IT TAKES more than an avalanche to crush one-time insurance man Tony, but on Tuesday he was flatter than a vegan’s pancake.

“I only remarked to a chap I know from our village that you see more women smoking in the street than men, when this middle-aged female with orange hair pounced from behind,” he said shuddering at the memory.

“‘Why shouldn’t we?’ she poked me in the back with a stiletto-sharp finger, saying ‘Is there a law that says we should only smoke at home? You’re a typical non-smoking, domineering male.’ she growled, before stamping on her fag end as if wishing it was me.”

He said he did smoke and tried to tell her he wasn’t being critical but was making a simple observation. But she wouldn’t have it. She refused the explanation and his apology as a way to calming the situation.

Valiantly trying to avoid laughing at his discomfort I asked what was his neighbour’s reaction to all this. Tony was quick to condemn.

“The b***** coward legged it!”

THE morning had not been good for either of us. Heavy traffic, an accident on the A40 and the first day of more major roadworks turned the journey to the city into a nightmare.

Tony and I had arranged to meet to bemoan the fact that Lorna Luft’s appearance at the New Theatre with a show dedicated to her mother, Judy Garland, had been cancelled. Lorna had returned ill to America.

I had been lucky enough to see Judy Garland at the London Palladium when I was about 12. It was something I’ll never forget. She’d appeared in a blue dress similar to the one worn in The Wizard of Oz, legs dangling into the orchestra pit with just a spotlight on her face as she sang Over the Rainbow. Hardly a dry eye in the house – mine wasn’t.

As it was we had to settle for a drink in our favourite Covered Market café – Cyril soothing his nerves with a double espresso shot.

WE PARTED with a wave, each making sure it could not be mistaken for a Nazi salute. Ask the Queen; you never know who’s watching.

I headed for the Westgate Centre to see the latest stage in the destruction of the same. Could nothing brighten the day?

Suddenly it happened. A trio of children, the oldest only three years old, were making an effort to tap dance watched by adoring grandparents. Grandad read my mind.

“Come on, let’s show ‘em how it’s done,” he said. The invitation could not be refused.

We were neither Fred Astaire nor Gene Kelly, but the children clapped. They appreciated us – even if grandma didn’t.