Sunday, 14 September 2008


The Old Writing Desk as it stands today
Sitting at this old writing desk unleashes a store of memories. I first saw it in an auction room at Post Office lane, with the then not inconsiderable price tag of £30. As long as I can remember I have nurtured an ambition to be a writer. My childhood heroes were mostly authors, and ever since reading The Coral Island by R.M.Ballantyne, I had been captivated by the written word. Within my family circle this obsession was well known, they were my captive readership for my first written efforts. They were subjected to poetry readings at the dinner table, and I lengthened many a winter evening reading an essay for which I had received some praise at school. I even produced a magazine, all eight pages handwritten, the content thieved from various papers and magazines. My mother was the sole subscriber and her encouragement kept me going.
One drizzly Saturday afternoon I made my pitch for the writing desk I pointed out to my mother, what a tragedy it would be if my career as a writer were to be lost, for the sake of a paltry 30 quid. She succumbed. The desk was closely scrutinised for any sign of woodworm and the deal was made.
On the following Wednesday evening it was delivered to the front door of our house, the men disappearing as soon as the delivery docket was signed. My brother and I took over, trundling the desk through the house towards my bedroom, a tiny attic garret, atop a narrow zigzagging staircase. Negotiating the desk up to the room was tricky, my brother and I heedless to the tirade of directions coming from mother at the bottom of the stairs. The mahogany bureau was eventually ensconced beside the bedroom window, my delight was unbounded.
The desk had everything I needed, a drop-down leaf for writing on, several pigeonhole apartments inside for stationery, and a little drawer for pens. Underneath the writing top were four large drawers for additional storage. This was my literary launching –pad, from this little room, on my rustic desk, I would unleash myself on an unsuspecting literary world! My 14-year-old expectations were high.
As the novelty of the writing desk began to dwindle it became smothered with books and papers. At last it was just another prop for bric-a-brac in my claustrophobic space. Years later I would dust it down, and give it pride of place in the sitting room. The house hasn’t changed much over that time, except for the glaring absence of my mother.
She never saw her pushy 14 year-old rise to literary greatness; she knew even then that youthful dreams are fragile things. Many of her own were dashed early on, and yet she continued without any rancour. I fancy she is pleased to see the old desk, salvaged all those years ago, standing proud and polished at the hub of things in her house.
This piece of antique furniture speaks of more than shattered dreams. It is a testament to a woman who had the heart to share in the aspirations of a child. At the end of it all perhaps, the power of that dream has more enduring worth than any book or poem.
Gerard O'Shea

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Write on, write on boy!