Cold days

There being few students in school and there being a requirement for doors and windows to be opened, the business manager seems to have curtailed the hours during which the school heating is allowed to be turned on. By eleven o’clock, the radiators are reduced to a faint lukewarmness.

The weather forecast suggested a sub-zero wind chill, so I made sure to take a warm coat and scarf for the day’s lessons. But, in mid-morning, there came a moment of delight, apparently a plumber was servicing the system, it required the heating to be fully turned on. The radiators in my room had never been so warm

When I was young, being cold was normal. There was a fire lit in the living room on a daily basis. Sometimes, not often, the kitchen fire might also have been lit. In the bathroom, which was downstairs, there was a paraffin heater that was lit while we washed; but on cold nights, it had to go outside to ensure the pipes in the toilet did not freeze. The other rooms were unheated.

The purchase of a big grey convector heater was a great boon, although it could not be used on a casual basis. In 1972, four electric storage heaters were fitted in our three bedroomed council house, and the toilet was moved inside. It seemed the most cosy house in England, we still had to go downstairs to the toilet, but it no longer had a seat that chilled the flesh.

In the years of ministry in parishes, the cold moments returned. Half of the thirty years were spent in buildings from former times, big rambling glebe houses, dating from times when servants were a customary part of life, it was impossible to keep more than a handful of rooms at a tolerable temperature. People in the parishes regarded the oversized buildings as part of the heritage of the community and many thought clergy should regard themselves as privileged to be living in such houses, had they experienced the places on winter mornings, they might have revised their opinion.

Perhaps the advancing years have caused the blood to thin, or the metabolism to slow down, but there has developed an aversion to the cold. It is not hard to understand why so many people moved to Spain upon retirement, it wasn’t about flamenco or sangria, it wasn’t about beaches or bars, it was just about being warm.

It is not the snow that is the real problem, although it may be mildly inconvenient, it is the cold. It is the chill that penetrates to the bones, and that leaves the whole body shivering.

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