ISN’T it depressing in a morning when the face you see staring back from the shaving mirror looks like a whiskery unsteamed steak and kidney pudding?

This suet sheen of pasty flesh has come about because it is a year this month since we felt the blaze of overseas sun on our usually bronzed upturned faces.

While not quite a David Dickinson permatan, there is usually some healthy colour about my chubby chops, rather than the pallor of the Co-op embalming room.

We go abroad a lot – usually three of four times a year – and we were dubbed Mr and Mrs Whicker by my sister because of the frequency of our visits to foreign climes.

Indeed, we were in the Canary Islands in March last year when Covid 19 was a diseased bat in a Wuhan market.

Even when we were herded off a Fuerteventura beach by gun-toting Spanish police on quad bikes, we never thought for a moment it would be more than a year before we were allowed back again – if ever.

It was eerie to be dropped off at the bustling hotel where we had parked the car just over a week earlier to find it locked and deserted, with restaurant tables shrouded in dust covers and a general air of decay.

The lockdown had started without us, and driving back north on the totally empty M6 was a bizarre experience.

I can think of only two occasions in this country that I have managed to get cooked roast beef red by the summer sun – in Silloth in 1968 and in Blackpool in 1976 – but there have been many summers in between where the sun has been conspicuous by its total absence.

It even snowed hard enough one June to kill the engine on my motorbike halfway up Houxty Bank, which is why I insist now that when we take holidays we do so in sunny climes. Mrs Hextol often suggests we cruise the Norwegian Fjords, or take a trip to Alaska to see the glaciers, but I always retort: “I can do cold at home|”

When the children were small, most holidays were spent camping in Scotland, where we had many great times, but there is nothing to beat the feel of the real sun on your body.

We did manage to take all four sons with us on a memorable excursion to northern Italy before they decided they were too old to holiday with parents.

We travelled by bus, and a ferry strike meant we were on the coach for 36 hours before reaching our destination via much of Europe.

We stayed in a caravan, and it was total bliss to have round the clock sunshine, with only the occasional thunderstorm to enliven matters still more.

It was the following year that we flew for the first time, to Minorca, and I maintain there are few more pleasurable experiences than the first time you clamber stiff legged out of the plane on to the steps, and are hit by that glorious bubble of red hot Continental air..

Our first holiday without the children took us to Sardinia, where we hired bikes from the hotel and pedalled off to bask on a gloriously deserted beach,

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as deserted as we thought, for when we returned to the bikes, someone had stolen one of them. I tried to give Mrs Hextol a backer back to civilisation, but in the end, she caught a bus, while I puffed along behind, hoping it was going where we wanted to be.

The hotel manager was very understanding about the loss of the bike, giving a shrug that started somewhere round his knees and muttering: “Insurance!”

Since then, we have been on innumerable foreign holidays, from Alcudia to Zakynthos, and from Kenya to the Caribbean, killing cockroaches the size of mice in some hotels, and sipping champagne at the captain’s table on assorted cruises. We once went to Portugal on an allocated on arrival break, dropped the bags at the hotel and then hit the beach until it was starting to get dark – and then realised we had no idea what the hotel was called, or how to get back to it, Fortunately, we stumbled across it by accident just as the moon was coming up.

We tend not to do much sightseeing – we went to Egypt and didn’t bother with the Pyramids – it’s all about getting on to the beach as early as possible, and staying there for most of the day. We are desperate now for the holiday restrictions to be lifted – there are still too many beaches we have yet to visit!