something was missing from the day I moved in. It took me
a year to figure it. This living room has no mantelpiece.
For this living room has no fire.
There is, therefore, no proper place for a carriage clock;
no proper place for a framed photo on a stand and no proper
place to situate oneself nonchalantly as guests arrive.
There is no traditional place to hang a Christmas stocking,
no really nice place for that really nice ornament, no suitable
place under which to build a fire and no convenient shelf
on which to lay the phone bill just for the meantime.
- and crucially - there is an absence of a focal point.
Visitors rarely mention it, for they are polite and generally
accustomed to central heating. I know though, that they
sometimes sit uneasy. They are not quite sure where to look.
A television set would be a handy second choice, but this
living room has no television. Indeed, when our teenage
boy mentioned this to a friend, said friend said, “
But what do they point the furniture at?” Our boy
replied, “Other bits of furniture”.
Many people use a muted television as a focal point, even
when visitors are present. In this circumstance, always
sit with your back to the TV, facing your hosts. Gauge how
interesting you are by observing their retinal twitches.
New visitors to our flat scan the living room surreptitiously,
seeking a focal point, seeking reassurance. And finding
none. Some leave early, unsettled and literally unfocussed.
They usually go straight home or to the home of some mutual
friend, some normal person, someone - anyone - whose lifestyle
echoes their own, whose living room has a focal point and
whose furniture points at something for a purpose.