Since moving to a claustrophobic block of flats in which the kitchens over the way afford a generous view of our block's bedrooms and front rooms, I've discovered that venetian blind twitching is just a slightly more stylish and very much more obvious urban version of the same game.
As she does the washing up, Her Over The Way watches a kitchen sink drama of sorts unfolding in my front room. I'm not saying the script is
clever or the scenery well designed, but I can usually manufacture an interesting slice of life. I like to stagger around the flat in a dingy bathrobe at four in the afternoon, baby at the breast, fag on lip, near-empty vodka bottle slipping from the fingers. It may be more for my comic relief than for hers, but I have to do something to retaliate in the cold curtain war.
My growing irritation is manifest in two contrasting forms of behaviour. One involves keeping the curtains closed every day, making the flat dark and depressing, and the plants decidedly unwell. The other involves giving up, letting rip, opening the window wide to the point of vulgarity, and doing private things - watching Little House on the Prairie, feeding my baby - in spite of the lack of privacy.
I wonder what she finds so interesting about my life, and why she doesn't tell me what it is, so I can enjoy it, too. As I lapse into the eccentric behaviour of the justifiably paranoid, my boyfriend takes a much lighter view, so to speak. When he catches the gawper, he greets her with a big cheery wave and wonders aloud if it's possible to be an exhibitionist in your own flat. Sometimes this achieves the desired effect, as she feigns interest in an imaginary dirt mark on the window. Sometimes it doesn't, and she waves back.
Torn between my belief in my right to privacy and my sympathy for her appetite for scandal, I find myself
flicking through the white net curtain section of a home shopping catalogue. I can't decide if putting them up is a definite statement that 'we're on to you, you sad person, try looking through these' or whether it is just the net curtain version of waving the white flag.