ROUND about now, students around the land are laying down their pens after finally completing their A levels or GCSEs.

Most will have a pretty fair idea of how well they have done, as I did well over 50 years ago when I went to seek my father in the Brewers Arms pub in Macclesfield after completing my final O level.

He raised an eyebrow of inquiry, and I said with total confidence: “I have passed all eight,” at which he ordered me a strictly illegal pint of bitter shandy, which I quaffed greedily, in the sure and certain knowledge that my schooldays were over.

There was no way I was returning to do A-levels – I knew I had done more than enough to embark on my chosen path to Fleet Street.

But the sense of euphoria I experienced that day in 1967 was nothing compared to the sense of achievement I wallowed in the other day, when I completed the most ambitious DIY job of my entire life.

It was only building a little fence to screen our dustbins, but to me, it was as significant as designing and building a Rhineland castle.

Back in the days when we only had one heavy duty dustbin that consumed all the daily detritus of a family of six, Mrs Hextol was quite happy for it to stand close to the back door, ready for the cheery binman to come once a week to carry it away, and then return it from whence it came.

But the arrival of a phalanx of different coloured wheelie bins proved a little too much for her, leading to her desire to have them screened from public view, such as the Victorians used to shroud their piano legs.

She got her wish, with an obliging son erecting an admirable panelled fence which performed admirably for more than a decade and a half.

However, the passage of time has seen the fence become more and more dilapidated, with entire sections crumbling to dust at the merest zephyr. I have tried to repair it with my usual remedy of handsful of nails and a big hammer, but all this has done is create lots of spikes on which to cut hands or shred clothing.

I had to concede that perhaps a new fence was overdue, but when I suggested contacting a fencing contractor, Mrs Hextol said that as the fence was only eight feet long and four feet high, this was a job a child could carry out, so there was no need to involve expensive professionals.

So with extreme reluctance and under much duress, I agreed to take down the old fence and erect a new one. I immediately found that while a fence might be crumbling to dust of its own accord, it has has limpet-like endurance when it needs it. It took many hours of work with claw hammer, crowbar and a vast number of spelks, before I had it reduced to matchwood.

I calculated that we needed two four foot by four foot panels do the job, but on contacting several Hexham builders’ merchants, none had panels of such dimensions in stock. Reprieve, I thought, but Mrs Hextol ruled I would have to buy lots of individual rails to make a post and rail fence from scratch.

I got a savage crick in my neck on my way home through sharing the car with many planks and a bucket containing enough nails to build a fence round the whole of Bellingham.

Remarkably, erecting the new fence was relatively painless, and once coated in black preservative, it looked almost professional.

But there remained the question of the gate, which Mrs Hextol decreed had to open the opposite way to the old one, meaning I had to dig out a hole large enough to accommodate a six foot fence post amongst tree roots and other encumbrances.

It took most of the week, and a bag of sand and cement to get the fence post in roughly the right spot – but Mrs Hextol then decided she preferred the gate opening on the other side after all.

Seeing me wringing my hands in despair at the prospect of building a gate from scratch, a Caledonian carpenter of my acquaintance knocked one up for me one afternoon, and this weekend, after much huffing and puffing, I managed to get it hung and swinging.

I have never been so proud of myself!