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‘Should I believe in God?’ John the bricklayer asked me. I told him that it was rather like asking me whether he should go to the toilet. ‘Only you will know,’ I replied. ‘Religion is not garbage per se,’ I continued in my arrogance, ‘but The World insists on pushing its rubbish into my garden.’

‘How can I be happy?’ John enquired. Fishing about for another poor analogy, I suggested, ‘It’s like riding a bike without a chain. All’s merry going downhill, but as soon as you level out it’s pure treacle. And you hit the bottle hard on a steep ascent.’ Instead, I told him, one should be fiercely unique. Learn to express and cultivate yourself on carefully chosen activities – then you will offer The World something quite rare, and you will fuse the most wondrous bonds with like-minded gents and foxes. ‘Do not assimilate!’ I screamed in his weathered face, with all the urgency I could muster.

John informed me that he needed to leave, to lay some bricks. Fine, I responded sarcastically (and with a rather hefty dollop of spite too, I confess), ‘Go construct yet another faceless retail outlet. A monastery to the gods of Boxing Day shopping.’ Off he scurried with his bag of tools. And I collected together my notes and diagrams and took myself to my next appointment, with Barry, a hairdresser from Doncaster.

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