Several moons ago, probably not long after Queen Victoria died, I was part of an amateur drama group that staged a selection of vignettes and longer excerpts from plays and literature as a post-lunch entertainment. Our audience was a large group of people who, somewhat unfairly, were considerably more refreshed than we were.

They had the advantage, being able to relax and let the fun roll out before them. We, dry-mouthed and anxious, had our nerves to conquer and costume changes to contend with in a very small space, not to mention our cues to remember.

This all took place when I was living in the Far East, which gives one – or certainly this one – more confidence than might otherwise be the case when stepping on to a stage and trying to encourage an audience to suspend its disbelief.

I was various people that day, and one of them was Queen Victoria. I want to think I was chosen for the role because I had long hair at the time which lent itself to being coiled into a sort of sausage-in-a-bun effect on my head, but I suspect the producer resorted to me because of my height, or lack of it. A quick glance along the row of press-ganged volunteers and the decision was, presumably, only too easy.

There I was, coiffed and regally dressed, reading from Victoria’s diary, dated October 15, 1839, in which she expressed the unutterable joy she felt after Albert had accepted her proposal of marriage. “I really felt it was the happiest, brightest moment in my life,” were her touching words.

With that, I exited stage left and transformed myself into a less than convincing version of Laurie Lee to read from Cider With Rosie. Judi Dench would kill for such versatility.

Stage appearances were a regular feature of my life in those days, including revues and several plays. Pygmalion was one, a simply terrifying crime thriller another, and there was even a deep and meaningful feminist one-act, but it was Sleeping Beauty that was the maddest and the greatest fun.

There’s nothing like a pantomime to bring out the silliness in everyone involved, actors and audience alike. Inhibitions are cast aside and, if everything goes as it should, a great time is had by all.

This was certainly the case when a gang of pals and I went to lend our support to a friend in her village panto last week. She was brilliant, in fact the whole cast was brilliant – and the audience was pretty wonderful, too. It’s a long time since I stamped my feet and cheered and whistled in appreciation for something in such an unbridled way.

You just don’t get to react like that anywhere other than in a village hall, where everyone is giddy with the love of being together in the name of entertainment.

There are downsides to taking part. The learning of lines is one of them, although the prompt is always there as a backstop.

This generally works well until, as in the panto the other day, the prompt gets left behind and, when offering a line, is treated to a loud retort from the stage: “I’ve already said that.” Of course, it brought the house down.

The biggest downside, though, is literally a down: the huge let-down that comes when the final curtain falls. After all that teamwork and creativity, it’s suddenly all over. It’s a yawning gap that nothing seems big enough or exciting enough to fill.

Happily, with panto, there’s always next year.

I am as comfortable with new technology as most people who have been hooked on it for the past 20 years or so. I have an array of devices that between them help to run my daily life, performing functions as diverse as an accessible diary, calendar and address book and, of course, as a processor of my words.

I read a daily newspaper on my iPad, I take photos with my iPhone, I am permanently connected one way or another to the big wide world through both of those and through my desktop Mac. In other words, I am totally reliant on new technology and I like it that way.

I cannot think of any negative aspect of this except for the effect it has had on my handwriting. To put it bluntly, I have virtually lost the ability to write with a pen or pencil. I’m a high-speed texter – strangely, with my left hand, while I am right-handed in everything else – and I can rattle out words at a fair rate of knots on a keyboard, too, but put a funny old-fashioned pen in my hand and ask me to write something and I come over all clumsy and helpless.

My grand-daughter Poppy’s handwriting bears a worrying similarity to mine. Poppy is four. Apart from this slight disparity in our ages (and even less of a disparity in our height), the big difference between us is that her writing is actually legible. Mine has the appearance of something eight-legged dying messily on the page.

It was never good or even remotely stylish in its heyday, but at least it was fast, confident and readable. I could adapt it to fit into small spaces, like the boxes on official forms, and I could write letters that ran into pages and pages and my words never veered downhill. Now, I painstakingly assemble half-a-dozen words on a birthday card and have to lie down and recover from the effort of such an alien activity.

My sister and I recently had to fill out and sign a form on behalf of our mother. Oh, the agony! I am embarrassed by my handwriting, but my sister is quite shameless about hers. She honestly ought to be equipped with a personalised John Bull printing kit as she simply can no longer write at all.

Watching her try to fill in her name and address in such a measly little box on this form brought to mind those school workbooks my children used to bring home in their early years. I’d hover, suppressing the urge to snatch up the pencil and show them how – and here I was again, doing exactly the same while my big sister scrawled and looped her way through the task.

