Coales' Notes: Working out in the open: Gordon Coales arrives for the first day of work at Ars Longa and discovers a fear of open spaces

MONDAY Day one, year one. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to keep this up.

I was up at the very crack this morning, took a train down to Euston (no seat), and then on by tube. I arrived at the Ars Longa offices at 9.30 sharp. Everyone was already there.

Having been introduced all round by Di, I suggested that the best thing would be for me to spend the morning settling into my office. Di said: 'Well, this is where you are,' indicating a desk in the room (in which she and two other people appeared to be working). I observed that it seemed very spacious, but that, while I was reluctant to throw people out, I wouldn't of course be needing all these desks myself. Di said: 'No, Gordon, we all work here.' I asked how long this arrangement was intended to last. They said it was like that always.

I took Di to one side. I said I didn't want to make a thing about it - but just to establish the point that I was, officially, Project Co-Ordinator. She said: 'Well, we're all Project Co-Ordinators, apart from Susie. That's not a problem is it?'

So I must accept that, for the time being at least, I am to be working in an open-plan office. I find it a most unsatisfactory concept. For it seems to exclude those vitally important intervals of reflection and introspection which have always been (for me) essential to pacing out the working day.

I feel more tired now than I have felt for a long time.

Then we went off for a long lunch, and talked about the 'Ars Longa Report on the Arts and Their Audiences' - chiefly designed to annoy the Arts Council. I have agreed to take charge of this personally. I mentioned my old idea for an Arts Watchdog Body, which they liked.

One way in which this is so very different from the Centre is the attitude of refreshing frankness towards the arts. At one point the young man (called Rory) suddenly said: 'Well, I'm afraid Sonya Wren is moving into her boring period.' Di said: 'Yes, I know.' I asked what he meant. Rory said: 'What I mean, Gordon, is that the first show is fine, and then for the next one you bust your arse finding them this beautiful disused warehouse, and then they just stick a postage stamp in the middle of one wall, and expect everyone to go: 'Oh Wow] The space is transformed]' That's the boring period.'

He added that many artists on their books seemed to have simultaneously made this move in the last few months. Di said: 'I don't want to give Gordon a too negative impression at the start.'

Of course, it is particularly difficult to get down to anything with these conversations going on, as they are, almost continually.

By 7 o'clock, I thought it must be all right for me to sneak off and get some kip, but Di asked if I was doing anything, and I felt unable to refuse. So we went down to a South Bank concert by one of their proteges, an ensemble called Hypnos, premiering something. There was a kind of light-show, but unfortunately I don't remember much more about it. Then we went out for dinner, and Di explained to me how extraordinarily talented Rory was, and how she didn't expect him to stay with Ars Longa much longer. And then finally I was able to head for the Barbican.

Luckily Archie's lodger was at home. I haven't got a very clear impression of Gunnar yet. He went straight back into his room after letting me in. And I cannot honestly complain that his music is too loud. But I can hear it. The sheets on my bed, though perfectly clean, are coloured brown. Oh sleep.

TUESDAY I'm pretty much at the end of my tether. Spent the entire day sitting at my desk trying to make some preliminary progress on the report. And I have noticed there are actually rooms on the floor above completely unused. Then Di dragged me off to see a dance company. I don't know why she's doing this. Hospitality, I suppose. Again, I remember little. Gunnar's music continues. Not a moment's relaxation.

WEDNESDAY A comedian tonight, I think, and I can remember Di apologising to me.

THURSDAY Best to leave it.

FRIDAY At last, in my own house again. It has been quite a week.

This morning Di said to Rory: 'I'm afraid you're right. We're being let down seriously.'

Rory said (in a Grandstand voice): 'Shock result. The Arts - 8. Their Audiences - 0.'

Di went on: 'Well, I'm sorry to say so, but it's true. I mean, look at Gordon. I've taken him to see our basically four star acts this week - and he slept through every one of them. I mean, I was embarrassed. It's the most direct kind of judgement. We have to ask ourselves: are we that bad? Last night, he even managed to sleep through a private view - which you wouldn't normally think was possible, given there were no chairs.'

I laughed, and said I thought I would take the afternoon off. I had a really good catch-up on the train home. I don't think I'm going to last.

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album