I never regarded voyeurism as a vocation, I just kind of drifted into it. Having a designated smoking window that looks directly onto a dozen brightly illuminated flats on the other side of the street didn’t help. I’m sure you’ve seen Hitchcock’s Rear Window as many times as I have. The difference in my case is that most of the people in the flats opposite are clearly up to no good. Also I don’t have a broken leg. What follows is my report on the suspicious behavior I have accidentally observed through my binoculars over the past two years. If I don’t turn up next week call the police or something.
1. The “Dead” Flat
In two and a half years I have never seen anybody at these windows. I’ve never seen anybody on the balcony, never seen a window opened or a curtain twitched. Nothing. I would have concluded the place was just empty if it wasn’t for the fact that, very occasionally, I see a dim light from somewhere deep inside.
I think it’s only reasonable to assume these rooms are stacked floor to ceiling with dead bodies, sacks of cocaine, or CIA counterintelligence gear. I wasn’t born yesterday.
2. The Newspaper Lady
Notable as the home of one of my street’s battier residents the windows of the Newspaper Lady’s flat are, as the name suggests, liable to open at any moment and disgorge quantities of newsprint. Two or three times a week Newspaper Lady disposes of her broadsheet dailies by simply tossing them out of the window. Multiple copies of Gazeta Wyborca descending from a fourth floor window can represent a not inconsiderable hazard to passing pedestrians. Small dogs have been severely injured. On one memorable occasion an elderly gentleman on his way home from an appointment with Doctor vodka was battered to the ground by a rare double volley of Rzeczpospolita supplements. He sat for some minutes contemplating their sudden and inexplicable arrival before getting slowly to his feet and heading back the way he’d come.
Few theories have been advanced for this extraordinary behavior, beyond the suggestion that Newspaper Lady is simply as mad as a box of frogs. There is a certain amount of other supporting evidence for this, such as her habit of repeatedly and loudly slamming her window in time to the chorus of the Polish national anthem, but I’m inclined to believe there’s more to it than straightforward raving lunacy. Whatever the truth, she bears watching.
3. The Brothel
I call it “the brothel” just because my mum concluded that’s what it was after five minutes of careful observation. Admittedly she appeared to have based this conclusion on the fact that there were two young women on the balcony talking to some guy on the street rather than any kind of hard evidence but, apparently, mothers know these things. Having received this interesting intelligence I devoted considerable time to studying the place, which was probably the opposite effect to what had been intended. It’s certainly very odd whatever is going on over there. Female residents seem to come and go more often than a startled gorilla in a revolving door and most of them spend an inordinate amount of time smoking cigarettes in their dressing gowns on the balcony. The fact that all of them are remarkably unattractive may count against the brothel theory or may just mean I’ve watched Pretty Women too many times; i.e. more that once.
4. The Newlyweds
When the newlyweds moved in a few weeks ago I devoted considerable time to staring into their flat as they went about the business of decorating and turning it into a home. Since they hadn’t gotten around to buying curtains I was often able to give them a cheery goodnight wave as they made their way from the bathroom to bed. Either they didn’t recognize the brooding silhouetted figure across the street as a famous Polandian writer or they were just shy, but they never waved back. A few days ago they inexplicably and rather hurriedly plastered big sheets of brown paper over their windows. I don’t know what’s going on behind there but I find it highly suspicious.
5. The Posh Place
The Posh Place is the only flat on the street with a paved balcony. It also has state-of-the-art PVC windows, clean white net curtains, and one of those digital thermometer thingies. Everybody hates them. The other thing the Posh Place has is its own security camera. Every evening Mrs Posh Place comes out onto the balcony and twists the camera round so that it points at their giant white SUV parked on the street below. Presumably they then spend the rest of the night watching the feed with a finger poised over the police speed dial. I don’t know why they bother really. It would be impossible to start the thing up without waking half of Krakow and reversing it onto the street invariably involves demolishing the odd building or crushing the occasional screaming pedestrian beneath its wheels.
6. The Front
First it was a second-hand clothes shop with a sideline in German translation (no, I don’t know how that worked either), then it was am estate agents for about five minutes, and now it’s a personal finance shop (read ‘loan shark’). Can you say “mafia front?”
I just took a closer look at the photo I took for this post and found this:
Tell me that isn’t a mad septuagenarian taking a photo of me as I take a photo of her building
You know that thing I said about calling the police; seriously, if I suddenly stop writing tell the British Embassy about Newspaper Lady. Must go now. Doorbell at 1:30 in the morning… that’s odd