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14 December 2009 @ 07:05 pm
I will never be Irish.  

I will never be Irish. I will never accept the idea that, as an Irish cabbie recently said to us, one keeps one’s house not so much *warm* as ‘not cold’. (This guy has a Lithuanian girlfriend. Only upon visiting her family in Lithuania did he understand why she kept turning the heat up in Ireland. “Of course,” he said, “their houses are insulated for it, too.”) A house is not sufficiently warm unless I can spread butter on a piece of bread without tearing the bread. I have not, and probably never will, get used to the idea that on a fine day I still need to wear layers *inside* the house even if *outside* I can comfortably wear shorts and a tank top.

I have adapted far enough that I’ll turn the heat off in the rooms I’m not using, except for the kitchen, because the goddamned kitchen ought not double as an ice box. I have adapted in so far as that I wear slippers or fuzzy socks, and sweaters or other layers, which I never did in Alaska except upon going OUTDOORS, which is the natural and reasonable place to wear layers. I’ve learned to close the door of the room I’m in to capture the heat. And I have also learned that a space heater in the frelling kitchen actually warms it up (unlike the radiator, which makes it slightly less cold), and so a space heater it is. That’s as far as I adapt. :)

I posted a bunch of pictures from Alaska and Seattle, she said, making a wrenching transition from one topic to the next. Most of them are probably completely meaningless to everyone but the people in them, and there’s a certain sameyness to them because a significant percentage feature me in the sweater my Mom made for me, so even different days sort of look the same. Still, they’re here, if anybody wants to peruse them.

I called last night for a taxi to pick us up this morning, and one did. And took us by the most circuitous route possible to the gym, which pissed us off to no end. I need to call our regular cabbie and see if he works that early/can give me a number for somebody who’s not an asshole. Anyway, we did go to the gym, and I swam the slowest 1K of my adult life, but I swam, and Ted gymmed, and we are pleased with ourselves. Well. I’m pleased with myself, anyway. :)

And I wrote a chapter today. I have approximately 32 working days before this book is due. Assuming nothing goes wrong, I will just squeak in to having it finished on time. Let us hope nothing goes wrong. Let us hope, in fact, that I have an unexpectedly stellar week and write a lot more than is necessary. But let us be realistic, too, and admit that that ain’t gonna happen until after the new year.

Speaking of which, how can next year possibly be 2010? That’s just *bizarre*.

miles to Minas Tirith: 99.1
ytd km swum: 45ish?
ytd wordcount: 259,400

(x-posted from the essential kit)
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on December 14th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
A house is not sufficiently warm unless I can spread butter on a piece of bread without tearing the bread

This is presumably why 'spreadable' butter was invented.

It's also why we (the Brits and the Irish) drink beer at room temperature - because it actually is cold enough.
kitmizkit on December 14th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
...the beer point is an enlightening one which I shall have to point out to fellow Americans in the future. :)
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on December 14th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
Strictly speaking, British/Irish beer (which are much of the same heritage) should, I believe, be considered to be best at cellar temperature, just as a decent wine would be.

It rarely gets so far away from that temperature in Britain, and possibly even more rarely in Ireland, that actual cooling would be required to get your beer back to that temperature. If, however, I were to be drinking, say, Green King Abbot Ale in the Wharf Rat in Baltimore, MD, in August, then I would want it cooled. Not chilled, but cooled.
saare_snowqueensaare_snowqueen on December 15th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
Warm beer?
That's the first explanation of that bizarre practice that actually works.

