Thank you to the heroic bloggers and poets Josephine Corcoran and Robin Houghton for their recentish posts about their desks. They reminded me of a project I started about a year ago which I rather grandly and unimaginatively called The Desk Project. The idea was to take a photo each day of my desk. That was it. I toyed with the idea of posting them to Instagram under a new name, but as I was also toying with the idea of leaving the platform (since actioned) this never materailsed. I have the photos to prove it. I am not sure why I am holding on to them.
The photo above is not part of that sequence. I took it this morning. Because of my continued back pain I am toying with a standing desk arrangement. Those are the zigzaggy metal things on which you can see a folded laptop and various notebooks (see previous posts). Underneath the zigzaggy on the left is Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race, which I read over the summer and still have not recovered from. I feel as though I need to copy out half of it into a notebook, the better to reacquaint myself with my privilege. This is not the last time I shall be mentioning her book here. Watch this space.
Next to it is a pile of old envelopes. Why? They are the best places for starting to write things which might turn into something. They are so provisional. They allow me to come at my writing sideways. To the left of Reni’s book is next year’s diary, blissfully empty, and a laminated copy of the Teachers’ Standards. It’s a work thing. We have Ofsted coming. I needed them near to hand as I was filling out some blah to send them.
On top of this is my plastic pencil box made by LihitLab from Japan. It has an inscription on the lid which reads: Twinkle aqua drops jumped into your life&file. No, me neither. Beneath zigzaggy 2 is a loo roll pencil holder made by my son when he was little.
Next to that is just a fraction of my ever-increasing (I know) collection of pencils and very thin pens. Next to that are my glasses. Next to that a half-drunk cup of very strong coffee. This is sitting on a coaster I once made out of melted plastic beads next to my kids at the kitchen table. In honour of my team it says CFC in blue on a yellow background. Next to that is a coaster from my sister with an old map of the world on it.
In the top left of the picture is a cardboard box given to me by my lovely students a few years ago. I guess all those stationery hints paid off. In it is a large collection of A4 Rhodia pads on which is my unfinished Great Screenplay Project. Lately it has become a repository of all kinds of filing which I am putting off doing, including things for my scrapbook. You can just make out a torn out page of the Guardian, with a photo of Ali Smith, in which she talks about her remarkable series of novels concerning Brexit, beginning with Autumn.
Just to the side of the cardboard box is a set of speakers which I plug into my laptop when I am doing non-serious work or basically just avoiding doing any. Just behind this is a photo of Tatty, which you can’t really make out. To the right of this is yet more pencils and pens, in pots, one of which was given to me by my parents, and the other a mug painted by my son when he was little. To the right of and behind these is a row of notebooks, the A5 ones stacked vertically, the 9×14 ones in a pile on top of each other.
Between the mug (a present from Tatty) and the stacks of notebooks is a rolled up poster of a poem commemorating the Peterloo Massacre by Andrew Rudd. Behind this, unseen, is a small sculpture by my friend and genius Colin Mallett. To the right of the poster are yet more notebooks, my commonplace book and programmes from festivals which I am not yet ready to throw away. In the middle of the desk between the cup of coffee and the used notebooks is a new stash of unopened notebooks (I know) from Cult Pens. It occurs to me I should be on commission.
The big irony of this is that I don’t always stand at my desk to get my writing done. I can do it. I like doing it. But not always. This was written on a small sofa which is out of shot. As I have said before somewhere, I think bed is the ideal place to write, pad/notebook on your lap, legs stretched out in front of you. I do my morning pages watching the bath run, but I’m not showing you a photo of that. On the far left of the desk, out of shot, is a big pile of paper, some of which is unmarked and marked essays and some of which is The Next Amazing Project Which Will Definitely Change My Life. But I’m not going to talk about that either.