A PHYSIOTHERAPIST visits Jim Bowen’s home once a week. “She got expelled from the SS for cruelty,” he said.

It is an oldie but a goodie and proof that despite huge physical and psychological duress after suffering three strokes, the former television host is still super, smashing, great.

Jim, 78, who was brought up in Clayton-le-Moors, was not sure whether he wanted to be interviewed.

What is the need? His disabilities — his walking and speaking are impaired — have sapped his confidence and only the day before he had suffered a particularly black time.

But 10 minutes into the conversation we were discussing reasons to be cheerful: his wonderful wife Phyllis — his rock — his kids and grandkids, and the fact that his successful career as everybody’s favourite gameshow host has meant he no longer has to work to pay the bills. Life is not so bad after all.

“I have good days and bad days,” he said from his home in the Lune Valley.

“God knows what I would have done if I did not have Phyllis.

“She has been phenomenal and it has been very difficult for her too. But I am one of the lucky ones. I can walk and I can speak and I still look like Jim Bowen.

“The difficult part is the psychological effect. You tend to worry about little things when you have had a stroke. At times it is difficult to find reasons to be here. The phone does not ring and you feel like people do not want you any more. But it is not the case — when I see people they are incredibly pleased to see me.

“Sometimes I am so down — it is terrible. But Phyllis tells me to go out and we will get in the car. We are very lucky. I can open my door and the view makes me smile.”

Jim was adopted at nine months from a Wirral orphanage in 1937. He said: “All I know is that my mother, whoever she was, could not keep me.

“I never wanted to trace my parents. You do not know what grief you are uncovering.

“Some people have a mid-life crisis and want to find their parents but I never had that crisis. I did not want to uncover a bag of worms.”

His adoptive parents, Joe and Annie Whittaker, were “excellent”.

Jim said: “My dad had been in the First World War and had seen all the carnage in Belgium. He kept himself to himself and did not like to talk about his experiences.

“He never showed much emotion — but my mum was the opposite. They were excellent parents.”

Jim was a clever lad but “very distracted”. And although he attended Accrington Grammar School, he failed his O levels. “I took eight and failed nine,” he joked. So he spent six months working as a bin man in Burnley.

He said: “That was enough for me. I could not face doing that job for the next 50 years, so I asked the headmaster to take me back to retake my exams. I had to do another year in the fifth form but I got them second time around.”

After that it was two years’ National Service and then on to teacher training college in Chester.

He trained as a PE teacher in Lancashire schools and ended his career as deputy head of Caton Primary School near Lancaster.

Jim said: “In those days the philosophy was to get a proper job — a shirt-and-tie job.

“After failing my GCEs first time I did not want to let my parents down. But I often say the highlight of my teaching career was leaving. I was a good teacher, very dedicated, but I left instead of nailing the little ones to the desks.

“Seriously though, there was so much interference from the system, so much politics and political correctness. You could not teach a child, you had to teach a subject and I wanted my kids to do well.”

By 1960 Jim had started doing stand-up and soon discovered that he could earn more in a week than his deputy head’s salary.

He said: “I got the showbiz bug. It was Frank Carson, who was performing at a club in Blackpool, who asked me if I fancied television.

“I met John Hamp, who was head of light entertainment at Granada, and that was it.”

His first appearance was on Granada’s stand-up show The Comedians in 1971, alongside comic greats Bernard Manning, Stan Boardman and Mike Reid.

Jim was hugely popular — and a decade later, he was asked to host a new darts-based game show.

He said: “It was all a case of right time and right place. I always said the game was the star.

“It was downmarket but accessible. Joe Public could identify with my fallibilities.”

Jim always admitted that his failings as a slick show host proved the key to the success of Bullseye.

He said: “I was so poor at the game-show game. I would say ‘What do you do for a living?’. They would reply ‘I have been unemployed for two years’ — and I would say ‘Smashing’. It was just a word to give me a chance to think.

“The luckiest moment of my career was getting Bullseye.

“It gave me a profile and the programme was successful despite me.

“Showbiz was very good to me but I do not have the desire to go for it any more and I am not missing the glamour.”

Bullseye was screened from 1981 to 1996 — and since then Jim has worked on cruise ships and the after-dinner speaking circuit.

He said: “Thankfully, nothing is forcing me to go out and work now and I feel very sorry for anyone in my position who cannot handle it financially.

“There is no pressure for me. The local council puts on shows and concerts for old people and I do a few of those.

“I am just glad to be able to speak and walk and lead a relatively normal life.”