As I wobble unsteadily through the opening laps of my eighth decade, there are few signs yet of me slowing down.

I could have done with a touch of the brakes on my hectic lifestyle the other day, when what should have been a sedate stroll with the dog went a bit haywire.

She is getting a bit doddery now, with her eyes and ears closely following her back legs towards the knackers yard.

However, there is no let up to her lifelong aversion to other dogs.

The proximity of any other canine sends her all of a bristle, so she is seldom off the lead.

We were coming back from our morning constitutional the other day when I saw a posse of hikers approaching with two or three yappy dogs, so opted to leave the regular path to avoid a confrontation.

I burrowed my way through waist high undergrowth to an alternative route I used to use on a regular basis, only to find it was heavily overgrown through lack of use.

However, we ploughed on through thickets of nettles and even more brambles, until I discovered the route was blocked by an accumulation of hedge trimmings.

I tried to blunder my way round them, but inevitably, lost my footing, and rolled inelegantly down the steep bank, mowing down nettles and finished up enmeshed in a barricade of brambles.

There was a time when if you got nettled, it would itch for five minutes or so, with the skin erupting in a heavy crop of blisters, before equilibrium was restored by the vigorous application of a dock leaf.

Now I find that nettle stings leave no rash, but are still burning agonisingly several days later.

I knew I had that to look forward to, but more pressing was the removal of the 1001 bramble thorns which had inserted themselves into various parts of my person.

They may be tiny, but cause havoc with me until winkled out by the thinnest needle in Mrs Hextol’s sewing box, which still leaves a mighty crater in the epidermis.

As I wallowed in noxious vegetation the dog looked on in some astonishment, too amused by my downfall to notice her worst enemy, a black Labrador, sauntering by.

We limped home together, and when I was putting my wellies back in the garage, I saw the step ladder I had been using to prune the roses round the front door was still standing in the middle of the garage floor.

I decided to put it away properly - as I should have done earlier - and was just folding it up when I experienced the most exquisite agony in my third finger.

Briefly thought I must have damaged it in the fall, and then assumed I was being stung by a wasp, and several seconds passed before it dawned on me that I had my finger stuck in the hinge of the steps I was vigorously trying to squeeze together.

When I prised the legs apart, I fully expected to see my finger lying on the floor, emitting little jets of blood, but thankfully, it remained in situ, albeit several times its usual size.

I tried to sneak unobtrusively back into the house, but Mrs Hextol has an eye for my mishaps, and said: “You’ve fallen again haven’t you? You’re covered in dead leaves and squashed blackberries.”

She knows from bitter experience that I seldom hurt myself in my tumbles, as I don’t have very far to fall, so she soon had me back at work in the garden, where work to prevent our garden disappearing into next door’s was proceeding apace.

I had accumulated a vast conglomeration of rubble, soil, bricks and chunks of cement from beneath the block paving, which was residing on a large sheet of plastic.

She said: “You’ll have to shift that lot so you can start nailing the rails on the posts. Just grab the plastic and you will be able to slide it out of the way.”

I dutifully seized a double handful of plastic and gave it an experimental heave.

It was like trying to move Hexham Abbey.

But I stuck to the task, and renewed my grip before applying irresistible pressure.

Something had to give, and it was the plastic.

It parted with a twang, causing me to shoot backwards and land with the small of my back on a chunk of concrete.

Mrs Hextol came out to investigate and said worriedly: “ Nobody saw you did they?”