Tag Archives: The Teas That Bind

A desk of one’s own

Writer Erinna Mettler sparked my interest this week with her post on ‘Desk Envy’. A desk is such a fundamental part of a writer’s equipment, yet so difficult to perfect, it is no wonder that there are thousands of pictures like the ones of famous writers’ workplaces in the post which can inspire the green-eyed-monster. Space in the home is at such a premium – certainly in the UK, even more so in Japan – that for most of us the dream of a quiet room with a huge desk covered with piles of essential writerly clutter and (crucially!) all of one’s own must remain unindulged.

Still, we can dream. I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Lake District recently, with hints of spring breaking through the winter gloom all around. The hotel had this lovely number sitting in a corridor seemingly unused and unloved, except by the chambermaids for heaps of fresh linen mid-change.

hotel desk

Contemplating all that space for half-scrawled notes and pages torn out of newspapers could give me palpitations. Drawers overloaded with notebooks, both filled and still to be used, cartridges and half-full bottles of ink, because this desk would go so well with my favourite pens… until my thoughts crash into the likely shipping costs to get the thing to Tokyo and realise it isn’t to be.

The reality for most of us is that writing space has to exist wherever we find it. When I lived in London I would write sitting on the bed, a cushion behind me and one under the knees, laptop finely balanced, in a pose that would strike dread into the heart of any physiotherapist or yoga teacher. Although it did keep me paying the bills to have my poor spine straightened out again. Having to clear away the detritus which somehow accumulates around any working writer – take the picture of Einstein ‘s desk for evidence – before I could go to sleep was always such a disheartening thought that writing into the early hours became the norm.

It wasn’t until I moved to Japan that I came into possession of a dedicated writing desk. A low wooden table acquired from a neighbour who was moving on, it was the first piece of furniture that I owned after arriving and all the more loved for that. Writing in bed continued, of course, as well as curled up in a chair, but owning a desk was a step up and great things were sure to follow, I was convinced. This is my first Japanese desk, looking far too neat, which means it was probably tidied for the picture:

first writing desk in Japan

Of course, it wouldn’t turn out to be the perfect writing desk, otherwise this post would end here. The difficulty, entirely of my own creation, was that there was so much of Japan to explore beyond those walls that I barely spent any time within range of the desk. Writing again became something to do in cafés, on trains, at work, or in the park. Anywhere, it seemed, but at the dedicated space that had so fortuitously been granted.

For my next apartment, things would have to change. After coming into possession of another donated desk and chair, then finding a wonderful place to locate them – overlooking a neighbour’s well-stocked garden – combined with living closer to the distractions of the city, suddenly writing time was almost abundant. Who wouldn’t want to spend all of their free days here:

Tokyo desk

It is summer, hence the mosquito coil kept close to hand, but the air conditioning unit was right above the window and the fridge a short hop away. ten minutes hate became an unneglected website again, letters were penned and the following spring my book, The Teas That Bind, was written here. All punctuated with essential breaks for pots of tea and staring out of the window. The way the butterflies would dance through the sunshine as it dappled between the trees will stay with me forever.

But life moves on, time intrudes and I find myself between desks again. As ever, my reserve writing haunts are cafés and there is fun to be had attempting to track down a new favourite. Here is where Erinna Mettler surprises me a little, as she writes:

The words don’t really flow in public cafés. For a start off I usually bump into someone I know and then there’s the hovering waiting staff asking if I want a refill, or babies crying and if I drink too much coffee it costs a fortune and I keep needing the loo. The café has to be just right, it has to be big enough to hide in from friends and waiters, with tall ceilings and no piped music, and I prefer diverting decoration and real-fire cosiness.

