It’s hard to believe the idleness of my Idle Blogs in not bringing up the contentious issue of central heating. For some people switching on central heating while returning from stashing away the BBQ in September is a matter of pride. For others, the opposite is true, for whom even glancing at the thermostat before Christmas Eve epitomizes modern mollycoddled existence. Where once we broke the ice off morning taps, we now swan around barely-dressed in flats heated like nuclear reactor cores.
Heating is something difficult for anyone who grew up without to accept. It certainly fuels angry opinion hotter than the house I grew up in.
As a social worker, I visit a lot of homes, and the best advice I can give to newcomers to the profession (that is neglected on the diploma) is to wear a warm coat with a vest underneath, unless you enjoy a personalized 4-layer sauna, while staring at the sealed window wiling it to open.
I grew up in the countryside, and not only on the north side of a hill, but surrounded by woods. No, it was not a gingerbread house, but looking back at old photos the woods were densely dark. You could barely see further in than 10 feet. Who knew what lurked within? Well, actually it was foxes, deer, and squirrels and to my young mind hordes of German soldiers. I was not scared of the dark, or Germans, and I’m still not.
In the mornings, wrapped tightly in blankets, I’d draw pictures in the ice on the inside of my bedroom windows with my warm fingers. The hot water bottle from the previous night lying on the floor frozen solid enough to hammer nails home.* This was before the dash across the arctic wastes of the hallway to a warm bath. We’d abandon that once the water cooled, to press our backs up against the sitting room storage heater that my father swore worked, while eating toast until it was time for school. It was that or cuddle a spaniel.
It is only with hindsight that I realize how integral the dogs were. In a house in which you can see your breath in the upstairs bedrooms, a dog basket holding two dogs the coziest place to be. Crammed into the backseat of a VW beetle going on holiday to the west country was a little too cozy; it was like traveling with the two-bar radiator that you worship in winter and trip over in summer.
These days people complain about fuel bills in such stifling heat that houseplants are wilting. I was advised to put on the heating once you run out of jumpers, by which point you’re so constricted by wool that you gain the dexterity of the Michelin man in a soft play area and can’t operate the boiler. Perhaps that was his point.
“It’s freezing” say people in lieu of conversation, simply because local climate fails to match that of the Caribbean. These people have presumably exhausted their vocabulary by the time local temperatures actually drop below zero. There must be an Icelandic word for people who think it’s cold simply because it says October in a calendar.
Turning the heating down saves money, saves the environment and I swear stops illness, which breeds in sweltering homes with the ease of athletes foot at public pools. This is based upon the fact my father was never ill, whereas the sight of modern fuel bills is likely to kill him.
* there is some artistic license here
Originally published on Idle blogs of an idle fellow
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