I WAS in our village paper shop the other day to purchase Northumberland’s favourite newspaper, handing over a fistful of loose change to complete the transaction.

I was on my way out when the girl behind the counter called me back: “ How –you can’t pay with this!”

For to my mortification, among the glittering cascade of silver coins now necessary to purchase a paper was a French franc I had somehow mistaken for a 10p coin.

How it came to be in my pocket I had no idea, for the last time I was in France, the Euro had been adopted years before .

Then I remembered that some days before, Mrs Hextol and I had been conducting one of our futile attempts to tidy the garage, on the grounds that getting into the place was becoming a task that would test the ingenuity of the Hatton Gardens heist geriatric gangsters.

Among the flotsam and jetsam of 40 years together, there used to be a box filled with foreign coins and banknotes accumulated by us on our various foreign jaunts, and supplemented by the multiple currencies left in the pockets of sailor son’s trousers when he comes home on leave. We have a 100,000 dinar note from Yugoslavia and a 200 peseta note from Spain, along with coins from Djibouti, the Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, the USA and everywhere between.

The grandchildren used to use the cornucopia of coins when playing shops, and it had been transferred to the garage.

It was clear that this treasure trove had suffered a seismic shift at some point, and the franc had escaped, to be picked up as a 10p by my myopic eyes,

As well as obsolete coins, the garage contains everything but the car it was designed for, all stowed in a higgledy piggledy nightmare of crates, cartons, green plastic boxes from Safeway, bread trays from God knows where and lots of those blue bags from Ikea.

The rafters are festooned with everything from curtain rails and garden canes to fishing rods, a pair of crutches, a pair of skis complete with poles and many yards of rope, string, baler twine and two bush saws which are so blunt they would struggle to slice through half a pound of Lurpak.

That being said, they hang at such an angle I bang my head on them every time I enter the garage.

There are crates crammed with many plastic containers swishing with mysterious liquids of unknown origin, none of which has any connection with the lettering on the bottle.

Even an exploratory sniff by Mrs Hextol – who has the nose of an airport sniffer dog – was unable to determine what was in any of the bottles. She declared: “It says paraffin on this one, but I think it’s either weedkiller, car shampoo that’s gone off or the stuff we got to unblock the manhole in the front garden.

“I‘m pretty sure these ones are either antifreeze or screenwash, this one might be paint thinners and that one is superannuated Swarfega.”

Each time we embark on a garage tidying day, Mrs Hextol declares we are going to be ruthless and get rid of everything we never use. I hoped this included the barbecue we acquired for our 25th wedding anniversary, which has been used only twice in the 22 years since.

I just don’t get the thinking behind barbecues, as I fail to see the point of starting a fire in the garden to cook meat badly, when there is a perfectly good cooker in the kitchen which does the job better and with far less mess.

A barbecue takes hours to get to cooking temperature, and when it finally does heat up , you can cook sausages for the entire village. Mrs Hextol always refuses to throw it out though and yet again this year, it has been wrapped up in a Courant from 1993 and put back into storage.

We did find my collection of LPs from the 1950s and 60s, including records from the young Cliff Richard and his backing group the Drifters –before they became the Shadows – not to mention classics by Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and Johnny and the Hurricanes,

We finished up taking a full carload of detritus to the tip at Hexham, but the first thing Mrs Hextol did was cross the road to a car boot sale at the mart to see if there was any more rubbish with which to replace it.