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15 October 2015updated 30 Jun 2021 11:58am

Something to live for – a new fridge will be delivered today, some time between nine and six

The fridge has become, literally, unhinged. What now?

By Nicholas Lezard

So, last night the fridge door fell off. It was nearly bedtime and I was in my room when I heard it happen: a crash that went right through the Hovel. I thought of going downstairs to see what had happened but then decided that someone else was responsible for it, whatever it was. I have got to that stage of life when if I hear something big falling down I decide that it is because an unstable equilibrium has been resolved, and I say to myself: “It had it coming.”

So I cowered in my room and went back to my book. It was another resident of the Hovel who had set the disaster in motion by rashly opening the fridge door. To be fair to it, this door had been exhibiting mounting signs of distress over the previous few weeks, and had lately been reduced to leaning on the freezer door beneath it, in a fashion the freezer door clearly resented, for now it was being forced ajar and the ice that was building up because of this was shoving it ajar even more. And what did I do about this? Nothing: for about the only secure good that arises from living in a house you do not own yourself is that you don’t have to worry about these things.

Now, as we await the delivery of a replacement, the fridge door rests fully on the door of the freezer. The fridge has become, literally, unhinged.

I know a good metaphor when I see one, but this is almost too corny. Sometimes it is very hard indeed not to start thinking that the narrative of one’s life is reaching some kind of catastrophic conclusion, like in an early Polanski film – Repulsion, say, or The Tenant – in which the pressures of solitude drive the heroine or lead character insane. Or are they pressures? Is it perhaps the very absence of the pressures of human obligation that is the problem? Like astronauts freed from gravity, whose bones thin and whose blood doesn’t know where to go, the solitary have to perform artificial exercises so that they can function normally. And without the embrace of another’s orbit, the soul, unless it is careful, starts cartwheeling off into the void. Something must be done, it occurs to you, when you realise you have become too unsocialised, too incapable, beyond even normal inertia, of investigating an enormous crash in your own dwelling.

To this end, I have invited people to the Hovel, to arrive on two consecutive evenings, which is two more than I have managed in the past six months. And of course, as luck would dictate, the fridge decides to lose its shit the day before I do any cooking. Worse things happen at sea, I suppose, and as I keep reminding my children, we are not put into this world for pleasure alone.

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But while I dodged anything to do with the initial event, I still have to address some of the consequences, and this means, basically, sorting out what is still inside the fridge. There will be people to take the old hulk away and replace it with a new one tomorrow, some time (anyone’s guess, really) between nine and six. Before then things have to be removed, and I also fancy the removers will not be happy with the extravagant, baroque formations that have accumulated in the run-up to the final crisis.

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We now cut (cheap, shimmery visual effect, represented by the four stars above) to the next day. I have awakened, and we are understanding the word “awakened” in its loosest possible sense, to the ringing of the doorbell and the knowledge that I am not horribly hungover, but horribly ill. Well, there have been iller people, but this is basically a stinker of a cold, the kind, I realise with a sensation that sinks me, which will leave the body incapable of cooking for people that evening, and maybe the next. I wail for my housemate to answer the door, and lo, it is the fridge-bearers. I hear them clumping and cursing up the stairs with their heavy burden.

When I finally haul my carcass down to the kitchen, I see something as astonishing as the monolith the proto-hominids saw in the first bit of 2001, with the subtle difference that this is not an enigmatically chic slab of polished black stone, but a fridge very obviously still encased in its packaging, amid the wreck of a kitchen. I foresee, correctly, about an hour’s work unpacking and installing this thing, yet I am in no fit state to do anything. I would need a cup of tea at the very least, yet the kettle is out of reach. And so, like Kubrick’s ape, I feel like going berserk with a bone. 

This article appears in the 07 Oct 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Isis