This week Liz Dawes is peering at the ever cooling weather and wondering when she is allowed to fire up the boiler
I think it’s fair to say that the summer, such as it was, is over. All three days of it. No matter how longingly I gaze at my flip flops and bikini, the sun declines to appear, and the thermometer refuses to budge above 16 degrees. I must now dig out my woolly jumpers and sun lamp, and wait patiently for July to roll around again.
The trouble is, I’m a hot house flower. In theory I love the changing seasons, but alas only in theory. Were autumn to consist of clear blue skies, sharp frosts, and kicking my way through gently falling golden leaves I would probably look forward to it a great deal. But much like hot sun in August, those cold clear autumn days occur about three times in the season, and round where I am if you kick at a pile of leaves you’re likely to send a dog turd flying.
Generally speaking the Brits lurch from tepid summer to grey and grizzly autumn with little warning and certainly no hope for improvement. (I know every year a proportion of you confidently predict an Indian summer, but this is surely a triumph of optimism over experience.) That being the case, the great debate begins:
When is it acceptable to put the heating on?
One of my friends has an absolute policy, strictly enforced. The heating leaps into action on 1st November and is brutally withdrawn on 1st April. End of. There may be ice on the inside of the windows but the rules are the rules and she remains resolutely unsympathetic. “Just pop on another jumper if you’re a little chilly” she says breezily, as her children try to force food through their balaclavas with numbing blue fingers.
Another friend is incremental in her warming techniques. The heating is allowed on as October approaches, but only a few degrees above air temperature, and only then in morning and evening. As the temperature plummets, she moves the thermostat up half a degree at a time, so that by mid-November it is passably warm for most of the day, and her children are not hypothermic. She says, quite reasonably, that hers is an eco-friendly approach, and that if we all turned our heating down by a degree, no one would notice the difference, but the energy saving as a country would be significant.
I don’t doubt she’s right, but I lack her self-discipline. One shiver and I want nothing more than to sit by an open fire and burn fossil fuels until I’m arrested for causing the next great smog. My predicament is not helped by the fact that I live in a Victorian house, with gappy wooden floors and sash windows that just don’t fit, meaning that the arctic winter wind can blow through my house, knocking over vases and ripping off curtains, before it exits through my ancient and ill-fitting back door. And so I continue to peer out of my window at the driving rain and shivering commuters, wondering just how soon I will give in and flick the switch that will whoosh my delicious new boiler into life.