My workroom is spacious, light and airy. It is detached from the house, joined to it by a short, covered walkway. It’s built of brick, is very well insulated, and solar panels on the roof supply most of the power to the electronics.
The large window in one wall looks out onto a leafy courtyard, but my desk faces blank walls, sparing me distraction. The room is carpeted, which allows my typing chair to run freely from desk to bookshelves and filing cabinet. The desk is L-shaped, formed by two long trestle tables affording space for the computer, printer and all the other writer’s tools – pens, magnifying glass, diary, mobile-phone stand, reference books, scrap paper, lamp, etc.
The bookshelves run along three walls and are mounted between waist and shoulder height to give me access to the books without having to bend or stretch. I have a divan for afternoon naps; a fan for summer and a heater for winter.
A bar fridge contains milk, wine and mineral water. An electric coffee percolator sits on top of the fridge with coffee, mugs, sugar and spoons on a shelf above.
I have a small cupboard, discreetly positioned, which holds my many medications and other health requirements. The room has an ensuite shower and toilet.
There is an armchair situated near the flat-screen television, which has a Foxtel connection and a built-in DVD player. A CD player is on a stand nearby. The CDs and DVDs are on shelves, again at an accessible height.
On the walls are a couple of framed awards for books and several prints by artist friends like Michael Fitzjames and Robin Wallace-Crabbe. The only other ornaments are a couple of golf trophies and photographs of my wife, my children and grandchildren.
At this point the reader is likely to have smelled a rat. And anyone who has read George Orwell’s superb essay ‘The Moon Under Water’ will have certainly done so. Orwell writes about a London pub that gratified his every wish – closeness to a bus stop, quiet location, traditional atmosphere and décor, excellent beer served in china mugs, availability of lunch, tobacco and newspapers and amiable barmaids. He ran on for several pages extolling its virtues until the unsuspecting reader longed to be informed of its location. Then he revealed that it did not exist and represented merely his ideal.
Orwell made do with other pubs as I make do with my modest workroom, which has few of the features described above. I’ve had better, but I’ve had much worse, including a built-in balcony that was roasting in summer and freezing in winter, a room in which squatters had lit fires in the middle of the floor and a leaky caravan where I lost some books to damp and mould.
With space in inner-city Sydney so expensive I’m grateful to have a workroom of my own at all. I don’t complain, but I can dream …