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Spying on the world from lockdown

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The nosy old lady behind the twitching net curtain has become a British crime drama trope—she always knows what’s going on next door.

The affairs, the burglaries, or worse, the solitary suspicious neighbour. I remember those lacy curtains from my British childhood; you could see out, but no-one could see in. An old lady could spy on the world, secretly.

I have a horrible feeling I have become that lady—but my curtain is electronic.

Just before lockdown we were burgled—and my all-seeing camera was still in its box—we hadn’t bothered to put it up. But having lost my Granny’s stylish art deco brooch, countless earrings bought on holiday in Italy, France, and England, as well as my iPad and laptop I wasn’t prepared to let that happen again.

Enter the dalek. The all-seeing eye above my front door, which feeds information back to my phone. It rings a cheery little bell when someone is approaching. I can check the video and see who it is—almost in real-time.

In lockdown I am getting far more deliveries than usual. The delivery people rarely ring the bell, but I know they have been because my video shows them approaching the front door.

One day there was a man walking from house to house—the dalek rang me three times. I was immediately suspicious. I watched the video. The gasman was checking everybody’s gas metre. Panic over.

The other night at 3.45 am the bell on my phone rang. Twice. I woke up with a jump. Someone must be creeping around! I grabbed my phone and there, its white antennae waving at me, was a giant moth, walking all over the camera. A scary creature of the night at that magnification, but not the one I had expected. The moth and a stalking black cat have so far been my only night visitors.

If I was not in lockdown, I am sure I would not be so obsessive. But we watch the world through electronic devices these days, we zoom our friends and family, listen to music and talks from the other side of the world, see bands doing one night stands from their living rooms, and stream every film and TV series we never got round to watching when everybody else did. Hello, Grey’s Anatomy!

So I go out to check reality, but my obsession follows me on my walks. My rescue greyhound Swifty and I climb up Narrabundah Hill, a favourite outing for those in the Molonglo Valley. I get to the top and admire the view over Canberra, the rolling blue hills, the buildings in the distance. If I squint I can see the Parliament House flagpole.

The dalek rings its cheery bell. I check the video and ring my husband at home. “Those books you were waiting for have arrived,” I tell him. He, momentarily forgetting we have the dalek, exclaims—”How on earth do you know that? I’ve just answered the door.”

“I am the all-seeing lady behind the net curtain,” I tell him.

Image by Darkness via Unsplash

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