ONE of my favourite pastimes is giving talks to women’s institutes, because the ladies are always very appreciative, laugh in all the right places and bestow upon me scones, biscuits and cakes the Test Match Special team can only dream about.

During a recent talk, one of the members asked me if all the mishaps I write about in this column are true, clearly not believing that one man could be so terminally clumsy, accident prone and just plain daft.

I can say with all honesty I don’t make these things up – nobody would believe me!

If only that lady had known that that very morning, whilst going about my equine effluvia disposal business, I found myself shuffling along with an even odder gait than usual. I glanced down and noted with some dismay that I had managed to put my wellies on the wrong feet.

Not only that, but my waterproof leggings were on back to front.

I could claim that my advancing years had caused me to lose the ability to dress myself with reasonable acumen, but dealing with clothing is something I have struggled with throughout my life.

When I started grammar school, I had to wear a tie for the first time in my life and had no idea how to tie one. My father demonstrated many times how to tie a perfect Windsor knot, but I failed miserably, and spent my entire school life slipping my tie over my head without ever retying it.

But the tie was nothing compared to the school cap, which had to be worn every day – going capless was an offence punishable by a thrashing with a gym shoe.

I have an enormous bonce, and even the biggest cap the school outfitter could supply would only balance on my head like a dinner plate, falling off every time I moved my head.

I considered having a cowboy style chin strap, or even using my Nana’s hat-pin to keep it in place, but the pearl knob on the end would have been a step too far. Beatings abounded.

I may have mentioned before that I was once sitting at my desk at work when Mrs Hextol rang me to ask which shoes I was wearing.

I thought it an odd question, until I cast my eyes down to my feet, which were sporting one black shoe and one brown shoe.

She crowed: “And you have another pair just the same at home!”

Like most young men in the 70s, I went through a phase of wearing extravagantly flared trousers, but I doubt many other youngsters managed to set theirs on fire by standing too close to an electric fire.

I did it not once, but twice in the same week.

When I was in my early teens, I used some of the pittance I earned from my paper round to buy a pair of blue jeans from the local Army and Navy Store.

I thought I looked the business, until someone asked me if I had come from the council to look at their leaky pipes.

One successful series of purchases from the Army and Navy Stores though was the donkey jackets I wore throughout my early teens.

Made of robust wool, with black plastic across the shoulders, my “moke coat” served me well for many years come rain or shine, winter or summer.

Usually coupled with a woolly bob hat knitted by my Nana, my donkey jacket kept me glowing like a Ready Brek addict who took his holidays at Sellafield.

The pockets were always crammed with “stuff” from half sucked gobstobbers and doubled over Penny Arrow bars to a length of string, conkers and a penknife, should anyone fancy a game of split the kipper.

The penknife was always razor sharp, honed by my father on his oilstone with the liberal application of the Three-in-One Oil which was seldom used on the bike chain.

“There’s no use carrying a blunt knife, lad,” he would declare, before testing his handiwork by shaving a chunk of hair off the back of my neck.

A sharp knife was always useful in my case, because my hands were perpetually covered in spelks, splinters, buried thorns and other detritus from a life spent outdoors.

I spent many happy hours poking holes in my skin to winkle out troublesome foreign bodies, which resulted in the creation of sore spots far more painful than the original spelk had been.