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By Donald Denoon

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My view was heartstopping but the music was unhelpful to my cause. If I had a line of chat about contemporary music, it was callow denunciation, and I was sure this work would justify a jeremiad. Fat chance! The music was engaging, even charming. If it had a fault it was accessibility. Disarmed, I had to improvise. ’ I murmured to the back of Althea’s head at the wine bar in the interval. ‘Delighted to see you again, by the way,’ I had meant to say. Actually I blurted out ‘delighted to be you, in the way’.

In full light, Althea’s light-brown hair and (of course) honey tan gave her a Mediterranean aura that — if I dared compare incomparables — gave her the edge over Winifred’s ice-creamy, Nordic quality. Althea had a more sardonic air than her sunny sister; that aura added depth to her image and enhanced an appeal that was already overpowering. The ideal of beauty in those days (these days, too) was a grown woman in a pubescent body. Every advertisement portrayed girl-women trying vainly to look like these two.

That avoids the usual problem of remembering an assumed identity. Milan — the president of the recently independent republic — offers a simple family name that is easy to remember. Only once was I pressed on the subject of Slovenia — by a young woman who said that she had also been born there — but I saw through her pretence long before she could see through mine. ‘Angel’ had the advantage (or so I thought) of being gender neutral. However, no such condition is accepted here. Even the notion of gender neutrality creates unease and even anxiety.

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