The temperature dipped to well below freezing overnight. We had the heating on yesterday afternoon as the house became really cold. The lounge can become really warm when the sun comes out, as it acts as a sun trap, but even the weak sun we had yesterday failed to warm the room enough so that we could do without the central heating. I had to put on emergency gas (we pay using a pre-pay meter and it is 'charged' with a card, which has to be topped up, which we do regularly at the local shop.) so that we could have the central heating on. It's quite a job to do this, as the meter is outside at the front of the house in the meter cupboard (where else?). I have to stand on a chair to reach this meter, and lean into the cupboard (who on earth had the bright idea of putting it in such an awkward place?) I'm over six feet tall, but even standing on a chair and leaning into the cupboard at full stretch, it's quite a difficult procedure. The electric meter is inside the house, on a wall in the corner at the bottom of the stairs. Why couldn't they both be put inside? Then you have to put the card into the slot in the meter, having remembered to turn off all appliances (usually the gas boiler.) You then have to hold the card until the digital display shows up that it has accepted the payment, and then press the button again. The whole thing bursts into life and this shows that the payment has been taken. And that's it. At least with the electric meter you can see immediately how much there is left before it runs out. When it gets to around 50p the meter will make a noise, not unlike a mobile telephone ringtone, at which point you put in the payment key (not like the card which is used for gas) and it puts on around £5 of emergency electricity, which gives you enough time to go out and get the key/card charged to make your payment. Then the amount used is subtracted from what you've just paid, and so the cycle goes on. Paying in this way does at least mean that we can keep track of how much we use and it's a good deal easier than a monthly or quarterly bill. The gas meter, being outside, is a little more difficult to see how much credit remains. The first you know that the gas has run out is when you go to use the hot taps in either the bathroom or the kitchen, to have a bath or to do some washing up and the water runs cold. There is a red light that flashes on the boiler which indicates that the gas has run out, at which point you have to charge the pre-payment card and put it in the meter.
We woke up this morning to find that there had been a modest fall of snow, not as much as they had in other parts of the country. Scotland and Yorkshire had a good four inches or so. The car had a covering of ice and snow on it when we went out to Morrisons to do some shopping. I had to scrape this off the windscreen and the windows before we left the driveway. On the weather forecast on television this morning they said this cold spell could last around two weeks.