Thursday, November 02, 2006

brrrrr, its cold...

First frosty morning of the winter today, well ok not that frosty, but the little bright yellow Peugeot that sits at the top of the drive like a small blob of custard needed the windscreen scraping before I could shift it to get my Nissan out.

Sat in the Nissan, seat warmers on, heater blowing hot air on the windscreen - that car has the fastest heater I have ever seen inside a car - I could gaze at the outside temperature display and laugh at the "1c" information during my two minute commute to the office, I'm doing my bit for global warming in driving the distance every day, the car is screaming out for more deisel with all sorts of flashing lights and warning messages showing "0 miles left in the tank" - its been doing this for a week now but still I squeeze another commute out of it.

I arrive at the office and dash inside to be met with a nice warm blast of dry electric heat and then I sit here and remember how it used to be when I first joined the company...

Our office then was two downstairs rooms in a very old stone built house, a very old stone built house that was so old that 200 years ago the builders hadn't bothered with a damp proof course and the solution from the landlord was not to pay for one doing but instead to line the inside of the building with a one inch thick cladding of polystyrene over which he had then wallpapered - it was an interesting feeling leaning against a wall and sinking softly into it but it did nothing to stop the damp creeping through although the landlord insisted that it was much better than it used to be.

Each of the two rooms had an ancient gas fire, when I say ancient I mean pre-20th century and when I say ancient I also mean that neither of them had ever seen so much as a glance at a service engineer. The one in the front office actually made the room colder when you lit it and its single remaining burner would emit a weak blue flame which spluttered all day long, often dying away completely leaving just pure gas hissing out until someone noticed, relighting it at those times was a hazardous experience as you were never sure just how long it had been unlit and just how much gas was hanging and drifting around the burner for you to introduce a naked flame to it, it was probably the only time that you were ever warmed by that gas fire.

The fire in the workshop was fractionally better and half an hour after lighting it you could stand right in front of it and hold your hands within one inch of the burner to feel a gentle warmth wafting forth, only to dissipate within the next inch of frigid airspace, it too spluttered and spurted all day long and I doubt very much whether any combustion fumes ever made their way up the chimney as we sat there at our benches all day with streaming eyes and light heads.

My dad owned the business then and it never once crossed his mind to have the two fires replaced or at the very least serviced and if I had even mentioned bringing an electric heater into the office he would have had a fit.

His business partner Michael had no kidneys and his constant dialysis robbed his blood of any minerals needed for any sort of comfort factor in cold weather, so he'd arrive at the office clad in several layers of winter coats and scarves then push us all out of the way of the one inch source of heat in the workshop and pull up a small deckchair (it was a very cosmopolitan office) right up to the fireplace and sit there for at least an hour, rubbing his hands together and complaining about how cold it was - it never crossed his mind either to introduce another method of heating the office.

So we'd all stand around this poisonous source of meagre heat for an hour or more until my dad started gently hinting that we should all be out on the road earning our corn so that he could sit closer to the fire and answer the phones all day, gently prodding us with phrases such as "Go on bugger off out the lot of you" or "Michael, get away from that bloody fire and piss off out will you" ...

Happy days.

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