Yesterday our creative team had an off-site, which is a fancy way of saying we hired a nice flat in Stockwell on Airbnb and spent the day getting to know each other, talking about our feelings, and writing with felt tip pens.
As soon as we walked through the door of the flat we found ourselves, in that very 21st century way, making ourselves at home in a complete stranger's home. We had pastries at their kitchen table, and then settled ourselves on their sofas, and did that We're-Already-Through-the-Keyhole thing where you nose around bookshelves and judge wall art, and tried to guess what job you'd need in order to afford a view of the London skyline from the wrap-around balcony of your penthouse flat.
For the first ten minutes or so, we attempted to piece together the lives of the couple who'd be back to resume their domestic life when we left at 5:30pm. We noted the carefully chosen coffee table and toilet books, the "thanks for the day off" Royal Wedding commemorative plate adorned with the Scottish flag. The crystal decanters with renmants of brandy at the bottom. The deer antlers on the wall, with neon signs that read “wild” and "horny" pinned either side. There was the yellow workman's hard hat hung on the inside of the bathroom door, which baffled each of us in turn as we went to the loo. And the very real, slightly worn tiger skin rug - which was slightly disconcerting, considering they also left us in the company of a beautiful, friendly, sleek, cream coloured cat, who watched us with bright green eyes, and meowed at us, and wound its way around our feet.
It’s not often you get an insight into the lives of complete strangers in London, although I'll bet every one of us has looked at those glass fronted flats on the Thames or the big Georgian houses in Holland Park and wondered what it'd be like to go inside.
But we've got to have boundaries in life, right? We respected the flat owner's instructions not to go into their bedrooms. You can't just invade people's personal lives whenever you like. Even at a time when people's homes are seemingly accessible through Airbnb, and Insta-stories make everyone's lives up for grabs, there are rules. You've still got to respect people's privacy.
And this week I thought about how we need to respect the lives of strangers when two single people became the unwitting subjects of a love story, which was broadcast onto Instagram by the people behind them on a flight. The internet found it cute, but I - as a single person, and human being - found it all really quite creepy. On the link below, I wrote about why.