I am inquisitive. I like to eavesdrop on conversations. It always fascinates me what people think. We make a lot of assumptions just by how people look. Sometimes I am surprised by what I hear people say, as in the rather staid-looking woman last week who couldn't give a damn whether Leo smoked cannabis or not. "Sure he's only human. He was a young fellow. I'd say half of the others did too but they wouldn't admit it." Sometimes it proves everything I suspected. Suffice it to say that there is a disturbing tinge of racism in Ireland. I find some of these attitudes unsettling, but I keep my head in my newspaper.
I am also fascinated by the things we surround ourselves with. I was walking along a residential street in the five o'clock darkness recently and I couldn't help casting a glance into living rooms that were all lit up. There was one where every inch of the wall was covered with family photographs. I wasn't close enough to see what, but they looked quite formal, and I suspect the 'family snaps' were on the fridge or hall table.
My own fridge is a bit sad. As well as a few holiday and relative snaps, there is the 'Me and…' gallery. I have to admit that I still have George Martin and me on the fridge. I met him circa 1992 but it still matters! Some of these pics are what we want to remember. Some are what we want people who know us to think we value. As relationships break up people are expunged from the family record. I once heard of a mother-in-law who cut her son's ex-wife out of every single photograph that she laid her hands on.
There was a time when every farmhouse you went into had an aerial photograph. Satellite pics are popular now. I have odd memorabilia from plenty of countries which is meant to convey an image of someone who is cosmopolitan and really a citizen of the world, who just happens to live in Kilkenny but could just as easily have chosen Timbuktu.
When I go into a house I am always on the lookout for clues to their values. Are the golf clubs, or skis, placed so prominently that you can't miss them? For some people it is the dogs and how they treat them. This varies from them being allowed limited space, to having the run of the house and being more important than humans. These people are making it clear that there is no place in the house for someone who is not a dog lover.
I am good with that. I like the stories of freezing castles in the olden days when guests were asked on their way to bed would they like one dog or two.
I know a woman who has all of her shoes in a line on the landing neatly paired. We call her Imelda Marcos behind her back. Then there are those people who put up their qualifications in a section of the house they refer to as the study. I have been tempted to frame my primary cert. It has all been downhill since then.
Today's minimalist spaces scare me. Without a conspicuous display of books, DVDs and CDs I might have to develop a personality. I am beginning to have a wall space problem. If I want a bit of visual peace I have to look at the ceiling, or the floor.
I asked one woman what in the house would be last to go. "The Aga," she replied without hesitation. Everyone wants to talk about it. Has she ever cooked on it? I doubt it. But it tells the world that she is an Aga person.
Sunday Indo Living