I'll be a bag of bones by Christmas

I'D just fallen into a deep sleep in my little Ipswich sitting room. One of those immediate sleeps, where you dream weird things about the day you have just had.

I'D just fallen into a deep sleep in my little Ipswich sitting room.

One of those immediate sleeps, where you dream weird things about the day you have just had. As I recall, in my fathomless slumber, I was writing a story that had no end, up against a long-passed deadline, while trying to rush round the shops of Ipswich in a desperate search for a new comfy pullover.

Relaxing as I was on the chaise longue, which if I am honest is far too uncomfortable for a prolonged siesta, I was blissfully oblivious to Anne Robinson's weak links on the quiet television and had drifted off into a land where I almost forgot that in half an hours time I would have to face the music.

Suddenly, my tastefully upholstered sofa started to shake in a most disturbing fashion.


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I jumped up only to feel ill - in that way that fast movement does at my age when you are woken with indecent haste and rush around not really knowing where you are or why your sofa's moving.

I looked down at where my ample figure had laid, put my hand to my bookcase to steady myself, and then it dawned on me.

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My mobile phone was ringing its frantic vibrating alarm. I had only been asleep half an hour and I remembered the music which I was about to face. In a quarter of an hour I had to see Roberta, my weight loss-cum-lifestyle guru, and stand on the scales of truth.

Joining my fellow heavyweight Star columnists - BBC man Mark Murphy and political commentator Paul Geater on a see-how-much-you-can-lose-new-year-weight-loss-programme, it was with some trepidation I made my way to a church hall in Newton Road for my moment of triumph or disaster.

After a week of buying things like yoghurt, eating several clementines and avoiding the temptations of alcohol I was hoping for a modicum of success.

As I stepped on the electronic box which never lies, I was mightily relieved to have discovered I had lost a 'whopping', as we say in the trade, five and a half pounds. I am definitely getting thinner.

Roberta, who has been encouraging the people of Ipswich to get smaller for some years now, reminded me to steer clear of blinis and cream cheese if I wanted to turn into Brad Pitt by next Christmas.

I said I am more likely to turn in to a grilled chicken breast than an A-list Hollywood actor, but I don't much care. I will be a thinner chicken breast.

NOT only a French customs official, Parisian nightclub-goer and large lad at the back, I am now going to take to the stage in March for a strenuous and demanding dance routine.

At my latest Summer Holiday rehearsal, the show in which I am performing as a newly recruited member of the Ipswich Operatics and Dramatic Society (IODS), I found myself in a long line of people waving my arms in the air while trying to coordinate some particularly tricky footwork.

I know I am light on my feet for a big man, but I doubt a man of my stature jumping up and down is ever going to be graceful.

As I moved to quite specific instructions like “kick and step and right and left and right and jump and punch punch” shouted out by David the choreographer, I had to remind myself to try to remember to sing and look excited at the same time.

I must admit I did begin to wonder what on earth I am going to look like, and whether, once I get on to the stage of The Regent in late March, I would be completely unable to move due to utter mortification.

Judy, the friendly lady who I dance next to and who has been in the society since she was in a gymslip, assured me “You'll love it James once you get up there. It's such a buzz you will want to do it all over again.”

At the moment I am taking her word for it.

I suppose it's the price I have to pay for my talent.

This week, as ballroom dancing lessons resumed after the festive break, I was recognised in the car park of Ipswich's Holywells High School.

It happens.

I admit that no one has yet asked for my autograph, it's probably going to happen any day, but several people have come up to me asking me how my diet is going? did I enjoy my trip to find Hitler? why don't I like quiche? do you really have a little Ipswich sitting room and do you ever stop talking about yourself?

Though how they suspect I am far from taciturn by the tone of my column, I have yet to discover.

Anyway, no sooner had I stepped out of my trusty Rover than a friendly couple, I recognised them by their slow foxtrot, came up to me and announced they knew my face from the paper but had forgotton my name.

Quite flattered to be receiving fans in a school car park on a Wednesday winter night, I naturally reminded them.

“It's James. I hope you like reading the column.”

“Oh yes,” they replied. “Very amusing.”

They went on: “I said to the wife “there's that manic depressive who writes for the Star”.”

A comment, which for the first time this decade, actually rendered me speechless.

A rare event indeed.

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