Dawn French says the older you get the less you care.

She’s been doing the rounds lately promoting her new stage show about her life and memorable times in showbiz.

She’s 66 and she looks terrific judging by recent pictures.

In town the other day I caught sight of one when I spotted signed copies of her new book.

What’s more she’s feeling pretty chipper in spite of the prospect of an impending knee operation. No matter what people think of her she’s reached an age when she’s no longer bothered.

Oh, how I wish I could say that I felt the same. The problem that I have is summed up in one annoying word: guilt. It’s been with me for a long time.

When I was at school if anyone did anything wrong the teacher would try to find out who was the guilty party, and I would always assume she thought it was me.

But it certainly couldn’t have been me because I was a real goody-goody. Not that I actually wanted to be good; I was that well-behaved little girl who secretly had an urge to be really naughty. 

As the years passed I hoped that guilt feeling would subside, but it didn’t. You name it and I would feel guilty about it.

As somebody who worries most of the time the strange thing is that I often try to push the boundaries and then start feeling guilty about it. It’s that naughty girl trying to get out.

I know I’m not alone in this. The other day I was enjoying a drink – guilty, of course - with some friends about the same age as me.

We all agreed that, despite being law-abiding pensioners, we were troubled by guilt, even for events way beyond our influence or control, the present situation in the Middle East, for example.

We feel guilty that we live free in a safe and peaceful country while others endure constant insecurity and hatred.

One of our little group was a former doctor who said she still felt guilty because went out to work in spite of having children; she believed she should have spent more time at home with them. That’s a common source of guilt. (Now grown up her children are perfectly happy, by the way.)

Another friend said her guilt came from having to care for her older bed-ridden husband.

She does the best she can for him but does resent the fact that life for her has changed beyond recognition.

Any time she goes anywhere while he remains at home alone she gets that guilty feeling. It so happens that my husband is not so well and sometimes gets on my nerves. Oh, the guilt that comes from not being nicer. (He owns up to a twinge of guilt now and then for being a bit grumpy.)

So, what about eating and drinking too much and failing to burn off the calories with a spot of exercise?

Piling on the pounds, piling on the guilt? The only time I didn’t feel guilty about eating was when I was training for the London Marathon. Running around 10 miles each day made the calories drop off; lovely buttered scones and not a twinge of guilt.

And yet being guilt-free for a while wasn’t as much fun as I’d hoped. How disappointing. 

We friends sipped our wine and talked of lounging in the sun on a gorgeous sandy beach with a blue, blue sea and then feeling guilty about not enjoying it as much as we thought we should.

Then one of us said she might once have felt guilty skiing on perfect snow if she hadn’t tripped over the taxi’s seat belt and broken her leg, just as she arrived at the resort.

Then she burst out laughing, and laughter being infectious, so did we. Laughter really can force guilt to fade.

Dawn French found that out long ago, lucky girl.