Apparently furniture is more than furniture. It reveals who we are, who we could have been, our secrets, what we stand for. Because of their symbolic and emblematic function, they transport us, symbolise us. Or so Ian Sansom asserts in his new radio essay.
As I was reading this, all I could think about was one thing: I wish I had a better relationship with my bed.
I mean, I like it and all (in all its spartan Ikea glory) - but I’m extremely utilitarian towards it. I give it my body for 8 hours of sleep a night and at dawn we sever apathetically from one another. I never really spend time with in it: reading until the afternoon, lounging carelessly, watching films during the afternoon. All of these activities are done elsewhere. Whenever I do do these things in my bed, I panic - I fear loss of productivity. It’s like a modern day case of neurotic carpe diem; it’s pathological.
But the bed can reward us. I never realized this, but we actually have it to thank for so many of civilisation’s leaps forward. From Proust and Princess Diana to Churchill and Hemingway.
Like wardrobes, beds act as transports for the imagination. Writers in particular love to work on the horizontal. Milton’s Paradise Lost was mostly written in bed. As was much of Winston Churchill’s history of World War Two. Truman Capote claimed that he couldn’t think properly unless he was lying down. He liked to start his day in bed with coffee and then move on to mint tea, to sherry and finally to martinis - his bed was a bar.
Then again, I’m not Truman Capote. Sorry, bed. It’s not you, it’s me.