I would not say we are friends exactly, but Death and I are neighbours. We leave for work about the same time, often locking our doors in unison. I wave at him and he nods back, adjusting his hat or his tie. It is perhaps a cliché but he is shorter than I had expected.

He always struck me as rather sad, or maybe just lonely, but he seems to like his work. Whenever I have heard him questioned about it — usually at the summer barbecues thrown by the Gemini twins at Number 3 — he coughs politely and says that it is actually a very rewarding role once you take a step back.

We never really discuss his work but other people always seem to enjoy throwing difficult questions at him — about children or about lovers or about the ones he takes with no warning whatsoever. I find it rather impolite but he listens carefully and always seems to have a thoughtful answer from his unusual perspective. He talks eruditely about populations and meaning and fragility and beauty, though I have noticed he never uses the word “good”.

His answers seldom seem quite to satisfy his audience but they do send people away silent and pensive, comforted at least that these questions are taken seriously by such as he.

The answers are certainly better than any I find myself giving but, when you are in the Famine business, what can you say?