FEW things fill me with more dread than seeing Mrs Hextol taking a blank piece of paper and heading it with a heavily underscored “Things to do”.

It usually involves me having to go round the house attempting to carry out minor repairs to the fabric of Hextol Towers.

After more than half a century together, she knows I am the world’s worst handyman.

However, she is an eternal optimist and has never given up hope that one day, I will be able to tick an item off the list to her satisfaction.

It has never happened yet, and in our heart of hearts, we both know it never will.

Still, I dutifully scan the list, and see what I won’t be doing very well this year.

At number one was dealing with a small damp patch which has appeared on the bedroom ceiling during our monsoon of a summer.

“I will have to get the step ladder from the garage and go and take a look round,” I announced to be met with: “You can’t put those dirty ladders on my good carpet; you were using them to cut the hedge, and the legs will be filthy.”

As my yogic flying is not sufficiently advanced to levitate me into the roof space, I was eventually granted permission to use the step ladders, as long as they were prewashed, and a thick layer of old sheets was laid down.

Outside, it was a rare bright day, but no shafts of light were visible to indicate any loose slates or drooping roofing felt.

I had a flashlight purchased from one of those silent street vendors who frequent restaurants in foreign parts, and all it revealed was a blancmange-like mass of plumped up pink insulating material, hiding the location of the roof joists, and practically inviting me to put a foot wrong and plummet through the ceiling to the bedroom below.

I gave it up as a bad job, eliciting a pitying frown from my dear wife.

The damp spot continues to expand, but remains manageable.

Then it was onto tidying up the hedge where tufts of exuberant growth, encouraged by the recent weather, had started to mar its usually pristine appearance.

I got the hedgecutters out, plugged them in but when I pressed the trigger nothing happened.

I changed the fuse to no avail, and Mrs Hextol remarked acidly: “You’d better check that wiring you ‘repaired’ last time you did the hedge.”

“It’s not that,” I said rather tartly, but a quick tug on the lead produced a bare wire which had come adrift.

I reached for the screwdriver and pliers, and was about to start work.

But before I could, Mrs Hextol remarked sweetly: “Don’t you think it would be a good idea if you unplugged them first?”

I did get the hedge trimmed eventually, and as usual, deployed the lawnmower to hoover up all the leaves and clippings.

Remarkably, it didn’t work either, and this time without prompting I checked a previous repair, and found once again that my handiwork had been found sadly wanting,

It was soon fixed up with a bit of ingenuity and insulation tape, and should be good for a few more seasons yet – maybe.

Next on the list was a suspicious patch of water which appears on the floor behind the downstairs loo, which I maintained was down to bad aiming by gentlemen callers but which Mrs Hextol said could be a leak.

I got a wrench and squeezed into the narrow gap between door and cistern, accidentally mopping up a tablespoon or so of what I hoped was just water with my shirt.

Another drop of water landed with a splash, exploding my theory, so I plied my wrench on the first nut I saw.

The single drop instantly turned into something of a gush, so I attacked another, much bigger nut – and lo and behold, the flow stopped, with not even a drop escaping.

I couldn’t believe I had fixed it, but after 30 minutes, a piece of kitchen roll I had left on the floor was still gloriously bone dry.

I felt ridiculously pleased with myself for finally getting a job right, but Mrs Hextol was less than impressed.

“That pipe is so bent and twisted now it looks a real mess,” she opined.

“I am sure no-one else will get down on their knees when they come in here unless they are being sick, and a skewed pipe will be the last thing on their mind,” I retorted.