When it was my turn to apply my name and address I stuck my tongue between my teeth and concentrated with all my might. It was slow, messy and barely readable, but it was done. I shudder to think what the official on the receiving end of the form must have made of our efforts.

A friend of mine encouraged me when she confided that her handwriting is definitely worse than mine. She writes a shopping list but, once in the shop, she cannot read her writing.

She turns to fellow shoppers, giving the impression she is running errands for someone else, and asks “Can you help me read what this person has written on their list?” That’s cool, really cool.

I’m not sure when the problem of dogs fouling public spaces became one of the great scourges of everyday life.

It isn’t something I remember from my childhood, nor even from when my own children were small. It was something you occasionally looked out for, perhaps, but not at five-second intervals, as one absolutely has to do these days or face the disgusting, stinking, dangerous consequences. Not to mention hours spent scrubbing footwear, buggy wheels or any other items that have come into contact with an abandoned poo.

Presumably the ubiquity of dog poo has to be linked to the inescapable fact there are so many more dogs about, in streets and markets, shop doorways, footpaths – wherever you look they’re there, being loyal and … well, dogged. I’ve no axe to grind. In fact, for years the family was in the charge of a dog: a Jack Russell with a gruff voice and rough ways at whose ever-busy, clippety feet we all besottedly paid homage.

In the present doggy-dominated landscape, with its canine-crowded pavements and paths featuring overflowing dog poo bins, carelessly discarded dog poo bags and, too often, the evil dog poo itself, a disturbing impression emerges of a world that has been rather turned on its head. Hang on, exactly who is running the show here?

Ah yes, that’s right. It isn’t the dogs at all, and it isn’t us. It’s the thoughtless, selfish people who disobey one of the most basic rules of human co-existence and fail to dispose properly of the mess left by the dog in their charge. If they are dog owners themselves, then they have clearly abdicated all responsibility for what goes with the territory: that is the caring, the exchange of loyalty and love, the vet’s bills and the clearing up.

How dare they? How very dare they walk around with an animal for which they show zero responsibility? The dogs, left to their natural ways, know no better. The selfish humans do know better, and that’s the dreadful thing. They know they should pick up and dispose of the dog waste, yet, hey, no one’s looking, someone else can do it, and anyway others let their dogs do it, don’t they?

We’ve all no doubt seen the sneaky owners who fumble for a poo bag if someone’s looking, stoop, and make a pretence of picking up the poo before moving on, empty-handed. May they walk messily into the biggest poo around the corner.

Another depressingly familiar sight is the hedgerows and trees festooned with discarded poo bags that the owners are too … too what? Squeamish, mean, stupid, to dispose of properly?

Like all types of littering, the prevalence of poo is a problem, a huge problem, and a blight on too many of our towns and public spaces. But because dog poo can be dangerous to health as well as deeply, stinkingly offensive, it takes on a very different ranking from the dropped crisp packet in the league of anti-social horrors.

Some councils are on the case and it is possible to report the location of offensive heaps to get them removed. It shouldn’t, however, be down to other people to scoop and make good, especially when they are unlikely to be paid enough to have to do such an unpleasant job.

The answer can only be for dog-owners to take responsibility for what their animals deliver in the wrong place. Until they do, we have to continue to step around the problem – but still get angry.

I tucked myself under my big sister’s wing for a day of exploring in London at the weekend. Left to my own devices I’d still be trying to find my way out of Waterloo station.

My sister lived and worked in the capital for years and knows it inside out, as though a map, a compass and an A to Z are printed in her brain, while I just have smudgy impressions that enable me to recognise a handful of landmarks, but not find my way to them. Such a provincial numpty definitely needs a semi-native guide, especially when heading off the beaten track.

Our destination was memory lane – not so much one road as several that made up our immediate neighbourhood when we were children. We thought it would be fun to go and familiarise ourselves again with the area where I mostly toddled and she walked and where once, memorably for her and Mum, Sis pushed my pram into a church wall. I’m sure it must have scarred me, but I don’t like to make a fuss or make a claim for compensation all these years later.

Considering our family moved from London into the deepest depths of Cornwall on my fifth birthday, it was unlikely I would find myself recognising anything. I’m good on networks of rural lanes, not so good on London streets.

Big Sis, on the other hand, with her superior years and far more memory cells, strode about our old ’hood as though it were still her own. She pointed out landmarks such as where her two of her schoolfriends had lived, the shop (now an estate agents, naturally) where Mum was when she was told that sweets had come off ration, and the terrace of houses where I’d gone to nursery school.

