In certain places the frame exposes bare wood. That’s where condensation pools—in the right angles—the ninety-degree corners forever damp: blackened, perilous and fragile.
In other places she counts coat upon coat of white upon white; broad seams of time, like the ever-thickening skin that garnishes the soles of her feet.
Where it’s chipped there’s a horizon of lime-green primer between wood and white. It’s probably toxic. It’s probably full of lead. It was a different world with different rules back then, she muses. In the layers she sees yester-years, as though reading an old diary and wishing she hadn’t, because it only reminds her of the now.
The council want to change them. The letter says they’re not safe anymore, that the glass could fall out at any moment, that it could fall on any unsuspecting child playing ten floors below. It says that the cost of replacing them (which, of course, she must pay) would be recouped in one, two years maximum (depending on the severity of the coming winters, of course). They’ll replace them with plastic frames, or aluminium, so the letter says: efficient, easy-clean, double-glazing, it’ll be all nice and toasty, just like the happy couple child and dog pictured in the top right corner that she can’t stop gawping at.
She likes the windows just as they are. She likes the way the draught sometimes makes the curtains dance.
I’ll rub them down. I’ll fill the holes with putty. I’ll paint them and make them safe, she thinks. There’s no need to replace them. I can do it myself. You watch me, Mr Council. I don’t need aluminium. I don’t need double-glazing, and I’ve never needed easy-clean anything before, so why would I need it now?
She wonders why things can’t be as they ever were.
She can see the old works from way up here: tall smokeless chimneys, fields of corrugated rusty roofs, downtrodden yards long since gated and padlocked, London reds daubed with cryptic graffiti, and shards of glass glistening like tears in the autumn sun.