Tuesday, 12 October 2010
The desks may not be typical; all the subjects interviewed in the six minutes are designers of one sort or another.
At the end, one asks what the future of the desk might be, and postulates that it will become a 'state of mind'.
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Summer is over, I suppose, but I thought I should show my summer desk. I have to say that, delightful as it sounds to sit in the sun, working away, in reality I spend little time working outdoors.
The chief reason is the wind. In Seaford we have a great deal, so only massively bound books will stay put on the table. The short route to despair is to try to take anything on individual sheets of paper outside. The Mac's screen is more or less invisible in bright sunlight, so computer-based work is ruled out. Nevertheless, how many other offices have passion-flowers?
I have been workless since the end of July, but I hope to be able to tell you of a new office before long.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Monday, 10 May 2010
I am very happy because for this whole week I have that fabulous office at the north end of the Royal Pavilion at my disposal again where I spent the strange but very inspiring first year of my doctoral research. It is the old director's office and still houses the main Pavilion reference library. Many of the books have the names of previous directors of the Pavilion in them. They are the ghosts of people who worked and researched in the building.
Saturday, 10 April 2010
Here, at last, is Virginia Woolf's desk, behind glass, so I fear the photograph is not the best. I bet that Eamonn McCabe was allowed the other side of the glass. Note the objects on the desk: some files, some pencils, daffodils, a pair of spectacles. Would that my own desk looked like this. I should like to dedicate this afternoon's performance to Sascha Loske.
For more photographs taken at Monk's House this afternoon, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomroper/tags/monkshouseapril2010/. I made friends with the cat.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
I promised Sascha Loske I would be at Rodmell to take a photograph of Virginia Woolf's desk the day Monk's House opened for the spring, that is yesterday. So I was, but I turned up to find it doesn't open till 2 pm. I should have known something was wrong: there were no crowds of Woolfians thronging the village and I could park nearby easily. I couldn't stay to wait for 2, so I shall have to return on Wednesday. Until then I offer you the Guardian's description of that famous shed, text by Hermione Lee and illustrated with a photograph by Eamonn McCabe.
A footnote: Hermione Lee writes prose many thousand times more elegant, intelligent and clear than I could ever manage, but don't you think when she writes 'store' she means 'stove'?
Sunday, 28 March 2010
Now I have started, I think I probably have to go on till I finish. But I have no photograph of the next desk to play a part in my life, an old and monumental Victorian roll-top. After a bout of pneumonia caused me to miss most of a summer term, and removed me, providentially, from some considerable unpleasantness at school, I moved bedrooms at the age of 13 into a new and larger one sited above my father's waiting room (he was a Cambridge GP), at about the age of 13. Here I had an upright piano, a record player, a gas fire and small leaded windows looking out, in one direction onto Lensfield Road, and in the other onto Tennis Court Road and the back of Addenbrooke's hospital.
The desk stood at the Tennis Court Road end. It had a lock, but I was not trusted with the key, so, to stop it locking by accident I made stoppers of paper which I put in the grooves to prevent it closing fully. It had a patina, and marks of heavy use, ink-stains to which I added and gouges from pen-sharpening and envelope opening. It even had a secret compartment. What could be more agreeable?
As I used it, so it acquired more marks of ownership. I began smoking and kept my cigarettes in the desk, which gave it a strong scent of tobacco. As I was lucky enough to have a school friend who worked in an exotic tobacconist, long closed, I was able to go beyond the usual cigarettes favoured by early seventies schoolboys, No 6, and Embassy Gold, and enjoy such brands as Fribourg and Treyer, Sullivan Powell's Turkish, Sobranie and Passing Clouds. These last were oval and came in a pink box, which would cause a stir behind the bike sheds or the scout hut. It also held, for such were the times, the odd consciousness-expanding substance, though I was scrupulous in removing any traces of these.
The desk was sold when my parents moved after my father retired from full-time practice and no longer needed a house with room for surgery, waiting-room and dispensary. I would have liked to have kept it, but at that stage in my life I had nowhere to put something so large.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Desk aficionados can view the whole series on his website.
