Would you take a 20 per cent pay cut if it meant you could work from home every day? This is what a London law firm has offered its staff and, on the one hand, how splendid. Up every day in your pyjamas, no shaving or lipstick needed; few pieces of toast; few emails, still in your pyjamas; coffee and a biscuit in the bath for elevenses; back into pyjamas; few more emails; some sort of gargantuan, unseemly home-made lunch, the sort of thing you’d never eat in public; few more emails; few more biscuits; knock off for the day.
That, at least, was roughly how I operated until last month, when even I tired of daytime baths and elasticated trousers. The low point, probably, was finding a globule of lunch on my dressing gown one afternoon, absent-mindedly picking it off and eating it, only to discover that whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t guacamole.
Let’s not dwell on that. The point is, I had to get out, especially because gas prices were soon to rocket and I couldn’t afford to run my heating all day while I drifted about looking like a character from a Victorian sanatorium.
I started investigating co-working spaces, but, heavens to Betsy, do you know how much those places are? A spot at a desk in Victoria, not even a permanent desk but a hot desk, would set me back nearly £500 a month. I might as well keep the heating on at home. I looked at various others, but they were almost as expensive, and rammed with people who looked suspiciously as if they might play their music too loudly through their headphones. If you happen to own an empty building in central London, quick, shove in some desks and a Nespresso machine and you’ll be laughing. Or at least able to afford a whole chicken on Sundays.
Just when I was about to give up the search and Google “full body hot-water bottles”, my brilliant writer friend Laura came up with a cunning plan: why not join the London Library? For £41 a month, I now work in the magnificent surroundings of St James’s Square, at a desk in a hushed space, which, if anything, is almost too warm. The Reading Room has the papers every day and a very learned atmosphere (although I let the side down by spending an hour on the Nike website last week, looking for new running trainers) – plus, as Laura told me, it’s the best place to people-spot in the city. “Rachel Johnson in her tennis kit, Mary Beard by the lockers, Simon Schama coming out of the Gents…” All this in addition to very flattering lighting in the loos, which is handy when I’m nipping out for drinks in Soho after a long day of online shopping behind my laptop. What more could you ask for?
I don’t really want millions more people flocking to join, meaning I have to fight for a desk in the morning, so if we could keep this tip between ourselves that would be marvellous. But I’m telling you in case you’re in the same predicament, or a lawyer thinking that working from home is a happier option.
It isn’t, I promise, and anyway, I’ve seen the BBC’s hit legal series The Split. You lot have views of St Paul’s, celebrity clients and affairs with one another all the time. Don’t give up on all that for a dirty dressing gown.
Let’s not get all weird about shoes off indoors
Tomorrow, a mere 20 months after I moved to Crystal Palace, the builders start my renovations, so for the past few weeks I’ve ushered in Lee the builder, Sonny his right-hand man, electricians, plumbers and so on to discuss the plans. Every single one has insisted on taking off their perfectly clean boots on arrival, despite my house being very scruffy, dusty and worn, with gaping wooden floorboards that are about to be pulled up. Insisting that guests take off their shoes, as if they’d just been wading through the local sewers before arriving, used to be a slightly precious, Hyacinth Bucket diktat. Is this a post-pandemic thing, given that we’re so much more aware of germs? Keep your shoes on, I say; I’d much rather look at them than your feet.
Dear William and Kate – check out the noise before you move
Three years ago, after Harry and Meghan moved into their Windsor cottage, I sneaked into the grounds. They’re open very rarely, as part of the National Garden Scheme (this year, it’s one day only, on Aug 30, so get your tickets quick). Back then, I was less into the rhododendrons and more into peering at the cottage on which Harry and Meghan had splurged £2.4 million. Security cameras and policemen surrounded it, and as visitors strolled by, the coppers bleated “No photos!” As a middle-aged woman squinted through the hedge, she made a good point: “How are they keeping the baby asleep with that racket going on?” Windsor is directly under the Heathrow flight path and planes roar overhead every 30 seconds. As rumours about Prince William and Kate’s move to Windsor from Norfolk gather pace, it seems only fair to warn them.