Rosemary and I have just had our annual competition to see who’ll be the first to put on the central heating. I won. Rosemary cracked last week when the weather was mild as spring. Her excuse was that her grandchild was visiting. Otherwise, she’d have stayed in the kitchen swaddled in woolies, clutching her hot-water bottle and boiling the odd kettle or pan of gruel. Now I’ve given in, or the new paint in the lavatory would never have dried, and Daughter visited, so I didn’t like to appear too stingy and spartan.
But we are the lucky ones. We can afford to pay an arm and a leg to be warm if we need to, unlike the quarter of a million over-65s who have died of cold over the past 10 years. One every seven minutes. Last year Age UK urged the chancellor to address this problem. Now it’s asking the government to take “urgent action”.
Why not just bang their heads against an icy wall? Charities can urge all they like; it won’t make a smidgen of difference because we have a Scrooge government that couldn’t care less. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come wouldn’t bother them. They don’t think long-term. They’ll just set a few targets to ensure that in the distant future “fuel-poor homes” reach “band-C minimum efficiency rating”. Then they’ll probably miss the targets and express regret and distress at the hundreds of frozen pensioners who have fallen off their perches, while secretly rejoicing at the massive savings this will mean, because those unproductive souls, along with the poor and sick, would have been so costly to maintain.