Thursday, 9 January 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

Tel us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us OUTSIDE.

East Ham Market

East Ham market in London – complete with gate and fence, to keep the shoppers out or to stop them leaving. Probably at night everything is closed with the danger that someone might have the idea of breaking in and stealing things.

I think today we lock everything outside, confronted with permanent worry of being robbed..

When I was a kid I grew up in a poorer part of London, we even used newspaper in the outside toilet now and again if there was no other suitable paper available; of course in the old days no big problem. The soft hygienic touch we are today accustomed to did not yet exist, but this being perhaps a subject for a blog about telling how it was in the olden unhygienic days, I will continue. I remember if we kids played outside in the street, all the street doors were open, the key was only used to lock the door if the house was empty. There was no danger that someone might walk in the door and take something. We had nothing to take.

Things change over the years. I moved to Switzerland, my parents moved to another part of London and eventually had a house with an inside toilet and bathroom, but now there was something to take if you were not careful. Not that my parents had a lot more, but the toilet paper was soft and comfortable and there were fitted carpets on the floor: at that time if you had fitted carpets, you had made it. I remember visiting my mum and dad with my family from Switzerland. We all went on a shopping trip at the local mall and returned home in the early evening. We entered the house and I switched on the lights in the living room.

That was a mistake, mum rushed into the room and jumped at the curtains and drew them immediately. “Pull the curtains, pull the curtains” she was saying in an excited loud voice. I quickly looked around in the room to see what we were hiding, but everything was the same as always; no gold bars laying on the table, no Picasso painting on the wall, just the normal working class uninteresting surroundings. We did have a painting on the wall that mum had bought in the local supermarket depicting an oriental lady, but I realised that this painting was hanging in more than 50% of the local houses.

“What’s wrong mum?”

“If you put the light on and the curtains are not drawn, everyone can see inside.”

I decided not to reason with mum, she was always right, but I realised with the increasing wealth and better standards, people began to lock themselves in. On the same visit to London we were staying at my parent’s house and it was evening. Dad was doing something in the kitchen which backed onto the garden. I heard a noise and my dad was in the garden. I asked what happened. He told me that he looked out and saw a “bloke” (we are cockneys) jump over the garden fence, run down the garden with the neighbour running after him. This “bloke” had wanted to break into one of the houses.

Another visit I paid a few years laterI was on my own at my dad’s place. I was helping him with the housework and used the vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaners were not use so much in my family, more for showing everyone that we had one. I was probably doing something wrong and the vacuum cleaner exploded sending up a cloud of dust. I do not think the vacuum cleaner had ever been used so much. Anyhow, I put the vacuum cleaner outside by the house wall for the next rubbish collection and bought my dad a new one. We had no problem with the broken vacuum cleaner. Five minutes after I had put it outside, it disappeared, no longer there. Someone had hopped over the garden wall and taken it. Dad and I had to have a chuckle, the vacuum cleaner motor was kaput, but otherwise it just looked like a normal vacuum cleaner. How times change.

Back in Switzerland we have locks on most of our windows to be opened with a key as well as metal blinds. There is a special safety lock on the door and a motion detecting light outside on the porch; ot for our felines that they can see better in the dark, but since my neighbour’s apartment was broken into during the afternoon and she had some valuable jewellery stolen, the neighbour and I both had one fitted.

Today we all live inside, but we are all worried about those living outside that might want to come in.

I was going to write something about being a “foreigner” living in Switzerland, but realised I am today more Swiss than English and no longer have the alien touch. I even speak the language. If in Rome Switzerland do as the Romans Swiss do. I still do not have a numbered Swiss bank account, but to compensate the Swiss state collects my tax money. 

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