Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ah, bitter chill it was!

"The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:"

Keats’ poem, St. Agnes’ Eve, was on our “O” level syllabus, and I was never fond of it (though it made a lot more sense than that Basil pot poem.) I wasn’t impressed by Keats’ description of cold. I was used to it. We all were.

It isn’t outside cold that I remember in post-war England. It was the cold inside. Our house, like that of most if not all my friends, had no central heating. We made use of one small coal-burning fireplace, which had to be cleaned out and relit in the morning. I really don’t think it threw out much heat, but it felt cozy if you sat right by it and ran the risk of the ensuing chilblains. The fireplace was in our dining room, where we spent most of our time and I seem to remember an electric fire in the unused fireplace in the “front room.” Our bedrooms were always chilly, but a hot water bottle helped warm up the sheets. There were no flannel sheets or pajamas, which would have helped. I used to put my underwear in bed with me, so that I could jump into it in the morning. We had vests and liberty bodices, which we topped with jumpers and wooly cardigans, but we didn’t have much comfort for our nether regions. We wore skirts, which ruled out long johns, and I don’t think warm tights had been invented. White cotton ankle socks were our uniform, in and out of school.

I had a small electric fire in my room so I could do my homework there in the evenings and I also have vivid memories of lying beneath the warm water in the bath and dreading the moment when I would have to get out and dry myself in the chilly bathroom.

But that cold pales into comparison with a day like today in Michigan. It is cold. Frigid.

The photo on the left shows the azalea in front of the house as it will look in at the end of April. The photo on the right shows how the poor thing looks today, with its leaves curled up to combat the icy temperatures.

So how did I spend the day? In part reading about a woman who, at the age of 63, walked from one end of the Gobi Desert to the other, accompanied by her husband and while she was still suffering from the effects of a car accident. In the currrent chapter the temperature is 116° and the camel just rolled over on their water jugs and split them wide open.

Who invented the weather anyway?


Maggie May said...

I remember those things so well! Were people a lot healthier then, do you think? Or did the healthy ones survive & the sicklier ones die? All the cental heating & double glazing means we don't get any change of air sometimes! Just a thought!
Loved your site.

Maggie May said...

Me again! Please pick up your award from my post!