Saturday, 01 March 2008

Curtain-twitching and eyes on the street The other day, on the point of going out, I glanced out the window and saw a delivery van in the street, the driver with a parcel at a neighbour's door. I knew they would be at work, so I popped out and offered to take the parcel to save all that hassle of signed notes and 'collection between the hours of'. Apart from anything else, this meant that when I took the parcel round that evening, I had the chance to ask after my neighbour's health, knowing he'd been unwell the previous week. All sounds perfectly routine don't it? Only later did I ponder that whole biz of looking out on one's neighbourhood - referred to as 'curtain-twitching' from one point of view, or 'eyes on the street' from another. I reflect on it here because I'm going through the proofs of a forthcoming text and just came across this bit in a section about privacy: "Older people can use signs of occupation of the home for mutual support, taking a degree of responsibility for one another. Against this, the phrase ‘curtain-twitching’ is commonly used to denigrate such or similar actions. The easy misuse of the phrase is damaging, since the readiness to have ‘eyes on the street’ is a key component of neighbouring. In this sense, over-emphasising privacy threatens older people, both as subjects of concern (whose difficulties might go unnoticed) and in their legitimate role as co-custodians of the neighbourhood." Well I'm not that old yet, but I'd like to think that if I ever get to be, social attitudes towards curtain-twitching will have dissolved in favour of more sensible notions of 'eyes on the street'. And if you want the source for the above quote (and you do, badly, in order to help keep an impoverished consultant fed) watch this space.

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