The thing that amazed me most after leaving London to move 'Up North' (first Finland and now Estonia) is that I was warm most of the time in the winter. Not only are apartments insulated and heated but public transport runs to a schedule. If the tram is supposed to arrive at 09:17, you get to the stop at 09:15 and 2 minutes later - there it is.
Geek of Weird Shitgows on December 14th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
I too will never be Irish. Or English, for that matter. When I was on student exchange in London, I was completely baffled at their lack of things like, oh, double-paned windows. The family I stayed with had a front door that you could clearly see daylight out from underneath, and all the radiators were constantly covered in "drying" sweaters. I understand from my parents that Australia (or was it NZ?) have much the same "not freezing cold" philosophy. *shakes head*

Regarding pictures--holy cow, Liam and Laura look very much the same they did 15 years ago. I have the *exact* same penguin pajama pants as Liam, only in red. :) Melissa and Pat look fabulous, too, although I've seen them considerably more recently than the Forbes. And when did Lance get (more) gray? (Did you know little Bexley is a teenager now? How dare she?!) Ted looks awesome, and verra distinguished with the wee bit of frost in his hair. I can see the resemblance between he and his gramma. I haven't the foggiest how long it's been since I've had a good Ted hug.
irishkate: Cosyirishkate on December 14th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
And people wonder why we tend to assume all American's are rich...

Having a room be just warm enough to be "not cold" in my experience anyway, comes from the price of fuel. It just wasn't feasible to heat the house to the temperatures described as warm. And if you had a fire, you discovered that it was hot where you faced the fire and cold everywhere else so you wore layers. If you were sitting near the fire you took them off, but you'd need them to go down an unheated corridor in a minute.

However to be honest on the subject of insulation, my experience with American buildings has been that they have never heard of it - of course these were in California and NYC.
kitmizkit on December 14th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
It costs about 90 euro a month to keep the damned house warm. I have no idea what it cost when you were a kid, but if 90 euro a month in the modern era constitutes "rich", fine, so be it. That's about what heating costs run in Alaska, too, given the conversion rate, so I'm not particularly inclined to buy into the whole "all Americans are rich" viewpoint.
irishkateirishkate on December 14th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
no no - it's not that all american's are rich in reality, it is why we tend to assume all american's are rich. When I was growing up, all american's had cars, and tvs in their rooms, kids talked on the phone to each other for hours. American visitors would tell us our houses were cold so we knew they kept their warmer (not something you could see on tv)

Some of these things were because there was greater disposable income in the USA, some because of the way the organisations were set up (local calls free...no one told us that..here hours on the phone to the neighbour would have bankrupted you). Some were simply that when you have a market as big as the USA, things cost less than in a small island market (though how that translates to Alaska I don't know)

Also - I don't know what it cost when I was a kid so I can't exactly compare but yeah, I'd say comparatively it cost more than it does now. For one thing, when I was a kid, central heating in houses was fairly new (here anyway). Some of my friends didn't have it til later. Double glazing was new, we got it when I was in secondary school.

And when you have grown up in a world where fires were used to heat rooms you get used to dealing with the cold - so when central heating came in, everyone thought the houses were roasting warm... It takes a generation or two before the idea that you don't have to (or shouldn't) wear a fleece over your clothes in the living room sinks in.
Myles Corcoranmylescorcoran on December 14th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
It does get ridiculous at times though. I remember a house in Dublin on Whitworth Road shared by a group of student friends while I was getting my doctorate. In winter you had to break the ice in the loo before taking a pee.
Flitterbyflit on December 15th, 2009 07:41 am (UTC)
At my HS (in California) we had an exchange teacher from Yorkshire, and he tended to do things like have us turn on the bunsen burners in our unheated, poorly insulated science lab. Californian public schools are even more hilariously poorly insulated and heated than Californian houses -- and I grew up with atrocious forced air heating, though at least the vents were in the floor rather than the ceiling. I used to pile my clothes on top of the heating vent in the morning to get them warm enough to put on, eating breakfast in my robe so they'd have time to warm up, and I generally dressed on top of the vent with my robe over the whole pile of clothes and me to trap the heat.
irishkate: Houseirishkate on December 15th, 2009 12:55 pm (UTC)
I'd never seen forced air heating til I went to California.

But a teacher from Yorkshire would indeed be well acquainted with attempting to heat a room with Bunsen burners..

Most of my experience with (southern) California homes was during record breaking hot summers, but I did spend a couple of Christmases there too - which was when I discovered WHY the kerbs are so high and that there really is a river in LA and stuff like that :) And that it may actually seem warmer in San Francisco in winter than summer.

