The travel agent looked me as I tottered across to her desk. “Wherever you’re going, use a wheel chair at the airports,” she said. “And get one for your wife at the same time!”

I was horrified. Wheelchairs are for the…, you know, ex-walkers, has-beens, washed ups. Not for me. I still walk. It may look funny and it hurts like hell, but I walk. Of course her suggestion became an instant family war cry: “If you insist on travelling to Australia you have to use wheelchairs in the airports!”

And so it was. And it turned out to be the best thing we did on this trip. Some invisible notation on our computerized booking set things in motion. At every airport the counter agent took one look at her computer, sent out a magic signal and in a flash, help was at our side, gripping our elbows as though we were about to fall over.

The system worked like a dream. We sailed along secret passageways, took unknown shortcuts and went through ‘entry-forbidden’ doors. We found ourselves in ‘staff only’ elevators and careened around airports like two oldies on their last legs. People scooted out of the way, glanced at us and whispered “Shame, just look at them,” as we glided past with averted eyes. We hardly slowed down for passport control where the lines looked as though they had been there for years; our pushers hit the brakes at security and gave the armed men a split second to look at us and decide we were long past terrorism; in the departure lounges we were seated in the front row and laughed all the way along the boarding sleeves as our wheelchairs led the other passengers onto the planes. Of course we made sure no one saw us smiling. The wheel chair service was so good that some of our ‘pushers’ actually thanked us for letting them help us!

With all this special treatment my back behaved as though it was born to the noble art of classy air travel. It is hard at work now on a scheme to get us upgraded from cattle-class to first-class. Wheelchairs? It’s the only way to travel!