Ralph’s weekly column returns to Bath Chronicle

I’m back, folks, and to quote Cassandra when his famous Daily Mail column was resumed after the war: ‘As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted…’

A lot of water has passed under Pulteney Bridge since last I graced these pages. For a start, I’ve retired from Natural Theatre Company. Nearly forty five years of dressing up and pretending to be someone else all round the world seemed quite enough, thank you.

And when I say all round the world I mean it. The Naturals took me to fifty seven different countries if you count Guernsey as a country. That includes seven trips to Japan, four to Australia, most of South America and a one night stand in the Virgin Islands.

I’ve got at least one funny story from each country except Luxemburg. There’s nothing funny about Luxemburg, which is funny in itself really.

I do still dress up very occasionally, if offered a large enough fee. Yes, my cultured alter-ego Lady Margaret is still available for openings and closings, though as both Her Ladyship and I have recently lost three stone, the frocks might be a bit baggy. Lady M will be treading the boards at Christmas and New Year, overseeing the bonkers bingo nights at Bath’s quirky Igloo venue. They’ve billed it as ‘drag queen bingo’, though Margaret is hardly a drag queen. She’ll have to order her ancient butler to don a feather boa and fishnets, methinks. Hmm, perhaps not the fishnets.

Her Ladyship once attended a Bath Chronicle business breakfast. They introduced her as a character from Natural Theatre Company, at which point Don Foster MP leapt to his feet and cried ‘I object most strongly. Lady Margaret is not a character, she is a real live person!’  Possibly one of the best reviews I’ve had for a performance.

No, these days I’m mostly occupied with dreaming up stunts for the annual Bath Comedy Festival, of which I am Associate Director Special Events no less. As you may have heard, I successfully applied to Arts Council England on the festival’s behalf, raising £15,000 for marketing and audience development.

I found their new online application portal terribly difficult to use. It kept timing me out. I called the Arts Council customer services department and asked (almost in tears) to be unblocked for the umpteenth time.  Is it because I’m a doddery silver surfer I enquired, my voice quavering? No they said, lots of people are struggling with it. They’re used to the old system. What, I said, that old system when we used to just phone you, ask for the money and you gave it to us? Those were the days. I seem to remember some years ago the Naturals were given two brand new Iveco crew buses, and they’d only asked for one. We parked the second one out the front and used it as the world’s most expensive shed.

I might be slightly exaggerating there. But only slightly.

For news on Bath Comedy Festival visit the web site at www.bathcomedy.com

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