SPEAKING as one who travelled to Hexham from the North Tyne nearly every day for over 40 years, I can’t believe how excited I was to embark on a trip to the Tynedale capital the other day.

I never thought I could be quite so thrilled to be going to the tip!

It was a slightly naughty venture, spiced with the thrill of the illicit, which had been a long time in the planning, but it added some excitement to the long days of lockdown.

Having battered the garden into submission, attention turned to the garage where we finally got round to having a really good clear out, rather than simply shuffling the rubbish around into more manageable piles.

It was Mrs Hextol’s idea of course, and she had no time for my protests that the tips were closed, and there was nowhere to store the rubbish prior to departure.

She declared: “The council will have to open the tips eventually, and in the meantime, we can stick all the rubbish in your car.

“You are not using it for the horses now, and the stuff we have in here cannot possibly make it smell any worse than it does now!”

So with some reluctance, I put the rear seats down in the dear old Clio, disturbing hitherto unsuspected clumps of straw, dog hairs and rancid gloves.

Within a very short space of time, the already suspect rear springs were sagging even more, as the flotsam and jetsam of many decades was unceremoniously shoved in.

The car boot sale exercise bike with the wonky pedal, an office chair, bits of old carpet, broken toys, empty paint tins and much much more were all crammed in, as parts of the garage floor that hadn’t seen the light of day since the 1980s were exposed.

“All we have to do now is wait for the tip to open, and we will be laughing,” I said smugly.

As it happened, it was some 10 days later that we spotted an announcement that the tips were about to reopen, but under strict rules.

Only materials that could not be safely stored at home could be taken to the tip, and everything had to be bagged.

“It won’t be safe for you to even try to put that lot back in the garage,” said Mrs Hextol, with a dangerous glint in her eye, so I found myself having to take everything out of the car, and pack it into the dog food bags I usually reserve for gathering hedge clippings.

It was of course easier said than done, for an exercise bike is a sizeable bit of kit, and many nuts, bolts and screws had to be removed, and a lump hammer wielded with much vigour before it could be packed into bags.

The office chair presented even more challenges, and required the use of a bush saw before it could be consigned to the Wagg bag.

Eventually though, everything was bagged and shoehorned into the car, and after waiting for a couple of days to let the novelty of tip opening wear off, I decided to head for the waste transfer station.

I jumped in the car, turned the key – and then discovered that the battery was flatter than a jaywalking hedgehog.

It was reliable enough when being used every day but it had given up the ghost due to its enforced idleness during lockdown.

Fortunately, I had a set of jump leads at hand for just such an eventuality, and after much shuffling of cars and jiggling with wires everything was coupled up for the big restart.

I turned the key and after an apologetic little whirr, the Clio remained deader than a can of Spam.

Mrs Hextol knows far more about mechanical matters than me, and advised: “Leave the proper car running with the jump leads still attached, come inside for half an hour, and see what happens then.”

Thirty minutes later, I was back, turned the key – and after a fierce glare from Mrs Hextol the little French floozie burst into life for the first time in two months.

Then it was off to Hexham with some trepidation, partly over whether the car would make it, how long the queue would be, and whether I would be turned away with my illicit load.

The car behaved perfectly, there were only two cars in front of me, and my load was accepted by the cheery chaps at the tip without demur.