My educated readers: mostly, and contrary to popular aphorism, when you are not expecting anything to happen, nothing at all happens. Rarely however in my experience does nothing at all happen not quite in the way you are expecting. It was midway through the family-Christmas-space-time continuum – an episode devoid of the normal day’s helpful interventions and change agents such as meeting someone for a coffee, speaking on the phone, and leaving – when extended hiatuses between low-level stimulation had meant that my brain was registering activity levels not inconsistent with unconsciousness, its last computations relating to those household appliances that might feasibly and subtly provide a dose of self-defibrillation - that my five-year-old cousin presented my sated, couch-wedged self with a parcel from my great Uncle Albert, a silent, heavy-eye-browed, grey man with whom I had assumed my level of affinity and mutual understanding would never be able to bridge the chasm of my and his generation’s concepts of suffering. As my pupils re-adjusted to the light in the room and I separated the present from its reindeer wrapping, I could hear great Auntie Nora suggesting that the object in my hands was somehow irrefutable proof that my great Uncle was, in safari-parlance, quite a distance from the nature reserve. Very quickly, these psychoanalytical whisperings and the potential refreshment of unpredictability travelled the room, slowing time further and swivelling the eyes even of Rex, my second cousin’s dog (thank you, cousin Oliver), to the cylindrical glass chamber in my hands. Then, into the silence, great Uncle Albert said, “Rex, my dear boy. This Christmas, I have bought you nothing, literally. The chamber is a vacuum, and so contains no matter whatsoever. Not a single particle. I have bought you nothing.” I was floored, momentarily frozen, in awe. It was then, my educated readers, that, rising to thank my great Uncle for the exquisite subversion of his non-present, I – with counterbalancing ineptitude - contrived to replace intellectual frippery with the forgettable stupidity of classic farce, by nudging the vacuum off the arm of the sofa, and watching it descend languorously until it smashed all over the wooden floor, so that nothing, so to speak, was lost.