Sunday, January 20, 2008

Still January, Still Raining, Still Cold

But two signs of hope this morning. As we lay in bed, my husband and I, wondering which one of us would get up and make the tea - actually, I'm fibbing, because it is always him, but just very occasionally on Sundays I do it instead - we heard the unmistakable cadence of birdsong from the garden. It was thin and half hearted and it didn't go on for very long, but it is still a sign that spring is on the way. Yesterday, on my way to town, I drove past a few little drifts of snowdrops at the side of the road.
On the other hand, real snow without the drops is forecast for tomorrow, and I am writing this with a fan heater blowing on my feet, but my hands are still freezing. This is mostly because those of us who live in old houses and attempt to make a living from the creative industries can barely afford to heat our homes in the UK at the moment.
We have double glazing where we can. We could do with replacing the upstairs windows, with double glazed units, but since this is a listed building, they would have to be sliding sash windows and we can't afford them. Downstairs we have lovely old shutters, which we use as soon as night falls, and they are a godsend. We have put secondary glazing over the upstairs windows, but it is never as efficient.
We have insulated our loft. Cavity wall insulation is not an option, since our immensely thick stone walls do not have cavities. There is no gas in the village. We once lived with a multi fuel boiler for several years, but it had to be fed constantly, and the house still felt cold. Now we heat the place with a mixture of oil central heating, oil radiators run on electricity, a hugely efficient multi fuel burner in the living room, which we mostly feed with smokeless fuel - and the odd fan heater to keep the workers' toes from freezing off. The oil is so pricey that we can only afford to run the heating for a few hours morning and evening, and even then the bills are appalling. I scatter vintage blankets about the house and use them. I wear layers. I wear woolly socks. And some days I am still cold.
We are hardly souls in Scotland.
On New Year's Eve, we visited some friends in the village, who are living in a lovely new build house. It looks very like one of the old cottages, it is quite small, and exceedingly well insulated. All those of us who live in the more 'historic' properties were, within minutes, fanning ourselves and saying things like 'My God it's so hot!' Body temperatures adjust. But sometimes it does cross my mind that a nice, small, insulated city flat might be the answer...

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