Although it has been a long while since I was a resident of the same town,  my memories of it being full of serviceable writing cafés would be shattered if they had all been conquered by the big chains. In the same way that we fetishise desks, most writers probably have a picture in their head of the perfect writing café experience, my own heavily influenced by a visit to the actual table in Paris once used by this lady:

Simone de Beauvoir writing cafe

It is doubtful if she would be as prolific today, however, if she were attempting to write in the 21st century version of her home-from-home café, surrounded by loudly obnoxious tourists and gawping fan-girls such as myself.

Perhaps this is the lesson to learn from all this desk adulation: that the space itself is irrelevant. Make it the best, comfiest, happiest place it can be but don’t get too caught up with perfection. While perfection on the page should always be the goal, sometimes the means and the location of production will have to fall far short of the ideal. Sitting at the dream desk racked with writer’s block and indecision would be a far worse fate than that of being jammed into a tiny table at a terrible café with a mug of bad coffee scrawling note after note on napkins because there is no more space in your notebook.

As Hemingway knew,

the great thing is to last and get your work done

because what is created when your backside is in the chair is far more important than the quality leather cushion or cracked plastic that it rests upon. So even if you are lucky enough to achieve perfection in your surroundings, be sure to recall this advice from Stephen King:

It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.

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The Teas That Bind from Lulu

Lulu are running a special offer at the moment, so you can get 20% off  the price of the paperback of The Teas That Bind by using the code SILVERUK, as long as you do it before Friday 27 July.

Don’t miss out!

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Good Reads

If you are into books and talking about books and having a nose at what books other people are reading, then I can recommend the website goodreads as something you are likely to enjoy.

I now have an author profile on the site, so you you can add me, ‘like’ The Teas That Bind, write a review or even, should you so wish, become a ‘fan’. More important than all the adoration though, is the chance to swap recommendations for books.

So go on, tell me, what are you reading?

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ten minutes hate at The Cat’s Meow

I mention that I have family about to arrive and they are so happy to hear the news, we talk of places my relatives should visit while they are here and it is a relief to turn to a less fraught topic of conversation for a short while.

It seems such a small crumb of comfort to be able to offer when what is needed is a feast.

Fortunately there really was a feast on offer last Friday when I appeared as a guest of The Cat’s Meow at Biscotti Tapas in Tokyo to read extracts from The Teas That Bind, answer questions about writing, tea and earthquakes as well as sign some copies of the book.

Thank you to everyone who organised or attended, it was really great to meet you and I hope you enjoyed the evening as much as I did!

Photo by Uchujin/Adrian Storey

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The Teas That Bind at The Cat’s Meow

I will be signing books and talking about The Teas That Bind at The Cat’s Meow on Friday 11 May. The event runs from 8:30-10:30pm and tickets are 3,500 yen, which includes a drink, snacks and a copy of the book.

Come along to hear all about surviving earthquakes, one pot of tea at a time…

You can also get your book signed and ask any questions you have about the book, volunteering, tea, earthquakes and self-publishing. Full details and a form to RSVP are here.

Hope to see you there!

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ten minutes hate is on holiday

Feeling very lucky and grateful to all those who have fought for my right to kick back and enjoy time away from work.

If you are looking for holiday reading material, my recommendation is here.

Back soon!

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Friday May 11th, 8:30 -10:30 PM The Teas that Bind by J.C. Greenway at Biscotti Tapas

Originally posted on The Cat's Meow:

The Teas That Bind

by J.C. Greenway

May 11th, 2012

8:30 -10:30 PM

Biscotti Tapas

¥3,500 (includes welcome drink, snacks, & a book)

What happens when the adventure you signed up for is a whole lot more adventure than you expected?

Join us at the Cat’s Meow for an intimate conversation and reading with J.C. Greenway, author of The Teas That Bind which answers the question, “So, the big earthquake then. What was it like?” and much more.

In her own words:

The Teas That Bind is the story of my year in Japan before and since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, living, observing and questioning what goes on around me.

Comprising posts written for this website – along with emails, tweets and status updates, as well as previously unpublished material – the book covers the days following the disaster and the months beyond, including my involvement…

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