Tim Parks, Milan, Italy


Windows on the World

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

Do I pull up the shutter before my cappuccino or afterward? That’s the first decision of each new day. I need to see if it’s raining. The cord is worn and the shutter’s slats will jam if yanked too hard. The view scrolls up. “View” is generous. This is an ordinary courtyard in a sixties condo in working-class Milan; my small balcony hangs over the building’s main entrance, looking onto other small balconies above and to the left, some alive with plants, with dogs, cats, canaries, others storing old bikes, buggies, bits of furniture. In the middle of the space, a handkerchief of lawn and a tall hoarse chestnut, golden in midsummer, gaunt in winter, remind us of Nature. Otherwise it’s all cement, stucco, and tiling. Not unpleasant, not oppressive, not exciting. After ten minutes in the café (across the street) where recent Chinese arrivals serve excellent coffee and croissants, I work with my back to the open window which lets in dogs barking, a young man iPhoning on his balcony, some challenged creature who yells sporadically down the street. The portinaia sweeps fallen leaves and cigarette stubs, chatting to all comers with unremitting enthusiasm. But I’m wearing earplugs; her voice is muffled. About ten-thirty the sun hunts me down and a bright boil of light finds out how long it is since I vacuumed the parquet. Too long. I frown and turn up the brightness on this other window I’m typing into. —Tim Parks