I have had many places of employment. Shops, cafes, offices. I once did a stint in a factory canteen, ladling out chips with everything. Like most students in the Sixties, I worked for the postal service during the Christmas rush, though I was deemed too small to carry a bag of mail and got a cushy job in a nice warm sorting office. I’ve worked Saturday jobs, night shifts, per diems and nine-to-fivers. But mainly I’ve been self-employed.
I started on a kitchen table adorned with my children’s Lego and orphaned plimsolls. There was just about room for my typewriter. Remember typewriters? Later I was able to carve out a small dedicated workspace for myself. It was in the basement of our then city centre house, so my view was of ankles and bike wheels.
In 1999 we moved to Venice, to a top floor apartment and my husband graciously allowed me first dibs at office space. I nabbed a bedroom with an en-suite loo and a view over the tiled rooftops towards the Giudecca. Visitors would say, ‘How inspiring this must be!’ Not really. I’m the kind of writer who lives mainly inside my own head. I can write pretty much anywhere (see above). But it was certainly a view that made me grateful: for the possibilities of self-employment and the freedom to live in such an extraordinary place.
Four and a half years ago, when we moved into this tiny flat, I earmarked the spare bedroom to be my office. It’s okay. It has a garden view with a cabbage palm and one of those nice Irish stone walls and I have never worked a day in there. Not an hour, even. I’m back at the kitchen table. You’ll understand why.
My view now is across Dublin Bay to Howth, which sometimes has its head in the clouds and often disappears entirely, shrouded in soft Irish rain. In the mornings there are fishing boats, sometimes attended by hopeful seals. Around the clock there are ferries shuttling between Dublin and Holyhead and Liverpool. On days when the writing is going badly I wish I was on one of them. On days when the sea gets big and fierce, I’m glad I’m not.
My commuting time is 30 seconds. I don’t have to spend eight hours a day under a buzzing neon light, nor do I have to wear a security pass on a lanyard and ask when I can go to lunch. For someone who never had a career plan, I’d say I am truly blessed.