Ah...pie squared

THE first night party is at my house on Wednesday (that is not an open invitation by the way; do not print this out and produce it at the door because I won't let you in unless you can sing a complete verse and chorus of Springtime for Hitler).

Lynne Mortimer

THE first night party is at my house on Wednesday (that is not an open invitation by the way; do not print this out and produce it at the door because I won't let you in unless you can sing a complete verse and chorus of Springtime for Hitler).

I'm just hoping that there are not too many people there who came along to last year's first night party because it's chilli and strawberries again.

I toyed briefly with the idea of barbecued chicken and chips but quickly reverted to the safety of chilli and rice.

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The first night in question is Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society's production of the stage musical, The Producers, which starts on Wednesday

My husband, who shall, as always, remain nameless like Arthur Daly's “'er indoors” and Rumpole's “she who must be obeyed”, is involved with the show and has invited people back.

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Hopefully, only around 50 or 60 will come as I can only seat high numbers on rotation. Any more than 60 and they'll have to wait 24 hours to sit down.

Once numbers exceed eight I go into a flat spin and can only be revived with Pimms.

The thing is, the party is not my only problem. I also have to lose three inches off my waist by the beginning of July.

In July, I am treading the boards again in a production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies. In last year's summer musical, you may recall, I fell over backstage and injured my shoulder. That was my folly 2008. In Follies 2009, I play an ageing dancer who does a double act with her husband. Oh, for goodness sake - the double act is singing and dancing, of course, what else could it be?

Apart from presenting me with limitless additional opportunities to fall over and hurt myself, the part also requires me to wear a floaty 70s dress and for this, I turned to my old friend eBay.

The size 16, authentically seventies frock, is a vision in salmon pink. When I put it on, I am a sight in salmon pink.

Salmon pink, by the way, is the pink that lies somewhere between real pink and orange. It is a colour rarely found in nature - not even in salmons.

The dress fits me fine over the bust and its okay on the hips but the waist is around three inches smaller than my own.

A few weeks back, I wrote about the undulating features of my figure and have been inundated with suggestions. The two I can print are cycling and Weightwatchers.

The trouble is, one looks like exercise and the other appears to involve self-discipline. Meanwhile, I read that the new pill that helps with weight loss can have unfortunate side-effects such as wind and incontinence, sometimes both together.

I decided my three inches required a more creative solution and came up with - a hula hoop.

Twenty minutes of hula-hooping every evening couldn't fail to reduce my waist measurement, surely. I set aside the fact that, even as a child, I could never make a hula-hoop twirl and set off to find one.

Toys R Us was my first thought - except I thought the 'R' the other way about - and I headed for the children's great joy emporium on the edge of town. Hoops were not, as I hoped, in the sports section but in the kiddies' outdoor play section, along with plastic swings, sandpits, off-road vehicles etc.

As I tried the hoops on for size, it occurred to me that a middle-aged woman playing with hula hoops in a toy store might raise a few eyebrows, even a few questions. I wished I'd borrowed a child to take with me.

This must be one of the best reasons for becoming a grandparent. If you can drag along the grandchildren it makes you look far less silly in toy shops.

I brazened it out. I decided against the laser light hoop which, I assume, flashes. I want to be fit, not have one.

Some of the hoops were too small, more of an ankle bracelet, so I searched for something in extra-large.

The biggest I could find made a noise like maracas but beggars can't be choosers. It would do. I took my hoop to the check-out and tried to look as if I was buying for a child.

“Chardonnay will love it,” I smiled.

I got a smile in return. It was the sort of smile that conveyed complicity. It said: "I know this hula hoop is for you because you're trying lose inches to get into a dress that's too small for you.” But that could have just been me, imagining things.

Back home with my hula hoop, things weren't going to plan. After an hour, I still hadn't managed to make the b***** thing work. Each time I spun it around my 'waist' and wiggled hopefully it simply dropped to the floor.

My husband was enormously helpful.

“Let me have a go,” he demanded and spun the hoop round his waist.

“I'm doing it, I'm doing it!” he yelled as the hoop promptly hit the deck. Over the next 20 minutes we had many false alarms.

“Ah, that time I was nearly there.”

“I've got it! Oh.”

“Yes, yes, yes... no”

Then he decided I had the wrong sort of hula hoop.

Remarkably, he was right. We looked on the internet and it turns out I need something with a much bigger circumference (like a dress that fits you? Ed).

The trouble with a kid's hoop is that you have to rotate your central zone like a whirling dervish to keep it going.

My husband demonstrated the theory that the greater the difference between the circumference of the hoop and the body part you use to spin it, the easier it is.

“This is what you do,” he instructed, whizzing the hoop round his wrist as I narrowed my eyes dangerously. “Only round your waist, obviously,” he added.

“It's all a matter of pi,” he concluded airily.

Or in my case, pies.

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