I never thought I’d say this, but I think George Osborne has conceived a metaphor of subtle genius. True immortality awaits those who can imbue the everyday with deep significance. I will never again go past closed curtains without a brief, fleeting thought of George and the fragment of zeitgeist which he so neatly captured.
Actually, it goes beyond admiration. I share his preoccupation. The significance of curtains, as anything other than a way of keeping darkness in or out as required, rather passed me by till I had children, but now I get their deep power to disturb. It was only when I was forced to pound the streets, pushing my squawking bundle of discontent in his pram, that I started to look with narrowed bloodshot eyes at the window dressings of others.
My focus of hatred was those houses where, I knew, small children also resided. Why, as I wandered in all weathers trying to wring sleep from my baby, did these houses have bedrooms with curtains neatly pulled? I imagined the babies, sleeping angelically, while their mothers used the time to drink tea, read a book, or even (unimaginable luxury) brush their hair. The envy grew as our family did. Rising before 5am, leaving the house, already exhausted, at 8, I would seethe at the houses apparently still shrouded in sleep. Inside them, hissed my venomous, sleep-starved, inner voice, were parents who would leisurely stretch into the day after a blissful slumber, and then go to lift well-rested, beaming offspring from their cots.
Of course, in most cases, behind the curtains there were probably situations similar to our own. I bet that, 80% of the time, x-ray vision would have disclosed fellow nap refuseniks and domestic chaos.
Therein lies the seductive lure of the drawn curtains, both literal and metaphorical. They offer a blank screen onto which we can project our own ideal, so often far removed from reality. It’s not about what we can see; it’s not even, really, about what we can’t see. It’s about envisaging what we ourselves lack, resenting those who we think have it and brooding over what sleight of hand dealt them better cards.
All the same, (sorry George), I think I’d rather run the risk of having the wool (or blinds) pulled over my eyes, than turning into a vigilante who tries to calculate just how much my neighbours are “contributing”. I’d go further, perhaps, and suggest that I would do better to remember that closed curtains might be hiding those who need my help, not just shielding those who’ve got one over on me. That’s soooo 2012.