Elaine, UK : “Even at 8 years old, my job was to shovel coal dumped in the yard into the basement; usually, the delivery was 1 metric tonne.”
Q: Were you directly involved in ‘managing’ household energy?
A: When I was about 8 years old, If I got home from school when the coal had been dropped, I had to get it into the coalhouse before mum and dad got home from work. Usually, it was about 1 metric tonne that been dropped outside. It was hard work and I hated it! I mean a tonne of coal is massive. It wasn’t in bags, it was just dropped outside the back of a lorry, so it was always in people’s way. The quicker we got it into the coal house, the better. So I used to come home from school and think, ‘Oh god!’. My brother and sister are like 20 years older than me and had already moved on. When my mum came home from work, we would do it together. But my dad never did it, never took the coal in..
Q: Do you remember your parents being worried about the cost of coal or of heating?
A: I do remember that mum and dad made some friends with people that worked at the pit, so we got cheap coal.”
Q: What about when you started your own family?
A: When I was first married, our house had very poor insulation. When Bryn was born in 1983 – of course had to bring in a February baby – it was really cold and snowing. It was blowing a gale and it snowed for about four or five weeks; it was absolutely freezing.
So we had the added source of pressure of a baby, and I think that’s why I just took the conscious decision to have heating on and I’ll deal with the consequences after. I think the bill was about £324 or something like that and we couldn’t pay it. So they came and cut us off, so we didn’t have any electricity at all – or any other form of heating as it was all electric. And Bryn was about three months old.