OPINION | Give me a room with a view

Not my actual window, but you get the idea.
Not my actual window, but you get the idea.

I washed my windows the other day.

This doesn’t happen very often, so it is absolutely worthy of mention.

Then I sat inside on what was a gloriously sunny autumn day, albeit with a chill wind blowing. I drank tea and read my book until I got too warm and had to retreat away from the reach of the light.

It made me think about what life was like before glass windows became commonplace.

It wasn’t that long ago actually – only about 400 years, and in many places a lot less. So for most of human history, there was no such thing as a room with a view.

And certainly no such thing as sitting inside on a cold day, warmed by the magic of sun through glass.

In some parts of Asia, gaps in the wall were once filled with paper, thus letting in some light. I can’t see them standing up to a stiff westerly though.

Flattened animal horn, fabric or animal hide were also used, or else some sort of wooden or metal covering that could be removed in fine weather.

Glass was used in windows by Romans as early as the first century, but it was dark, thick glass, a long way from the transparent panes that took another millennium or so to develop.

So, if you lived in a climate that was ever significantly cold, wet or windy, you most likely lived in a structure that had no opening to the world except the door, bar maybe a small hole up high for ventilation.

People’s whole understanding of inside vs outside must have been turned on its head when glass windows appeared, even though early ones would have been the multi-paned kind made up of wobbly squares of glass, offering little more than a smudged blur.

But light, inside! Warmth! A view! That’s a kind of revolution, don’t you think?

When people think of revolutions in human development, they’re apt to think of the other kind of Windows, the kind that come with your PC.

But I think the original windows are just as worthy of wonder – they also changed the way we view the world, from our armchairs in the sun.