Life in the UK: Plumbing the depths

A sentence I never thought I’d write: Yesterday my son got a new radiator.

Growing up in Minnesota, I experienced a steady stream of heat in the winter. Hot air blown down the vents to my room in the basement. It was a few degrees cooler downstairs, but I didn’t mind. Bred in the North, heirs of northern Europeans, we were tough. And then I moved to Washington, DC, learned what the season Spring was with the delightful azaleas and dogwood blossoms, and lost some of my Midwestern steel. Yet the hot air kept blowing on me as I dwelled in another basement room, this time in a home with three other women.

radiatorMy dreams for a Prince Charming came true but I didn’t realize that after the wedding, life in the UK would be so damp and cold. I had experienced cold, but never before the damp chill that sinks into your bones and refuses to leave. The kind that calls for endless cups of tea in the quest to get warm (not a consumer of hot drinks was I). But the honeymoon cushioned me, imparting to me a cozy flat in in Cambridge student accommodation, complete with a stunning power shower.

And then to Surrey, and Nicholas’s first curacy. An American relative came to visit and squeaked, “Could you please put the heat on?” Nicholas wasn’t home and I didn’t know how to do it – heat came on twice a day, whether or not you needed it.

Next to northwest London and single-glazed windows, with my vocabulary increasing even more (who knew to talk about glazings on windows!). One morning I asked the-Vicar-with-whom-I-sleep why the curtains in our bedroom were swaying back and forth. “Oh, that must be the draft.” But a shower had I, for Nicholas insisted that they install a power shower in the curate’s house. When the skilled church member showed me the fruits of his labors with pride, I swallowed my disappointment, burying the question bursting to come out: “That’s a power shower?”

And onto north London, where we are now, with our lovely Victorian vicarage that slowly is becoming warmer each winter, thanks to Nicholas’s perseverance and the help of the diocese. Over the years, secondary glazing added to the windows. An extra layer of insulation in the loft (attic). Some new radiators downstairs. And yesterday, a new radiator for my son as we seek to get his room allergy-friendly. (I’m sorry to our eight former au pairs, who shivered in that room, that we didn’t get this done earlier.)

Plumbing and heating. My gripes are first-world issues, I know. But how about you? Do you find joy in a shower that doesn’t qualify as an Irish mist, in which you need to jump around to get warm and wet? How cool is your house? How much tea do you consume?

2 Responses

  1. Pam Burke

    I have never felt the chill when I have visited London for our hostess has always lovingly prepared a hot water bottle to tuck in my bed.

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