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Ron Bendell: Bring back an old favourite to protect our modesty

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 19, 2014


Ron Bendell

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Don’t know about you, but I find there are certain aspects of life that call for a touch of privacy.

Getting undressed for bed, perhaps, or a visit to the smallest room. Especially so when you have managed to invite a young lady back to your place.

Even more mundane things are best enjoyed without too big an audience. Tucking into your supper, for example, clearing out the sideboard or being slumped in front of the telly having a good scratch.

For me this is quite simple, Yes, the odd car or tractor may whizz up and down the narrow lane outside my home but all around are fields and if anyone feels the need to wade through muck and mud for a bit of voyeurism, good luck to them. Just look out for the mantraps.

It always amazes me when walking down a street or through a housing estate at how open to public gaze so many leave their lives. There, through brightly polished glass, are ornaments, furniture, pictures on the wall and members of the family going about various tasks. Half of you wants to stand and stare, the other knows you would die of embarrassment if your eyes met those of someone looking out.

At night time or during these long winter evenings the problem is even more acute. All that intimate activity and no one can be bothered to draw the curtains.

I blame American TV. Those elegant and well lit Manhattan apartments with views out across the cityscape enjoyed through huge picture windows without giving a second thought that someone in the opposite block is looking back at you.

And do not forget the horror movies in which – even though there is an axe-wielding murderer on the loose who is looking for his tenth victim that night – the pretty young heroine decides to take a shower never thinking to check the back door or lower the bathroom blind.

This spirit of “who cares who looks in on me” has been picked up by programme-makers closer to home. Marketing executives John and Jenny have sold their home in Virginia Water and have bought this ancient manor house on Dartmoor or the Quantocks for a snip at £1.8 million and have budgeted a modest £750,000 to turn in into something resembling the departure lounge at Bristol Airport.

The project will involve the delivery of vast steel girders and enough concrete to cover a football pitch and tonnes and tonnes of enormous sheets of glass that will give sitting room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms breathtaking views across the landscape. The presenter will positively dribble enthusiasm at the end result.

Trouble is, while John and Jenny can then sit back and gape rapturously at the world outside, the world outside can gape at them.

Do they represent a new breed of people? Do they never occasionally slob around in an old dressing gown and tatty bed socks safe in the knowledge that no other living soul will ever see them? Or do they have no modesty whatsoever?

That last point is clearly the case. You do not need the physical evidence of transparent walls to tell you that growing numbers of folk are happy to tell the world of their every last thought, deed and intimate action.

They tweet, they blog, they Facebook and use endless other electronic means to keep us all informed.

All a bit sad really but the thing is, you do not have to tune in to it all if you do not want to. No one is standing over you with a hammer forcing you to buy the latest gizmo to access it all let alone turn it on – unlike those well-lit windows that you can avoid only if you bind your eyes with a black cloth.

A stroll through any residential area continues to be uncomfortable and disconcerting so can I use this platform to campaign for a return to a simple thing that made life more private for those in the past? Let us bring back net curtains.

Once they were an essential for every home – how awful life was on the days they had to be washed – but now they seem to be very much a thing of the past. But why? They are not kitsch or scruffy and with a bit of flair could be made fashionable.

Yes, let us see a bit of lace draped across the glass once more. Just think. You can strip off or go to the loo without anyone knowing – and if that young lady fails to turn up at least you will have something to twitch.

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