Doreen's honour is richly deserved

ISN'T it great to see someone from Suffolk in the Queen's Birthday Honours list?

James Marston

ISN'T it great to see someone from Suffolk in the Queen's Birthday Honours list?

And no, I don't mean Delia Smith - though a CBE must sweeten the bitter pill of Norwich's relegation.

Today I'm talking about someone a little less well known - Doreen - a lady from the Edwardian spa town of Felixstowe where I enjoy the varied and multiple benefits of a small flat with sea views (distant) - who has so many fingers in so many pies she needs an extra pair of hands.


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Doreen is to collect an MBE for services to local government and as my colleague Richard and I remarked to each other the day it was announced it is richly deserved.

Doreen told me: “I am absolutely thrilled and keeping silent for over a month has been very hard - but I did it! Off to weed the Spa Gardens again tomorrow with some intrepid helpers.”

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She's the sort of woman that's always up to something, always out and about and always doing things for the community.

It makes a difference when you know someone who gets some of these much coveted letters after their name and it is a reminder of the honours system at its best.

Now the system does have its critics - mostly left leaning types I agree - but every society in the world has honours and forms of recognition. There's no getting away from it, humans mark out position and standing and always have done.

A good example is in the workplace.

If you look closely you'll note certain people have larger or smaller offices or car park spaces or cars or one or some of a myriad subtle perks and differences that mark out rank and status - it is simply how human society works.

So I have no gripe with the honours system and the Queen once spoke of investitures as the most important work she does. What she meant is that contribution to community, nation or tribe should and must deserve recognition.

And even without a monarchy - and I'd emigrate if that ever happened - there'd be some form of honours system.

But what is of concern is the gongs and extra rewards you occasionally see allocated to top ranking officials or civil servants who are simply doing their very well-rewarded jobs - this devalues an honours system that should be in recognition of exceptional contribution like the one Doreen has made.

COME on Ann!

The queen of talking sense is standing for the job of speaker in the House of Commons.

Ann Widdecombe is a game old bird, she's a bit of a character - and there's precious few of those around nowadays - and I bet she won't stand for any nonsense.

Those men in the house need a woman to keep them in check.

I was also amused to note the other day that Caroline Flint, the lady who resigned from the government saying she was “window-dressing”, told the press she thought Gordon didn't trust her - it appears he was probably right.

FOR those of you who, like me, rather enjoy words I have a new one this week for you.

Hushwing, I am reliably informed, is the medieval word for the barn owl.

Isn't it an elegant word?

I wonder if anyone uses it now?

Have you got any old words you like? Do drop me a line or send an e-mail.

IT'S awful isn't it when you lock yourself out?

Never the most organised of people - I tend to move from one self-induced crisis to another - I did just that the other Saturday and locked myself out.

But after that initial shock of being without the everyday crutches of life - wallet, phone, cigarettes, car keys, house keys, moisturiser - for a whole hour and a half until help came I found myself in the totally liberated position of being uncontactable, unable to spend any money, on my feet instead of in the car and - although this maybe somewhat melodramatic - without a roof over my head.

I can't remember who it was who said “All you need in life is a small suitcase” probably Mr Samsonite, but it is, in some ways, quite a profound phrase that has stuck in my mind.

I often wonder if he was right.

YOU know when you're getting old when you start going to 40th birthday parties don't you?

I remember my parents when they were 40 - and then it seemed positively ancient.

It was most recently the turn of an old friend called Ian.

We celebrated with a hog roast - thankfully no quiche - and a spot of dancing organised, I suspect, by his lady wife Anne-Marie.

Added to this reminder of the passing years is the fact that almost everyone I know my age is having children. Indeed, last week I sent out two baby boy and one baby girl cards.

My friend Sally, a girl with whom years ago I shared a small Edwardian flat with road views (immediate) in South London, even let me hold her little baby called William who took a shine to me and smiled at me quite happily, at least until he started to cry whereupon I panicked and handed him back.

Funny thing is though, I thought to myself, that as I edge nearer to my mid 30s and mark these milestones in life, I'm not sure 40 is that old after all.

NOW don't forget, my dear readers, now's your chance to book your tickets to see my plain-speaking-photographer-friend-Lucy perform.

She's taking part, you see, in the latest production by the Ipswich terribly Dramatic and most Operatic Society - the musical The Producers. Lucy, who never minces her words, said in conversation with me the other day “Are you coming to watch then? Seeing as you couldn't be bothered to be in it.”

“Yes.” I replied.

“Good, it's going to be very funny, I'm playing the part of a showgirl with a sausage on her head and I'm going to be a pigeon.” she added.

Apparently it's going to be a highlight of her amateur theatrical career, so if you fancy popping along it runs at the Regent from June 17 to 20.

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