My study is actually one corner of our lounge. The room’s also an office for my wife Ruth, entertaining wing, tearoom, and playroom for my three-year-old-son, Nikos. It’s part writerly den, part Lego wonderland.
When our new baby’s born, it’ll also be a nursery. And, yes, the pram will be in the hall: bugger you, Cyril Connolly.
In front of the main window is Ruth’s treadle sewing machine. We bought it when Nikos was a baby – we didn’t want the noisy buzz of an electric one. It also happens to be beautiful: ornately decorated, beautifully carved and polished. Ruth made Nikos a duffel coat on it (he calls it his ‘Jedi jacket’).
To the right of the Singer sewer is our classics bookcase: a ragtag collection of bindings, nostalgic novels, antiques and far too much Dumas. I enjoy Dumas: such robust, swaggering joie de vivre. To the far right is a cheery but bloody heavy three-volume Proust, which I gave Ruth for her thirtieth birthday. It’s full of mysteries, this bookcase: old, musty, eccentric curiosities.
The painting of Davey’s Bay above is by Craig Forster, a Mornington Peninsula artist. We were once thinking of shifting to the Peninsula, and Craig’s work evokes the windy, scrubby freshness of the Mt. Eliza beach. It’s also an example of excellent draftsmanship, with its balance of harsh diagonals and curving circular forms. It makes a nice little niche, with the bookcase and desks.
Yes, desks – there are two. By the side window is an antique cedar hall table, which belonged to my great-great-grandmother, Annie Coffey. It’s called the ‘Laura’ table, after my great-aunt, who lived with her. It’s beautiful: elegant, light, and just the right size.
But I work on a cheaper, charming mongrel, which Ruth gave me for my thirtieth birthday. It’s where I cram my crap: ink, paper, mouse, phone and laptop chargers, internet dongle. It’s served me perfectly: I wrote Distraction on it, as well as journalism for The Age, Herald-Sun, Australian. It’s a very catholic desk!
Ruth discovered the blue ‘forties bridge chair in a Richmond op-shop. My neck is buggered from Judo, but this chair keeps me upright and comfortable, while I’m hacking at sentences, or guiltily watching Star Trek or Doctor Who.
Beside it is an old wine table, which was my grandmother’s. On top are the usual suspects: a cup of tea and a novel (Henry James’ Princess Casamassima, in this case).
Finally, the business end: in front of the MacBook workhorse are my notebook and pen. I write most first drafts in longhand with fountain pens – both gifts from friends. It’s old-fashioned and possibly pretentious. But the rhythms of nib, ink and paper are intimate and suggestive. I often work more curiously, adventurously when I’m driving the pen.
Congrats to Damon and his wife on their beautiful new baby girl!
Upcoming in this series: Paul Morgan. If you’re a writer, feel free to email me something, see ‘About Angela’ for contacts.