But yes - I used to eat breakfast hugging the radiator and in college in one particularly bad flat I would dress while in bed before I got up. Never had a place as bad as Myles's college experience.. that's just nutty.

One of the things about Ireland and the Irish, and I think I've said this before - we live here as if we haven't quite gotten used to the weather. We don't wear the right clothes, we build the wrong kinds of houses (in the 60-80s there was a fad for Spanish style homes with verandas to stop the sun overheating the interior rooms of the house...) and we complain endlessly about the weather - it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too wet, it's too dry... It's bizarre - -you think we would have grasped that it is like this all the time, every year, has been for a long time.
martianmooncrabmartianmooncrab on December 14th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
I have adapted far enough that I’ll turn the heat off in the rooms I’m not using

my adaptations from living in Europe, have been to get a new tankless hot water heater (because they dont make them here with switches to turn off when not in use) and the devout mantra that a warm bathroom is the best thing EVAH in the world. One shouldnt freeze ones backside to the seat first thing in the morning.... never. I have central heat and air, and love every minute of it.
tamago: bluewillowteapottamago on December 14th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Even though I'm three generations away from Ireland at the closest count, I'm apparently much more Irish than you are on the temperature thing. I'm very much of the belief that the heater exists to keep the house from being "not cold", and we always, always turn it off at night.

Of course, here, we rarely get a handful of degrees below 0 C, and that, only in the middle of the night, and we have a nice, nice down duvet on the bed that two adults and a space heater of a toddler share.

Yesterday we went to a party and the house was just Too Darned Hot. I discovered that "excessive" heat turns out to be one of my headache triggers. (I think my body has decided 25 C is excessive. ;-P ) I found myself drinking two tall glasses of iced juice (and I *never* put ice in my drinks normally) because I was so overheated. In December. In the rain.
dancinghorse: snowy barndancinghorse on December 14th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I am definitely Irish. Cold in the house? Add more clothes! I like a cold house. And a cold room for sleeping. Living in England made perfect sense to me. I had a gas fire if it got chilly, and lots of nice warm clothes.

I have problems being American, in that other people's houses feel so overheated. If you need to wear shorts and a tank top in your house in Maine in January, you probably could turn the thermostat down.

So I ended up in Arizona. But we have nice, chilly winters, especially at night. And I keep the thermostat at 60F. I get cold sometimes, if I've been out riding and am wearing light breeches and a cotton shirt and the sun is down and it's headed for 40F, but there's a solution for that. More clothes! And a hot cuppa.

Definitely genetic. Though weirdly enough, my very Irish mom falls on your side of the debate. It must have skipped a generation.
mevennenmevennen on December 14th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
I grew up in a cold house where we sometimes had to wash in a basin in front of the gas fire because the bathroom was too chilly. My parents don't like central heating and think it makes you ill (given that my father is 87, there may be some truth in this).

Over the years I got used to a much warmer flat, but this current house is arctic at present: we have log fires but cannot, currently, afford to keep topping up the central heating oil (I just cracked and ordered some for Christmas). At £200+ for a minimum order, it's one of the things that has had to go in the middle of recession.

Otherwise, it's the land of thermal vests, cable knit sweaters, dogs on the bed, hot water bottles and tea. However, this is the middle of winter and it rarely gets cold enough to worry about outside pipes and lack of double glazing etc.
Iyllianaiylliana on December 15th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
Mmm, yes, I have friends and family saying all the time how healthy a colder house is. I have no idea if they're right, but like you, we can't afford to find out one way or the other because oil costs about the same as liquid gold! :)
Trent the Uncatchableknappenp on December 14th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
> I need to call our regular cabbie and see if he works that early/can give me a number for somebody who’s not an asshole.

What, Gary's not available?

