LOCKDOWN makes you do the strangest things. The other day, finally fed up with watching the rain hammer against the conservatory windows from leaden skies, I announced to Mrs Hextol that I was going out to the garage to chop some sticks.

“But we don’t need any sticks - we haven’t got a coal fire any more,” she quite reasonably retorted.

“I know,” I replied “But I can’t get the garage closed because of all the bits of the fence we took down back in September.

“We may not need sticks, but we have lots of neighbours and relatives who do, so we could give bags of sticks to them as presents!”

I still miss our coal fire, for one of my tasks was to light it every morning before coming to work, a process which involved a layer of screwed up Hexham Courants, another of dry sticks, and then finally a shovelful of coal.

Usually, it burst into a merry blaze straight away, but if the sticks were a little damp, and the coal sullen and uncooperative, the bleezer - a sheet of metal with a handle attached - had to be brought into play.

It was balanced on the grate, and its suction powers were then augmented by a double page spread of the Courant to coax even the most uncooperative fire to take hold.

The trouble was, when the fire got going, the bleezer also got hot,and often set fire to the centre spread, which then had to be bundled up and stuffed up the chimney.

This in turn set the chimney on fire, much to the chagrin of neighbours, whose clean washing was subsequently bedaubed with chunks of burning soot.

Perhaps I don’t miss the open fire that much after all, but after my reverie, I think

Mrs Hextol was quite pleased to see the back of me after many days cooped up together in bad weather.

However, aware of my proclivity for self inflicted damage when dealing with sharp implements, she warned be not to drip blood on her newly washed tiles when - not if - I cut myself.

Things are always a bit cramped in the garage, but I decided to set up the step ladder as a saw horse. In moving the ladder, I dislodged a ski from a beam in the garage, which struck me smartly on the head,mercifully without drawing blood.

I lined up a dozen 12 foot fencing rails, and was almost overcome by the reek of the creosote they had been steeped in some 30 years before, so thought it best to leave them for a little while, and pick on something a little shorter and easier to handle.

In amongst the vast hoard of timber, I found a stack of around a dozen planks, each about three feet long, and decided they would be just the job.

Finding my favourite bush saw hanging from a beam, and dusting off the chopping axe we have had for the 50 years of out marriage, I set to with a will, and soon had a towering stack of six inch mini-planks to take the axe to.

Chopping sticks is not an exact science, and while some planks could be cut into identical lengths as easily as chopping a cucumber, other knot-ridden specimens were a different proposition, remaining impervious to brute strength and violence.

Despite all the difficulties, I had soon accumulated two and a half rubble sacks of beautifully symmetrical firewood, with only two or three mini planks to split.

I brought the axe down on the penultimate one, and misjudged it ever so slightly, taking a sizeable chunk out of my left index finger which was holding the plank.

Blood spurted, and even pooled a little on the floor, but I managed to get the rest of the sticks into now gory bags before dripping my way back into the house to get my wound tended to.

I had my finger swaddled in an old tee-shirt when I peeped round the door, but as she always does, Mrs Hextol knew there was something amiss, and asked: “Does it need stitches?”

I ventured that I wasn’t sure, but I ran it under the tap to discover that I had sliced off a flap of skin the size of a sixpence.

Mrs Hextol has undergone no medical training, but having patched up the cuts and bruises of four sons, an accident prone husband, and numerous other unfortunates, she knows her way round a first aid kit

Mrs Hextol ruled stitching was not required, and reattached the flap of finger with an Elastoplast.

I later discovered she had set aside the wood I chopped up to make flower troughs, so I may need further treatment soon!