I’ve always admired and envied my brother-in-law, Alan. Not simply because he had the gumption, courage and acumen to start his own company – specialising in the project management of wind farms – and grow it into a thriving concern. No. Even more because he always has the tidiest, most organised desk that I’ve ever seen.
No matter the number or frequency of my pushes and offensives on the desk front, my ‘work station’ still remains a mess. I work surrounded by cacti, pens, scraps of paper, model Citroëns, leads and flexes, notebooks, old cheque books and general ‘stuff’. There are papers and diaries at my feet because there’s no room on the desktop. My post piles up for weeks at a stretch. The longer I leave it, the more terrified I become at the prospect of addressing it.
Yet I have this image of myself as a methodical, organised individual. It must be a delusion. I’m sure that if I could find the secret to keeping my desk tidy I’d be earning big bucks like Alan, rather than working for peanuts ever since I made the mistake of going self-employed.
When my friends Steve the plumber and Paul the electrician came to install our new Mitsubishi heat pump, I was so appalled, so ashamed and humiliated, by the state of our cave (or to use, as we never do now, the English word – cellar) that I resolved to do something about it. If I could organise our cave, logic would suggest that I could organise my desk.
So I bought myself three remarkably cheap sets of self-standing metal shelves from Monsieur Bricolage. I assembled them without turning the air too blue. And I started work. I made them into an L-shaped storage space in one corner of the cave for my essential tools – and took it from there.
Last weekend was a picture-window of opportunity. My wife, Deborah, was away in Brussels on another of her courses, learning still more about how to probe to the heart of the human condition. The sun shone on Saturday and I was able to move the most cumbersome impedimenta outside to provide room inside for manoeuvre. To use the catchphrase of an old acting friend of my wife’s, who came out one summer to lend a hand in our old farmhouse in the Corrèze, ‘Let the dog see the rabbit’.
Spurred on by the daydream of showing Debs, Steve or Paul through the door and watching them gasp in admiration, I worked with drive and gusto. If I could just finish it before she got back, then what a good boy I would be.
The more organised it grew, the more intensely glowed my pride and the harder I worked. There’s surely a lesson there for the educational theorists of this world. Maybe Mr. Cameron would employ me as his secondary modern guru. From the humble beginnings of a cave cleaner, I would rise to a position of influence and power…
Well, I did it. This is the result. Unfortunately, I never thought to document the hideous ‘before’. But look at it now. Look upon my work, ye people, and let glad orisons ring out.
How long it will stay in this state remains to be seen. ‘Oil give eet foive months.’ No, no. Longer, I’m sure. I’m proud of my cave. I shimmer now with smug self-satisfaction.
The question is: can I bottle the essence of that feeling and apply it next to my desk?