This mood wafted from me, as I crept down the stairs after a bath wearing only a lime green towel of a barnacle-scraping texture, which I had tied round my waist in the style of a Polynesian tribal elder. It had been my foolish and, of course, doomed intention to creep unnoticed past the lounge and into the kitchen, where, in the far cupboard, are kept the corn-plasters that can transform my habitual hobble into an almost ethereal glide. But my wife, then curled on our sofa, slowly sucking all traces of hope from a plump olive, has the instincts of a vole, whose whiskers have suddenly twitched to the distant trembling of an earthquake. She sprang from the sofa and, in a single bound, was at the doorway, where the lovely turquoise of her eyes met what she rather unkindly described as the cherries on my man boobs.

“Oh God,” she said, but I quickly realised from her subsequent outpouring that she was not addressing me by my familiar name. “Look at that belly, the slope of those shoulders, the hang of your head. Where is your vest! Neighbours might see you.”

“Not through the walls,” I said, as two drops of sweat navigated their way round the only hair on my chest. “They couldn’t possibly see through our walls of sturdy, Birkenhead bricks, laid lovingly, one on another, in the days when we still had a glorious empire.”

“Oh, be quiet,” said my wife, quite understandably, before placing her left hand over her shapely lips in a pose of utter shock. “But they could imagine you and that would be even worse. To think that I was just watching that dreamboat Daniel Craig playing James Bond in the film on TV. People say that I could have married a man like that, muscles brains and money.”

“Well, I could have married Jean Simmons.” I said in a pitiful attempt to even the contest. “Do you remember how she kissed Spartacus, when the slaves rose up against the cruel Romans?”

“Now we really are living in the realms of fantasy,” said my wife. The last of the bath water was being sucked down the plug-hole with the contented belch, which speaks of antique plumbing – while the mocking faces of forgotten ghosts flitted in mocking parade behind the steam on the old shaving mirror.

“Anyway, I know that some of the other chaps don’t wear vests during the summer,” I said, “and a few of them even undo the three top buttons on their shirts, the daring fellows.”

“Ah,” sighed my wife and her eyes glowed gently. “You poor old duffer. Don’t tell me, you’ve been trying to keep up with fashion. You must realise I didn’t marry you for your looks.”

Then she must have married me for my brain, I thought – but the thought perished before it had time to peep the daylight. “I married you because you’re kind,” she said, with a smile.

But is it not true that if you really want to advance in life, good looks open the way. You may be able read books without moving your lips and count your O-Levels without recourse to fingers, but wouldn’t you be better off with a nicely turned ankle and a perfectly designed face? To magazine, film and TV show bosses, appearance counts more now than ever before.

“Would you like to walk me to the shops?” I said to my wife, after I had tucked my string vest into my Y-fronts, gargled a zingy potion and plucked the trusty linen jacket from the chair.

“Oh you’re still a cunning old dog,” she replied, purring ever so subtly. LISTEN to David Charters’s picture podcasts on www.