AT long last, we’ve been having a clear-out of all the clutter our four grown-up children have left behind – and a treasure trove of memories has been unearthed.

For example, my wife came across a bravery certificate our son, Jack, received when he was admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital as a seven-year-old.

The certificate, signed by Staff Nurse Emma Knight, says it was awarded in recognition of “outstanding courage”. This made us laugh because Jack, now 30 and about to get married to the very lovely Kitty, isn’t someone with a reputation for outstanding courage.

He makes the lion in the Wizard of Oz look like Bear Grylls. He’s the boy who ran screaming from Butterfly World because a pair of red admirals were fluttering round his head.

Nevertheless, 23 years after it was awarded, the historic document remains in pristine condition and is being returned to the groom-to-be, along with a bravery certificate that was awarded at the same time to his cuddly toy iguana, Iggy.

It’s hard to be sure about the circumstances in which Jack was in hospital because he was so accident-prone we might as well have had our own chairs in casualty. However, my best guess is that it relates to what is fondly remembered in the family as “the button-up-the-nose incident”.

I was busy at work, editing The Northern Echo, when Mr Drury, headteacher at Hurworth Primary School, called to say Jack was having to go to hospital.

My blood froze, wondering what had happened, as Mr Drury gently explained that Jack’s friend, Luke, had lost a button from his coat in the playground. Jack had found it – and announced to his teacher: “It just jumped up my nose!”

The teacher had a good look up both nostrils, and there was no sign of the button, but Jack insisted it was definitely up there.

“We think it’s best for him to go and have it checked out,” said Mr Drury.

So off we went to accident and emergency, and an x-ray duly confirmed that Luke’s button was indeed wedged up Jack’s left nostril. No matter how they tried with various implements, they couldn’t get it out, and there was talk about the operating theatre.

But then a nurse suggested a last-ditch attempt to avoid general anaesthetic. With his other nostril blocked off, she told him: “Jack, when we count to ten, you’ve got to give the biggest blow you’ve ever given.”

A few more nurses and porters were called in the count to ten, Jack blew with all his might, and the button shot out like a bullet from a gun.

Well, I wrote about this little drama in what was then the Dad At Large column, and little did I know what I was starting. Messages poured in from people who’d been to hospital with all kinds of items stuck up their noses as children – Lego, crayons, chalk, dried peas, pen-tops, and Smarties among them.

I recall there was even a member of Carlton Women’s Institute, who piped up during a talk I was giving, and announced: “I’ve had the wheel of a toy tractor stuck up my nose!”

It’s not something to brag about, is it?

However, the best response came from a man who remembered the time he was on his way to work on a bus in Darlington in the 1970s. Like you do, he was watching the world go by from the top deck, and idly rolling up his bus ticket between his fingers.

For reasons best known to him, he started to poke the rolled-up ticket into his ear, only for it to go too far and get stuck.

Imagine the scene as a bus inspector came up the stairs and the man had to tell him: “Honest – I have got a ticket but it’s in me ear!”

He ended up having to get off the bus at the nearest stop to the hospital, head to casualty and explain to the receptionist: “I’m really sorry but I’ve got a rolled-up bus ticket in me ear and it won’t come out.”

I just hope he got a bravery certificate.


TALK of my future daughter-in-law reminds me of the time Jack brought her home for the first time.

Our granddaughter, Chloe, was only two at the time and was desperately disappointed when she finally met Kitty – because she was expecting a cat.

“Hello, Chloe – it’s lovely to meet you,” said Kitty.

“Miaow!” replied Chloe, crossly.

Luckily, the relationship has matured nicely, and Chloe is looking forward to being a flower girl at the wedding.