Category Archives: Ephemera

♪ Don’t Blame It On The Sunshine ♫

“To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development.
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am fifty I read them openly.
When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
~ C.S. Lewis

I recall with clarity the day they arrived, in a plain brown box with my mother’s name typed on the bill of lading.  I knew what the box held; I’d been waiting with barely suppressed anticipation for weeks.  Though I knew the contents, when it came time to open the package, my heart was beating a mile a minute.  I dug through the crumpled, buff-coloured packing paper, and there they were: my new Dominion roller skates.

I spent the first hour half-skating, half-clumping around the apartment, which had laminate in the kitchen but was otherwise carpeted in a durable berber.  I didn’t know at the time that my skates would leave black scuff marks all over the kitchen floor, and I sure as heck wasn’t yet at a point in my life where I knew how to get them off, either.  Caught hell for that, if memory serves.

Funnily enough, I can’t seem to bring to relief the memory of my first visit to Roller Gardens, the local rink, with the new skates.  I must have been bursting at the seams, standing in the line up waiting to hand over my $3.00 to while away the afternoon, when the other suckers renting their skates had to pay $4.00.  I must have had them bump into my shoulder as I carried them,  laces tied together, toward the lockers.  I must have thrilled to the feel of them  on my feet as I did them up (only halfway, which was de rigueur), sitting on the bench with my friends.  But for whatever reason, I cannot compel the mental images to come back to me.  Perhaps, like so many other special events in our lives, the time was so exciting that I simply lost myself in the moment.

I remember so many other things, though; the smell of the popcorn wafting from the snack bar, the brick walls in the bathroom, the rough feel of the carpeted floors, benches and half-walls, the latter on which my friends and I slouched while we waited for the next song, or flew into when we found we didn’t have time to stop.  I remember the music very well; Grandmaster Flash, Michael Jackson, Styx, The Clash, The Oak Ridge Boys, Chicago, Pat Benatar, Kim Cairnes, Blondie, Men At Work, Toni Basil.  I could go on, but you must have your own memories to draw from.

I remember the clothes I’d wear – the Gypsy Jeans (later replaced by Angels Wing) that had an embroidered roller skate on the back pocket.  I loved the t-shirt transfer kiosk at the mall, and with my birthday and Christmas cash bought myself both a lippy Rocky Horror Picture Show tee and one that featured a traffic light and the words “I May Turn Red, But Don’t Stop,” the ultimate meaning of which was lost on me until an older boy named Sam tested the theory and was promptly and indignantly rebuffed.  I also remember that once, while frantically ironing one of the two shirts in the minutes before I had to leave for the rink, I made an ill-timed swoop, and scarred my unprotected belly with the hot metal.

There were a lot of people I knew who went to Roller Gardens, and because we weren’t indoctrinated into the high school clique mentality as yet, groups were fluid and friendly.  I also met a ton of kids from the local Catholic school, and crushed on a few of the boys; I recall one of them looking exactly like Chico Tyrell from The Lords of Flatbush, which I would have found hilariously funny, had I known at the time.  (I doubt he’s aged as well as Perry King, mind.)

The main pal I attended these marathon skates with was Tracy.  I loved hanging out with her.  We’d sit in her room getting ready, generously applying our Faces #65 frosted pink lipstick that we all carried at the time.  She was the one who’d introduced me to the B-side of Terry Jacks’ Seasons In The Sun.  “You have to hear this!” she’d squealed, pulling me in to her room and closing the door.  I still remember the first line: “Put the bone in, she asked him, at the store…”  The song was, ostensibly, about a girl who goes to the butcher, asking for a bone for her dog, who’s just been hit by a car, but Tracy had clued in to the double meaning.  She was always on the lookout for comedy, that girl, and readily found new material.  She was a treasured friend.

I can’t pinpoint when the allure of the rink began to wane, although it must have been before the end of grade nine.  I was mad for J., who was a year older than I, and starting to discover high school social life, and I suppose roller skating every weekend eventually ceased to be ‘cool’ for me.  The once-revered skates found themselves back in a box.

