Icy cold

For obvious reasons — an apparent shortage of supply and spiralling prices — we’ve not yet been putting the heating on. Instead, my wife has bought all of us big, fleecey dressing gowns, so that we wander around the house looking like Henry VIII. If it gets really, really cold, there’s always that supply of a gazillion logs which caused me to go into meltdown this time last year. But that’s only an option of last resort, if wearing two jumpers and a fleece doesn’t help.

So it was, going to bed last night, condensation thick on the window panes, breathing in the icy air, that memories were wrought of a freezing winter’s night a decade ago. We were staying in my mother-in-law’s village house in a forested valley inland of the eastern shores of the Black Sea. There was a wood burning stove in the kitchen, still used for cooking, and an electric heater in the living room, around which we would huddle for warmth before bed.

But at bedtime we would have to venture on into the cold hall, off which were four bedrooms, hardly changed since the days my wife’s late father had built the house decades earlier. The wooden window frames were the originals he had put in, by then rickety, ill-fitting and starting to rot. The single-glazed panes would keep out the rain, but not the cold, as evidenced by my family’s evening routine. Having remained in Turkey since summer, my wife and children were well used to this nightly adventure, but I had just arrived on a plane from England.

The routine comprised of us all getting dressed for bed, wearing two pairs of trousers, four jumpers, thick woollen socks, a scarf and hat, then burying ourselves under a pile of heavy homemade duvets, filled with sheep’s wool. In one bed, my wife and two infants, snuggled together, me in the other one by the door. Cozy, certainly, as the wind whistled through the window frames, a unique indoor fog hanging around us. Before dawn, rising for fajr prayer, there was wudu to contend with, the bathroom taps fed by the natural mountain spring outside. Not only was there no hot water, there was no averagely cold water either: only that fearsome super-chilled flow.

In the morning of that first night there, I rose telling my wife that I would go down to town and pay for double-glazing for the entire house there and then. My wife was reluctant to do that, but I won her over by arguing that it was unacceptable that her mother was living in such conditions all year around. Unfortunately, those intentions were overruled by a sister-in-law staying in the house, who had other plans completely. Thus the rotting frames remained for another five years, until we finally put our feet down and had the job done anyway.

I do know cold from my own life. For the first five years living in our little house here we had to be content with the original glazing too, those wooden frames also starting to rot. We had put central heating in when we first moved in, but replacing the windows would have to wait until we had repaid our loans. Even so, there is cold and there is cold. The cold we experienced that winter a decade ago was significant, but even that was not the extreme cold experienced by those without shelter, amongst them refugees and the homeless.

If you can, consider making a donation to a charity supporting those living without warmth this winter. It could mean the difference between life and death.

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