All I remember about that is my pride in wearing a planet-sized green beret with a pink badge and climbing several flights up a wooden staircase every morning singing Frère Jacques in French. Those things, and a boy called Jack who wore dungarees and got stuck on the roof of a shed, a drama which became a regular feature of my dreams (or were they nightmares?).

We’d reached our old stamping ground on a number 9 bus, with my sister giving a tour-guide commentary as she showed me where we’d shopped for her school uniform, where we’d had our feet x-rayed (unbelievable!) when having shoes fitted, and where various relatives had lived, including my grandparents and a great-uncle.

Our old house, as far as I could remember, was white, had a bay window, and a pattern of black and white tiles on the path and up the front steps. I hoped none of that detail had changed.

It hadn’t, but what was different was the height of the steps. When I was last here, showing the removal men my birthday-present rubber tomahawk and saying goodbye to my best friend Marianne, those steps were so high that my legs could hardly get me up them. Now, I noticed, they had shrunk to normal size.

I looked up at the window on the landing. No fleeting image of a little me looking back, even though that had been my favourite window for observing the world. Once, I’d spotted God masquerading as a cloud and shrieked for Mum to come and see.

I suddenly wished I’d brought Tom, my pensioner teddy bear, with me for the trip. He’d have enjoyed it so much, and I know he’d have had secrets to share, once I’d helped him up the steps.

When you’re sitting slumped in a heap of angst, wondering how a country so apparently First-World and savvy as the United States could land itself – and us – in such a hideous mess, you really don’t need anything else to worry about. This is more than enough. In fact, this is way more than enough worry material to last at least four years, as the world holds its breath.

Life as we knew it is suspended while a man with an orange skin and a yellow art installation on his head, a small round hole where his mouth should be and a pair of thumbs that jerk into life at two-second intervals, parades about making the sort of pronouncements that one might reasonably expect to find in a compendium of schoolboy jokes.

This is why, when I was pondering on the practicalities of turning back the world’s clocks to the time before far too many American voters took leave of their senses, I was surprised to find that there are other matters clamouring for my attention.

Not on the same scale, perhaps, as the future of our Planet (the orange man has his finger on the red button, remember) but obviously of considerable importance or my eye would not have been drawn to the newspaper headline.

The first concerned the most appropriate footwear to go with fashion’s current fave, the wide-legged cropped trouser. Well, blow me down, and there was I thinking I was au fait with the big issues, and here’s this simply huge one popping up to trouble me.

I don’t need this, I thought, pushing the worrying issue to one side. Fur-lined Doc Marten-style boots probably don’t go with those trousers anyway, should I ever bother my wardrobe with such a daft and useless item.

Then what do I see? A headline about a Professor of Play being recruited. Is this for a new CBeebies series, I wonder? If it is, I ought to be up with the story or I could lose credibility with the youngest grandchild, to whom, for all I know, such things matter.

I investigate. No, it is nothing to do with fantasy, not even anything to do with Peppa Pig, it is real. Cambridge University is recruiting someone – not me, I decided, on account of the difficulties of such a long daily commute – with a “childlike mindset”.

My word, that could open the floodgates for applications from a large proportion of the population, with professional footballers at the head of the queue, waving their CVs and folding them into paper aeroplanes for the side-splitting hilarious fun of it.

The newly appointed Professor of Play’s salary of about £84,000 is funded by Lego, which is also contributing a large sum to the university’s new Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning, which the professor will lead. As if to underline its surreal nature, the acronym for this centre is Pedal. No, it is not an April Fool’s joke because I checked and we are still in January.

What with the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States – again, I’ve checked and it can’t be an April Fool’s joke – and the widespread concern about what to wear with unwearable trousers, and the appointment of a Professor of Play, I am seriously debating whether to stop checking the calendar and start singing Stop the World: I Want to Get Off.

I often try and imagine myself doing other people’s jobs. A supermarket checkout assistant, for example, a line of work to which I would be singularly unsuited, since I am unable either to shut up and mind my own business or pick things up without breaking them.

I know I couldn’t resist commenting on customers’ purchases (“Do you really want to buy that? Are you sure your household should be eating those?”) and if any customer stood in front of me with their mobile phone held up to their face I wouldn’t be able to vouch for my good manners. I’d be out on my ear – and out of a job – faster than you can say “Do you want any bags today?” or “Would you like any help with your packing – and please don’t say yes because everyone’s in the staffroom.”

Just as well I’m not on a checkout, then, and just as well, at this cold, wet time of year especially, I’m not a milkman, a postman or a dustman.

Yes, I know they’re not called dustmen nowadays, and I mean no disrespect, but we do at least know who and what I mean when I use that distinctly old-fashioned word and not the ambiguous ‘waste collector’, which frankly sounds a bit drain-focused and honey-wagonish to me.

