Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Are we spoilt these days?


The picture above, by Hendrick Avecamp, is a seventeenth century Dutch skating scene;
I love these paintings not least because they tell us so much about the times. Everyone is well wrapped-up and outside skating, and my guess is that it would be warmer outside than it was inside and that the only way to get warm would be to wrap up well, go out and get moving about. And I suppose that a spell of this kind of weather - and there seemed to be plenty of them in those days - would kill off the old and infirm who could do neither.

When did glass start to be fixed in windows? I suspect that it may have been later than this painting and if so, then I can't think of anything colder than a house with windows open to the outside.

Even in the nineteenth century, the century of my grandparents, the only heat source would have been an open fire and probably a peat or a wood one at that. The heat source at bedtime would have been a feather bed, masses of blankets, quilts, old coats, and a wrapped oven shelf put in at the last minute to warm it all up. No wonder they had so many children in those days - it wasn't just the lack of contraception - it was just another way of getting warmed up!

My late father-in-law used to reckon that wood was the best heat source - it warmed you when you chopped the tree down, again when you sawed the logs up, again when you put the logs on the fire and finally - if it was larch or poplar - a fourth time when you had to keep dashing round the room to stamp out the sparks which flew out of the fire

Now we are so lucky. Walking into Tesco this morning we were met by a blast of hot air. I dare not think of the cost of their heating bill but they must consider it cost-effective to blast hot air down in the doorway as a warm welcome on a cold morning.

When we go out we set our heating go come on so that everywhere is warm for our return.

At lunch time the farmer lit the stove and already the whole house is basking in the rosy glow from it. An hour ago the central heating came on to back it all up. We take it all forgranted, don't we.

We now have no need at all of broths and soups and suet puddings to give us warmth and energy (not that that necessarily stops us craving them). In fact doctors exhort us to eat more salads and fruit in the cold weather - it will make no difference to how warm or cold we might feel.

All I can vouch for is that at lunch time I went out to the dustbin. The wind was slicing knives through the yard and a fine rain was drifting through it. What sun there was was pale and watery. It was a horrible day and I have no intention of setting foot outside the door again today - I shall merely look at 'outside' through that very welcome sheet of glass

today's aros: black, leafless alders stand etched against the steel-grey sky.

19 comments:

Gerry Snape said...

Yes I think you are right. Today I said to Alan, "let's think of ten reasons to be thankful". you know in the end it was quite easy as we have so much but before that I was having a bit of a moan about what will soon be forgotten and gone. I'm going to have a go every day....until I forget!

Granny Sue said...

And think of the pollution too, with coal as one of the main fuels and sanitation almost nonexistent. Hardy folks indeed were those who survived the cold, the germs and the constant battle to get enough to eat. We are blessed, and we often forget how it once was.

annell said...

I love this write!

Helen said...

To answer your question ... in a word ~ YES!

Sense of entitlement, greed, lack of morals, lack of respect the culprits.

Heather said...

Beautiful painting and inspite of it's wintry setting it doesn't make me feel cold. I well remember my grandmother's feather bed and stone hotwater bottles. I love your father-in-laws thoughts on wood as a heat source. I am infuriated by shops which blast out hot air through open doors. Waste! Waste! I can't feel warmed by salad in winter and want soups and stews. We are spoilt but I try not to take it all for granted.

Tom Stephenson said...

You should visit our place in the winter, Weaver. We take turns to suck a peppermint and everyone else stands around your tongue, holding their hands out.

izzy said...

Good point about the windows! I love the Dutch painters-and all those crowded scenes. I still love mounds of covers and fresh air to sleep- we do process our own firewood here and I know what it takes to bring the warm in.My hubby and I decided long ago to raise as much of our own food as we can. It is an active happy lifestyle.Thanks!

jeanette from everton terrace said...

While I worship the air conditioner and am every grateful for it during our blasted summers here in Arizona, I cannot complain about the winter. Not when all of you have real winters. It's gets cold enough here for me and we had a few freezing nights last week but nothing you would probably even notice. Most people still have shorts on during the day, even though I'm in a big coat. I imagine I would not have done well in that painting!

Ann Somerset Miles said...

Well, even with a wood-stove which my husband spends hours keeping fueled with wood we have grown ourselves, the wind and cold finds its way into nooks and crannies in this old house. We keep a stockpot on the stove and it will last a week`; meat and broth and veg, very cheap cuts and veg from the garden. And I hate supermarkets with their heat (have to peel of my five layers) and all the germs that fly around in temperatures that are not good for us. (But I do love our electric blanket!) Happy new year and all the best for 2011.

steven said...

weaver what a super unpacking of this lovely painting! it's easy to forget how very recent the addition of insulation, central heating, triple-paned windows and all the other stuff that keeps the cold out and the warmth in wa. steven

jeannette said...

Yes, we are definitely spoiled rotten! Ten years ago I met an African woman from Zambia who stayed here for some months, and she told me that she had no glass in her windows. She would make sure there would be a toilet if I would visit her!
One moment I thought that this was a painting of Jeroen (Jerome) Bosh, but than I clicked on it, and saw it was "too sane" for Jeroen:):)
If I haven't done so already, wishing you a spectacular 2011!

Helsie said...

Coming from a hot country (Australia) I often yearn for a cold winter especially now that i know there is heating to warm you up. But,in my limited experience, I've found the heated homes and shops of the UK too warm. I hate all that hot air and stuffiness that comes with it. When we were in rented cottages I had to open the windows for some fresh air as we were unfamiliar with the heating systems and found them difficult to regulate though it was nice to come home to a warm house at first.
It certainly isn't cold here at the moment though it is rather wet!!
Cheers
Helen

Reader Wil said...

Happy New Year! Great post about all the luxury we have compared to those in the seventeenth age. I believe they had already glass windows in the sixteenth century and earlier. The stained glass windows of the churches are very old. Anyway it might be useful for me to look this up tomorrow.

Pondside said...

I love those old paintings, so full of detail - like a child's 'I Spy' book.
It's terrible to be cold. My only experience was in Northern Alberta, in a wooden house with no power and no fireplace - only electric heat, and when that failed, all failed. Pipes burst, plastic was in danger of cracking and we fled for a public space that was heated!

Hildred and Charles said...

Of course we're spoiled. Love the painting scene, and even more your aros contribution!

kimber said...

Happy 2011 to you, Weaver! Your post reminded me of when my husband and I would visit his parents at their old farmhouse. His childhood bedroom was missing a pane of glass, so in the winter months, the wind and snow came right in... yes, a little drift of snow in the middle of the floor! We were always so thankful when the cats (five or six of them) chose to sleep with us -- and I'm sure the cats were very thankful that we were there, too!

The Weaver of Grass said...

At least we all know that we are spoiled these days - and from your comments we appreciate it.
Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Dartford Warbler said...

This painting reminds me that we did have a mini ice age in England during Tudor times, when the Thames froze over and they held ice fairs on the river.They must have been hardy souls to have survived such conditions, and out in the countryside it would have been so much more difficult.

BT said...

I love those old 'skating' paintings too. I would have truly hated to have lived in those times - no glass in the windows, it doesn't bear thinking about. It was freezing in our cottage last year when the builders were here but this year, thankfully, our new wood pellet boiler keeps us toasty warm. How lucky we all are, oh yes.