I never expect presents from abroad, particularly from my family. They are always too busy at a water's edge to stroll round towns or villages looking for suitable gifts to take home and I don't blame them for that.

When number one son returned from a carp trip in deepest France, though, I thought he had changed the habit of a lifetime. A large cool-box felt extremely heavy as I tried to move it in order to open the freezer - why is it that they always come home starving? - and I was sure it was full of French wine, cheese - er - perfume?

Maize. Twenty kilos of maize filled the box to the brim. They had bought it in France because it was cheap and an efficient bait. It was even cheaper by the truckload but they found they couldn't possibly use all of it in a week and so transported it home for future forays into the English countryside.

Twenty kilos of maize and two suitcases containing every item of clothing he possesses, covered in grime, were my homecoming gifts - and half a packet of French mint sweets. They had been so hungry on the journey home, they told me, that they had been forced to break into my mints but 'half a packet is better than nothing.'