I AM occasionally approached in the middle of a footpath by someone I don't know who wants to talk to me about the stuff I write about my family.
"You do that column," they might say.
"Family Guy," I'll say, just to be sure.
"Named for that cartoon on the telly," they'll nod.
"It's a play on words," I'll explain.
"You write a bit like that other bloke," they'll say suspiciously.
"You'll have to narrow it down," I'll shrug, shaking my head slowly and sticking my bottom lip out.
"Your man. He might be an American," they'll squint, sucking a fingernail.
"I'm an American, if that's any help," I'll say.
"Yeah, that's the one. You write like him."
"Well, we both write, evidently," I'll mutter.
"And you both have families..."
"We do." At this point I'll be starting to feel like a special guest on Playschool. If it's actually me that I'm being compared to - and stranger things have happened - I've a lot to live down to.
"What does your wife think of being written about," is what the person in the street will finally, almost always get at, adding pointedly: "in what might be considered, well, a rather unflattering way?"
And to this I might answer, either: "What wife?" or "We could ask her, but we'd have to do it through her lawyer."
I'm joking, of course. My wife is far too mean to hire a lawyer. She's much more likely to use some sort of subtle threat. "What are you writing about this week?" she might say, a little frostily, depending on what it was that I wrote about last week, while she ruthlessly dismembers an orange.
"About giving the gym another go," is what I tell her this time.
"If you mention me," she glares, "I will kill you."
Which is all a rather roundabout way of explaining why the following experience will be almost entirely about me, other than to mention, perhaps, that I am more than occasionally accompanied to said gym by a very youthful, fit-looking woman who drives the same car as me and smells like oranges.
We, that is 'I', have decided to give the gym another go, instead of jacking the whole thing in, which any normal person might do this far into January, for three reasons.
First, I recently spent a considerable sum of money buying several pairs of trousers online, inadvertently guessing my current waistline wrong by more inches than I can possibly shoehorn my backside into.
Second, we - or I (largely depending on how well behaved I am in this column for the next few weeks) - have been invited to stay at a friend's house, one who happens to own a Jacuzzi, and I would rather not feel compelled to wear a burqa when the time comes for a communal soak.
Lastly, it struck me recently that my upper body strength is so poor, that were I to find myself hanging by my hands from a cliff or, more likely, a window after a ladder has been kicked away by, oh, let's say a very youthful, fit-looking woman who drives the same car as me and smells like oranges, then I would neither be able to pull myself to safety, nor hold on until help came.
I would simply, plunge like a fat, tragic, shrieking, girly sack of corn, to my doom.
"I see," says my trainer, Derek, backing away almost imperceptibly, I think, as I tell him this, while he uses what looks like a blackboard mathematical instrument to pinch the fat on my back, then jots something down before booking me in for a special, one-on-one 'circus training' session.
"Circuit training, not 'circus', you dimwit," says the very youthful, fit-looking woman who drives the same car as me and smells like oranges.
I feel my face fall. "I'd pictured juggling," I tell her.
"Jiggling, maybe," she grins, pleased with herself.
"So how did YOU get on?" I mutter, trying to shift attention as I towel down my, ahem, back fat? Really?
"Awful, since you ask" she laments. "I was last in to my class today so had to copy the person on the mat next to me for all the exercises."
"Do tell," I try encouragingly.
"Cue all kinds of strange hopping and lurching around," she continues, "until half an hour in and I realised that the person I was copying had some sort of awful leg injury."
"Oh dear," I say, pulling my sweatshirt over my mouth to hide the expression.
"You're not going to believe this," I tell her, "but the exact same thing happened to my wife in her class this morning."
"Don't you even dare," she says.
"Wouldn't dream of it," I tell her.
Later, I bump into someone on the street who says they read my column. "You're a bit hard on yourself, if you don't mind me saying," they tell me. "In fact, sometimes I think you need a damn good shaking."
"Noted," I say.
So, beginning again, this rather winsome, charming chap who happens to drive the same car as me, walks into a gym . . .