Saturday, 6 October 2007

Whether the Weather Be Hot; Whether the Weather be Cold...

Some people make big of the fact that when they are not blogging, they are suffering with writer's block - indeed, the astute Keli made a wonderful observation about this illness some days ago. I, however, can confirm that I have not been suffering with this complaint - explaining my lack of blogs - I have been suffering with, "I-do-not-want-to-sit-in-the-freezing-cold-at-the-PC-itis" which is something totally different.

Here in Great Britain, we are in October, but for those of you in a different time zone, just adjust your clocks. October for us Brits means drizzling rain, howling gales, fog, damp, greyness, and basically the same as every other month of the year, but now getting cooler. For some very odd reason, though, that strange ball of fire hanging in the sky has been seen quite a bit this last week, meaning the skies are clear at night and thus temperatures are plummetting. But I am NOT putting on my central heating in October, no matter how freaky the weather is for us - it should be mild and wet, not cold, crisp and sparkly!

So, I shiver into the house at night and with quaking hands, turn the gas fire on. I then run upstairs, change into fleeces, thick socks, jumpers and my thick dressing gown and get a hot drink. By the time I have warmed up by the fire, there is no way I am leaving it to sit at the PC which is situated in the coldest hallway in Christendom, not even for our two loyal readers.

I have realised, I have turned into my father, which is a frightening realisation - especially as he is very fat, balding, foul-mouthed and moody.

When I was a mere kindegarten age, my parents had a lovely gas central heating system installed into their house - a four bed, dormer bungalow: my older brother and I slept in the dormer rooms upstairs. Yet every evening in the winter, despite me and The Brother asking for heating in our bedrooms, we were refused, being informed that "the lagging's that bloody thick in the loft, you don't need heating up there..."

I am not sure about The Brother (who never spoke to me then, and still doesn't now), but I would go to bed at night, see my breath coming out in steam billows as I got changed into my nightwear and crawl into a bed so heavy with duvets, blankets and sheets that I am surprised I wasn't compressed to death.
My mother also used to tuck the multiple sheets so tight around me that it was almost impossible to get out - probably so I was trapped and couldn't come downstairs every ten minutes to beg for some warmth. In the morning, upon opening my curtains, I would marvel at, and play with the ice ferns on the inside of my window until my fingers felt as though they were going to drop off and I would run downstairs to 'hog the fire', as my parents so quaintly termed my attempts to thaw my ice cold nose, fingers and toes out.

Even now, since they have had each radiator installed with individual controls, my parents do not shut down the radiators upstairs so that they can enjoy the pleasures of GCH on the ground floor in the cold months...Oh no! Mother turns the gas fire up, full blast, opens every door on the ground floor and genuinely expects a bog-standard gas fire to warm the whole of her house. And she wonders why the girls and I won't visit in the winter...

So, I seem to have inherited their frugality where gas and electricity are concerned. I was the same in the Middle East with the air conditioners, though. I would often switch them off when the (then) husband was at work and wander about the house, sweating, panting, and then lying on the marble to cool down. Now, before you start thinking, This woman is downright tight, let me inform you that this is not the case - as the ex's company were paying for the bills!

So, why is it? Well, I firmly believe in the "nurture" side here. I can spend money like it is going out of fashion, but I have a mental block when it comes to overspending and lining the coffers of the utility companies due to the blue expletives expostulated by my father on a quarterly basis. I face them on a monthly basis, determined to get the best deal out of the best provider. I despise their twee regional accents at the call centre - for example, if you are with Scottish Power, when you call the customer service desk, you end up half expecting the advisor to break into, "Hoots, Mon, och aye the noo, it's a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht, ternicht" so Scottish do they make their team. North West Water (when it was in existence) only had Scousers and Woollybacks...anybody working for the Tyne-Tees utility companies calls you "Pet", as in, "Way aye, Pet, haddaway and shit..." They pay these advisors a pittance, and then declare annual turnover profits in their billions. I hate their director fat-cats who award themselves massive annual bonuses for simply signing a sheet of paper which says, "Sod the Proles, Let's Put Up Their Kilowatt Unit by 10p and Clear Orf to the Bahamas for Six Months..."

