Doctors found a lump and suddenly I was the loneliest person in the world.

A lump was discovered in my breast in the summer of 1978, shortly after I'd finished the second series of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.

I was 36 years old and recently divorced.  A biopsy was ordered.  A simple procedure, they told me, just a day or so in hospital.

Breast tumour?  I was totally shocked: surely I wasn't alone among men in believing that only women had to worry about such things?

I decided to keep completely quiet about my medical problem.  Indeed, I've never said a word about it to anyone and I tell it now only because of the insight it gave me on my life at the time.

I suddenly felt very much alone.  It was after I entered hospital - in the midst of filling out the admission forms, to be precise - when I was confronted by the line that asked for 'Name of person to be notified in case of emergency', that my loneliness hit me.

How could I put down Nan, my fragile 93 year-old grandmother?  I remembered how once, when I was a child of six or seven, I'd made Nan promise she's live to be a 100.  Could the unthinkable be about to happen?  Could I be about to die before Nan did?

How could I put my girlfriend Jo-Anne's name down on the form?  We weren't living together.  I didn't want my daughters, Emma and Lucy, to be the first to know, nor Gabrielle, my ex-wife.

It sounds totally idiotic, but the only thought that crossed my mind was: "I don't want anyone to know I'm dead - they'll be upset!"

So I wrote in the name of my agent - Michael Linnit - trusting he'd know the best way to deal with any awful eventualities.

A report was later sent to me from my surgeon, Mr. John Maynard at Guy's Hospital in London, dated July 18, 1978.

'Dear Mr. Crawford,' his letter began.  'The histological report on your left breast tissue showed only increased fibrosis...there was not evidence of malignancy.

Wonderful words, welcome indeed.  But another such tumour was found a few months later and I had to return to hospital for another biopsy.  Again, it was non-malignant.

It's all over now, a long time ago, and I've since been given a clean bill of health.  But I've never forgotten the experience of lying in that bed, alone and frightened.

It was a gift in a way.  All I had to do was walk through the children's wards and see those amazingly brave, often terminally ill, little souls to gain a whole new perspective on life and death, and one's own vulnerability.

I realised I'd been given the chance to do something more with my life.  I was alive and I was healthy.  I felt very fortunate.

Some time afterwards I was invited to present an award at the Australian Film Festival.  It was a rare opportunity to experience some of the exotic sights of the Orient on the way.

My first stop was Thailand, I was met at Bangkok airport by a genial Irishman, who was the assistant manager at my hotel.

After I'd settled in, he called my room with an invitation to sample some of Bangkok's night life.  We'll have a 'real look-see', he said, and mentioned a rather seedy area of the city called Pat Pong.

There were girls of every shape, size and description - hordes of them - and they stuck to us like flypaper.  The Irishman relished my astonished response.

A girl sat next to me on our first stop.  "You Merican?" she asked.  I explained that I was English, and stared ahead.  "You don't rike me?" she said. "Yes, I do rike you," I said.  "But I'm, you know, uh, listening to the music..."

That was pretty stupid.  With five topless Thai girls bouncing on the bar in front of me, this hardly constituted a meeting of the Bangkok Music Appreciation Society.

"What you want?" she persisted.  "You want my sister?"  You want my brother?"  "No, certainly not!" I said.

"Ahhh," she said.  I know what you rike..."  She left me for a few seconds, and returned again, arm-in-arm with an extraordinary beauty.  "Well, hellooo," I said.  "Uh, do you want a Coke?"

My Irish host and his friends were laughing at me, delighted at my obvious interest in the girl.

Face flushed scarlet with a combination of beer, heat and noise, I felt ridiculously out of place.  But the girl was really charming and by the time her friend came back to check on our progress, we were getting on quite well.  "Ahh," she yelled above the din, "See, I know what you rike!  You rike George here!"

"George?" I said.  "Yes, that's my name, George."  I'd been chatting for 15 minutes with a transvestite.  I leapt to my feet, scattering beers, Cokes and cigarette ends over my companions, and made a beeline for the front door, followed by the Irishman, who was totally convulsed at the turn of events.

It was the second time in my life when I was to be sorely disappointed.  The first had been many years earlier and, at least at the time, nowhere near as funny.

It was back in 1965 and I was 23 years old.  I was nominated by the British Film Academy as 'most promising newcomer' along with Judi Dench, Barbara Ferris and Michael Nardini.  A real honour.

The film awards gala was held at the Grosvenor House Hotel with all the elegance and excitement you would expect.  The whole evening was being broadcast on television all around the world.

The master of ceremonies was the debonair film star James Mason.  By the time the 'most promising newcomer' award rolled round, Mr. Mason was beginning to look a little frayed around the edges.  In fact, there was an impression in the room that someone had tampered with his water jug.

He began to read out the nominees.  It was a nervous moment. "And the winner is..." he announced, "Michael, uh, Crawford..."  The applause rang out.

I went completely insane.  I leapt to my feet and bounded up the stairs, three at a time.

Mr. Mason looked at me with a slightly quizzical air, possibly because he was seeing double.  Then he was interrupted by Michael Scott, the compere.

After an eternal moment of consultation, Mr. Mason apologised to both me (and to the 20 million television viewers).

"Oh...well, I'm awfully sorry," he said.  "But there's been a mistake..."  "I'm sorry..?" I gasped.  Michael, it doesn't appear that you have actually won..."

My face took on the sort of glow not seen since the doctors slapped me around at birth.

Please God, I prayed silently.  If you'll just send a small earthquake to swallow me up right now, I'll never ask another favour.

Ever ready with a quip - and in an attempt to convince the audience that I was taking it all in my stride - I said, "Well, did I come in second?"  Silence.  Mr. Mason just gave me a 'kindly leave the stage' look, and read out Judi Dench's name over my shoulder.

I left the stage, my eyes firmly fixed on the carpet as I rushed back to my seat, bumping into tables en route.

I'm older now and a bit more philosophical, and can accept the experience as one of those things that happen in life - but, hopefully, never again to me in this lifetime.

Parcel Arrived Safely: Tied With String by Michael Crawford.

Excerpt Typed by: Lilian Barbuti - Thanks Lilian!