Cold comfort

The bedroom was seriously cold… I had left the window open all day and all night and the temperature has struggled to get above freezing lately. I smiled… because that is exactly how I like it. I don’t care for a nice, warm bedroom…just a warm bed in which to snuggle and the electric blanket warms the bed nicely. I suppose it harks back to my childhood, ‘when I were a lass’ in Yorkshire.

Without wishing to sound like the famous sketch, life was very different then and although I saw it from a number of angles, the relative poverty of the north was stark then in comparison to life in the ‘soft south’.

When I was born, one set of grandparents lived in a big house where a housing estate has now taken the place of the croquet lawn and tennis courts, while the others had a cosy family home opposite the mill where Grandma worked at the looms. Regardless of the difference in social standing, neither home had any form of central heating but drew their warmth from coal fires. My mother and I moved into married quarters in the south while my father was stationed abroad. Life in the south was considerably warmer.

Visiting friends in the area, the child that I was found it fascinating that all the rooms were warm… all the time! And people had toilets downstairs as well as upstairs bathrooms! In later years, back in Yorkshire, I was to live in houses with neither heating nor hot water nor bathrooms… there were still many homes that shared a toilet at the end of the street or used the privy at the bottom of the garden.

My last bedroom as a girl was very cold in winter. I had to dress in layers for bed, cuddle a hot water bottle and often woke to icicles inside the windows. There is not a day goes by that I am not grateful for central heating and indoor toilets. Or hot showers, when I think back to one fateful winter in France when the water supply froze underground for six weeks and the icicle that grew up from the shower drain one night was nearly six feet tall.

I suppose that is why I prefer a cold bedroom these days… though not quite that cold! What you are accustomed to as a child unconsciously forms both lifelong habits and a measure against which the future is held. Warmth and a decent bathroom are still amongst my biggest priorities and luxury, for me, is being able to have a hot bath on demand…or choose a cold bedroom.

It is not just habits of living that are formed in childhood though, we form habits of perspective too. As children, we have little control over our environment and simply accept the world-according-to-grown-ups. Like it or not, even the most liberal-minded parent will unconsciously indoctrinate their children to some degree, seeking to arm them with the tools they deem necessary to operate within their social sphere, whatever that may be. In later years, we either continue to accept what we absorbed, or will question and rebel against it. Either way, that early conditioning plays an important part in who we become and how we view the world. The child’s perception of the world is the foundation upon which that of the adult is built.

It is widely known these days that a difficult or traumatic childhood will have an impact on adulthood. We don’t tend to think so much about how our ‘normality’ in childhood shapes us as adults. Sinichi Suzuki said that “children learn to smile from their parents”, but we also learn to judge and define our world from the same source. Outmoded beliefs and behaviours are passed down in this way, just as much as human values and moral codes. At some point, we are likely to catch ourselves doing or saying something that reminds us forcibly of those who raised us.

Whether we have chosen the paths of acceptance or emulation, or a more rebellious route, we are continuously and unconsciously reacting to the events, people and conditions of our early life. Many of our tastes, beliefs and opinions are defined by those years, as may be our ambitions, standards and dreams. Right down to the small things, we can feel the echoes in our own behaviour. From keeping the bedroom tidy, just in case the doctor calls… even though they no longer make house-calls… to whether we are frugal or spendthrift, keep the eggs in the fridge or at room temperature…or prefer cold bedrooms. The habits of behaviour are seeded early, and we rarely think to question where they originated.

It is an interesting exercise to take one or two of those habits and trace them back, trying to find their point of origin and how we have reacted to them. It is even more interesting to take the habits of thought and track them in the same way, especially as it is these that form a large part of the person we show to the world. Once we realise how they began, we may wonder why we continue to perpetuate them. We may even begin to ‘change our minds’, seeking to face ourselves and the world on our own terms, making conscious choices, acting instead of bowing to reaction.

For most of us, there is a moment during our teens when we realise that we wish we were free of parental control… yet as soon as we think we are, we recreate or rebel against the life they gave us. Understanding and accepting who we are and why we are who we are, does not mean we have to change everything, nor does it mean we can cast blame or responsibility on others. What it does is gives us a choice.

We can choose to smile when we see ourselves doing something exactly like our grandparents did when we were young, conscious of the connection to our heritage. We can choose to discard that opinion that was never really our own and cease to be ruled by it…especially when it was about who we are or who we could become. We can recognise why a cold bedroom feels right and yet we are free to turn on the heating. Who do we want to be? The choice, like our destiny, is ours to make.

45 thoughts on “Cold comfort

  1. Brilliant. I love how you think and write about how you think. You hit the nail on the head on so many points. Everything in our childhood shapes our feelings, perspectives, and how we become. Cold comfort is a perfect example.

