For an ex keeper of budgerigars and cockatiels, Mrs Hextol has a remarkably low tolerance for the multifarious birdlife which abounds in the gardens of Hextol Towers.

A guide to the birds of Britain is never far from her grasp as feathered creatures from far and wide make Hextol Towers their restaurant of choice.

We both marvel at the sheer variety of birds which come to dip their beaks into a slice of Mother’s Pride, left over scones, exotic bird seed, and occasionally each other.

As well as the common or garden everyday visitors like sparrows, chaffinches, starlings and collared doves, we have the occasional bullfinch, nuthatch, long-tailed tit or sparrowhawk to enliven proceedings.

We spend a fortune on birdseed and fat balls, and are genuinely delighted if a pair of blue tits takes up residence in the bird box, as they did this year.

We have a bird table of rare distinction, which has served the avian population of Bellingham for many decades, but it is coming to the end of its useful life.

The wooden slats which make up the roof blow off at the slightest zephyr, and the tray hangs at a crazy angle, sending all the food to one end.

We would have sent it to the tip this summer, had it not been for the fact a stray clematis has sinuously embraced the structure and systematically wound itself around the woodwork. It has produced numerous buds, but we are yet to see our first flower.

Fat balls are a big favourite, but the trouble is they do tend to attract the heavy mob, in the sinister shape of a cosa nostra family of jackdaws who attack them with such gusto they rip the fat ball holder off the tree.

I remember Mrs Hextol being given a green budgie for her 15th birthday, and her distress when some weeks later, the bird started frothing copiously at the beak when her father was painting a wall, and it succumbed to the fumes.

Later we looked after Charlie, the Bellingham First School cockatiel, over the summer holidays, and were so taken with his chirpy chat we acquired two more, which were duly christened Kylie and Jason.

Charlie taught them to talk too, but there was no Erinsborough happy ending for these two lovebirds. We got up one morning to find Jason dead in a blood spattered cage, while Kylie thoughtfully ate a grape.

Despite their bad behaviour, Mrs Hextol loves all birds – unless they are foolish enough to fly into the conservatory.

A frantically flapping feathered fiend repeatedly dashing itself against the double glazing is enough to send her screaming into the refuge of the kitchen with the not so bold dog usually beating her to it

In the past, she has rung me at work, begging me to come home early to deal with the intruder.

I have arrived to find her cowering behind a locked door while some fragile feathery scrap perches on candle snuffer, exhausted by failed escape bids.

I usually flick a towel over the intruder, before bundling it out of the door, usually no worse for wear.

“It was a blue tit, not a cassowary,” I would explain to Mrs Hextol as the tip of her nose appeared from behind the door.

“I don’t care what it was ; I just don’t like it when they start flapping about and doing panicky poos.”

We are at the height of avian invasion time round about now, as the berries on our rowan tree ripen seductively and every blackbird and thrush in the North Tyne swoops in for a spot of unbridled gluttony.

Needless to say, a frantic squawk from Mrs Hextol has just indicated that what sounds like a pterodactyl at least has swooped into the conservatory, and I need to carry out my usual rescue mission.

The invader turns out to be a half-grown blackbird, clattering round the conservatory like a Saturday night drunk in a Swarovski crystal display cabinet, ejecting half digested rowan berries from every orifice as it tries to force its way through the glass.

I skid on a pile of smelly rowan pulp and almost fall, and try to put my towel over the panic stricken bird, which shrugs it off like a boxer discarding his robe.

I finally grab it by a wing tip, before escorting it top the door in a shower of orange discharge, and it flies happily back up to the top of the tree!