Cut to 1989.  I’d been living in Toronto for a couple of years, and was putting my tiny apartment through a well-needed purging.  During the process, I’d found my Dominion roller skates, in the bottom of a bin, smushed and stale.  Later that day, I stopped off at the local Goodwill and unceremoniously dropped them down the donation chute.

I think about that day, and wonder if I were uncharacteristically unsentimental at the time, or if perhaps, much like the day I first took the skates to Roller Gardens, life had swept me up and made it difficult to focus on important moments.  Or maybe (and most likely), now in my forties, I am attaching significance to an event that had none, for me, at the time.  But I can’t help but feel that by casually discarding the skates, I missed the opportunity to commemorate three important epochs: first, my carefree and joyous Roller Gardens years; second, my transition from child to adolescent when I moved on to more teenager-ish activities, and third, the moment as a young adult that I’d felt I had to ‘let go of childish things.’

How hasty we are, when young, to cast away all that identifies us as being young!  So eager to prove ourselves worthy of the perceived seriousness of grown up life.  Makes me chuckle, now.  I’m sure that the nineteen-year-old me would be mortified to know that older me, the homeowner, the mother, the grocery shopper, would be all too delighted to have those Dominion skates back today, and, euphoric and unashamed, skate up and down my street all the day long.

__________________________________________________

“Put the bone in,”
She asked him at the store
“‘Cause my doggy’s been hit by a car
And I do want to bring him home something.”
“Put the bone in,”
She begged him once more

“The meat from the pork is sweet
Give the bone from the pork meat to me.”
“Put the bone in,” she begged him
As she paced around the floor
“Put the bone in,” she yelled out once more

“Put the bone in,”
She asked him at the store
“‘Cause my doggie’s been hit by a car
And I do want to bring him home something.”
“Put the bone in,”
She begged him…once more.

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Filed under Canadiana, Ephemera, Nostalgia

If I Only Had A…Maid

MaidWeDontHave
I would wile away the hours
Nibbling bonbons and buying flowers
(A significant upgrade)
I’d be chill, I’d be happy
I’d be dressin’ really snappy
If I only had a maid… ♫

I am so fakking sick of housework these days.  I love the warm weather, but I’ll say this for the dead of winter:  it’s a lot cleaner.

In Spring, nature decides to come indoors to play.  Kids walk through the house in pool-wet and lawn-dirty feet and leave smeary footprints from the back door to the front.  There are damp towels…everywhere. Dust and other schmeg blows in to settle in corners, and it becomes impossible to have the glass-topped coffee table look remotely clear.  Flies get trapped between the sliding doors and die there, their corpses needing extrication (but not before driving me half-mad with their desperate and hopeless  pre-mortem buzzing).

The dogs begin to shed more (which is really saying somethin’), leaving blond, brown and black hair all over the leather chairs and couches, where it sticks until I wipe it off because static electricity.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

With additional hours of light comes extended hours I am forced to look at my house As It Is, as opposed to October through April, when it looks ‘romantic’ by 4:30 p.m. because I turn the lights down low and can no longer see the dust.

There is definitely more laundry this time of year.  Aforementioned towels, plus bathing suits, shorts and jeans, t-shirts galore because no kid of mine is ever going to get through an entire Jumbo Freezie without slopping the melted bit all down their fronts.  Before I had kids, I would look down my nose at parent friends of mine who left overflowing baskets of clean laundry in the living room.  “How lazy!” I would think to myself,  “How hard can it be to put away?”  and “When I am a parent, my family will always have a wellspring of pristine clothes to choose from!” Well, a note to those as yet-childless, judgemental bitches: it is ridiculously hard to keep it up when you’re doing it all the fucking time for a houseful of people who (yes, I’m about to say something über-motherish) HAVE NEVER UNDERSTOOD HOW THE CLEAN CLOTHES GET INTO THEIR ROOMS.

This is not a GIF. This is footage. From my house.

Phew.  That was nice.  It felt good to get it out.  Really, really good.

