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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

A messy desk signifies a creative mind

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

I spend a lot of time nattering at my husband, an engineer who works in digital telecommunications, because he has a messy desk. Messy shelves. Messy tables. Messy FLOOR! He is the original absent-minded professor/rumpled bed.

I, on the other hand, am neat beyond belief.


No. I am very neat, actually, about the kitchen, the linen closet, somewhat about the bedroom and closets. But then one comes to my office.

The corner table is piled with magazines I haven't had time to read, some art supplies I ordered MONTHS ago, when I meant to apply some gold leaf to some paintings, and two blouses ordered by mail that are going back. Soon. Really.

My book shelves are OK, not too higgledy-piggledy.

And the dog's basket, next to my desk, is clean as far as I can tell; she's usually in it when I'm working. Here, she's on her chair (yes, it's French) in the dining room.

Heirloom geranium

The windowsill has a decades-old red geranium that was in Simon's dad's flat in Tavistock, UK, when I met Simon in the US ten years ago. There are three file folders, two little decorative boxes, and dust.

And then there's my desk. I suspect if I wanted to prove I am really a writer, all that's needed is a tour of my desk.

First, it isn't a desk. It is a sort of secretaire. Well, OK, the one I liked was about 5000 quid...and it hasn't be a particularly good year....and I wanted something other than the UGLY Staples computer desk. So, yes, OK, my desk is a tall former drinks cabinet we got four a couple hundred at a Tavistock antiques/junque shop and re-purposed. But you knew that, right, that it would be a drinks cabinet, considering it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.

Perfect writer's desk

It wasn't hard to re-purpose it. We removed the mirror from the drop down door. Simon created an extension so it would be 30 inches deep instead of 18, we took the stand off my screen and wedged it into the place where bottles once were stored.

Above that are three shelves with doors with leaded glass. Top shelf...nothing much. Middle shelf, my recent books on the right, my older ones on the left, and in the middle—naturally--a season program guide for the Hall for Cornwall, a book about how to tie scarves, and two plastic plates from snacks in the last 24 hours.

Bottom shelf: A wooden statue of a dog, an antique letter holder with a sappy photo of four kinds of retriever dogs on it and godknowswhat crammed into it, two bottles of natural tranquillizers, a yearly diary (I hate it; it has a cover that closes, snaps shut and puts things effectively out of sight and out of mind.) A new printer ribbon. Three pair of earrings that came yesterday, as my birthday gift to me, and an empty container from Waitrose lemon curd yoghurt and a small silver spoon. Of course it's a silver spoon; what else would I eat something as dreadful as yoghurt with?

And then there's the desktop itself. In the back right corner, close to the screen, is a mug I bought in Paris, took to the US and then shipped to the UK. It had French roast in it a mere 20 minutes ago. It sits on a mat that looks like our cat. In front of that is a meerkat mouse pad with mouse. Also on it I a post-it note tablet from Dogs Trust, and a green pen.

In the centre of my desk is a piece of obsidian, sitting in front of the cosh that was a birthday gift years ago from the late Rev. Jeffrey Proctor. It isn't really a cosh; it's a thing to hold a book flat, basically two oval stones separated by about four inches and sewn into black leather.

In front of the cosh and the obsidian is my small address book, another set of post-it notes from the stationary store, and the keyboard. An old, dirty, US keyboard, with a recurrently funky F key (NOT a good key to lose!), and toast crumbs between the keys. It might be time to shake it out and run some rubbing alcohol over the keys again. But none is sticky yet, so....

Precariously perched at the left are some documents (????, I'll check later), the current National Trust magazine, two coffee-themed paper napkins, an Italian phrasebook and all topped off with the notes for the book I'm supposed to be finishing even now, Pool Full of Death.

I actually did clean it up last week, totally. But since then it has also collected a number of used post-its with the following notations:

  • Le Train Bleu (a place I'd like to dine next time I'm in Paris; a friend who was there last week went and that reminded me)

  • Turkey cutlets with bacon gravy...stuffed peppers....steak and potatoes (yes, the rest of the week's dinners)

  • 9, BBC2 Gareth Malone The Naked Choir AND 400 degrees 25 min. melted butter and sugar; apparently, this was something I wanted to record to watch, and notes about baking the pear tart for dessert

  • 8 Channel 117 The Search for Holmes (I actually had that buried under Monday's coffee mug—well, the SAME mug, but on Monday—and forgot to record it.)

Possibly I should vow never to clean it up again until I get the manuscript for Pool Full of Death finished. If Simon can find me buried under forgotten notes about things I didn't want to forget, he can always call that TV show about hoarders and see if they'd like to do a double bill.

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