Monday 19 March 2018

Eva Wiseman: I savour my heating, my braless sweatshirt

Eva Wiseman
Eva Wiseman

Sometimes a little story within the whole sprawling mess of news speaks to you. It's a selfish thing, often. One that makes you feel something. For me, this week, it was heat. It was the quite specific central heating temperatures that the British government has advised will keep people from dying this winter. 21C in the bedroom, they said, and 18C elsewhere. When I heard these figures on the radio, I shivered.

I fear discomfort like I fear empty streets after dark. I fear a broken TV. I fear a lumpy sofa and the wasted evening it implies. I fear a day without half an hour alone. A weekend without a working fridge, or a cold night without heating. And this news, this small news, this was a reminder that discomfort can kill. A figure has even been put on it – a number beneath which sadness starts. Sadness, then pain, then lethargy, then worse.

Our next-door neighbour Rose, whose flat was never centrally heated, wouldn't turn her electric fire all the way up for fear of running out of money on the meter. One day she knocked round to invite us over – she wanted to show us what it looked like with the full three bars lit. We cooed, appreciatively. But it's only now that I really understand the true fear of being old and cold and alone.

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