Filthy Heathen

This morning, as I stood on my doorstep waiting for my dog to piddle out his overnight wee reserves, I yawned and pottered along my path. I did it dressed, against all sartorial advice, in black leggings and a tight black top. Like a chubby 30 something who has decided to give everything up and fulfil her teenage dream of going to study mime in Paris, unable to feel spiritually sated until she can hire herself out to weddings and bar mitzvahs for general ‘climbing a glass-fronted building while eating a banana and looking a bit sad’ larks.

I felt no shame in standing on my doorstep like this, just as I feel no shame when standing there in heinously mismatched clothes as I often do, (when I suppose I must look like a children’s TV presenter having a breakdown), or when standing there in pants and vest, (when I probably look like I’m a washed-out mum of ten screaming kids, barbecuing raccoons on a trailer park in Albuquerque). Is this nonchalance something you earn as you get older; the carefree oblivion you wish you’d had when you were younger, when you had a better body?

There’s something quite nice about standing on your doorstep for longer than it takes to find your keys. You notice more. The tree buds, a cat napping, a proud new fence soaking up its stain. This morning I was treated to the delicate strains of a violin undulating across the road. Must be new neighbours; the old ones used to drink cans of beer at any hour, and shout. I fancied I have more of an affinity with the violinist, when in reality I have drunk beer and shouted way more than I have ever played the lilting opening bars of a Brahms concerto, which is never. But I listened to the violinist like they were an old friend, like we’d been at the same conservatoire in the 80s and got chucked out for smoking pot. Music pinched us together, gave us an imagined history.

I wandered out in my bare feet and stood at the privet hedge, looking up and down the street. The sensible mumsy part of myself thinking “Ugh, you filthy heathen, get back inside, this pavement is probably covered in the dried spatterings of rabies flobber, fox diarrhoea, and Tennants Super Head-Exploder.” The non-sensible part of me just thought it felt nice and natural and warm, and that no one had ever died from dirty soles. (I’ve often worried I am just one Jasmine joss stick away from becoming a total hippy. If you ever see me doing Tai Chi in the street with pigeons on my head, slap me.)

While I wouldn’t want to set up a permanent deckchair in my front garden, ready to pass the time of day with any passerby that didn’t look psychopathic, I do think it’s a shame we’ve lost that ‘chatting over the washing line’ culture that film-makers feel compelled to use in anything set in the 50s. I suppose it depends where you live, but it seems that most people hurry in and out of their houses with their eyes lowered so they don’t have to talk to their neighbours. It’s sad really. There’s something peaceful about wandering out into your lesser-used space in a state of morning disarray, unconscious of image or societal norms, to just watch a snail go by, to watch the world go by, and of course, to watch your dog pee.

You’ve just got to remember to wear clothes that’s all.


One comment

  1. Anna Pethen · July 15, 2013

    Lovely piece! (Stumbled on your blog by chance – it’s great).

    I’ve always liked sitting on my front door steps reading. Somehow it just feels a bit ‘out there’ which is nice – people always say hello when they walk by, and, as you said, you see all the stuff you normally hurry past.

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