We are all, to some extent, the product of our mother’s habits. As a post-war child, chased out of Berlin by the Russians, my mother developed a nomadic soul and has spent the last seven decades living out of suitcases. This gave her a framework for thinking and living.
All your activities should be portable was her refrain when I was little. You must learn to carry your life on your back, like a tortoise.
A tennis racket slung across one shoulder, a violin across the other. A head filled with a thousand songs. Paperbacks (or as the French would say, livres de poche) tucked into your jeans.
Being a writer fitted perfectly into this scheme. A pen. A notebook. A metaphorical rather than a physical desk. Confidence in the knowledge that all you need is words, a keen sense of observation and your imagination.
I love my beautiful white wood desk with its blue inlay, nestled in the back room of my house, a desk given to me by the parents and pupils from my time as a housemistress. I love the books that surround me. The collages of my latest writing projects. The encouraging notes from my husband, Hugh. The window through which I watch the world go by.
But I also love the knowledge that I can write anywhere – and I often test this.
I write in bed. In libraries. In coffee shops (how I love coffee shops), in my GP’s waiting room. On trains and buses and planes. Perched on park benches. Leaning up against thick tree trunks. In cars. At people’s kitchens tables. And because writing is an ongoing process, as much about thinking as actual scribbling, I write in places less amenable to pen and paper too – in the bath, on the loo, whilst walking.
I train myself to deal with disruptions. Music, the grind of coffee beans, the hiss of steam and the shouts of baristas in the cafes I love. People speaking on their mobiles when I sit on the train. Sirens outside my window. The jingles of ice-cream vans. My cat, Viola, padding across my keyboard. And soon, the cries and wriggles and demands of a newborn baby.
It is my ambition to write anywhere and at any time and in any circumstance.
I aim to take my mother’s advice to its limit because I never want anything to stop me from writing.