WHO'S BEEN EATING ALL THE PIES?
IT'S THAT TIME WHEN A YOUNG MAN'S fancy turns to diving. The days are lengthening, the birds clearing their throats ready for spring.
Unfortunately, my body is still sunk deep in its hibernative winter state. It spent the end of last year stockpiling saturated fats until it became so grossly distended that it was incapable of all but the most perfunctory movements.
It isn't just that I can't get into my wetsuit - I can hardly get out of the door.
In the Old Days, 1 January was a watershed - or, more accurately, a blubbershed. I would snap out of my drink-sodden torpor, drag my bloated carcass down to the local fitness centre, England X Pecs, and bully myself back into some kind of dive-viable shape.
But lately the usual mechanism has failed me. New Year comes and goes and the bathroom scales continue to buckle under my bulk.
It's not just that a couple of inches have crept onto my waistline. It's that I have come to resemble a huge, distended pigskin sack that has been stuffed to bursting point with offal and custard by greedy giants.
t could simply be that I'm growing old. Ever since I turned 30, I've been in an increasingly desperate struggle against the forces of flab.
Like King Canute trying to order back the sea, I have tried in vain to impose my authority over a tidal wave of lard. Struggling into last year's steamer requires all the strength and cunning of a lady's maid, shovelling her plump mistress into a wasp-waisted ball gown.
Regarding myself in the full-length mirror (laid sideways to accommodate my vast girth), I wonder if I am morally obliged to alert the Coastguard of my intention to dive in the Channel: unless I manage to lose the equivalent in weight of a small family saloon, I shall represent a serious hazard to shipping.
So what else could be causing this corporeal ballooning effect? Perhaps it's not unrelated to my having single-handedly consumed in three months the entire annual output of the Guinness brewery.
Or could it be my post-prandial excursions to You Fat Bastard, the all-too-local Chinese take-away? Try as I might, I can't resist its Special Chop Sueycide, "a subtle and seductive liaison of suet, industrial-strength goose dripping and maple syrup".
Whatever the cause of my condition, I can no longer ignore it. Only last week, I tried my computer and it went straight into Error Mode.
According to the service engineers at Coma Position, my dive shop, I have attained the same incalculable density as the type of dying star they call a Black Dwarf, and the intense magnetic radiation I emit is buggering up the Suunto.
Unless I want to turn into a black hole and suck up half the galaxy, they added, I'd better embark on a serious exercise regime.
Perhaps I should try instructing again. Two nights a week spent flapping about in the pool, and the weight will just melt away.
Then again, I'm not sure they'd have me back - not after the episode with the EAR doll and the parachute flare.
There's always England X Pecs, of course. The trouble is, I hate the cold, intimidating etiquette that prevails in the gym. Conversation, indeed eye contact, even with other blokes, is tacitly discouraged.
The atmosphere is one of hushed reverence - it's like going to Holy Communion in your vest and shorts.
So I suppose I'll just have to have my mouth sewn up, like last year, and get by on intravenous skimmed milk until the start of the season.
Anyway, I hope to see you at Portland before too long. You'll know when I arrive - the water level will rise by three inches.