Come up and see me sometime - I'm in Soho now, you know
I'm getting ready to move into my own office. I don't officially take possession until next Wednesday but I've already been out buying designer stationery for my desk and rehearsing the phrases that will now become stock parts of my social vocabulary: "Look, why don't you give me a ring at the office?" and "Hey, why not pop up to my office and have a chat about it?"
I've never had an office of my own. There was the room I sat in for nearly 20 years at York University. But although that office enjoyed a splendid view over the artificial lake and was large enough to contain a full-size professorial issue desk, two grey steel filing cabinets and a rubber plant on the edge of premature retirement, the additional presence of a blackboard and eight stacka-chairs provided constant evidence that this was merely a functional site in the university timetable.
Over the years I've also sat in offices for one or two days a week in Broadcasting House. But these have always been shared with a producer and a researcher, and in recent years have become so cramped because of the need to create vast ambient settings in the building for returning management staff, that to think of them as one's own space would be much like asserting property rights over a local telephone box.
My new office will be in Soho. I won't give you the exact address because there are still one or two details to be agreed before I finally move in my computer and wall-planning chart, but I can say that it is no more than five minutes' walk from the Groucho's and Ronnie Scott's and that there's a coffee shop on the corner where they already know me well enough to start brewing up a large expresso before I've even reached the counter.
I'm also delighted to report that the building containing my office is reassuringly squalid. The entrance is dingy enough to suggest that it recently bore cards advertising the services of a "Brand new model. Just arrived in town", the stairway is uncarpeted and the upper half of the door to my office on the third floor is made from the type of old-fashioned frosted glass that positively calls out for faded black lettering announcing the presence of a "Private Investigator".
This does prompt my only anxiety about the entire project. Unless I find myself being visited on a regular basis by svelte blondes wanting me to get the dirt on their errant husbands, it's difficult to know how I'm going to fill up all my time. At home it's always possible to abandon the computer in the back bedroom and busy oneself for three or four hours with such essential domestic tasks as putting the spice jars into strict alphabetical order, but as far as I can see my office provides no equivalent instrumental distractions, unless I take to dusting the communal staircase or putting a lick of paint on the outside doorway.
But these are early days. It will take time for the news to get around. Pretty soon, producers and directors and publishers, who've previously hesitated to contact me at home in case I was fully absorbed making beds or fluffing up the sofa cushions, will realise that I'm now ready for some heavy freelance action. "Hi, is that you, Laurie? I was wondering if you might be interested in an exciting new BBC2 project."
"No problem, Charles. Look, why not pop up to my office and have a chat about it."
In case I'm being unduly optimistic I've already decided on my fall-back position: a small postcard with the crayon legend, "Brand new professor. Just arrived in town".