Jayne Dawson: Warm front moving in from the women of the world

Heating boiler
Heating boiler
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Now is the time, at the height of “summer” when it is safe to have this discussion.

The men will have long ago stopped their boasting. They will no longer be stopping victims randomly to tell them “I turned mine off on April 1”.

And they will not yet have begun issuing their threats: “That’s not going back on until October 1” to a family that has perfected the art of selective deafness.

I’m talking central heating. What else? What else divides men and women quite so effectively?

Men are always trying to turn the heating down. Women are always turning it back up. Fact. Law of nature.

In our house, summer finds my husband smiling. It’s not the scent of mown grass on the air, it’s not the soft breeze skipping through the supple, vibrant leaves, it’s not the sunlight pouring through the windows and pooling on the ground.

It’s the sight of the meter flatlining.

“Think of all the money we’re saving” he will chortle, as he runs his hand playfully along the stone cold radiator. For extra joy, he will leave the room to go gaze upon that meter again. Truly, he is in heaven.

And we too, we women, enjoy this season of free warmth, that short, halcyon time when, on a really good day, we can tell our menfolk to peg out the washing in the way of our ancestors and thus shut the greedy tumble dryer down too.

But we women also recognise this time for what it is: fleeting. We know that to drag it out is futile - because that way lies bad temper, shivering with arms folded on the sofa, and unpleasant domestic scenes.

But yet. But yet. There is news, news that I am not sure I want to be the one to break to you. For there is no getting round it, this news shifts the balance of central heating power and not in ways I like.

Research indicates that cosy, centrally heated homes could be making us fat. Yes, that’s right, fat.

Temperatures behind closed doors have risen over the last few decades from around 19C or 66F in old money to 22C or 71F.

At the same time we are all getting bigger and researchers say that’s because being warm makes us create white fat, which is bad. Of course, we have to be eating too much in the first place, but as we are all eating too much, that’s what happens.

Turn the heating down and we turn some of our extra calories into brown fat, which is good because it generates heat and burns off calories.

They did tests, of course they did, and people’s percentage of brown fat rose and fell according to the temperatures in which they lived.

So that’s the theory and yes, I agree with you. I share your belief that this theory was created by men, for men.

But actually, there is one point where I agree with them. I like a cool bedroom. I have no issue with the heating going off during sleeping hours. I like the window open and a good, cold draught blowing through. Cosy and warm under a duvet in an icy bedroom is the only way to sleep.

I might not go quite as far as the friend who told me she can’t sleep unless she has a cold nose, but I kind of get what she means.

So I am more than happy to spend all night furiously making brown fat. I want to be a veritable brown fat factory. But come the dawn, I want to stop.

I want to wake to the sound of the central heating rumbling into sweet life. I want to be enveloped in blessed, reassuring warmth. In the morning, I want to shower without having to build myself up to the ordeal. In the evening, I want to whack that temperature setting onto high and bask in the glory of it while watching EastEnders.

I know I’m paying a high price - I’m poor in cash and high in deadly white fat - but I need that reassuring warmth. Women of the world, you understand me.


Once, on holiday, I was shown a tree in the middle of a football pitch. There hadn’t been anywhere else to put the pitch, the islanders had a deep love of trees, so everyone just worked round it. Job done.

I like that. Shows a bit of respect - because I love trees too.

If I weren’t against that sort of thing in principle, on account of being born in Bramley, I would very probably be a tree hugger. I don’t mean just a bit of an old hippie type. I mean someone who literally hugs trees.

I find them solid and permanent and comforting, and I still don’t understand that neighbour of mine who insisted we chop down a boundary tree because it was taking away her tanning opportunities.

And now a tree fully five thousand years old has been identified in a churchyard. Sadly it’s in Wales, which comes as a bit of a surprise since Yorkshire seems to be breaking all the records these days.

Its a yew tree because ancient trees in this country are always yews and, to put its age into some sort of context, it was there for three thousand years before Christ was born, according to tree-aging experts.

This fills me with amazement and wonder. That tree, now sixty feet wide, has stood silent witness throughout every skirmish, drama, war and celebration in our history. It is impossible to compute, really.

But thank goodness a suntan only became fashionable in recent decades, or some pale ancient would have come along and hacked it down to get to the UV rays.


Oh thank goodness. Talk about a weight lifted. All these years I thought it was just me - but no, turns out it happens to everyone.

I’m talking earphone tangle. It’s a condition from which I’ve suffered ever since we stopped putting those little transistors to our ear to create a personal music experience.

Always my earphones are threaded and looped in knots that would make good embroidery stitches, so intricate and complex are they.

It doesn’t matter how I wind them, fold them, or what snazzy little container I place them in, I have always reached my destination before I have the things in straight lines and in my ears.

So I have given up on the idea of walking while I listen, the whole business is just a distraction strategy to take my mind off a stretch of boring road.

But the reason I’m sharing this with you is that a physicist has come up with a solution: join them with a clip directly under the earphones and then, with another clip, attach the earphone end to the opposite end, near the audio jack.

No, I’m not going to do it either. I just like the reassurance that I’m not on my own with the knots.

Vicar Lane, Leeds City Centre.

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