IT takes a brave man to waken Mrs Hextol from a deep and dreamless sleep, but I decided to take the risk the other day for the very best of reasons.

I had slipped quietly out of bed to go to the bathroom, and to have a quick glance at my phone, which had been charging in the spare room.

I could hardly believe my eyes at what a casual scroll down the phone revealed, so I rushed out of the bathroom with my ablutions only half completed to shake Mrs Hextol awake.

Her furious harrumphing at being disturbed was abruptly cut off when I announced with some triumph: “They’ve got some home delivery slots at Tesco for tomorrow!”

The operations of a grocery store nearly 20 miles away are not normally a good enough reason to interrupt the slumbers of my lady wife, but during the coronavirus lockdown, delivery slots had been as scarce as smiles in EastEnders.

There had been none available for many weeks ahead, but suddenly they were there in glorious abundance.

It was just after 7am, but even as we watched the slots started being filled by other early risers, and by the time we had both found our glasses, there were none left.

We were devastated, but then we switched to the Click and Collect option, and there were spaces galore, so we took the plunge and opted for one blind.

We had been relying on friends and family keeping us supplied with the basics while in isolation, and then managed to pop in to all the local shops, but “A Big Shop” was still required to replenish stocks which had been run down to a bare minimum as we were on holiday when the pandemic kicked in.

I wasn’t allowed to participate in the online ordering, which took Mrs Hextol most of the morning, but she was adamant she would not be accompanying me to Hexham to collect her provender as it was “too dangerous.”

When I set off the next morning, she sprayed me lavishly with a cocktail of chemicals from under the sink so potent that doubtless Donald Trump would have been nodding his approval.

She also swabbed the steering wheel and dashboard of the car with antiseptic wipes, and furnished me with the sort of protective gear I might need were I handling radioactive isotopes rather than a few bags of shopping.

After being confined to barracks for around three weeks it was good to get back on the familiar road to Hexham I had travelled for half a century – but I had never seen the roads quite so empty.

The only vehicle I came across was a police car in a lay by, and I half expected to be stopped and asked for reasons why I was not ensconced in Hextol Towers.

But he let me past, and it wasn’t untiI I reached Hexham that I was flagged down by a youth at the entrance to the Tesco car park who asked me to explain my intentions.

The magic words Click and Collect saw me waved through to the little edifice in the centre of the car park, where I tried to produce ID and evidence of payment.

“All we need is your name sir,” said the member of staff on duty, and with commendable alacrity, large number of crates were soon being unloaded for me to empty into the back of the car.

Once loading was complete, I drove out of the car park, round the roundabout and then straight back in again, as I had forgotten to go to the cashpoint, and to go into the store for a number of items Mrs Hextol had forgotten to put on her shopping list.

The youth waved me through again, but looked a little suspicious, so I gave him an extra special wave when I left the car park for the second time some 20 minutes later.

I got the full decontamination treatment from Mrs Hextol when I got back home – she may even have burned my clothes – but she seemed reasonably content with the items selected for her, which came as quite a surprise, as she is normally a fervent palpator of produce and sniffer-out of anything not quite fresh.

The real winner of the exercise though was the dog for in her exuberance to get things right, Mrs Hextol had inadvertently ordered her some 48 giant tins of dog food – enough to last her until next Christmas.