I am not sure how to finish this book. The job of a writer is, according to Samuel Beckett, “to find a form that accommodates the mess”. 1 I could roll back and give up, as Voltaire’s Candide did. 2 After many hopeful tries to engage with the world, brimming with optimism and being continually rebuffed, Candide decided in the end his garden was the only place of dignity and escape left to him. He quietly and peacefully tried to cultivate his garden, in his case growing pistachios and lemons on the shore of the Bosphorus (although that had its problems too). I do partly fall back on my garden and my greenhouse cum conservatory. I have exotic semi-tropical plants. I nurse and coax these dejected plants, that only want sunshine, through the dark winter months in the hope of magnificent blooms in summer, or any blooms. Some few of them oblige; most grow straggly, then wilt. One of the obliging shrubs is Erythrina crista-galli, the cockspur coral tree, common throughout South America but understandably rare in the UK. It has been through 13 long winters with me. At the time I am writing this, it is in flower. I look fondly at its extraordinary scarlet flowers, the shape of lobster claws, but realise any metaphors about its return from the near dead each year, or about its transportation from one arboriculture to another, would be more than misplaced. It is sui generis, it is of itself, and my appreciation of it is the pursuit of experience for its own sake. Those shiny lobster claw petals give me a real thrill. Perhaps this is partly how very young children experience the world, responding to what gives them pleasure, before they have built up any armoury of adult expectations.