Come On Baby

As we speak I am wrapped in a doubled up blanket, underneath which I’m wearing yoga pants, two pairs of socks, a shirt, a fleece, and a hoodie (hood up). I’d be adding gloves if I weren’t attempting to type, but am still seriously considering a scarf. My fingers and toes are honestly numb right now. I…I don’t know how to break this to you, but at this moment? I AM INSIDE A HOUSE.

It’s so cold. I am so cold. It’s only May so it’s not even really winter yet but already I have to wear a hat and boots and two cardies to work under my woefully inadequate coat. I mean where do I go from there? I sleep with a hot water bottle under three blankets, in a long sleeved shirt and the aforementioned yoga pants and socks. I make a pillow fort around myself every night to keep out the cold from the single-glazed window right by my head and I drink lots of tea all day and I’m eating as much porridge and stew and soup as I can hold and I am just sort of out of ideas, unless you count “growing fur all over my body” as an idea.

I hesitate to reveal what the actual temperature is here in Wellington because I know some of you live in places like Saskatchewan and Minnesota and Iceland and in weather like this you would be springing up every morning with a glad cry and running right down the hill to Evans Bay and hopping in for a nice brisk wake-up swim. You would be wearing shorts. You would be turning on the air conditioning, if we had air conditioning in New Zealand. You would be laughing at me as I shiver and weep and try to get warm, and I guess you’d be right and all I can really do is wipe the ice cubes from my poor frozen eyelashes and dream of my natural beachfront habitat, dreaming of November when the wind won’t blow me down the street and when I may be able to update my Facebook with something other than “Chiara is cold,” and “Chiara is, seriously girl, really cold,” and “Chiara thinks maybe she should have moved to Vanuatu where probably she wouldn’t be so very very cold.”

Some of you more pragmatic types may be wondering to yourselves why I don’t just turn on the heat, if it’s so damn chilly inside. This query, if indeed you are…querying…it, indicates to the well-trained eye that you are not only a very rational, logical sort of a person, but also that you are clearly, clearly not from New Zealand because…houses just don’t come with central heating here, as a rule. Or insulation. Or double-glazing. They do come, usually, with walls and a roof, which is a start, and very often with heated towel racks, which I don’t completely get but fine whatever. There is no heat to be turned on, is what I’m telling you.

All is not completely lost, I guess. People here use space heaters a lot, a huge shipment of which was delivered to my office yesterday and which give off such awful fumes that I got dizzy and had to go have a restorative cuppa tea after only ten blissfully warm minutes. There are little fan heaters and electric blankets, but you should have seen our power bill last month, you know? There are hot baths and earmuffs. And then there is our fireplace.

We have a woodburner in our lounge, next to which I am currently sitting. We got our firewood for the winter delivered last week and when the fire is lit it is so warm and toasty, in stark contrast to our bedrooms, which is why I often consider just sleeping on the couch in the evenings. It’s very lovely and cosy when the fire is going, and I feel very grateful to have it—which is basically never because the Rachels aren’t home as much as I am and extensive experimental research has indicated that I cannot start a fire to save my life.

You guys, I’ve tried. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve watched intently. I’ve had one-on-one tutorials. I’ve asked the internet. I’ve thought back on every Brownies camping trip I ever went on (I only went on one). I’ve attempted to remember everything I ever learned from my multiple readings of The Valley Of Horses that didn’t have to do with leather loincloths and Rites Of First Pleasures. I’ve crumpled newspapers and stacked kindling and attempted to create a bed of embers and nothing, nothing works. I have tried three separate times this evening alone, and yet here I sit, under my many clothes and my folded-over blanket, shivering quietly and texting my housemates for backup support.

I guess I shouldn’t complain, really, because at least we have firewood, even if I personally cannot operate it. And at least it’s not snowing, because clearly I was not designed with those sorts of conditions in mind, being almost completely solar powered and never happier than when I am in a singlet top in 90% humidity. Can you imagine if I had to actually cook with this stuff (where “this stuff” = fire) or, like, melt ice for drinking water? I would have never survived during Laura Ingalls Wilder times, but I guess I’ll never really know now since I’ve burnt up all my books in attempt to get some sort of combustion going somewhere and I can’t re-read to get some good fire-starting tips. I fear it’s going to be a very long winter indeed.

24 comments

  1. I’ve found oil column heaters are the most energy efficient way to heat a small/medium room. Perfect for a bedroom. Fan heaters are the worst, most power-hungry and only give immediate heat, not ongoing. Hang a blanket over your curtains (which you close just BEFORE it gets dark, and PEG to reduce draughtiness) for extra insulation. Get a thermometer for your bedroom and decide on a minimum temperature you will maintain, as well, so you can feel justified in having that heater on when you need to (mine’s 15 degrees celcius at night) – doctor’s bills and Codral and time off work are not worth skimping on power, and we don’t want you to get sick. Doctor Hayley’s prescription for a bearable winter. ;-D

    I really, really want to watch you try to light the fire. I can’t resist a problem like that!!