A natural consequence to perpetual circuit cleaning is that while the other three are well put-out, I myself never get out of the clothes I clean in.  I have a closetful of lovely cotton sundresses that have yet to see the light of day this season.  But you see, even IF I had somewhere to wear them, even IF I took a shower, even IF I shaved my legs, I’d still have to iron them (the clothes, not the legs) beforehand, I mean, they’ve spent the past almost-year being shoved aside for cooler-weather clothes and are as wrinkly as Donatella Versace’s tuchus (and I wouldn’t be caught wearing that out in public).  And that’s just more work.  So.

If I had a maid, I would have her (yes, I assume it’s going to be a her, ditch Women’s Studies comments for now) do all sorts of things outside the norm.  Windows?  Don’t care, leave ’em.  Countertops?  Nah, I do those myself several times a day.  Water the plants?  You’re not taking away something I actually like doing.  Run the dishwasher?  Uh, nope, not paying you to press buttons.  Some of  the jobs that have occurred to me in the last 24 hours:

Hangers:  Go through my entire closet and make sure none of them are overlapping.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Paperwork:  Once a month, gather random papers from wherever you may find them in the house and shred them.  This includes bills.  I will never notice.
Bath products:  Once a month, go under the sinks of all washrooms and toss half of what you find there (exception: TP).  I will never notice.
Fridge:  Once a month, pull out the crispers and clean whatever nastiness you find behind/under there.  Most of it you’ll have to use your fingernail to scrape off.  I never want to deal with that shite again.
Rooms:  For God’s sake, capture and kill the dust rhinos under the bed.  My vacuum won’t do it, by the way, technically speaking, the sucker-part angles too much when you get the wand-part that low to the ground.  So you’ll likely have to lie on your stomach on the floor and get some Swiffer-y something-or-other to manage.  Or spray yourself with Pledge and git under there, yourself, and roll about, I don’t care.
Stickers:  This is a kind of I Spy exercise.  My children randomly place stickers around the house (including but not limited to: Superheroes, My Little Pony, dollar-store miscellany, Christmas, Easter, Hallowe’en and Valentine’s Day) with no visible pattern.  Grab yourself a bottle of Goo Gone and make ’em disappear.  I’ll deal with the tears afterward.

That’s all I got for now, though I’ll be adding as I come up with other stuff.

What would YOU have your maid do? (Those able to answer “Well, I usually have her…” need not apply.)

And for those wondering what I really think, this is the kind of maid I’d want, and I’d never have her do any of the grody things listed above, because I would love her far too much:

Sniff! I love you, Aibileen!

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SissyBoo

This is one of my two dogs. Her name is Sissy.

Sissy(She came with the name, haters.)

Sissy has one remarkable skill that never fails to amaze.  She can differentiate the tiniest of noises from another room of the house.

For instance, when she’s napping in the living room and I go to the ‘drawer of torture’ to get the doggie nail clippers or teeth scraper (which I do ever-so-quietly, because serious dog trauma), she’s like this:

♪ La da dee dum ♫

And yet when she’s gallivanting outside (chasing bumblebees, peeing on things), and I’m preparing my lunch in the kitchen and (silently) drop a piece of pasta salad on the floor, she’s all like:

Macaroni ninja has been SUMMONED!

I no longer believe that she was in rescue twice before coming to us.
I think she was hanging out with Oscar Goldman.

TrueStory

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Suburban Soul Fillin’

Envy

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”
― Harold G. Coffin

Recently I have been exploring the differences between envy and jealousy.  I was always pretty clear on the latter, but have found more than one meaning of the former.

One says that envy consists of “a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.”  Okay.  Got it.  However, the second maintains that envy is “best defined as a resentful emotion that “occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.”

Now, see, all this time, I’ve avoided using the word jealousy,  because it alludes to a fear of personal loss.  I used envy instead, because in most cases, I simply coveted some thing or quality possessed by someone else.  That said, I don’t recall ever crossing the line and wishing the other person didn’t have it…just that I wanted it, too.

This is all blather until I put it in some kind of context.  I should do that, now.

In this past year and a half, my self-esteem has taken a severe beating, for the most part self-inflicted.  Due to a back injury, I was unable to work out and had to abandon a career path with a strong physical component.  That was the one part I wasn’t responsible for.  Then I got depressed.  I mean, really depressed.  The kind of depression that allows you to only be productive enough to piggle your toenails all day, drink too much and slop together a meagre meal for the fam.  I stopped writing.  My hair got stringy.  Yoga pants became an essential part of the uniform.  And thus began a vicious cycle.

