Washing machine

We keep our washing machine and dryer in a small room at the end of our entrance corridor. We call this our utility room. At one time, the corridor would have been a gap between the garage and the house but someone, a long time ago, brought it into the house by covering the gap and making the garage become ‘attached’. Where there used to be steps down to the back of the house (when the corridor was a gap!) there is now a utility room! Before that, when we moved in, it was a WC.

Why am I telling you this? Well, despite its convenience (we just have to pop out of what was the original main door and into the corridor and there we are) it’s still outside the main house. It has no central heating and by extension of the corridor, has a flat roof. For most of the year, it’s cold enough to store vegetables, beer and soft drinks in there. Brilliant. But occasionally this is not a good thing!

Yesterday the pipes froze.

It’s not the first time this has happened, although in January last, when it happened for the first time, we thought we’d fixed it by lagging the pipes in the garage (which feed this room) and doing whatever we needed to keep the flow flowing. However, I’d forgotten that part of the solution was to close the utility room window. With temperatures reaching lows not experienced in almost 50 years [Huddersfield Examiner] and the corridor radiator doing its best to melt the snow on the flat roof directly above it, the worst was bound to happen.

So I had to light the calor gas fire in the garage to warm those pipe through (the lagging didn’t help this process) and then I had to try and find a way of defrosting the 40 centimetres of pipe in the utility room that feed the washing machine. This was tricky because I don’t have any manly plumbing tools like a blow-torch (I used to have, but only used it for browning crème brulee). What I did find however was a 1200 watt patio/garage heater. We’d never used this before because when Sharon bought it, she thought it was a light. When I’d seen the ‘1200 watt’ on the box my wallet clenched! So it has never been used. Until yesterday.

You’re supposed to mount these things and keep them away from all living or inflammable tissue. I tried it in the garage first, balanced on an old vice (the only metal/steel thing I could find in my garage that might fit the bill!) and it certainly threw out more heat than the calor gas fire but was party to melting a plastic foot stand which Sharon uses in there (she’s only tiny). Whoops. So now, when I brought it into the house (the utility room) I was extra careful. This time I caused no damage but made all the room smell like I’d been stripping paint from the doors.

Apparently it’s the coldest start to winter in almost 50 years. [Huddersfield Examiner] I remember 1963 and for a child it was great fun with lots of snow and ice to slide on. Some drivers at that time (I suspect it was the milk float but can’t remember) had snow chains on their wheel. Whatever happened to snow chains?

For winter to come this early, before my birthday in December, is very unusual, so I suppose we’d better knuckle down and keep as warm as we can. But what about those who can’t? People still have to work – will our infrastructure we robust enough to support those who need to work? What about the elderly? My parents will still try to go out every day, partly because they always have and partly because they don’t have to turn their heating on if they are out. And: what about the footpaths – who clears those? When we were sliding down the footpaths in 1963 the house owners (the tenants really, no one owned council houses back then) would come out and spread ashes on the public path. This made our young lives pretty miserable but made sure that the footpaths were safe for everyone (workers, the elderly, young mums etc.) else to walk on.

But we have no ashes any more.

And councils are in the middle of laying off a good percentage of their staff.

Ideas?

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