    Welcome to Wellington. ;-) I think this has been an exceptionally cold May, but I think I think that every year…

  2. Hayley’s suggestion of a blanket over the window is a very good one. And if you don’t have a big, nice, wooly hat, I might know where you could get one. ;) Oh, and fingerless gloves are a wonder! You don’t think they’d be much help, since your fingers are *freezing,* but they really help a lot. I think it’s the insulation on your pulse points. Let me know, I can hook you up.

    I don’t blame you for keeping the actual temperature to yourself. Michael’s from Minnesota, so I never get to complain about being cold here in Missouri, without getting laughed at, anyway. The man only has 2 pair of long pants!

  3. I tried to lower my electric bills last winter out here in DC, and did it by sleeping al bundled up like you describe. One of the things that made a big difference for me was woolly slippers over the socks (like Uggs, but cheaper and with a soft sole)

  4. Hey sweetie, I so feel your pain.
    I am actually from Iceland, where I live at the moment and I am by nature a very warm person or body or whatever. What I’m trying to say is that I would probably melt in to a gooey puddle in your natural Florida habitat, and yet when we moved to South Africa I thought I would die from the cold, and my mom, who was like you, well your dress code at the moment pretty much describes her attire for those Capetonian winters!
    It’s was like, you know, this is Africa where it’s warm, always, so we will not know the meaning of central heating and real wool is not in our vocabulary, and insulation, bah humbug!
    Over here in Iceland, we might get some scary ass below temperatures and lots of snow, but the houses, they be toasty, central heating over here is all natural hot spring water and i could be naked in the dead of winter and still be warm (this is of course inside nakedness, inside not outside in the waist high snow and gale force winds)
    wish I could send you some of this warmth. Maybe you could grow your crazy hair real long, and sort of use it as a wrap!

  5. Oddly? I am now homesick.

  6. I was going to suggest the blanket over your window, and it’s a good suggestion but really, make this the winter of decadent (long baking) desserts. Go bake a cake and use the oven for warmth. When the cake is done turn the heat off but keep the oven door open and huddle near it.

    Oh! Do you have a microwave? Do you have one of those reheatable rice bags? Those are even better than a hot water bottle!

    I hate to be cold. HATE. And I can’t start a fire to save my life. I feel your pain and hope you’re warming up.

  7. Lady, I have lived in Saskatchewan and I have lived on the Mississippi coast, and there are times when I would much rather have -40C on the dry, Canadian prairie then 20F in the wet, swamp. Not only is are the prairies livable because of insulation, and Thinsulate, and block heaters, but there is a HUGE difference between dry cold and wet cold. Wet cold gets into your BONES. There is no escaping that stuff.

    Sorry. Not exactly a cheery thought.

  8. I’m not making light of your situation, because I get bundled up like that if the temp drops below sixty (will always a Florida girl at heart I guess), but I do enjoy reading about a cold May. It takes my mind off the fact it already feels like July here which doesn’t bode well for the next four months. Hate the heat.

  9. Reheatable rice bag = rice packed into an old (clean) sock & sealed at the open end. No need to spend $$!

    ditto on the suggestions to cover your window w/a blanket. I have been known to sleep in a hat, although it makes for some interesting morning hair.

  10. I have no advice, probably cause I can’t stop laughing (with -not at – you!).

    My only comment is that I never got the heated towel racks either. All they do is scald your arm (or other parts of your naked body) as you get out of the shower and shiver your bootie off trying to get the towel unwound from them.

    Oh, and also? It’s freaking NINETY here today. NINETY! And raining.

    Hope you figure it all out soon :) Shannon

  11. 1. Down comforter. Let me know if you need one shipped to you.

    2. Fingerless gloves. Don’t spend $$ on these. I get a $2 stretchy pair of regular gloves from Target, then snip off just the very very tips of the fingers, but I understand that your Target access is limited. Same thing, though: cheap-ass gloves, and really I mean it, only snip off the very very ends of the fingers. You can type wearing these and they really help.

    3. Shrink wrap your window. Put heavy duty clear plastic over it; we did this in poorly heated apts. in Minnesota all the time. Then you can do the blanket, too, (as suggested above) as needed/wanted.

    4. Scarf. I notice your outfit inventory didn’t include a scarf. I hate turtlenecks and the like, but having a soft scarf on doesn’t bother me and makes a *huge* difference. A pashmina-type one in a super-soft wool/cashmere will be most adaptable for wrapping a bit loosely, multiple times, to trap body heat; and it’s still soft enough that you’ll be able to smoosh it under other layers if you want to. Again, let me know if you’d like one sent to you.

