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.