I have this recurring dream. It’s freezing cold and I’m trying to get home, there’s no one around, no busses, no trains, no people and I’m aware that I’m hypothermic. There’s snow on the ground, icicles everywhere, there’s a blizzard and somehow I know it’s thirty below. Eventually I get to my door and bang on it and bang on it but no one answers. I collapse and I’m so tired and sleepy but I know that if I sleep I’ll die so I pick myself up and open the porch door. My fingers are so cold that they don’t work so I fumble around trying to get my key out, it takes both hands to turn it in the lock but eventually I get the door open.
Inside it’s bitterly cold still, my breath freezes in front of me, there’s ice on the kitchen floor and the thermometer shows that it’s well below zero. I put my hand on the radiator and it’s still a bit warm so I know that the water hasn’t frozen in the pipes. I’m so tired but I know I have to get the heating on as a matter of survival. With both hands I turn the thermostat up as far as it will go, to 35 degrees. I hear the boiler burst into life, the pipes and radiator creaking as hot water surges through them. Stumbling into the kitchen I turn all the hobbs on, I even open the oven and turn the grill on. For a little while I hold my hands over the hobs, warming them until they work again.
Then I head upstairs, I’m still shivering like mad, I’m still sleepy, I’m still dying so I go into the bathroom and I start to run a hot bath, I don’t even bother with cold water and I don’t take my clothes off, I just step into the almost scalding water and sit down because I know I have to stabilise my temperature as soon as possible. Eventually with the bath half full I turn the tap off and sit there, huddled in a ball, shivering away, feeling the heat return to my body and the shivering die off. After the longest time the air temperature becomes comfortable, even a little warm and I strip off, swathe myself in towels and find some dry clothes.
In the kitchen I turn the thermostat down to 25 and I make myself tea, the hottest, sweetest tea that’s ever been made. I keep thinking back to my cadet training which says that I need a hot sugary drink so I put like six sugars in the mug, turn off the cooker and shuffle slowly into the front room where I turn on the gas fire. Outside the blizzard is still raging but I can feel that my body temperature is normal again, I’m awake and alert and I sip my tea watching the fire flicker and burn.