I live in a small and perfectly formed flat in east London. Yes, I know: a writer who lives in Hackney. In my defence, I do not own a cat (or a sausage dog), I have never left the house with a ‘hipster topknot’, I cannot ride a bike nor do I own one, and I have never knowingly eaten kale (this will probably soon be rectified, though).
Anyway. I write from my gorgeous flat (seriously, it’s really magnificently cosy and you should be jealous). It’s a studio, so I do that type of living that Apartment Therapy would call ‘small cool’, but most people would call ‘cramped, small and in need of demarcating walls’. I sometimes write from my bed alcove, but not often – it’s bad for my back, and the natural light doesn’t quite reach it. I sometimes write from my comfy red armchair (gifted to me by my lovely friend who carried up the stairs with her equally lovely dad shortly after I moved in). Some days, I lie on my belly in front of the telly, typing until my back spasms. But I save most of my writing for my kitchen table, which is round and wooden and extendable, so I can turn dinner for one into dinner for five if I so wish. The chairs – inherited from the previous tenant, a Polish man called Lukacz who had to return home in a hurry – are uncomfortable, so I have bought cheap brown cushions as seat pads. I have written a lot of words for publications, competitions and pleasure in that corner of my ‘kitchen’, worrying about the microwaves my body is harbouring after 25 months… Now that my laptop is dying and won’t work without having its AC power cord plugged in, it is my exclusive writing nook, where I try to be witty while warming my feet (‘bottom left for a minute, then top, then bottom right, then top – ad infinitum) on the worryingly hot battery block.
And then a few weeks ago, I saw a tweet that I hope will change my productivity levels for the better. It was a studio on the edge of east London, with six empty desks they were hoping to populated by outsiders in an attempt to diversify the studio environment. I expressed interest, we exchanged a couple of emails, I came in to meet them (and them me) and then I was offered a desk. So, readers: I am finally working in an office again! I get to pack a Tupperware’d lunch (cooked in industrial quantities and divvied up at the weekend), my netbook, reading material for the commute and some days, my gym kit. I get to get dressed, get on the bus, sit among those people with regular 9-5 jobs, plug in my Walkman and watch London go by from the top deck of the 55.
I told a few friends about my new work digs and after warm congratulations and general queries about the the set up and how I was settling in, they got down to brass tacks: what were my crushing possibilities? Because this is what friends do: they care enough to ask if there’s anyone you’re perving on, and how they can help facilitate it. Your take-home from this short paragraph, readers: cherish your friends – they love you and want you to be happy.
And I have to be honest, I was excited by this too. Part of the joy of office life is indulging in the harmless and time-wasting exercise of crushin’. I’ve been a freelancer for a few years now, which means that while I sometimes do shifts in proper offices, I tend to do my writing in solitude, in jam-stained pyjamas, with just Twitter and the occasional Channel 4 daytime film for company. I haven’t had an office crush in so long! I mean, at one point, I’d begun to look indecently at my oven door… It means I haven’t done that thing of ‘casually’ looking over at my crush in a nonchalant manner, checking for evidence (physical: ring/territorial hickey; or verbal: ‘my boyfriend loves this song…!”) of their status for absolute yonks. I haven’t had the pleasure of lingering at my open wardrobe wondering what’ll make my bum look extra-perky that day in ages. So this prospect of a new object I could cast my gentle like-feelings unto was easily the second most exciting thing about a move into an office. (In case it wasn’t clear, the first is the possibility of an office Christmas party – finally!)
We’ve all had office crushes, right? They’re the best. The key allure of the office crush is the ease of it. You go to work as normal, and conveniently there, just waiting, is your guy/gal. It’s perfect. Requires almost no strategy – just let the twin forces of the average working day and enforced proximity do their job. Just bring your self in, and observe as non-creepily as possible. If it escalates, good-o. If not, isn’t it lovely to have something to do? As Jim Behrle drew so accurately:
I’ve been at my desk for a couple of weeks now, and so far I’m liking the structure being an office person gives me. I get in before 10am most days, in clean clothes, with breakfast in my belly and fired up* to do some work. As an added bonus, I’m finding that I don’t aimlessly turn on my laptop and idle on Twitter/YouTube/iPlayer when I get home. It’s a nice feeling to have a dedicated workspace with nice people who are chatty-enough and interested and interesting, and who have a weekly office lunch situation going on. There’s also tea and sweets and a communal playlist jukebox where my new office-mates showcase their oppressively good taste in music; I keep my… retro 80s Michael Jackson tastes to my Walkman. It’s working nicely so far.
So, do I have a new office crush? How very dare you? I couldn’t possibly say – what kind of girl do you think I am†?
*working on this bit
†do not answer that 😉