A strange woman comes to my door one day in early March. It's a prosperous area so we often have people selling things door-to-door - dusters, make-up, frozen foods - but she doesn't look like a professional saleswoman. She hasn't got the patter either. She just smiles awkwardly and thrusts a card in my hand: "Amy Turner. Pet Portraits Undertaken."
I run my fingernail along the cheap gold edge of the card and look at her, waiting for an explanation.
"I'll paint any animal in the comfort of your own home," Amy Turner says. "Wouldn't you like a unique portrait of your loved one? I've had experience of dogs, cats, parrots, prize bulls..."
"Prize bulls!" I can't help looking up and down our suburban street. The thought of any of my neighbours keeping bulls in their back gardens makes me smile but then I see that Amy looks cross and I realise I've interrupted her sales pitch.
"I don't have any animals," I say as we look past each other. She must be wishing some little cat or dog would come running down the hall to give the game away and it is the first chance I've had to sniff the air outside. It is one of those spring mornings when you wake up and find winter's gone. Even the camellia in the garden opposite has flowered overnight, vulgar pink blossoms which look shocking against the quiet greens and greys.
"Why are you still in your dressing gown?" Amy says, turning her attention back to me. "It's nearly lunchtime. Are you ill?"
"I'm fine," I lie. I'm not going to tell a stranger I've just been sick in the toilet upstairs and would still be sticking my fingers down my throat if the doorbell hadn't rung. But now I'm not...