Thursday, 16 September 2010

They don't know they're born

I have a little schoolday morning routine with Second Born. While I am in the shower, he charges upstairs after he has eaten but before he is dressed and tries to get into our bed and hide without me noticing. Usually he fails (he is getting a tad big these days to be convincingly camouflaged by a mere duvet) but we have a little chat for a while before I turf him out and send him to get dressed. It's quite a nice little interlude before the day starts in earnest.

The other day SB was complaining about being a bit cold and was using this as his excuse for staying under my duvet and not going to his own room to get dressed. I suggested he might want to consider wearing something more than a t shirt and a pair of boxers if he was feeling a bit chilly in the morning. He looked slightly taken aback by the suggestion, as if the idea of putting on more clothing in order not to feel cold was a distinctly alien one.

And it dawned on me that it actually was. Our children have always lived in a centrally-heated pretty much draught-free house. They can (and do) wander around in t-shirts and boxers in the depths of winter and don't give it a second thought. So to much eye-rolling from SB I told him at length how we didn't have central heating in the house I grew up in (or in the first house Husband and I bought together, for that matter) and how you sometimes woke in the morning to find ice on the inside of your window. How you had to wear several layers around the house anytime after September and how you would lie in bed in the morning watching your breath rise in little steamy puffs, putting off the dread moment when you had to throw back the blankets and run for the bathroom.

And that reminded me too of getting "fireside tartan" or "corned beef legs" as my Granny used to call them - that mottled red itchiness on the skin caused by sitting too close to a source of direct heat. SB refused to believe such a condition existed - again, proof that he has never had to jostle with his younger brother for a spot in front of the two-bar electric fire that is the only heating in the entire house. In fact as I told these tales, I realised that he was looking at me in exactly the same way I used to look at my Dad when he told me stories as a child - how he had no bathroom in his house until he was in his twenties and how as a young lad he used to deliver milk round the streets of Leith from a handcart with an oil lamp tied to the front. An oil lamp! It sounded virtually Dickensian to me and I suppose that's what no central heating sounds like to a modern 10 year old.

It's an interesting thought, isn't it, that the twentieth century was such a time of rapid social change that my family went from oil lamps and no plumbing to central heating, laptops and PVRs in two generations. Maybe I don't know I'm born either.


  1. My children are endlessly fascinated by tales of having to get up and walk over to the television in order to change channels. They sometimes wonder aloud if my sister(their aunt) and I had to shoulder small dinosaurs out of the way on our way over to the tv to do so.

  2. Honestly, I can't imagine living in a house without central heat either!

    We didn't have air conditioning when I was growing up, which made life pretty miserable every summer. We also only had one bathroom for the six of us. And of course I can remember life without DVD players (or VCRS), CDs, microwaves, cell phones, and computers. My children hear all this and can't believe how primitive things were in the 20th century.

  3. Oh, don't remind me. "When I was your age children's TV was on for about an hour a day" and we couldn't record it. And - AND - it was black and white.

    Dodder. Dodder.

  4. I was a child in the forties and my daughters, and now my granddaughter, love stories about how I had to dress (skirts and woolen stockings, whine), what we did not have to eat (fresh fruit and lettuce in December) and, of course, tales of taking the toilet seat to the outhouse at my grandparents' farm.)
    No television at all.

    When the girls were 7 & 8 we bought recreational land (where we live now) with no power lines and we had the wood stove and outhouse for real. And no television.

    They loved it, as long as we got back to the city in time for Disney Hour on Sunday.

    People make jokes about Grandparent stories, but my kids loved them.

  5. Oh that IS funny! D has no concept of dressly warmly in the house either. He's always up before we are on weekend days and rather than bother his backside to get dressed, he swans around in pyjama shorts, pyjama short-sleeved t-shirt, bare feet ... AND PUTS THE CENTRAL HEATING ON. And he thinks this is okay?!

    Your account of ice-inside-the-windows must be exactly the same as mine. Kingussie, minus 20 or so in really bad winters, and for a good while we had no central heating. So the moment you woke up, you'd see your breath condensing in front of your face. You couldn't see out the bedroom window for the coating of frost. It was horrible.

    I have one of my granny's oil lamps on our mantelpiece ... sans oil, right enough, but I must tell D how that was all they had before electricity, he'll be amazed!