WHEN I first learned to write, I started at the right-hand side of the page and worked my way across to the left.

It was perfectly natural to me, as a left-handed child, yet I was told I "writing backwards".

At school I was soon taught to write left to right. I can’t remember how that felt at the time, but I know I subsequently went through my schooldays smudging ink onto my work and the side of my left hand.

I like being in the 10per cent of the population who are left-handed, whenever I meet another “leftie” it’s like finding a kindred spirit. But fitting into a right-handed world isn't easy.

Myths surrounding the left hand go back forever. Many superstitions link the left hand with evil, and the Devil himself is often portrayed in images as being left-handed. Witches were said to greet Satan with the left hand, and apparently he watches us over the left shoulder - we throw spilt salt over it to send him packing.

Get out of bed left foot first (or on the “wrong side”) and you’ll have a bad day. A ringing in the right ear means someone is praising you, in the left ear someone is cursing you. It’s bad luck to hand someone a drink with your left hand. When setting off on a journey, if your right foot itches you’ll travel safely, if your left foot itches it will “end in sorrow”. And the tradition of wearing wedding rings on the left hand comes from the ancient Greeks,who did so to fend off evil spirits.

While I've never, to my knowledge, been linked with the Devil, I have occasionally struggled as a left-handed person. I was hopeless at rounders because I was made to bat with my right hand. I've always had trouble using scissors, which cost me my first job, on a market stall, which I quit after being regularly scolded for wasting fabric because I couldn't cut it straight. I struggled to pick up shorthand at journalism college, and had no chance of writing it as neatly as right-handed people. I can't use a fountain pen because they're not designed for the left hand. I can't even use a vegetable peeler the "normal way".

But that's nothing compared with what a left-handed friend suffered at school. A teacher tied his left hand behind his back; forcing him to write with his right hand, which led to a speech impediment and bullying. Such a barbaric practice, once commonplace in schools, can cause long-lasting psychological damage.

Alarmingly, it seems children are still “penalised” for being left-handed, education campaigners warn. The Department for Education doesn't record numbers of left-handed pupils in schools and there is nothing in place to meet their needs. Campaigners are calling for specific teaching to rectify this, to improve the development of left-handed children. Fears that a disproportionate number of prisoners are left-handed suggest successive governments have failed to recognise the scale of the problem, and the link between classroom struggles and future opportunities.

Mark Stewart's Worcester-based initiative, Left 'n' Write, helps left-handed children and offers training to teachers. He says simple, effective adjustments to things such as how a child holds their pen can be made within minutes. A primary school headteacher said Mr Stewart's training gave his staff a “wake-up call” about the need of “one of our hidden vulnerable groups - left-handed pupils".

With the early years education of left-handed children still hampered by poor handwriting, low marks and a potential downward spiral, it's about time the Government woke up to this issue too.

* I HAVE never eaten a KFC in my life, and I’m pretty sure I never will.

Having been vegetarian since I was 18, I no longer regard meat as food. I have no problem with other people eating it, despite the tiresome goading I’ve endured from meat-eaters over the years.

Do I find the latest KFC advert, ‘The Whole Chicken’, in which some lovely white hens roam freely in a sun-kissed barn, offensive? Not really. What exactly do people think goes into a bucket of fried chicken?

There appears to be an insatiable appetite for chicken, and people seem happy to turn a blind eye to the reality of how it ends up in their greasy hands. Maybe these nice, healthy TV birds will prick a few consciences. Maybe not.

* WHEN I first met Gareth Gates, it's fair to say he wasn't capable of doing an interview.

I felt for him as he smiled for the cameras but struggled to speak, plagued with a debilitating stammer. Over the years training has transformed his speech and the Gareth I know today is confident and self-assured. This week he told me of his planned ‘stammer school’ to help Bradford children with speech problems.

"As a child I didn't know anyone with a stammer. I don't want them to feel that loneliness," he said. Well said, our Gareth.