So we’re on winter’s first tentative steps, as autumn’s hand tightens on the land, first Christmas trees in civic square rising, lights strung, begging to glow in winter’s glistening frosty night. Northern leaves, Copper, golden and red, litter gardens, a sea of winter’s beer cans at a summer’s festival end.
Radio debates heating on, staying off, sneaking on, extra layers, bedtime socks, Soups and stews, warming food for cool to colder days, and long nights in, Telly on.
Often quoted Keats… “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom- friend of the maturing sun” Captures, for some, this season in all it’s supposed Glory, and flicking, picking, flouncing, and bouncing through the national quality press, wanna be poets all, Keats seems unchallenged, the homespun winter walks extolled, watered suns, late ploughed fields, last swallows flights and lengthening nights all beloved with ‘Sunday Supps’ crew.
Well for me, especially in these shortening days, “Now is the time for the burning of the leaves” (subject to clean air regulations), Laurence Binyon seems more appropriate in these COVID shortaged, Gas Price Hiked, Benefit Cut, Food Bank fed, Autumnal dismalised days.
Talk of a perfect winter storm. We have seen petrol shortages, HGV delivery Heroes, Gas price hikes, Electricity leaps to follow, and that’s before a winter blast hits us. “Plug in, power down, and shiver on one bar” and that’s if we can avoid the choice of food or heat that many are facing, as this piece is written, then read.
What is about the onset of colder days, with lyrical waxed words, perhaps to matched the Barbours so beloved of Chelsea Tractor drivers, on their way to Waitrose to pick up wood for the Aga they use to heat the kitchen before ‘UberEats’ arrives with the evening meal, and a lightly chilled cork popped Rosé sits table resting, glass ready. What is that generates such warm words, in a dismal cold dank fog wrapped day. There’s all too little mellowness for me, and too many poor men in sight gathering winter fuel to make Keats and his trite words anything more than an insult to fuel poor citizens.
“The Fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine, the Fog on the Tyne is all mine” yeah used to foggy Tyne days, but industrial and climate change have blown both away, now more a freak than a fact, but like swathes of the United kingdom in these days, days of cold wind, and damp dawns, dread is stalking homes, not wistful romanticism, so beloved of some of the English chattaratti. For all too many of the many zero houred, minimum waged, state income supported, Keats’ words, seem composed in a well heated, secure, almost indolent world, a hundred gas therms away from their lives, are all too painful, and resented.
Binyon talked of burning leaves, in these carbon reduction days, the Green police would be on to him with enforcement action, and usage bans. Don’t misunderstand me, no Climate change denier typing these keys, just in the current crisis, short term, long term, no term, no plan, what’s a transitional world; tough choices are being faced. Not the choice of all electric or dual fuel cars, nor the choice of air source, or ground source heat pumps, but more a choice of “eat or heat, you gotta survive”. For some it’s just the heat they, rightly want, in their under insulated, heat sieved, open plan homes.
These energy crises, this is just the first, are and will be a real test for us all, in terms of what we do, and the real choices we make, whatever happens, the collapse of smaller energy providers, the energy cap, and short term losses will be paid for by… Us; the work-a-day, bills to pay, food shortages today, workers and families. The current blame game takes us nowhere. Of course the UK should have embraced wind, we are wind rich. We are an island, we are surrounded by tidal power. A former prime minister referred to “Green Crap”, perhaps a bit more eyes beyond the Carbon crap of the climate change deniers may have been more constructive, who knows.
The finger pointing at the pesky Ruskies, diverts attention, yeah we should have huge Gas storage, we don’t, and there is huge global gas demands that’s driving prices ever upwards. Is some of this speculative ? Possibly, in Bond’s Quantum of Solace, there’s a similar engineered crisis, water in Bolivia, that maps out albeit comic book style. Could a film fantasy be a precursor to an energy reality with resources, bought, sold, managed and exploited through a ‘controlling hand of a speculator’s market’, who knows. Yeah, there’s some criticism of our power grid that is hard to understand, gas burning in power stations, wind farms stilled in a gale, what’s that all about? Wind farms in Scotland, needs in London. A lot of this conjecture and speculation changes little in these winter months. Many will be fearing perhaps for the first in a long time, maybe even since their childhood, the costs of heating their homes.
Of course for some off-gridders there’s a solution and for those able to scavenge wood, or have coppicing rights, life looks goddam good. BUT here in the UK, off-grid, (not me thankfully) ‘off grid’ means electric central heating (hand over your bank account), or assuming there’s a driver, and oil, an oil tank top up. So for those of us ‘on-grid’ we may want to give grudging thanks that we have heat at the flick of a switch, despite it’s high costs.
But however we are able to and can afford to, we’ll face higher heating costs, now and for the foreseeable future, nearly all in this place. Even those of us who’ve been fortunate and took a long fixed price earlier this year, that’ll run out, and prices will explode at some point. We’re all in for a “how much” shock as we ask “do we really need the heating on”, and “shut that door” will be more than a 70’s quiz show catchphrase. Yeah even if we’re COVID vaxxed, post furloughed, and food stocked, we’re still about to be energy shocked, and emptier pocketed as fuel bills soar higher than the Christmas trees around us.
Some things ARE for sure as bills rise and we feel Jack Frost’s nip, whilst food queuing, full tank searching, and window frost scraping; We’re all gonna feel winter’s pinch in homes, bones and pockets AND Those autumn’s romantic reminisces, and wordy homilies, loved by the Chatterati set, will make excellent fire starters for those dependent on the scavenged wood of a real home fire.
And for the poets reading this
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind”
Who cares? We gotta EAT-HEAT-THRIVE and attempt to survive, since spring is two clock changes away.