Everything has returned to hectic normality since the few days I spent in drag in Grey Gables Old Peoples' Home.
I have to admit that I miss my knickers, though. Despite occasional disasters I found these over-sized garments far more comfortable than my Y-fronts so I'm going to renew the campaign once started by the excellent Mr Paxman to improve the design of men's underwear. [I say excellent in the faint hope that he might give me a soft time if I ever get invited onto Newsnight]
And when I say things are back to normal this is not entirely true.
I have to admit that I am, in fact, a completely changed person. My experience in Grey Gables had a profound effect on me and not just because of the change of underwear. In fact I am, once again, wondering whether to give up politics and enter some sort of religious order - although what type and which version also causes me sleepless nights as they all have shortcomings.
I mentioned this to my GP friend Doctor Sinnick in the Red Lion last night - Sinnick and I can be very frank with one another, especially after a pint or two.
He was the first to admit to a few personal problems of his own caused by a recent business venture. Apparently he had decided to create a new anti-baldness shampoo - he has a tenuous relationship with Fook's Centre for Chinese Herbal Remedies and Training School for Oriental Alternative Therapy and Acupuncture between the greengrocer and florist and opposite the butcher in Krupton High Street. Unfortunately the clinical trial on Sinnick's wife's tabby cat had proved almost fatal to the animal and he had decided to put his venture on hold until the cat had grown most of its fur back.
I then admitted to Sinnick that my wife had also found reason to get upset with me as she had found my knickers, grey skirt and suspender belt in the washing basket at home. My explanation that I had been operating incognito in an Old Peoples' Home surrounded by thirty old ladies proved unconvincing. In fact, my wife threatened to tell the Prime Minister and Krupton News that I had become a transvestite overnight if I didn't come up with a better explanation. But, I think I have persuaded her to leave it until the Party Conference season is over as she was hoping to attend something or other and had already bought herself a new pair of shoes and a hat.
In the meantime I need to find something that will prove beyond any doubt that I am not a cross dresser or have lost any of my well known masculine characteristics. I have, therefore, decided to refuse to do the washing up after Sunday lunch by arguing that this is a woman's job and a man would never be seen wearing rubber gloves and a pinny and singing along to Robbie Williams on the radio.
However, back in the Red Lion and despite four pints and several whiskies, Sinnick and I struggled to resolve our separate bouts of manly depression - although, as he claimed to have mislaid his wallet, the fact that I was paying might have had something to do with the depth of my own depression - an MPs salary only goes so far.
After hearing about Sinnick's wife's cat, I found myself discussing my time at Grey Gables and I admitted that this was probably why I was feeling so morose and down in the mouth.
"What is the matter with me, Sinnick?" I asked.
Sinnick took a mouthful of the beer I'd just bought him and then downed the single whisky I had also just placed in front of him. It was as if he hoped I'd now buy him a double before he started on his medical advice. Still believing in a free Health Service I stayed sitting down, however, and, looking disappointed, he eventually wiped his mouth.
"It's a question of mind over matter," he said in that irritating manner he uses when speaking to patients who he thinks are wasting his time.
"Physiotherapy of the brain is what matters," he continued. "Successful treatment means that what matters now will not matter later."
"So what should I do, Sinnick?" I asked.
"Well," he said, downing half of his pint and licking the inside of his empty whisky glass, "Let us explore the matter to find out what is the matter with you."
"Well," I said, trying to assist with his diagnosis. "I fear there are too many matters at present."
"Mmm," he pondered and put on that ridiculous pair of glasses that perch on the end of his nose whenever he speaks to time-wasters. "We are all made of matter, my dear Quent. Matter is all around us. Life is a function of matter. Whatever other theories might offer, we are but amoebae grown much fatter."
Sinnick occasionally talks in rhyme which can be extremely irritating, but I have noticed that his patients stare at him with their mouths open as if totally awestruck.
