There aren’t many joys to be had in reaching fifty-five. It seems a very short five years since the birthday you’d really enjoyed by taking a trip to a far flung-place where you’d pretended you were still a teenager with a back-pack…and it will seem like an even shorter five years before the birthday that you’ll celebrate with a day-trip to Eastbourne to see what your life is going to be like in retirement, if you can ever afford such a luxury.

So fifty-five is that motorway rest-area between where you could still put your foot down on the gas and the upcoming junction where you have to slow down and take the meandering road to senility.

Where I live they have a Bowel Scope Screening programme. As a 55th birthday present they send you an invite to attend the local hospital for a camera up the arse to see if you are growing any polyps, which they’ll remove at the same time. I always thought polyps were the things that inhabited coral reefs just waiting to be prodded by David Attenborough, but apparently they can grow in your bowel too. If they are feeling really vindictive they can blossom into cancer, or form a coral reef. Neither of which is desirable up your bum.

Hence I dutifully turned up for this entirely voluntary screening this morning. The way I saw it was it was better to be safe than sorry and it was free. Thus it avoids paying good money to have inanimate objects inserted into your rectum.

When you get there they explain why they are doing it, what they may find and how nasty these little polyps could be if they are left unharvested. I think this is a ruse to stop you bottling out at the last minute. The chap that explained it to me wasn’t the doctor that was going to do it, he was more the warm-up act. He was quite jovial and he asked me to undress and change into a pair of blue paper shorts with a flap at the rear. Thus the shorts protected my modesty whilst giving the doctor easy access to my tradesman’s entrance. I have been to some strange places in my time and I think I’ve seen something very similar before, in black leather.

The fateful moment finally arrived and I was told to lay down on my side with my knees under my chin. I had asked for as much lube as possible, never mind any NHS budget restrictions. The doctor was most obliging and replaced the thimbleful with a bucket, however he did rule out the prospect of him getting me in the mood with any foreplay. He could see I was very nervous and he kindly pretended he’d never heard that gag before. Anyway I had a very attractive nurse holding my hand so that was enough for me.

You get to watch the proceedings on a TV screen, although they don’t do DVDs for you to take home anymore. This was a bit disappointing as I’ll now be rushing around at the weekend looking for an alternative Christmas present for my wife.

I was quite fascinated by the uphill journey as the camera burrowed its way deeper into my guts. The nurse was trying her best to distract me with small talk about anything and everything, except my current situation, and if we’d met in a bar I may well have been nodding politely. However, I was more interested in the running commentary from Doctor Prod. He was a bit concerned that the self-administered enema I’d done earlier in the morning hadn’t fully done its job, as bad visibility was hampering progress on the polyp hunt. I don’t think he was too pleased when I concurred and said that for all the good it was I might as well have shoved it up my arse.

Just before he gave up and withdrew to give me a bit of a flushing out, I thought I recognised something. He confirmed my eagle-eyed observation and enquired as to whether my dinner last night had indeed included sweetcorn. So it’s not just an urban myth.

So in he went again, this time with a bit more vigour. Which made me yelp. The steam-powered jet-wash had done its job though, and we now had a clear run up the entirety of my lower bowel. The good news is that there are none of the mischievous polyps lurking up there. However I do have something called Diverticulosis. This is very common and one in four of us will have it by the time we are 60, I’m just a little bit ahead of the game having led a fairly dissolute lifestyle. Diverticulosis is when a pocket forms in the bowel. It’s not that serious and it will probably come in handy, either for keeping loose change or should I need to take up drug smuggling to support my retirement.

On a more serious note, having had a year in which three people I know have been impacted by cancer (one with bowel cancer), I would advise having it done if the invitation does arrive with your 55th birthday cards. It is painless, it only takes ten minutes and how else are you going to get to see what goes on beyond the anus…your own anyway.

The only note of caution is with the gift-wrapped DIY enema kit they send you in advance. It does work, but it carries on working through the rest of the day long after you actually needed it. As our toilet brush will testify, it is the gift that keeps on giving.

You can administer the enema yourself like I did but you might want to ask one of your teenage sons to help you, just to see their faces. Although it might be a good idea to carry out the threat, as it will be good experience for when they will be wiping your arse in thirty years’ time.