Trouble At The Home Office

Reading & Writing


This week’s challenge is to create two separate offices in one open-plan flat without damaging the way either of us work. We don’t want to wreck the design integrity or leave cables and peripherals all over the place.

The first idea was to fit a desk where those two sofa units at the front currently sit, but a desk looks ridiculous plonked into the room, and I want to live in a home, not an office. It couldn’t have looked more officey if I’d chucked Pret sandwiches all over the flat surfaces.

Then I thought; all of my storage is in the Cloud and I don’t work from notes (nearly everything is in my head) so I can hot-desk easily. If a second person is required to work at home 3 days a week why have two dedicated desks at all?

Hot-desking sounds easier than it is. The spouse’s work apparently requires an abnormally huge curved screen with a dozen windows open, laptop, second keyboard, mouse, back-up laptop, sidecar & mirroring on iPad, plus paperwork. You can’t just lug that around.

His secret plan for the integration of the workspaces is to nick my office and glass-legged table. I may even have light-heartedly suggested it because I’m not exactly a wolf when it comes to territorial marking. I’m relatively happy switching my lovely iMac for a titchy laptop partly because lately it’s not been possible to comfortably sit at a desk. But that’s changing now, and I’m ready to work again.

Writers are fussy about where they sit because writing a novel is not writing an email, an article or a paper. It requires a peculiar long-term mindset and a lot of calm concentration or you never break inside your world. If I leave a novel alone for 3 days it will require a 2 hour warm-up on the 4th day before I can start. I have not worked on a novel in three months.


So, plan 2; I’ll ‘float’ between armchair, table, available flat surface. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. I also use an iPad, which I can sidecar to the laptop. And laptop writing on my actual lap puts the screen too low for me, so I strain forward all the time, hunching.

What I need is something that looks like a breakfast tray and can loom over the side of any chair, like a Victorian school desk but you know, Danish design. Is that too much to ask? Reader, I found one. It arrives tomorrow from Denmark. I already suspect it is too small.

I realise that my attitude, modern though it may seem, is still too old-fashioned. I love the iMac because I play music all day from my library, which is pre-downloaded – nobody does this anymore. I’ve been tethered to the iMac out of sentimentality, not practicality. It’s a nice habit, sitting down in your same chair in the same place every day. Probably the best way to discover new working methods is to force them on yourself, in the same way that our local shops found ingenious solutions for serving during Lockdown.

So I’ll create a new type of virtual office. But if it doesn’t work, I’m going to take back my space in a way that will make the annexation of the Sudetenland look like bagsying a Benidorm beach chair.

27 comments on “Trouble At The Home Office”

  1. snowy says:

    The trees look nice, not sure about the… er… eclectic range of cushion covers – but you don’t look at them when you are sitting on them.

  2. Bernard says:

    Love the glass-legged table. Can you say where you found it?

  3. Jo W says:

    I do wish you and ‘imself success with sharing a workspace.
    But, in your blog today there is a phrase that gives out the most positive message to all your followers who are wishing you both better and that is “and I’m ready to work again.”
    Says it all.

  4. Peter T says:

    Very happy to hear that work is back on the agenda. Having the energy to worry about desk arrangements is very positive.

    I’ve heard of a veteran motorcyclist who kept his Manx Norton padlocked to the floor in his sitting room, but sidecars…?

  5. Christine says:

    Why don’t you create an office in the second bedroom?

  6. Hemingway used to write standing up and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (I’m Spartacus !) used a typewriter on a plank across his bath. I think Robert Bloch was kidding when he claimed to hang upside down like a bat to write but maybe he did…………….

  7. Peter T says:

    I find hanging upside down can be good for thinking, possibly because it’s difficult to do much else in that position.

  8. Brian Evans says:

    I am so glad, Mr Admin, that you are sitting up and taking notice.

