It snowed last night here in Herefordshire. I haven’t been out to see how deep it is, but from a distance it looks like it’s 3 or 4 inches deep.
That’s 3 or 4 inches too much in England. It’s more or less a natural disaster. Heathrow airport closed down. And David Cameron cancelled his long-heralded EU speech. Probably because he knew he’d never get to Holland or Belgium or wherever he was supposed to be making the speech. He probably wouldn’t even have managed to get out of the front door of 10, Downing Street through 4 inches of snow. After all, I didn’t manage it today either.
I didn’t go out because, forewarned of the impending disaster, I went out yesterday to buy the basic essentials for survival. i.e. Scotch whisky. And sugar. And chocolate. And prawn toast. I hadn’t tried prawn toast before, so I thought I’d give them a try. And then I ate them as soon as I got home. So my survival pack is low on prawn toast. In fact, it’s completely prawn-toast-free.
I sympathised with Leg-iron, however, that his central heating has just stopped working. Mid-January is the perfect time for that to happen in Scotland – which is, I believe, about 10 degrees colder than England at all times of year.
I don’t even know whether my central heating works. Or how to turn it on, for that matter. So I may, unbeknownst to myself, actually have the same problem as Leggy. I’ve also got an electric heater that the previous occupant left behind, but I’ve never turned that on either. And I have an electric oil immersion heater. It’s got lots of mysterious buttons and dials on it. It’s also got wheels. I understand wheels. And that was probably why I bought it. “Hey look! An oil immersion heater with wheels. Cool! I wonder how many miles to the gallon it does?”
The result is that for the entire time I’ve been living in my little flat, I’ve never turned any heating on. Part of the reason is that it’s got cavity wall insulation and double glazing. Though my habit of keeping a couple of windows permanently open defeats that energy-saving measure. But then, it’s also sandwiched between other flats where they do keep the heating on. So I’m probably being kept warm by the old ladies next door, who keep their heating on all through summer as well.
Not that my flat is exactly toasty warm as a result. Room temperature right now is 11 degrees C ( 52 degrees F). That’s about 10 degrees lower than is usually recommended for thermal comfort. But since my easylife fur lined Nordic slippers arrived yesterday, just in the nick of time, and I’ve also unearthed the cable-knit pullover in the bottom drawer, I’m more or less fully kitted out. Just need to get me some cable-knit trousers now. Or Nordic trousers. Or Nordic cable-knit trousers.
How do you endure such temperatures, Frank? I hear you ask. Particularly with no trousers.
Simple answer: Sheer grit and determination.
And a touch of English stiff upper lip. (Does anyone actually know what a stiff upper lip is? Or what they look like? I think that if I woke up one day with a stiff upper lip, I’d suspect it had frozen in the night. In fact, at 11 degrees C, you get a mild case of stiff upper lip. Nothing to worry about though.)
And not knowing how to switch anything on.
But I tell a lie. Because I did finally give in a month or two back, when room temperature had dropped to 8- 9 degrees C. And I switched on the oil immersion heater. Which was one hell of a job to do, given all the incomprehensible dials and switches on it. It was like trying to start a Spitfire. Which was perhaps that’s why it’s got wheels. They’re the undercarriage.
I have a terror of turning things on. Particularly something that hasn’t been turned on for two or three years. They always start making strange and alarming noises. And they very often give of a strong odour too, as the dead mouse inside them starts to fry. I sort of expect them to explode. It’s only after they’ve been working for an hour or two, doing whatever they do, that my alarm subsides.
Anyway, after gingerly trying all the switches on it, eventually a little red warning alarm light turned on, and what sounded like the Merlin engine started clattering into life. I stood well back to avoid the propeller. And pressed no more buttons: I didn’t want to fire a couple of hundred cannon shells through the wall into the old lady next door. After all, she’s been helping me keep warm.
But some things in my flat turn themselves on of their own accord. They seem to have a life of their own. Like my gas-fired water heater. I think it’s supposed to only turn on when I turn on the hot tap. But it quite often fires itself up of its own free will. I think it just decides that it’s bored, and feels like, say, …heating some water. So it turns itself on, and then a few seconds later it says, ‘Nah! Can’t be bothered,’ and turns itself off again. It also has a panel of switches on the bottom, naturally. And, no, I don’t know what they do either. It’s probably been left in Periodic Autostart Mode or something by the previous owner. And you can only reset it to factory settings if you hold down the red button while pressing the + button three times.
Anyway I’m going to be staying home for the next few days. I stay home a lot anyway. Which is probably why I haven’t caught the Norovirus bug that’s sweeping Britain. I saw some advice somewhere about how to avoid getting it. Going to hospitals or doctors’ surgeries was one pretty sure-fire way of getting it. I think that pubs and cafes and restaurants were pretty lethal too.
But I’m a smoker and I hardly ever go to any of those places if I can help it. And when the plague is over, and they go round knocking on people’s doors to find out who’s still alive, they’ll probably find that the sole survivors are all smokers. That’ll teach ’em.