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Tony Grist

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The Central Heating's Bust [Apr. 20th, 2008|11:23 am]
Tony Grist
I was born in another age. We were reasonably well to do but we didn't have central heating until I was about twelve. Before then we made do with electric heaters and open fires. You moved from hot spot to hot spot through great gaps of cold. And even when you were within the aura of a heat source the side of you facing it would be warm and the other side freezing.

I'd get into bed on a winter's evening and it'd be like slipping between sheets of ice. I had a hot water bottle in a red, knitted jacket. I hardly dared move because the only patch of the bed that was the least bit warm was the bit in direct contact with my body. 

And just as winter could be bone-numbingly cold, so summer was sometimes insupportably hot.  Central heating and air conditioning have blanded out the year. The seasons have become a lot less noticeable. Our homes and offices and cars are climate controlled. Those of us who don't work outside- which is most of us- can dodge the extremes. In the past there was no escape.
You know what? I think we've lost something. 

[User Picture]From: aellia
2008-04-20 11:22 am (UTC)
Our house is never really warm. It's big and old and even withthe two fires and a mediocre heating systems we still dodge the hotspots.
But at least there is no ice on the inside of the windows as happened frequently when I was a child.
I used to wonder why shops sold short sleeved tops for winter. But glancing into unclosed curtained windows shows me how warm it must be inside when people are wearing them.
Still got your hat on?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-20 03:04 pm (UTC)
I'm becoming acclimatised. I've done without the hat today.

Mind you, we went and spent an hour this afternoon in Asda- lovely and warm it was.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-04-20 01:27 pm (UTC)
Maybe, but until three years ago we didn't have a heating or cooling system in our house and as we got older we just couldn't handle the damp cold of Seville winters with only space heaters and a fireplace despite wearing layers of clothing. We're much more comfortable now and we never set the heat high or the cold very cold...just enough to take the unbearable edge off whichever season it is. Summer here is horribly extreme and the AC has at least made it tolerable.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-20 03:08 pm (UTC)
Seville is cold and damp in winter? That's not at all what I'd have thought.

I'm not really advocating a return to the past. I just reckon there's always a price to be paid for progress.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-04-20 09:27 pm (UTC)
I guess I should clarify. In the old days, Seville was always quite rainy in winter (our wet season is October-January or so traditionally). Global warming has changed that and we've had a run of mild and dry winters but it's still rather damp and chilly here although our temperatures rarely go below 10ºC in winter. The point I was trying to make (and didn't)is that houses here are built to withstand the heat, not the cold and an unheated house in the damp and chill of winter feels very cold indeed.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 08:50 am (UTC)
Your winters sound a lot like ours. Maybe a little warmer. Since climate change kicked in we've had little in the way of really cold weather, but lots and lots of rain.
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[User Picture]From: mummm
2008-04-20 06:36 pm (UTC)
(and her fireplace is actually a waterfall! - or so I've read...)
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-04-20 07:12 pm (UTC)
You read right.
And a very mysterious one at that. We can't figure out how Niagara is getting into the chimney.
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[User Picture]From: cataptromancer
2008-04-20 03:17 pm (UTC)
Strangely, in New York I always thought of summer as cold (because invariably a/c was more intense than it should have been, especially in stores/school buildings) and winter as hot (because the radiators in our apartment made it like a sauna). Our artificial environments can do strange things to the year...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 08:54 am (UTC)
That's just weird.

New York has a pretty extreme climate though, doesn't it? Hard winters, sweltering summers- much more extreme than we get anywhere in Britain- where the edge is taken off things by the Gulf Stream.
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2008-04-20 05:07 pm (UTC)
Well, we probably have. Let's see, what have we given up: painfully high infant mortality rates, influenza epidemics, average life expectancy - for men - oh about 45, lower for women unless she makes it through the child -bearing years, rampant tuberculosis - they called it consumption then, so much more elegant - still killed though...... a life of back-breaking labour for all but the wealthiest

