THERE used to be a malevolent presence lurking round Bellingham on a Friday night by the name of Hissing Sid.

On his way home from the pub, his party piece was to let the air out of the tyres of parked cars for a laugh.

He has been dormant for many years, but last weekend, I was led to believe the dastardly deflater had made a comeback.

I jumped into the car on Saturday afternoon to drive down to Corbridge to see Tynedale RFC take on struggling team Scunthorpe.

But I had only gone a few yards when I realised the vehicle was making a noise like a fat man running in flip flops.

I got out to see the front nearside tyre was completely flat, so I had to return to base, and because I had no time to fit the spare there and then, I had to make the journey to Corbridge in the odiferous and ancient Renault Clio which is usually reserved for equine adventures.

As well as being mud-spattered and having the front bumper cracked in half and trailing following an early morning altercation with a hare, it is full of dirty straw, unspeakable stains, wet gloves, smelly waterproofs and other pungent paraphernalia.

However, it did get me to Corbridge and back.

It has to be said though, I got some funny looks at the bar and several people caught their breath and clutched their throats in dramatic fashion.

I have never been very good at jacking up cars, ever since the jack went through the floor of an ancient Mini once.

But the job had to be done the next day, even though it was lashing down with rain, and I was soaked to the skin.

I had already spent about two hours trying to get the wheel cover off when I realised you had to take the wheel nuts off first.

I had just managed to get the car jacked up and the wheel off with only a few minor injuries when a neighbour informed me that a number of people in the vicinity had had their tyres let down under cover of darkness in recent weeks.

So having finally changed the flat tyre for the Mickey Mouse wheel that serves as a spare these days, I blew the old tyre up out of curiosity.

I could see no tell tale nails sticking through the tread, and it seemed sound enough, so I tested the pressure, and stuck in it in the garage overnight.

I tested the pressure again 24 hours later, and it remained unaltered, so I assumed Hissing Sid was up to his dastardly deeds again.

So out came the jack yet again, and after only a couple of hours, the restored tyre was back in place.

I was congratulating myself on saving the cost of puncture repair or even a new tyre.

I checked it again the next morning before shooting off in the Clio on equine manoeuvres and it was as hard as rock.

When I returned from my labours, the car had gone, with Mrs Hextol deciding to do some visiting in the Rede Valley.

I was steeping in the bath when the phone rang and I was hearing the dulcet tones of Mrs Hextol.

I inquired of her whereabouts, and she retorted somewhat heatedly: “I am on top of the flaming Ottercops with a flaming flat tyre!”

It seemed that there was indeed a puncture, and Hissing Sid had not in fact risen from the grave!

As it happened, Mrs Hextol was stretching the truth, and while the tyre had indeed gone down again, it had actually happened at her sister’s house in Rochester.

The little minx was winding me up all along.

Her niece’s partner was summoned, and the Mickey Mouse wheel was back in place in somewhat less than five minutes, much to my embarrassment.

We had to go to Hexham the next day, but spent the journey trundling in at a sedate 45mph, as stipulated on the Mickey Mouse tyre.

I was soon having the flat tyre examined by an expert, in the hope he could repair the invisible puncture.

He took one look at it, and pointed out a couple of places where the rubber was split, rendering Pirelli’s finest beyond redemption.

So a new tyre was duly purchased and fitted in the blink of an eye.

As for the Mickey Mouse wheel, it was stashed away in its secret compartment under the boot floor, hopefully never to be seen again.