Columnist James Marston talks Peter Sarstedt, entertaining intimates and the downfalls of lighting a log fire

Sea views in Felixstowe (Picture: Chris Rawlings)

Sea views in Felixstowe (Picture: Chris Rawlings) - Credit: Archant

As I relax in Felixstowe in my small flat with sea views (distant) I note that Peter Sarstedt joined the latest in the ranks of celebrity deaths a few days ago.

It was he, of course, who wrote Where Do You Go My Lovely? back in 1969 when there wasn't any of this Brexit business to worry about, spaghetti bolognaise was exotic, and you could buy a house of under £5,000 and still have enough change for an Austin Maxi.

Anyway Mr Sarstedt's hit number included the line 'And you sip your Napoleon brandy ... But you never get your lips wet, no you don't,' well yes you do.

I thought I might give it a go with a gin and Dubonnet before a sumptuous steak and mushroom pie - bought puff for those interested - that I happened to be cooking for a few intimates last weekend but after three of these to calm my nerves I discovered that it's not so easy. Though I suppose that's the point of wetting your whistle in the first place.

After dinner I suggested we retire to the sitting room for coffee and mint thins – I had a few left over from Christmas that I had managed not to wolf down in front of Antiques Roadshow.

I decided to light the fire to make it all cosy like - my mother Sue was among the guests and she feels the cold - but instead of creating a warming focal point around which to engage in the gentle art of conversation, smoke billowed into my sitting room instead of up the chimney prompting everyone to shout out their views on about air pressure and birds nests as sitting room visibility dropped to precarious levels.

My sister Claire, she's the one who wants to marry a farmer with 4,000 acres and a weak pulse, is of practical mind and flung open windows and the fire eventually began to draw.

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Of course, by the time we finally sat down the conversation turned, rather depressingly and amid some coughing, to the subject of how to get the smell of smoke out of a camisole and, for some reason, how dangerous sofas are fire-wise.

The upshot is of this incident – and if you have any ideas on why a fire might not draw, it was a foggy damp night, do let me know - I've decided to offer guests rugs for their knees rather than risk near asphyxiation.

And I can tell you that by the time it was all over I needed a medicinal brandy, Napoleon or otherwise.

In other news I have been at the ancient church of St James in Ickingham where regular readers will know I am the organist. The church's kitchen and toilet are now almost complete and I hear we have a bishop coming to give them the once over in April, an event which is to prompt a flurry of cake making apparently.

It's been a busy week work wise as well with a trip to the newspaper's offices in Norwich where, unlike the Bury St Edmunds bureau where I sometimes take what is known as a hot desk, they have a canteen. I had a meat feast pizza with chips.

Interestingly I rather like pineapple and cheese on sticks as an amuse bouche, according to my research it first emerged in 1969.

What was life like in 1969? I'm far too old to remember but I'd like to know. Do drop me a line at

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