When I was younger, I used to speculate about what I would do with myself when I retired.

I reckoned once I had written my best-selling novel combining life on a small weekly newspaper, catching salmon and scaling bracing rocky peaks in the Cairngorms, I would be rolling in money and would be spending much of my time cruising round the holiday paradises of Europe in my powerful Mercedes.

Well, the novel is still whirring around somewhere at the back of my mind, although I did catch my fair share of salmon, and got to the top of the challenging Buchaille Etive Mhor in snowy Glencoe - although I did fall so awkwardly over a rock on the way down that I instantly developed a prominent third buttock.

However, I am now into my sixth year of retirement, and am proud to say that I am driving that Mercedes through some of the bonniest scenery anywhere,

Driving a school bus between Kielder and Bellingham twice a day may not have been exactly what I fantasised about all those years ago, but it is great fun.

I spent half a century working on newspapers and still can’t break the habit of looking for mistakes in any piece of written matter that comes my way. It used to be the menu in restaurants, where I would infuriate Mrs Hextol by pointing out every misplaced apostrophe, misspelled word or dodgy bit of grammar.

But now it’s social media, where I cannot resist sub-editing error-ridden pieces of prose, even though I know it will bring back caustic rebukes from the anti-grammar police accusing me of ridiculous pedantry and worse.

“This is not an English class. He knew what he meant, we knew what he meant so stop being a smart arse” is one of the milder criticisms I have received.

The first year of retirement was like a never ending holiday, with Caribbean cruises, and other foreign holidays and lots of lazy days in the sun.

But after a while, doing nothing all day begins to pall, so I jumped at the chance to help out my pregnant niece when she needed a hand looking after her rescue ponies.

I left for work just after 6-30am 13 days out of 14, and was kicked, bitten, dragged around and stamped on by the craziest cayuses on the planet.

It didn’t help that the only equine experience I had was riding donkeys on Blackpool Beach as a child, and I never did learn how to put a head collar on.

But I grew to like the horses ,many of which had been victims of hideous cruelty and neglect, and their trust had to be patiently regained. I loved the people I worked with, and the hard graft saw me shed several stones of the traditional press diet of accumulated pies, pints, and pasties, as well as giving me a reason to get up every day.

I stank like a midden and despite multiple steepings in strong detergent and bleach, my horsey clothes still have that unmistakable hint of haylage and ordure about them long after I hung up my muck shovel.

I did a spell at a racing stable before successive covid lockdowns intervened, and I returned to an uneasy life of leisure. Then the chance came up to drive a school bus,a career change which involves jumping through a succession of expensive hoops, which includes having a medical, sitting a knowledge test, undergoing a deep probe to winkle out any criminal record and then doing a course on how to detect and deal with child abuse.

It took many weeks before I was able to don my private hire badge and lanyard, and take the wheel of my Mercedes mini bus and I am now thoroughly enjoying my twice daily jaunts up and down the Upper North Tyne.

Deer dart, badgers bumble along and fish splash in the shimmering lake I watched being born many decades ago.

It all takes me back to the day some years ago when I was walking down Battle Hill in Hexham on my way to the Criterion when I was accosted by a policewoman, who shrilled: “Have you left this bus parked here?” indicating a vast coach obstructing half of one of Hexham’s busiest thoroughfares .

“Do I look like a bus driver?” I retorted indignantly, sucking in my belly and straightening the knot in my dark tie while tucking my white short sleeved shirt into my trousers.

“You do, actually,” said the officer before stalking off to find the real driver