I was 39 when I took up my first sport. I'd never liked them at school, largely because I wasn't any good at any of them. I particularly didn't like team games, not wanting to be the weakest player who let the side down. I opted for tennis and cross country as the permissible alternatives on sports afternoons because they were individual. Now back in London from the US, I wanted something that might keep me fit, but disliked the idea of street running, so I chose tae-kwondo, a Korean martial art.

I trained two nights a week in London's Jubilee Hall, and sometimes one night elsewhere with the class. I quickly became very fit and very flexible because of the stretching exercises and the jumping around. I could never manage a full splits, having taken it up so late in life, but I could bend down to put the flat of my hands on the floor, and I did achieve a chopping kick above head height. My hands became strong. I could break a stack of four blocks of wood, each three-quarters of an inch thick, with a knife-hand strike, but that is about technique and self-confidence rather than strength.

I was utterly dedicated to it for seven years, and I finally stopped doing it only when I had ceased to improve at it.