In the meanwhile, though, life was toodling merrily along without my input or presence.  Solipsistic Erin was first amazed, then quickly crestfallen.  How can  So-And-So still write so well?  How can So-And-So be so clean all the time?  How can  So-And-So avoid drinking for a whole month?  How can So-And-So be going on vacay?  How can  So-And-So go jogging, eat Paleo, talk professionally, meet cool people, get a job, be out in the world so confidently?

I really got envious of So-And-So, lemme tellya.

Thing is, I never wanted  So-And-So to lose what she or he had to start with, I just found myself fantasizing about how lovely it would be to have those things/qualities, too.  Lord knows I had intentions toward getting ’em, but I’ve been hearing bad things about intentions and now avoid them when at all possible…like corn oil or Nestlé products.

One of the only rays of sunshine in being a directionless, unemployable SAHM is that you’re available to yak to other like-situationed pals during they day, because hey, no job.  One friend of mine in particular has been trying to find his groove for years.   Our circumstances are quite different, however our mutual feelings about the whole mess bear a striking resemblance.  Generally we commiserate and hate on the world for a bit, however this morning we really got into the guts of it.  After indulging each others’ need to rant, he sent me this:

I for one have learned something about myself since 2002:

Number one:  you must be honest with yourself.  Life altering self-initiated changes don’t make a lot of sense when you know deep down that you’re denying yourself the opportunity be happy;  it almost always ends in tears and regret.

Number two: position yourself to include all the things that you really enjoy.  Denying yourself these opportunities will leave you unhappy and second-guessing your decisions.  Surround yourself with what fills your soul.

Though I had come to these conclusions myself at one time or another, I think I must have thrown them in a drawer somewhere, or on top of a bookshelf, because when I went looking for them, I found them all dusty and giving off a kind of mildewy smell.  Dusted them, sprayed them with Lysol, and now they’re looking – if not totally shiny and new – definitely passable.

So I’m back here, for better or worse, and have picked up an old W.P. Kinsella I haven’t read in a while.  Not a bad start.  In any case, today it fills my soul.

Matisse woman-reading

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Bunbuns On The Lawn

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

~ John Steinbeck

Came out of the house this morning to find a bunny sitting on the front lawn.

Thing is about bunnies in my ‘hood, is that you rarely see them moving.  They freeze the second they hear an unfamiliar noise, and stay that way until well after the initial “Hey, there’s a bunny on the lawn!” novelty has  has worn off.   This one was no different.  In fact, he stayed so still for so long that I began to imagine someone had dropped off a really early Laura Secord prezzie for me.

Here in Hamilton, we’ve got a behemothic (can I say that?) bunbun population.  We did back in London, too, however those were night-lurkers only, and disappeared the second there was light in the sky.  If you were an unfortunate sod like myself, starting work at the most godawful hours, you’d see them huddled at the side of the road, furtively glancing up sideways as you drove by.  Mostly, you’d see squirrels.  I mean, lots of squirrels.

It helped that Old East Village is lousy with trees.  I mean, we had a 25-foot Chestnut out front that dug its roots into the crumbling plumbing a little more each year.  All the neighbors had trees, too, and almost all of them were very old, and very big.  So the squirrels had their pick of penthouse suites.

Most of the time the prodigious population of squirrels didn’t bother me, but there were two times in particular I could have easily done without them.  Once, leaving to drive the kids to school, I came out to what I now regard as one of the biggest “Eww!” moments of my life – one of the furry, bright-eyed little tree-dwellers was in its frenetic death throes right beside the walkway.  Had he fallen?  I dunno.  What I do know is that it was capital C-creepy.  I wish I could tell you I’d done something honorable, like sacrificed a pillow and put the poor thing out of its misery in goose down comfort while whispering “Go to the light” into his tiny ear, but really I just decided to sneak out the back way, instead.  Got my husband to Hefty bag it when it was all over.  Gawd, even writing that, I gave a shudder.

