Central Heating

I read a fascinating article in the BBC magazine a few weeks ago, about central heating. Central heating, so the article says, only came to the UK about 50 years ago, so it's actually possible to remember what life without central heating was like.

Now, I suppose all of this is interesting for 2 reasons, at least if you are me. Firstly, because the article indicated that October 1 was central heating day - the day that people turn on their furnace for the year. October, mind you, and not November. Or February. Like many married couples, Mr. Spit and I quibble about the heat. We have, after many years of extensive and exhausting argument negotiation, settled on a temperature of 21.5 C to be maintained on the thermostat. This temperature is the very best of compromises, it's too warm (and too expensive) for Mr. Spit, and too cold for me. Like so many compromises, ours ensures that neither of us are particularly happy, but we both live with it. Mostly. And not at all when he's out of town.

But more than that, what especially interested me were the descriptions of life before central heating. Descriptions of small rooms, a central staircase to let heat up stairs, few windows, and family gathered in a few small rooms, with the ability to close off others.

It all sounded very cozy and quaint, and not at all cold when you read it. In fact, it sounded like it would be kind of nice. It sounded like the sort of life I would like to live. A whole family in one room around the fire for warmth. As a knitter it sounded like I would be in high demand, what with the afghans and scarves and hats and mittens, shawls and lap blankets. Socks! This sounds like my gig. I found myself nodding along, slightly nostalgic for the days before central heat.

Chez Spit, as I may have mentioned, will celebrate her 100th birthday in 2 years. Which means that she long predates a natural gas furnace. Originally, Chez Spit was ahead of her time, and heated with coal (none of those plebeian wood fires for my grand old lady) Like every house in my neighbourhood, there is a side door, and the coal room is just inside, a straight shot with a shovel. You can shut off the living room and dinning room with french doors, and yes, the bedrooms are wee and the heat goes up a central staircase. And I have central heat, well sort of.

Let me see if I can put this a bit more viscerally. Some of you will know of that Nordic tradition, where you roast yourself in a hot tub, and then you jump in a snowbank. (Don't judge, some of you live in places that have spiders the size of dinner plates.) Which sounds crazy, but is actually exhilarating in certain, very specific circumstances. (Those circumstances are as follows: You are young, you are with friends, you are slightly inebriated.)

None of those circumstances involve me getting out of my shower every morning.

And I thought about this feeling of nostalgia, as I have shut blinds and drawn curtains, and thought about sewing up some draft snakes for a few doors (More attractive than towels shoved in). I love my house, but I must tell you truly, winter in Chez Spit means that you are always just a bit chilly. Not cold mind you, and certainly nothing like what living on the street is, but with snow again today, I am reminded, another 6 months of chilly.

Central heating is romantic. Old heating is just cold. And cold is not romantic. Ever.