My favourite part of the weekend papers is the ‘Writer’s rooms’ feature in the Guardian on Saturday. You actually get to see inside the house of one of your literary heroes. It’s priceless information. No matter if they all talk about their ergonomic office chair, or their tilting desk, or how they transfer work from page to PC and then back again 50 times. It’s the room itself that’s the thing
From the window in my room I look out on a petrified forest of rooftops, chimeys and defunct television aerials. Generally I have to keep the blind jammed down so I can see my laptop screen. But sometimes on grey days I look across the still urban vista, fix on a point in the distance and float away. It is recommended practice that a writing desk be positioned at right angles to any window to prevent just that kind of diversion. But I find it reassuring looking at all the chimney pots and back windows that nobody else ever sees.
There are books all around me. A dartboard with a dart still embedded in a double-missing position. A lot of papers. A printer. Laptop. Various family photographs. On the shelf next to me is one of my wife when she was half the age she is now (we met a long time ago). Beside that lies my late father’s razor, an old-fashioned brass model covered in verdigris. (It was always old fashioned and covered in verdigris as far as I can remember). It’s the sort that has a twisty bottom which turns to open the jaws, so that a new blade can be inserted. (These come in little plastic boxes.) I pause and take it off the shelf to look at it, as I often do. It reminds me of a small bathroom in a small Victorian terraced house. Of damp towels. Pears soap. I can see the razor lying on the shelf under the mirror, a film of Palmolive shaving cream adhering to it. And here it is now. Where is my father to use it? I constantly expect him to come by and claim it. And demand to know what I thought I was doing when I took it. When he lay in his coffin I kissed him as I had seen people do on television. He was cold and clammy and it wasn’t the experience I had hoped for. He looked peaceful, as they tell you people do. But it wasn’t peace. He just wasn’t there. Like someone who’s asleep and having a nightmare. That’s not peaceful, really, is it? I remember as I put my lips to his cheek I felt the faint brush of stubble. He needed his razor then.
I wonder what my daughter will remember of our time together. Then I gaze at a distant chimney pot and float away.