

I hope all of this has not worried you too much, it really is safe to get of bed in the mornings, providing, of course, you put your right foot out first…

I'm sure there were many others, cannot remember them now, but I still keep up all the ones I have listed, so you see I have quite a busy life touching wood and all!


First Avenue,

Frinton on Sea