Irene Waters posted on writing the other day and in amongst her pearls of wisdom was an explanation of where she writes best. I commented that I like to mix it up, between the noise and bustle of my kitchen and the quiet and peace of the room over the garage. It is there I want to take you and share with you something I’m quite proud of, which means a lot to me and which brings a smile to my face whenever I see it. It is both a refuge and a family shrine and it both stimulates and inspires me.
In truth it is my dad’s desk. It is, or was, a replica of a small partners’ desk with a knee hole on each side, a stack of drawers on each plinth-leg and a leather insert in the top in a fetching rot-green. It looked antique but was cobbled together in the 1980s, made of chipboard and cheap laminate panelling and stained to look like some sort of hardwood.
If its genesis is nothing to write home about, its proportions are perfect for me. The space for my legs is, in fact just right. I use an old fashioned school chair, hard seat and all (my genes have dictated a number of features which, if I’m honest, I can take or leave, but I’ll keep my derriere, ta very much – the padding has done me proud cushioning numerous pratfalls and hard bicycle seats). The chair is one I purloined from the Vet – a girlfriend painted it and gave it to her for a birthday and it suits the setting. It means I can position myself close to the edge and thus force myself into a decent, if not perfect, posture for typing at my laptop. The height works to make sure I don’t lean forward too much.
The size of the top is good too. I’m a bit of a clutterbug so to have something that can hold, at any one time: my laptop; a plate of food; an open book; and a table lamp but not much else is just dandy.
All of which would be fine before I decided to decorate it. When I inherited it on Dad’s death in 2005 my loosely formed plans were to paint it a gaudy colour or two and leave it at that. Then one day I was drifting down the high street in Southwold on the Suffolk coast and spied a desk in a shoe shop. It was covered in pictures and prints covering a lot but not all the surface. Between the pictures it was a deep mustard yellow which, in all probability, would have been dreadful without the clever disposition of the pictures.
And so the memory desk was born. The nature of this desk is that is has inset panels, including on the top. I agonised over the base colour – in the end the rose pink just seemed right, not sure why. A friend, who paints scenery for a living – she works on a ridiculously huge scale for the likes of Les Mis or Mama Mia – suggested I leaven the pink with a crackle glaze in a contrasting colour – cream. That was the base.
Then on the top and around the rim I stuck pictures of my family. Staring with Mum and Dad and radiating out to the Lawyer and Vet the top is covered. I had a piece of glass cut to protect the pictures, hence the reflection from the spotlights.
On the rim I stuck a picture of each of my grandparents and then through the Archaeologist, the Textiliste, the Nurse (no. 1) and so on.
I’m not sure who, but someone stopped me filling up the main side panels. ‘If you have grandchildren then they might want a panel each. Nice idea, not that I’m prejudging anything!
And there you have it. I sit there and think; I have my family supporting me in my writing. It’s my inspiration, my joy, and, most importantly there are enough picky sods telling me ‘just get on with it’.