Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 6 March 2008

Where this stuff emerges

The Guardian's Saturday review supplement has a regular piece in which a writer describes the room where they work. You can imagine the oneupmanship. They've had the occasional Artist's Studio (most recently Antony Gormley, if you're interested), but why be so selective? Why not other workplaces - My Abattoir or My Garage:

One wall demonstrates the creative tension between aspiration, fantasy and disappointing practicality that so characterises our work. Fading posters of Ferraris and Aston Martins jostle for space with vital but mundane lists of parts and prices, as well as pictures of goddesses and - if Casanova over there is to be believed - willing girlfriends. One might almost say the nipples follow you round the room as they keep watch over, not inappropriately, our tools. Will that be cash, squire, get my drift?

Or what about The Reader's Cupboard Under The Stairs:

Here the hoover and the ironing-board encumber each other in an irritating but companionate marriage, until one or the other is called to their duties outside. The Guardian's words of wisdom accumulate in drifts until the journey to the recycling centre - soon to return with new insights, we hope! Some of course remain to protect those lares et penates we cannot do without. Who knows what fascination and excitement we shall feel in decades to come when unwrapping the predictions of Polly Toynbee, the judgements of Simon Hoggart, from around the last of Mother's Spode?

So where do I do my stuff? I started to carry notebooks around, but pretty soon found I was always leaving them in the coat I wasn't wearing when I needed them. So mostly it comes tumbling out of my memory as I stare at the computer screen. This sits, with all the computer's bits and bobs, on a set of shelves on wheels, from Muji. This is handy to move when I feel (very occasionally) the need to do some serious hoovering, but as it's all open-sided, there tends to be an occasional shower of spare ink cartridges and accumulated CDs from magazine covers and commemorative screensavers that I never use.

The shelves sit in one corner of the living-room, next to a bookcase with all my reference books and my photo albums in. I've got so much in it now that to get out any one dictionary means unpacking almost everything else. On one wall is this print of St Jerome in his study - a leaving present from colleagues who obviously saw me as a monastic pen-pusher. Further along is the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the central square of the estate where I live, so I can see whoever's going past: this occasionally makes me feel like a curtain-twitcher, but neighbours do wave from time to time. Well, I hope they're waving. On the other wall over the bookshelf is a collection of prints and photos of where I used to live and row (not that I've pulled an oar for years).

And that's how I fill space. How do you fill yours?

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