I remember doing my laundry in London during the cold wet winters. As was typical in most London flats, we had only a washing machine and not a clothes dryer (an American luxury that deserves its own post). In the summer, we would hang the clothing out to dry on a clothes line in the sun.
But in the damp grey winter, we would dry the clothing indoors, atop the old-fashioned cast iron steam radiators that were used to heat the apartment. I remember turning the creaky valves on those radiators to let more water in and turn up the heat. Each time you bent over to do it, inevitably you’d knock off another flake of old white paint from the metal that had been repainted a hundred times.
It might be quite a Victorian-era way of heating your home, but at least it worked. I spent a winter in Tunis, far from the sun-soaked image of the country’s summer season beaches, and when it got cold at night, the only option was to layer on another one of those heavy fuzzy polyester blankets that insist on being decorated in the most heinously ugly flower theme. (Needless to say, no heating system was required at my home in tropical Liberia; I’d usually wake up in a pool of my own sweat in the dry season, and in the wet season I would occasionally be ever so slightly cold, for example when I was sat immediately next to an air conditioning unit.)
Well, now here I am in the US, and I find myself living in an apartment with a magic box on the wall that miraculously controls the temperature of the entire house. They call it “central heating.” There are vents on the wall and ceiling of each room, and hot air comes out of them when you press buttons on the command center (aka “thermostat”). How nifty is that?