Found via India Knight.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
But this blog is not about ties, or psychiatrists, or cupboards, but about desks. And at this desk I would do my homework, or sort my stamp collection. I found mathematics difficult. My mother tried to help me, but concepts that seemed obvious to her remained quite obscure to me. She had done the first year of a mathematics degree at University College London in the early thirties, only to be removed; in those years of economic crisis my grandfather thought university education for a girl a luxury, though her brother was allowed to continue. My mother had a low opinion of her brother's intellectual prowess, and believed that he spent the university years she was denied in dissipated living; she had in truth resented him since birth for when he was born my grandfather ordered the village church bells to be rung, an ceremony no one thought of bothering with when his eldest child, a girl, my mother, was born.
So here I would sit before some geometrical proposition which simply made no sense to me, and she would sit beside me, her frustration growing as the extent of my incomprehension became clear. It was only when I went to the upper school, and began logarithms and calculus, that mathematics became clearer.
The desk has travelled with me, to Canterbury, to London and to Seaford. It is not strictly a desk. I think it might have been a washstand originally. I now use it for a scanner and some wires.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
I am widening the field a bit here; I hope that's acceptable. Here is one of several desks that have fascinated me. Virgina Woolf's in her writing shed in Rodmell will probably follow soon, but I shall leave that gem to Sir Arthur (Streeb-Greebling).
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
They serve espresso in a huge mug. A waiter tried to remove mine before I had even half-drunk it. The wifi signal was feeble and the café full of people who did not look like scholars to me. But as I was composing a blog post on castrating cats, perhaps I should not be too censorious.
When I was made redundant the first time, in 1991, I used to frequent the British Museum Reading Room. My membership of the Library Association entitled me to a reader's pass, then hard to come by. I would read in the morning and then go to the pub. The British Council ended this idyll by offering me a job.
The Swedish desk in Brighton, ca. 1998, when my fat white cat was small and fluffy. Note that there is no computer on it. I recognise a fountain pen and a silver pocket watch a friend once gave me, as well as two odd volumes of a late 18th century edition of Joshua Reynolds' Seven Discourses of Art.
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
I work here, blog posts, some idle writing and reading, some Greek study, even sometimes work connected to the day job. The days of jolly sociable commuters belong to a past time, when trains had compartments. We all hate one another
There's a post in gestation on the definition of a desk.
I wish I had a cool user name, like cockatrice or vir beatum (Psalm 112, set by Monteverdi perhaps?). I long to be known as gratindauphinoisboy or archaeopteryx but every time I'm confronted by a web page that wants me to choose a username, originality deserts me and I end up using my real name. My best attempt in these matters is the persona of Sir Anthony Streeb-Greebling, as Sascha Loske sometimes knows me, but that I stole from Peter Cook
Monday, 8 February 2010
It's part of a new building, opened this autumn. As with all new buildings, we tell the world breathlessly how 'state-of-the-art' it is. In truth, it's a shed, with furniture.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
I take no pride in the state of my desk. This disorder doesn't encourage creativity, but impedes it. Nevertheless...
In the centre is my MacBookPro, downloading an update to iTunes. To the left, an old hard disk that used to be used for back-ups which I can't bear to throw out, and a copy of George Thomson's Aeschylus and Athens which I'm reading before I go to the Kings College London Greek Play, the Persians, next week. There's my running watch, and my iPhone. The red object to the rear was my mother's writing case. She was a great letter-writer. I wish I could emulate her.
To the right is an old pestle and mortar, in case I need to grind any drugs in the night, and a pile of books, Robert Darnton's The Case for Books at the top of the pile. Now I type this up there's a wine glass there too, but that wasn't there when I took the picture.
And as for the desk itself, it was my father's.
He was a doctor, a Cambridge GP, and this desk was in the surgery. He sat on one side, with stethoscope, ophthalmoscope and prescription pad. On the other side, patients would listen to diagnoses and prognoses. I have no idea how old it is.
As usual a complete mess. Note the bright red calfskin gloves, an heirloom from Auntie Traudel. I lost my black gloves in Morrison's last week, so now it's red gloves for the rest of the ice-age. Propped up on the desk a print from 1850 called "Winter" by a little known artist/engraver. It i...s in a terrible state but for £10 at a flea market you cannot complain, and I think the lady is worth saving. I have since cleaned her up a little bit and decided to leave her in her original frame, despite its battered state. The morbidity is quite fitting for a high-Victorian artwork.