Since Christmas I've felt shiftless. I've peered into the cobwebbed corners of my soul to pinpoint the malaise. True, it's a dismal feeling, after months of anticipation, to know that I've ridden the Santa Express through the local garden centre for the last time this winter. It was upsetting to hoof our friendly Christmas tree onto the cold pavement on Twelfth Night and I am being persecuted by boxes of Ferraro Rocher, which multiply unpalatably across the vicarage as fast as I offload them.
But these private pains don't give me my answer. Then, suddenly, I find it in a bottle of Fairy Liquid. I am shiftless because, when Christmas faded out, so did the sustaining mounds of washing up. No sane person enjoys the scabbed dishes from a family supper, but the dramatic aftermath of a banquet is one of the pleasures of the festive season.
You can put on Act III of a grand opera (you can rely on everyone melodiously dying in Act III), shut the door, snaffle choice leftovers and, safe in the knowledge that noone will come near the kitchen until the last teaspoon has been rinsed, sink into rare luxury of reverie. There's a hypnotic rhythm in reaching, dunking, sponging and rinsing. A satisfaction in imposing order on chaos with the flick of a Marigold and a skill in assembling towering sculptures of crockery on the draining rack.
Above all, there is something about a pair of Marigolds that gives one a sense of invincible purpose. When, in my yellow gauntlets, I watch TV from the sofa it proclaims to the family that I'm not idling, I'm in transit between chores. The suds on the pages of my novel are testament to the fact that I am in restless pursuit of family welfare and noone dares begrudge an afternoon kip to a woman sheathed in damp rubber.
But now my Marigolds, integral part of my Christmas wardrobe, lie limply over the mixer tap and I am a woman without purpose or justified solitude in the kitchen. It's been three weeks since Tosca last flung herself from the castle ramparts.
Suddenly, though, I am enlightened. I don't need the detritus of a dozen diners to validate myself. Hastily I don gloves and pinnie. I'm wearing them while Tweeting in the armchair when the Vicar comes in. 'I'll do the bedtime story tonight,' he says. 'You look as though you've been hard at it all afternoon.' He bustles off to the children's bedrooms and I dart out of my chair and put Madam Butterfly, Act III, on the stereo.