THE coldest day of the year finds me half-naked in front of a mirror, lamenting a recent decision to take part in a weight-loss challenge.
This is vocalised by the word "Urgh".
Forty-eight hours in and not so much as a single miserable bickie has passed my lips, let alone a few chips - or a nice cold pint - or any of a hundred other treats I've been gagging for.
I blink at the sink then look back at the mirror where, bare-chested, stands a man quite at ease with the admission that he would murder a burger right here, right now, in the bathroom. And a beer too.
Instead, it's been two days of cheerless veggies washed down with fizzy water. This, I realise, is what I've signed up to, for the next eight weeks.
Were it a punishment, and I had the choice, I'd drop my pants and take the spanking, thanks.
Of course, I could just cry off, then go ahead and be the middle-aged slob with the love handles who shuffles apologetically into our friend's hot tub on the deck of his rock-star pad overlooking San Francisco next month. To hell with it.
As spare tyres go, I think to myself, sucking in a huge breath then letting it out so that my gut returns to its usual girth with a shudder, mine isn't so bad - the spare tyre, let's say, of a medium-sized sports car; something dashing, in a sort of pallid shade of morbid pink.
"Nuts," I sigh. There's something I haven't tried snacking on yet. They can't be too fattening, are reasonably satisfying, and considerably less emasculating than nibbling at bits of celery all day like a gerbil.
What's getting me down, truth be told, is a lack of progress. "You can't expect to see results after just two days," says my wife, rather unsympathetically, when I follow her around moaning about this.
"Of course I can, I'm a man." I remind her. "We expect a guaranteed return when we bother to put the effort in. If we get nothing back, and quick, we initiate sulking mode. Have I taught you nothing?"
But she's already grabbed her keys and is heading for the door, muttering something hoarsely about Jesus, which is odd, I think, since we're not the least bit religious.
"If you're going out," I call after her, "you can pick me up some nuts".
She comes back in, face suddenly brightening. "I can kick you where, you say?"
Everyone, it seems, in this entire house, is a comedian.
Next day finds me plumbing new depths of frustration - this time in the search for my phone. Even more maddening, I think I can hear muffled multiple messages pinging somewhere.
I follow the sound to the dog, which has a thing for phones. She stands in the hall regarding me balefully then trundles in to the downstairs bathroom and drinks from the toilet, at which point the pinging stops.
"You've got to be KIDDING ME!" I yell, sliding down the hall on my knees and seizing the bewildered dog by the jaws.
This is when my phone suddenly pings again, from the front of my trousers where, evidently, I've been sending unintelligible messages all morning and been receiving increasingly irritated responses.
I drop the dog and squint at the display. One message I sent, to my wife, who's at work, just says: "Nnnnnnnnnnn".
Next one, to the same number, adds: "Mmm" and "nnnnnn".
There's a reply. It says: "Some of us have work to do you know."
The next message is from my wife's best friend.
"Oh no," I tell it, tapping the screen to see.
As it happens, it's not a livid response to my inadvertently lascivious pocket dialling. It's a message from her daughter. "Mum's birthday today," it reads. "Can you help. Mum working".
"Sure" I tap back. "Come around when everyone's home. We'll make something nice."
"Gr8" she pings.
Two hours later, we're all stuffed into the car for a trip to the shops where we buy pork belly, then the makings of a giant, two-layer chocolate cake. The house is just filling with the maddening smell of slow-roasting pork, when my wife reminds me that I have my first weigh-in tonight at the gym.
"Fine," I pout. "You can all just work away. Guess I'll have to take it easy."
The birthday cake is iced and the cutlery is being laid when I reappear in my gear. "Enjoy," I mutter, shuffling off.
Five minutes later, I'm weighing in at three kilos lighter than four days ago. "Three kilos," I tell the queue on my way out, making a ball with my fist and shaking it.
"Three kilos," I announce to the table when I get back.
"Wow," says everyone on cue.
"See?" I tell them, reaching across the table past the leftovers to the cake. "Just goes to show," I say, carving off a giant slab. "How a little hard work can pay off." I shovel a huge fork load into my mouth before adding: "Camifrmm-hum hwee-fum."
California, here we come.