Writing in splendid isolation

Posted April 07, 2014

Writing in splendid isolation

My study looks out on to a field. Last year the field was full of vivid yellow rape seed flowers. This year it’s full of diggers. 

Like much of rural England, it’s having a Nick Boles 'houses are better than green fields' makeover. And as any reputable makeup artist will tell you, the key to a successful makeover is a good base. The builders have taken this advice to heart. They’ve been stripping away every layer of earth right down to the clay surface. 

Every morning, just before eight o’clock, I hear the first rumblings of the mechanical diggers as they track their way across the site. This is followed by a loud clanging each time one of the excavator buckets is emptied (of good quality top soil, should you be interested). The sound level is on a sliding scale between a deafening clatter that crams my head and a low, persistent droning that makes my ears ache. All very annoying. Especially when I’m writing. 

At first I tried to fit in with the builders' work pattern. I wrote in furious bursts when they took their breaks (10 o’clock for tea; 1 o’clock for lunch). Or put my creative juices on hold until 4 o’clock in the afternoon when they downed tools for the day. Of course, by then, my day was practically over too.

I've now resorted to wearing my husband’s noise cancelling headphones. I look like one of those people who guide an aeroplane to its parking stand. Ironic as we’re on the flight path to Stansted! 

For the first few days I sat with two giant ear muffs clamped to the side of my head, cursing their ineffectiveness. However, since discovering the ‘on’ switch I find that they do significantly reduce the noise level. 

The down side is that they also accentuate my incessant humming. I can see why I’ve driven my friends and family crazy for so many years. And they don’t deal with the visual upsets that disturb my concentration like huge mounds of excavated earth, the high steel fence that towers above my garden or the men in high vis jackets prowling past my window. 

My husband works from home a couple of days a week so it’s only a matter of time until he reclaims his headphones. Fortunately I’ve found the perfect replacement (for the headphones, not my husband). It's called The Isolator.  Invented in 1925, this bizarre helmet is designed to focus the mind of the writer by eliminating all outside noise and restricting vision to a narrow slit. Just what I need.

I’m not sure about the oxygen tank though: we have a gas cooker!!!

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