    5. Ditto the rice-bag warmer. And totally make it from an old sock and your own rice. Heat in the microwave and then clutch for warmth.

    I hope you’re able to warm up soon!

  12. After four years of camping in western Montana, where it gets down into the 30s at night, here’s what works for me to keep warm:

    1) Long underwear – give you snug layer against the body that doesn’t ride up, inadvertently exposing skin.
    2) Heavy, ankle-length (or higher) athletic socks.
    3) Fleece pants, tucked oh-so-sexily into the aforementioned socks.
    4) Long-sleeve t-shirt
    5) Hoodie
    6) Big floppy fleece hat that pulls down over my ears, with the hood of the aforementioned hoodie pulled up over said hat.
    7) Gloves
    8) Flannel sheets, fleece blanket, heavy comforter
    9) The human radiator (aka the boyfriend) curled up next to me.

  13. As an Illinoisan, I don’t deal well with damp cold. Which is why my parents have mailed over one one, but two boxes of plastic window wrap.

    I am hereby offering to come over (with your 80s costume stuff, natch) and put it up on your window. It’s a two-woman job anyway. All we need is a blowdryer and you’ll draft-free against all those Southerlies that are about to blow in.

  14. Firelighters!!!

  15. Firelighters!!

  16. Firelighters!!

    Hands down winner.

  17. Soooo much good advice here, I’ve been down the plastic window wrap route too – it works and it’s cheap… Stopped a particularly drafty room in Oxford from freezing me out whilst writing (parts of) my dissertation.

    Have somewhat comical visions of you creating the worlds biggest oven warmed rice bag, then finding out both you and it cannot fit into bed… I can imagine the blog entry for that one!

  18. I love how all of a sudden everyone pops up to comment on a post about the weather…nice to see you all again!

  19. Flanellette sheets and an electric blanket. You are making me cold!

  20. We are all trying to take care of you and warm you up!

  21. I feel your pain. I really, really mean it. I grew up in Edmonton, as I never let anyone forget, but this past week has been fucking miserable because we didn’t have heat, and we’ve just now figured out how to turn on the in-floor heat thing and it does NOTHING to warm up the bedrooms, which are upstairs. And all my warm clothing is in Seattle in storage because I was dumb and prioritized packing clothing for warm weather.

    Dumb.

    I am now extremely grateful because the sun came out today and the upstairs warmed up marginally. I have also planned the meals this week around roasting and souping, in the hopes we can use the stove and oven to heat the house.

    My house, if anyone wants to make suggestions to warm me up, has giant floor-to-ceiling windows, and also french doors. This rules out the shrinkwrapping, unless I decide to shut down the backyard. Any other ideas?

    By the way, the culture here is so non-cold-centric that the switch for our in-floor heater is outside in the fuse box, and there is no thermostat inside the house.

  22. I live in a poorly insulated house in Maryland, one where if we ran the heat to get it comfortable we’d probably pay as much per month as we do in rent. Uh, no.

    I put plastic wrap over the windows, then I have curtain rods that have two levels so I can put up two sets of heavy curtains. My SO and I pretty much move into our respective offices in the upstairs, as it’s warmer than the main floor. The bathroom has no heat vent, so we have a little fan heater in there for bathtime (I take lots of long baths). I have one of those oil filled space heaters that looks like a little radiator in my office, which I turn on high before I want to use the room, then turn to low while I’m in there. 15 minutes before bedtime I crank the electric blanket up to high, let the bed warm up, then turn it off when I get in (under layers of blankets and a duvet, wearing wool socks). I wear fingerless gloves, a wool hoodie sweater and wool socks WITH fleece lined slippers (LL Bean, best purchase this winter). And we have blankets everywhere. Wear a hat to bed. Maybe get some hand/foot warmers (especially the reusable ones) from a sports/outdoor store.

    It’s really hard when I want to practice dance, to get up the will power to warm up a room and strip off some layers and get moving.

  23. So much good advice for the cold here! I love the shrinkwrapped windows and fingerless gloves and especially the scarves too… but the one thing that I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is to make sure that your layers are loose. For instance, two tight sweaters don’t help much because they can’t trap any body heat, but one closer layer next to your skin and then one that’s thicker with some loft will help much more.

    Also yay for your fire! And let me know if you need any serious cold-weather layers (like long underwear silks or whatnot) – so much of it is on sale right now, and I’d be happy to send some along.

  24. My recent flatmates have been imports from lands with central heating and have taken some education in the ways of bundling, extra jerseys, and woolly hats.