It's been said before, but I shall say it again. Why is it that, when you are working from home, friends just won't believe you are actually working and not idling in front of the telly with a hunk of chocolate cake (see yesterday's photo and yes, I did realise I'd stepped out of anonymity and given my real name away - fine spook I'd make), or out treating myself to new clothes, spending some of the vast amount they think I make, or making passionate afternoon love with a bottle of champagne and strawberries on the side?
The phone rings. I ignore it but, of course, the ever-present Mr G picks it up and yells, "It's for you-hoo' and when I mouth, "Who is it?" he barks, "How do I know? They wanted to speak to you."
Grinding my teeth and fuming, being halfway through dissecting my heroine's confused thoughts about whether or not she should run off with her delectable lover, or selflessly set aside her own pleasures to look after her late husband's sick widowed mother, I tentatively grunt, "Hello?" hoping it's the bank or phone company and I can tell them it's a bad time to call. But no. I hear the unmistakable little forlorn snivel of The Friend Who Always Has A Problem.
Now, this friend does have problems. Real problems. The main one being no other friends to tell them to. She also has a job. A real job, that pays her a monthly cheque of at least twice, or even thrice, what I am making. Behind her closed office door, she sees fit to bend my ear, completely ignoring my polite at first, then increasingly angry protestations that I am working, I am in the middle of a chapter and she is completely interrupting my train of thought. My work comes out of my imagination, therefore it does not exist, as far as she can see it. My work can be done any time because I Am At Home. What she doesn't realise is that it can't be done any time, because I don't live alone. Much as I would love to write all evening, or get up at 3 am to tinker with a chapter, I know it is only fair to compromise; to emerge, computer-eyed, at 6pm, help prepare dinner (Mr G does the bulk of the cooking because he's so good at it), then sit and boggle at repeats of CSI with a cat on my lap and Mr G inches away and totally ignoring me as, since his strokes, if you speak to him in mid-programme, he loses the thread. Then go to bed and not switch on light or computer again till 7 am.
Once, I lived near Hampstead Heath and anyone who happened to be passing en route to or from a walk, would figure, "Oh, she's bound to be in, I'll just pop in for a coffee. I bet she could do with some company." This was in pre Mr Grumpy days and then, it didn't matter so much because I could make up the time later, or even work all night if I so chose.
Now, though, I have to partition my time. So, if you're reading this, my friend - and you know who you are - please, NEVER ring till after six, and even then, if I have hammered out a chapter and am mentally exhausted and am losing myself in a lovely costume drama like 'Lark Rise to Candleford' to try and unwind, recognise my surly tone and BOG OFF!!!
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