>> Wednesday, 20 January 2010
You might wonder, having read yesterday's post on the current freezing temperatures in Moscow, how the people here cope with that. Do they sit inside, nursing their Ovaltine in fingerless mittens, watching their breath cloud the air in Dickension style as they huddle down inside their slanket and kangeroo-hop around their homes inside their big slippers? Do they sleep in their overcoats and in three layers of clothes? Are the insides of their windows prettily decorated by Jack Frost when they wake in the morning? Or do they simply crank up the thermostat to the max and think 'be damned to the heating bills!'
Well, outside of Moscow, I'm afraid I can't say. But inside of Moscow, none of the above. In fact, as far as I know, most homes don't actually posess a thermostat to control their own hot water or central heating, because it's all centrally controlled. So - and the environmentally aware reading this should probably look away now - the heating (the cost of which is usually included in your rent or service charge) goes on in October / November regardless of your individual preference, and off some time in the Spring. (If, that is, the White Witch ever releases her grip enough on Narnia/Russia to let Spring arrive, and I'm thinking that the jury is out on that right now). It doesn't matter if there is an unseasonably mild spell, or a ridiculously cold snap, the heating rumbles along whatever.
You might wonder whether central control of warmth means that people are left to freeze in their sleep by cost-cutting administrators, but actually - due no doubt to the wealth of natural resources here - the opposite seems to be the case. Most houses / apartments / public buildings that I've visited are warm and toasty, if not roasting. It's possible to be practically weeping from the cold as you (well, me, in any case) return from the school run and yet within 5 minutes of finding refuge inside, feeling so hot that you end up stripping down to a t-shirt.
Obviously this adds an interesting aspect to trips outside, because you find that you're piling the layers on yourself or your children in anticipation of the minus 15deg C day waiting for you whilst still inside your 25 degC home. Think about it; the difference between the two extremes can be around 40degC or more...
I was discussing this with Husband, who is of course a lot more experienced in dealing with this problem than I am, having lived here before.
Me: "How do people live like this?"
Husband: "Well. The Russians, of course, have developed a highly sophisticated method of dealing with over-heated homes that allows them to control the temperature precisely."
Me: "Oh, thank god. Can we get whatever it is? Is it easily available? What do they do?"
Husband (deadpan): "They open a window."