Mystery tour, thanks to my map readers

RISBY, Hargrave, Denham, Ousden, Great Saxham, Little Saxham, Chevington - just to mention a few.

James Marston

RISBY, Hargrave, Denham, Ousden, Great Saxham, Little Saxham, Chevington - just to mention a few.

This weekend last I have been seen parts of our great county I haven't been to for years.

All in aid of charity as well.

You see, me, my mother Susan, who sings in a barbershop group called Anglian Accents, and my sister Claire who wants to marry a farmer, found ourselves signing up to a car rally quiz organised by a friend of ours called Philip, who likes real ale, teaches geography and knows things, in aid of MacMillan Nurses.

It was hilarious - but have you noticed that women can't read maps?

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I don't want to make a sweeping generalisation but it is true.

As we journeyed around the High Suffolk countryside finding clues, such as how many faces are around Higham Church - 24 in case you didn't know (excluding, controversially it turned out, the two inside the porch) - and what is the name of a hurdlemaker buried in Denham churchyard - a lady called Edith Beatrice Crack, I noticed that neither of the ladies in the car were very adept at knowing exactly where we were.

My sister, when asked by me, somewhat impatiently, whether to turn right or left towards the next village, in fact asked me where we were on the map before she would commit to a definitive answer, saying she didn't understand points of the compass and no one uses them nowadays anyway.

On the other hand my mother seemed quite content to sit in the back and announce she had "just come along for the ride and would anyone like a can of drink?" adding that she knew 60 per cent for certain that St Lawrence was the patron saint of the parish church of Lackford.

In turn I discovered that a relaxing 32-mile trip around the countryside estimated to last an hour and a half, can, under certain circumstances, turn into a fraught 45-mile round trip through places in the middle of nowhere and last at least twice that length of time.

I also discovered that you can't drive in and out of Ousden the same way twice - in fact we did it four times- and that the parochial church council may remove artificial flowers in Risby's churchyard.

I HAPPENED to be strolling through the small Edwardian town of Felixstowe, where I have made my home, when I was asked by a young fella trying to make a living if I would like to buy the latest edition of the publication he was selling.

"Big issue for a big fella?" he said.

I turned round thinking he must have been talking to a big chap behind me.

Of course he wasn't.

Tempted though I was to retort, I restrained myself from trading insult with insult and found myself laughing at his direct approach and dipping into my pocket and doing as he asked.

Bare-faced cheek pays off it seems.

ON Sunday I found myself in the splendour of the church of St James in Icklingham - my home village in the west of the county - marking the retirement of our venerable organist.

Mr Dellow is calling it a day after a remarkable 38 years.

He said he started playing for services in 1971.

Back then Edward Heath was Prime Minster, Rolls Royce went bankrupt and Britain switched to a decimal currency.

For his special service Mr Dellow, who has spent much of the last four decades with his back to the congregation looking at proceedings through a mirror, chose some rousing hymns from the ancient and modern.

Well done Jim, and thanks.

AS regular readers will know I am shortly due to start a new life in France - Toulouse to be exact.

Now though some people, I am sure, may well have expressed relief at this news, it hasn't been widely welcomed in all quarters - well one quarter.

My Felixstowe playwright friend Susan had to have the blow softened with four glasses of red wine before she admitted she wasn't happy and was I definitely going to go.

"I'm being totally selfish but I don't think you should go, James." she said. "I've just written you a part in my new play, now I've got to do a re-write."

Naturally I said what a shame and made soothing comments about what awful timing until I found out I was going to be a cheerful, chubby walk-on part required to make very, very, very occasional comments - it was hardly a romantic lead she'd got me in mind for.

It is strange, however, once you say you're leaving how popular you suddenly become.

Suddenly I am in great demand from all sorts of people wanting to meet for drinks and say goodbye.

I even went to a hen night on Friday held in honour of a teacher/theatrical friend of mine, Kelly, because I can't make the wedding.

So in case I was spotted surrounded by women wearing flashing ears in a club in Ipswich called Mojo's on Friday night you'll know why.

NOW don't get me wrong - Keith Floyd was a great entertainer.

He cooked some nice things and loved life.

But was he really as good as Patrick of Patrick's Pantry fame? I wonder.

Patrick was my first experience of a television chef. I used to love Patrick's Pantry.

A figure of my boyhood, I thought that when I grew up I might have to chop vast amounts of parsley to throw around every time I cooked.

Of course, I don't really remember many of his recipes though I do remember he used to put things in the oven and then leave them for a while and then hurry up at the end to get it all finished in time.

I wonder where he is now. Is he still around? Does anyone know?

I WONDER what Sir David Attenborough was doing playing a vacuum cleaner during the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall the other night.

It doesn't seem right to make him do it - he's in his 80s isn't he?

Mind you I wonder if he's got into the shake and vac cycle like I have.

I don't know about you but I can barely plug in without throwing pungent powder around my small flat with sea views (distant).