Having been born and raised in the UK (a country with weather more temperamental than a menstruating polar bear), I don't remember there ever being too much of a problem in keeping my house warm. The classic British route is Gas Central Heating; a system so common its initials alone are enough in a estate agent's advert - GCH.
My first Turkish winter took me by complete surprise. I never imagined Turkey could get so cold. But I was living in a 'summer house', meaning a house that was built for summer jollies not for winter residence. The walls are thin. The windows are single glazed. Things that are ideal in the heat of the summer but completely energy inefficient in the winter.
I tried an electric fire at first but in the words of Withnail, I may as well have "sat round a cigarette". The wiring in the flat was so ancient, the cables were heating up more than the fire itself.
Then I tried the old fashioned route of the coal burner. I'm sure I mentioned this before in the blog. Very useful but hard work and potentially lethal. Noxious fumes nearly took my life on at least one occasion as did hauling coal up from the garage. In a house with no insulation, the heat was fierce but soon disappeared.
Since moving to Izmir and into the teachers' residence, I've discovered a new system. I have big radiators on the walls with pipes leading back into a cupboard with a huge tumble drier type machine. From there the pipes continue out onto the balcony to a large diesel tank. Yes, a big square tank about the size of 4 large fridges, that you fill up with diesel. I was intrigued (and freezing) so I decided to give it a go.
How does it work? Well the other night I saw a petrol tanker outside in the road. You know the kind you see driving up the M6 with 'BP' written on the side. Well I shouted down and a man scurried up. The next thing I know I'm ordering 100 litres of diesel and watching it being pumped into an 'ashtray' sized hole in the top of the huge tank (I know it's ashtray sized because I've been using an ashtray to cover the hole - call me over cautious but people smoke on the balcony. 1 cigarette+100 litres of petrol=Boom!).
About £100 of diesel later, the system was ready to go. I pressed the button and... fuck all. 3 days later they fitted a new pump and I pressed the button again. Whoooooooffff! My god, did it ignite. It's smelly and noisy but it certainly pumped out sufficient heat. When I say smelly and noisy, imagine a Ford Transit idling under the stairs.
That was 10 days ago and it ran out of fuel yesterday. Nice. So, it's going to cost me about £400 per month to heat this fucking place? Why? Well because Turkey has the most expensive petrol prices in the world. That's why!
So, in igniting the diesel burner, I was effectively doing this...
Actually, this would have probably worked out cheaper! Why didn't I do the calculations first??
So, what are the options for keeping warm through a Turkish winter?
- Coal burner. Already discussed. Cheap. Efficient. Dirty. Lethal.
- Gas burner. Old school types your nan had. Saw one in the florist the other day. The guy said it was useful but the fumes are deadly.
- GCH. Only available in certain parts of Izmir. Not here yet.
- Diesel burner. See above.
- Olive stone burner. No, I'm not making this up. You can get a burner that uses a fuel made from the stones of olives. Very cheap and effective but you need to give 3 rooms of your house over to storing olive pips. Tinker, tailor, soldier, fuck that.
- ...and the one that everyone has been suggesting since the beginning to be honest... One of these babies:
This is called a UFO. Most people seem to be using them. So I'm off to Turkish B&Q tomorrow to get me one. No doubt it'll give me skin cancer but at least I'll be warm without having to sell my possessions.