I HAVE never understood the passion some people have for eating out.

Several years ago, a wealthy chum offered to take me to the Fat Duck at Bray in Berkshire which, as restaurants go, is among the very best. I declined because, while I accept the food served there may be a gastronome’s delight, I am no gastronome. And besides, they don’t do chips.

My tastes in food are simple and I also believe that eating is such a personal function that it should be done in private wherever possible. I mean, who wants to watch anybody masticate in public?

Last week, my daughter Sian and her chap Andrew took Maria and I out for a meal at a very nice place in Sowerby Bridge. I went under silent protest and looked for a table where I could face a wall. Unfortunately, it was busy and we were in the middle of the room. People feeding their faces on all sides.

They, of course, were not as self conscious as I and were happily chomping away. I kept my eyes down and concentrated on not spilling anything down my front. I mean, I quite often spill curry down my front but that’s at home with a take-away and I have special curry shirts to wear before Maria allows me anywhere near a vindaloo. And yes, my curry shirts are ones I have already ruined by spilling stuff down them.

Then the other day, early doors, we were at the Asda store in Wakefield, of all places, and called in their cafe for a bacon sandwich. A very nice cafe and a very nice sandwich. Nice people, too, I thought, as I noticed a very attractive young blonde woman and her husband take seats at the next table.

Unfortunately, she had a full English and sat profile on to me, so I could see every forkful of egg and black pudding. I found myself watching surreptitiously with a fascinated horror. By heck, I thought. I could get arrested for this.

Ooh Matron, screens.

For both her and me.

Screens actually would not be a bad idea.

I like the Shama Balti in Bradford Road, where we go very occasionally, because it has alcoves and you can hide yourself away. But other places should seriously consider screens for diners of a sensitive nature, such as myself.

In fact, I might start going out more if I knew I could have screens round my table or, perhaps, a cardboard box placed over just me so I don't have to watch anybody else scoffing. Go on then, I’ll settle for a very large paper bag.

Because eating really should be done in private.