One of the attractive aspects of the houses in the street where I live is the shutters that grace each façade. They come in all shapes and shades; some dull and weather-worn, others brightly painted with blue as the colour of choice.They are of course, absolutely essential to keep the house cool during the heat of summer but also they do a sterling job keeping in the warmth during the short (so I’m told) but dry, cold winters.
For some of the street’s inhabitants there is clearly a shutter ritual and one into whose, no doubt arcane secrets, I have yet to be initiated. It commences with my immediate neighbour, her-next-door. At 7.30 every morning, without fail, I wake to the rusty groans of her weathered shutters as she manoeuvres them open and tethers them to the wall. This appears to be the signal for other early risers (7.30 is early in these parts) to let in the light and for a few minutes a short symphony of creaks and squeaks plays up and down the street. The only back-slider being him-across-the-way whose metallic modern roller shutters remain determinedly at half-mast throughout the day.
The opening ceremony varies. Some prefer to fling them back with gay abandon from within their house; others emerge, tousled and be-slippered, to coax the gnarly beasts back to the wall whilst taking the opportunity to look around to see if anything has changed overnight and of course nothing has.
Similarly around 9.00 at night the exercise is repeated in reverse; the resultant clatter accompanied by a chorus of bonne nuit as my neighbours dart out from their lairs like demented bats to shut out any noxious night airs. If windows are the eyes of a house then shutters are the eyelids and by 9.30 they are all firmly closed. That is not to say my neighbours are early to bed. Flickers of light escape through warped wood and a gentle murmur of voices floats across the road occasionally punctuated with a harsh shout or a baby crying.
My inclination is to leave my shutters well alone not the least because those at the front of the house are of the concertina variety and have a nasty habit of trapping fingers. However, the village know-all, hear-all and see-all tells me, in a voice not dissimilar to that of a stag during the rut, that my failure to observe the ritual will lead to a “loss of well-being”. At least that’s what I think she said. So not wishing to lose my well-being I capitulate and nurse my bruised fingers in silence.