The Antithesis of Cosy

Posted by: James on: Sunday, 31st July, 2011

It is customary in our flat to stand only on the edges of your feet – in this way you minimise contact with the floor, which registers only just above freezing. It is also cusomary to wear at least two pairs of socks, and to sleep almost fully clothed. With a hot water bottle.

NZ Winters aren’t that cold – I think I’ve seen frost only once and everyone was very excited by the prospect of snow in Auckland, which seems less likely than a nearby volcano errupting. No – the problem is not that the winters are cold; rather it’s that the houses are completely unequipped to deal with anything other than moderate warmth.

Insulation apparently wasn’t a consideration when our unit was built. We have wood floors, a shallow roof and windows which we’ve discovered have a gap of a whole centimetre at the top to let in the cold, wet air. They’re what’s called ‘Jalousie windows‘, constructed of a few horizontal slats of glass with a metal frame. No matter how tightly you close them, they never quite seal.

Apparently there’s some kind of sealing material you can put over them, but that would mean that we could never open the windows. If we don’t open the windows, there will be no air flow through the flat and without a bit of air flow, the humidity built up in our bedroom while we sleep has nowhere to go and so manifests itself as a hearty layer of mould on the ceiling and walls. It’s a constant battle of open the windows and let in the cold vs. keep them closed and invite back the mould. Our landlord did get someone round to spray the ceiling, but without actually getting insulation, only bathing the whole place in chemicals is going to completely solve the problem.

Not to be down on the whole experience, but Winter in NZ is pretty shit – unless you’re in one of the newly built properties that have a minimum legal level of insulation. The majority of houses though, are just cold and damp.

And to all those who say “just turn the heating on” I ask “what heating?” – we bought a tiny 500watt radiator that just about keeps us alive when we huddle around it of an evening. There is no central heating, and if there was, it would be like heating an open field – there’s no point in heating without insulation. Back in Autumn I laughed about finding electric blankets in every hostel we stayed in – now I’ve started looking forward to getting into work just because the office has heating!

A rather negative post? Yes – I suppose so. But it wasn’t always like this – before the Winter were days I felt happy to get out of bed in the morning. There’s only a few more weeks to go until those days are back. Roll on Spring!

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A fairly loose blog about the places I go and the things I think. May also include left-leaning social commentary derived in part from video games.

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