We're finally back home following a marathon trip into Hastings during which icy rain, driven horizontal by a cutting north-easterly wind, successfully managed to flush away most of the ice and snow, save for a few renegade pockets up our road.
As predicted, Hastings town centre resembled nothing so much as all of Dante's 9 levels of hell rolled into one, which is the closest to classical allusion the place is ever likely to get.
Every shop was packed to capacity, labyrinthine queues snaked round every aisle, and a full contingent of lethal baby buggies waited round each corner to knee-cap the unwary.
On our peregrinations I noted that the most salubrious level of hell was most definitely Debenhams, where there reigned an air of quiet desperation amongst the better-heeled customers, which the store tends to attract.
Predictably, the lowest level of hell was reserved for Poundland, where the great unwashed jostled cheek by unshaven jowl to snap up the bounteous wares on sale. I lasted just 10 seconds before I had to beat a hasty retreat in order to avoid being swallowed up and lost forever in the milling, heaving mob.
After a few hours we had more or less lost the will to live so headed back to the car where we heaved a mutual sigh of relief at being safely out of the madness.
However, an even deeper, hitherto uncharted region of hell awaited us at our next stop.
Deeper than all the Stygian depths of Hades and containing tortures so diabolical that people were falling horror-stricken by the wayside even on the approaches.
The Tesco Extra Superstore.
We should have turned back right at the outset, when we registered that the enormous car park was full almost to capacity.
We should have turned back when the keening howls and screams of dozens of hyperactive children reached our ears.
We should have turned back when the lift doors opened to reveal a scene not unlike the chariot race from Ben-Hur.
However we girded our loins, stiffened our resolve, and set off into the maelstrom, heedless of the dangers which awaited us.
It seemed as if the entire population of Hastings and St. Leonards was of one (probably unhinged) mind, and alerted to the possibility of further inclement weather hampering their conspicuous consumption, decided to do their big Christmas food shop today at 3.30pm.
We had to queue 15 minutes purely to glimpse the parsnips, and the fresh sprouts were housed in a mythical Shangri-La section, accessible only to those who had achieved nirvana. Mere mortals could only sigh and pass on.
However, the Armageddon Scenario was being played out for real in the fresh turkey aisle, at which a free-for-all was in progress over the remaining carcases which didn't need funding from the International Monetary Fund to make them affordable.
I mean. £35 for a turkey!
Has the world gone mad?!
We raised our eyes heavenwards and smiled our secret smiles, secure in the knowledge that a frozen bird at a fraction of the price of fresh was our achievable aim.
I'll gloss over the unseemly fracas we encountered at the stuffing and cranberry sauce promotional area.
Similarly I won't give the oxygen of publicity to the scuffles which broke out periodically by the mince pies display.
Not to mention the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the only salt in the whole store was hugely overpriced Maldon Sea Salt. So deep was the general despair that there was a member of staff permanently stationed by the empty shelves to explain that the stock situation was due to profligate panic buying by frail old ladies attempting to stave off the potential for broken hips by slipping on icy paths.
Undaunted, we ploughed on, tenaciously sticking to our list, unswayed even by BOGOF Pringles and Half Price silverskin pickled onions.
Then we came to an aisle eerily deserted and silent, as if it existed in a temporal dimension outside of the frenzy of activity elsewhere.
They had sold out of frozen turkeys.
SOLD OUT OF FROZEN TURKEYS!!!
Our anguished cries rent the air and our shuddering sobs eventually alerted a member of staff to our distress.
"HO yus" he said. "We 'ad loads but they're all sold aht. Youse should've got one wen we 'ad 'em. Nah, dunno if we're gettin' em back in."
Broken and defeated we headed back to the fresh turkey aisle, where a few plucky survivors were tending their wounds, and surveyed the shelves. Aside from the possibly gold-plated birds at £35 upwards, only a few sorry specimens remained.
Some with only one leg. One with two necks. These were probably the results of genetic engineering experiments gone wrong but needs must, and we sorted through the flaccid bags, our spirits sinking ever deeper.
We did eventually manage to find one which bore an approximate physical resemblance to a turkey and shuffled away from the carnage to join one of the 36 queues at the checkouts, where all the staff were wearing comedy Christmas hats, or reindeer deely boppers in an effort to jolly shoppers out of their catatonic trances.
It didn't work.
So after forking out the equivalent of the Gross National Project of a small third-world country we are now back home safely.
Poorer and wiser.
The fridge is straining at the seams and we have had to set up an overflow coolbox outside the back door, which is hopefully cat and fox proof. Although I suspect no self-respecting fox would risk all for several boxes of fresh vegetables and a few cartons of clementine juice.
Just why this mayhem transpires year after year amazes me. Everyone appears to be laying in for a siege. The shops will only be closed for 24 hours on Christmas Day, so the chances of anyone actually starving to death within that time, especially in Hastings, is remote.
I need a drink and a lie-down. Not necessarily in that order......