I’m making hay while the sun shines. Well, I’m washing everything I own and getting it on the washing line while I can dry stuff for free.
I can’t stop planning for winter. This is neurotic, I know, but my sense of dread at being cold indoors is now overwhelming. I picture Chaplin shivering under the Christmas tree, trying to warm his face on the fairylights while I’m on the settee, under blankets, unable to see the re-run of Oliver Twist the Musical through my cold breath cloud.
So I’m planning. First port of call, I thought, should be NPpower. It is this company, after all, that has given me a debt I can’t pay for gas I haven’t used.
They have a campaign called Health Through Warmth, laughing at the irony of this made my chest ache like I’d been struck down with pneumonia.
It apparently “helps vulnerable people whose health is adversely affected by cold, damp living conditions” because the rest of us cope admirably in cold and damp. It seemed unlikely that NPower were going to help me through this scheme. That said, I have complained and popped in a crisis grant application just for the heck of it.
Next stop the government. The website promises there are “some simple tips to stay warm and safe in your home during the winter”.
These include daytime tips:
- heat your main living room to around 18-21°C (64-70°F) and the rest of the house to at least 16°C (61°F)
- heat all the rooms you use in the day
- make sure you keep your living room warm throughout the day and heat your bedroom before going to bed
- set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed
And night-time tips:
- try to keep the temperature above 18°C (65°F) in your bedroom overnight
- open the window or door a little at night for ventilation if you use a fire or heater in your bedroom during winter
- never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off
- unplug blankets before you go to bed, unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use
- get your electric blanket tested every three years for safety
Our glorious leaders seem to be missing the point. There will be days when I won’t be able to put the heating on AT ALL. The gas meter debt alone means I will now be paying £7 from every £10 I put in to clear it. That is, every time I put £10 on my top-up card I will only have £3 of gas to use … meanwhile the daily standing charge is also taken from that.
Let’s face it, I am going without heating a lot this winter.
But the government also offers general tips (albeit for those hard-of-thinking):
- wear plenty of thin layers, rather than one thick one
- put on a coat, hat, scarf, gloves and warm shoes or boots when you go outside
- wear clothes made of wool, cotton or fleecy synthetic fibres
- wear bed socks and thermal underwear at night
- have plenty of hot food and drinks
- plan your meals and keep your diet as varied as possible
- aim to include five portions of fruit and vegetables daily – this includes tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables
So, I sourced alternative ways to keep warm. What can one do if one has no gas to heat one’s home?
With this I’ll need fingerless gloves: We’re not talking professional, lined gloves with grip, just your average thermal variety as favoured by rag and bone men … or journalists working in district offices. Average price: £3
Electric blanket: These scare me senseless because Chaplin is passive-aggressive and vomits in my bed when angry/ignored/needs to make a point. Average cost: £20 (There is also one available for pets at £25.90)
This makes a total of £64, which is £13.98 more than the gas meter debt. Not including Chaplin’s fee.
It’s bad enough going without heating . . . but going without heating then being fined for it? The world has gone mad, I tell you.
Money now owed for not using any gas: £50.02
An increase of how much since yesterday: £3.10 … that is a £3.10 daily maintenance fee for a machine that, as far as I’m aware, has been looked at three times in the ten years I’ve lived here. This means 1: I have to put in £21.70 per week just to cover maintenance. 2: If I even had £10 a week this would only cover my debt and daily standing charge – minus 10p – meaning I can’t afford heating.