Wednesday, November 25, 2009


cauldrife [ˈkɔːldrɪf]

adj Scot

1. susceptible to cold; chilly

2. lifeless

[from cauld + rife]

My mother-in-law has always felt the cold. She liked to keep herself ‘well happed-up’. Indeed, so susceptible to chills was she that I don’t imagine she ever suffered herself to be naked from the day of her birth until about a year ago when the carers wheeled her, roaring protest, into our wet room for a nice warm shower bath.

Mind you, this house was, before its renovation, a big cold barn of a place with just one heated room. That was where Pearlie spent most of her time, roasting her shins in front of a big turf fire.She was a great believer in layering. She always wore two vests, three sweaters, a cardigan, a petticoat, two skirts, tights, men’s socks and an apron. The apron was very important to her. When her house-working days were over I asked her why she still wore the apron. She said,

I’d be cauld without it,

I wondered how she could find warmth in a faded square of patched cotton but she maintained that it was terribly necessary to her comfort.

In bed Pearlie had an electric blanket and used two hot water bottles. At bedtime she divested herself of the skirts, the tights and one cardigan. On very cold nights she tied a headscarf Queen-style to keep off the chill. This routine continued even after this house was being renovated and she moved to a cosy and fully central heated mobile home. She missed the open fire in the moby and often had the oil heating at full blast, an electric fire and a gas heater all going together. You could see the heat haze rising from the roof on mild days. Bert eventually disconnected the electric fire as the carers and other callers were suffocating in the high temperatures. Pearlie claimed to feel no great heat. Even then she continued to wear a headscarf in bed. Occasionally, if she had misplaced her headscarf, she’d go to bed wearing a big pair of knickers on her head.

Her present room has an open fire and it is kept alight summer and winter. She gets very cross if Bert doesn’t keep it well stoked up. She doesn’t wear knickers or a headscarf any more but she asks for and gets lots of hand towels and she makes herself a little nest because her arms get cold and if she gets too warm it is easier to remove the towels than take a cardigan off. She goes to bed with a crocheted blanket round her shoulders and if the carers take it for laundering she is very indignant. Mostly they don’t but there is one…she only does it to annoy. Nowadays Pearlie wears a pair of thick brown tights tied round her neck to keep off the 'cauld' and I think it can only be a matter of time before she starts wearing her knickers as a hat for she tells us that there is a draught coming through the light fitting.

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