The second SSI (Shocking Squirrel Incident)  will be perpetually filed under “What The Fresh Hell Is THIS?!”  It was a beautiful summer day.  I’d planned to have a G&T on the deck, enjoy the fresh air, read my book, have another G&T, and so forth.  Grabbed all my gear and headed out only to find a squirrel doing frantic laps in our Intex pool, having jumped or fallen in, and was now unable to find purchase on the slippery plastic blow-up ring around the top.  Now, I had no freaking idea how long this poor bugger had been swimming, but what I did know was that here was my chance to redeem myself for my queasy cowardice with his now-deceased buddy.  I grabbed the skimming net with the intent of scooping him up and out – easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?  Except I hadn’t factored in that Squirrely, considering me, a human, to be a mortal enemy, would not come to the realization that I was attempting to free him from a certain and imminent watery grave, but that he’d assume I’d come to torture him first.  Each time that net got anywhere close to his undercarriage, he’d thrash away from it (I transitioned from sympathy to ‘get-the-fuck-in-the-net-you-goddamned-rodent’ fairly quickly).  Finally the exertion, plus at least 200 laps, I’m sure, wore him down, and I bailed him out.

I expected him to make a quick exit, but he was plumb wore out.  He just sat there, eyeing me, soaked and pathetic.  It took him about half an hour to slowly make his way to the back fence, and another half an hour to get to the garage roof to rest again in safety.  A little while after that I heard something that sounded like a two-pound object falling off a roof and hitting a bush in the neighbors’ yard, but I decided to get back to my G&T and not think about that anymore.

So.  Here I am in the new-ish ‘burbs of Hamilton, with young trees and bunnies who cannot climb.  I rarely see any squirrels.

It’s amazing how little things can help one regain perspective.  Life, it appears, is good.

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Old Dogs/New Tricks: an idea

Sissyzen Kane

I’ve had this entrepreneurial concept knocking around my noggin for years now, and I think, finally, that this is the ideal time to put it out there, invite feedback and see what might happen.  Who knows?  I mean, I’m here, aren’t I, after years of just thinking about writing…so perhaps I’ll don my Wonder Woman t-shirt one more time and venture beyond Themyscira.

I’m not skilled at much of anything, which is to say, there are a lot of talents and abilities out there I don’t possess.  Sure, I can cook a mean pot roast, mix a spiffy gin & tonic, keep the kid craft ideas going for hours, and (grammar notwithstanding), I can spell pretty good.  However there are myriad capabilities that have remained evasive, and I’d actually started to believe that they might just get permanently filed under Things Erin Can’t Do.

For instance:  I’ve always wanted to play basketball.  I mean, the Biebs plays basketball, and I think, if she can do it, so can I!  Thing is, I don’t have any rapper friends to teach me.

I would also like to learn how to sew…like, on a machine.  I own a machine, at least, which is a step in the right direction, and while I managed last years’ Hallowe’en costumes, I shudder to think what would become of a Butterick blouse with me at the helm (hem?)

Then there’s printmaking.  I see all this mass-produced stuff at HomeSense and Winners, and just like anyone who stares at a Pollock painting long enough, I inevitably think to myself, “Hell yes, I could do that!”  But I don’t know how (ah, there’s the rub!)  I could take a course at the local college, yeah, yeah, yeah…but as a 41-year-old woman, do I really want to attend Visual Arts class with 18-year old, über-cool whippersnappers?  Uh, no.  I’d kill some smug, know-it-all little artiste-to-be, I just know it.  How could I know that, you may ask?  I attended UWO (the blonde co-ed capital of Ontario) as a mature student.  If I didn’t have religion, I’d be incarcerated right now. ‘Nuff said.

Next up:  woodworking.  I had a great friend once who could saw, hammer, measure, bevel, level, drill, and lathe, and would have taught me, had I asked.  Only thing was, I was 20-something at the time and didn’t care; it was something I considered best left in the Realm Of The Boys.  Now my friend is frolicking with the angels, and I can’t ask, dangit.  He’s up there with his wings and celestial DeWalt tools, laughing at me (but in a really nice way).  I even did my university work-study in the Visual Arts wood shop, and I’m still terrified of the table saw, because I know that big piece of pine is gonna kickback and kill me.

