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"A charming, funny book about coin-operated bathtubs and unmarried secretaries living in shabbily-furnished rooms. Someday, I should like to visit this strange alien planet called London."—Neal Pollack, author of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature
“The East End minimalist is back. . .and again, against all probability, she draws us in, as if her book were a high suspense drama.”—The Observer (UK)
“Smith writes about mundanity with a deftness that can be startling. You end up turning the pages faster and faster, hungry for more...”—The Evening Standard (UK)
Both Sharon and Tracey admired my knitting. Sharon asked, ‘Could you make me a cardigan, please?' ‘All right', I replied, ‘but you'll have to get the pattern and the wool.'
Hearing about this, Tracey asked me, ‘Can you knit me a sweater after that?'
‘OK,' I replied, adding, ‘you'll have to wait for it.'
One evening Sharon knocked on my door. She gave me a very complex knitting pattern and a bagful of red wool. I set to work on her cardigan. It was so complicated it took me far longer to knit than I had anticipated. I moaned to Tracey.
‘Forget about my sweater, then,' she said, which I decided to do.
Sharon had made a very unusual electric lamp at college. It had a black circular base with black wooden columns supporting a silver colander, which opened and closed to reveal an electric light bulb inside. If you preferred a dim light you simply closed the colander. If you wanted a bright light you opened the colander as wide as possible. The colander was made of tin with a design cut into it, making a pattern on the walls when in use. I liked it so much I said to Sharon, ‘Will you make me a lamp like that while I'm knitting your cardigan?'
‘Yes, of course I will,' she replied, adding, ‘this one has a cream cord attached to the plug. When I make your one I'll make sure the cord is black, but it's going to take a week or so for me to do it.'
I finished Sharon's cardigan and gave it to her. She was really pleased with it.
‘How's my lamp getting on, Sharon?' I queried.
‘Oh, it's coming along nicely, but it's not quite finishedyet,' she replied.
Two weeks later I asked about my lamp again, this time to be told, ‘It's nearly finished now.'
A few evenings passed by. Sharon knocked on my door. She said, ‘Here's your lamp, Sylvia. I hope you like it.'
‘Thank you,' I replied. ‘It looks really lovely.'
I closed the door as Sharon went down the stairs and I looked at my lamp. I thought it was beautiful, but it had a cream cord instead of the black one Sharon had promised. I told Tracey.
She said, ‘That lamp is Sharon's original one. She told me she just couldn't be bothered to make another one.'