Saturday, November 25, 2017

Writers' rooms / Michael Frayn

Photo byu Eamonn McCabe

Writers' rooms: Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn
Friday 5 January 2007 14.08 GMT
I envy people who have the ability to surround themselves with interesting things - beautiful little whichwhats that a burglar might want to steal, or amusingly whimsical doodahs, or thingummies full of secret personal significance. But it's not something that I can do, and it's no use pretending.
So it's all rather impersonal, I suppose. Wrap-around office desk. A horrible chair that tilts you forward, which is supposed to be good for you if you have a bad back. Word-processor (with an upright screen, the same shape as the page that the text will end up on) and various other necessary gadgets (though fewer than I used to have in the days when one interviewer described them as enough to furnish the control-tower of a small airport).

The box of paper-clips in front of the letter-rack was painted with a pattern of clouds as a birthday present by one of my grandchildren (a reference to a play of mine). The only personal touch apart from this is provided by the family photographs on the wall. The one in pride of place in the centre is of my mother. She died when I was a boy, and I didn't have many pictures of her. So when my aunt told me that as a young woman my mother had occasionally modelled for the London stores where she was employed as a saleswoman, I went to the Newspaper Library at Colindale and searched through the old society magazines of the period, until suddenly, in an advertisement for Harrods in the Bystander for March 18 1925, I came face to face with her, looking very beautiful, in a cloche hat and the kind of outfit she could never have afforded herself. That's her again to the right, with my father, both of them looking wonderfully happy, enlarged from a couple of snaps I've come across since, also dating from the twenties.
Somerset Maugham said that writers should sit with their back to the window. I sit sideways on most of the time. Moderation in this, as in all things.

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