I spent all yesterday inputting itchy little receipt amounts into an Excel spreadsheet, feeling more like Uriah Heep with every key stroke. Just opening Excel makes me feel trapped and repressed.
No wonder they call the little boxes where you put the numbers “cells”. It makes me feel like I’m in one. No amount of cups of tea, chocolate biccies and playing Take That makes it enjoyable.
So imagine my joy when I opened an email from my lovely accountant this morning thanking me for sending it over, but all the expenses pages seem to be blank. Gone. Every single one of them. I have no idea how, why, or when and there were no "versions of the file" to fall back on.
I have no choice but to do it all again.
What do you do when you have a moment like that? Veteran British newspaper columnist Katharine Whitehorn (whose 1970s Observer column made me want to become a journalist – along with Clive James’s TV reviews, in the same paper, which made me cry with laughter every week) goes to the curtain department of London’s John Lewis department store.
There among the hooks and rings and tape and capable people who can calculate pattern repeats, she finds peace, knowing that there can be order in a world where pinch pleats exist.
I go and sit in my spare loo.
It was the first room that was finished, decorated and styled, when we moved into this house and it still gives me great comfort to go and rest in there (lid down) and admire the bookshelves, filled with my favourite books, lovingly curated into genres and eras, grouped by author.
I’ve read every single volume in there, which gives a great sense of satisfaction in itself, and only ones I’ve really loved, are allowed to be added to the shelves. There’s a whole Nancy Mitford section in 20th century. The Flambards trilogy. All the Brontes. S. E. Hinton. The Group. The latest addition was Stoner.
It is very inspiring to be reminded that so many wonderful books exist and it looks pretty nice in there too. The walls are painted a shade called Poison Blue (imagine Yves Klein blue with a little white added) and lovingly arranged, with occasional flat stacks interspersing the upright rows to maximise space and eye pleasingness.
The most loved books are propped facing outwards, in a changing exhibit. Currently The Leopard, The Rachel Papers and Nineteen Eighty Four are featured. Plus my great uncle’s copy of Three Men in a Boat (1928 edition).
The window sill within hands' reach of the throne are furnished with a selection of fun "loo reads" – books of cartoons, funny signs, love poems etc.
So that’s my sanctuary and I had a moment in there directly after the email of doom with a cup of tea, skimming favourite chapters of Hoorah For the Filth Packets! by Alexandra Artley, which I think is the funniest book ever written (long out of print, but you can find second-hand copies).
Did somebody mention clothes? There is a point I’m getting to here. When I saw this picture of American actress Ali Larter, the casual insouciance of her outfit gave me a feeling similar to half an hour in my Library Loo. It is so simple, so comfortable, completely practical – she’s at an airport – and utterly chic. Each element of it is the equivalent of the John Lewis curtain department in itself.
A perfect black trench coat (just the right length…). What more useful garment is there? Goes with everything, night and day, desk to disco, flattering, classic, trans-seasonal, doesn’t show the dirt. Everyone needs a black trench.
Beneath it she has some kind of pyjama set – glamorous and comfy – in cream, which counteracts any heaviness of the black coat. Her ultra dark sunglasses could have come straight off the face of Catherine Deneuve. They’re absolutely timeless and they’d make anyone look like a film star.
If you’d like to see pictures of my Library Loo check out my blog maggiealdersonstylenotes.wordpress.com