… my tame lizard has become very bold. He is now prepared to enter the house and run around begging for food. I’m always worried I might step on him, but he’s very quick and alert. I suppose he has to be because of the various cats around here.

There’s always a problem about pets, isn’t there? You become very fond of them, but, unless they are tortoises or carp, you are definitely going to outlive them. Besides, if you are moving internationally, you can’t take them with you most of the time. But they sort of creep up on you, don’t they? My mother kept adopting stray cats and dogs when she lived in the Far East, and there were always tears when she had to leave them behind.

And with that memory, I realised that I’d hardly thought about my mother since the funeral. We weren’t close latterly, but she is the reason I can afford to live here. She had many endearing qualities, but they were hard to see, and she died virtually friendless. It was not that she irritated others to the point that they would shun her. She was invariably polite. But she never sought the company of others, didn’t stay in touch, didn’t show any interest in her fellows at all.

She preferred animals to people, including – perhaps especially – her own family. She played a fierce game of Mah-jong , she belonged to a little club, but never socialised with the other members outside the game. She was selectively superstitious – obeying certain superstitions to the letter, and dismissing the rest as nonsense. What else? I remember so little about her that I’m horrified to realise that I am probably as misanthropic as she was.

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