A friend was leaving, and the house was going to be locked up and empty for a while. Flustered, she left a message, explaining that the freezer in the shed was misfiring, and her taxi was waiting..”could we…?”

I like to think that I’m the sort of fellow that can be relied upon. So Mrs L & I assured our friend that we’d handle it and off we went to be neighbourly, equipped with some bin bags.

We made our way through the locks and security systems, and got the shed open. The freezer is a large upright unit, and all the lights at the top were off. I was preparing a bin bag, when Mrs L came hurtling past me, gagging. She was pursued by a rancid, rotten stink.

“Oh good.” At times, I have a gift for understatement.

The freezer is six feet tall, and populated by five drawers and a flap section at the top. Judging by the extraordinary smell, and the blood seeping out onto the floor, it had been offline for several days, at least. Recent temperatures have been in the high 30s centigrade.


There I go again.

Mrs L retched.

With one exception, the freezer drawers were full of meat. Whole chickens, pork, beef and my favourite, some offal; liver I think. Once the door had been open for a minute or two, the flies were arriving in waves. I don’t know how flies communicate, but word was spreading fast across the island.

I transferred the contents of each drawer to its own bin bag, or often two bags, in an effort to stop the blood escaping. Gingerly, I took each one to the street-bin, pursued by clouds of flies. In an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, it was collection day, and the truck hadn’t passed yet. It came by minutes after I’d deposited the last of it.

Mrs L retched again.

Oh. The exception. Once I’d got cosy with the rotting meat, I met the marine drawer. Sea-bass, prawns and calamari. Dear reader, that is a smell that I will never forget.

About halfway through the process, I remembered that now, all self-respecting cars have a pack of masks, and I may be one of the few people in the world to have whispered “Thank you, Covid-19.”

Bags disposed of, for the first time in nine years, I considered a cigarette. Instead, I got some kitchen roll to soak up the blood, some bleach to clean the appliance and a spray to discourage the flies.

In times of stress, I slip into a comedy french accent, and was soon abusing the flies, the freezer and fate itself.

Home, Mrs L and I immediately adjourned to separate showers, to wash away the stink. Clothes were immediately put into the wash. Shoes, the same. I've washed my hands seventeen times in the last four hours, yet still I fancy I can catch a whiff of decomposing liver and prawns.

Just moments ago, Mrs L suggested pasta for dinner, or "we could have that steak?" It was all I could do not to throw up on her.

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