As I thought of their powerbill in their centrally heated all electric home, my mind went back to the warmth experienced in my home when I was of a similar age.
I explained to Emma that the area where our family lived was very cold. Even in the summer time the temperature was rarely above twenty five degrees, yet we were always well prepared for the cold winter months. The old corrugated shed in the backyard would hold a plentiful supply of wood to fuel the kitchen stove and the open fire place. It was my brother who was responsible for splitting the wood into smaller pieces or kindling and keeping the woodbox inside the house full, providing enough wood for the next day and night.
The cast iron stove in the kitchen was kept alight all day, not only providing a lovely warm kitchen but a constant means of cooking. A kettle sat on the hob, always on the boil and the oven temperature was tested by feeling its door knob. Too hot to touch meant temperature ideal for cooking scones, medium heat suitable for cakes or a roast, just warm ideal for the cooking of a pavlova. As the temperature and fire decreased following the evening meal, damp clothing would often be draped around the stove to air. At night a fire would be lit in the dining room and the family would enjoy an evening in the room, warm and cosy despite the bitter temperatures outside.
With old newspaper screwed up tightly and kinding atop, the fire would be ready to light. My dad would often throw some kero on the pile and then light a match to ignite the paper. Whoosh, the flames would leap straight up the chimney and many times cause the inside of the chimney to catch fire, causing some consternation. Heavier pieces of wood would be quickly added to the fire which would settle to crackle away cheerfully, bright embers glowing like burnished gold; then time spent gazing, mesmerised whilst prodding the ever changing embers with the old iron poker.
It was so warm in this room - doors would be closed as we pursued our different interests safe and in the comfort of home and family. I would be keen to listen to a radio play transmitted from the brown Bakelite AWA wireless, a pile of comics and Enid Blyton stories stacked up beside me. Mum would sit in her chair knitting, darning socks or doing fancy work with Semco cottons. Dad would be happy in his chair with a Craven A cigarette and the latest copy of the Herald newspaper, often creating general discussion with all present. Siblings would play cards or board games or attend to homework. There was always a cast iron kettle sitting in the fireplace ready to provide hot water for a night cap of hot cocoa; late in the night we would sometimes, with the use of a long handled wire fork, cook toast on the glowing embers.
At bed time as children we would often undress into night clothes beside the fire, our rubber hot water bottles would be filled and then a dash out into the cold bedrooms before snuggling into our beds.
“That sounds lovely, Nana,” said Emma as she reverted to playing with her electronic device.