‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing’ Alfred Wainwright
He was talking about walking the English Lake District but as a child it would have been just as applicable indoors as out.
I awake to a dusting of snow. I love snow when it is fresh and new but we see little of it now. Part of the joy, however, is that I can experience it on my own terms, in the right clothing. I stand by my bedroom window looking out and I’m pleasantly warm. As a child I would have been just as excited but also frozen, already wrapped up like Bibbendum the Michelin Man.
The Lawyer has moved to a flat in a Victorian terrace. It needed some work and in particular the old sash windows had reached the end of their natural lives. One reason given to upgrade them was ‘to keep the heat in’.
Now this is a modern phenomenon. Surviving indoors in cold rooms was part of being small and largely ignored when I was small and passing below the parental radar. Shivering was the default state from October to March.
I don’t remember when central heating first appeared in our home – the 1970s I suppose – but before then the only heat came from
- kitchen stoves
- a coal fire but only in the sitting room
- maybe a paraffin heater
- more clothes
The paraffin heater smelt like mum was embalming some ancient relative and the ‘smokeless’ coal fire used in the fire grate acted as any early example of why the trade descriptions act was a necessity. Anthracite came in smallish hard black round balls much like I imagine devil’s testicles (because I’m the sort of person who imagines devil’s testicles) and took an age to burn. My gran, never a great one for rules, dragged in wood and created comforting conflagrations to console chilly children (sorry, couldn’t resist that). We toasted bread or crumpets as a treat.
All this reminiscing made me ponder: what was the coldest I’ve been indoors. My children will have their own version. But it won’t include ice on the inside of a window when they pulled the curtains back of a morning. Or when washing was the best of times (you could warm up in some hot water) and the worst of times (you had to undress to do so). Or when you had a pee and were surrounded by your own steam.
The prize goes to the time, staying with friends in Oxfordshire, that it was so cold that the water in the toilet bowl froze. So fascinated was I by having to break the crust to use the facilities I almost missed the concerned knocking of my host warning me to hover and not sit as he had recently been stuck to the seat and didn’t want a similar fate to befall me.
I hear people talk about the good old days. Really?
It is a whole other post to consider the other side of this: because we now crave that comfort so much, we have taken to heating not just our homes but the planet too and even in always temperate England we are pushing 40C 100F regularly. So aircon anyone? I don’t recall this debate as a youngster. The good old days? Hmm, perhaps.