I had the singular honour of being left in sole charge of my youngest granddaughter the other day.

It was only for a couple of hours, but it was one of the most satisfying tasks I have undertaken in many years.

Olivia is just three months old, and I did not expect to be allowed to take her under my wing as my track record when left with babes in arms is not without the odd little blemish.

Mrs Hextol has not forgotten the time when she nipped to the shop, and left me to change our oldest boy’s nappy.

These were the days before disposable nappies, when squares of terry towelling had to be folded into a kite shape, before being secured through the legs of the often struggling child by means of two large safety pins.

I was adroit at making the kite, but not so good at securing it. I thought I had done a reasonable job in changing the nappy, and placing the old one – relieved of its odiferous contents – into a handy bucket of Napisan.

The baby was crying, but that’s what babies do, so I was not unduly alarmed.

The cries had turned to a howl when Mrs Hextol arrived back from the shop, and accused me of dropping the boy, or performing some other act of the extreme clumsiness for which I am renowned.

I was able to reassure her that no such incident had taken place, and all I had done was change the nappy.

The plastic pants which I had so laboriously worked into place just five minutes earlier were yanked down, and the reason for a commotion became all too apparent.

I had somehow succeeded in sticking one of the safety pins not just through the nappy, but also through a sliver of skin on the baby’s belly.

There was hardly any blood, and once the offending pin had been removed, the howling stopped within seconds.

On another occasion Mrs Hextol was bemoaning the fact that the boy’s dungarees were taking too long to dry on the clothes horse in front of our olde worlde Rayburn stove and I was left to keep an eye on them while she went to work at Denton’s cake shop in Hexham.

I decided to hurry things along bit by putting the trousers on the hot plate above the fire, and shutting them lid on them for a couple of seconds.

That was all it took for the new garment – worn only once – to melt and then burst into flames, filling the house with such acrid fumes the smoke alarm started bleeping and woke the slumbering infant.

This was all a long time ago, but Mrs Hextol has a long memory, so I was more than a little surprised when I was entrusted with the welfare of our newest granddaughter while Dad was fending off Iranians from British tankers in the Gulf of Hormuz, Mam was carrying out domestic chores and Nana was babysitting elsewhere.

Little Olivia had come for a sleepover with Nana and Granda, and had behaved impeccably overnight, but when she came into bed with me while Mrs Hextol was downstairs making her morning bottle, she seemed a little distressed.

Her normal smiles and giggles were replaced by a concerned frown and the odd whimper. It was only when I put my glasses on that she produced the broadest gummy beam and a satisfied chortle.

She had not recognised me sans facial furniture.

I gave her the bottle and burped her thoroughly and after Mrs Hextol had changed her nappy she soon settled down back in her crib.

I was given a long list of instructions about what not to do while Mrs Hextol was out, but Olivia and I had a whale of a time, dancing to sixties music and nursery rhymes.

I got a more thorough workout than I would have done if I had been mucking out horses that day!

I gave her another bottle at the appointed time, and then came the moment I had been dreading – the changing of the nappy.

The previous day, she had produced the nappy from hell, which necessitated her being immersed in the kitchen sink for a thorough hose-down, but thankfully on this occasion, there was only a little light dampness to deal with.

I only heaved a couple of times and the only problem I had was a surplus of poppers on vests and babygrows.

She can come back anytime.