We inhabit a small apartment. Yet I don’t believe we’ve ever complained. You see even if we haven’t much physical space we’ve managed to create a psychical space. It helps having ear pods and headphones to accommodate the variety of preferences whether television, internet or music.
Plus we have naturally segmented offices or work benches where are positioned our respective electronic devices from which we connect to the outside world and our inner being. I explain my facility with confined spaces by recalling it isn’t the first time I’ve lived as a cave dweller or resided in a room with only a bed and desk. In Lower school boys slept in dormitories. In Fourth form in Upper school I shared a room with Keith Forsythe. We each had desks at opposite ends of the room; the beds were between separated by several feet. The desks were each equipped with a gooseneck lamp over which I regularly draped a towel at 3:00 am while studying and after having gingerly turned Keith’s head to the side to overcome his snoring. Keith slept soundly. He was Captain of First hockey, admission to which was normally limited to boys three or for years older in Upper Sixth form. Let me put it this way, I never had trouble scoring a goal when our gymnastics Master sent us packing to the outdoor rink on a winter’s day while he cured the chill in the Master’s common room with a snort.
it wasn’t until I became a Prefect in Upper Sixth form that I had my own room. Though I hasten to interject that when I was in Fifth form I had a remarkable room with another chap. It had a fireplace. Aside from the Prefects’ common room and the Masters’ or the Headmaster’s quarters I never saw another fireplace in the entire school. In retrospect I see now that the House Master (whose residence immediately adjoined the room) likely entrusted the fireplace and the firewood to me and my roommate as evidence of his unwritten approbation.
While an undergraduate I had my own room throughout residency on campus. Things were back to the old business of sharing space when I went to law school where in first year I shared a room on the third floor of Domus Legis, a fraternity rewarded in second year with a house which three of us shared. But the house had rats so maybe that’s overselling it! During my final year at law school I shared a small apartment further along Spring Garden Road with a young lawyer whom I rarely saw.
I’ve never lost my comfort with small spaces. I like to quip that my first house was so small I had to back into it! Nor have I ever fully understood the attraction of large spaces. Even when surrounded by multiple rooms on multiple floors I ended committing myself to three areas only; viz., kitchen, drawing room and bedroom. Though admittedly when I still owned the Steinway grand piano – that is, before retiring and downsizing – the music room was another regular resort. Now I have instead an electronic piano which aside from being manageable is portable.
The simple explanation of the willing paucity of space is that I am not a gardener and I don’t watch television. My outdoor activity is mobility (bicycling and driving my car). My indoor activity is immobility (writing, piano and reading). This highly restrictive behaviour is nonetheless tolerable in my mind because it embraces the two imperatives of existence, exercise and self-expression. I feel compelled to note at this juncture that my erstwhile practice of law was the mandatory interlude to this otherwise polarized status. I am uncertain whether I might credit the practice of law as either energetic or creative. But now at the end of my life I haven’t the attraction I might once have had to diligence. Instead I am content to do what I have always enjoyed. No doubt limitation is part of the recipe.