Driving to my mother’s house, my nine-year-old boy was indignant. He sat at the front with his knees up, listening attentively to Radio 4. ‘Dad,’ he said with the frankness that came from not grasping diplomacy yet, ‘if Assad is bad, don’t we need to stop him?

Ba- Dal- Laam. Tinker with these Arabic triliteral roots and it will reveal many secrets. Those who believe language is a construct of the mind must look at Ba-Da-La.

Inspector Hyder lit a cigarette, he knew it was illegal to smoke in private property other than one’s own, but he smoked anyway. It was one of those idiosyncratic rules that the President had applied to the Nation.

At dawn the view of Damascus was glorious. I loved to watch the sun rise whilst Kurdish pigeon fanciers flew their little flecks of silver over the green minarets that illuminated the city.