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...