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In praise of window seats | Hannah Jane Parkinson


There’s a scene in Kieślowski’s Three Colours Blue (one of the greatest films of all time) where Juliette Binoche sits in a cafe, idly pouring coffee on her ice-cream, going through real heavy shit, and looks out of the window at a man on the street playing a recorder. Personally, I wouldn’t be hugely thrilled at a man playing a recorder during a meditative moment, but it’s the sort of unexpected vignette of humanity that sitting by the window affords. I don’t understand having the option to sit at a window and not choosing it. Would you walk around with your eyes closed? Or sit in the dark? Do you watch television with it switched off?

The restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center was called Windows on the World. But all windows are windows on the world. Sometimes they’re not great ones – as anyone privy to a neighbour’s dressing routine can attest – but more often than not, sitting next to a window is the inspiration of painters and writers; a crash course in anthropology; a catalyst for a change in mood or reflection on, like, life.

It’s a proscenium, where the arch is a peeling sash frame, or the scratched, plastic edges of an Airbus, or the little blue curtains of a first-class carriage. The things you see. The people, animals, happenings. With urban windows, the everyday cordiality: drivers and pedestrians thanking each other with nods and semaphore. Amazing outfits. Friends joshing each other. Or the opposite: annoying lads doing wheelies in the road, endangering themselves and everyone else, half a decade before they’ll shake their heads about it all.

Train window seats reveal green and gold treasures for miles. Thoughts appear from fields and tumble from skies. That doesn’t happen when you’re looking at an open-and-closing malfunctioning toilet door, or are buffeted by trolleys selling Mini Cheddars for £5. In a plane, sure, you have to disturb your seat neighbours once in a while – for a wee, to stave off DVT – but it’s worth it, for the pointillist pastel houses of foreign lands; the expanse of seas and undulating rivers never swum.

The significances of window seats are well recognised. That’s why film cuts include characters staring mournfully past droplets of rain on glass, or CEOs looking out from top-floor offices, their feet on desks. It is why we’re all well versed in the Parisian flaneur, strolling the streets before sitting and observing. It’s why you can easily imagine me writing this, right now, watching the shadows on the pavement, the sun warming the glass, my chin in my hand, head turning slowly back to the screen.

Source: TheGuardian