By the abbey gate

SPOTTED soaking up the atmos in the west of the county Evening Star columnist James Marston takes a trip out of Ipswich. SOMETIMES I slide into the comfort of the trusty rusty Rover, currently purring like a Daimler since the embellishment of new brake pads, slip her into gear and glide out of town for a little sortie.

SPOTTED soaking up the atmos in the west of the county Evening Star columnist James Marston takes a trip out of Ipswich.

SOMETIMES I slide into the comfort of the trusty rusty Rover, currently purring like a Daimler since the embellishment of new brake pads, slip her into gear and glide out of town for a little sortie.

And on Saturday I found myself heading along the somewhat ghastly A14 towards the west of the county and it's medieval gem, Bury St Edmunds.

For in a desperate and last ditch attempt to get out of my annual winter-induced curmudgeonly frame of mind and find the elusive spirit of Christmas and the associated bonhomie of the festive season I decided to take up the invitation of my journalist-turned-spin-doctor-chum Liz and join her and her partner Mark for a mooch around the town's Christmas Fayre.


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Liz, who has asked her beloved for a romantic surprise mini-break to Rome for Christmas, and I joined the throngs of visitors to the ancient town and toured the stalls laid out on the historic Angel Hill.

I bought some olives and a little bit of French bread, unfortunately uninspired by other items available as it was lunchtime and I was after a sit down and a scampi luncheon in a nearby hostelry.

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“I've managed a mere pin prick on the surface of my Christmas shopping,” I announced with a dejected look on my boat race as we slurped refreshing gin and tonics after a strenuous bustle through the recently refurbished Athenaeum.

“I haven't started either James,” replied Liz, making me feel better already.

We sipped our drinks.

The problem is, dear readers, I have yet to feel in the Christmas mood.

I don't know if you're the same but it just hasn't grabbed me yet.

Jess, the lady journalist with whom I work and, as I have mentioned before, is never without an opinion and best described as the Evening Star's equivalent of Janet Street Porter without the shoulder pads, told me that in fact I do have something to look forward to-the decoration of the Evening Star newsroom.

“Oooh,” she announced, “Just a few days to go before I get out the tinsel.”

Oh God, it's really here then.

I MANAGED to give up smoking again last week.

Well I say give up to be honest I didn't have a cigarette for eight hours.

Editor Nigel told me I had failed in my objective when I admitted I had given into the craving.

“Oh James,” he said “That didn't last long.”

“I know”, I replied sheepishly “I found some stacked behind the counter in a newsagent's.”

I'm going to suggest my handy corner shop stops selling them while I try to quit.

AS I popped into Arnie's Sarnies in St Nicholas Street, for my usual lunchtime sarnie, chicken tikka bap (white, no butter), quite adventurous I think for a Suffolk lad born and bred, I was pleased to accept recognition from behind the counter.

“Ooh a real celebrity columnist to serve today,” the man in charge quipped.

I just smiled and offered to sign my autograph at any time for anyone at any event in front of any photographer.

Fame is no soft option.

ITS hidden talent night this week in the world of amateur dramatics.

Stephen, the Scottish social secretary of the Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society of which I am a member, has corralled 50 people to join him in the Victory Hall, Bramford, on Friday.

“James,” he said with a cheeky smile “It's a talent night so what ya going ta do? Eh?”

Thinking that, as a man clearly not short of a gift or two in the talent section, I can hardly be expected to have yet more talents hidden or otherwise, I replied that I wasn't sure secretly expecting I would be pressed further.

Stephen didn't press me, clearly accepting the assumption the vat of my entertaining genius is already overflowing.

So with a burning ambition to show off my spoon playing skills, or my adroitness with the ventriloquist's dummy, I am unfortunately not showing off at all.

My well hidden talent is to remain well hidden.

As a little aside, I have, however, made a decision food wise.

“Would ya like sausage, fish or chicken as ya main course?” said Dundee born and bred Stephen.

I plumped for the fish not being keen on bones of the poultry variety.

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