My father also impressed upon me the need to turn off every plug at the wall, especially if it was attached to a TV, video etc and NOT to leave anything on standby, as, eventually, you could save £2million on your gas bill (possibly...). Each night, I go round turning off my appliances. Not a single digital clock in the house shows the right time. It is impossible to programme anything, including the cooker, because I cannot be fagged constantly resetting times and so I just guess and end up with burned food. A bit of a false economy, so it would seem.

This frugality was not limited to power, either - it was also applied to water (and I hasten to add, I draw the line at this point!). Three wees to a flush only; showers, not baths, and have the shower on a low setting and don't stay in longer than five minutes - not that you would want to in my parents' sub-zero temperature bathroom; a bath ONLY if your mother has had the emersion cistern on for her washing up and DON'T take all the hot water, and let me know when you are coming out so I can rig up the pipes and water the garden with it...there were rules for everything which cost money.

If I dared to use the telephone to make a 10p call, my father gained 90p profit from me. If I dared to use his car to drive up the road to the Manor Farm pub (a distance of 4 miles total) it was a top up of a fiver's petrol - it would have been cheaper to take a cab at the time...

My parents weren't the most affluent of people when Brother & I were growing up, so I daresay their scrimping and saving was done out of necessity rather than meanness. But old habits do die hard and I find it very difficult these days to converse with two people who catalogue everything new in my house, ask me how much I paid for it, and then inform me that they could have got it x-amount cheaper at such and such a car boot sale. They buy all sorts of tat from these junk sales - and then try to foist it off onto me. Why, I don't know - I actually LIKE matching colours and themes in my house, preferring cool contemporary to ironic retro (or crap, for want of a better description). Then they take offence.

I lay awake last night, realising how like them I am in a lot of ways, and this frightens me senseless. My constant irritation towards them with their dug-in ways will be how my girls will feel towards me when they are older, no doubt.

So, this morning, I woke up at 7am (a lie-in for me - hurray!) and turned on the central heating as it's a cold morning. Every day, in every way...

17 comments:

Jayne said...

Ha.... I can tell you don't live up near where I do in Central Scotland, where it's been crisp and sparkly for a while now. October is well into the darkness for us!

Mark Dykeman said...

Welcome back, Ms. Mildew!

Your other reader and I agree that, um, oh yes, parents: it's almost impossible for a child to avoid picking up at least some of their parent's quirks and attitudes. I used to detest that until I realized that my parents were actually pretty good role models. I wish I had half of their experience and wisdom. On the other hand, there are some things that they do which drive me bonkers... so there you go.

Enjoy your newfound warmth!

By the way, when does your new job transition start (or will there be much of one?)

alcoment said...

My Dad was the same and I am now to an extent. When I first moved out of home, I rebelled and would leave all the lights on and so on. Until the bills came in!!

One of my friends will keep the heating on all the time from late September onwards and then, when she gets too hot, will open all the windows but not turn the heating off!

Keli said...

I have sorely missed your acute observations, Agnes - glad you are back! My parents and grandparents were the same and still are -frugal with heat, light and water. I went to visit my grandmother last week at 8 pm (dark); not a single light on in her house. I unlocked her front door, bruised my knees, stumbling over furniture to locate a light switch, while she sat cheerfully eating her dinner. I returned home and turned on every light in my home.
Hope you enjoyed your heat!
PS Thank you for the mention!

deathsweep said...

Hello Agnes,

As scary as it may seem all of us take on traits of our parents whether we like it or not. Some of them are downright quirky I must add. I guess I'm fortunate to still have my AC going since the temperature here is still in the 80's though I know just what you mean about living a conservative childhood. It seems as if today's generation is somewhat more fortunate when it comes to $$$ than my parents generation and I'm not really sure why. Hope you have a warm day today!

DS

Amel's Realm said...

Interesting post. My parents didn't have plenty of money, either, when we were young. Well, they're never rich, but things were bad during some parts of our childhood. However, since we lived in a tropical country, I think our problems were different from yours.

But now I'm in a 4-season country, I can understand more the importance of being frugal he he he...but since I'm not used to the cold weather yet, I want my heating, thank you very much he he he...I may be freezing cold outside, but I want to stay warm inside my own apt.

