Monday, 18 April 2011


For the first time in my life I own a proper writing desk.

For a long time I eschewed desks. My desk as a child had faced shelves full of ringbiders and school notes and by the time I got my own flat I decided that instead of a desk I would have a nest: a computer tucked away in a small corner behind the wardrobe with a den of cushions. I curled up on the floor and spilled red wine on the carpet and tapped away.

When I moved into my last flat I created a boudoir that was for loving, not for working. Everything was red-lit and soft and horizontal, silken fabrics and taxidermy, an embarrassment of mirrors, polaroids stuck to the walls. I wrote in bed in my underwear or sunk in a squidgy red sofa or occasionally, when it seemed like the work was too tedious to sully my room with, at the kitchen table. I didn't have a particular place to write but at the same time I had a place for hiding when I wanted to. I pasted a Virginia Woolf quote to the door and shut it and hung out with the words.

Now I live with someone it's different, of course. I have never been successful at writing in kitchens (distractions: cheese, coffee, dishes) and I no longer start the day at my laptop in bed (distraction: flesh). I needed somewhere new to sit.

I coveted this desk for a long time. We would take the train to London Fields of a sunbeam Saturday morning and we would look at it longingly in the vintage furniture shop, whispering schoolgirl fantasies, leaning over to 'examine the hinges'. Every time it would still be £110 and I would leave it.

Then I spent a week copyediting a 220,000 word novel about an apiarist called William who hated alcohol, premarital sex, cursed marijuana and bad language (other than the word 'bally'). His moralistic tedium reverberated from every line. I tried to write and couldn't be bothered with words; words had become a plodding chore and I longed for picnics and silence. When I finally finished I decided to take some of the money from that work and turn it into a Small, Nice Thing.

I am sitting at this desk now staring out the window. The cherry blossom has almost all blown off the trees and I am about to write some poems. Later I will fill the book shelves beside me with Strunk & White and thesauruses (thesauri?) and all the publications I am published in. I will stick polaroid pictures of my old typerwriter to the wall and quotes that I will typewriter-type on yellowed paper. Every Sunday I will cycle to Columbia Road flower market and buy a fresh bunch to sniff at.

I am very happy. This is all.

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