Before I could give a low whistle of disbelief, the telephone rang. So began one of my strangest cases.
The caller was a home educator and he wanted me to inspect him. "I want to counter all the prejudiced articles in the press," he told me. "I want to show them all that I have nothing to hide."
I figured I knew what the bird was getting at. There had been a piece in an education rag a month or so ago, gently suggesting that home education was maybe not always a good idea. "You sure you need to do this. Bub?" I asked. "Your fellow homies have been pretty vociferous in their defence. I can tell you that ever since the guy wrote in with the picture of his kids looking well-adjusted as they played hopscotch in the streets of Ulan Bator, parents from Greenock to Auchtermuchty have been taking their offspring out of comps and hauling them off to Mongolia in horse-drawn caravans."
"I'd still like you to do it," he countered.
"Fair enough, Bub," I conceded. "It's 50 a day plus expenses."
"You can eat with us," he said, "so there won't be expenses."
"Listen, Bub, I don't do tofu."
"I'd hoped you didn't do pathetic stereotypes either," he sighed. "Anyway, I don't know where I can get that kind of money."
"Leave it with me, Bub," I said. "I think I've worked out a way I can waive my fee."
I did the inspection. At the end, the sap who'd called me sidled up expectantly. "So what's the verdict?" he asked.
"The way I see it, they'll want that Seventies wallpaper to go," I replied, "and pink bathroom suites are definitely out."
"What the hell are you on about?" he gasped.
"I cut a deal with a makeover show," I explained. "I've inspected your decor as well as the education you're providing. If you want the full report, you're going to have to let the broad with the teeth and the guy with the dame's hair come in and sort your place out."
He never did ask for the report and the last I heard his kids were learning maths counting penguins as the family toured the polar regions on a dog sled. But I figured my ploy had some mileage in it.
Darn it - I could even get to meet Carol Vorderman on Better Homes.