Being cold was normal. There was a fire lit in the living room on a daily basis; sometimes, not often, the kitchen fire might also have been lit. In the bathroom, which was downstairs, there was a paraffin heater that was lit while we washed; but on cold nights, it had to go outside to ensure the pipes in the toilet did not freeze. The other rooms were unheated, the purchase of a big grey convector heater was a great boon, though it could not be used on a casual basis. In 1972, four electric storage heaters were fitted in our three bedroomed council house, and the toilet was moved inside. It seemed the most cosy house in England, we still had to go downstairs to the toilet, but it no longer had a seat that chilled the flesh.
In the years of ministry in parishes, the cold moments returned. Half of the thirty years were spent in buildings from former times, big rambling glebe houses, dating from times when servants were a customary part of life, it was impossible to keep more than a handful of rooms at a tolerable temperature. People in the parishes regarded the oversized buildings as part of the heritage of the community and many thought clergy should regard themselves as privileged to be living in such houses, had they experienced the places on winter mornings, they might have revised their opinion.
Perhaps the advancing years have caused the blood to thin, or the metabolism to slow down, but there has developed an aversion to the cold. It is not hard to understand why so many people move to Spain upon retirement, it’s not about flamenco or sangria, it’s not about beaches or bars, it’s just about being warm. Were the roads not treacherous and the flight schedules not severely disrupted, it would be easy to see how some people might be tempted to pick up a bag and fly off to the Mediterranean or the Canaries.
It is not the snow that is the real problem, though it is inconvenient, it is the cold. For those of us unaccustomed to such conditions, it is a chill that stings the face, that numbs the fingers, that penetrates to the bones, and that leaves the whole body shivering.
It is to be hoped that the present conditions are a glitch caused by the coincidence of the so-called “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma and that they are not likely to recur. Somerset was hit by a severe blizzard before, one which took days to clear, it was forty years ago. Anything more frequent, and it will feel childhood days have returned.