Writers’ Rooms used to be a weekly column on the Guardian book page: a photograph of a writer’s room and a few paragraphs from the writer about the room and his or her writing routine. I think I was more envious of the lifestyle of the writer—imagine being able to spend all day every day devoted to writing!—than the rooms themselves; I prefer to think I’m like Diana Athill, who said in her memoir Somewhere Towards the End that becoming a writer had made her less materialistic and all she really needed was a place to sit and something to write with. Having said that, I’ve been pretty lucky with my own writer’s rooms over the years.
When I first started writing, in about 2003, I lived in this tiny tatami room in Tokyo, no running hot water, squat toilet, and no bathroom (I went to the sento, the bathhouse, every day for five years!)
Then my fortunes changed. I got a new job—still in Tokyo—and moved up in the world. I acquired not one, but two writer’s rooms: one was the lovely cosy kitchen of my new apartment in Co’ Co Heights, and the other the lovely cosy tatami room in the weekend beach house I rented from my friends Greg and Maki.
And now, living in colonial decadence in my vast Borneo bungalow, I’ve converted the little pink room off the kitchen into a writer’s room with a view of banana trees, coconut palms, exotic birds, and the occasional monkey. If only the Guardian still did the column and I was a famous author! My tropical writer’s room would beat Philip Hensher’s couch any day. (I said I wasn’t materialistic. But I never said I wasn’t competitive.)