NOW I’m a grandad, with old age looming fast on the horizon, my body is starting to wear out.

I’ve got three knee operations behind me and it takes me an hour to get my socks on because I’m just not as bendy as I used to be.

I also creak like the Tin Man before he gets the oil-can when I turn my neck to check for traffic at a T-junction.

My latest malfunction meant I had to go into hospital recently for a minor procedure. There’s no need to go into detail – let’s just say it was to check on the ‘plumbing’ and required me to leave my dignity at the door.

I took a deep breath, turned up at the appointed time, and a nurse with a very reassuring manner handed me two flimsy dressing gowns, some throw-away slippers, and the obligatory pair of paper pants.

“You just need to put these on, love,” she said, pulling the curtains around me. “One dressing gown ties up at the front and the other one ties up at the back.”

I don’t know about you, but I panic in situations like these. I feel as though I’ve been set some kind of time challenge that has to be completed as quickly as humanly possible. My heart starts beating faster, I start sweating, and I struggle with the simple task of undoing buttons as I imagine the nurse waiting outside with a stopwatch.

In what seemed like less than a minute, the nurse was opening the curtains again with a cheery: “Right love, are we all done?”

Then, she looked me up and down, put her hands on her hips, and took a deep sigh: “What on earth have you done?”

“Sorry, what do you mean?” I asked, sheepishly

“Well, for a start, you’re supposed to put your arms through the sleeves!” she laughed.

Somehow, I’d managed to tie myself into the two dressing gowns like a straitjacket. They were so tight, I’d have resembled a penguin if I’d tried to walk down to the operating theatre. And to make matters worse, in my blind panic, I’d fastened them up with knots a Cub Scout would have been proud of.

“Do you mind if I do it for you, love?” the nurse asked. “They’re going to be wondering where you’ve got to.”

I had no choice but to give the nurse permission to take control of my garments. With the help of a pair of scissors, she managed to untie the knots and took the dressing gowns off.

It is at times like this when I have to say it’s something of a disadvantage to have been a public figure, as a long-standing former newspaper editor in the local community.

As I stood there in just my paper pants and throw-away slippers, minutes away from having a camera inserted where the sun doesn’t shine, the nurse said: “Do you mind me asking, love – are you that Peter Barron, from The Northern Echo?”

I told her she was mistaken.


JUST when her five boys thought they were finally safe from public humiliation, former Mum At Large, Ruth Campbell, has been in touch with another couple of snippets

Her eldest, William, is 26 now, and he’s only just admitted that he thought the delicious Indian fried onion delicacy he sometimes has as a take-away was called an “Um Yum Bhaji” until he was 16.

MEANWHILE, a fellow mum at work was telling Ruth that her son’s college is running life-skills classes but he told the tutor he didn’t need them because: “My mum does all that.”