On Sting's Tail; JIM BERRYMAN Has Known Sting since He Was a Rebellious Schoolboy Called Gordon Sumner. Now the Jester at the Singer's Court, Jim Has Written a Revealing Portrait of the Star and His High-Society Friends. MOIRA PETTY Met Him

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JIM BERRYMAN has known Sting since he was a rebellious schoolboy called Gordon Sumner.

Now the jester at the singer's court, Jim has written a revealing portrait of the star and his high-society friends.

They were two working-class schoolboys circling each other on their first day at St Cuthbert's Grammar School in Newcastleupon-Tyne. Their shared love of ribaldry and of baiting the masters, the other boys and, when all else failed, each other, was to be the foundation of a lasting friendship. For now, James Berryman, the son of a silkscreen printer, addressed the other boy, Gordon Sumner, whose father was a milkman, by his surname. 'I wasn't aware I was your butler,' said Gordon. 'Have you got servants at home in Longbenton? Well, you can call me Gordon and I'll call you Berryman.

Spiffing, Berryman. Go feed the hounds.' Jim, as James was always known, still doesn't run to a butler at his council flat. Gordon didn't become Sting (his nickname because of his habit of wearing a yellow and black striped sweater) until he was working as a teacher and doing gigs in the evenings.

Today, he has several butlers at his seven homes across the world and an estimated fortune of [pounds sterling]185 million, which continues to rise with royalties from his days with The Police and his solo career. His English base is Lake House in Wiltshire, a 17th-century manor with 800 acres.

'I first went there a few weeks after he bought it,' says Jim. 'If there was ever a sense that he'd truly made it, that was the defining moment. The grounds are fantastic and you get tired just walking around them. There's a staff of 80, who work there all the time, and 100 people worked on the renovations. A French guy was there for three weeks, just examining the curtains and coming up with new designs for them. I'm more amazed than impressed by all he's got. I never thought he could sing properly. He told me I had perfect pitch and I made it into the school choir, but he didn't.' Jim, 53, a failed bookie who has never married or had a relationship that lasted longer than a year, has been present at many important events in Sting's life, from his wedding in 1992 to actressturned-film producer Trudie Styler, to a party at London's Harry's Bar two years ago to celebrate Sting's CBE.

'At the wedding, Sting was dolled up like Beau Brummel leading Trudie on a horse. I thought it was incredibly naff and I think he does now. Blame Mr Versace. Most of the time Sting looks like a tramp.

He's got a cream woolly jumper he's had about 24 years and I've seen him wear it a hundred times. When you stay with him, it comes out day after day and doesn't smell too sweet. It's the same with the favourite dogtooth jacket he's had for about 15 years.' Jim has written a book, Sting And I, subtitled The Totally Hilarious Story Of Life As Sting's Best Mate. The cover puff lives up to its claims, although Jim says, 'I'm a storyteller, not a writer.

I wasn't very good at English at school. I sit in the pub and tell stories from our school days.' On paper, Sting - rich, successful, glamorous, happily married and a devoted father of six - couldn't be more of a contrast to Jim, who has cultivated a beard and a beer belly and, after long periods on the dole, now works as an assistant in a Newcastle bookie's shop.

'We still relate to each other as if we were 14,' says Jim. 'There was a period, when he first became famous, when we didn't speak for eight years, because I thought I didn't know him any more. He looked like a sourpuss. He was on Juke Box Jury and was unbelievably rude about everyone, and that just wasn't him. He always wanted to get in touch and when we met up we were back in third-form mode within minutes.' A curious subtext of their story is how Sting has funded Jim's various enterprises. 'I've always lost money on the race track or on having a good time.

He once wrote to me that he had had to create a philosophy for lending or giving money, though he broke it with me. …