WHEN I retired from full time journalism, I was obliged to grit my teeth more than once at the number of people who wished me all the best in my supposed new world of pipe and slippers.

I have never smoked tobacco in my life. I still remember my brother throwing up copiously when our father forced him to smoke a briar jammed with evil dark shag, after catching him enjoying a crafty Woodbine, in a bid to put him off the hypnotic weed for life.

It didn’t work for my brother, but it certainly did for me.

Slippers though, are another matter entirely, and I must have worked my way through more than a dozen pairs in the four and a half years since I hung up my reporter’s trilby and shabby mac.

The thing is, I tend to wear them outside rather than just in the house,which ups the wear and tear considerably.

I have been known to walk the dog in them – through absent-mindedness rather than by design – and a few days ago, I managed to tread in some dog muck in my slippers and trail the odiferous evidence through much of the house.

They were consigned to the bin, and since then, I have been searching for new slippers without success.

As well as bulk buying toilet rolls in the early days of the pandemic, panic buyers also appear to have been snapping up every pair of comfy slippers in a size seven for miles around.

I tried several local shops before the search went international and I risked the wrath of Wee Jimmy Krankie by sneaking over the Border to Jedburgh, where slippers in many shades of tartan have been tempting busloads of tourists since the Capon Tree was nothing but a sapling.

We pulled into the car park of the twin mill shops on the outskirts of the ancient royal burgh – and were aghast to find them both locked up and deserted.

In the absence of Shearings coaches jammed with free spending white haired travellers with money to burn on tins of shortbread, accordion music and presumably tartan slippers, the management had decided to stay closed.

We were determined to give Scotland another chance, and a few days later headed to the opposite side of Caledonia to a factory outlet centre at Gretna.

It was the height of the Scottish summer, with heavy rain being whipped into a frenzy by a stiff breeze straight from the slopes of Schiehallion, which reflected the mood of the security staff.

We mistakenly tried to get in via the exit, but were stopped by the heaviest of heavies.

There was no-one else in sight, and we hoped he might take pity on two bedraggled pensioners trying to get no further than the welcoming embrace of M&S just five yards away.

Not a bit off it – he took delight in making us march several hundred yards to the designated entrance, before making our way past lots of shops – many of them closed – to get back to M&S.

We were now hungry as well as cold and wet, so Mrs Hextol instructed me to stand in the queue at Subway for a chicken sandwich, while she joined the M&S queue to purchase slippers.

I had never been in Subway before, and did not realise what a complex transaction it was for a deaf bloke!

I have to take my hearing aids out while wearing a mask, as there is no room behind my ears for loops, specs and aids at the same time.

Things were further complicated because as soon as I walked into the shop, my specs steamed up, making me blind as well as deaf.

Hearing problems were exacerbated by the fact the girl behind the counter was also wearing a mask so I couldn't tell a word she was saying.

She finally conveyed that I had to make a choice of bread from a picture of several loaves which I could not make out. I said I wanted chicken salad, and she picked and flicked at bits from various boxes, asking all manner of questions which I failed to hear, so I just kept nodding.

When I blundered my steamy way back to the car, my dear wife said: "You've forgotten the mayonnaise, and where's my drink?"

I have to say even without mayonnaise, the sandwiches were delicious – which almost made up for the fact that M&S didn’t have any slippers either.