“Well, well,” observed Mr Norris. “Dear me, what a very small place the world is.”

“You never met my mother, I suppose? Or my uncle, the admiral?”

I was quite resigned, now, to playing the relationships game. It was boring but exacting, and could be continued for hours. Already I saw a whole chain of easy moves ahead of me – uncles, aunts, cousins, their marriages and their properties, death duties, mortgages, sales. Then on to public school and university, comparing notes on food, exchanging anecdotes about masters, famous matches, and celebrated rows. I knew the exact tone to adopt.

But, to my surprise, Mr Norris didn’t seem to want to play this game after all. He answered hurriedly:

“I’m afraid not. No. Since the War, I’ve rather lost touch with my English friends. My affairs have taken me abroad a good deal.”

Christopher Isherwood, “Mr Norris Changes Trains”.

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