I went to Bedford once. The car broke down and, in the days before mobile telephony became the go-to device of choice, my options were limited to a urine soaked red telephone box. I had left my wallet at a friend’s house and, requiring the usage of ten new pence, I sauntered around stopping random strangers and asking very politely if they could spare me some change, mister.

Eventually I located a knightess in shining armour. To be more precise she was wearing a Reebok shell suit that would have been inadvisable to wear on bonfire night. She agreed to handing over two shillings on condition I took her address and furnished her with 20 pence in exchange. Desperate, and aghast at the mistrust shown by Bedfordonians, I agreed and later visited her with a pound note and a brief note calling her a tight git and requesting she spend her spoils on some non-flammable leisurewear apparel.

It was against this backdrop, and some years later, that I was gobsmacked to learn that Bedford was deemed to be the most generous town in Britain. The data, derived by Just Giving, is irrefutable. Some 41,000 people gave a total of £1.2 million in donations on the site and the local MP was quoted as stating that "Bedford is a welcoming place for people of differing backgrounds". Vindictive me hopes that his car breaks down in the St Albans area during the mid-winter so I can drive past and splash him with a puddle as payback for Bedford in 1991.

It got me thinking, though, as to how generous myself and my compatriots are. Telethons and charity appeals are now prevalent and to be heard above the braying flock you must go harder on your appeal than ever before, to pull on the heartstrings and force action by way of donations. I first noticed the trend in the late 1990’s. As a stereotypical ‘skint’ student who, in reality had just wasted his grant on drink, pool and baccy, I sat in with a friend, Paul, watching Children in Need. It was the first time I felt genuinely sad at the plight of others. Paul, a kindly soul, had tears welling up and, despite having less of a pot than I, called up and donated £200 to the appeal. In the morning, I commended him on his generosity and selflessness. After a bout of denial, he then spent an hour, unsuccessfully, on the phone to Barclays failing to halt the payment.

Following Bedford, famous for, and I quote ‘Ronnie Barker and Italian Food’ (bbc.co.uk) in the generosity roll of honour, were Cambridge, Bristol, Aberdeen (putting pay to the stereotypes about the Scots) and, at number 10, Watford. Astonishingly, Sevenoaks in Kent averaged £42.29 in donations per head. Reading the generosity of others makes me look at myself and question my giving qualities. I did, in my defence, volunteer for many years, but seeing those who currently give up their time for others (the local scout group) or give generously, I can’t help but feel somewhat humbled.

Big charities gild directors hundreds of thousands a year to run them as businesses, which I find somewhat unpalatable, so I guess the grass roots is where it begins. I vow to buy the next homeless person I meet a meal or spare a few quid in the local hospice collection tin. If that does not work and the guilt is not abated I will set up a clothing bank. One rule: no shell suits or flammable attire.