Do You Come Here Often? Well, just for one final time
An Ulster Log
The passing years and creaking bones have finally caught up with the live concert series Do You Come Here Often. The theatre-going public still loves it dearly, but promoter David Hull has decided, reluctantly, that enough is enough.
So the 20th annual Do You Come Here Often being staged this month and in the New Year will be a swansong.
It's a show that, even with a questionable title that is grammatically incorrect, has been arguably the most successful staged here since its beginnings back in 1996.
However, a few of the veteran artists who have been favourites down those years are getting a wee bit long in the tooth, and although they still sparkle and excite an audience, promoter Hull feels it is time to give them a break.
But he still can't explain before the final curtain comes down why the question mark that would make Do You Come Here Often grammatically correct was allowed to go adrift. Nor did he bother retrieving it.
Do You Come Here Often has been the name tag since that first performance, and will be again on one final tour.
"It's a kind of lucky charm, that missing question mark," Hull reflects about a series that has refused to die and will be packing in the fans a final time with household names - even if some of them are slowing down just a little.
And he will also be joking with the folk in the stalls that they might need a lift to get up on the stage.
Do You Come Here Often opens at the Glencarn Hotel in Castleblaney on Tuesday, December 27, before moving onto the Waterfront in Belfast from Wednesday, December 28, until Friday, December 30.
In the New Year, still without the question mark, the tour moves to the Millennium Forum in Londonderry on Wednesday, January 4, staying there until January 6, before a run in Dublin at The Helix Theatre on Saturday, January 7, and Sunday, January 8.
It will be an emotional tour for singer Muriel Day, who is still enjoying the musical limelight.
She was once married to the great showman Dave Glover, who died in 2009, and memories will flood back as she captivates audiences once again.
She will be remembered for her hit The Wages of Love, with which she once represented Ireland in Eurovision.
On the bill, too, will be Brian Coll, Frankie McBride, Roly Daniels, Paddy Cole, The Cole Superstars, Philomena Begley and Eileen Reid.
Jayne sees double with Cinderella role
It's a festive double for charming Jayne Wisener (29) as she steps on stage tonight in a run that will stretch into the New Year at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, in the Christmas pantomime, Cinderella.
For Jayne, from Ballymoney, is playing the title role at the theatre for the second time in her career. She was Cinders back in 2012 in a sell-out show and is now in the role again by popular demand.
In fact, you could say that it's a treble that is about to be reached by the talented lady - she was in another panto at the Opera House two years ago, when she appeared as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.
"I just love this old place," she says. "My parents used to bring me here as a little girl to sit in the stalls at musicals and pantomimes."
This time as Cinders, her co-star will be Gareth Gates and, as always, May McFettridge will be there - panto just wouldn't be the same without him.
A poetic way to get your P45
A Secretary's Prayer was written, I assume, by a young lady who shortly after showing it to her boss was looking for a job:
Help me to have the memory of an elephant - or at least one three years' long.
By some miracle, let me be able to do all things at once:
Answer four telephones at the same time and type a letter which "must go today" - even though I know it won't be signed until tomorrow.
Let me not lose patience when I search the files for hours for a paper found on the boss's desk.
Give me the knowledge of a university professor with my junior certificate education.
Help me to understand and carry out all instructions without any explanations.
Let me know, without being told, where the boss is, what he is doing and when he'll be back.
And, when the year ends, grant me the foresight not to destroy, when I am told to, records that will be asked for within a few days.
Sheila's moment in the spotlight
Grandmother Sheila Buchanan (nee Arthur) has never forgotten how, as a little girl of 12, she accepted an invitation to climb on stage at the Ulster Hall and sing a solo.
She was in the audience at a concert when the compere asked if a little girl or boy would like to perform.
"I was thrust forward by friends, who said I was always singing around the house," recalls Sheila. "After I did my piece, the nice man presented me with a medal, which I have since lost.
"I never grew up to be a real singer, but I often think of that evening in the Ulster Hall when I got a huge round of applause."
The concert at which Sheila - now 83 and a granny of two - appeared took place in 1945.
The trouble is, she can't remember the name of the compere, or the song she sang to the delight of the audience.
"I'm told it was I Can't Give You Anything But Love," says Sheila, whose mother died when she was seven and whose father was a shipyard man, "but I can't be sure.
If there is anyone still around who was in the Ulster Hall that night when Sheila became a passing star, perhaps they will get in touch.
Alexandra to reprise sell-out Sister Act role at Opera House
Singer-songwriter Alexandra Burke became such a favourite in her sell-out musical comedy Sister Act at the Grand Opera House in Belfast a few weeks ago that she has agreed to return with the same show next summer, from August 14 for a week.
Apart from Sister Act, it helped that the 28-year-old Islington-born charmer had previously starred in The Bodyguard last February at the theatre. She now has a loyal following of fans here. And people love her big hit, Hallelujah.
I need hardly remind Opera House regulars that Sister Act is the story of disco diva Deloris, whose life is turned upside down when she witnesses a murder.
Under protective custody, she is hidden from sight in a convent - disguised as a nun.
Ivan says he'd be barking mad not to help out Bangor animal centre
My old friend Ivan Black won't be conducting his Donaghadee Male Voice Choir in an arrangement of How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? in the Great Hall at Stormont next Thursday, December 8, at 7.30pm - much as he might like to.
You see, the concert Ivan and the Donaghadee Choir are appearing at is in aid of the Assisi Animal Centre near Bangor - and Ivan's much-loved pet dog, an eight-year-old Springer-Collie cross, came from Assisi.
"His name is Troy and he is now part of the family," says Ivan.
"My previous dog, Toby, came from Assisi, too, and was a special friend until he died.
"So, how could I resist a request for the choir and I to sing for the centre?"
A prayer to Gladys could help residents park their problems
There's a lot of changes being made in Belfast around the laws of parking, after homeowners complained that they can't leave their cars by their own garden gates because of drivers coming into town to work and taking up all the spaces. I hope they get the problem sorted.
But, in the meantime, why don't these frustrated folk say a prayer to Gladys, the Patron Saint of Parking?
"Gladys never fails me - she always finds me somewhere to leave the car, even on the busiest of days," claims Ann Grant, a friend of mine.
What puzzles me is that I've never seen the name of Gladys in a list of worthy official saints.
But does that matter? Remember how the biblical powers-that-be rubbished St Christopher after he had been doing good works for years and years?