Wednesday, November 7, 2007

O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast

This past August I read a novel by English author Rosamunde Pilcher called Winter Solstice. The main part of the action is set deep in December in a town on the far northwest coast of Scotland. She did such a fine job of describing the snow, the rain, the cold winter weather, that when I'd open the door to let the dog out I'd be surprised to feel the balmy breezes of a southwestern Pennsylvania summer.

And I was impressed how convincingly Mrs. Pilcher depicted her characters going out into this weather without moaning or complaining. They were continually out visiting, shopping, walking the dog, walking themselves, and the conditions seemed always to strike them as bracing, or envigorating, or, at the most, challenging.

Gosh, how admirable! Once winter has set in, whatever happens in my back yard stays there till next spring. In the dead of winter, once I'm inside I hardly want to open the door to pick up the mail!

But there's a basis for all this Pilcherian cheerfulness. As the creator of her novelistic world, she decreed that her characters should have a "well-built Victorian house" to live in and enough pounds and pence to keep the central heat going comfortably and to pay for logs to throw on the sitting room fire whenever wanted. It's easy to face inclement weather with good cheer when you know the house you'll return to is toasty and warm.

I wish I could rewrite my own current life story that way. But alas, no. I finally had enough and turned on the furnace night before last, and the highest it's going this winter is 61 degrees when I'm home and awake and 56 at night.

No, I'm not trying to reduce my carbon footprint. I'm just trying to reduce the drain on my wallet.

It's been all right so far. Really. The temperature outside hasn't gotten below the low 30s and the double-glazed windows are shut and locked. It helps having three cats to act as live hot water bottles, too.

I'll see how it goes once it gets colder. I suppose turning up the thermostat a bit is preferable to my sitting on my icy hands whining. Thinking of other and older British novels, the proverbial drafty 19th century manse may seem romantic, but living in a house that feels like one is not.