Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Room With A View

I'm running a few days behind the pack with the Promptapalooza posts. I'm beginning to think August may not be the best month for this. It's a great month for the regular Blaugust because, as is painfully obvious right now, game companies see the dog days of summer as a fine opportunity to grab the attention of bored gamers.

Under normal Blaugust rules that's perfect. If you're trying to bang out a post a day it really helps to have lots going on so you can mine it for ideas. I have getting on for half a dozen posts in mind based just on things I read about yesterday. But when someone's already feeding you an idea a day, maybe it's too much of a good thing.

It would be fine if Belghast hadn't come up with so many really intriguing questions. I could happily write something for just about all of them. Even with work on hold and the whole day to myself, though, I haven't got time to cover that and all the non-Prompt posts I want to write as well.

There are a few I don''t want to miss, though, and this is one of them:

Tell us about your physical creative space, and how it influences your content creation.

Krikket at Nerd Girl Thoughts fielded this one with a brave and thoughtful examination of her own
less than ideal circumstances. I'm going to be a little more upbeat than that, although my own "creative space" certainly leaves something to be desired.

The negatives, briefly listed: smallest room in the house (maybe 9' by 7' at a stretch) ; no heating ( there is a radiator but it leaks so I duct-taped it shut a decade ago and it's never been used since); very limited ventilation (there's a window but it faces a busy main road and there's one of those air vents high on the wall beside me but I've had to tape gauze over it because spiders have been known to drop through it onto my desk).

All of that means it's too hot in the summer (as in right this minute as I write this) and too cold in the winter. I've been observed wearing a scarf and hat at the keyboard. I'd have worn gloves if I could type in them. In the coldest times, and almost always from November to March,  I keep a furry throw over my legs.

The thing, is, though, I don't have to be in this room at all. We have a much more suitable room downstairs. It's three times the size, has a fully functional gas fire, large windows that open and is generally much more comfortable than the one I'm in. I know that for a fact because I left it to move up here, years ago.

Why it was that I moved into this box room, I no longer remember. I'm sure I must have had a good reason at the time. The other room is still available, just as it was. I could swap back any time. But I don't want to.

For whatever reason, even though I live in a large house (far too large for just the two of us, really, now the three children have long left home) I spend most of my time in this small, confined, limited space. It's comfortable. Cosy, even.

It's cluttered but not nearly as cluttered as it was. I spent a day or two last month sorting things out and this is the neatest and tidiest it's been for years. Draw what conclusions you will from that, given what the pictures show.

The second part of Bel's question is the zinger: how does this space influence my content creation? I've honestly never thought about it but I guess it must.

I do know that I sometimes scan around the room abstractedly when I'm lost for inspiration and my gaze will fall on something that will trigger an idea or, more likely, a memory. More commonly, I'll be deep in a post and realize I need to research something and I'll find the details of what I need on a shelf somewhere close to hand.

Having the window in line of sight when I look up is significant, too. There's not much of a view - the top of a hedge, the main road, the barely-used green space opposite, some more trees and houses - but there's green and a lot of sky and weather. In the supposedly more suitable space downstairs all I could really see was the room. It has big windows but at ground level they don't reveal much. Being upstairs and looking out makes me feel at least a little like I'm in the world.

The big, swivel chair I sit in used to belong to my stepfather, a man I had little affection for although we were polite enough to each other. My mother asked me if I wanted it after he died, which was many years ago and I said yes because I knew he would have bought a good chair. He didn't have great taste but he was an engineer and he knew how to choose things that would do a job and do it well.

In the time I've had this chair Mrs Bhagpuss has physically worn out three. They've actually fallen apart. Mine is still pretty much the same as when I got it and it was far from new even then.

The desk my monitor stands on is another story. I bought it for cheap and it looks like it. It's very
small and the sliding shelf the keyboard sits on has broken sliders that no longer slide. At the beginning of the lockdown that shelf fell off entirely, the screws having sheared. I fixed it with elephant tape and it's been sturdy enough ever since. It just slopes to the right. If I take my hand off the mouse it drifts slowly sideways. Not a problem. I almost never take my hand off the mouse.

Under the chair is a completely unsuitable furry rug that continually rucks up when I push the chair back on its castors. It makes me swear quite volubly sometimes. I need the rug because the movement of castors on exposed wooden floorboards is erosive. Mrs. Bhagpuss has worn quite a hole in her floor and I'm keen not to do the same to mine.

From where I can sit I can see so many things that, in the incredibly irritating, yet even more irritatingly useful, phrase made popular by Marie Kondo, "spark joy".

There's the chorus-line of foxes atop the radiator, all gifted me by Mrs. Bhagpuss, as were the more miscellaneous fuzzed-up wildlifes, scrunched together on top of the bookcase.

Above them there's a poster promoting a children's picture-book. I brought it home from work many years ago. I don't even know what the book is called. I just loved the image of the three creatures, a duck, a squirrel and a cat, looking bemused and apprehensive on what must be their first trip to the big city. That poster tells a story that, I suspect, is darker and more disturbing than the book itself. At least, I hope it is.

Beside the foxes is a DVD-Rom I bought mail order from the Phillipines last year. It has scans of every comic featuring The Legion of Superheroes published between the start of the 1960s and the mid-90s. The seller claimed it was legal but I can't see how it can be. It cost £6 including postage. The comics would cost thousands. And fill the room. I'd like to have all my comics stored this way.

On the wall above, next to a weird, framed collage-cum-painting, made and given to Mrs. Bhagpuss by someone she once knew, hangs a portrait of a character from the first of two unfinished atempts at long-form fiction I essayed in the nineties. Or maybe it was the eighties.

My friend Steve Whitaker, an excellent artist, very sadly no longer with us, who worked for some years as a freelance colorist, drew it, ironically in black and white, after reading the first instalment in an apazine we both contributed to at the time. It's his visualization of my character, Cado Babe Harley, but since the moment I saw it it's always been how I see her, too. I have that story on 3.5" floppy disc somewhere. I just need to buy a floppy drive and maybe I can finish it...

Behind me, on the top of a packed and stacked set of shelves, filled with everything from computer components to film magazines from the nineteen-nineties, you can just about see the EverQuest and EverQuest II RPG hardbacks I've slowly been collecting. I have almost all of them now. Don't imagine I'll ever use them but they're settling to own.

Less settling are the reminders of our current situation. A bottle of Vitamin D tablets. Some anti-bacterial, 70% alchohol hand wash. A fox hand-puppet wearing a mask. The mask is printed with foxes. Mrs. Bhagpuss bought it for me. Hers has sheep.

And so it goes. Everything contributes to the whole. The space around us and that which fills it. Always, there's room for more.

It is getting a bit warm in here, though...

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