TWO THINGS came together over Christmas. Firstly, whilst driving along the North Circular and talking about money with my wife, she sighed and said: "Well, maybe you should have been an actor, after all", the implication being that I couldn't have been any more broke, and might've had more fun.

Secondly, I went to see the Nativity play at my son's school. The best performer was the Angel Gabriel, a very pretty and slightly tremulous blonde girl whose catchphrase, uttered with a broad smile, was "Have no fear". But she had a lot of presence, and a good clear voice.

My own son is too small for a starring role. I shall not pressure him by pointing out that I was an outstandingly sagacious member of the three wise men at the age of six, but I have reason to believe that he will make a shepherd at least before long. For he generally likes being the centre of attention: his maternal grandmother was a highly successful actress, and I was so nearly an actor myself.

I was, to pupil-presented school assemblies, what Tony Slattery is to terrible TV game shows. I was in them all. Then, aged about 11, I started performing with local amateur drama groups. My specialism was crowd scenes, and I became so good at these that I could actually be a whole crowd by myself.

My big break came when I landed the role of the Village Idiot in a production of the Victorian melodrama, Murder In The Red Barn, a performance still talked about across the length and breadth of my immediate family. "Andrew Martin makes a very convincing Village Idiot," wrote a local reviewer, or words to that effect.

My next triumph was in the dual role of soldier and nun in an absurdist French play called The Complete Knacker. This concluded with me, dressed as a nun, being shot dead; or at least that was the idea. But on the first night, the actor shooting me pulled the trigger of the gun and it failed to go off. So I didn't die, but just stood there looking at him with an expression mutating from curiosity, to alarm, to glum resignation. Of course I realised, about three seconds after the gun had failed to go off, that I should have keeled over anyway, but by then it was too late.

But. The Complete Knacker was an absurdist play, as I say, and nothing was found amiss by the somewhat pretentious audience. As I confirmed by walking into the theatre bar after the show. "I thought it was a real masterstroke," I heard someone saying, "that the nun does not actually die at the end."

My career culminated in the offer of a place at the Mountview Theatre school. I was at a crossroads. To be, or not to be. But in the end I bottled it because I decided it was not a sufficiently manly pursuit, a related consideration being that I thought I could never cry on stage.

I regret not going now, and seek the adrenaline surge I got from acting by driving too fast on the motorway and other inappropriate means.