Winter’s decided it’s had enough practice and it’s time for it to step up its game. At the same time me and my housemate are playing chicken with the heating. Last one not dead gets to turn it on. Basically we’re just being cheap and agreed that the best way to avoid paying a massive gas bill is to enter into a pact of mutually assured icey destruction. The thermostat now mocks us from the wall, smug in its knowledge that just a twiddle of its dial and a flick of a switch could deliver us from our frostbitten stupidity. It laughs as the winter deepens, as we wear more and more clothes, as I consider leaving on all the appliances in my bedroom in the hope that their collective heat output might tease the place into a state of being habitable. Still it’s not enough and I eye my duvet and the sanctuary it offers, but even though it’s dark outside I know in my heart of hearts that 5 o’clock is too early to go to bed. I consider making the duvet into a 20 tog poncho, but I know I’ll never leave the house if I put it on. I roll the frozen button mushroom of my nose around the palm of my hand so it can remember what body heat feels like and I think to myself ‘I awfully very muchly don’t like being cold’.
Three years ago, in the house we called Balconia because it had a balcony, the boiler broke and we were without heating and hot water for longer than a baby dormouse takes to grow. We adapted and all four rings of the gas hob glowed like the Apollo thrusters, giving us respite and almost one whole bath. My housemate decided he wanted a bath so filled every pan we could find and boiled them up on the stove. Up and down the stairs we ran with hot water (which is a very dangerous kind of winter sport), gradually welling the bath up with a whale’s tear of lukewarm water. Then my housemate judged it to be too hot and ran the cold tap to even things out. Cold bath. We made a fireplace out of cardboard, two desperate men with limited resources clutching onto the symbols of civilisation. We invited ourselves round to people’s house to use their showers. We turned what could have been a tragedy into a tale of triumph over adversity.
The next house we lived in had storage heaters. These were great at using cheap night-time electricity to heat the place. But during the day when no one was there.
The house after that, Highworth manor so called because we liked the sound of it, was completely energy inefficient. Passing pedestrians probably got more benefit from the radiators. All in all it was a bit of a bad run with winter warmness. I’m sure I’ve experienced colder temperatures walking home from the pub, but it’s the long and relentless chill of winter that gets to me. It goes on forever and just when you think it’s finished it goes on some more!
That’s why I’m going to stage a break in at my house. Hide a few things, knock some furniture over, maybe scrawl some graffiti on the bathroom wall. Then when my housemate returns I can say ‘the house? I know. Animals, bloody animals they were. They even turned the thermostat on. I mean what’s this country coming to? Still it’s on now, might as well leave it…’
I will have saved the pair of us both from winter and ourselves.