THIS ISLAND LIFE YOU see before you a troubled man. All may appear normal on the outside; after all, there is still some cricket left to be played in this agreeable summer and my beautiful grand-daughter, Miss Betsy Barry, has provided me with 12 months of happiness and glorious distraction.
But I should not be judged by my carefree air. I am fretting within and my waking thoughts are occupied by one all-consuming concern — the safety of La Hofton, crochet artist, green tea connoisseur and scourge of County Hall.
She may only dwell in the basement area of this page but I have become rather attached to her eccentricities over the years and feel I have a duty of care.
My worries began last week when I read of a local reporter in Islington — one David Churchill — who had been threatened by a councillor who didn’t much care for the articles written about him.
He received an e-mail from this tetchy herbert called Gary Doolan, who told Churchill he could "drop off the end of a cliff for all I care".
As far as I know, cliffs are not a common feature in the landscape of Islington, so there is little possibility of the hack being found at the bottom of one, whether by accident or design.
But Cllr Doolan (who is also a union official and a member of the Labour Party, so you can imagine the uppity paranoia seething within) added: "I will seek revenge and people will tell you I always get my revenge."
He was later kind enough to clarify his retribution would be "of an industrial or legal kind", rather than any form of violence.
Doolan’s mood was not greatly improved when, after crowing that Churchill had been sacked for his so-called misdemeanours, he later discovered the scribe was in fact leaving the Islington Gazette of his own volition to take up a far more prestigious position on the Evening Standard.
Upon learning of this unseemly spat, my thoughts turned immediately to the safety and wellbeing of La Hofton, who has been aiming her ballpoint like a harpoon at the backsides of our local representatives for many years.
Just how much bitterness and thirst for vengeance has been festering in the hearts of the former Conservative administration as they lurk in the shadows?
Are they, even as we speak, planning a campaign of revenge for the misery she visited upon them in the columns of this newspaper over the past eight years?
Then there are her latest victims, the oxymorons, whose excoriation has only just begun. Will they decide to get their retaliation in first?
After all, there are some burly types on their side of the council chamber these days and it would take a brave soul not to be intimidated by the prospect of meeting Bob Blezzard and Colin Richards in Watchbell Lane on a dark night (or in the full glare of the noonday sun, for that matter).
With all this in mind, Malc Lawrence, Grumpy Greening and I have been acting as silent sentinels outside the basement door in recent nights, armed only with walking sticks, flasks of Brown Windsor soup and tubes of Algipan.
The Gregorian chants and whiff of smouldering incense emanating from within have made our vigil more trying than it needed to be but we are determined to maintain our devotion to duty.
After all, if something happened to the old dear, anyone could be moved in downstairs.
The theatre of memories
The Theatre Royal, Ryde, a magical place.
THERE'S something about Ryde’s three original cinemas — the Scala, Theatre Royal and Commodore — that is lodged deep in the psyche of many locals.
The mere mention of those flickering, faded temples of a million memories always has people kick-starting their computers to get the e-mails rolling in.
Bob Welch, for example, remembers appearing in a musical at the Theatre Royal (always my favourite of the three) just before the last war, while a pupil at Oakfield C of E Boys’ School.
He wrote: 'It was a magical place and the thing I recall above all was the maze of passages and rooms under the stage."
He concedes that the grubby old Scala was indeed the acknowledged flea-pit (all self-respecting towns had one) but it didn’t stop his mother from visiting the place on 13 consecutive Thursday afternoons to watch the first serial of The Lone Ranger from beginning to end.
I got the impression from Bob it was the Commodore which marked his transition from wide-eyed innocent to lusting adolescent.
He wrote: 'The Commodore was the flash new cinema and ballroom and my first visit there was as a member of The Mickey Mouse Club on Saturday mornings, when there was always a western, a cartoon and a serial.
'Of course, as we got older, the ballroom and the big girls became our main interest but still the meeting place was the Commodore.
'But the cinema was not entirely ignored. My wife and I spent many happy hours upstairs in the back row.’