WHILE we had four messy, grubby-fingered kids in the house, there was very little point spending a lot of time and money on decorating. It would have been like painting the Forth Bridge, so we didn’t really bother.

But now they’ve flown the nest, it’s time to freshen things up and, to ensure it’s done properly, we’ve been getting a professional decorator in.

Having been happy with the standards he reached in the bedrooms over the past couple of years, his latest assignment was to paint the dining room and kitchen.

I have to say he’s done a first-class job, but there’s a definite downside to the pristine paintwork: I knew I’d be under presssure to be extra careful not to lean against, or put my hands on, any of the cream walls.

I lasted just two days before my wife – with the laser-sharp eyesight of a hovering sparrowhawk spotting a dormouse from a hundred feet – noticed a tiny red mark on the kitchen wall next to the light-switch on Sunday morning.

“Well, that didn’t take long, did it?” she sighed, before leaping to an instinctive conclusion. “That’ll be your blood.”

“My blood? What do you mean – my blood?” I asked, genuinely taken aback.

“Blood from where you bite your nails,” she added, taking a damp cloth to the wall.

Had the offending red mark not been removed and rinsed under the tap, I might have been able to launch a forensic defence of my position by seeking to have it DNA tested, but it was too late.

However, all was not lost. An alternative suspect emerged right on cue when our son Jack – home from London for a few days to attend a friend’s stag party – came downstairs with a hangover from the night before.

Another explanation for the red mark suddenly popped into my mind. It was one with the potential to clear my name, so I quietly carried out an initial investigation in the fridge. Just as I thought, the last two sausages were missing, providing me with enough circumstantial evidence to launch into my line of questioning.

“Jack, did you have a sausage sandwich when you got in from the pub last night?” I asked, my arms folded behind my back, and pacing up and down the crime scene like Hercule Poirot.

“I can’t remember. Why?” he mumbled, reaching for a packet of Paracetamol.

“Well, I put it to you that you did indeed have a sausage sandwich last night and, what’s more, you had tomato ketchup on them. Is that the case?” I continued, my voice rising.

“Maybe. I honestly don’t know,” he groaned, holding his head.

He was on the ropes, and I sensed the opportunity to go in for the kill: “I further put it to you, Jack Barron, that when you squeezed the bottle, while in a drunken state in the early hours of the morning, too much tomato ketchup spurted out, and you either got some on your hands or it splattered everywhere. IS THAT TRUE, JACK?”

“If you say so, Dad,” he said. “I’m going back to bed.

I rest my case.


MEMBERS of the fire and rescue service visited my five-year-old granddaughter Chloe’s school last week and they seem to have left a lasting impression.

"Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a firefighter,” she announced. “But I won't save people - just guinea pigs."

ONE from the archives…

Marion Oxley was baby-sitting for two little boys, Keith and James, in Darlington one Christmas.

Two-year-old James wouldn’t go to sleep and Keith, aged four, told him he had to because it would soon be Jesus’s birthday and he wouldn’t get any presents.

“Jesus was born a lot of years ago in a stable,” Keith explained.

“Were you there?” asked James.

“No,” replied Keith.

“Was me Mam there?” asked James.

“No, but I think Nanna was,” came the reply.