The purchase of swimming attire is not something which I have engaged in very often in my 60-odd years on the planet.

But at the weekend I found myself with Mrs Hextol wandering round the MetroCentre for the first time in aeons, in search of a couple of pairs of Speedo-style swimming briefs.

It was not my intention you understand to outrage public decency by besporting myself in these figure hugging garments, but they were to wear underneath my entirely more appropriate sedate swimming shorts.

Like most things, it was Mrs Hextol’s doing, as she has a deep seated conviction that modern swimming shorts are sadly lacking on the modesty front.

While these shorts have what seems like yards of built in netting to keep everything tucked safely out of sight of fellow beach users, Mrs Hextol is convinced there is a certain class of person who spends their entire holiday wandering round the beach looking up the legs of men’s shorts.

She says: “When you go to sleep on the beach – as you always do – your legs loll about all over the place, and people can see everything.”

Why anyone would want a glimpse of the undercarriage of an overweight elderly gent is beyond me but Mrs Hextol insists that additional swimming trunks must be worn at all times.

I do in fact already own two pairs of genuine Speedos, snapped up many years ago for £1 a pair in a sale at a sports shop on the Isle of Skye, where I don’t suppose there is much demand for racy swimming trunks.

However, after touring the world unseen for around 20 years, they have been ruled no longer fit for purpose.

“The Elastane has gone, and the colours have all faded away,” she declared, and my protests that only trouser leg peeping toms would be aware of that fell on deaf ears.

So we went round all the leisure wear and sports shops in the MetroCentre for many hours, and while there were swimming shorts by the bucket load, there were no swimming briefs to be seen at any of them.

Eventually, Mrs Hextol approached a young assistant in a trendy sports shop, and said in a loud voice: “Do you have any of those budgie hugger swimming trunks that would fit my husband here?”

He looked aghast, so I interjected hastily: “I think she means budgie smugglers…”

“No no,” said the young man. “We don’t do anything like that for your age group. Perhaps you should try Argos.”

We didn’t try Argos, but beat a hasty retreat from Gateshead’s tribute to Mammon, and decided instead to look online back home.

It was my turn to look aghast, at the sums being sort of these little strips of cloth, and even Mrs Hextol ruefully acknowledged: “Well, perhaps you can get another summer out of your old droopy drawers.”

In my younger and less flabby days, I did take to the water in the Speedos, and found the transition to swimming shorts something of an ordeal.

I invariably left something in the pocket – usually money – and it was quite tricky trying to pay for dos cervezas with a fistful of sodden pesetas.

Photographs in my pre-school years show me clad in a woollen all in one suit, with arms included, and even at five years old, I can still remember how heavy it was once it got wet.

The crotch sagged down to below knee level, and I had great ridges where the arms dug painfully into my tender flesh.

My second swim suit thankfully came without arms, but it was still made of wool, and the string round the middle was always fighting a losing battle to keep my dignity intact. There was a permanent red ring round my belly where the string cut in.

Perhaps because of the shortcomings of my apparel, I never learned to swim properly, and was probably the only child in Macclesfield not to achieve even the five-metre badge.

During swimming lessons, I just clung to the bar at the edge of the pool like a little fat limpet, hoping that no-one would notice I wasn’t actually doing any swimming.

I was well into my teens when I eventually developed a sort of stately side-stroke which was more to do with not drowning than making progress in the water, and I’m sure if I tried go for my five metres badge now, I might come close to getting it.