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  2. You raise some interesting points about how our background and upbringing conditions us in many ways, even if we like to think they don’t and that we are free spirits. My family experienced a lot of financial insecurity when my sisters and I were growing up. As adults, we are all very careful to make sure we have savings and investments to fall back on and we all work really hard.

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  3. I recognize so much of your childhood memories, even though I was bought up in the Posh South! We lived in a mid terrace council house. We did have one bathroom with separate toilet, icicles on metal framed windows every winter and only the kitchen and the backroom were warm.We had coal fired.
    That aside you as always get your points over beautifully. Yes we rebel in our teenage years thinking we are the first generation to know anything. Then we start on life’s path full of hope, we soon learn nothing is really new. I often catch myself saying or thinking things that I know come from Mum and Dad.💜💜💜

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  4. I was brought up by so many different people, my mother playing only a very small part, so I could probably trace the origins of my habits and preferences to several sources. That’s if I ever have the time to unravel the tangled ball of yarn that was my childhood. It does explain so many things though!

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  5. The council house I was born in didn’t have central heating. Baths were once a week as our hot water was on the immersion and we had a coal fire in the lounge. Great for toasting crumpets! Cocoa or ovaltine were our bedtime drinks whilst the hot water bottles were taking the chill off the sheets and we had extra blankets. For years I needed weight on the bed to feel warm. Living on the boat took me back to those times, as although we had heating aboard and hot water, it was all done manually at the flick of a switch. Condensation was the main issue, and yes, we too had ice form on the inside. Last year, all liveaboards had the same problem with condensation, so we were not alone in trying to beat it.
    I’ve been lucky in that all properties I’ve lived in, either as a child or adult, have had indoor plumbing. Even the boat had a flush loo and shower. An aunt and uncle had an outside privvy and even though I was desperate for the loo, I couldn’t use it and everything went ‘on hold’. Always been good at doing that ever since!!
    I don’t like to be hot at night, even though the meds give me the sweats, so whilst Hubby is snuggled up to his chin in blankets and duvet, my feet and shoulders are usually sticking out of the bed. I have a great system now where I can fold part of the duvet back to expose my back, and as soon as I’ve chilled down, I flip it back again!

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    1. I remember the first night with a duvet…long after I was married. It was so light, I felt I’d never sleep! I loved the secure weight of the blankets.

      I can imagine how the boat must have taken you back. I’ve lived in places with really bad condesnation and that is no joke at all. Especially in winter.

      I can sympathise with the privy problem. We moved into one of my great grandmother’s houses at one point…It was in the country and it had never been modernised at all. There was an allotment, a long thin strip, behind the house, followed by the pigeon loft and chicken coup…and after that, the ‘facilities’. I’ve always been able to wait since then 😉

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      1. My first encounter with a duvet was on my poetry course in 1974. It was yellow and white candy stripe on a top bunk, as I was sharing a room with three other single ladies. We’d had rabbit stew for dinner, introduced ourselves to everyone, and then retired for the night.

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  6. This post echoes some of the thoughts I’ve been having lately, mainly about how we change from stroppy adolescent, young party-going socialising adult who likes all the right music and speaks the right jargon, to a ‘mature’ adult who reverts to the same sort of language as their parents and even grandparents, becomes less dogmatic in their political opinions, and looks back with nostalgia on things they were glad to see the back of when they were in their twenties. It’s a strange sort of transformation that takes place, and I wonder if it isn’t a sort of common sense that takes over, or an ability to see things without all the imperatives to conform that young people and children have to cope with. Discuss.

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    1. We do seem to soften with age. I think it is partly a confidence thing.. the older we get, he less we feel we have to prove to ourselves and the world. Partly, it seems to be a relaxing… and maybe energy saving… that lets the older patterns reassert themselves. Whatever our role models were, that is where we learn ‘how to’ be middle-aged and eventually old. I wonder how much of rebellious youth is just fulfilling the expectations of our elders combined with riding the wave of our peers. Perhaps the true rebels are those who choose to age on their own terms.

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  7. A great post Sue. You are right we are the result of our upbringing. I think in my family my parents taught me to accept things as they are, my dad would say: “That’s the way things are.” Nowadays of course things have changed. As we are in summer down here its been hot for a lot of weeks. We never questioned the heat and hot nights, its how it was, but nowadays the air con makes the heat bearable. Its hard to imagine we didn’t even have fans.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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      1. I remember thinking my father was a far better grandfather than he was a dad. But when I think his role model was his dad and it makes sense when we think about it that our parents are our role models but we do have the opportunity to chance that way of thinking as we grow,

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  8. We are definitely shaped from our chidhoods Sue. We either keep within the same patterns or do a complete 180 away from what we know. But cold bedrooms became welcome in my life after menopause LOL 🙂 xx

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