Whilst I occasionally aspire to a writing room which is a calm, neutral space with a beautiful, bare desk, truth be told I have some way to go to achieve it.
My room is a clutter-box. What it also contains are things I like to have beside me when I’m working. Here’s a glimpse of them (with the attendant untidiness airbrushed away…)
A Jo Malone candle — I choose a different one per novel, so each one has a fragrance memory for me. The book I’ve just completed — as yet untitled — was scented with Wood Sage and Sea Salt.
This is my read-through chair, a vintage find. It’s also where anybody who comes in to chat to me sits. It’s super-cosy, and I imagine has stories of its own to tell.
This painting hangs by my desk. It’s by Karolina Larrusdottir, whose work I collect and love. This one is called Man with Angel in his Pocket. I find the beseeching expression on the woman’s face, and her tender hopefulness, very moving. I think it captures beautifully the complex, on- going transactions of long term relationships.
I have a tray of heart-shaped stones, found on beaches by people I love. These four are from my children.
This is on the wall beside me. It is a print of Gian Girolamo Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene Approaching the Sepulchre, which he painted around 1530. I love it because I think it has a profoundly modern sensibility, both in her gaze and her posture. I am also interested in the Church’s centuries-long manipulation of Mary Magdalene’s identity and significance. I think of all the portraits I know of her, her expression in this one cuts through it. Whenever I am at the National, I pay her a visit.
This drawing of a cat was done by one of my children. The cat looks as if it is being internally electrocuted; it’s all of a zizz but in a good way. I framed it and kept it because I think it captures the creative process.
This necklace is made of Venetian glass beads. It was made by my children when they were much younger on a trip to Venice. We spent hours in a bead shop while they chose the shapes and colours. They did a section each, and what they chose, and the composition, is typical of their personalities. I thumb it when I am thinking, and view it as my own maternal rosary.
This — barely legible now — note was written by Margaret Atwood ten years ago. An old friend found herself next to her at the checkout in Toronto Wholefoods and asked her if she would write something for me. She kindly did and it’s been beside my desk ever since, along with a copy of her essays called Writing With Intent.
My house gets cold in the middle of the day in the winter. These are my solutions: legwarmers, wrist warmers, fingerless gloves, all made of cashmere and stored with cut lavender from the garden through the summer. I’m a big fan of a little daily luxury.
This is Rocco my labradoodle. Enough said.
AWAY FROM YOU by Kay Langdale is available in paperback and ebook