WHEN you are guests at a wedding, it is perhaps not entirely the done thing to hit the mother of the bridegroom on top of the head with a wet and sticky, slime- coated rubber ball.

In fairness, she wasn’t wearing her lovely white feathery fascinator at the time, but I have yet to find the manoeuvre featured in any of the Courant’s ever-valuable wedding guides.

Like so many events in my life, it was an accident of course.

I was entertaining Bob the indefatigable Border Terrier by throwing his ball for him to fetch back to me during a lull in proceedings, when the mother of the bridegroom unexpectedly stood up and received the missile right on her napper.

There was a moment’s appalled silence, during which I was impaled by one of Mrs Hextol’s thermonuclear glares, but happily, neither ball nor the matriarch suffered any real hurt, and the dog caught the rebound.

The wedding took place in a vineyard in the leafy lanes of Surrey, and for some time it was touch and go whether we would get there.

I was not allowed to drive for a month after suffering my recent stroke, and the month was not up until a few days before the nuptials.

Happily, my consultant raised no objections, even though I may have left him with some doubts over my mental acuity during his examination of my portly personage.

I was accompanied at the examination by my personal physician, Mrs Hextol, who mentioned in passing that we had returned from a fortnight in Corfu just four days before my affliction manifested itself.

So when he asked me to lift my tee-shirt so he could listen to my chest, he pointed to my bronzed torso and inquired: “Is this grease?”

I was quite affronted, and responded quite sharply: “I hardly think so – I was mucking out horses this morning, but I had a bath before we came to Hexham.”

It took Mrs Hextol’s intervention to clear up the confusion between grease and Greece!

I was thus allowed to drive the car the 360-odd miles to the wedding venue, but things were complicated by the fact the journey took place on the hottest day of the year, with the in-car thermometer indicating 37C when we hit the monster that is the M25.

We soon discovered that the air conditioning in the vehicle was not working and opening the windows only allowed in superheated air and exhaust fumes from Britain’s biggest car park.

It was so hot even Mrs Hextol’s endless supply of helpful driving hints withered on the vine and it was bliss to finally arrive at our hotel.

It was a lovely place, with an open air pool, and even the London beer was almost drinkable.

The food too was excellent – if you were prepared to wait for it. I needed another shave before my gammon and fried eggs appeared, and I am still waiting for the brown sauce to appear.

Mrs Hextol ordered a cafetiere of coffee, which had everything one could wish for in a postprandial brew – except for the remotest hint of actual coffee, no matter how vigorously the plunger was plunged.

The waitress was summoned, and after peering suspiciously inside, whisked away the offending vessel, explaining that the hotel was running low on coffee beans.

The replacement was almost solid!

The wedding itself was a splendid affair, with the exchange of vows soon followed by a celestial clap of thunder and flash of lightning to signal the end of the heatwave.

We stayed an extra night at the home of the bridegroom’s mother’s sister, which was memorable for the fact that the only access to our allotted bedroom was via a narrow spiral staircase.

I was in the garden playing with the dog when a window opened and a voice rang out: “Mrs Hextol is stuck halfway up the staircase, and can move neither up nor down“

I had to use all my recently- learned techniques for dealing with highly strung thoroughbreds to finagle her to the top of the staircase, before somehow managing to coax her down again.