I don’t have a studio like a proper painter. And an ordinary house is no place to paint for someone who can knock a jar of painty water off a coffee table or a bookcase with a grand gesture or a careless flick of an elbow.
The garage is the obvious place to do it. No worries about mess. However it is full of grease and glue, paint (the wrong kind), firewood, garden implements, nuts and bolts and other metal things including the car. And it’s too dark unless the tilt-door is open, and then it’s too cold or windy. Except in summer.
I have tried setting up the easel on the deck. It was a charming idea: bees buzzing, dappled sunlight, flowers, the scent of freshly mown grass, maybe a straw hat on my head – very French provincial, and sometimes it helps to at least look the part. But flying insects consider wet-paint irresistible and frequently commit hari-kari rather messily in it.
So, a room in the house seems the only option. The only room that isn't otherwise used for eating, sleeping, cooking, entertaining or watching television is my office, the place where I work. It already contains three bookcases, a filing cabinet, a large desk (door-size), the computer and its accessories, an armchair and the other chair, and two radios – one tuned to cosy, mindless background music, pop and piffle, and the other to worthy stuff like the news and documentaries. But this room has to also, sometimes, accommodate an easel and all the other messy paraphernalia that goes with painting pictures. In fact this room is where, at home, I spend most of my life, winter or summer.
How absurd that is. I should use the big room, the living room, for living and working. There is a log burner and a heat pump (which I never use). There is plenty of light and space. It's handy to the kitchen for coffee and nibbles. The deck is beckoning, right there through the sliding doors, ready to soothe in those times when the words slither about in my head and disappear into crevices, when the ideas that seemed so promising, so brilliant in the middle of the night melt into nothing, when the paint turns to mud.
But there are problems about working in the living room – the painty water for a start. And there is something ridiculously suburban about not wanting to greet casual visitors by waving a paintbrush, or indeed while peering at a computer screen and surrounded by books and papers. That's all kind of private. It's where the magic happens, but only when I'm done, not while I'm in the middle of doing.