I couldn’t do what they do. I wouldn’t be able to reach anything, lift anything or keep those big gloves on.

A non-starter then, so what about the good old milkman of blessed memory? Assuming you can find one, he qualifies for a status that isn’t so much a vanishing breed more a museum exhibit, thanks to being priced out of business by supermarkets, where pints cost no more than a bottle of posh mineral water.

Pity the milkman, that poor benighted saint, the neighbourhood watcher without compare, who is hard at work as dawn breaks and whose profit margin on a pint hardly enables him to break even. Little wonder there are so few of them about. Seventeen years ago, when we turned the new century, 27 percent of milk drunk at home was delivered to the doorstep. That figure is now less than three percent.

It probably isn’t the job I’d be aiming for, since I am sure it can hold little in the way of career prospects and even less in the way of satisfaction for someone who admits – and call me a softie if you wish – that being snuggled under the duvet at 4am on a January morning is preferable to remembering who wants a pint of full-fat and a tub of cherry yogurt in the maze of a bleak, frost-bound housing estate.

I’m not sure I’d cope with being a postman, either. Or postwoman, if you are pedantic enough to insist on that clunky gender-specific title.

It isn’t just the shorts – I really couldn’t – it’s the snappy dogs and the even more snappy letterboxes, slicing off finger-ends and reducing every delivery to a game of chance.

Our postman, Richard, also known as the best postman in the world, sets the bar very high. He is reliable, like the proverbial clockwork, enterprising in his ingenious methods to deliver against the odds, impervious to any degree of inclement weather, looks pretty good in shorts and, here’s the thing, endlessly, infectiously cheerful.

In an age when such traditional jobs are endangered either by technology or increasing competition, or both, let’s give thanks to those who, so often unseen and unsung, keep our wheels turning.

As smug expressions go, the one that informs us there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, takes first place in the line-up to have its lights punched out.

It is beyond smug, more smug even than the girl in my class called Jennifer who got top marks in everything, even for sitting up straight at her desk.

The assumption we all have the right clothing for every type of weather this British climate throws at us presumes we have halls and wardrobes of Tardis-like proportions and a staff to maintain (and find) jackets, macs, hats, scarves, gloves, windcheaters, short coats, medium coats, full-length drag-in-the-mud coats, sandals, shoes, wellies, walking boots, thigh boots, waders, waterproof overalls, splash-suits, parasols and at least half-a-dozen umbrellas guaranteed never to blow inside out and detonate in the street into a hundred flimsy pieces of metal and a bunch of limp nylon.

Understandably, we Brits, especially those with normal wardrobes and no staff, think wistfully of those places where the climate is more straightforward, with less variety and more predictability. You know where you are clothing-wise then: a bit of keep-you-warm and dry stuff for the cooler months, not very much at all the rest of the year.

Places like the Mediterranean countries, for example, where the mostly benign winter months hurry away to allow the sun its traditional place, centre-stage and reliably, for most of the year.

That is the norm, except that fierce snowfalls and seriously plunging temperatures this past week have turned that perception on its head. Strange images of snow-covered parts of Greece, Turkey and Italy, even snow-blocked roads in Sicily, have made me look up at our leaden, rain-filled skies this week and think that at least we can get from A to B, even if we get soaked in doing so.

Not soaked, of course, if we have the right clothing – but we know about that. Now we’re being warned of much coldness coming our way as this week drips and gurgles into the weekend, so it’s back into the Tardis to find some insulating woollies and the full thermal kit.

I learn that our dose of the white and icy stuff is not the same as the rest of Europe’s. It comes from a different front, or side, or some such meteorological expression.

Aha, the Brexit effect. So it’s come to this, even before the button is pushed on Article 50. The others won’t even share their weather with us now, like kids who turn their backs in the playground and refuse to play ball with the unpopular misfit.

OK, rest-of-Europe, if you must be like that, we’ll cope with our own weather. We aren’t the sort who sit back helplessly and watch as our entire country grinds to a halt. Not all that often, anyway. Well, sometimes we do, but we do get provoked an awful lot.

You must understand that, unlike you with your sunshine-addled attitudes and tide of flip-flops at the door, we not only have the right clothes for this – fleeces and fur-lined boots, and a whole range of impractical hats – but we have gritters and snow-ploughs, too, and they aren’t always under two feet of snow in a lay-by.

We can certainly skate by, as long as the difficulties last no longer than about six hours. After that, and judging by many winters of experience, we could be trying to be cheerful in a snowdrift with nothing but a cheese sandwich and a 1998 book of road maps.