Thursday, March 08, 2007

53,625 Words

I'm still just going over old ground but I'm quite enjoying it and I'm having lots of new and unexpected ideas about where to take the story after p.184.

In Writers' Rooms, they always describe/explain the items on their desk and what else is visible in the room. If you could have a tour of my surroundings, they would look like this:

I live in a terraced house that was once two back-to-backs (a style of two-up, two-down housing that I have been told is particular to industrial Yorkshire, although I'm sure people will point out if this is incorrect). This old stone terrace is surrounded on three sides by 1950s council semis, from which the noise, especially on summer nights, can be horrendous. The garden, however, is 120 feet long and the road in front is so quiet the kids can play out on it all day long unless some local idiot is riding one of those high-pitched, improbably loud motorbikes around the streets, in which case they know to keep well clear.

We share the garden with the next-door-neighbours for a bit of extra width but it can be problematic: the wife especially gets very grumpy if there is any noticeable wear and tear on 'her side', despite the fact that she seems never to sit in the garden or take any share in maintaining it. I'm thinking of fencing it off when we can afford it but her husband is such a lovely, kind man and adores having the place teeming with children (their grandchildren play very well with our girls and the other kids on the terrace).

Inside, we live on four floors, including a cellar kitchen and loft conversion. The loft is our bedroom and that's where I write, on the desk that my neighbour made for me. The low walls and sloping ceilings are cream with amazingly solid, bulky old timbers exposed and polished. My neighbour told me that the mill-owner who built the terrace of back-to-backs in 1900 salvaged the timbers from ships being broken up in Hull. I love the idea that these timbers, under which I sleep and work, have been all around the world on unimaginable adventures. I like looking at their marks and scars and dreaming of the hands that might have made them.
The floor is polished wood and there is a low, wooden king-sized bed, also made by my neighbour, from whose daughter we bought the house (bed included). We have a big leather armchair that we bought secondhand from a guy a work, which has white cushions and a dark grey fleece blanket on it with a little round side table and that's where I curl up to read my printouts. We have white fairtrade rag-rugs on the floor to break up all the dark wood and two square-framed prints rest on top of the enormous horizontal beam that serves as a headboard: they are japanese in style, mostly white, blue and green with a hint of mustard and an even tinier hint of pink on one of them. Andy's shows a mountain and storks; mine, blossom trees and people in traditional dress. My parents bought them for us for Christmas a few years ago. We couldn't agree on a single picture in the gallery so we compromised on these and I love them more every time I look at them.

We have bookshelves built into the walls of the winding staircase that brings you up here and more low bookcases along one wall of the room. My desk is in quite a dark corner but I have a pretty lamp that was a wedding present from the aforementioned (pregnant) V. The desk has holes to tidy away the wires of my laptop but I keep having to cart it downstairs to the phone socket every time someone else needs it so they're still unused. I sit in a worn, gold-painted Lloyd Loom chair (a real one) with cushions embroidered by my mum. Behind my computer, leaning against the wall is a big pinboard, covered all over with fishscales of post-its in various brightnesses of yellow, ranging from full-on headache to a dull custardy tone. I have the obligatory dictionary, thesaurus, Writer's Handbook and Writers' & Artists Yearbook, although these last pair are from 2003 and 2004 respectively, so I don't know how much use they are. My mum rescued them from a library stock cull a couple of years ago. I also have, close at hand, A Writer's Guide to Police Organization and Crime Investigation and Detection, which is useful but contradictory at times and a How To... guide called Writing a Children's Book, which is pretty pants.

Also on my desk, I have a little statue of a Native American 'story-lady' with her mouth open, singing her stories and tiny little figures swarming all over her body and in her hair - these are her characters. My parents brought it back from Arizona for me. I have a cuboid, copper pencil pot, which I was given when my great uncle died - I believe he made it - and a small, deep, green bowl I brought back from my honeymoon in Crete, which is full of drawing pins. A red Oxfam cocoa tin is also full of pins, paperclips, tiny little bulldog clips and several small keys, of whose purpose I have no idea and yet I daren't throw them out. I have a two-inch cross-section of a tree branch, stripped of its bark and beautifully polished, with a flat-bottomed hole drilled in the top, that was made for me by my neighbour Odd (from when I lived in Norway, the name means 'the point of a knife'). He says the hole is for storing toothpicks but I've never seen the point of them. I occasionally put earring studs in it if I'm taking them off and afraid of losing them. I mostly just keep it because it's pretty. He also made me a set of a necklace and earrings out of varnished elk-dung (I kid ye not!).

Well, that's me really. A few photographs, jewellery boxes, stacks of cds, six blue and gold tea glasses from Morocco (where I visited a university friend who was studying arabic), dark yellow curtains I made for the velux windows because the blinds were too expensive (we didn't do the loft conversion, it was like this when we bought the house). The bedding is IKEA: white cotton with narrow stripes of beige, black and duck-egg blue. The lamps have the same blue in their ceramic bases and plain cream coolie shades. It's all very neutral but I find it peaceful, especially the way that the small touches of colour all come from the prints over the bed. The strange thing is that we didn't buy anything new for the bedroom when we moved here - different pieces came out of different boxes, just because they served a purpose, not chosen for their colour scheme - most of these things were in different rooms in our previous house and yet, when I finished unpacking and sat back and looked at the whole, everything seemed to just fit. It's the same in the lounge. I feel like we are meant to be here, despite everything.

Love A


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