WHAT with ballroom dancing, dieting and the demands of the cutting edge of the rough coal face of Suffolk journalism that is the Evening Star newsdesk, I have almost forgotten what my tastefully and stylishly decorated little Ipswich sitting room looks like this week.

WHAT with ballroom dancing, dieting and the demands of the cutting edge of the rough coal face of Suffolk journalism that is the Evening Star newsdesk, I have almost forgotten what my tastefully and stylishly decorated little Ipswich sitting room looks like this week.

I have been in an out of my small town centre pied a terre so much recently that I'm thinking of installing a revolving door.

But my efforts, I hope, have been worth it.

This business we call show - aka the world of amateur dramatics - has taken a giant “step-ball-change” forward this week after my first rehearsal on the stage of The Regent.

I will be treading the boards in just a few terrifyingly short weeks' time with the Ipswich fairly Operatic and highly Dramatic Society - known in the am dram community as IODS. I shall be strutting my stuff in the IODS production of Summer Holiday.

Following in the footprints of other magnificent performers who have graced The Regent stage like Engelbert Humperdinck and Mary Hopkin (who?) and Aled Jones (yawn) I expect, a performer of my calibre shall do justice to the stage as I join the elated ranks of world famous acts.

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Alongside my photographer-no-fools-suffering-friend Lucy, who seems to suffer no stage fright despite doing a most remarkable dance with an umbrella, I shall be slapping on the make-up and appearing under the largest proscenium arch in East Anglia. I hope I fit.

As the excited audience will no doubt note during the performance, despite my best attempts to lurk at the back and look handsome, I am propelled to the front in several places.

As you may remember in Summer Holiday Cliff Richard and chums leave London 1963 and head-off to a lifetime of royalty cheques and fame in a big red bus.

I mentioned my forthcoming appearance to an excited friend.

“You're not the bus are you?” he rather unkindly suggested.

We haven't spoken since.

So as I shove my hands in the air and remember that my feet are meant to be doing “shuffle-shuffle-back-and-three-four-forward, step-back and pause-click-click-and-shadow-step-shadow-step-and-repeat.” I have at times wondered what in God's name possessed me.

The answer is of course I am a show-off, and so are the rest of them.

Indeed among the company of fellow and more experienced thespians I am positively shy. In fact I am almost reclusive compared to the leading ladies.

Though bigamy or even polygamy is a dirty word my legion of fans will also note from their seats in the stalls that, for the purposes of theatre, I have three wives, two different daughters and four competing nationalities-no wonder I am confused-and slightly frightened.

So today I have decided to introduce my dear readers to my new wives.

Wife one

Lindsey: who has told me she is “more of a singer really than a dancer”and I appear several times together, including a moment where we first meet enjoying an intimate glass of crème de cassis in a nightclub followed by a scene where we celebrate our daughter's wedding.

Wife two

I drift on stage right with second wife Ruth before a humpty dumpty cameo, which, to be frank, the casting of hasn't said much for my dramatic weight loss. Ruth, who is in fact single, then drags me off the stage in a fit of jealous pique after another lady, not my wife, starts getting her claws into me. God I am in demand.

Wife three

Not only do I have to move about very quickly with a group of other people while blending in and singing perfectly, I also now have to order a slim line tonic and two chocolate milkshakes in an Alpine café with my third wife Sue. She's not too difficult though. I let her discipline our daughter and read the paper.

After a specific request by me, my costumes, which I am assured have been specially shipped from overseas (the Isle of Wight), should not include shorts in case the audience goes on the rampage at the sight.

I am beginning to understand what Humpy was on about when he was belting out Please Release Me.

Regular readers -my favourite kind- will remember that last week I appealed to my dedicated fans to write to me with their problems.

Naturally, many of you have suspected I am a kind and caring lad with time to listen and earnest concern. So of course I have already been inundated with requests for help.

Here's what has dropped into my postbag this week.


Dear James,

I am nearly 30 and have just discovered my first wrinkle. What should I do?

Miss A, late twenties.


Dear Miss A

I am 42 and I am wrinkle free, gorgeous and handsome. My secret is to tell people I am older than I actually am. I always look marvellous for my age. Judging by your enclosed picture you look ok for 51.

Mrs R, of Kesgrave, claims her question is “the most pressing situation I have to resolve in my life”.


Should I take a rain mac or fleecy jacket to Spain this weekend? Not so straight forward as you might think as I know I'm going to be out in the evening which is forecast to be cold following mild, but possibly showery days. No, I don't have room for both in my cabin sized weekend case.

Your thoughts will be gratefully received,


Take a wax jacket. It will be warm and waterproof and in a country that is full of English ex-publicans and Mike Reed types who think orange skin and drinking cheap wine out of a jug is sophisticated-you will add a touch of class. Just like Camilla Cornwall.

If you would like solutions to what's keeping you awake at night, do write or e-mail me and I will advise as I see fit. Be warned!