Working from home

She’s hounding me again. The phone has rung five times in the last six hours so I just don’t answer when it rings. It could be anyone, couldn’t it? Mum, or my sister saying, “How are you?” It could be my agent saying, “Cheerio, I’m off to the States for two years, see you soon” or my husband reminding me not to cook this evening as it is his birthday and we are supposed to be going out for something to eat later. But I don’t answer, because I know I didn’t promise to visit the hospital this afternoon. Between three and five she gets no visitors and would like me to pop in to see her, hardly able to breathe, on the second floor of the high dependency respiratory ward. Her bed takes about twenty-five minutes to locate within the north wing of the hospital, after spending maybe forty minutes finding a parking space outside on the vast tarmac complex and actually getting to the main entrance of the building. It’s about forty minutes driving from here to our new, spankingly expensive citizens’ hospital on the outskirts of the city, all white and faceless like a starchy apron daring anyone to disapprove. With metered parking that costs so much, I bet the hospital uses that income stream to service interest payments. Impressive queues of people wait patiently at the pay boxes jingling change in their hands to slot in before they can leave, trapped into shelling out money for jam, as Mum would say.

Anyway, there is nothing I can do. I can hardly hear Ellie on the phone, with her thick vowels, trapped inside a bad reception space with no privacy, no telly and no-one else to talk to. I have to be at home by three-thirty most afternoons, which is why I know I didn’t promise to visit Ellie at the hospital. I can’t be in two places at once, can I? Though God knows, that would be a handy trick. As it is, I have spent most of this morning passing over my plastic card for presents for my daughter’s school friends – it is party season – or looking for “thank you” cards and stamps to stick on letters to Australia.

I really have to get down to some more writing, or else my agent is going to seriously question the wisdom of taking me on as a client. What kind of writer manages only three short books in three years? I have a host of smaller pieces that could do with being finished. I like my work and so, I count myself lucky. At long last, I have reached a compromise with working that works for me. I work from home, I can please myself. Of course, everyone imagines I am available to do the weekly shopping, to organise the social calendar, to cook and clean and to run thither and hither collecting, sorting, washing and tidying everything I can get my hands on. I wish that there was room to just write. If anyone else expects me to do anything else, I shall run screaming along the High Street. Or I would, if it weren’t so cold. Fancy being a stay at home mum with a career? Take my advice and get an office so that you are out. Out all day. It’s the only way. People take you seriously when you are out all day. Best way to be.

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