On Feeling Cold


It is cold. It is cold and it is wet and we were going to drive to the snow at the weekend, except why bother when you can be cold in the comfort of your own home?

It might not be so cold if hypothetically I were an expert lighter of fires. Sadly, pyromania is not in my genes. What I need is a ‘fire charm’ of the sort you read in fantasy novels:

First, she opened the firebox and carefully riddled out the old ash, leaving just the last black embers, flecked with sparks. On to these she spread a double handful of straw and another of dry twigs, then closed the fire door, opened both dampers, and stood leaning against the still warm stove while she repeated the fire charm three times. Ma never bothered with the fire charm, but Tilja’s grandmother, Meena, had taught it to her so that she would know how long to wait for the twigs to be well alight before she added the coarser kindling. Usually it took four times, but three would be enough with a wind like this to drag the draught up.

– from The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson

Speaking of fantasy, here is what a fireplace looks like according to Pinterest.

And here is what a home fireplace looks according to me:


That is not actually a bowl of steaming piss sitting on top of the grate. That’s because we live in a dry climate, and need to add a bit of moisture back into the air to keep our eyes from drying out. 

And this is a spider which recently hitch-hiked its way from ‘Out West’ (where our wood non-specifically originated from) to our back yard and subsequently inside on a log of wood. It’s a male funnel-web spider. Amazed to find such a deadly thing in our house we even had it classified by CSIRO.


I suggest he wouldn’t have made it anywhere near my desk had we installed a reverse cycle air-conditioner, as we’ve thought of doing many a time. The spider was added to the long list of reasons why I’m over the fireplace. I already have quite a long list, mainly after reading The Fireplace Delusion by Sam Harris, which covers scientific rationality and makes a ton of sense. Basically, fireplaces are a dumb idea. Each couple of years when that four ton of wood is dumped into the back yard, we have a visual reminder of how bad we are for the environment. And then we check out alternative heating arrangements and are left baffled — making decisions for environmental reasons turns out to be a lot more complicated than it seems. So far, we’ve been stymied into inertia, compromising environment for comfort by keeping the house cool, relying on doonas and sleeping bags and ski-wear inside. I am currently wearing a snowboarding jacket over a puffy visy vest type thing, over top of a polar fleece over top of a thermal long-sleeved top.

I have had my thyroid checked about three times in my life, all by different doctors, and apparently I am normal. Not one of those times did I actually ask for the thyroid test — I must just look to GPs like I have something wrong with me.

It’s possible there’s something wrong with the thyroid test. I’ve been reading about this. I’ve also read that a mildly underactive thyroid may actually be a good thing if longevity is your aim. That’s assuming you don’t mind 93 winters of cold nose tip. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to actually touch me in some way will often recoil with, ‘Oh my god, your nose/feet/fingers are freezing!’ as if they themselves have been physically harmed in some way. And I have no sympathy whatsoever, because it’s my nose/feet/fingers and they’re attached to me. For permanents.

As much as I love Canberra and four seasons, and the sure knowledge that any further deadly spiders have since perished in the minus five degree nights, I have plans to retire to warmer climes.

Or maybe I’m just an advanced species, pre-adapted to this scary warm climate we’re hurtling towards.


For that next fun game of Trivial Pursuit: 

Fear of Cold or cold things- Frigophobia.
Fear of Cold: extreme, ice or frost- Cryophobia.
Fear of Cold- Cheimaphobia, Cheimatophobia, Psychrophobia or Psychropophobia.

A Brief History Of Being Cold — BBC Radio 3

Two possible ways that life evolved on ice from io9

Scientists Discover How to Turn Off the Feeling of Cold from Big Think

Are you one of those people who thinks hot water is ice cold? from io9 (Why yes, yes I am, and I thought it was the same for everyone.)

Some of the world’s coldest settlements, collected by io9

Snow Reads Are the New Beach Reads: 26 Books to Get You Through Winter from Flavorwire