Eustace is glowing. It’s not so much his medication – although the cancer-zapping pill he has just taken would get a Geiger counter going – as his mood. After months of virtual dating, he’s about to meet his online squeeze, Theo, some 20 years his junior.

The timing isn’t great. Having reached “an age when he was reassured that life was unlikely to surprise him any further”, Eustace had been firmly set for proverbial pipe and slipperdom, not life-changing encounters with beautiful men in army fatigues. And the fact that he’s “quite possibly dying” may put a dampener on his first real-life date. (He hasn’t even told Theo he’s in hospital.)

For all this, Patrick Gale’s hero remains upbeat, almost…