At Christmas, you do not need a calendar. You can tell what day it is by the leftovers you are eating. Need a time-check? Then simply consult our guide, accurate to within two hours.
Time to knock up a turkey and ham pie? Photograph: Richard Newstead/Getty Images/Flickr Open
Over Christmas, you do not need a calendar or even a clock. You can tell what day it is just by looking at what you are eating and, particularly, how you are dealing with the leftovers. For a week, all bets are off, as day-to-day eating habits are replaced by an apparent food-based free-for-all which, in fact, is as predictable as repeats of The Snowman. Should you at any point feel discombobulated by the season and find yourself wondering what day it is, simply consult our handy seven stages of Christmas leftovers: guaranteed accurate to within two hours.
21.21, 25 Dec Despite the fact that you stuffed yourself to the point of intestinal tearing just hours earlier, you are back in the kitchen. You are not hungry, no, but feel like you should have something, lest you wake up in the night with a gnawing hunger. You might have a ham, some good cheese and coleslaw ready, but, more likely, will re-eat Christmas dinner, only condensing all its components - chipolatas, cold roasties, even a dab of gravy - into a sandwich. So deadened are your tastebuds at this point that, suddenly, the cranberry and orange stuffing that tasted so disgusting earlier is now a bright spark in this otherwise stuffed, sleepy torpor.
11.05, 26 Dec Standing in front of the fridge, trying to remember your own name, you eat a novel breakfast of smoked mackerel pate and trifle straight from the bowl - possibly using a child's plastic spoon in lieu of any other clean cutlery. This is not slovenly, it is self-preservation. You have to start cooking a beef joint in an hour and only big flavours and sugar are going to punch through. It would be unseemly to open a beer until at least 12.01.
19.23, 27 Dec OK, you have overdone it a bit in the past couple of days. You go for a jog to take the edge off. That evening, you settle down for a light supper (a "picky tea" up north) of cheeseboard leftovers, Christmas Eve pork pie, ham, olives, breads, crackers, chutney, celery. There is nothing like a healthy meal to clear the system. And this is nothing like a healthy meal.
16.12, 28 Dec Leftover smoked salmon needs eating, which leads to a breakfast for five being eaten by two. You walk it off en route to the corner shop for Rennie. Likewise, something must be done with the turkey remains. Going nuclear (curry or a Thai or Vietnamese salad, even at this moment of gastric turmoil) is the only option. This meal needs to be as hot as an ITV4 double bill of Backdraft and Towering Inferno in order to penetrate your profound mental, physical and culinary exhaustion.
17.23, 29 Dec By now grimly determined rather than festive, you decide to finally despatch the last remnants of turkey. You retire to the kitchen with a glass of wine (the bottle was open, it'll go off otherwise), a box of chocolates into which you have tipped the last of several other boxes (which, worryingly, already only leaves you with distinctly Division Two choices), and a vague idea to make turkey and ham pie. From scratch. Including the pastry. That lasts as long as it takes to Google a recipe. Brainwave: you will make bubble'n'squeak, which, as soon as you taste the first leaden, oily mouthful, you regret. You spend the evening mute in front of the TV trying to digest a medicine ball. A medicine ball made of sprouts and acid reflux.
20.23, 30 Dec You haven't eaten all day. Or, rather, you haven't eaten since that ill-advised stilton rarebit at breakfast. After whizzing up turkey mince and chucking it in the freezer (from where it will be thrown out in November, to make room for Christmas 2015), you make yourself a cup of tea only to find that, biscuit-wise, two family boxes have been reduced to a couple of digestives, a pink wafer and three untouched Jammie Dodgers. Distraught, you open the la-di-da florentines that someone at work bought you in the Secret Santa. After eating five or six, you decide that, actually, you don't like florentines. You then start on the chocolate liqueurs that an elderly neighbour dropped round. Of course you hate them, but they're there. Nausea and/or self-loathing now at critical levels.
14.22, 31 Dec Feeling like a goose that has undergone a week of turbo-gavage, you skip breakfast and - come on, it's time to get serious now - make a modest bowl of ham and bean soup for lunch. It tastes salty. It tastes wholesome. It tastes like it isn't laying down fat that will take months to shift. You feel OK about things until you realise - Christ! - it is New Year's Eve. It is all starting again. Only with more peanuts.
Postscript: 19.48, Jan 3, 2015 Taking down the Christmas cards, you find some mint Matchmakers. You eat the lot in greedy handfuls, as if the quicker you eat, the less fattening they are. Finally, it is over.
This article was originally published on The Guardian