My problem: what tune for church?

LET me set the scene.I had just sat down in my little Ipswich sitting room with a glass of smooth Canadian Club in one hand and a selection of short stories by Guy De Maupassant in the other.

LET me set the scene.

I had just sat down in my little Ipswich sitting room with a glass of smooth Canadian Club in one hand and a selection of short stories by Guy De Maupassant in the other.

The CD player was on and Eva Cassidy was quietly creating an ambience of mellow intellectual pretension as a sumptuous chicken- based dish was doing nicely in the oven.

I was mulling over the day's events - a particularly demanding day at The Evening Star - and thinking how lucky I was to live in a country which had central heating, when my mobile started to vibrate.

It was the parochial church council.

I should have known.

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I'd better explain.

My small home village over in the west of the county is a traditional out-of-the-way sort of place with a couple of pubs and a red telephone box.

On Christmas Eve, the community assembles at the ancient church to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in time honoured fashion - a few hymns, communion, a reading and some drunken giggling.

This year, however, I shall be playing a role which demands of me a combination of concentration, skill and talent few others can provide.

The PCC has asked me to play the organ.

The problem is not so much belting out O Come All Ye Faithful, or Joy To The World, nor even pulling my grand diapason as I swell to pedal.

Indeed, for the last three years, I have performed for the community on this special night, entertained with a few wrong notes and even once forgot that Hark the Herald Angels Sing has three, not two, verses.

The problem is the bits in between - the walk up the aisle, the bit in the middle and the walk out again.

Last year, the female vicar strolled up the aisle to The Vicar of Dibley soundtrack.

This year, I am tempted with selections from Gypsy - Everything's Coming Up Roses - or a little pop ballad which sounds remarkably powerful on the church organ.

These are the choices for processional music so far: 1: Dancing Queen - Abba. Full bourdon. Problem: High risk of congregation singing along.

2: I'm Still Standing - Elton John. Principal stop. Problem: Too fast. Vicar will have to run up the aisle.

3: Holding Out For Hero - Bonnie Tyler. Swell to great. Problem: Goes on forever. Needs a drummer.

4: Harper Valley PTA - Dolly Parton. All stops. Problem: No wig.

5: 50 cent - Just a Lil Bit. Swell to pedal. Problem: Can't rap and not enough bling. I can't make up my mind.

So as the rest of the nation is settling down with a tasty snowball, Turkish delight and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I am double de-clutching on my organ trying to make Goldfinger sound like it was written by Vaughan Williams and praying that Puff the Magic Dragon doesn't offend anyone at the end of the service.

By the end of the phone call I had readily agreed to play.

Fearing letting down my fans in the world of music and secretly enjoying the attention, I didn't want to disappoint.

I wish I could say the same for my chicken-based dish.

THANKS to one of my more interested correspondents, I have had a matter quite nicely cleared up this week.

My trip to find out Hitler's whereabouts - scuppered only by an inability to write shorthand in a foreign language - took me over the Ipswich urban sprawl.

From several thousand feet I could see the outline of the town twinkling beneath me.

However, the indignity of one of those so called “nofrills” flights meant I wasn't peering out of the window quaffing a glass of Veuve Cliquot in style and chit-chatting to the young trolley dolly about the merits of the Orwell bridge.

Instead, I found myself craning my neck, sipping a chicken cup-a-soup, trying to see The Evening Star office complex and my own little stylish-butcompact home.

So it was with some relief that Colin Mayes, one of my regular readers, decided to point out in e-mail form that the route I took across the Suffolk countryside and then on to the northern German plains was in fact a type of airborne A14.

He said: “When I flew from Stansted to Copenhagen for Ipswich Town's match in the UEFA cup a few years ago, we flew over the Chappel viaduct, Portman Road and Ipswich docks, all of which were clearly visible.

“For a full explanation of the route to north Germany you should speak to Ken Blowers, the Star's weather expert.” I took his advice and called up the venerable and knowledgeable Mr Blowers.

I was not let down.

After a mere moment's research Mr Blowers said: “You were on route Mike 183 formerly known as Romeo 77.

“You would have left Stansted headed north easterly, flying over Sudbury and then Ipswich before flying over Felixstowe and the North Sea.

“You were at about 9,000ft.

At that altitude, if it is clear, you can normally see landmarks such as Christchurch Park to the north of the town.” Of course, Mr Blowers was right.

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