The heat is on


Lately we've had some lovely weather, although this last week there has been a distinct chill in the air and I've had to turn the heating up a bit. One thing I'll give the Czechs is they know how to heat their homes, unlike the Irish and the British who are used to shivering away the winter months.

The cold in my parents' house is one reason I prefer not to go home at Christmas. We have central heating but my room is freezing and I invariably end up sitting by the fire in the living room. In fact, the whole family sits around the fire, which sometimes brings to mind life in a cave. (Sorry, Mum).

I have to say, though, that while I welcome the Czechs' ability to heat their flats and houses, I very often find the heat in public spaces here excessive to say the least.

Take for example a typical department store. The staff are all in light shirts and some kind of sandals. This is the environment which awaits you, the shopper in your winter woolens, boots, scarf and all the rest of it. As you walk in the door the heat is wonderful - a welcome respite from the cold outside.

But then it soon starts to get a bit uncomfortable, you start to loosen that scarf and open your coat. But it can still be really unpleasant and - if you're like me - you may have to beat a hasty retreat, and find the exit as fast as possible.

And, if you tend to get overheated like me, you wonder who the sweltering heat in the shop is actually 'for' - the bustling wrapped up customer or the stationary shop assistant in the t-shirt?

Trams too can be ridiculously hot. I am aware of how cold it can be on an unheated tram in the middle of nowhere on a cold winter's night. But who needs to bake in a sauna on wheels?

I once knew an English guy who broke his leg after jumping down from a wall; the sole of his shoe was uneven after it had melted by a piping hot tram heater. (Or so he said.)

Then there's the office environment. I'd wager that the average office here is around three or four degrees Celsius warmer than an office in Ireland or the UK. Which is probably ideal if you feel like taking a nice nap at your desk, but not ideal if you're trying to get something done.

The locals call the period from October to around April the heating season. For me it's always going to be the over-heating season.