I wake up on Sunday with a hangover so bad that I feel profoundly altered inside. There have been fundamental realignments of a sinister nature. I have a sudden, vivid image of my liver. I suspect that if it could be palpated, it would be hard but light, used up, like a log that has been slowly consumed by fire yet retained its shape. You could knock it against a table and then it would crumble into ash. I feel . . . I feel . . . I feel as though the government's recent advice to abstain from drinking for two nights a week might not be a bad idea. That's how bad I feel.
I struggle to recall what bacchanalia brought on this misery. Ah, yes: it all comes back to me. I was defrosting the fridge.
This is, for the majority of households, a banal and non-noteworthy domestic task but then the majority of households are not like the Hovel. We do things differently here. Sometimes, we do not do them at all and this was the problem with the freezer.
It had been becoming a problem for some time. I think I mentioned the freezer in the column that celebrated my third anniversary in the Hovel, which was in September 2010. Even then, I compared the freezer to the kind of sinister Antarctic hell featured in John Carpenter's flawless 1982 film, The Thing, with, possibly, a ghastly alien monster locked in the ice that it would be best not to awaken.
Since that mention, I have not managed to get round to defrosting the freezer; and therefore things have got worse. First, the doors to the two freezer drawers snapped off when I tried to open them. Never mind, they were purely cosmetic anyway and their removal meant it was easier to pull the drawers out than heretofore. For a while. The ice built up, and built up, and gradually the front door of the freezer, which is not at all cosmetic - it is, in fact, rather crucial to the efficient operation of the freezing compartment behind it - inched further and further open. Finally, things iced up so much that not even the wire drawers could be pulled out. When you looked inside the freezer, all you could see was ice.
Those who know me well know that I am not at my best when it comes to Getting Around to Things but this had now got out of hand and even Marta, the long-suffering but largely unjudgemental cleaning lady, has started giving me looks pregnant with despair and rebuke.
So, on Saturday, while cooking a boeuf bourguignon for the Significant Other (I recommend Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook for the most elegantly simple recipe, also written with Bourdain's trademark braggadocio), I decide that Something Must Be Done and at about five o'clock in the afternoon I turn off the fridge, leave the freezer door wide open, lay a large towel on the floor in front of it and simply wait for time to do its work. This, I feel, is as elegantly simple a solution to a problem as Bourdain's recipe for boeuf bourguignon, and involving even less effort.
I imagine that all of you experienced, regular freezer-defrosters are snickering nastily away to yourselves now, for you know what is coming. Yes, by one o'clock in the morning, there is a small, damp patch on the towel and the ice mass remains almost completely unchanged in volume. The thawing of Narnia this ain't.
I'll spare you the details. But the SO (who could so easily have left me to it, alone) and I engage in an orgy of ice-removal. She chips away, I cart away huge hand- and towelfuls of ice and snow and slush with my bare hands. The sink fills with the stuff to overflowing. And the hangover? At about two in the morning, we discover a frozen half-bottle of Zubrowka that I had obviously forgotten all about. As we are already well-refreshed, we see no harm in refreshing ourselves further.
At about three o'clock, I convince myself that this whole cleaning-the-freezer business was a metaphor. For what? On Monday morning, as I write this, I am not sure. If it is about achievement, then I am not sure what kind of achievements can only be accomplished after consuming about two bottles of Shiraz and a quarter of Zubrowka. (Incidentally, I thought vodka wasn't meant to give you a hangover.)
Sure, the freezer has finally been cleaned out and there turned out to be no shape-shifting alien monster buried within - although some of the chicken carcasses I had been saving for stock freaked me out at first - but at what cost? I now have to decide which nights I am not going to drink on. Mondays are out, because that's when University Challenge is on, and I like playing that with a handicap. Tuesdays? Wednesdays? None of them appeal.