It’s not even Christmas yet, but Mrs Hextol has already got her hands on her dream present.

I’m not talking about tickets for a Caribbean cruise, a glittering cascade of emeralds or a year’s supply of white Magnum ice creams – but a new vacuum cleaner!

Household appliances, no matter how desirable, are not the sort of thing one should wrap up and hand over on Christmas morning, as my father found out to his cost when his festive gift to my mother one year turned out to be a new chip pan.

“That old one’s past its best, and you can make my tea much quicker with this,” he declared proudly, and was genuinely miffed when he got beans on toast for his Christmas dinner.

No-one likes Hoovers more than Mrs Hextol – she has gone through scores in our 50 odd years together – but even I would not dare to wrap one up for her for Christmas Day.

Her love affair with cleaning aids goes back to the early days of our marriage, when we didn’t have a vacuum cleaner, but we were the proud owners of a Ewbank Parlour Queen, the top of the range hand-operated mechanical carpet sweeper. But its two tiny dust compartments were not enough for Mrs Hextol and we soon had a Hoover Junior, which served us well for many years.

Then we came into ownership of the Rolls Royce of vacuum cleaners – a Kirby – purchased second-hand via a small ad in a Corbridge newsagent’s window.

I’m not sure if they are still being made, but the Kirby was a monstrous machine, which seemed to be the size of a Mini.

It came with a large suitcase full of gadgets and fancy attachments, and if memory serves me right, it could not only clean the houser and the car but also spray paint the kitchen, cut the grass and take the children to school.

It roared like a Vulcan taking off, and was so powerful it sucked the lino off the floor.

You needed to be a weightlifter to use it and eventually it was relegated to the back of the garage with the one-pedalled exercise bike and empty Calor gas bottles which may come in handy one day.

Many vacuum cleaners have come and gone since, but of late, Mrs Hextol has been dropping broad hints about us acquiring one of those fancy cordless machines, even though there is still lots of life in the present Dyson.

“It’s too heavy to carry upstairs,” she complains, “and I haven’t forgotten the time you threw my other Dyson down the stairs and broke it.”

Throwing was perhaps an exaggeration, but I have to confess than some time ago, I found Dyson Number One standing at the top of the stairs, and assumed Mrs Hextol wanted me to carry the heavy machine down for her.

Somehow, it slipped from my grasp, and I could only watch in horror as it cartwheeled down the stairs in a catherine wheel of exploding shards of plastic and wires.

Mrs Hextol was unforgiving: “It’s just taken me ages to carry the vacuum cleaner upstairs – why did you have to touch it?

“Would there still be the toast crumbs on the floor from breakfast in bed if I had used it?”

I could not see the faintest hint of crumbs or other detritus on the bedroom carpet or anywhere else, but Mrs Hextol has an unerring eye for the most microscopic molecule of dust.

Things came to a head on Black Friday, when I came in from ostling to hear that Mrs Hextol had been seduced online into purchasing for some trifling sum a cordless Dyson.

It arrived the next day, and I scoffed at the minute dust reservoir, “You’ll have to empty it every five minutes the way you clean up,” I ventured. But she retorted: “No I won’t, because the battery only lasts 20 minutes!”

I then found to my horror that the machine had a dock, which had to be screwed to the wall close to an electric socket.

I have a mortal fear of drilling into walls at the best of times, in the sure and certain knowledge that I will hit either an electric cable or a water pipe, but I closed my eyes and trusted to luck.

To my relief and amazement there was no shower of sparks or spurt of water, and so far, the dock has stayed safely on the wall!