Our neighbour smiled at me sweetly this morning from across the way. ‘All this lovely soft snow!’ she called out. Her smile was a particularly knowing one. I smiled back, weakly, snow shovel in hand.
I do love this gentle falling snow. There’s a soft luminous outline to life, every branch on every tree is like an elegant silk white-gloved finger, the road has become almost noiseless, and the world is a whiter, brighter place.
But – enough already! All that work yesterday, and now we have a driveway deep in snow and the prospect of many more hours of shovelling to get back to where we were before we went to bed. It’s not how it is now that is the concern – it’s how it will become shortly if we don’t tackle it as we go along.
Our neighbour has lived here all her life, and we’ve been here only a few years. The main coping strategy appears to be resignation, managing as best you can, not expecting too much, or expecting the worst so you’re never disappointed. We moved in on a wave of optimism, energised by an outsider’s enthusiasm for all things wintry, so we had no need for resignation. She knew this enthusiasm would wane.
The increasing cold of winter has also been a thrill, and a challenge. However, our recent calculation of a typical winter month’s heating costs soon turned that wonder to gloom.
Unfortunately our house has none of the advantages of the main system used in Sweden for heating – hot water provided direct from a communal system powered mainly by burning waste. All new housing is connected to this system, but older houses such as ours have to have money invested in equipment to connect to it. Many people haven’t wanted to make that investment, and have continued to rely on wood burning as their main source of heat. This can work well if you live mainly in one room, but it’s no good for a bed and breakfast. The supplementary heating we have is electric radiators, and with recent electricity price hikes this is not an economic source of heat.
A dripping tap became tortuous and we were unable to fix it, so it was on a Monday morning that a plumber came to call. We remembered him from last year, when we managed to break our toilet (but that’s another story). A young man recently wed, he wasn’t tempted by the offer of some extra work at the time because he was already planning on building a house for them to live in. So, how was he getting on? (we asked), expecting to hear a tale of woe about builders’ schedules and bad weather. They’d moved in at midsummer, he said. We were impressed.
But I digress. His eyes flicked around the walls and took in the details of the building. What were our heating costs like? We grimaced. Had we considered installing a ground heating system? And then he was away, moving quickly from room to room, explaining how it would work and where all the new radiators would be. He was a good salesman, and we’re now considering it. It will be a long term investment though, and in a town that is falling into a pit one wonders if it’s wise. On the other hand, the thought of drawing up readymade heat from the ground underneath your own house could make minus 30 degrees a pleasure again.
In the meantime I am determined not to let these adult responsibilities destroy the wonder. I shall still be glad when it’s snowing and enjoy the thrill of the cold. At least, after we’ve finished clearing this damn driveway.