I HAD occasion to look inside the cupboard under the kitchen sink the other day – an area which is a bit of a mystery to me, as the kitchen is very much Mrs Hextol’s domain.

I was amazed at the sheer number and variety of plastic bottles, tins, Tupperware boxes and other paraphernalia which have accumulated over the years.

The reason for my visit was to find the tin of fly spray I bought a couple of years earlier in order to see off a couple of bluebottles, hatched by the unseasonably warm spring sunshine streaming through the conservatory window.

They were lumbering about like a couple of Sopwith Camels, and they had evaded my attempts to swat them with a rolled up Hexham Courant.

I am sure I would have succeeded if it had still been a broadsheet, but the hatchlings were pretty good on the new wings.

So a chemical attack was called for to send them spinning out of the sky – but I couldn’t find the can of Raid which is my favourite weapon of mass destruction.

I knew it would be in the cupboard under the sink, and with Mrs Hextol on babysitting duties elsewhere, I knew I had the freedom to rummage without fear of retribution.

Dominating the glory hole was a Quality Street tin of vast proportions, some three times bigger than the present plastic tub in which the nation’s favourite sweets are dispensed every Christmas.

The last coffee cream and walnut whirl had vanished decades earlier, but the tin was brimming with a cornucopia of items which might one day prove useful.

There were screws of all sizes, from tiny little brass jobs from a long lost Meccano set to others many inches long which would have secured a Brahma bull to a door.

Where they had all come from I had no idea, as my DIY skills are immeasurably feeble, and I would never purchase materials I had neither the wish nor the ability to do anything with. There was a roll of 35mm film in its own cassette, plastic money from long forgotten toy cash registers, several broken curtain hooks, a multitude of jubilee clips and a device for tightening the studs in a pair of football boots.

There were candle stubs from ancient birthday cakes, a set of miniature screwdrivers from out of a Christmas cracker and a receipt for petrol purchased from Adams and Gibbon in Hexham in 1986.

However, there was no sign of any fly spray so I started removing tins and bottles to give myself a clear field.

There were sprays for just about everything – from cleaning the oven and descaling the kettle to tackling toenail fungus and giving the dog a glossy coat and wet nose.

Right at the back were packets of wallpaper paste, miracle Acdo soap powder and even a tin of Vim, but the fly spray had flown.

My thoughts went back to when I was a youngster growing up in the 1950s, when a single shelf held my mother’s housework aids.

Instead of multiple packets of soaps and detergents there would have been a single block of Fairy Soap, the all purpose cleanser which was used to bath five children, scrub the collars and cuffs of shirts, do the washing up, and be on standby to be mixed with sugar to make a poultice to cure boils the size of Ben Nevis.

There were no little brushes or rough-sided sponges to help with the washing up – dish cloths were always fashioned from my father’s worn-out underpants.

There would also be a box of Tide washing powder, along with the packet of Glowhite to keep the net curtains spick and span, and there was always a tin of Duraglit silver polish, a box of Brillo pads and a cardboard tube of Vim scouring powder – great for getting the mud off your knees after a game of football.

Also, there would be a small tin of black shoe polish along with two brushes – one for putting it on, and other for taking it off, and woe betide you if my father could not see his face in his shoes before he set off for the pub.

I never did find the fly spray, but when I went back into the conservatory the two bluebottles had settled close together on the window sill – and I slew them both with a single blow from a Noddy and Big Ears book from the Quality Street tin.