He has a woman patient he calls Scary Wary Linda Carey and I will never forget his advice when she complained about her figure and pointed to a picture in a woman's magazine of a body she craved. Sinnick took one look and said:
"Do you really want to be like that? A false identity, an empty folly. Made up like a plastic dolly?"
"Yes," Mrs Carey said defiantly
"You must pull yourself together, dear," Sinnick went on. "Forget about your shapeless form and accept your little faults. God has made us all so queer. It's his small joke upon us folk, so he can sit and leer."
I'll spare you the details of what he said to the guy with haemorrhoids. Meanwhile, for my comparatively minor problem he went on:
"I suspect it's the latter matter that matters most," he went on as I sat with my mouth wide open. "Growing old with subsequent loss of grey matter is a matter of fact."
"As a matter of fact I think the matter with you is that too much matters," he added.
I felt a dribble of best bitter running down my chin as I sat waiting for the next drops of wisdom to pour from Sinnick's mouth.
"I agree that everything should matter," he went on. "Matters are important and it matters, therefore, that you should think about them. But matters only become problems that matter when you know what it is that really, matters."
"Yes," I heard myself say.
"So deal with the matter," Sinnick went on. "Put your mind to the matter. Apply yourself to the matter in mind and do what I do when something matters."
"What do you do, Sinnick?"
"I ask myself - is it a matter of life or death or doesn't it matter that much"
"Very wise, Sinnick. Then what?"
"Then I ask myself, what really matters? And the answer, invariably, is how it affects other matters?"
"Yes," I said, wiping beer off my tie.
"Then……" Sinnnick paused as if delving mentally into his old text books for a cherished item worth recalling from his first year psychology lessons.
"Then," he eventually went on, "I ask myself if those matters really matter or should not be a genuine matter for concern. And after I've pondered on the matter for a while it is clear that nothing matters any more. So what the bloody hell is the matter with me, I ask myself. And do you know the answer I always come up with, Quent?"
"No," I said, because I had already lost the plot and nothing seemed to matter anymore.
"Nothing, as a matter of fact," Sinnick said, "so let's have a few more beers and stop bothering ourselves with such trivial matters. As a matter of fact I'd love another whisky - a double this time if it won't matter to you that you'll need to pay again."
Overwhelmed with this medical advice I got up, bought him another beer and a whisky and then came back to finish my first one.
"Feeling better now?" he asked.
"No," I admitted.
"So what is bugging you, my dear Quentin?"
Sinnick had, thankfully, reverted to his caring tone - the one honed since leaving medical school twenty five years ago.
"I think I've had enough of politics," I admitted. "I'm fed up with the hypocrisy and slow speed of change."
"My dear chap," Sinnick said, "join the club. Why don't you try something else for a change? You're clearly a good actor and don't mind dressing up. Try a few other jobs before deciding."
"Like what, Sinnick?" I said, almost in tears.
Such is Sinnick's unique skill that I felt I should perhaps go and sit on Sinnick's lap, stick my thumb in my mouth, snuggle into his grubby shirt with its blood and other bodily stains and have a quiet little cry. But then I thought about Anthea (my PA and Research Assistant) who I think has definitely been seeing Vince from the Opposition and suddenly snapped out of it.
"Teacher? Business consultant? Charity fund raiser? College lecturer? Town centre manager? Assistant manager of an old people's home?" I heard Sinnick saying.
Sinnick rattled off several more suggestions but nothing appealed until……….
"Enter the Church or start a new religious order?" he concluded.
As he said it, it was as if I had suddenly had a calling from somewhere - although it seemed to come from beneath my feet.
"That's it, Sinnick!" I said still hearing the sound from below.
"I'll join the Church for a while. Give it a go. If that doesn't work I'll try the mosque. As a matter of fact, I think I just had the calling."
"I think that was Clive down in the cellar swearing while fixing a new barrel," I heard Sinnick say above the loud noise of ideas bubbling inside my head. "When Clive comes back upstairs, mine's a pint and a double whisky and soda if it doesn't matter to you that you'll need to pay."