I continued to pass my evenings in the parlour, but I had grown impatient with the drivel I read. There seemed no reason why I could not do better, or at least have a stab at doing so. I began to write little sketches of the characters I encountered at work. Then for a week after supper, I took myself to my room and, in a specially purchased notebook, wrote what was to become my one triumph: An Agreeable Reception. My heroine was Iris Chalmers, a receptionist at a theatrical agent’s, and the story concerned her liaisons with the men who frequented the agency. It began:

Iris Chalmers was not the sort of girl to settle for second best. Her mother had always told her, ‘Don’t let your flat caps go by you waiting for your top hat.’ But Iris had no intention of settling for a flat cap. No, it was to be top hat or bust for Iris Chalmers, and one day her top hat walked right into the offices of Brownstone Associates Theatrical Agents where she worked. His name was Ralph Constable. He was tall enough, wealthy enough and more than handsome enough. The trouble was: he was also married enough.

I wrote it in three evenings, lost entirely in the drama of Iris’s scrapes (she was always in a pickle).