writers cabinVery early this morning we walked out at Berthem. I know, I know; I keep going on about the place. But this morning the weather was glorious and once again we passed the simple cabin in the picture, nestling in its pine grove, surrounded by flat, dark, freshly-ploughed earth and maize stubble and my imagination got to work. I keep picturing myself there, shut inside, scribbling away. How many books would I write, if only I could retreat to that cabin? It’s all rubbish, of course. Productivity isn’t a result of surroundings, is it? I am not even certain that the cabin belongs to a writer of some sort, and yet… And yet there is such a concept as the writer’s cabin, well-analysed in David Wood’s December journalistic essay, ‘The lure of the writer’s cabin’,  in the New York Times. And the place out at Berthem fits the bill, being small, sparse and basic. (Should anybody out there know to whom it belongs, please let me know.) As Wood puts it, ‘Between world and word there is both a bridge and a chasm … we know that a manifesto, a book, even a well-turned, well-timed phrase can change the world. Writers are at times, as Pope decried, fools in dunce’s caps. But they can also be magicians, conjuring other worlds, brave new possibilities. The cabin is one culturally powerful image of that semi-detached space in which those creative discontinuities are spawned. It seems to hold a secret, but behind the first there hides another. If the first secret is that to write, one needs a blank sheet of paper, or a blank screen, the second secret, the secret of the cabin, is that one does not strictly need a mountain or a shack at the end of a trail, off the grid. Rather, a table, a chair, somewhere simple, free of distraction. For some, even a cupboard in an office building no-one is using that day will do.’