‘After winter, I’m not looking forward to our next electricity bill’

Sep 27, 2019
It was a colder than expected winter and Brian isn't looking forward to his next electricity bill. Source: Getty Images

At last spring seems to be plucking up the courage to show us a few green buds on the trees, some bluebells in our garden are blooming and we’ve had to start cutting the grass again too! Until now, it seems to have been a particularly hard winter in Australia this year, at least in Gippsland where I am, if not anywhere else.

We’ve suffered cold serious enough to stop Jacqui and me going out to the shops to get even quite important items. With dashes of snow here and there as well, it was much more important to crouch in the one room we have that proudly contains a reverse cycle air-conditioner. The rest of the house has various small fan heaters and radiators dotted about, trying to make things just that little bit more comfortable, though they didn’t really help a lot.

I am dreading our next electricity bill coming in — I have a feeling we are going to get a real shock when it does, not that we could do much about it. It was just very sad that I had been forced into having emergency surgery right in the middle of the cold spell, and it was important that I was kept warm and comfortable while I got over the initial shock of the procedure, and the effect of all the anaesthetic and pain-killing drugs that had been pumped into me.

On the other hand, I suppose we should be glad that we are experiencing all this global warming — just imagine what it might have been like around here without that! We would most likely still be at least knee deep in snow, all water pipes would be frozen up and useless, and cars without anti-freeze in the radiator would most likely have burst a cylinder head! That happened to me one year, in the United Kingdom, and I can tell you, it’s very expensive to put right if it does happen!

There was a new cylinder head to find for a start, because the old one was both warped and cracked by the encroaching ice, then the cost of having it all put back together again. It is truly amazing what strength frozen water has, to be able to do so much damage; enclosed within the confines of the cooling system, it became as it froze and grew in size, an irresistible force, just like young trees, able to force their way up through solid concrete to get to the air and sunshine!

This was one of the main reasons we had for leaving England and coming to Australia in the first place, but I confess, having lived here for 32 years, this year was the first winter where we had doubts about whether we had made the right choice. I’m really joking, even at its coldest Australia is nowhere near as cold as it can be in the UK.

Another part of the trouble about winter time and older people like me, is of course, the older you get the more you feel both the cold of winter and the heat of summer. I firmly believe we all have some sort of little organic thermometer/thermostat hidden away somewhere inside us that is capable, when we are young, of regulating the way we feel in all sorts of temperatures; but as you age the thermostat doesn’t work as well and we find it harder to adjust to the environment of the day!

In my 20s I wore pretty much the same clothes in winter as I did in summer, with the simple addition of some sort of light overcoat. Now, almost daily it seems, I add something more to keep me comfortable, stuff I never wear in the heat of summer, like vests, thicker shirts with long sleeves, cardigans or waistcoats, scarves, insulated jackets that make you look like the Michelin Man, heavy jeans instead of the light cotton slacks or shorts of summer, thick woollen socks, heavy brogues to replace the sandals and some sort of warm woollen hat or beanie. About the only thing I refuse, point blank, to wear is one of those ‘hoodie’ jackets — I feel, rightly or wrongly, that I look like some sort of criminal if I wear one of them!

As far as Jacqui and I are concerned, winter sucks down here in the south. The trouble is, if you go north, you start running into cyclones, floods and wild fires. There are some problems to which there are just no answers aren’t there?

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Do you have financial stress when it comes to paying bills? What financial issues worry you the most?

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