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Urban street in winterAs I approach the third anniversary of being made redundant, it seemed like a good time to reflect on some of the lessons that I’ve learned about long-haul worklessness.

One of the most striking things has been an increased awareness seasonal changes and the physical environment.

Office workers tend to operate in an artificial environment where it’s hot in winter, cold in summer (I once got earache in July from air-conditioning) and there’s always plenty of light. Out here, the winter is cold and dark. You even feel the cold intensify at the end of the afternoon, when the sun goes down – a reminder of the fact that even the winter sun is an important source of heat.

Earlier this week, I was reflecting with a contemporary about the way things have changed since we were children back in the 1960s. The list of things we didn’t miss in the slightest included:

  • ice on the inside of your (single glazed) bedroom window
  • coal fires (which only warmed you up at a range of about 2 feet)
  • paraffin heaters
  • non-waterproof coats (of which the school gaberdine was the worst example – heavy rain or snow could leave you, literally, soaked to the skin)
  • sheets and blankets (which didn’t keep you warm, fell off in the night
  • woolen jumpers (warm, but scratchy and, like woolen blankets a nightmare to wash and dry)

So three cheers for:

  • double glazing
  • central heating
  • duvets
  • modern materials that are warm, waterproof, windproof, machine washable and quick drying

Back in 2011, I drew up a list of things to do to stay warm, whilst minimising fuel consumption. I’ve now updated this list in the light of experience. The most important I’ve learned is that clothing is the most important thing to get right, followed by environmental factors. It’s really basic stuff – clothing is fundamental to our survival – like a dog growing a thicker coat. In fact, I’d even go so far as to suggest that developing new materials to protect ourselves from the environment is a form of evolutionary adaptation.

Anyway, here are my top tips:


Clothing –indoors  (Under this scheme, I manage to stay warm around the house during hours of daylight with little or no heating.)

  •  thermal underwear (2-star)or base layers (3-star) instead of thermal underwear when it’s really cold
  • scarf
  • hoody with a pouch to slip your hands in (the hood keeps your head warm, but you do tend to end up looking a bit monkish)
  • fleece
  • fleece-lined walking trousers
  • ski socks
  • tent mules (basically quilted, down-filled slippers)


  • gore-tex coat (wind- and water-proof)
  • gore-tex walking shoes (waterproof, breathable, good for snow and ice)
  • thermal gloves
  • if spending long periods shopping etc., remove fleece and thermals before going out to prevent overheating


Search out the best fuel deal. (You’ve got plenty of time to do the research. Also, if you are in credit, ask for a refund and invest it in warm clothing).


Thermostats on individual radiators. (This is definitely worth doing in terms of both fuel saving and comfort.)


Snuggle up with a duvet on the sofa. (By wrapping myself in a duvet between sundown and teatime, I can keep the heating switched off for an extra hour).


Boil a kettle in the morning and put hot water in a flask for use in drinks throughout the day. (This doesn’t really work – the water doesn’t stay warm)


See what your local outdoor shop has to offer. (see “clothing”- also, have a list of stuff that you need and take advantage of sales)


Spend time in the local shopping centre. (But only cost effective if you don’t buy anything and remember to remove some layers to avoid overheating).


Ditto B&Q. (Unless the local B&Q has closed down)


Sit in a library (If the Council hasn’t closed it).


Visit museums. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town which has free museums,  you’re on to a winner as they invariably have both heating AND interesting things to see. It’s also a good way of getting exercise and museums (unlike libraries) have toilets


Get a voluntary job.