Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Goldfish Guide to Keeping Warm

I have spent the last week or so running myself into the ground, but I had written most of this before then. Apologies to Seahorse, to whom I had promised this following her advice on Not Dying of Cold.

I'm pleased to say that Friends of the Earth and Help The Aged are attempting to sue the government for their broken promises about fuel poverty. Gordon Brown has attempted to deal with the problem by offering money for home-improvements to help poorer people be more efficient but most poorer people are in rented accommodation and have limited control over such matters. That having been said, AJ and I are getting a free load of insulation from the Warm Front, who also sent us free lightbulbs.

My advice is meant mostly for duffers. Those of us who find ourselves sick and unable to get out much which means (a) we have to stay warm all day at our own expense (b) we don't have much money with which to do so and often, (c) health problems and poor mobility make us suffer from the cold more than most.

Excuse another list of points but I would suggest that there are three important principles to keeping warm against these odds:
  1. Keeping warm is much easier than getting warm once one is cold.
  2. We are much warmer when moving about than when we are staying still – especially if we are lying still for many hours.
  3. The culture we have now is a centrally-heated one.
The last point was difficult to phrase so I shall explain. One example would be that most people (that I know) work on the basis of having just one hot meal a day. This is no problem when you already plenty warm enough. If not, replacing one's cornflakes with porridge and one's sandwich with a bowl of soup can make a significant difference to one's overall comfort.

Similarly we were all brought up never to wear certain clothes indoors - coats, scarves etc. - because we wouldn't feel the benefit of these items when we went outside. However, if you think about the historical costumes of our culture, people always did wear sMy funky thinghawls, cravats, bonnets, headscarves and headpieces and so on indoors, as well as full-length and high-necked clothing. If you feel the cold and/ or you don't want to keep the heating on full for six months of the year, there's nothing wrong with this - you just need to put even more clothes on when you go outside.

I wrote quite a bit about warm clothing before. Indoors, it is important that extra layers are things which it is very easy to get on and off; shirts, shawls, cardigans and so on. Arguably the favourite and most-used item of clothing I have is my thing here on the right which might be called a body-warmer or a gilet or whatever you like. This is much easier to get in and out of and probably more effective than a thick jumper.

Fingerless gloves are a must and ones that most people would only buy for aesthetic purposes – like my lacey Madonna ones – are great. Fingerless glovesThey keep your hands at a reasonable temperature without any risk of sweaty palms. You can also get fishnet ones – fishnet being a wonderful fabric for keeping warm.

Despite my stated feelings on wheelchair blankets, when indoors it is entirely reasonable to use blankets and, if necessary, hot water bottles when you are sitting or lying down. However some tips;
  1. Don't stay in bed all day for the purpose of keeping warm. I have always found that it is much much better for my mood and my long-term mental health, to get dressed every day and camp out in a different room, even if I am dozing a lot.
  2. Be disciplined about moving about. If you've found your warm place, it can be a struggle to motivate yourself to get up, but it is both better for your health and your temperature control to move about every once in a while.
  3. If you are snuggled up most of the day, you don't necessarily need to heat the entire house or flat all the time. Save the fuel for the room(s) you occupy.
  4. Avoid heat sources which are likely to further impair circulation; resist the temptation to sit close to a heater or putting your feet against the hot water bottle. Also avoid having very hot baths.
On the subject of bathing, if you are a idle duffer, you're unlikely to be sweating much and needn't bother with anything like daily bathing. However, when you do bathe, make very sure that you get your self and most especially your hair completely dry as soon as possible.

Thanks again to my friend who gave me this most appropriate hot water bottle a couple of years ago.

Finally, a word about tumble-dryers. Not everyone can afford or has room for one, but even a greeny like myself recommends it for the winter (with dryer balls, of course). Drying clothing or towels on a radiator makes your heating have to work much harder and you are left with a choice between opening the windows and letting all the heat out or else allowing your house to get damp and mouldly, which not only creates work but is not good for your health. Items can also fail to get properly dry and there are few nastier sensations that getting out of a warm bath and wrapping oneself in a cold damp and slightly acrid-smelling towel.

