Friday, 3 October 2008

Keeping Warm

So my plan to not have the heating on until November has fallen at the first hurdle. It's cold. I am ill. I need to be warm. So on goes the heating. Damn.

It really pisses me off that you have to be elderly in this country to get help with heating bills that's actually worth having. A winter fuel payment, a social tariff that's guaranteed to pay...yes I know it's still a drop in the ocean for many, but some of us are without help altogether. When I enquired recently with my provider Npower I sailed through the checks. I was so happy and warm inside I was ready to share the good news at Ouch! Then they told me two weeks later that because I was on a dual fuel online tariff I wasn't eligible for a social tariff. Whaaaaat????

So I am back to square one. Saving £100 over 24 months is not the same as getting £250 a year knocked off your bill to help with winter fuel costs.

I left Scottish Power because they failed to inform me that they had introduced a social tariff back in February this year. I am still paying off the winter bill from last year, plus over £100 a month with Npower.

Whilst I await a resolution to my case, which has to involve something more practical than taking two showers and two baths a day to keep warm (when you get into bed after a shower or bath you stay warm longer...but of course you are heating water, which costs money) I thought I'd amuse myself with some top tips.

So here are my Top Tips for Not Dying of Cold This Winter:

  • Warm yourself up by writing angry blog posts and letters to your snug and smug MP
  • Have a bonfire permanently going in the garden. That way you can go outside to get warm
  • Burn all the furniture...only good for one night though
  • Ask your son's school if you can become library monitor (full time, five days a week with a bed please)
  • Get on the bus and stay there
Now this last suggestion isn't as mad as it sounds. Birmingham is home to the Number 11 bus route, which fortuitously passes through my area. It actually passes through, or around in a circular fashion, most of Birmingham so that's no surprise. The Number 11 bus route is officially the longest bus journey in Europe, at 27 miles and three hours. Crikey, that means the bus only travels at an average 9 miles an hour. And it is a local in-joke that pensioners ride it all winter to stay warm.

Only now the joke's on me. How I wish I hadn't chuckled all those years ago. Being cold isn't funny. No matter how old you are. And once you are in possession of a free bus pass, it becomes quite tempting. So, I've decided I'll take a thermos and my camera and join them one day next week and report back here when I've done it. Oh boy, I can't wait. Three hours of fun, fun, fun. But hey, at least my fingers won't be dropping off.


D Phoenix said...

That sucks. I am a chronically cold individual living in a house that is horrible to heat. Even if I had the money to crank it up I don't think the silly electric heaters would take the chill off the living room. They poured the concrete subfloor directly into the building and didn't put a barrier in, so the floor (that is covered in laminate) stay very cold as does the first 3 feet of air. I have a lot of hot baths and showers. But now that prices are going up for hydro, I'm getting worried about even maintaining the minimal amount of warmth in here. Other folks in my building are using oil heaters (the electric portable ones) and say that they work quite well and use much less energy than baseboard heaters. I don't know if that would help you. A friend of mine traveled to Japan and she sad that they tend to heat the body more than the environment. I guess they drink a lot of bancha tea and that is supposed to make you warmer. Who knows. Should we load our clothes with those little hot packs? Set your tub on top of the bonfire and heat the water that way?

I don't quite understand the tariff thing, but I hope that it gets resolved in your favour.

The Goldfish said...

I may have to do a Goldfish Guide to keeping warm with all my tips. However, have you looked at the Warm Front? They're going to practically stuff the loft with insulation and there are other things they will do for free, if you have the need.

Obviously there are limitations to what you can do in a rented place, but it might be worth checking out.

seahorse said...

Donimo: Hi, yes oil heaters had occurred to me. They cost a bit, but could save money in the long run. My Gran used portable heaters at her house before she moved into care and her bills were v low. They should be provided by Warm Front in an ideal world...which brings me on to...

Goldfish: Hi there. Warm Front have had no reply from my landlord about insulating my loft, so as yet it remains undone. Yes please to a Guide!

seahorse said...

Actually, Goldfish I've just remembered...don't you have tanks in your garden for oil? And isn't that proving a lot more expensive these days?

Pippa said...

Your 'burn the furniture' suggestion actually made me laugh out loud! For the last two nights I have been going to bed in my thick fleece dressing gown and my slippers - it certainly helps! Next on the list is a few hot water bottles. Let me know if you find any other cheap ways to keep warm. I'm going to get some of those snuggly warm-looking slipper boots. I've also found that lighting lots of candles helps (shut all of the doors and stay in that room. Not only does it look warmer, but it does help a teensy bit).

Cusp said...

We live in the country so our choice of fuel is limited: no gas out here sa its electricity, calor gas or oil and in our case the oli fired c.h. was already here so that's what we have to use even though it costs a bomb and we are all in danger round here of thieves syphoning off the oil ! Our tank is hidden behind, and protected by, very high and very sharp brambles and a lock on the cap. We supplement the heating in the living room with a coal fire.

If any of you do use oil you might find this site useful: You register with them and then when there are other people having deliveries in your area Boilerjuice emails you and you all kind of club together to a suppplier and bid for a lower charge on the basis that you're buying more at one time. They do a similar scheme for boiler servicing.

