BEFORE I retired, one of the great joys of life was going abroad on holiday. Quite early in life, I took the conscious decision to get away from it all as frequently as holiday entitlement and purse strings would allow.

People said I should be saving up for retirement rather than squandering my wages on trips to far flung lands, but I reasoned that little fat folk in general tended not to enjoy lengthy retirements, so it was appropriate to see the world while we were young and fit enough to enjoy it.

And three years into retirement, I have no regrets about all those summers of sea and sand. We used to enjoy five weeks holiday, plus bank holidays, and those five weeks were usually spent sizzling on some foreign beach.

I confess I am not really one for soaking up the atmosphere of the “real” Greece or Mesopotamia – give me a stretch of sand and a lively sea and I will lie there all day, wherever it may be. If going off on crack of dawn excursions to see unspoilt villages and the traditional way of life in Far Cathay is how some people want to spend their holidays I won’t knock it – what people do in their leisure time is entirely up to them – it’s just not for me!

We started off camping in Scotland, before graduating to caravanning in Wales, where we once saw the Red Arrows rehearsing one of their more spectacular routines as well as witnessing the unusual sight of a ecstatic religious group from the West Midlands hallelujahing their way to a mass total immersion baptism in the chilly waters of the Irish Sea.

Getting a family of six abroad was something of challenge, but we eventually made it, spending a memorable two weeks on the Venetian Riviera, before investing a fortune on feeding pigeons in St Mark’s Square and learning that Germans do not appreciate the subtleties of queuing.

We also went to Yugoslavia by bus on a youth football trip, and spent notes with six zeros on them to buy an ice lolly.

Flights were occasionally eventful, such as the Friday the 13th one returning from Fuerteventura which lurched crazily all over the sky before the pilot announced he had lost control of one side of the aircraft. Everyone left the cockpit to peer at the wing, before returning to their seats to tell us we were going to have to make an emergency landing – four hours later in Manchester!

The flight passed in total silence, and of course the landing at Ringway was perfect, apart from the fleet of fire engines and ambulances which raced alongside the aircraft as soon as it touched down.

We were offered the choice of returning to Newcastle by train, coach or another aircraft – and chose to fly, for had we not, we would probably have never got on a plane again.

It was several years later we learned that the problem was caused by a mechanic’s torch left inside the wing, which jammed an aileron, and that the pilot genuinely believed that the plane was going to crash, and had never flown again!

We also had to make an emergency landing at Newcastle Airport, when smoke was spotted coming from the engine of another plane on take-off. We had to fly out over the North Sea to jettison fuel.

I still wonder what would have happened if some poor fisherman had been lighting his pipe when the avtur came raining down, and all traffic on the A696 was brought to a halt as we landed, again accompanied by fire engines and ambulances.

But these little mishaps have never put me off visiting foreign parts, whether it be riding a camel in Tunisia, crossing one of the world’s most spectacular footbridges in Canada, riding to the top of a Norwegian mountain in a cable car and coming down again by helicopter, getting up close and personal with a black mamba in Kenya and being given brain freeze by a slush-style pina colada in the sunny British Virgin Islands.

I have stood on the shores where the great Pacific roars, dabbled my toes in the murky waters of the Indian Ocean, trodden on a turtle in the Caribbean and been brushed against by inquisitive dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

So I have a lifetime of memories, and a suitcase full of photographs to see me through retirement – with plenty more holidays to look forward to!