Last example:  basic car mechanics.  I have this belief – no, more like a yearning hope, that if the lives of my children were at stake, I could adequately change a tire on the minivan.  But I couldn’t guarantee it.  I’d also love to be able to do my own oil changes and general maintenance, and boost the battery without electrocuting myself.  I hate getting grease on my hands and under my nails, but I hate to think of myself as terminally useless with motor vehicles even more.

In any case, you get the picture.  And I started to think that maybe I’m not the only person who would love to learn something with other peeps-of-a-certain-age. So what I’m proposing is:  Old Dogs/New Tricks courses and workshops, so that all those things you coulda-shoulda-woulda learned when you were growing up can be added to your repertoire.

Now taking interviews with potential instructors, facility managers and interested clients!

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Virginia Woolf, Time Porn, and a Room Of One’s Own


Years ago I read an article that addressed the amazing ability of the ‘Friends’ characters to always have enough time to go to work, sit around a coffee shop for hours, have incestuous relationships with each other, do their laundry and sleep enough to wake up looking like, well, the cast of Friends.   The writer referred to this seemingly impossible phenomenon as “Time Porn.”  I attempted to find said article via Google in order to acknowledge the author, but you can imagine the results when I typed in “friends” and “porn” as search terms.  So you’ll just have to believe me.

Time porn is only too common on TV.  But here in suburbia, I barely have time to change my Facebook status before I’m schlepping breakfast, making lunches, ending sibling altercations, answering telemarketer calls, tossing the recycling in the bin, wrestling a ponytail elastic away from the dog and getting Thing 1 and Thing 2 to school.  And no, I didn’t forget to add “getting myself beautiful,” because that doesn’t happen. Most days I look a lot like the other stay-at-home moms I see on the blacktop – lowest common denominator.  I haven’t quite arrived at the male “sniff it and see if it’s still wearable” stage, but I’m close.

That said, my dismal uniform is utterly perfect for blogging, and that makes me happy.  Not as happy, say, as having Rachel Green hair upon waking, or a freezer full of Tanqueray, but it’ll do for now.

Only thing is, back in my idealist, I-want-to-be-Margaret-Laurence days, I’d always imagined myself as Morag from The Diviners, living and writing blissfully in my isolated riverside home, putting the vintage teakettle on to boil, using a beat-up Underwood typewriter, and enduring only the interruption of gulls squabbling over bread crumbs outside.  Here at my current homestead, this is time porn.  Even now, as I sit here, I’m competing for brain space with the sound of Transformers playing not ten feet from me.  Yesterday there were six kids in this house, apparently competing to see who would go hoarse first, when they weren’t begging for food.  I almost never get dinner ready at the same time for more than two consecutive days.  Last year’s kid school work is still neatly packed away in a box, waiting for the discard/keep ritual I’d planned to tackle July 1st. I haven’t printed off a digital picture since sometime in 2009.  My dentist tells me I grind my teeth.  Hmm.  A few steps away yet from where I thought I’d be as a writer.

The author Virginia Woolf really ripped us off, taking her watery leave so soon.  Back in 1928, she’d been asked to give talks to women’s colleges, which led to the publication of A Room Of One’s Own in 1929.  Znaimer’s Idea City and the recently-popularized and (excessively) reposted TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) talks can’t compete with how cutting-edge this chick was, over eighty years ago.  She told the girls that poverty sucked the life out of creativity, that women needed freedom, education and cash in order to produce artistic work, that one needed to defy outdated ideas of female ‘propriety’, and of course, that we need ‘a room of our own’ if we are to be able to write.

Well, Ginny, I don’t have a lot of cash, but I have enough to cover the ISP bill and a bottle of Tanqueray.  I have a few hours free most nights, a university degree (it’s in Sociology but no one here minds, right?), and I’ve never much cared for what the Moral Majority regards as proper girly conduct.

So I don’t have the room of my own.  Who wants perfection?  Someone pour me a G & T.  I have to get to work.

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