Winter Comforts

Anyone for a day-after nap? This post isn’t for someone with a warmer house or who lives in warmer clime, but maybe some readers share my fondness for the homely hot water bottle.

Last year Margaret Drabble published “The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws.” She writes in the foreword, “The book started off as a small history of the jigsaw, but it has spiraled off in other directions….” The book is a puzzle itself in a way – jigsaw facts and memoir mingled. It became such a hybrid after Drabble’s husband fell ill, and as she says, “Doing jigsaws and writing about them has been one of my strategies to defeat melancholy and avoid laments.”

I don’t have Drabble’s memories of jigsaw puzzles, but another topic resonates. She writes (it is an eclectic book) of turning away from a short infatuation with electric blankets (I like English books because everyone is always seeking to combat the cold), and says, “So I returned to the safety, the traditional comfort, of the hot-water bottle. You really can’t do yourself much damage with a hot-water bottle, apart from mottling yourself with red blotches, and the fact that they are still so widely available means that others agree with me. You’d have thought they might have gone out of production by now, but they haven’t.”

I read this quote with my feet tucked against MY hot water bottle and laughed out loud!

I love a hot water bottle.

My mother’s idea of a hot water bottle was a Ball jar filled with hot water – that works but is risky. Mrs. Seal, my landlady in England when I was a student, used to put a bottle in my bed when I was out late. (Being a 21 year-old in the 60s with other things on my mind, I didn’t deserve this kindness).

But now I understand her impulse and can hardly bear for people to go to sleep in the Buffalo or Buffalito without a warming bottle. Mrs. Seal’s bottles were the same pink rubber as my current one. But the mother of my young friend made mine a cover from a too-small-for-anybody cashmere sweater some years ago. It grew completely threadbare, and she made another. A friend presented fish-shaped small bottles to the Buffalo as a present – so a drawer full of possibilities waits there.

A guy friend told me once that his wife always put two bottles in the bed – one on his side. That made me feel bad, so lately I’ve been making two. I love to put one in the spot right where I will sit down and then move it further down, pushing its watery, wool-clad warmth with my feet – happy for the encounter.

Small pleasure – winter pleasure.

2 thoughts on “Winter Comforts

  1. Spain in the 60’s didn’t have homes with central heating, so during the winter months we all lined up in the kitchen with our hot water bottles, waiting for the water to boil and for mom to pour it in. I still remember the popping, spitting noise it made! These days I use a flannel bag filled with rice that I pop in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then throw in bed. We still call it a Hot Warmer, after the name Dana gave it when she was a little girl!

    I love reading your posts, Katy! Happy Birthday to you too, my friend. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to be in the same town sometime for a visit!

  2. Four years since I read this the first time. I have since added hot water bottles to my winter must-haves. One in Alaska and one in Oregon. I love the thought of a cashmere covered one.
    Felt sad, though, reading the above comment. Much has happened in four years.

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