I grew up in a large, cold house. In the winter, I would curl up beside the gas heater until I became dizzy from the fumes. We didn’t have anything fancy like instant hot water. If you wanted to have a shower, you had to plan at least 40 minutes in advance. Waiting for the water to heat up was an opportunity to work on my juvenilia, or to stare at people on the street below.
It was character-building, nineteenth-century-style.
It was the kind of cold that seeps through to your bones. Sometimes my father would suggest I dip my blue-white fingers into boiling soapy water to get the blood flowing again. Other times my mother would enter the kitchen in mid-summer and drape a gigantic coat over my shivering frame.
Like in all good Victorian novels, love shone through in actions, not words.
Earlier when I was wracking my brains about how to write about love in a way that was not insufferable, a memory – one of my earliest- popped into my head.
I was a small child, well below school-going age. The house was, you guessed it, cold and I was waiting virtuously outside the toilet. My mother emerged and lifted me onto the pea-green seat.
She had pre-warmed it, like a mother hen.
In my formative years, I continued to gravitate towards those providing warmth. I became enamoured by electric heater salesmen and canteen staff with large ladles of steaming hot soup.
Romantically too, I have favoured those offering to make me warmer. LSB’s shaggy hairstyle, spare coats and facial hair have proven to be a winning combination.
And I have to give it to him: LSB was quick to pick up on my requirements. Once in our early courtship, I was on a bus on the way to Crumlin. It was a dark and dreary night and we were going to a party. When I got off the bus, I found him waiting with a hot-water bottle.
That went down so well that on the New Year’s Eve just passed, he packed it again for our walk up Calton Hill.
A warm and fuzzy feeling, on demand.
Happy Valentine’s Day. This year, consider giving the gift of warmth.