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On being plugged into civilisation

Sometimes simple things please simple minds and today I’m going to hold my hand up and plead guilty.

After five weeks with a blow-heater in the drawing room being my mainly/only source of warmth – and beginning from a situation where, with the recent New Year cold snap in full swing and both my boiler and the kitchen taps having given up the ghost within 24 hours of each other, resulting in the mains water stop cock having to be turned to ‘off’ – last Thursday morning became my first full day of relative normality in over a month.

I think ‘like a pig in muck’ would just about describe my reaction.

Joni Mitchell may have sung “Don’t it always seem to go/That you’ve don’t know what you’ve got/’Till it’s gone …” (Big Yellow Taxi, from her 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album) specifically about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot but – in a wider context – she got the general principle right, certainly when you’re talking about central heating as I can now testify.

Thanks to some government scheme midway through last year I took delivery of a free little smart-meter box that supposedly is going to help to deal with global warming by showing householders how much energy they’re burning up.

During our blow-heater phase, when it was indicating that I was spending close to £30 per day in the cause of keeping icicles from developing in the main living area, it depressed me sufficiently that I turned it off.

On another occasion, after taking a ‘business’ call during which I had wandered out into the garden – the better to indulge my habit of walking up and down when on the phone – I returned to the house only to discover that for the past twenty minutes, by leaving the door open, I’d been heating the whole of Tooting.

By happenchance on Thursday, the front page of The Times was carrying a story that the government’s Committee on Climate Change has just recommended that – in order to reduce the 14% of the UK’s total greenhouse emissions caused by household energy use – gas boilers and cookers should be banned within six years, with new build developments being required to fit low-carbon heating systems and induction hobs in preference to gas stoves, a proposed move that has inevitably been met with resistance from the building industry who were pointing out that gas boilers were cheaper and customers preferred them.

From my new viewpoint as one of the country’s pioneers on ecologically-sound energy use – for reasons which need not detain us here, a replacement gas boiler for my ‘dead’ one not being an option due to new health & safety regulations (notwithstanding the fact that, had my old boiler had been repairable, it would have been exempt from them) – I am now the proud owner of an electric boiler smaller than a kid’s golf bag that not only cost me an eye-watering amount of money but will always be more expensive than a gas one to run.

Right now, however, as long as it keeps going and continues to pump out scaldingly-hot water (seriously, you could pour it straight from the tap into a mug sporting a tea bag and not feel in the slightest short-changed), frankly I’m not bothered.

The gap between civilised 21st Century living and the anarchy of living in a pre-historic cave scratching a stick man shooting a bow and arrow at a bison on the wall is paper-thin, despite what we might think.

It has just taken me five weeks of living without heat – and for more than four days without running water as well – to thank my lucky stars that I’m living when I do.


About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts