Sunday, January 14, 2007


It was 20 degrees overnight, with warnings of dry ice on the road. I had sat for an hour reading the papers at 5 and my feet were still icy at 9, so breakfast by the fire, remembering that in my youth in Sydney there was no heating in the houses - except Marina's, her parents being more realistic or sybaritic than most.

In particular, we would sit in our classrooms at Kambala, cement floors and whistling gaps under doors, with our gloves on and feet pulled up onto the rungs of the chairs. We even wore our despised bloomers to cover the gap between lisle stocking and trunk. Our splendidly outrageous English teacher, Miss McWhinnie from Scotland, would whisk into the classroom in a swathe of mittens, scarves and even a woolly hat, outraged at coming to Australia and being so cold. It was a human moment in the classroom, while we giggled gently and she described Scotland, where at least you could expect to be warmer indoors! I remember my grandmother's house in Saltcoats being like toast, the fire in the back parlour, a lovely smell of fresh tea, and always welcoming arms, for we were the first children in the family for a long time and were made much of.

My mother remembers that there was always a pleasant feeling of coddling there, that the gaps between cuff and hand, or hat and coat were assiduously seen to, and that after a bath every crevice was dried, the towels warmed before the fire, so she now can't bear to see us, her Australian children, step from the shower and wander about in a towel with water still glistening on our backs and legs.

When I new-build as I surely will, I want underfloor heating in key areas, and maybe a stone fireplace where you can sit with your back pressed against the warm stone.


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