There were people in full HAZCHEM overalls and gas masks in our neighbour’s back yard this morning. I watched in my dressing gown, baffled.

I was either looking at a crime scene or I’d missed the new gardening restrictions Gladys had imposed on us all. She loves a lockout and a lockdown and is capable of being hot mess berserk.

Then I remembered.

Holy shit! The neighbours are about to renovate and today the old asbestos lean-to out the back was being demolished. We got a letter about it a week ago suggesting we close all our windows, stay inside, and don’t panic. Or breathe.

I ran around closing all our permanently opened windows, which is most of them. In winter it’s usually warmer outside than inside our house. Maybe it’s all those gaps between the floorboards over the crypt. And the fact that we can’t afford heating.

Two minutes later we were locked in even to Gladys’ satisfaction.

Now what? I couldn’t go outside to tend my meadow and check whether that deer from the nudist beach had finally found my backyard. I needed an indoor project.

Vacuuming, according to Robinson, as always. Today she also mentioned dusting (we’ve been locked in too long) and it’s true that all of our vivid memorabilia is barely visible under a grey coating of dust and cat hair.

She’s the Welsh cleaner, so I threw her a cloth. I had bigger plans, and they didn’t involve moving furniture or rearranging the roofline.

We’ve had our new kitchen for months now and I was going to clean it from top to bottom! The fun part of this plan was to use our new Smeg oven pyrolytic cleaning feature. Instead of all those toxic oven cleaner sprays and elbow greases all I needed now was a coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley.

The instruction manual explained that the oven door would lock and the oven would heat dangerously to 470c (!), dissolving the remnants of that crispy pork belly recipe, and last Sunday’s roast, and the Great Barrier Reef. Then I could use a damp sponge to simply wipe away the cremation of all that cooking, those hours of delight.

While this miracle was taking place (three hours) I was wiping down benches and splashbacks and generally being astonished seeing where Nina has been. Dirty paw prints everywhere, including several impossible locations.

After an hour or so the kitchen had reached the temperature of a wood fired pizza oven, despite that locked oven door. Our house was no longer cold. It was a sizzling capricciosa and had filled with a thick, burnt roast-perfumed smoke.

The instruction manual recommended ventilation during the pyrolytic process but I concede they didn’t know about next door’s renovations and the double lockdown.

Still, it was strangely beautiful in the early afternoon sun. I was in a cathedral. I was giddy with something. Smoke inhalation probably. Or exhaustion. Or Mesothelioma.

I’m not one to complain. When I recovered consciousness a short time later the kitchen was clean, I wiped the oven spotless, and next door had a bigger garden.

I opened the windows and we were free.

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