. . . we wobbled and raced our bikes along the raised roadway that wound its route through the absolute dark of the Fens, dangerously lined on either verge by barely visible trees, following the one or two faint torch beams held by those at the front of the group.

. . . we lay ourselves down spread-eagled on our backs on Nine Ashes Road, where it dipped across the fields towards the sunken village — a dare to the traffic, or to the cold surveillance of the million stars.

. . . we came suddenly upon the breathtaking view of Manchester, dot-to-dotted in a million points of light below our camping site on the moortop — where all, prior to nightfall, had been invisible, whether in cloud, mist or distance I could not say.

. . . I failed over the short distance from the door to her driveway — on my first evening out with the old friends after being abroad for six months — to engineer a moment alone with her, and was told, later on the walk home, that she had thought my letter was awful, arrogant and pretentious, and wouldn’t see me again.

. . . I posted a still-lit cigarette stub into a red pillar box, and was surprised to find my companions appalled, not thrilled, by my depravity.

. . . we bought two kebabs a-piece, one for now, one for halfway home, but I ate mine both straight away, in an sickening feat of gluttony.

. . . I rapped my furled umbrella (the first full-sized model I had ever possessed) on the lamp posts of Clermont-Ferrand as I passed, in homage to Gene Kelly, and ruined it in the process.

. . . I was fine, straining to preserve absolute stillness but fine, on the bus, but threw up dramatically, efficiently, into the pavement excavation at the corner of our street.

. . . she was fine, standing and swaying in polite conversation but fine, on the bus, and considered a while on the sofa before agreeing to share my bed with me for the night.

. . . I bought a porn magazine in a 7-11, which, chosen in haste, and turning out to be quite devoid of beauty or taste to sugar its basic pleasures, got one use before being put — not self-disgustedly, but just . . . disgustedly — straight into the flat bins the next morning.