There are only two types of people when a flurry of snow hits the U.K.
- Oh lovely! How beautiful the world looks under its frosty blanket and what a great opportunity to try out my new snow chains/4×4/advanced driving skills.
- WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE IF WE SET ONE TOE OUTSIDE.
There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
This year’s cold snap has been, let’s face it, rather cold. A face-numbing -11 in Northumberland last week with the rest of England not far behind. (I can’t even compute how cold it must have been in Scotland; sincere condolences.)
To add insult to injury, these freezing temperatures have coincided with the worst energy crisis Britain has faced in 40 years. Students, families, pensioners and everyone in-between are calculating whether they can afford to heat their homes through the winter months.
The privileged few will of course sail through unscathed. There may be the odd wobble deciding whether or not to heat the stables as well as the West Wing but I suspect their horses will still be far cosier than the majority of Britain come January.
At the opposite end of the economy spectrum, we have people waking to frost on the inside of their windows and our most vulnerable developing serious lung conditions from prolonged exposure to damp and cold. Imagine reading on your hospital chart – “bacterial infection; lung inflammation due to exposure.”
Exposure? I was home the whole time.
We have a range of strategies in our house. By far the most effective is the purchase of an electric blanket, which before this year I had assumed was within the sole remit of retirement villages. However, I am thoroughly converted. There may be icicles hanging from the lampposts but you would never know within my cosy, purple haven. Have I mentioned how much I love it? The rest of our ‘methods’ plunge our home into Dickensian times. Heavy curtains draped across draughty doorways, hot water bottles under the bedcovers and lighting candles to warm smaller spaces. Baths and showers are strictly timed and rationed, with the tub reserved for our grubby 5 year old. It turns out you really can wash thoroughly in just a 3 minute shower – the water companies were right all along.
At the end of this post, I’ll list my favourite energy saving tips, but for now – let’s go back to the snow…
I watched a documentary last night about Raymond Brigg’s, The Snowman. Briggs sadly passed away this year, aged 88, which plunged me into a deep well of nostalgia for one of my favourite Christmas films. From the charming animation to Howard Blake’s timeless soundtrack, (Walking in the Air was originally sung by Peter Auty by the way – not Aled Jones) I think it is the perfect way to begin the festive season.
As a child, waking up to the light being somewhat different and then the thrill of realising that the world outside was carpeted in fluffy, white brilliance was simply unmatched. You couldn’t wait to get dressed and go outside and play. It felt like a gift that you knew might arrive at any moment but never quite when. The gift of a snow day.
But then you grew up and the realities of ‘adulting’ in the snow took the shimmer and shine off the joy you felt when young. Trudging through slush to the shops, skidding the car on black ice, feeling wet seep through your boots, soaking your frozen feet? Not magical.
I had a traditional snow day last Monday. It wasn’t a work day for me so I was free to roam around the fields, taking the odd picture, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the beauty.
Then my son got home from school. We had a (slightly intense) snowball fight and then built a pretty impressive snowman together, complete with carrot nose, scarf, hat and twig arms. Afterwards, we fell through the front door giggling and ruddy cheeked, thoroughly tired but happy. Magic.
Snow days remind us that you can’t really enjoy magic and beauty whilst rushing around with a never-ending chore list. Filling up the car with petrol, watching the prices rise, whilst gripping the icy metal pump is not going to inspire awe and wonder in anyone. I am very grateful that I had the space to breathe and play when the snow fell this year. It helped me feel the magic once more.
I hope some of you did too.
Wishing you a fun, restful holiday season and above all – a warm one.
- Seriously, get an electric blanket – you don’t need a top of the line brand. Whatever fits your current budget will be fine.
- Only heat the room(s) you are in, turn the other radiators off – it can really make a big difference when the bill comes.
- Use a hot water bottle at night. This classic should never have gone out of style! I am still toasty warm 8 hours later.
- Candles will heat a small space nicely, not to mention help you feel warm psychologically. Just remember to close the door (trap the heat) and never leave them lit unsupervised.
- If you have accrued credit over the summer with your energy provider, decide whether to spend it on heating the home or whether to ask for it to be paid back into your bank account. This could make a huge difference if an unexpected bill comes your way over the next few months.
- Draught excluders – remember those snake cushion things from the 90’s? Drag them back out of the attic and use them for any particularly draughty sections of your home.
- Thermal curtains. Banish the cold creeping back in by using thermal curtains wherever possible. They are not particularly pricey and if you hang one by your front/back door you will instantly feel the difference when the temperature drops at night time. And while you’re at it – thermal underwear is a game changer.
- Time your hot water carefully. I recently found out that a friend runs the hot water all day! I could practically hear the money clanking down the shower drain. And if you are blessed with a boiler that only heats water when you need it, even better!
Stay warm x