Top tips to keep out the cold (or how we kept warm in the 1970s)

Monster slippers

WE seem to have missed out on the heavy snow falls that have ground the rest of the country to a halt over the past fortnight.

However, the cold has been painful. And with an erratic boiler, frozen pipes and the immoral rise in fuel bills inflicted by the greedy gas and electric companies, I’ve turned into my mother.

This means recalling all the things she did in the 1970s to keep our house as cosy as possible. Draught excluders, curtains over doorways, hand-knitted jumpers and extra blankets, yes, blankets on beds.

I’ve so far resisted putting up cling-film on the windows, as fashioned by my dad circa 1978. I do have some windows that aren’t double-glazed, so I’m not completely ruling it out.

We’re a pampered generation, what with our combi-boilers and 15 tog duvets. We’ve become used to mild winters where we still have to mow the lawn in January.

But this winter has been proper chilly. Brass monkeys. Wish-I’d-remembered-my-gloves weather.

At the time of writing, it’s minus 4 outside and I’m wearing a hand-knitted poncho. In green, with a hood. It was intended for summer camping use and hand-knitted by my mum after she made some cute ones for Bonnie. But it’s so toasty, and so much better than those awful fleecy blankets with sleeves which give you electric shocks from the static. I’ve tried to convince her to make lots and sell them on eBay, but she’s too modest, and thinks no-one would want them. Even Bloke wants one. In black.

Keeping the heat in when you live in a house built in 1880 is tricky. The ceilings are high, the ill-fitting doors positively encourage wailing draughts, and some rooms don’t have radiators (like our downstairs loo, which is so cold it might as well be outside).

But it’s surprising what a difference a few old-fashioned tricks can make. You can buy nail-on draught excluders which have a brush at the bottom but I’m not sure they work as well as a sausage-dog stuffed with rags and lentils. Or a knitted snake. Or a pair of old tights stuffed with strips of old towels. In the 70s, when we had storage heaters which only warmed up at night, Mum actually stuffed rags in keyholes.

Doors can be insulated with extra curtains. It doesn’t have to be flash. We’ve used a couple of screw-in hooks and hung a blanket over one. Another has a spring-action net-curtain pole with an old tab curtain hanging from it. It’s not pretty, but it does the job.

We’ve stuck our summer duvet over our winter duvet. The kids’ beds have fleece blankets over their duvets. They kick them off during the night but at least they start warm. And there’s a lot to be said for hot-water bottles and slippers.

Ah, slippers. So under-rated. The older boys believe they are far too cool to wear them, but Billy and Bonnie were more than happy to shop for slippers last week, and now have toasty toes. Mine are cow-print, Bonn’s have pink fairies on, while Billy’s are shaped like monster feet. Perfect.

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