OK, I admit I've been reading "English Society in the 18th Century' part of the Pelican Social History of Britain series, still.......
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 09:04 am (UTC)
You're right, of course. I don't advocate a return to the 18th century, or even to the 1950s. I don't like being cold; it's just that being in this fix reminds me of my own dependency and insignificance. It is- to think along 18th century lines- a moral lesson.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-04-20 07:51 pm (UTC)
I take issue with AC. Lately, over the last twenty years or so, stores and restaurants and office buildings have been turning it on earlier and earlier in the spring. By July, one needs a coat on indoors, only to step outdoors and nearly go into shock from the sudden temperature change. I have had summer penumonias at least five times since the advent of universal central air conditioning. Since I have retired I now control my own environment and avoid places that overkill with AC. I use my AC only to take the edge off the heat and to prevent Mr. Teddy Cat from dying of a heat stroke. Once the humidity is lowered, and the temperature is tolerable (around 80 degrees F.)I shut the fool thing off. In the winter, I leave the thermostat on the same setting all the time, day and night for uniform warmth. I dont usually catch colds, but this spring has been the exception. Taking the long ride down to see Mom in the back seat of a vehicle with windows open I took a chill, and ended up sick for the lastt ten days. I really do not like air conditioning. When we were young I never heard of anyone dying of heat stroke in the summer, or of exposure in an unheated house during the winter.
You are right, we have lost something.
On the other hand, people dont die of TB any more, though, or rheumatic fever, etc.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 09:16 am (UTC)
Our British climate is comparatively mild and AC is mainly to be met with in public spaces- shopping malls, offices and the like. We certainly don't have it here. In any year there will only ever be a handful of days when the summer heat becomes uncomfortable.

I lived in Kentucky for a while and there were days in summer when the moment you stepped outside it was like someone had clapped a hot flannel over your face. In those conditions AC is a blessing.

Like you, I don't see why AC should be brought into play in early spring. I think its vaguely immoral for us to overprotect ourselves against the seasons.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2008-04-20 08:28 pm (UTC)
I hate to say it BUT...in the summer, I have a small A/C unit in my br. Because, heat rises and my room is hot. Too hot for sleeping.

I know this doesn't do much for my carbon footprint. I'm hoping hanging my clothing out to dry from April till October helps a little bit.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 09:18 am (UTC)
I know what your American summers are like. A/C becomes (almost) a necessity.

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[User Picture]From: margaretarts
2008-04-20 10:00 pm (UTC)
I've got a 1920s cottage that stays cold all year long! The heater blows air around the room, but that's about it. I have to get up from my computer, walk around and clap my hands together to get warm. Reading others' comments, this sounds about normal. By the way, what is this "air conditioning" you speak of so intriguingly?

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 09:23 am (UTC)
This is a terrace house built in 1910, with very high ceilings and lots of chinks in its armour. It takes a lot to heat it. It's hard to find anywhere to sit where there isn't a draft. Even with the central heating on I find I need to wrap up warm to work at the computer.

Like most British homes we don't have air conditioning. You find it in malls and offices but rarely in private spaces. The climate's so mild it's hardly necessary.
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From: manfalling
2008-04-21 11:07 am (UTC)
No central heating over here, but the air-conditioner can blast out hot or cold air, which makes it very easy to regulate my one-room flat.

I agree, we're missing something. I don't miss it too badly, but sure it's some of the natural world's color and variety lost. What will things be like when the whole planet's a giant city, like the ecumenopolis Coruscant in Star Wars?

Maybe very dull...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 12:05 pm (UTC)
I don't like being cold, but at the same time I sort of appreciate this reminder of what april really feels like.

I prefer urban life, but I hope there will always be wild or semi-wild places to escape to.
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[User Picture]From: sina_says
2008-04-21 08:55 pm (UTC)
we were just talking about this. when i grew up we lived in a tiny, old house built as a summer cottage on a lake where most of the residents were there only for the summer. there was a fireplace in the living room and portable electric heaters in the bedrooms til i was about 12. then they put in central heat. i missed the fire terribly and have never quite gotten over it.

the house we moved into two years ago is the first i've lived in with centeral a/c. i have to admit that on those 90+F degree days it is awfully nice. but we never open our windows anymore. we use the a/c when opening a window would do just as well. better even, and cheaper. we decided this weekend to buy some screens.
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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2008-04-29 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thus the joke about living in Los Angeles: you know you've become an L.A. "native" when you find 76 degrees unbearably hot and 74 degrees uncomfortably cold. :)
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