I’m holed up in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday. I’ve a dental check-up bang in the middle of the day so I’m working from home around it. Except I’m not working. It’s not working.
Firstly, if I could be sitting downstairs at my desk in the home office it would be a bit more conducive to sensible concentrating than lounging on my bed. But I can’t. The office is full of provisions which have been evacuated from the kitchen and set out on the camping racks, temporarily erected for the purpose. I was very prepared, planning how to make our four week sojourn without a kitchen less bleak. There’s everything we need to self-cater the month away: the two-ring camping stove all tubed up to the gas bottle in the corner, and on the racking a couple of pans, the knife and chopping blocks, cutlery and pasta, rice, noodles, tinned stuff, a few herbs and condiments, breakfast cereals, a couple of onions and peppers, some bananas and apples. The fridge is in the hall, fully stocked, next to a cupboard, newly resituated and housing a few plates, bowls, mugs and glasses. [But the microwave’s on top, in pride of place. Because, in reality, two and a half weeks in, we’ve relied on friends, Grandma and Grandad, take-outs, meals out, but, mostly, I have to admit, Billy-no-mates microwave meals. In the couple of years or so before my Mum completely lost her mind (you could say while it was being mislaid), I used to do her grocery shopping and microwave meals became a staple part of her diet, at first because she could still manage to heat them up herself and then later for her tea-time carers to serve her. Choosing a varied (though balanced would be exaggerating) selection – not too many pasta-based, plenty of vegetables, some fish and meat, a spicy one or two – was a bit of a highlight of our regular mother and daughter routine. And so it has become for R and me, mother and son browsing together in the supermarket. Last night we shook it all up a bit and went for the soup options. Crazy. Anyway, I digress]. It’s all very make-do and cluttered down there.
Practically speaking, then, it’s not easy to be downstairs, what with all the foodstuff. And then there’s the commotion. Slamming, banging, smashing, sawing, drilling, shouting, singing, radio blaring. One wall’s been completely demolished, one knocked through, everything’s been stripped out, electrics rewired, plumbing moved, a gas pipe installed, flooring ripped up, walls and ceiling replastered and now the refit is beginning and on it goes. In the process they’ve uncovered two long-abandoned mice nests under the boards, one still stocked with a stash of dried pellets of dog food! Ew! We’ve lived here for nearly 20 years and never heard the scuttle of a mouse and only very rarely fed any dogs (we’re not asked much anymore to dog sit, you won’t wonder why if you’ve read this), which just goes to show these have been here for yonks! It’s too much to face.
So that’s why I’m away up the stairs. We have no running water down below, so up here we’ve fixed up our little breakfast station, with kettle, toaster, stock of bread and muffins, tea and coffee, jam and marmalade and marmite and peanut butter. Just a wee fridge missing so there’s some upping and downing in the process, but still, it feels cosy in the mornings (and, to tell the truth, mid-morning, mid-afternoon and at bedtime too), our own little b&b set-up. It’s definitely another distraction in the working-from-home-not-working scenario but we’re liking it so much we think we might invest in said mini fridge, double up on the kettle and toaster combo and keep it going even when the new kitchen’s in full swing.
But it’s not just the surroundings. I’m also taking a while to adjust to the mental self-discipline that working from home requires. I lamented the loss of my professional role when we relocated to Houston, yet now I’m defining a new one, it’s still a teensy bit of a struggle to shrug off the carelessness of a carefree life. Actually, how do you slough off a lack of something? It was an unfettered way of being, with self-imposed routines revolving around leisure more than labour and an often less-than-executive focus. So, there’s that, my inner regimen taking its time to reemerge…
Fundamentally, however, I can’t entirely blame the lack of kitchen, noisy builders, the homely little nook on the landing or my mushy brain. There’s something else too: the office crack. I missed it and that whole other circle in the Venn diagram of life, overlapping but not completely overlaid with the home and family and friendship ones. Most of what I’m paid to do now can be done anywhere I can hook up to a screen and wifi, yet I’ve chosen to mainly do it in the office and the truth is that I probably would’ve done even with a kitchen and peace and quiet and the ability to focus in the house. It’s funny there and not really very funny at all here, and I quite like a gossip, and an exchange of ideas, and asking for help and being asked for help and, well, the company, really.
So for all these reasons, for me, this working at home malarkey? It’s not working. Hence this.