In which our writer heroine perches on a huge, wobbly pilates ball and finds she can’t think of anything except falling off it.
The best thing about being a freelance writer is that I can work from pretty much anywhere. Yup, I’m a location rebel. All I need is a reasonable internet connection and my laptop, and I’m away.
In the last couple of years I’ve worked from Paris, Vienna, Penang, Singapore, Venice, Prague and Brno, and on public transport in between. Everything went swimmingly, despite occasional internet flakiness.
But I really came unstuck when I tried to work from Manchester.
Here’s what happened.
I did the usual thing and booked my accommodation through AirBnB, getting what I thought was a reasonable deal on a small house outside the city centre. My train arrived in Manchester at around noon, and I looked forward to having lunch at the station before arriving at my billet for the one o’clock check-in.
After that, a productive afternoon stretched ahead of me. I’d set up shop at the desk I’d seen in the pictures on AirBnB and have a brilliant afternoon writing some interesting articles on technology. The advertised ‘super-fast’ internet was bound to be good enough, because my host was a web designer, and would surely not settle for less.
It’s probably best if I gloss over that afternoon. Never mind that I couldn’t get into the house until after 2pm, and that when I did it was filthy. Never mind that I couldn’t really sit down and work because there was a cleaner trying to deal with some of the filth.
The worst thing of all? There was nowhere to sit.
No kitchen or dining table.
Saggy sofas which curved my spine into a weird arc and made it excruciating to balance my laptop on my knees. And which, if I sat on them in the conventional manner, had me in a pose with my feet sticking out into space.
A bed which did something similar (and was on the whiffy side, to boot).
But the most awkward thing of all was what my host used at his desk instead of a chair. Yup, a pilates ball on a sort of chair-like frame. Good for him – he’s clearly keen on looking after his back.
It wasn’t so great for me, though, because I’m clearly a lot shorter than him. When I sat on the ball, I had to constantly brace myself on the floor with my toes. I wobbled and wiggled so much I couldn’t type.
I’m sure it was doing my spine no end of good, but I spent all my mental energy concentrating on not falling off the ball, which stopped me thinking about what I was trying to write.
To get any work done at all, I had to pack up my bits and pieces and head off to the wonderful Manchester Central Library. This turned out to be the ideal place to work, even if it was a 25-minute walk from my accommodation.
What’s the moral of my story? To be a location rebel you don’t only need a laptop and a half decent internet connection: you also need a proper chair. And a table is always nice, too.
I’ve still got the bad back to prove it.