Clearly, you need a Gary.
The Bellinghmanbellinghman on December 14th, 2009 11:09 pm (UTC)
I don't think she's in his area any more.
Lady Doomlithera on December 15th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'm in his area and I'd kill for that number.
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on December 14th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
I'm annoying. I like my house to be warm enough that my extremities do not feel like icicles (is that how that's spelled?) and I don't have to wear layers of clothing to keep from being chilled. However, when it's time for bed, I want my room to be cool enough that being snuggled under all the blankets is nice and warm but not overwarm. :)

Sadly, since the heater in my room is neurotic and has an unfortunate tendency to turn on and stay on, even though the room is 85F or more and the thermostat is set for 70F (I suspect the thermostat's placement means it constantly gets cool air from the much cooler hallway across it regularly enough that it never reads the temperature as being 70F). So I don't turn it on anymore and make due with my spaceheater and the heater in the laundry room. This means that my room actually tends to stay around 70F, though my fingers and toes become ice, sadly. I wish I could afford one of those heated keyboards. I'm thinking I might invest in a heated blanket for my feet.
Flitterbyflit on December 15th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
I really like fingerless gloves for the 'fingers of ice' problem. You can make cheap DIY ones out of old socks: cut a big hole for your fingers and a smaller hole at the side of that for the thumb. A heated blanket for your feet is probably more helpful than socks + slippers, since you're sitting still at the computer so your feet won't stay very warm. Also consider a hat, yes, a hat! If your feet and head and most of your hands are kept warm, your fingers are more likely to stay warm as well.
irishkateirishkate on December 15th, 2009 12:58 pm (UTC)
I've thought of doing this but how do you stop the socks from fraying?
Rovandarovanda on December 15th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
clear nailpolish would work, or rolling the edge and doing a quick seam.
Doing simply dreadful things tooclanwilliam on December 15th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
Central heating is a luxury and therefore Bad for your Moral Fibre.

Fires are fine - you have to clean up after them and you have to re-lay them, so there's enough work on your knees to compensate for the indulgence of being warm. (To recreate the 70s childhood experience, have a bath on Saturday evening and watch Tom Baker in Doctor Who, making sure you're sitting next to the fire while wearing a flammable nightie and dressing gown. Unless your parents were spoilsports and read warning labels - you can still sit next to the fire and watch Tom Baker, though. You just won't go up in flames.)

My mother in law only acquired central heating in the past decade. Actually, less than the past decade since I was used to freezing in bed at her place.

My abiding memory of one house we lived in was that it was always November. Grey and damp and cold - the house was unheatable. Which is why my parents have been fanatical about central heating ever since.

Definitely the attitude of "put another jumper on" still prevails. However there is one huge bonus for women when they hit a certain age - you are just comfortably toasty when hitting menopause rather than melting.
St. Sean the Amusedseanb on December 15th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
Apparently, my wife is Irish.
Amberleyamberley on December 15th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
Toastiness good
You wacky Alaskans and your preference for life-giving warmth!

Perhaps you need sturdier bread?

Congratulations on the successful implementation of the gymcab plan,
even if there are still rough edges to be smoothed out.
Aberdeenaberdeen on December 15th, 2009 09:09 am (UTC)
I grew up in a 'not cold' house, where if you weren't wearing a sweater then the heat was up too high. I never thought anything wrong with that, and when I went into a neighbor's house that was kept at 70F (21C), I was /shocked/ that it was so hot inside.

Now, my preference is very clear for a WARM house during my waking hours. But I also really prefer an 'almost cold' house for sleeping. The only problem with that is that a cold house makes it VERY difficult for me to get out of bed. This year, I purchased a lovely automatic thermostat, so I can have the cool night-time, and still have a warm house in time for me to get up in the morning.

Mary Annepers1stence on December 16th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
i think that those of us from *really* cold climates are used to actually warm, insulated habitation. my russian friend and i both get occasionally mocked for being chilled in the moderate but chilly winters here. at least in cold climates, one gets warm SOME of the time. in these chilly climes, its always chilly, indoors or out. *grumble*
Janne: Cold!janne on December 16th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Agreed. From not-so-sunny Norway myself, and have never frozen as much as when I spent a year in the more southernly parts of the U.S.A. (Didn't help that they kept airconditioning on full all summer -- first time in my life I had to bring a jacket to put on for going inside, rather than outside!)