The princess and the pea

I sit down to write about architecture, a few pieces for my regular spot on Blueprint for Living. I have my notes spread next to the keyboard, things I’ve jotted down over the past days, facts I’ve checked, a book open with a large colour photograph of one building. There’s some banging going on from the house at the corner, where they’re nailing tiles into place on a new extension. It’s really gone up very quickly, that extension. Is it a new kitchen or just another living area? My phone pings as someone likes one of my tweets. That’s nice. And oh look, there’s a list of people who’ve liked my last Instagram post. So I scroll down to see if there are many new names or any comments. Yes, a comment about a photograph I commented on, so I respond. He’s mentioned Michelucci, the Italian architect I studied at university. Spent weeks wandering around Florence looking at his stuff but didn’t have the courage to try to see him in his villa in Fiesole. A small regret. Silly the stuff you don’t do.

The church at Longarone by Giovanni Michelucci

The church at Longarone by Giovanni Michelucci

Now, back to work. I press shuffle on my iPod for a bit of background music and write my first sentence. Someone’s singing something Baroque which is a bit jerky and frenetic so I press FF on the remote. Do I really have The Sound of Music on my iPod? FF again, and it’s gone to Mahler and I’m really not in the mood for Mahler right now. FF again and now it’s Mad Men. Nope, this won’t do. So I scroll through Albums and can’t find anything I really want so I settle on film music by Georges Delerue. Always good – a bit of Agnes of God, Le Mépris and that wonderful glowering piece from La Femme d’à côté – gosh, Fanny Ardant looked incredible.

Rightio, we’re off again. But I glance out of the window and a couple of pelicans are wheeling above in the sky. That sets me off on a reverie, wondering just how far they can see from that height. And that the air current must be strong for them to do that. And aren’t they lucky, to be able to wheel about in the sky like that. They hang out by the boat ramp waiting for fishermen who return with their catch and chuck them the entrails of the fish they’ve filleted. Or they stand on the top of lampposts, looking vaguely ridiculous and out of scale. I do love pelicans.

pelicans by the boat ramp

pelicans by the boat ramp

Back to work. I’ve got a few things here – an Australian building, one in China and one in Mexico. Never been to Mexico although my father’s uncle lived in Mexico. He was a sculptor, did lots of portrait stuff, won the Prix de Rome but went to Athens instead because of Mussolini and his politics. Worked with Henry Moore at Leeds but they didn’t get on. I keep meaning to research more about him. I’ve always imagined that he was gay. So now I’m musing about what it must be like to be a sculptor. Choosing marble in Carrara. Rather romantic.

maybe a clear desk does make a clear mind...

maybe a clear desk is better for a clear mind…

So, here we go. Another sentence but this chair doesn’t feel very comfortable. My partner is away so I trundle his chair in and try that. Much better than mine. Maybe I need a new chair. Do a Google search of office chairs which all look horrible so decide to stick with what I’ve got.

Now where was I? It’s not exactly flowing … Maybe a coffee will help.


Categories: Design, WritingTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Oh, you need to procrastinate a bit more. Maybe watch that mid 1970’s Australian classic film ‘Storm Boy’, about a boy and his pelican. Shot in South Australia and a box office hit at the time. From memory, very spare and atmospheric.

    • A lovely film although far too outdoorsy for me, all that running about when I can sit happily and stare into space for (name the time, it won’t be wrong). I think the pelican may be my spirit animal, at least when it’s doing nothing but float in the sky.

  2. This made me laugh. In a state of supreme avoidance I once found myself looking up the difference between prevarication and procrastination. A big difference! Favourite avoidance tactics………. Tidying the airing cupboard and folding, then standing back and admiring the neat rows; sorting out the shed; wiping down kitchen cupboards; doing the least important things on the list; making cake……. Hope you managed to get a few more words done today. See you at the end of the month!

  3. Enjoyed this post, Colin, thank you. Sounds like my kinda day.

  4. Sounds like a regular day to me! Only a looming deadline or a very clear desk will keep me distraction-free. Guess that’s why we writers are never bored, though, eh? 😉

  5. So true, of all of us! We like to think any creative endeavour actually requires this kind of ‘circling’ behaviour. I begin to have my doubts. A brilliant exposition of a day in the (home) office! Thanks, Col.

    • I think if I did this all the time and never got any writing done then I might just have to face the fact that I was a fraud. Thankfully, I think everyone needs periods of distraction. And isn’t it amazing how much distraction one can find alone at home!

  6. Brilliant!
    I doubt there is an artist out there who would not relate to this.
    Love the look of Michelucci – perhaps a post about him next …
    That’s a most inspiring painting you have on your workspace wall(!).

    • It’s a stunning building, especially coming across it in the middle of a storm in the Dolomites…Where would I be without my creative friends, and your painting certainly adds an extra zing to my day (and gives me something else to ponder at when I’m busy avoiding looking at the computer screen!).

  7. Your desk makes mine look tidy. To get around my propensity for filling every square inch of every desk I’ve ever had I am formulating a radical idea for French house. No desk. Just work off the kitchen table so I have to tidy up at dinner time.

  8. All too familiar Colin. I have to say if I had pelicans wheeling past my window, work would definitely not be occurring. Usually my entertainment is the BT engineer and his many strands of multicoloured wires in front of the green box on the other side of the road. I can watch him for hours! Now I’m off to make coffee!

  9. Damn. I became distracted and started reading this too. No pelicans either (though we did have an army of seagulls divebombing a cormorant on a house across the street this morning).

  10. Isn’t it amazing how interesting life gets when you sit down to write/work. I’m exactly the same 🙂
    Here was my morning, shower, get the family breakfast, kid off to school, say hello and chat to some mothers, stop off at the bar for a quick coffee, got to bakery to buy a quick snacks in case I get hungry later, put the kettle on, open the computer, see a few Instagram photo’s I have to get before the light goes, remember a book I need to get off the book shelf, go to the book shelf and come back with a half a dozen other books I forgot I had and that suddenly feel important to have on my work desk, look over my notes, rewrite my notes, and finally sit down and work …

    • I like to think it’s all part of the process (although frankly I think some days are just doomed from the outset and you just have to roll with the distractions). Mind you, I’d never get a scrap of work done if I lived in Sicily – I would stop at the bar for my morning cuppa and never leave.

  11. Had to do this for a practice exam, loved the post. Glad I found the author of this piece 🙂 .

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