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Tim Dowling: I’ve decided to try Working From Hammock

·4-min read

I did not greet the looming end of Covid restrictions with any real enthusiasm, because I knew it would change nothing for me. I would just carry on working from my office shed as always. Except for now: this is the brief period of the year (no more than a handful of days, probably not in a row) when my office shed becomes a sweltering torture cube.

Even with the windows open and blinds down, it’s like sitting inside a toaster oven. I walk out to it in the mornings with all the enthusiasm of Paul Newman climbing into the Box in Cool Hand Luke. By midday, the air is sauna-like, the floor too hot for bare feet.

Normally, I’d retreat to a cool part of the house, but these are fully occupied – my whole family is still Working From Home. As a consequence, I find myself Working From Hammock.

There are some luxuries I deny myself because I know from experience that I don’t possess a sense of entitlement large enough to be able to enjoy them. I can’t have a massage in a hotel without thinking: this is nice, but I don’t deserve it. But when my wife bought me a hammock for my birthday in June, my sense of entitlement swelled to accommodate the idea. As I sat in it for the first time, I thought: you deserve nothing less. Then, as if on cue, it rained for a month. Finally, the days of the sweltering cube arrived.

Someone once said that the hardest part of being a writer is convincing your spouse that you’re working when you’re looking out of the window. To that person I say, try Working From Hammock.

“Busy day?” my wife says, looming into view above me.

“Yes, actually,” I say, typing while swaying from side to side. “I’m on a deadline.”

“Your eyes were closed,” she says.

“I’m sorry, do you have an appointment?” I say.

“Must be nice, your endless staycation,” she says. The ropes of the hammock creak as I adjust my position.

“I’m a businessman,” I say. “This is my place of business.”

“That is your place of business,” my wife says, pointing to my shed.

“I literally can’t sit in there,” I say. “Too hot.”

“You live quite a life, don’t you?” she says.

“The wifi is patchy,” I say. “Otherwise I have no complaints.”

I won’t pretend the hammock is conducive to productivity. After a while, the local wildlife starts to get used to you: squirrels and magpies approach; robins land on the hammock’s prow; the tortoise emerges from the undergrowth and strolls along the grass beneath. It’s distracting.

But the first rule of Working From Hammock is: never leave the hammock. When I first make this mistake, I retreat to the house for no more than a few minutes. By the time I return, the hammock has a strange sag, but it’s only when I get closer that I find the middle one lying in the middle of it, open laptop resting on his belly.

“What’s this?” I say.

“You weren’t here,” he says, shrugging.

“I was making iced coffee!” I say, holding up my glass.

“You snooze, you lose,” he says. I think, the opposite is true. When I was snoozing, everything was fine.

“Why aren’t you working on my podcast?” I say. “You’re the producer.”

“We need to record a new voiceover,” he says. “I just sent you a revised script.”

Related: Tim Dowling: have my homegrown courgettes poisoned us all?

“I’m ready now,” I say. “Where do you want to do it?”

“In there,” he says, hooking a thumb over his head to indicate my office. “It’s set up.”

“Fine,” I say.

I end up spending the whole of a perfect hammock afternoon in the Box, doors and windows shut tight against the unwanted background noise of birdsong and children playing, sweat dripping into my headphones as I read into a microphone.

“How was that?” I say, mopping my brow with my T-shirt after yet another take.

“Try it again from halfway,” the middle says, “but slower. And maybe pronounce the guy’s name right.”

Outside I see the oldest one, laptop in one hand, iced coffee in the other, crossing the garden towards the hammock.

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