Snow on the ground, for the first time in the year and yet the year was nearly gone. I looked out of the window into the moonlit garden and it looked for all the world as if someone had sprinkled several tonnes of caster sugar over the hillside. I remember thinking that it was a good thing that none of us needed to drive anywhere in the morning. Spending Christmas week at the top of a hill in the Lake District has its downsides, and one of them is getting stranded. I say ‘downsides’, but for me it was positively an advantage. After the helter-skelter rat-race of London, the family home just outside Stavely was a welcome refuge. Sure it was a disappointment to once again be coming back alone, instead of doing my part to fill the place with grandchildren, and providing my mother with another ‘new daughter’ as she put it whenever one of my brothers would moor himself in domestic bliss – wedded or otherwise – to a woman unlikely to take their shit.

Veronica would have liked it; that was all I could think. Damn it.