On our first date, Monica the vulture pokes her beak hard into Helen’s history

If dating profiles are like Philip Pullman’s dæmons, I am coming to realise that mine is still only half-formed

I gaze across the dining table into my date’s dark, beady eyes, trying to ignore the vulture perched on her shoulder as it picks over my wife’s life and, more horribly, her death.

“How long did she battle against the big C before she died?” asks Monica, who is certainly attractive, but increasingly under my disillusioned gaze resembles her mangy feathered friend. Both flutter excitedly as she pokes her beak harder into Helen’s history.

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Alex Vidal