John, UK : “I’ve never again been in that situation where I’ve had a piece of kit that cantankerous.”
Q: Do you remember your house being cold or warm as a child?
A: We could get by without the central heating as we lived in a fairly warm part of Northern Ireland. There was virtually no frost … a very mild climate in which you can lift spuds in February and March.
Also, with our house being back-to-back with other houses on three sides we were lucky. We had pensioners on two sides who were in all day; they would have their heating on, and we benefited from that. I don’t know who was at the back, but it was very warm, very comfortable
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 do you remember about your heating or hot water systems?
A: My father ran his dental practice out of our house, so he needed hot water for that. We had an ESSE range for heating water. Because it heated the water for the practice and the house, at least part of the cost of coal was written off as a business expense. My mum did all the admin and bookkeeping for dad’s practice, because dad didn’t particularly like asking people for money or that side of the practice. We had to pay up front for the coal, but ultimately a portion written off against tax
Q: Do you remember anything ever going wrong with the heating or how water?
A: If something went wrong with the ESSE, and occasionally it did, it was an absolute ache to get sorted because there were a limited number of people around who could work on them. The thing was already 20 years old or thereabouts, and spares were not available. At some point, a couple of things had been removed and it didn’t work because they couldn’t get the spares: it malfunctioned and produced too much hot water! So the hot water actually rattled and stuff. This was in the late 1980s; I’ve never again been in that situation where I’ve had a piece of kit that cantankerous.
We did keep an immersion heater as back-up because my dad needed hot water for the practice. But it was expensive to use.