THE big drawback to festooning Hextol Towers with many miles of twinkling lights for the festive season was that they all had to be put away again afterwards.

I was sorely tempted to leave the lights woven into and around the rowan tree unplugged but in situ until next year, but Mrs Hextol wouldn’t hear of it.

“If we don’t get our decorations down before 12th Night, we’ll have nothing but bad luck for a year,” she said, and wouldn’t be budged even when I pointed out that no year could possibly be worse than the plague ridden, holiday free, locked down disaster we had just endured.

So there I was teetering on the very top rung of the stepladder yet again, only slightly mollified by the passers-by who expressed their gratitude for the display we had put on to lighten the gloom.

I got the lights all reeled in and back in their boxes with only minor lacerations and attacks by rose thorns, which were soon winkled out with a needle.

It was when I was stashing things away in the cupboard at the top of the stairs that I made the mistake of looking in a long-closed drawer which contained more than 50 years’ worth of family photographs.

What started off as a brief shuffle through the glossy mound turned into two full days of unashamed nostalgia, as we oohed and aahed at how things - us included - had changed over the years.

There was an ancient scrapbook full of black and white pictures of Mrs Hextol and me when we first started going out together, including a trip to Blackpool on a coach driven by her father, who at the time was unaware that his beloved 14- year-old daughter was associating with a rough type like me.

Unbelievably, I wore a suit and tie for the occasion, set off by a gabardine trench coat of the type favoured by pre-war gangsters.

It wasn’t really the ideal sort of attire for a day to be spent loafing on the beach or dawdling along the Golden Mile, but I was determined to make a good impression.

It didn’t work, because the next time my future father in law saw me he referred to me as “that long-haired, leather jacketed lout!”

Younger people today don’t realise the joy of looking at proper photographs, as opposed to the instant gratification of a blizzard of snaps from their ever flashing mobile phones.

They will never know the agonies of taking photographs with a proper camera, which had to be loaded with film, and then adjusted for light conditions and then focused, before the film was wound on manually for the next shot.

There might only have been eight exposures on the film, which then had to be taken to the local chemists, and left there for several days before you knew if any of your pictures had turned out at all, let alone been any good.

When 35ml film came out with 36 exposures, trips to the chemists for developing became more expensive, so my father declared that from now on, he would be developing all his own films. After a heavy day at the Royal Oak, he reeled in laden with all the paraphernalia required to be self sufficient, from developing tanks, enlargers, mysterious bottles of chemicals and boxes of papers, to multiple trays and tweezers

He decided to convert the only bathroom in our tiny flat into a dark room,which meant covering the window with thick black plastic, secured by insulating tape, and shrouding the light with red crepe paper.

It made the perfect dark room, but was a bit of a disaster when it came to using the facility for the purpose for which it was designed.

We were not allowed to take down the blackout or touch the light, meaning all ablutions had to be conducted in a hellish scarlet glow, accompanied by the whiff of possibly toxic chemicals, which was not conducive to good grooming, and made it difficult to find your own toothbrush or anything else.

I did once try to clean my teeth using a tube of hemorrhoid ointment.

He did produce some excellent photographs though, and even became a wedding photographer of some repute in his spare time.

It wasn’t the first time the pater had pressed the bathroom into service for unusual pursuits. When I was very young, he kept a weasel in the bath for a while, and later used it as an aviary for his pet jackdaw, which as well as lavishly whitewashing the walls, used to land on your head while you were sitting on the loo.

As far as I know no pictures survive of the jackdaw.