‘Are you and the boiler connected?’ asks hubs as the boiler springs back to life, and so, miraculously do I. A time and motion study of my movements in the house over the last few days would have shown me wearing tracks to the kettle, the toilet, the sofa and the bedroom. The rest of the house, with no heating for days, has been too cold to contemplate.
Having no heating seems to have initiated some sort of ennui or torpor in me that I found difficult to shake off.
I built an encampment of things needed to entertain me on and around the sofa, including a succession of tea mugs, a sketchbook, pencil case, crayons, books, my phone and a blanket. All within arm’s reach and within the one room we’ve managed to keep warm over the last few days.
I’ve learned something about myself during the last week. This house isn’t big, but we normally have room to spread out a bit and take a break from each other’s company. This simply isn’t possible when you only have one warm room. Toys piled up on the floor and I wasn’t able to escape the blare of the TV, which I increasingly found started to rattle my nerves. Normally someone who loves being outside, an arctic wind chill, and an inability to get warm against once cold meant that I withdrew into the house.
But, we have dealt with this very first-world problem knowing that there was a boiler light flicking at the end of the tunnel. Imagine having no heating or limited access to hot water through having low funds or being reliant on a distant or uncaring landlord?
It’s been another lesson learned. It’s one thing thinking that modern technology is a bad thing, it’s another thing finding yourself completely dependent on it, and struggling to live with its swift withdrawal.
This has been a salutary reminder that homes are about keeping us safe, together and protected from the elements, and despite the lack of heating, this is what our house has done during the last week. What homes shouldn’t be are signifiers of how successful or better than anyone else we think we are.
Yesterday after the new circuit board arrived and hubs had got the boiler back on I was able to have my first shower for a week. It felt amazing. I have realised how just how wedded I am to the things that are important to a comfortable life and are not as easily dispensed with as I had thought.
Sitting and expecting to be kept warm is indicative of modern life. We do not keep ourselves warm by doing the things that are now done by an array of machines. We expect our environment to be kept warm, and by extension, us.
I have always been sympathetic to anyone who finds themselves homeless. My dad found himself on a slippery slope from redundancy to repossession, and came within a hair’s breath of living on the streets. With this in mind I’ve made a donation to Shelter this week in memory of how I have struggled to cope without heating, and a hat’s off to people, who are infinitely tougher, and more deserving of sympathy than me, who deal with not having a place to call home, night after night. In my town a couple of months ago a homeless man was murdered, seemingly just for being on the street at the wrong time. Being on the streets takes fortitude and endurance, why are we so judgmental about people who, for whatever reason, are denied access to a basic human requirement for shelter. We are still thinking in terms of Victorian narratives that categorise people as deserving and undeserving poor.
The words of Mr Bennett in Pride and Prejudice are floating round my head regarding my lack of gratitude and fortitude over the last week: “I’m heartily ashamed of myself, Lizzy. But don’t despair, it’ll pass, and no doubt more quickly than it should.”