Talking to my mother on the phone last night, the conversation unavoidably arrived at the weather. The weather in Glasgow? Cold and snowy. The weather in Dudley? Cold and snowy with the smell of turpentine on the breeze.
My dad, suddenly revealing himself to be on the other line in his signature telephone ‘creep upon’, bellows his concern about whether my apartment is warm enough for the winter.
The truth is, it isn’t. I feel somewhat conned by the promises of this ugly modern building, which I chose over a handsome West End tenement with a thought to the cold and snowy (but mercifully unturpentiney) Scottish winters.
So I told my dad matter-of-factly that when the heaters are not on, the place can be a little chilly. His advice? Keep the heaters on.
I shall take his advice. A knowledge of heating and heaters is one of my dad’s superpowers. He can sense a draft at twenty paces.
Suddenly worried, my mum asked, “what happened to the heater we got for you?”
For a moment I didn’t know what she was talking about but after trawling through the milky grot of memory I remembered that my parents had bought me a pair of three-bar halogen heaters about four years ago.
Remembering these heaters made me oddly angry and defensive. It had reminded me of the shit-ass poverty I stoically tolerated during my year as a student and my further year of semi-employment. I usually look upon that period as a two-year Halcyon Day of idle reading and late breakfasts but my flatmate and I lived in pretty appalling conditions.
A converted Victorian loft, the wind would howl through the porous walls and up through the floorboards. To see the vapour of our breath was not unusual. We lived out a whole summer with a wasp nest in the eves: too strapped for cash to call an exterminator and too many storeys high for the council. The plumbing was a major problem: bolts of air would blast water from the kitchen tap hard enough to break glass tumblers. There were bugs, there were icecold showers, there were low ceilings and high taxes.
And there was a bloody ghost. Who you gonna call? Nobody. We didn’t have the wedge.
We survived on love, Stoicism and the knowledge that we were sharing the Bohemian dream. Also a lot of canned goods.
A tear came to my eye as I thought of those halogen heaters. Without their orange glow I doubt we could even have outstayed our rental agreement. They left my life along with the haunted loft conversion. I think my former flatmate still has one in storage and I gave the other to a neighbour. One of them, I remember clearly, had a dead wasp cooking gradually in the bottom of the grill.
But I was also annoyed that my mum thought I still needed them. Halogen heaters are usually used by outdoor market traders, retirement homes and corner shops. In the last four years I’ve worked hard, come a long way and have become pretty successful in the various things that I do. I have money. I’m doing really well. I sure as hell don’t need a halogen heater. Bah.
And so we see how a person’s success can be measured in a chronology of his heating appliances. My next place, I hope, will have underfloor heating and a condensing boiler. And the house itself will be a solid gold kok – just to make sure my parents know how great I am.