APPARENTLY, one of the ways you get to mark your 60th birthday is to send your poo in the post to a complete stranger.

It’s not as bad as it sounds - rather an important, potentially life-saving NHS bowel cancer screening test than a case of criminal harassment. But still, it doesn’t really help to create the feelings of excitement and anticipation which might normally arise when a landmark birthday comes along. Such as 18,which allegedly ‘opens the key to the door,’ or 100, which is such a big achievement that you get congratulations from the Queen. And the adage ‘life begins at’ somehow seems to apply rather more to 40 or 50 than 60.

No, I think this is the one birthday which some people just want to quietly forget. But, as my big 60 approaches later this month, I’m not going to go down that road. I’m determined to celebrate, and certainly not to complain.

I once asked a colleague how she felt about passing a significant age milestone and she said drily: “Well, it’s better than the b........ alternative!’ And it’s true. In my job, I’ve met and written about all too many people who would love to have made it to 60, but didn’t, because horrible diseases, accidents or violent deaths robbed them of the opportunity.

I’ve also got to know bereaved and bereft husbands, wives, partners

and parents, trying to make sense of their terrible loss.

So I think I ought to show some flipping gratitude. Looking back over the past six decades, all sorts of terrible things could have prevented me getting anywhere near this landmark.

I probably wouldn’t have got past three, had the Cuban missile crisis ended badly. Or past 13, had antibiotics not been around to help me tackle a nasty bout of pleurisy. And I nearly didn’t get past my early 30s, when I was on holiday in Wales and a car careered round a mountain bend on the wrong side of the road one day, and headed straight towards me at high speed. It just managed to get back on to its own side of the road at the very last second.

I should also be grateful that I’m still in the job I love at 60, working with great colleagues, unlike all too many fine and hard working former colleagues who have lost their employment in journalism through no fault of their own. I’m also grateful I can celebrate my 60th with a lovely wife, son and daughter - aswell as lovely siblings elsewhere - in a beautiful city rated the best place to live in the country.

And anyway, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and good diet, you can, if you’re careful and if you’re lucky, look forward nowadays to many more birthdays beyond 60, and enjoy an amazing life right through your 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s.

I’ve got a couple of role models in mind - people who have lived very long lives, looked after themselves and wrung every possible bit of enjoyment and happiness out of every day.

There was the Dunkirk veteran who lived near me until he died a year or two ago in his late 90s. He was still regularly cycling down Cemetery Road and Foss Islands Road to shop at Morrison’s until he was well into his mid-90s. And then there was my late mother, who made it to 90 and spent much of her 80s incredibly active and travelling all over the world - from China and India to Peru and New Zealand - despite suffering from leukaemia. But of course you do need to look after your health if you’re going to make it to the next big milestones, 70, 80 and 90.

You really need to tick all the boxes... eat healthy food, take plenty of exercise, go for brisk walks, don’t drink too much booze, don’t smoke and ensure you have plenty of mental stimulation. I think I don’t do too badly on those fronts, but know I could do more and I could be a little bit fitter.

So I’ve decided to set myself my own little ‘60-60’ challenge this month. I’m planning a little daily workout to drive up my fitness levels by the big day in the hope I can achieve a few 60s.

I’m thinking of 60 sit ups, 60 seconds of ‘the plank,’ perhaps a 60 second sprint and maybe 60 press-ups.

That should set me on the right road for the next decade - provided it doesn’t kill me first, of course.