Tumble-dryers, involving as they do an amount of heat and a big motor, use a lot of electricity in one go, but they do get the job done properly. One simply has to be efficient with their usage; don't wash clothes that don't need washing and don't bathe more often than you need to.


Anonymous said...

I love your style! We wear down clothes alot here! It's starting to get verrry cold! We have radiator/hot water heat and they are such a comfort to lean on when they're running. Lots of great info in your post!

Anonymous said...

And then there's always the possibility that lacy gloves and fishnet will find er... other ways to raise your temperature :-)

Katie said...

I *love* fingerless gloves, they are very good if you are a malco-ordinated walking stick user who needs to be warm and keep her fingers free.

Weird in edgewise said...

I grew up in a cold place, and my dad always told us to "just heat the room you're in!"

Now, because we're in an apartment, they turned the heat on on Oct. 1, and, as usual, we're boiling. Crackling, actually. I get shocks left right and centre.

But as a usually cold person (when I'm not home) I like the idea of the "thing" - it looks so cozy.

I also like the word "acrid" and that's why I decided to comment and not just lurk.

D Phoenix said...

Excellent job. I would add that outdoor camping/supply stores sell under garments that are inexpensive and warm. They are made of odd fibres that wick away sweat better than, say, a silk undershirt, which some people use as a first layer to try to trap body heat. If you can stand being around all the hikers and campers and super fit people just long enough to get in and get a shirt and long johns, you'll be much warmer for it!

Anonymous said...

Often my skin will burn and too many clothes are a bit torturous. That is when the Fluffy Blanket of Heaven comes into its own. They're relatively cheap on ebay...can be thrown around shoulders, legs or just snuggled under. I often find myself under one whilst reading for my course.

And, of course, the best thing about the Fluffy Blanket of Heaven - if you put on or lose a bit of weight...you don't look stupid with it on you :)

My favourite moment of funny body temp management was on a summer day out when I was on my mobility scooter. It was a hot day, but my hands were bad...so I was dressed in jeans, black t-shirt, sunglasses and my leather gloves. I pulled over to let a car down a tight road. The car window rolled down and a wonderful brummie bloke stuck his head out and shouted;

"Alright, killer!"

So we might get cold at funny times...but this does not mean we're not as cool as the next murderer.

seahorse said...

This is fab, and I'm late getting here but it's worth it! Well, I've got three blankets on my bed - one that I put under me as I sleep (super warm) and two on top. Am wearing three layers at least but will definitely get some gloves. May dig out my fishnets as well...and both me and my son have furry hot water bottles. Things are much improved, and I am warmer :-)

Anwen said...

I am defying my Northern roots and DENY the 'you won't feel the benefit' thing - if you think about it, putting a coat on means having to wait for the 'dead air' to warm up. If you wear it while you're indoors, or at least put it on a good half hour before going out, then it will already be insulationally charged, sort of thing. So THERE!

(and yes, this is some v good advice)

Oh, another quick thing - for a really warm bed, put a second duvet underneath the bottom sheet - SOOOOO snug!

Anonymous said...

I think I disagree regarding hot baths, unless there's something I'm missing: one bath can save me the necessity of turning the heater on, as well as the prime functions of getting me clean and untwanging muscles. The trick is probably in the timing: first thing when one wakes up, the air's still cold and the bodily thermostat is still turned to Low, a hot bath warms one up beautifully, and gets one able to move around enough to keep warm.

Being nearly bald, I have intentions of knitting or sewing myself something vaguely decorative and feminine, or at least not entirely absurd, for indoor use. In the meantime, a thoroughly absurd woolly hat serves as an early morning and late evening warmer-upper. It's not elegant, but it makes an astonishing difference.