Monday, April 03, 2006

Green thoughts

I write for a living. That means that I spend quite a bit of my day sitting in front of a computer screen, either typing, or thinking about what I’m going to be typing next. The computer sits in the corner of an L-shaped desk in one corner of my office, so that I’m facing away from the window, which in any case usually has the curtain drawn across it. The idea is that I’m not tempted to idle away my hours gazing out at the view across the North London rooftops towards the tree line of Highgate. To freely quote Joe Lansdale: the only way to get the job done is to sit your ass down in front of the typewriter and write.

When things are going well, that’s what I do. More often, that’s what I do in between spells of some kind of displacement behaviour -- picking up books and reading a couple of sentences and putting them down, or making coffee, or, when it’s not raining too hard, pottering in the garden.

The last activity is actually useful. When you’re stuck, or you’re not quite sure where to take something, it’s a good idea to go do something else for a while. Walking is good; so is tidying the garden. Both options are much more attractive than they were last week. Then, we were at the end of a long cold dry spell. Now, with the suddeness of the kind of good old-fashioned spring we can’t take for granted any more, it’s warmer and damper. My clematis has burst into a cloud of pale, waxy, scented flowers, lilies of the valley have thrust up fat red spears, and the neighbour’s magnolia tree has grown tall pale candles from what were tightly packed buds only a few days ago. And I can stand on the top of the helical iron staircase that leads down into our garden (we live in the top two floors of an early Victorian house) and sip coffee and listen to the birds defining their territories and think green thoughts, before climbing back up to the screen in the corner and writing this.


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