A new flat, a new kind of heating.
I am used to heating in the UK in many respects. I am used to it being eye-wateringly expensive, incomprehensible and ineffective. But I was ill-prepared for the heating that comes with my new flat.
I have what is known as a storage heater. It looks like a normal radiator type thing. But deep inside it lie magic bricks that absorb the heat at night when electricity is cheapest and let it out gradually during the day. On the face of it, this seems to have a bit of logic behind it. Electricity is beyond expensive in this country. What I pay to not really heat my flat is more than what The Mom pays to heat her four-bedroom house. So I can see why one would be pleased to use electricity when it’s cheapest. However, having the heat seep out of the stupid magic bricks during the day – when I am generally not here – is less than useful. When I come home in the evenings, the magic bricks have purged themselves of heat and I shiver. And when I am home during the day the large bay window that forms the majority of one wall of my flat seems to leak heat or let cold in – I can’t be certain which. It’s double glazed but I think triple glazed would’ve worked better due to its size.
But never mind, the landlord has thoughtfully provided a portable heater should things get nippy. Trouble is, I can’t have heat in all the rooms all of the time. Before bed, I put the heater in the bedroom – where there is no storage heater and zero in the way of magic bricks – to toast it up a bit.
And in the mornings, depending on how cold it is and how much I want to willingly taunt death, I pop it in the bathroom – also a room with no heating. It’s fine once I get the shower going, but the minute the hot water stops the whole room goes clammy and cold. Nothing dries in there. My towels are wet days later and very, very cold.
And if I want hot water? Well, then I have to go into the funny cupboard in the bathroom and put the boiler on. I then have to wait about half an hour until – after running the taps for five minutes – scalding hot water burns me. I assume this is the same procedure one would use with the bath, but due to the baltic nature of the bathroom, I haven’t yet had a long soak. I’m waiting until I go home to The Mom’s for that. Sure there’s a bit of a draft from her bay window, but there is also good heating and a flock of canaries to hang out with – what’s not to love?
People over here always wonder why I spend such a long time at home over the Christmas holidays. Beyond the fact that it costs me an arm and a leg to fly there at peak season, I quite enjoy having normal heating in a house that does not have mould (there’s a funny mould smell in my bedroom which cannot be accurately located and thus cleaned).
The heating in my new office is also strange. The windows are, of course, single glazing and thus a stiff breeze blows through the place with the windows closed. There is a heating device – radiator possibly – on the wall, but it’s not near me. I keep a scarf and extra jumper at work. They all think I’m crazy. People expect that, as a Canadian, I am not only used to freezing temperatures, but that I actively prefer them.
In a way I do: -25C isn’t bad when a) you’re dressed properly for it and b) you know that when you go inside it will be warm. Here, you never really know.