Take the plates, hold the platitudes

MY playwright friend Susan, also from Felixstowe, has written a new play I learnt over coffee in one of the town's hostelries the other afternoon.

James Marston

MY playwright friend Susan, also from Felixstowe, has written a new play I learnt over coffee in one of the town's hostelries the other afternoon.

It's about Dickens and his mistress.

I didn't have a clue he had a mistress but apparently old Charlie was a bit of a lad in his later years.

Anyway my colleague Richard, a veteran reporter of many years standing, informed me as we discussed the great author that Dickens wrote for a precursor to this very newspaper as a young man.

Whether or not this is true we're not totally sure, perhaps you might be able to correct us, but it might be true as I'm pretty sure Dickens reported in Ipswich during his career.

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In fact Richard said that when he started as a trainee reporter, when he was a just mere boy, he used Dickens' typewriter.

That I found harder to believe.

THERE'S nothing better than having a meal put in front of you is there?

Being cooked for is one of life's pleasures and when I found myself round the table of my stylish friend Beverley, who keeps chickens and always has fresh eggs, I found her turkey dinner most welcome.

So this week it was my turn to reciprocate and I invited a few in to my small Felixstowe flat with sea views (distant) for evening drinks and a quick look around the Edwardian seaside resort and out for a bite to eat.

They were much impressed and thought the Spa gardens most impressive. I couldn't claim it was anything to do with me, having no green fingers.

Interestingly, one of our party asked me how many gardeners tend the beds - a question to which I had no hope of answering.

But if you can satisfy my curiosity, and Beverely's, do let me know.

Anyway, Spa gardens aside, there's something I've been noticing about eating in a restaurant that I wanted to share with you this week.

It seems you can't go out nowadays without what can only be described as meaningless drivel.

Now this is not the fault of any particular restaurateur - it's just an annoying and insidious fashion.

Every time any food is served, or plates taken away, seems to be an excuse for the poor waitress or waiter to indulge in rather unnecessary platitudes.

For example

“Was everything OK for you?”


or “How was that then?”

I don't know about you but I don't really want to have such conversations, do you?

I know they're only doing their jobs but I'm British so I'm unlikely to complain anyway and it means that everyone you're dining with is forced to stop what they are doing or talking about and resort to blank smiles and reciprocal platitudes and then, as soon as the poor girl's back is turned, moan about the service.

Rather like the hairdresser conversation I have mentioned before - “How would you like your hair cut, sir?” replied by “In complete silence and as quickly as possible” - I would prefer to be served unobtrusively and without comment each time I find myself indulging at an eaterie.

This all might sound somewhat curmudgeonly but meaningless drivel has right got my goat.

Have you any thoughts? Do drop me a line.

I NOTE with some amusement that the Queen, a favourite of mine as regular readers will know, celebrated her 83rd birthday by popping round to Edward's , that's her youngest, for a stuffed chicken breast.

Sounds nice doesn't it? Though Sophie can hardly have done a spag bol that night.

Recently I thought to myself I wouldn't mind being a footman for Her Majesty but I guess they a bit nervous of journalists after that Tupperware thing aren't they.

Never mind, I hope she had a nice day.

DO you surf the net?

Very handy for flights and tickets and things isn't it, the internet?

It's also handy for news and goings-on of course.

So don't forget to check our website www.eveningstar.co.uk to catch up on my latest column. It's all there and easy to find.

POOR old Jim Magilton - it seems ITFC football manager isn't a job for life.

As regular readers will know, I have little interest in football mostly because I wouldn't want several thousand people to chant “who ate all the pies” in my direction.

Anyway, I do feel a little sorry for Jim, he never did get the team playing well enough to get into that Premiership thing did he? And because they didn't win enough games he lost his job while the players all get to keep theirs - it hardly seems fair.

And according to one commentator, many were unconvinced he had “the dressing room and club as a whole in harmony” - poor Jim, he couldn't even get the Feng Shui right.

Anyway Roy's going to sort it all out so that's OK.

Dear James,

Your poem by Housmann, reminds me of a poem I learned in Ireland about 66 years ago.

I do not know who wrote it but it fits in with my work very well as I am a gardener for the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and have just met the Queen for the Royal Maundy Service, so life does not get much better.

I see his blood upon the rose

And in the stars the glory of his eyes

His body gleams amid eternal snows

His tears fall from the skies

I see his face in every flower

The thunder and the singing of the birds

Are but his voice and carven by his power

Rocks are his written words

All pathways by his feet are worn

His strong heart stirs the ever beating sea

His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn

His cross is every tree


Weaver Close,