How are you faring in this bitterly cold spell? For pensioners in particular, the coldest winter days can be wrought with worries about what the heating costs will be. Although we rarely see snow here in Swanage and, indeed, in our road (near the sea) we do not get iced up cars and frostly pavements. However, I have been told that our allotment has a sheet of ice on it where the wet soil has frozen. More about allotments another day.
For now, keeping warm when one is retired, despite the heating allowance, is a topic of interest to us. We do need our allowance but I have been pleased to see the more affluent pensioners give their heating allowance to charity. Perhaps one day I will have that luxury. When I worked a few days a week, I felt I could afford having the heating turned up on my days at home. However, I am now not even working the one day that I was before Christmas. So what do we do with energy prices going up all the time? There are some simple ways to economise and, for us, we have seen our energy bills reduce drastically this month after a very favourable meter reading. In fact, we have had a sizeable refund, very useful after Christmas, I am sure you will agree.
THE ONE HOUR RULE
Sounds formidable but is boils down to NOT having your heating on a timer. We have, over the last few years, invested in warm pyjamas (this does not have the turn-off that it did in our younger days when we wouldn't have been seen dead in them, even in hospital!). We also have thick warm full-length dressing gowns which we put on as we get up in the morning - forget the heating coming on before you are awake - that is such a waste. When my heating was installed some 7 years ago, I persuaded the firm to give me a manual thermostat rather than rely on the programmer on the boiler which I didn't understand and which I was sure didn't work as it should. There was a small bill for his time -it was a fiddly job I admit. Once I am up in my dressing gown, I turn the thermostat up from 16 degrees. These mornings, it has been switching on at that temperature for a very short while around 5-6 am. The radiators are slightly warm to the touch at 7 or 8am. But in moderately cold weather, the boiler doesn't fire at all until I turn it up manually. This means that if we sleep in - a happening more frequent as we get older or have been watching This Week until 12.30am on a Friday morning - we are not wasting fuel while we sleep. We have adopted blankets in the last few years which we have under and over our duvet and in the coldest weather we throw on one more. The morning heating runs for one hour while we have breakfast and use the bathroom. I dress as far as leggings and thermal sleeved top and go to my lounge to do about twenty minutes of yoga. The stretching is a good way to increase circulation. I then put on my next layer of clothing. The heating is now off, turned down to 17, even 16 if you can bear it and it will stay off until later in the day as the sun settles on my large front windows. I now have a long sleeved top over my thermal and jeans over my leggings. I have one pair of socks and - this year's investment - fleecy lined slippers; shoes are too cold and wear out carpets. I spend some time writing and after about an hour I feel the need for another top which is a thicker roll neck jumper. With any luck I may have done some housework - a boring but good way to keep warm. One friend told me she is not averse to getting a hot water bottle for when she is watching television.
GET OUT AND WALK
When I feel the cold I put on a fleece and my thick coat and go to the shops. When I return, I am amazed at the warmth of my flat and all my layers are shedded in a heap to be replaced slowly. However, now is the time for a snack lunch and we choose hot soup or beans or spaghetti on toast, after which we feel warm enough to sit and watch some lunch time news. Slowly we replace the layers but then mid afternoon we go out for a walk. Living at the seaside, we have the joy of walking along the sea front or up on the cliffs. I walk fast so avoid walking with my partner, who has short legs and wants a gentle stroll. This 30-40 minutes ,followed by a little more shopping and the social effects of chatting to people we know on the street, gets us through to teatime. Often there is the benefit of cooking by the grill or oven and, once again, when we have fed, we are warmed up. The slogan 'Heat or Eat' irritates me as even a small portion of hot food helps heat the body.
JOIN OUTSIDE GROUPS AND ACTIVITIES
So we have been out twice but here is another tip for staying warm. I am involved with several activities which take me out each day. There is a Tuesday Zumba class. Walking to and from this class not only boosts my circulation but takes up nearly three hours in the middle of the day. On three Monday mornings, I go to a Writers' Group which also gives me a walk before and after and two hours in pleasant company. Of course, if they visit me I have my heating on. I would hate anyone to say they were cold at Di's home. This year, I have started a half-day volunteering in a local charity shop, which keeps me away from my hall thermostat and, on top of this, I am out two evenings doing Country Dancing and Musical Theatre when my thermostat can also be turned right down. When I tell people what I do, they say I leave them breathless with my energy, but while I am active, I believe in keeping on the move. For several years, I sang one evening a week in a choir but this meant sitting all evening which is why my friend and I gave it up for the Dancing. Also at Swanage Musical Theatre rehearsals we are on our feet all evening. Another change in my life is that previously my main area of work for sixteen years was 1-1 teaching of dyslexic students, again a sedentary activity. This I have now given up so that I can be more active physically. So, I can hear you saying, but you sit and write, which indeed I do, but only for 1-2 hour bursts during which I stop several times to do those awful things called chores, standing scraping vegetables, making beds and hoovering. I would get more writing done if I paid someone to do my cleaning but I think I would get very very fat!
Whenever I am sitting watching television I put on a long warm cardigan over all the other layers and I use a blanket round my legs. I am not afraid to look like the Granny in the Ladybird books, as I probably do anyway with my glasses perched on my nose.
We have also started keeping a fleecy hat on indoors especially for my other half who has lost most of his hair. They do say that we lose most of our heat from our heads.
Our one luxury is an electric blanket which we put on for 20 minutes before going to bed. I do believe that at our age it is important to go to bed warm.
And then there is always my most favourite place, mentioned on my first blog last week. Libraries are warm and there are newspapers and magazines to read as well as the books on the shelves. When I am no longer active enough for Zumba or Country Dancing you will know where to find me on a cold morning!
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