WHEN a new member of staff turned out to be a bloke I went to school with, my first thoughts were not to rush over, slap him on the back and say "Hi - long time, no see." I was gripped with terror - he knew me when I turned 18.

He knew my friends, he knew which pubs I hung out at. Worse still he was part of the same crowd. He may even have been present at my 18th birthday do - not that I can remember much about it.

All I could think of was: "God, I hope he doesn't have any old photographs." Because if he had, they would almost certainly be highly embarrassing.

There I'd be, with my mates, lolling about, making a funny face or posing like a page three girl (top on, of course). And I dread to think what hideous 1970s garments I'd be wearing at my 18th - if I remember rightly we wore Harry-Hill-style shirts with huge collars stuck out at right angles from our chins, layered gipsy skirts that looked rather like lamp shades and shoes that Gary Glitter would have envied.

In those days one application of eye make-up would keep Max Factor in business for a month and my hair - well, all I can say is, if you wanted to be in with the in-crowd you copied former Charlie's Angels' (apologies to anyone under 25 who won't know what the heck I'm talking about) Farrah Fawcett.

Heaven forbid - if any snaps of that nature suddenly appeared on the office notice board the entire workforce would be queuing up to have a laugh.

There's no fear of Prince William's 18th birthday pictures having the same effect. Fortunately his school chums did not get it into their heads to hot-wire a Rolls one night and speed off across Berkshire to an all-night rave, mooning through the back windows as they drive up the M4 the wrong way, then drink too much and end up prancing about the upper reaches of the Thames in nothing but their tail coats and bow ties. So the Prince's photos aren't half as interesting as mine.

No nudity, no lewd poses, no lager cans balancing on noses, no silly T-shirts and even more ridiculous trousers. His pictures were taken at Eton College on a pre-arranged date. They show him in his school uniform, smiling sheepishly. All very tame, very civilised. And very boring.

Something of a storm has blown up over these photos we saw on Saturday. It's not about their content, but copyright. Why such a fuss? It's not good for the Prince, and who really wants to see them anyway? Bar an inch or two in the Prince's height, they'll be no different from the last lot, nor the lot before that. Were they your average 18th birthday photos, it would be a different story.

We all know it's not how a typical 18-year-old behaves when he's celebrating, Royal or not. It's long been felt that the family is seen as too formal and unapproachable.

Why not scrap all this official stuff, let the Prince wear what he likes and have a no-holds-barred lads night out? Give his best mate a disposable camera, have him flog the results to the highest bidder and donate the proceeds to charity.

No rows, no ill-feeling - Prince William would have a good time and it would result in a set of photos that everyone would be falling over themselves to get a look at.