    Me and ‘im indoors don’t live open plan. Thank goodness. We both have our own study which we can shut ourselves into separately. We bought the house with that in mind. He-opera queen, me George Formby and of that ilk. Never the twain shall meet. Get the picture?

    All my music is still pre downloaded. I didn’t realise it had gone out of fashion! But then I’m a relic from the 1950s.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Ready for work. Cheers. I will follow this reassignment of space with great interest.

  10. Martin Tolley says:

    As we say – the very best of British working with spouse at home. I have had Mrs T lounging around the house “working from home” for several months, the key activity of which as far as I can see, seems to consist of several hours a day shouting at a computer screen saying “Can you hear me?” over and over and over again! And whilst her fellow workers seem oblivious to all of her entreaties I can’t escape wherever I am in the house. I’ve now shelled out an excessively large wedge of my ill-gotten for a set of noise-canceling headphones, which provide some relief. Unfortunately they also seem to come with a built-in female American accented Android assistant who regularly informs me that my battery is at 30 per cent. But that’s a story for another day.
    Like others here, REALLY glad you’re feeling up to working again.

  11. Jan says:

    This post was probably just an excuse to show us you desk with the brass Cosh lamp once more!
    I really do think though Mr. F that it’s time that you started making a bit of an effort with that desk. Try keeping it TIDY all this clutter is simply unpleasant. And start using a bit of the Mr Sheen to at least keep it ship shape. Might give it a bit of sparkle. You never know.

    Another thing I have recently discovered to move you along on the technology front….I have found now you can get the radio channels through the Sky channels on the telly. This means that instead of having to lug my radio cassette player out of the bedroom into the living room in order to listen to Radio 2. I simply listen via the tv!!! This radio business is ever so good you know. I listen to Steve Wright in the afternoon and Ken Bruce’s pop quiz in the morning. Really like it. Tracks of my years is good.

    Hope all good.

  12. admin says:

    The glass table came from Living Space. It’s great because the legs unscrew and make it easy to move.

    Sidecarring is when you pair a second screen from the same controls, doubling your home screen.

    Working on the cushions!

  13. Andrew Holme says:

    Back in the day ( mid Seventies) the bog standard black and white only TV that my Mum and Dad rented through Redifusion used to play radio stations with a blank screen showing. I remember watching the Thursday repeat of ‘I Claudius’ on my own, ahem ahem, and then switching over to listen to the end of Dave Allen’s Country music show on Radio Two. Rien ne change

  14. John Howard says:

    Music pre- loaded… Oh yes.
    I still get, from time to time, one of the childs saying, “haven’t you got Spotify yet?”. Which I, of course, studiously ignore. I don’t think Spotify or any other of those services could cope with the shuffle I have…. Led Zeppelin, Frank Sinatra, Flanders and Swan, Jackson Browne, John Martyn, Jake Thackray…. etc, etc.
    If I want music I buy it. I don’t want to rent it from someone.

  15. John Howard says:

    PS: I am lucky enough to have a garden and there is a “shed” down there especially for me and all my stuff. All I need is the iPhone and a bluetooth speaker and I am away. So no ‘conflict’ need arise re allocation of space. The house is all hers, apart from my book shelves of course but they have been put upstairs as they clutter up the look of downstairs…..!!

  16. Peter T says:

    Sidecarring: I’d assumed it was more than increasing screen acreage. Bill Gates, the less big rogue, managed it years ago without inventing a name. I admit that I’m an Applephobe. My main machine was made in Yorkshire and runs Windows 7. It would be Linux, but … .

  17. Brian Evans says:

    Mr Admin. There is nowt wrong with the cushions. Though, if I may bring something right out into the open, without causing offence-I am not a great lover of grey.

    John H, don’t forget the real reason for men with sheds-the stash of porn hidden away.

  18. Liz Thompson says:

    Glad to hear you’re feeling well enough to write. Those cushions are ok, a splash of bright colours is wonderful. I knitted most of my cushion covers, but will need to do some more. Bloody moths!

