OPINION: The most embarrassing moments in the UK so far this year

Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media afte

Dominic Cummings and the word embarrassment seem to have gone hand in hand over the last year - Credit: PA

Forget freedom, lockdown and hugs, the buzzword for May 2021 seemed to be embarrassment.

It seems to be everywhere at the moment.

The Queen is embarrassed by Prince Harry, Martin Bashir has embarrassed the BBC, Dominic Cummings has embarrassed Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and himself, Britain was embarrassed at Eurovision in both finishing last and putting Amanda Holden up in front of the continent, and Manchester United's David de Gea embarrassed himself taking that penalty in the Europa League final last Wednesday.

And as we exit lockdown, some of us are probably embarrassed at inviting people into our houses that are showing the signs of a year of us hardly leaving them.

Hands up who has done a bit of DIY in the last few weeks before letting anyone cross the threshold?

I'll just drop my paint roller to raise mine.

As if to fit in with the current crimson-cheeked zeitgeist, my five-year-old son caught the bug late last week when, walking him to school, I clipped the back of his shoe while trying to get him out the way of another parent and child and his footwear flipped in the air and landed on the pavement, causing him to cry.

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"Daddy, I'm embarrassed," he told me through the tears.

Embarrassment is hard to describe. We've all felt embarrassed but what exactly is it?

I had to look it up in the dictionary. The definition is 'an emotional state when someone commits a socially unacceptable or frowned-upon act that is witnessed by or revealed to others'.

It's public humiliation, then. But I suppose you can still be embarrassed on your own, it's just that when nobody else sees it happen, you can just laugh about it yourself and move on.

Like the time I dropped a jar of pickled silverskin onions on the floor when stacking shelves through the night at Tesco as a student.

It was the perfect crime. The small onions rolled under the shelves, the vinegar was transparent and the jar glass white.

It was in my first week of working there and I kicked all the debris under the shelves in embarrassment.

My manager walked down the aisle like a sergeant major at the end of my shift looking at my handiwork.

"Looks good," he said. "Can you smell vinegar"? I looked at the ceiling and shook my head.

I have been embarrassed though, in public.

I think about the time when I drove into a supermarket car park on a busy Saturday afternoon just as I clocked that someone had been waiting patiently to get into the exact same space.

Seconds later the car driver appeared at my window banging in frustration. I pulled out and parked my car somewhere else but he wasn't having it.

As we'd arrived at the same time we then spent the next 10 minutes in the supermarket bumping into each other on the same aisles.

He wouldn't accept my apology.

It doesn't need a big crowd to be embarrassed. A couple of years ago I sold some Moses basket legs to somebody on eBay.

It wasn't the most lucrative of sales but it saved me from having to consign them to a landfill site for the next thousand years.

A young plump lady appeared at my door and I happily handed them over.

Looking at her tummy, I politely asked when the baby was due.

"Oh, I'm not pregnant," she said in an offended way. "They're for a friend."

I looked at the floor and closed the door slowly with a "Sorry".

I say it doesn't need a big crowd to be embarrassed but it's so much better when there is one.

Imagine a plane full of passengers on a big 747 some 32,000 feet in the air and then one chump right at the front of a big open section of seating is tucking into his meal an hour in to a 10 hour flight from London to Singapore and he starts to choke on a bit of steak.

I mean how embarrassing would it be for that person?

That was me in 2007.

How was I to know that a tiny bit of steak would get caught in my throat causing me to shoot up, slam my dinner tray into the seat in front of me and start to make bizarre wretching noises?

Luckily a petite Singapore Airlines stewardess arrived within seconds and successfully performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on me and the morsel of steak was swiftly ejected.

It was only the start of my embarrassment.

A doctor had to visit me in my seat just as everyone was tucking into their dessert and he told me they wouldn't give me any more food for the rest of the flight. I was told to sip water slowly on and off until Singapore.

Worst of all I was sat near the toilets and for the rest of the flight I was something of a tourist attraction.

"Are you the chap who couldn't eat his dinner?"  one wag asked me.

I'm sure in some filing cabinet in Singapore or on some database there's a record of this incident and everytime I walk past a butchers I get flashbacks.

So embarrassment can happen on the school run, on your doorstep, at work or 32,000 feet in the air when you least expect it.

At least it gives me plenty of material should I want to write a book about it.

Naturally I'd call it An Embarrassment of Richards.