We’ve recently had some building work done in our house, and apart from the huge sense of relief now I’ve finally got the house back to myself again, I’m finding myself constantly checking for marks on the newly painted walls. Now everything is looking nice, I’m also more vigilant about keeping the dog off forbidden furniture.
It tends to go a bit like this –
Dog – ‘I’m going to sit on this sofa.’
Me – ‘No, that’s the good sofa – go on the chair, you’re allowed on that.’
Dog – ‘I prefer the sofa – I can stretch out there. That’s where I’m going.’
Me – ‘No, get off – you’ll damage the fabric!’
Dog – ‘Fair enough, I’ll go on the coffee table instead – there’s no fabric there.’
Me – ‘No – what are you thinking?! That’s for cups, not dogs!’
Dog – ‘Okay, I’ll go on the chair now, and then I’ll move to either the sofa or the coffee table when you’re out of the room.’
Me – ‘Fine!’
But having builders in the house for months on end, certainly taught me how to concentrate. When I first started trying to write a children’s book, I thought I had to have everything just so, before I could start.
I needed –
a lovely clear kitchen table with nothing apart from a new note-book, a pencil and a laptop on it,
a cup of coffee behind me (not on the table; I might spill it on the keyboard!),
the window open to let in some fresh air, but only if there were no car engines or lawnmowers roaring nearby,
and, most important of all, no other noise or people in the house at all – except for the dog of course, and only then if he had promised to sleep quietly and not snore.
After the builders had been working for a week or two, and the entire downstairs of the house had been taken over by piles of wood, rubble, dust, and radios permanently tuned into Smooth FM, my ideas about what made a good working environment changed. It seemed that I didn’t actually need such a quiet and tidy house after all. I could still write, while perched on a child’s stool in a corner of my bedroom, the kettle plugged in dangerously close to my left foot and the dog’s lead tied to my ankle, to prevent him leaving the house through the permanently-open front door. I didn’t lose the thread of what I was writing, even when I had to stop work every half an hour or so, to answer queries about where the towel-rail should go, or whether I needed to order either a new front door or some more teabags.
Now I’ve got the quiet and tidy house back again, the dog and I can resume our argument about what furniture he can sit on. I’m grateful to the builders for making the house look nice – but even more pleased that I’ve learnt that I can work in any environment – and with any noise level – even if I do have to stop work every few minutes, to get the dog off either the sofa or the coffee table!
Next time I’ll talk about how I’m planning to celebrate having the house back to normal!