  19. snowy says:

    Sidecar is very old idea, [developed in Cambridge in 1999]. But because the iPad is part of the ecosystem, you can also use the touch screen part as a graphics tablet.

    [Assuming you have already paid the £450 for the tablet, the special pencil is a mere snip at £89 – any colour you like as long as it is white. My A4 graphics tablet only cost £10 so I never quite felt the need.]

    I have attached various Android tablets to both Win and Lin PCs to do exactly what Sidecar does, but it always felt like a solution looking for a problem.

    Peter, you could always Dual-boot, I did for a while until I fully embraced ‘The Penguin’. Nothing Windows now left apart from a couple of odd boxes wrapped up in a cupboard, [kept for test purposes].

  20. snowy says:

    Oh, I didn’t mean to impugn the decor, you should see the cushion I’m sitting on – it’s a complete horror!

    [It looks like somebody tried to weaponise Chintz].

  21. admin says:

    I’ll post a shot of the first ‘new office’ shortly, but I’m horrified.

  22. Peter T says:

    Snowy, I’ve often been inclined to embrace the Penguin at least to try it on an old PC. However, my interest in computers is mainly to use them as calculating machines. Operating systems and their ins and outs don’t excite or interest me much so long as they let me run my software, access the processors and RAM. For the sidecar, it still seems to me an expensive and awkward route to extra screen acreage. You can buy a decent second monitor for £80 to, if you want big and fast, £300. You plug it in and press two buttons and have something way more convenient than glorified tablet.

  23. snowy says:

    Peter, I think I know what you mean, [you’d rather be sitting down ‘eating a plate of food’, than ‘sweating over a stove’ cooking it]. Things have come a long way over the last 10 years, last year I changed my 12 year old laptop for something more modern, [32bit support was ending].

    When I put Linux on the then new laptop in 2007 it took me 2 whole days, [including a lot of swearing time].
    When I put Linux on the new cloudbook in 2019 it took less than 15 minutes, [it went as good as gold].

    Software is only a slight problem these days, you can’t port Windows products over directly, [but you can run them on a Linux PC using WIne]. But I have yet to find any piece of software from Windows that doesn’t have a functional equivalent in Linux.

    Hang on a tick! I just need to look something up…….. Windows 7……..

    Yep! I thought I remembered something about it…. Win7 went out of official support in Jan. this year. So it isn’t going to be getting any security upgrades or patches from this point on. Something you might want to consider – or not, [what you do with your stuff is none of my beeswax really].

  24. Peter T says:

    A lot of people who do physics type calculations stuck with Windows 7. Everything since, apart from possibly 10, has not been very good (putting it politely). I use a Fortran compiler called Silverfrost. It’s outstandingly good at finding my coding errors (I was never good and age hasn’t helped). But, it’s windows only. If they did a Linux version … . There are Linux Fortran compilers, but I don’t think that they are as friendly.

    I’m not sure how much good Microsoft’s updates actually do. For security, I rely on Kaspersky to cover the gaps in Windows.

  25. Jan says:

    I never knew you could get radio channels on old black and white tv sets? Well I never….. until a few years back when I had to start using a digi box with my old portable tv I couldn’t get radio signals on him. When the digit box was fitted in.I am pretty sur e i could but not b4.

  26. snowy says:

    A Fortran compiler, that is very specialised application… blimey! I’m not just a little out of my depth, I’m 8 fathoms deep, wondering why it’s all gone dark and all the fish are swishing about with miners lamps on their heads!

    A quick look in the Linux repository says there are options, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. The only way to find out would be to throw Ubuntu or Debian on a old box and test drive them. I’m going to shut up now, there is something nibbling at my toes…..


  27. Helen Martin says:

    I thought I was promised Linux at the latest update to my computer, but apparently not. I got Windows 10(?) and my tech guy still talks about how happy he is with Linux. (Grrr.) Oh well.

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