Illustration by arch. Matteo Pericoli
When I was young my mum used to complain that I spent too much time daydreaming. That was because I liked to stare at the sky. She thought that while I was dreaming I could be doing something useful as well, like knitting. Now that I am a writer, I have the privilege of daydreaming as part of my job. And I still love to gaze at the sky. The view from my workroom in my North London house has a lot of sky, and I couldn’t work without it. There are never any structured thoughts in my head when I look up. They just come and go and change shape like the clouds.
I have a wonderful view of Alexandra Palace. This is not a royal palace but a 19th-century leisure center for exhibitions and events — a people’s palace, known locally as “Ally Pally.” It was the place from which the world’s first regularly scheduled television transmissions were broadcast, in the 1930s, and the famous antenna is still there. Below it I can see the doors of the studios where modern television began, and I find that thrilling. The palace is still a venue for the occasional exhibition, but mostly it just sits there on the hill, waiting for someone to find a good use for it in this information age.
In the foreground, close to my house, is a school. I have come to know the sounds of that school so well that it has become my clock. As early as 7:30 the first children arrive, twittering into the playground like the first birds of the morning. During the din of their playtimes I always stop working to have a cup of tea.
The school sits among Victorian row houses just like mine, with their jumbled chimney pots and television aerials. When I see them under my mass of sky, with Ally Pally up on the hill, then I know I am home.