It’s been a particularly cold winter this year. Each night I find myself hiding under numerous unattractive grandmotherly dressing gowns and blankets, growing colder and colder. Bedtime has become the point where the cold has reached my bones, and I’ve had enough of this elaborate charade. I then make a sprint to the bedroom where I dive under the covers like a child hiding from a monster under the bed, and it takes several hours and layers to rid myself of the chill.
There are two problems with our home as I see it; it is draughty (a 1930s weatherboard), and it lacks a visible heat source. Sure, you can see the radiators planted around the house, but unless you’re sitting on top of them it’s hard to know they’re doing their job.
What I really miss is the sight of a glowing bar heater, or better yet, a real fire. The flammable heaters of my youth with their death warnings hold many rose coloured memories for me.
As kids, we would have a bath and then run to the lounge to get dressed in front of the gas heater. Sometimes we’d sit in our nighties and pyjamas in front of the open fire to the point where our hair began to smell burnt and the fabric began to relax (or perhaps melt) as it clung to our pink skin. I can’t remember the exact material, but every set of night clothes I owned as a kid sported a red flammable warning label;
WARNING: HIGH FIRE DANGER. KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.
I’d often ponder this label as I sat warming myself in front of a naked flame. ‘Should I be worried?’ I’d wonder, my arms wrapped around myself, looking to my parents for answers. They didn’t seem worried.
There came a point where the radiant heat became too much, and one by one the four of us kids would retreat and drop and roll on the rug to extinguish any potential embers. After a period of cooling off, we’d grab a perch on the brick hearth and roast ourselves some more. I guess the ritual was a little like the poor man’s Swedish sauna, leaping from hot to cold, hot to cold. It was invigorating.
I miss good old glowing, radiant heat. Perhaps the risk of death was what made us warm up so efficiently. If your pyjamas don’t threaten to burst into flames, your heater isn’t hot enough.