Skating - Winter 1963

Skating at Haveringland Lake  during the Big Freeze of 1963

Are we all turning into wimps?

When I was growing up in North Norfolk during the 50’s central heating was a reasonably new concept. It was reserved for public buildings and the homes of the wealthy. How did we heat our homes in those days? We had an open fire that’s how.

Hot water bottles were in universal use for the beds of the UK’s great unwashed. When we got up in the morning frost was often crystallised on the the inside of the windows and we dressed hurriedly before even thinking about making for the bathroom.

When we got to school we were forced to drink a half pint of milk that often had to be thawed out in front of the coal fire in the classroom. A fire monitor was appointed charged with keeping the fire fuelled during the really cold days.

When we arrived home after school the fire would be lit in the living room and the whole family would settle there after tea until it was time for bed again.

Now that sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? But I have nothing but happy memories of those days. If we were cold we put on more clothes and moved around in the house to get warm, and we went outside playing football or riding our bicycles whenever possible. We were the better for it as we kept physically fit – obese children were few and far between in those days.

It is a fact that if you are fit and well-nourished being cold will not kill you. You will not catch colds by simply being cold. The real danger is hypothermia, which is only a problem in extremely cold conditions outside, or inside a house that has no heating at all. In the latter case those at risk are the less mobile elderly and very small babies.

Although factually accurate this piece is written with tongue somewhat in cheek. These days we expect to be warm in our homes and in the case of the elderly and disabled it is essential. However, if you have an open fireplace and are suffering from ever-increasing utility bills give it a try. Buy some coal and turn off the boiler. An immersion heater will provide sufficient hot water if only left on for a couple of hours each day.  A wall mounted radiant heater in the bathroom does not cost a lot to run and warm bedrooms are completely unnecessary.

You may find these views a bit outdated, and yes, things have certainly changed for the better; however, as time goes on and gas supplies become unreliable or too expensive things will have to change. Fear not, as the home environment that I, and hundreds of thousands like me experienced never did us any harm.

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