IT'S one of those days when opening the blinds in the bedroom makes no difference whatsoever to the quality of light in the room. "Good morning," says my wife. "Is it?" I mutter through the breathing tunnel I've made in the duvet. "Are you sure? Because it looks rather like it's still the middle of the night from where I am."
"It's actually a lovely day," she says. "Gorgeous, in fact, like spring has come early."
"Really?" I say, leaping up to look.
"No," she says over her shoulder as she leaves the room. "Only joking. It's cold and crap-looking, just like it is every other day."
"Oh," I tell her. "Great."
I shuffle downstairs in my bathrobe anyway and wonder at the wisdom of getting dressed at all. We work from home, so who's to know? It's then I realise that I probably haven't actually left the house in days, except to go to the shops, which hardly counts.
"What's it like out there?" asks the woman at the check-out on one of these occasions.
"I don't really know," I say, thinking about it for a moment and holding up the queue. "Honestly, I was so focused on just getting from the car to somewhere warm and bright that my brain shut down in the interim, which is probably a survival thing."
"Cold then, is it?" deadpans the woman.
"Post-apocalyptic," I tell her. "Fill a shopping cart with supplies and don't talk to anyone out there. It's only a matter of time before the survivors start turning to cannibalism."
She blinks at me a little worriedly and holds out my receipt.
I struggle back to the car, wrestling with the keys and turning the hot air on full – which is about the extent of my fitness regime so far this new year – and shake my head at the irony of January, the month that we're all expected to embark on some new health kick.
However, it's so grim outside that all you want to do is consume a mountain of pasta with a brick of butter in the middle of it and crawl back to bed.
Back home in the kitchen, I peruse the papers, which seem full of diet success stories. Four men, I read, lost 18 stone between them. "And now there's only three of them," I chuckle ruefully.
"Sorry?" says my wife.
"Perhaps we should join a gym," I say.
"You realise," she says, "that you'd have to leave the house to get there."
"You're right," I tell her. "It's not worth the risk."
"You know," she says, "it's not so bad out there if you bundle up, put a hat and gloves on."
"I refuse to dress up like the dad from Cormac McCarthy's The Road just to walk the dog," I tell her, but what I actually think is what a terrible example it is that I set for the kids.
After all, I can hardly complain about them wallowing around in front of the PlayStation when I can barely bring myself to open the front door to check the postbox. Fact is, I find myself offering them lifts in the car almost anywhere, just to make myself feel better about my own sluggishness.
The upshot of all this is that suddenly none of my trousers seem to fit any more, and someone has evidently shrunk all my shirts into the bargain.
I consider these grim facts as I look balefully out the window into the dark of another morning in my bathrobe as my wife tells me we've been invited out with old school friends this weekend.
"Really?" I say. "Who?" I need names so that I can look their photos up on Facebook for some sign that they might be ageing worse than I am before making a decision as to whether to go.
She tells me who. Damn, I think. I'm sure the crowd she's talking about are slim and fit, hairlines intact, no sign of greying. I'd have to spend all night sucking my gut in.
"Hmm," is what I say. "It's a long way to go, mind, on a Friday night, all the way into the city centre, just for a few drinks."
"It would be great to see what they look like now, though," says my wife.
"Yes," I lie. "Wouldn't it?"
"But you're right – one of us would probably have to drive," she says.
"Which means one of us wouldn't be able to drink," I say, knowing she means me but hoping I might get away with it being her.
"Or," she says, "we could just bundle up nice and warm and brave the cold together, take the train and have a few drinks."
"You mean, wear lots of layers, big jumpers, scarves and coats," I say as it gradually dawns on me.
"There'd be no getting away from it," she says.
Winter clothes, the great equaliser. Thank heavens, I suddenly think, we don't live in a climate where shorts and tank tops would be the order of the day, at least not before I get my fitness regime sorted out, you know, when the weather improves.
Hopefully, it will be so dark and cold this weekend that we won't even be able to take our coats off.
In fact, I reckon we can depend on that.
"Brilliant idea," is what I tell her.