WHEN I give my talks, I begin by introducing myself as being someone who writes about quite interesting things like local politics and Brexit and very interesting things like local history.

Six months ago, I could repeat that sentence without interruption. By the time we reached Christmas, people would start light-hearted heckling when I mentioned the B-word, but as the year has worn on the B-word has greeted with increasingly cold hostility.

“Hoy – do not mention that word in here,” said a woman this week in an unamused voice that was so steely that I immediately launched into my theatre history talk for fear I was going to be drummed out of the community centre.

People now seem utterly exasperated and fed up with never-ending B-process which is continually chewing up the news bulletins without making any progress. I’ve always thought that somehow, through fudge and bluster, the Prime Minister would get her deal through, but the closer we come to the “meaningful vote”, the less likely that seems.

It all now relies on “Cox’s codpiece” – whatever addendum about the Irish border issue that the Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox can persuade the EU to place over the withdrawal agreement.

You can tell things are desperate when we’re reduced to sniggering at codpieces. “Codd” is an old English word for a bag or pouch. By the 14th Century, it had become a rather rude word for the flabby sack of skin that is the scrotum, and so in the 15th Century when a ridiculous fashion arose for men to wear an ostentatious adornment on the front of their close-fitting breeches, it became known as a “cod-piece”.

Codpiece wearing peaked in the 1540s, and went into serious decline in the 1590s, but we are relying on a codpiece to get us out of a Brexit hole in the 2010s.

“Hoy – do not mention that word in here,” so I’ll move on to something else that has been causing me pain: a growth of dry skin on the ball of my foot. Some people have developed an unhealthy fascination with my gout – I’ve been sent tips and cures and recently I was introduced as “the most famous gout-sufferer in the North-East”, which is a hell of a claim to fame.

The gout, thank-you, is now under control, but I think because I’ve spent a year walking awkwardly, I have built up a pad of nicotine-coloured skin. This has introduced me to some new words. A bunion, for example, probably comes from the Italian bugnone, which means “a push, bile, blane or botch”.

But as a bunion is usually on a toe, I haven’t got one of those. A corn? This strange word comes from the Latin “cornu”, which is something hard that juts out, like the horn of an animal or a piece of land. In old English it was called an “agnail” because it looks like, and feels like, an iron nail driven into the foot.

Mine’s not as painful as that, so it must be a callus, which again is Latin for the tough skin of an edible fruit or animal. A callous person is one who is hard and unfeeling – just like my callus.

So while I’m examining the growth on the bottom of my foot, I just hope the country doesn’t shoot itself in the foot next week.