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.

Epimenidis opened one eye. In the flickering light of the oil lamp, a giant hand holding a needle as long as a sword crossed and recrossed the wall. Diamanda was sewing something into her mattress. The shadow grew smaller and disappeared as he drifted back to sleep.

Before I died – beaten black and blue by a lynch mob with a watchman’s stick, an iron rod, fists, kicks and head-butts – and before I committed blasphemy, I was a moderate believer. Now that I’m dead, I’m a nonbeliever. Not an atheist, but a nonbeliever.

He makes the yummiest of croissants. They are flaky and marginally sweet, with golden layers on top that come off at the softest of touches. The smell of pure butter wafts along as the croissants slide out of the oven on a piping hot tray. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe the crescent-shaped pastries.

We’d been in the bleak bungalow a fortnight when Alastair went off on exercise with his signal troop to Mersing on the east coast of Malaysia. Ah Mai, my amah, had been with us since we moved in, and as it was Saturday she was about to go home to her family for the weekend.

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.