The weather over the past few days has been pretty cold (although not as cold where I live as in some parts of the country, thank goodness!). Our house has been lovely and warm thanks to the central heating, which was installed this year for the first time. Until now we have been relying on an open fire in the main room and electric heaters in the bedrooms.
My parents bought their first house in the 1950s, after they got married, and decided to get one which was being newly built. Each week they would go and see how the builders were getting on.
The house was a standard 3 bed-room semi-detached style, and had all the modern conveniences a couple of newly-weds could desire. My mother persuaded my father to pay an extra £500 (the house cost £3000, so it was a significant amount) so that they could have a coloured bathroom suite instead of the standard white one.
The main feature the house had was central heating, run by a coal-fired boiler in the kitchen. That boiler was fantastic! You could burn bits of rubbish on it, air laundry and tea towels over it, and warm your frozen hands when you got in from school, having cycled back mid-winter without gloves. The butter in the kitchen was never too hard to spread, and we always had hot water. The only problem was that the boiler simply wasn’t large enough to run all the radiators, so we didn’t use it for heating the house. What we used instead were paraffin heaters.
My dad’s hardware store sold paraffin (pink paraffin in fact) and he would bring home a supply when needed, carrying the container on his bike. The heaters were never smelly, the way paraffin heaters can be, because he always kept them spotlessly clean and the wicks trimmed. They were extremely efficient at heating the house and it was always warm and cosy.
When my dad died, however, my mother didn’t know how to manage the heaters; in fact, it would have been quite dangerous as her arthritis meant she found it hard to pour the paraffin steadily or manipulate the controls. For the first time the house was cold, even with electric heaters.
Our own house is not modern at all, and has never had central heating until now. In fact it is only the second time I have lived in a house with central heating, so I am still quite excited at waking up to a warm bedroom! <y mother also has central heating, but hasn’t ever quite understood about thermostats or timers, so finds it quite confusing,
Meanwhile, as this grey, cold winter day draws on, we are lighting a fire in the hearth rather than turning on the radiators because lovely as they are early in the morning, there is nothing like real fire to warm the soul on a dark day.