A WINDOW OF ONE’S OWN | For Hattie Clarke, watching the world out of window is one of life’s great pleasures.
by Hattie Clarke
One of my favourite things about weekends is slow, slippery mornings that don’t require the formalities of dressing or the rapid rampage that is my usual weekday routine. The best moment of the morning is realising what kind of day it is, sleepily gazing out of the window and hoping someone might bring me a cup of tea.
Since leaving home six years ago I have lived in more than ten bedrooms and watched out of nine bedroom windows (one was a basement I’m still scarred by). Moving in between your parents’ house, student accommodation, first flats, second flats, moving in with partners, moving away from partners; the list of possible circumstances goes on and on. But through it all, there has been that moment of splendour on a weekend morning when there is no rush.
For me, watching out of a window is one of life’s great pleasures. From the nest-like shape of your bed, you can observe the day that is going on outside of your walls. You are safe, you are hidden, but you can watch the day unfold without having to interact. It is a mystic ball you can decipher, a looking glass onto reality that appears like a dream, until it’s broken by your husband going out to put washing on the line.
“For me, watching out of a window is one of life’s great pleasures.”
My favourite of all views is out into a garden. For a girl who has grown up in a family of horticulture-obsessed, plant-everything-from-seed, spades-at-the-ready women, it is no surprise I fell in love with gardens while looking out of my grandmother’s window. Like a cat I would sit perched on the windowsill watching the wet grass on a March morning, waiting lovingly for something to change. A spot the difference exercise that would always be interrupted by someone calling me to come and eat breakfast.
When I was studying in London, I lived on a leafy crescent where all the houses had gardens that backed onto each other: a brick fortress surrounding our individually carved out segments of green. I lived on the first floor, so the patchwork of gardens beneath wasn’t accessible, the sash window was my only portal into the secret circular world of the crescent. I’d open up the window to let in the cool air, the smell of the oak trees and Islingtonians barbequing kelp. Lying beside the window, I’d watch the lattice of branches on the clear melting sky.
“Like a cat I would sit perched on the windowsill watching the wet grass on a March morning, waiting lovingly for something to change.”
In the new house – the one I chose with my partner, the one that is full of flaws but is the place where we plan to build something lasting – the windows are in all the wrong places. My portals to the outside are diminished, the garden is hidden by walls, fences and frosted glass. Its overgrown bounty and green mess is shielded from view. It is a travesty. My partner has listened to my sadness about the tiny window in our bedroom that just looks out onto a fence. As we drink our tea in our duvet cave on those lazy mornings, its dark outlook is a painful reminder of all the glorious views of my rented-window past. The lack of windows means the sun never hits the walls or dances across the ceiling, they are cold and weathered from years of being ignored by the almighty fire. But no more!
The architect was very patient with me. She explained why most of my ideas for windows here, there and everywhere probably weren’t structurally sound. But she did appreciate my need to bring the wild metropolis of garden into the house through enormous glass panels. Privacy? she asked. Are you not worried your neighbours will see in? No, the windows come first was the answer. Poor architect.
A few months later, when I saw the gigantic hole the builders had made in the wall, I realised she’d taken me seriously. The old little window lay discarded and punished in the skip outside. Even without the new windows in place, I can see the view, I can feel the peace that comes from looking out onto your own patch of nature that moves and grows according to the seasons and not because it’s been on a mindfulness course. There is a vastness that fills the room, knowing it belongs to the world beyond. Now, if anyone does look out of their window and sees through to us, in our glass house, I hope they’ll see two people who are content to admire the view.
Hattie is a writer and arts professional living in London. When she’s not writing or reading she’s exploring the collections of museums and galleries, hunting for stories.