My wife and I felt we weren’t arguing enough so we decided to move house again.
That wasn’t the main reason actually. The friends whose holiday home we were renting wanted it back. Plus my wife wanted to cut down on her mere three hours of commuting to Belfast every day. So basically I’m surrounded by selfish people who give no thought to how much I hate packing.
I’m going to miss Portrush a huge amount. I love the British seaside during the winter. We’ve been battered by one mega-storm after another pretty much since the day we moved in, and that’s exactly how it should be. If you’ve never been to the north Antrim coast, do yourself a huge favour and pay it a visit. It really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been privileged enough to have seen some very beautiful places.
I think the thing I’ll miss the most though is the view from my office. In our new place (in Bangor, since you ask), we’ve sacrificed the sea view for a garden. In Portrush, I could watch the North Atlantic raging just a couple of hundred yards away, sometimes so intensely that the spray would soak my window. On a long day at my desk, I could track the changes in the light as the sun moved across the sky. I never saw it look the same twice.
It got me wondering if the place where we work has any bearing on the quality of the work itself. I’ve written some things I’m fairly proud of at that little desk overlooking the sea. Would I have written the same things in the same way if I’d still been in my previous ‘office’, tucked away in the corner of a kitchen in Watford with the fridge humming away in my ear?
I picked up a new desk for the new house, and I’ve fallen slightly in love with it. Great big corner thing it is. I’ve got space to spread out for the first time. The new office has lots of room for bookshelves too. I’ve got more bookshelves now than I have books actually. Fortunately, the world’s greatest second-hand bookshop, Bookends, is a ten minute walk away. So that won’t be a problem for long.
But will all this extra space and convenience translate into better quality work? Only time will tell, but I’ve been scouring the internet (now it’s finally installed. You suck BT) and looking at the workspaces of some of my heroes to see if there’s anything they share in common.
And … nope. Seems like every space is about as individual as the person using it.
We have Roald Dahl’s tatty armchair where he wrote freehand on a board across his knee.
Jane Austen’s miniscule table by the window, with just ink pot and quill. All the way through to Kipling’s grand library with its oak desk and beams.
When Stephen King scored his breakthrough hit, he rewarded himself with a grandiose desk, “a great oak slab” that he placed smack in the middle of his study, as befit the newly crowned great man of letters. He’s since replaced it for a much more modest affair and tucked it away in the corner. His output remains as prolific and intriguing as ever.
J K Rowling famously wrote most of the first Harry Potter book in an Edinburgh café, where it was warmer than her tiny apartment. Ted Hughes wrote standing up at a lectern in his later years.
If you had complete freedom in your place to write and work, what would you choose? Would you go for the inspiring view, or sit facing a wall to let your imagination be the only focus? Where do you work best?
I’ve always been fascinated by the spaces that people create for themselves and the work that’s produced there. I love seeing what the great and the good surround themselves with and what makes them comfortable in their surroundings.
What makes your workspace uniquely your own? Drop a comment in the box below, I’d be fascinated to see the different things you come up with.
In the meantime, here’s a tour around my desk for no particular reason.
An Inukshuk. From the Inuit word meaning, ‘You are on the right path’. A souvenir from Canada, these stone monuments were used by the Inuits to mark safe travel routes.
I always pick up shells when I travel. These are from beaches in Senegal, East Timor and Thailand.
A gift from my mother-in-law! We drove the bigger version around the Rocky Mountains on our honeymoon. (When I say ‘we’, I mean my wife and I. Not my mother-in-law).
Because I don’t drink coffee.
So I don’t forget.
As always, thanks for reading. Don’t forget to leave a comment about your own spaces. You could even link to an image of it if you’re that way inclined. The one I judge to be the most interesting wins literally nothing. (Seriously, I cannot over emphasise how much you won’t win anything). But it would be great to see nonetheless.