There’s been talk recently about things like the home insulation scheme that the Greens introduced, which has been shown to have done about $4 of good for every dollar spent on it in savings in health costs and energy. There was some attention a couple of weeks ago too when Clare Curran live-tweeted being on hold with Housing New Zealand on behalf of a family in her electorate who hadn’t had any heating for four weeks, who ended up with a baby in hospital with croup and two older children with bad colds. And of course there’s the ongoing problems in Christchurch with damaged housing and no repairs in sight for a lot of people.
But it’s coming into winter, so at the same time as all of this, there’s also people talking about how the cold is better than the heat – not as a personal preference, just as a statement of fact – because you can always warm up but you can’t cool down. And while that’s technically true, I just wish, I really wish, that people would stop to consider that realistically it’s not always possible.
There’s a bit in Watership Down about how it’s a very human thing to be able to say that winter is your favourite season, and a lot of the time when people say that, they mean they enjoy sitting inside by the fire while a storm rages outside. And I’m absolutely not denying that hot weather can be dangerous – that would be ludicrous. And yet.
I have a problem with weight. I’m medically underweight, the last time I tried to donate blood they wouldn’t even weigh me, they just looked at me and told me to put on five kg and come back afterwards. I’ve been through periods where I would eat a lot of crap, because I didn’t care, and I wouldn’t put on any weight. And I’ve always had a problem with the cold, which is quite possibly linked in some way, and maybe there are other things going on with circulation or whatever and maybe there aren’t, but either way, until we installed a heat pump, I spent 3-6 months of every year with aches in my bones, chilblains on my hands and feet, fingers and toes red and painful, getting up during the night to run them under warm water to ease the itching tingling for a few minutes, utterly miserable. With the heat pump, it’s okay if I stay in that room during the day. But I can’t spend the entire cold part of the year in one room, that’s just not a reasonable solution, and telling me to put on a jersey doesn’t help. Turning on a standard fan or vertical heater doesn’t help, and also gives me guilt complexes about the amount of electricity those things take. Warm socks only help a little. I can’t wear warm gloves all the time because almost everything I do requires manual dexterity.
I’m hardly the only one. New Zealand in particular is known for its cold, damp, badly insulated houses. Christchurch is known for its cold, damp, badly insulated houses with cracks all through the walls and exterior cladding replaced with plywood or tarpaulin. People just… seem to forget that, even while discussions are ongoing about how the housing insulation scheme has saved x amount in prevented health issues – because that’s money, maybe, not people. But there are people behind those numbers. There are cold, miserable people who would love if it was as easy as putting on another jersey.
But it’s not, and when people are talking about how they personally prefer colder weather to heat, it would just be nice if they’d remember that, and maybe rephrase a little. Not a lot. Just… enough to make it clear that you know not everyone is able to enjoy it, and it’s not because they’re too stupid to layer their clothes.