By the way, this morning when I woke up, it was only 0'C. Gladly the temp. rose as it was sunny, but now it's down to 5'C.

Agnes Mildew said...

Jayne: For that reason alone, I would never move to Scotland!

Mark: Thank you! Yes, in some ways my parents are good role models, but I know that the traits they possess which are the most irritating are the ones I have inherited and now abuse my own girls with! The job started three weeks ago. All seems well so far, although it is a much, much bigger role than I originally anticipated.

Agnes Mildew said...

Alcoment: Yes, I went through a bit of a rebellion stage when I moved here two years ago, but fast got over it...my most rebellious thing now is to burn candles in the living room - they hate me doing that as they say it stains the walls!

Your friend has some very odd economics going on there...

Keli: Thank you. Your family are exactly like mine, unfortunately! Until energy saving light bulbs came onto the markets, every room in my parents' house had a fluorescent strip light as they are more economic. Not only are they harsh and sometimes noisy, they are bloody ugly and all my friends used to ask why we didn't have nice lights in our house - oh the ignominy!

DS: Yes, the current generation have little concept of saving in any way - I think it is possibly due to credit...few people deny their offspring things because they can put it on credit and 'sort of' forget about it...it is scary. I don't do that too often, but it can be tempting at times.

Amel: Yes, when you are in a four season country, you simply have to be wise. I know I am being rather silly, to be honest, so I must get myself out of this ridiculous heating denial - indeed, I have noticed when my parents visit, they have the fire on to top, but leave the back door wide open. Grrr...now that DOES annoy me!

Matt Chingduvé said...

Yes, it has been very cold lately and frankly I hate it and I am hibernating as from next week.

I would have thought a wise man such as your father would realise that fluorescent lighting was not so economical for short term lighting needs, because when starting up it uses a lot of current to get going!

Linda and her Surroundings said...

Ha ha ha - that is such a funny post. I am the opposite with household gas and electricity. Heater on at 21C and windows open - I am leaving big carbon footprints everywhere. I just freak each time a bill comes in and try to turn the heater down - freeze my tits off and up it goes again. I am weak, I hate being cold.

Linda and her Surroundings said...

PS: Nice to see a post from you again.

karen said...

Enjoyed your post, Agnes. I guess we are pretty fortunate in the southeast USA right now. It has been rather mild. No need for heat. Not much need for the AC either. But that will change and soon things begin to cool off.

I have a woodburning stove which I love to use in the fall and winter. I just had a load of wood delivered yesterday in anticipation.

Nice to see you back!

Agnes Mildew said...

Matt: I think he weighed up the costs of pinching the lights and their tubes from work against the initial surge of power costs.

Linda: Thanks, and I think you are the type of person who would make Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear) a very happy man!

Karen: Woodburning stoves are lovely...so great to sit round. Don't they take forever to clean out, though? And doesn't it take ages to get heat off them once lit? Being a rather unromantic person, I need my heat and flickering flames at the click of a button.

thewishfulwriter said...

okay, so blogging from a frigid room may not be worth a few frozen finger nubs, but you've been missed nonetheless...

i have to say, i'm not sure i could do it...not turn the heat on. i'm always freezing.

there are times i drive around in our car and turn the heat on - in 80 degree weather.

i've nearly made april pass out on several occassions...

we'll need to come up with a solution before april and i visit....

Agnes Mildew said...

Heather: Heating from the car is how I thaw out! I have the heater on top whack until my fingers go from blue to less blue and then get to an office where it is luvverly and warm. I am only a miser with my own money! Actually, it has become more of an autumn that us Brits are used to now - grey, damp, rain, fog etc, and much milder. I feel a blog coming on!

Hawk said...

Agnes, I enjoyed the read! All I can say it's about 95 where I'm at! Ha! BTW, where is your feed for comments?

I don't see anything on your sight.

Later my flying sister!

Agnes Mildew said...

Hawk: Next time you are flying by, drop some of that lovely warmth in!

As far as I am aware, to subscribe to feeds from the site, just press ALT J and you can subscribe from there - I don't have a widget on the site for it - because I don't know how to get one!