My family have put me in the attic. It happened at the end of last year. One day, the house was noisier than usual – no mean feat, given that I live with three children, one dog and a fully-grown adult-male. At the time, I was writing at the kitchen table which was where I wrote back then. I went out to the hall to investigate and was greeted by the – rather lovely – sight of three big chunks of manhood with steel top-capped boots and bulging breakfast rolls, all carrying hefty tool boxes as if they weighed nothing more than a bag of feathers. Finally! One of my fantasies was about to be realised. But no. That didn’t happen. Instead, they carefully tacked rough-hewn sheets on the hall, stairs and landing before they proceeded to rip down doors, demolish walls and generally make the house even untidier than usual.
I put the kettle on.
Six weeks later, after much ripping, demolishing, hammering and several hundred mugs of sturdy, sugary tea later, it was finished and I was finally invited into The Room. Oddly, even though I’ve lived in this house for ten years, I’d never been in the attic before, having an aversion to dark, cramped spaces where creepy-crawlies might be creeping and/or crawling. The attic I entered that day bore no relation to the attic of my previous notions. With two enormous Velux windows and pale timber ceiling and floors, it was like walking right inside the break of day. I was in love.
A trip to Ikea ensued. Normally, I hate Ikea. It’s nothing personal. I love Swedes and while I’ve never been to Sweden, I’d say it’s swanky and sophisticated.
But usually trips to Ikea – and other household-type places – involves compromise which is a concept I have no truck with.
Here’s what I mean:
Me: I like this sofa (bouncing on sofa to demonstate bounce-ability)
Husband: Yes, it’s lovely but it won’t fit into our sitting room.
Me: Yes, but it’s so bouncy. Look! (continuing to bounce while ignoring hard stare of glamourous sales assistant who is much too bony to bounce)
Husband: Yes, but if we buy it, we’ll have to move house.
Me: (no longer bouncing but stroking beautiful soft velvety fabric of much-coveted couch): You always spoil everything.
Husband: I’m being practical. God knows, somebody has to. (smiling apologetically at bony, belligerent sales assistant).
Me: (glowering) Fine.
But this time round, it really is fine. Because there’s no compromise. None. Not a shred of it. It’s my room, see? My writing room. I can buy the biggest sofa I like, cut it in pieces and carry it bit by bit up the brand new stairs that lead to My Room. If I want to. I don’t of course because, when you think about it, what’s the point of having bits and pieces of a sofa? That would look strange, wouldn’t it? Instead, I buy a silvery-green desk, a lamp, a filing cabinet, a pedestal, one of those ergonomic chairs that swivels. I like to swivel. In goes an old sofa-bed that I cover with throws and cushions to make it look new. Up comes our old telly (in case I need to watch Judge Judy, as a matter of urgency). There goes my laptop, on top of the desk. Husband gets me a swanky wireless keyboard and his mother presents me with a vanilla pod scented candle that still – after nine months – smells like vanilla pods.
My writing day hasn’t changed much. I still start after the school drop-off. I finish just before school pick-up time. Except now, when I come home from the school run, I no longer have to face the horror of the kitchen table (puddles of milk, toast crumbs and bits of Weetabix, drying like cement).
Now, I don’t even make eye-contact with the kitchen table. Instead, I brew my tea and carry it up the stairs. Here I am, in the room. My room. I’m on my swivel chair. Swivelling. The door below is closed. It’s quiet up here. And bright. Break-of-day bright.
I begin to write.