There were occasions when George envied these people (the forty-eight hours between trying on the trousers in Allders and visiting Dr Barghoutian, for example). Not these people specifically, but the regulars, the ones you saw up at the front during carol services.

But you either had faith or you didn’t. No re-entry, no refunds. Like when his father told him how magicians sawed ladies in half. You couldn’t give the knowledge back however much you wanted to.

He looked round at the stained-glass lambs and the scale model of the crucified Christ and thought how ridiculous it all was, this desert religion transported wholesale to the English shires. Bank managers and PE teachers listening to stories about zithers and smiting and barley-bread as if it were the most natural thing in the world.