I Knew a Phoenix: Sketches for an Autobiography by May Sarton

By May Sarton

Sarton's memoir starts along with her roots in a Belgian youth and describes her early life and schooling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, her coming-of-age years, and the folk who inspired her existence as a author.

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The manager there, Peter Rouse, was ambitious and he already knew me as he'd remortgaged my house: he was ready to make the loan, but he had to get all the right boxes ticked on the form for his bosses to approve the loan. He helped me write a business plan and together we made adjustments to comply with the bank's lending criteria. Needless to say I'd never written a business plan before, but I didn't find it all that hard. It was easy to calculate the income, and the costs were fairly straightforward, too: if I had x residents, I'd need y staff and they'd get paid the going rate, a figure I found out by looking at the situations vacant in the paper.

That won't be necessary,' he told me in a particularly patronising way. ' He relented and asked his manager to join us. A few minutes later, a short, bald bloke walked in smoking a cigarette. He was the kind of middie-class snob I'd never had any respect for, and 1 knew he'd be a waste of space. He was a stroppy little berk who clearly 78 A N Y O N E C A N DO IT GOING IT ALONE 79 didn't rate an uneducated ice-cream vendor very highly. He told me that I didn't have any 'sector expertise' and without it he couldn't see how I was going to make any money.

They introduced a new policy that gave all unemployed people an entitlement to housing. And the best bit about this is that the government started paying £46 a week directly to landlords. Now a lot of people wouldn't want to rent to DSS tenants, but as far as I could see I was effectively renting to the government, so my rent was guaranteed. I started converting terraced houses into bedsits and renting them out. I picked up the houses for about £10,000 each and made a 30-50 per cent return on my capital each year in rent.

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