Apart from that, when we were in rented accom. many moons ago we always did the really simple but practical stuff like making sure minimum heat was lost through windows and doors by using draught excluder stickies, making draught excluder 'sausages' to go along the bottom of doors, closing the curtains and lining them too. We made our own 'door sausages' stuffed with old tights and in one house we 'lined' the curatins with old blankets from an Oxfam shop --- just saftey pinned them to back of curtains since it was furnished accom. and so not 'our' curatins.

All these really simple things like seem very old fashioned but they do work and so does wearing multiple thick layers instead of one thick ones and wearing thermal underwear from Damart.

Personally I can already really feel the cold creeping in and starting to have real trouble with pains in joints, fingers and toes and the trouble I always have in adjusting to changes in temp.: such as when I'm out and go from cold outside and into a very warm and overheated shop. My internal thermostat just doesn't seem to take kindly to swift changes in temp. Nearly passed out in a shop this morning --- LOL!

seahorse said...

pippa: Hi there. I am sorely tempted at times, especially when I recall that Joanna Lumley actually burned her table and chairs when she was a struggling young actress and single mum in London in the sixties. Or so she said in an interview I saw. I have to remember that half my furniture is the landlord's though :-) A thick fleece dressing gown sounds like heaven. Maybe I should get my son and I some. Slipper boots I'm not sure about...are they heavy? Got hot water bottles today with furry covers and may post again after a few nights of trying varying combos of things to keep warm.

cusp: I'm fascinated how different things are in the country, and yet the idea that people could, and do, steal fuel is terrible, but kind of exciting in a hustler sort of way. How on earth do they do it quietly? It's not as if you can just tippytoe away with a tanker full of oil is it? A house across the road was burgled the night before last so we're all a bit twitchy here - but it's only boring old ID theft in the city. Your brambles must do an excellent job. If only I could grow some around my box files! Clubbing together to buy fuel makes a lot of sense and I wonder if Goldfish might benefit. I am looking at unlined curtains as I type and thinking of pinning blankets to them. Top idea! And time for some more sausage creations (made one a while ago but it didn't come here with me and my son's dog ate it - and seemed to digest it too).

Reading the Signs said...

Seahorse, I know this is a serious issue and being cold is horrible, but I do love the idea that someone might ride a bus all winter in order to stay warm and if you do take your thermos and camera it would be wonderful to read about everything you experienced.

Cusp said...

I'm not sure how the robbers get the oil either --- usually it's from remote places where people are out at work in the day, but someone at the end of our village where there are hardly any houses was de-oiled in such a way only recenty.

Thinking about public spaces and warmth, in the War people would hang around Wooloworths, cinemas and of course the Underground for as long as poss. ---not just for shelter but because it was warm. In the old days people used to stay in libraries for hours to keep warm as well One of my abiding childhood memories is going into the 'periodicals room' at our library when I was about four. It was a small annexe with newspapers on sticks and old men seated on high chairs in rows persusing said reading matter at desks. They always seemed to be wearing gaberdine macs and wear bicycle clips and there was a strange mixed aroma of damp gaberdine, lino and printers ink as the heat dried off their clothes. You could become quite cultured whilst keeping dry and warm.

When my grandmother was old and frail she moved her bed downstairs into her big kitchen and stayed warm (even in August, for she was a chilly mortal) by remaining in bed at all times with a fire banked up to the hilt and a puss cat on either side of her: candlewick, kitty cat and coal --three essentials to warmth

The Goldfish said...

Yeah, we do have oil and it is very dear - although much cheaper now than it was earlier in the year. We persuaded our landlady to replace the rotting tank with a enormous new one, so we can buy 18 months worth at a time - this cleared out our bank account, but it works out much cheaper. We used Boiler Juice this time as well, although it's not always the cheapest way.

Even so, we only heat the water up for baths and keep the heating pretty low. In this day and age, it feels really daft using oil. The exposure here would be ideal for solar panels. And with what it cost earlier in the year, it really did raise questions about whether we could afford to live somewhere with oil heating.

There is oil theft around about, but as Cusp says, some tanks are more vulnerable than others; when they're set away from the property, especially close to an unlit road. You can even get padlocks for the tank, but thieves get round this by making holes in your tank so it's really better not to! The thing is with this kind of theft is that they don't necessary want a whole tank's worth; as I understand it they may be happy to cipher a few petrol can's worth off.

Cusp said...

Yep you're right about the amount of oil --- can't see how that get away with pinching 1000 litres when we've just had a deivery. We keep our heating low too and supplement with other heating devices (like more jumpers or blankets) as and when. Seems daft to burn oil when you don't need to.

seahorse said...

Signs: I'm doing it and I will report back!

cusp: what an evocative comment. You paint such lovely pictures with words :-) The library quite appeals, but I doubt it'd be as wonderful as the one you describe. It sounds just like the cuttings room at the place where I used to work. I have a candlewick that my Gran passed to me, and the cat is glued to my side (more to keep himself warm than me I think).

Goldfish: I've found this really fascinating to read all about. Glad prices are down for you at the mo...

cusp: 1000 litres???? Wow. With you on jumpers and blankets. Woolly hats and socks (thermal) are working for me at the mo. Cold extremities.

Anwen said...

Hullo, just wanted to give my top tip for a warm bed - get a second duvet (a single one will do as it's about the size of the top of a double mattress, and you can get 4.5 tog ones from Wilko or Ikea for under a tenner, probably Primark too) and put it underneath you. It makes SUCH a difference, as body heat isn't getting lost to the mattress/space under the bed.

Also, mittens are warmer than gloves because the fingers get to share their warmth.