It’s been one of those weeks. I made the mistake of having my boiler serviced the other day, and nothing has gone right with it since. First the pressure started dropping, and then the hot water went off with the heating. The expansion vessel (whatever that is) was charged, a widget was changed. All seemed well.
Until this morning when I woke up to find that the boiler had fused all my electric sockets. This meant no heating, no shower, no computer, no phone, no cooker, no way to charge my mobile phone and, most importantly of all, no kettle. I spent a very grouchy morning using up the battery on my mobile trying to track down the engineer (who turned out to be at the dentist and probably having an even worse day than me) and shuffling between shops and coffee bars to keep warm.
It made me realise how utterly dependent I am on electricity and how different my life is from that of my 16th-century characters and I thought about Hawise (Time’s Echo) and Nell (whose story, The Memory of Midnight, I am currently revising) a lot today. About how cold the people of Elizabethan York must have been a lot of the time, and how much tougher they were than me.
It made me feel soft and spoiled and wonder how good a fist I would have made of living when comfort wasn’t available at the flick of switch. Of course, it feels a lot colder when you sit still all day as I do when I’m lashed to my computer. Sitting still isn’t something Nell or Hawise do very often. They’re shopping, cooking, making butter, brewing ale, beating carpets, sweeping floors, gathering vegetables, making poultices, folding linen, washing, mending, scrubbing and polishing and cleaning … and all without the aid of electricity. They don’t have time to shiver or grumble because they can’t make a cup of tea. I’m going back to my revisions with renewed admiration for them both!