Two days later, Maureen woke to a bright sky full of promise and a light breeze that played at the leaves. The perfect washing day. She fetched the step-ladder and took down the net curtains. Light, colour and texture over the room as if they had been trapped in the space behind the nets all along. The curtains were white and dry within the day. Maureen folded them into bags and took them to the charity shop.
-- Rachel Joyce "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry"
London is a city filled with 8 to 15 million curious people (depending on how you count it). They're all busy living their lives, and avidly watching everyone else as they do it. With so many people-watchers around, it's vital to carve out a private space just for yourself.
Windows are wonderful, don't you think? They let the light in. You can sit by them and daydream while watching the sky. But also, since people can see in, they can become like mini-theatres where passers-by watch the dramas of our lives unfold.
So, how to let the light in, but not the prying eyes? Net curtains, of course.
I find it interesting that in Rachel Joyce's book, net curtains were a symbol of the repressed life that the character Maureen wanted to leave behind. She thought she was hiding behind them and not letting anyone or anything new into her life.
To me, they are a symbol of safety and freedom, and they are an absolute necessity for London living. With gauzy curtains in one's windows, one can live freely and uninhibitedly without worrying that other people are watching.
There is a lovely family who live in the flat across the road. (You can see their window boxes in the photo above). They don't have net curtains (or any curtains at all, as far as I can tell), and in the evenings, I actually have to make a concentrated effort
to look at them as they sit and watch TV or eat their dinner.
Perhaps in the small village where Rachel Joyce's characters lived there were fewer prying eyes, making net curtains unnecessary.
I don't know. But I certainly love the privacy; I love way the sun catches them at certain angles transforming them from ordinary netting into gossamer lace; or, the way the wind makes them billow and dance like summery ante-bellum skirts.
What do you think? How do you keep passers-by or neighbours from peeping into your world?
Curious about London flat living?