REGULAR readers of this column will be familiar with my reluctance to enter the loft of Hextol Towers, for fear of plunging between the roof joists and plummeting down into the kitchen and startling Mrs Hextol as she is frying my liver and onions.

Since the joists were obscured by many feet of insulating material some years ago, visits are made only in times of extreme necessity, such as the occasion when a number of birds somehow managed to get in, and subsequently drown themselves in one of the mysterious water tanks lurking up there.

We only found out we had avian lodgers when to Mrs Hextol’s consternation feathers, bits of beak, and shreds of decaying flesh started oozing from the hot tap in the bathroom washbasin.

A facemask, a gag and industrial strength rubber gloves were required to remove the intruders, but I could smell rotting starling for weeks.

But while the loft is a no go area, I have always been fairly sanguine about the floor, which has served us with robust vigour for many decades.

True, it has become rather creaky over the years, but has never let us down.

Mrs Hextol had frequently asked me to repair it, but I reasoned creaky floorboards would alert us to any burglars who somehow managed to get past the slavering attentions of the dog.

However, the other day one creak became more of a groan, and a slight depression appeared in the upstairs landing carpet after I had tripped the light fantastic over it.

The depression in the carpet was nothing compared to the one which descended on me when I realised the carpet and underlay would have to come up in order for me to survey the damage to arguably the busiest thoroughfare in the house.

Rolling back the carpet revealed a cracked piece of flooring, which I was confident I could replace by using one of the multiple lengths of wood I have accumulated in the garage in the sure and certain knowledge that at least one of them was bound to come in handy one day.

I had to remove eight three-inch screws to allow me to take up the damaged flooring, and I felt a surge of triumph when the piece came out with only minimal tugging and wrestling.

The elation was replaced within a matter of moments by a surge of dark despair.

To my horror, the floorboard concealed a veritable spaghetti junction of copper piping some seeming almost white hot, along with coils of important looking thick wiring, all thrumming with vibrant energy.

I just knew I was destined to fire a screw straight through one of these pipes creating flooding which would bring down all the ceilings in the house.

I confessed my fears to Mrs Hextol , who told me not to be so stupid, as I just had to fit the replacement flooring to the joists, so there was no need to go near any copper piping,

I went up to the garage with a lighter heart, and after much rummaging, established the fact that none of the wood I had was big enough to plug the gap.

Then I remembered seeing a substantial piece of stout plywood at the stables where I help out, and the obliging boss not only let me have it, but using the broken piece of wood as a template, used a jigsaw to cut out an exact-sized replacement floorboard!

It would have taken me several days and a broken marriage to achieve such a snug fit, and I took home my timber with great glee.

I dropped my prize into the waiting slot – and to my chagrin discovered it appeared to be nothing approaching the correct size.

Then Mrs Hextol announced: “You are trying to put it in back to front,” and once I had turned it round, it settled snugly home like a bum on a pot. I have seldom felt so pleased with one of my DIY efforts, as they invariably end in disaster, although strictly speaking this one wasn’t actually mine.

I still had to replace the screws without puncturing the pipes below. I had borrowed a cordless drill for the purpose and within sixty seconds had stripped the heads off three screws with the infernal thing.

Luckily I found some more, with the aid of granddaughter Elise – who forcefully pointed out she is only eight, not nine as previously indicated.