MAN'S WORLD

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Indy Lifestyle Online
ONE OF the pleasures of working from home is that whenever the little triumphs and tragedies of ordinary family life occur, I can just go upstairs and shut the door. Men who toil in offices must sometimes wonder what they're missing. I know exactly what I'm missing. I can hear the thuds, the screams, the screech of chalk against wall. Some days I can feel it right through my shoes.

Occasionally my curiosity gets the better of me, and I leave my computer for an exploratory trip downstairs. While I'm down there I try to maintain a fog of false concentration about my person, one that says "I'm still working". I notice that Barnaby's Gang Of Four-Year-Olds is meeting at ours this afternoon. There is paint on the carpet, and everyone is naked. I may issue a few peremptory orders, like "Don't stand on the tortoise", but mostly I try not to get involved in their business.

My wife doesn't like it when I come down. She often has friends over, and she doesn't want them to see me. I think she sometimes tries to pretend that I work in the City. It's bad enough that they can hear me playing the guitar, without me coming right into the kitchen to search for more custard creams, wearing a T-shirt I got free with a four-pack of Rolling Rock. She swears at me until I go back upstairs.

Recently circumstances forced me to leave the house for the first time in three years, to go and work in a real office. It was no big deal: a few days a week for a few weeks, just enough time for the novelty of the Northern Line to wear off. My wife seemed to think the experience would do me good, and that I would gain some much needed self-respect by joining, albeit briefly, the world of work. Blinking in the oily sunshine on the platform at Latimer Road, I began to wonder.

On day one of Boo Radley Gets A Job, I learned two things: (1) showing up at 11am with wet hair is not the best way to create an impression, and (2) the modern workplace is a completely doughnut-free environment. I don't know where I got the impression that there would be doughnuts, maybe from television, but I could not hide my disappointment when I saw people eating wholewheat toast. On the second day I brought some doughnuts, and as I ate them co-workers stared at me as if I were smoking crack. I spent all day typing at a computer. I kept thinking, I could be doing this at home, where there's bacon.

When I finished my first three-day week, my son tearfully said he never wanted me to go to work again. At last, I felt like a real commuter. But I began to realise his complaint wasn't really because he missed me. It was just that he disapproved. He likes to know where I am while he's busy at school all day. No father of his was going out to work, not if he could help it.

So I promised. Never again.

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