WHILE it is now some 40 years since I passed my driving test, put me behind the wheel of an unfamiliar vehicle and I suddenly become a toddler trundling a Trunki round an airport lounge.

Coordination goes out of the window, I cannot tell brakes from clutch and am prone to giving people who get in my way an impromptu squirt from the window washers.

And that’s just in a standard manual car – sit me in the driver’s seat of a technically more simple automatic and I skid, lurch and scream around like a child in a dodgem.

I was asked to take control of a quad bike a couple of months ago, which was a task I thought would be a doddle after many years of riding and mostly crashing motor bikes.

However, a fruitless search for the usual twistgrip throttle left me literally empty handed and it had to be pointed out that modern ATVs are operated by a thumb lever.

I gave the lever an experimental blip, and the beast reared up like a maiden aunt who had been thoroughly goosed at the checkout in Tesco.

I chose to walk instead.

Driving abroad is even more of a nightmare – after putting the lives of myself and my family in severe danger after hiring a car in Minorca some 30 years ago , I vowed I would never drive in foreign parts again.

I kangaroo hopped around most of the island, was subjected to more honking horns than the brass section of Johnny and the Hurricanes and my nerves were shredded to rags.

I did break that vow once when we went to Cyprus, where I drove impeccably, the only issue being having a gun waved at us when we got too close to the abandoned city of Famagusta.

I should point out though that the folk in Cyprus are sensible enough to drive on the left.

Mrs Hextol and I also went to Florida to attend the wedding of one of our sons, and the package included the use of a hire car for a fortnight.

We both flatly refused to drive it until Mrs Hextol was forcibly installed in the driver’s seat by the bridegroom to be, but when we got to the hotel, the car stayed in the car park and did not turn a wheel for the duration of the holiday.

I suppose it’s all because I never had any driving lessons, teaching myself to drive in a three wheeler van of the type favoured by Del Boy and Rodney – only mine was sky blue, not yellow.

It was quite by chance that I discovered when studying my bike licence that I was entitled to drive a motor cycle and sidecar combination, a clause which meant I could also drive any other three-wheeled vehicle.

I have huge respect for farmers who drive tractors which are light years away from the paraffin-powered Grey Fergie that used to wheeze around my uncle’s farm in Cumbria.

Sitting in a modern tractor is like being on the flightdeck of the Starship Enterprise, with a myriad of dials, buttons and levers which can unleash a battery of spikes, forks, hammers and projectiles that would take down any Klingon.

I had to shift an earth moving machine some 100 yards the other day, and have seldom been so terror stricken.

All the complex instructions about not touching that button or this lever went in one ear and straight out of the other, and I was convinced I would be laying waste to the Upper Rede Valley in a manner not seen since the Border Reivers were in full flow.

My brief ride in the digger was to enable me to help move a huge pile of stones which had been lying in a higgledy piggledy heap ever since the Romans were subduing the natives some 2,000 years ago.

The sun was beating down relentlessly and I knew the stones would provide innumerable hidey holes for the adders which have thrived in unprecedented numbers this year.

I treated each stone as though it were a hand grenade, and was constantly braced for the feathery touch of a forked tongue and the acid kiss of dripping fangs.

And when I moved one particularly large boulder, I screeched like a Justin Beiber fan when I saw an unblinking ophidian eye staring back at me.

I was frozen in horror when the creature moved towards me – and I realised it was a frog.