Well, this morning I looked into a replacement gas cooker. I'd done a proper amount of research. I'd looked at what I could afford, and what I might do if even more had to be spent. It was a thing that could be rationally considered. What features were important? Which could I do without? What about design and finish - utilitarian or stylish? - I'd be living with this new cooker for years to come, so the appearance did matter. Where to buy it from? What about after-sales service, if required?
You can go to Internet sellers - plenty of those, plenty of price comparisons possible - or to real shops, which since the demise of Comet means only Currys (who have a very helpful website, but I'm not convinced about how wise it would be to buy from them) or a small number of town shops.
In Burgess Hill, a nearby town, I bought a new Hotpoint washing machine from Burgess Appliances just over two years ago. There was no hassle with the purchase, and no problems since. My neighbours have always reckoned this shop to be a very safe bet, so it was the obvious place to try. In any case, I prefer to physically examine the goods before I buy, and to have the chance of discussing the deal face-to-face.
My enquiries there showed me that I had a definite preference for a cooker 60cm wide, like I used to have before I inherited Mum and Dad's house and their ancient 52cm cooker. The extra width gives you a more spacious hob (so it's easier to use a wok with other pans), and it allows you to place two dishes side by side on the same shelf in the oven (so that they both cook at exactly the same rate). I clearly needed to perform some surgery on the kitchen worktop (a shelf really) to the left of the cooker space, to enable a 60cm cooker to fit.
So I went home, got a saw out, and cut a few centimetres off that shelf. Just like that. I was surprised how easily this went - I thought I'd mess it up somehow, but no. Then after some lunch I went back to the shop, now able to seriously consider a 60cm cooker. I spent half an hour looking at two made by Belling, one of them 50cm wide, and one 60cm wide, but otherwise almost identical, although the wider one had a couple of functional refinements that size brought, and (less important, but still a consideration) it looked nicer. The price difference was £60. Not enough to really matter. So after more door-opening, knob twiddling, button-pressing and shelf shifting, I agreed to buy.
I went home feeling very good. Job done! My lovely new cooker will be delivered on Saturday (it was too late for same-day delivery, and I'm out all day tomorrow), and the gas man will come to connect and commission it on Monday. I shall be cookerless from Saturday evening to Monday afternoon, unless I use the microwave, or the gas cooker in the caravan (which is probably what I'll do). I felt really happy for several hours. I was looking forward to my first session with the new cooker!
And then a reaction set in.
In the last day or so I've spent - or committed to spending - many hundreds of pounds, and I suddenly felt exposed and very vulnerable. My cushion of saved-up cash would be drastically reduced. Upsettingly so. I felt panicky, afraid, and actually began to cry with worry. I couldn't help it.
It took a long time to get over this mood. I told myself that everything was all right: hadn't I properly worked it all out - how I already had the caravan shower tray repair covered, how I could defer this big bill or that till later in the year? And if absolutely necessary, forego holidays till my savings picked up again? But the insecurity and distress that has never been far away since coming out in 2008 took a lot of driving off.
I did manage to cook a meal - heartwarming fishcakes - and I sat down to watch The Sky At Night on BBC4. But that only made me sad again. It wasn't the same without Patrick Moore, the programme's creator, who died last December - even a very old and housebound Patrick Moore. And he'd reminded me so much of my Dad. So Patrick Moore's death, his permanent absence, now made me cry over my loss of Dad. I could hardly eat. Even the food itself made me sad, because fishcakes had been one of M---'s specialities. And I would never more enjoy her cooking and her company.
Obviously by now I've got a grip, or I wouldn't be writing this post! But isn't it strange that the elation of making a solidly-reasoned household decision should change into a tearful mood with several very personal strands to it: money worries, bereavement, partner loss.
Tomorrow I will wake up feeling very different. But it just shows how thin and brittle the veneer of self-confidence is.