My parents died quickly and hygienically, without any sort of precursory illness. I have no siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins whose descent into sordid infirmity might have obliged me to visit them. I have a small platoon of children, it is true, but they all live with their mothers and have saved me from childhood mewlings and pubescent messiness. As a teenager and famed walker of hills, I piled humiliations on the heads of less robust friends, but at night I would steal across the fields in search of a private latrine pit. In my last summer before university I spent months hefting cast-iron dustbins full of wet ash for Liverpool Corporation, before heading off to Switzerland and attacking the Bernese Oberland like a hardened stormtrooper.