Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Sitting in my study watching the Oxford traffic trundle past my window (above), I yearn to work in a sleek sky-scraper, with a state-of-the-art coffee machine, decent photocopier and the buzz of working alongside other people. There are lots of brilliant things about working from home – no commuting, no boss breathing down my neck and, until my children turned into ultra-independent teenagers, no last-minute panics when they were off school.
But I hate the solitude, the people who assume that just because you’re at home you’re lolling around doing nothing all day and in the winter months, the cold. Even though it’s only September, I’ve been so freezing this week that I’ve already started wearing my cosy Brora fingerless gloves in my office every day.
Even so, it’s nothing compared to the three years we spent living in a draughty farmhouse in the wilds of Lancashire. Our north-facing house was perched on the side of a hill and all we could see were fields and sheep. It was stunning but even in summer the temperature was always a few degrees lower than anywhere else. I frequently set off to collect my daughter from school wrapped in a thick coat and scarf to find everyone else basking in bright sunshine. The gales that whistled round the side of the house sounded like someone was being murdered and had to be heard to be believed. The sheep had to be stark, raving desperate to venture as far as the field next to us.
The house, which we rented from an aristocratic landowner, didn’t have any central heating at all so we had to light open fires all year round. We got through so much coal that Mr Wilkinson, the tough, no-nonsense driver who battled the wind, rain and snow to deliver our fuel, declared we were his very best customers. When I rang one Christmas to order yet more coal, I asked his wife how much we’d need to see us through until the New Year. “Tell her a wagon-load,” chuckled Mr Wilkinson from the background.