I have a study in the walk-out basement of my home in Peterborough. It looks out on the back yard which, while small, abuts a conservation area. My view, then, is of trees and bushes, some of which I planted myself. I see a lot of birds, some squirrels, and the odd fox. If all you could see of my neighbourhood were the view from my study, you might well think that I lived out in the country rather than within city limits.
One of my daughters and her husband and child are currently living with me, so I generally have a domestic soundscape while I work. Every now and then, moreover, my little granddaughter—eleven months old—will push the door open and crawl into the room, with one of her parents close behind. I’m not complaining: whatever cost there may be to my focus, their presence is a blessing. And my granddaughter's little uplifted face is always welcome.
The room is filled with books—novels, plays, and non-fiction of one kind or another—and there are also several pictures, some photographs, and a few keepsakes. Some of my work escapes sentimentality, but I am inescapably a sentimental man myself. I hang on to things that have been given me by people I love.
When my step-daughter and I moved into the house some years ago, a friend offered to give it a blessing. She went from room to room chanting and playing a small drum, and then she passed through again, spreading smoke from a bundle of burning, dried herbs in a clay bowl. The scent has long since vanished from everywhere else in the house, but every now and then I smell traces of it in my study.