You probably can’t tell, but I’m writing this while sitting in a very cold flat in London. Incredibly, my sister, who lived here for years, says that there’s never been any heating. She says every spring, summer, autumn and winter she complained to my parents, but they always refused to send over a cheque to install a new heater.
“You complain every month?” I once asked her. “Even in summer?”
Michelle sniffed and said that it’s always cold in London and that summer happens just one day a year. Too bad if you’re out of town when it happens. “Last year, summer happened on a Wednesday. This year, it was yesterday.”
So, this morning, with the thermometer reading 5 degrees, I wrapped myself up in every piece of clothing I could find in the flat and added a blanket, trudged downstairs and knocked on my neighbour’s flat. This cranky old biddy answered the door.
“Who is it?” she demanded.
“Sorry, Mrs Lord, it’s me, but is your heating on?”
“Go away! I have no spare change!”
“It’s Jason, Mrs Lord! I live upstairs!” I shouted, suddenly remembering that not only does Mrs Lord have advanced dementia, she’s also stone deaf. “I’ve been coming here every summer since I was three. I once peed on your couch. Remember?”
The old cow scowled at me. “Please go away! I’m not interested in your Scientology rubbish!” Then, she slammed the door in my face. The breeze from the force made me even colder.
I don’t know what it is with the English and the cold, but they just don’t seem to notice it. You just have to wander the streets and you’ll see people walking around in thin shirts and flimsy jackets. They don’t seem remotely cold, I think enviously, as I wish I’d worn a fifth layer of thermal underwear.
(The English also don’t believe in umbrellas. It could be pouring and people just walk around hunched over. The weirdest thing is that they never seem to get wet. Meanwhile, the only people scurrying around with an umbrella are the Asians. The slightest hint of precipitation and the Asian will pop open an umbrella. If you go to Chinatown when it’s raining, you’re at risk of getting your eyes poked out by an umbrella. It’s just like being in Singapore which is why I feel very much at home in Chinatown. Even if the dim sum is generally rubbish.)
So, anyway, I’m cold. It’s the dead of winter in London, the heater doesn’t work and I’m cold. I tried whacking the heater with a spanner like they do in the movies, but no joy. And of course, since the heater is connected to the boiler, there’s also no hot water.
Have you ever taken a shower when the ambient temperature indoors is 5 degrees and every time you open your mouth to say “Aiyoh”, the air is frosty? If you haven’t, you should really try it one day. It’s character building as my mother would say.
“I’m convinced we’re adopted,” my sister said to me the other day when she rang to see how I was surviving. “She would never put up with this, but somehow, we’re expected to! We should report her to the police.”
In spite of myself, I giggled at the image of our mother wearing blue prison overalls and slumming it in the slammer. In my defence, the cold does strange things to people.
“I’ve had to shower in the gym down the road,” I reported, my teeth chattering only slightly. “Thank God someone has kept up the membership fees on that place! How did you survive here all these years?”
“Don’t get me started,” Michelle said grimly. “Why do you think the linen cupboard is stacked high with hot water bottles?”
All I can say is that I will never again complain about the heat. Saffy Skyped me morning to say that it was nice and warm in Singapore. “Lemme tell ya,” she said, her ample bosom inflating with an unexpected 3-D quality, “if I’d been one of those early pioneer explorers, England would never have been found! Why would anyone voluntarily go and live there, I wonder? And there’s no fried beehoon there, right?”
I paused and thought. “No, not that I know of.”
Saffy sighed. “There you go then. I couldn’t live there. My constipation would just turn to a block of solid ice inside me, and I’d topple over and die!”
Amanda SMS’d me: “How does Saffy turn every conversation around to her problems?”
I’m so cold, I really don’t care anymore.