A place filled with limp decorations

I SUPPOSE purgatory is a bit like this.

The small space between dying and going to heaven… or wherever it is you’re off to.

A place filled with limp decorations, a paste of mince pie crumbs in the carpet, and lethal splinters of leftover, desiccated turkey that are guaranteed to penetrate your spleen if you swallow them.

It’s Friday. The goodwill frenzy is over. I am bilious with over-indulgence and I don’t even have enough loose change left to go down the pub.

I daren’t look in the fridge. I did yesterday and there were the remains of what used to be a stilton cheese in there. By today I expect it will be in a state of advanced decay, contaminating everything else with blue mould and the odour of road kill, which I’m sure it’s beginning to resemble.

I feel… restless… and irritable… and if I had the energy I’d be snappy with my wife, who is curiously jolly. Doesn’t she understand, for heaven’s sake! It’s over! The festivities have become history, and it’s not fair because I wasn’t ready!

It’ll be all right in the New Year. I shall wake up on January 1 and greet 2003 with all the naïve optimism of a six-year-old, bounce out of bed, set up the router bench that I got for Christmas and spend the day carving random mouldings on offcuts of timber.

My wife will ask what I’m making and I shall tell her in my most patronising tone that I’m not actually making anything — yet. I am merely experimenting so that when I do make something I am fully conversant with the machinery she has given me.

She’ll say “Oh yes” in a tone so carefully flattened that I won’t actually be able to accuse her of being sarcastic, but I’ll be pretty sure she is being.

She’ll probably want to know when the doors will be ready (she gave me the router because I said it would cost no more than buying the doors, which I could then make instead, and still have the router for making other things).

She’ll say I could have started the day after Boxing Day instead of moping round the house being irritable. But it’s not that simple.

There has to be a period of readjustment. Just as commuters get to spend half an hour in the train, or at the wheel of their cars, between the relative peace of work and the chaos of home; and just as divers go through an airlock when they give up fresh air and sunshine for the murky pressurised depths of the deep ocean.

This is my airlock. I need to shuffle around the place getting gradually more depressed about all the stuff that needs fixing, so that when the New Year arrives I’m mentally prepared to deal with it.

In the meantime I shall pick at the remaining nuts in the bowl (or I will if I can find anything in there but shattered shells); I shall sort through the empties in the hope that someone inadvertently threw out a corked half bottle of something marginally drinkable; I shall throw caution to the wind and chew on dried turkey that is tougher than biltong and bugger the inevitable surgery that will have to follow.

I suppose (since my wife has flatly refused to do it) I’ll have to find some industrial rubber gloves and see if I can scrape the stilton off the fridge. I shall make a half-hearted attempt to reconstruct the wooden puzzle Santa Claus left in my Christmas stocking, may God rot him. It’s a stupid puzzle anyway.

Four more days to go.

I think I may go to bed.