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The Last Crushing

The clocks go back three weeks from now. This is guest writer Rattlecans' account of the reality faced by thousands of Scots facing crippling energy bills.

Monday, October 9, 2023
13 mins

The Last Crushing


I’ve been aroon Mawe’s hoose tae see whit I can dae tae make sure she’ll get through the winter, fed and warm, no bankrupt.

I wandered aroon looking at whit makes the meter whirl.  

Hoover.  The plug on that thing can be opened so I’ve removed it.  A carpet sweeper wid be nice.  Doubt I’d ever find wan even if I could afford tae buy it.  I’ll jist hiv tae brush her carpets fur her.  

Her eyes are too bad and she’s too auld tae be knocking herself oot brushing a carpet.  I cannae pit doon a mat under her table.  That wid make life easier.  I could jist lift a mat, roll it up, take it oot tae shake it clear a crumbs.  But she’d trip on a rug and break her hip.  And a big enough rug, that might no look like a huge amount a money tae ye, but it is tae me.  And she’d trip on that anaw so, even if I could get wan, I’d no pit it doon fur her

Hairdryer.  Maistly she pins her hair in place and lets it dry through the morning, just like her mither did.  Bit she likes tae dae up her hair afore gaun tae hospital visits.  “They make an effort tae look efter me.  So I make an effort tae smarten mysel up and they wullnae hiv tae look at me in a mess.”  I’ve put that away on a high shelf she’ll no be able tae reach it so easy. 

She his a big light and a lamp in her bedroom.  The big light is brighter.  She uses that tae get intae her room and walk aroon her bed tae turn on the lamp.  Then she makes her wey back tae the big light switch tae turn that back aff.  Other than that, it’s aff unless she is ironing.  She needs that tae see whit she’s daen.  I can replace that wi a light bulb she’d normally put in her lamp.

Because the iron is gaunnae be confiscated, put away on a high shelf.  I’ll gie her that back if January and February are bitterly cauld.  It’s warm, stauning there ironing a few things.  But it runs on profiteers electricity. Ironing wull noo hiv tae be an alternative heating and no a ritual performed on jist about every bit a fabric she owns.

The only other electrical kit she his in there is an auld radio and a phone handset.  She listens tae her radio while she potters about settling down for the night.  Police advice in the 80s wis tae leave a radio or TV on while yer oot.  That wey, burglars wid think twice because they wullnae know if anybody is in or no.  I doubt I’ll ever get her tae stop that, no noo.  That habit is aulder than her granweans.  The phone, that’s steyin plugged in beside her bed.  She’ll need that there tae phone fur help if she needs it.

Daylight disnae make it’s wey intae her hall.  I wid take the light bulb oot fae the hall, bit her eyes are so bad.  She’d trip on the shoes?  When she wis in her early 70s I’d thought about putting a night light there fur her, but she refused.  “They’re fur weans.  Don’t baby me!” She gets up in the night for a piece. Or a pee.  Her hall light wull have tae stey where it is.

She ey preferred making her toast in her cooker’s grill.  Partly, that’s how she’s always done it, and partly cos council hooses don’t tend tae be generous wi space.  The kitchens are no places tae be swinging cats.  I got her a toaster a few years back because they’re a wee bit cheaper tae use.  Cannae make any savings there.

She his an under-counter fridge and an under counter freezer.  Whit dae a’ dae?  Turn aff the freezer?  But bulk cooking, bagging it up an freezing it fur later in the week or the month is how she lives, has ey lived since she first got a freezer.  

I got her that first freezer in 1985. She made as good a use a that as I knew she wid. Weekends cooking for teas ready fur comin in fae work during the week. If I could hiv afforded an American pressure canner, I would’ve already got wan and spent the early bit a covid lock-doon canning up whitever I could fur her.  There’d be rows a fresh pasta sauce, all the dried beans, canned and ready tae use already.  And anyhoo, there are only so many canning jars and jam jars I could afford.  Noo I’m wondering if even the energy used in preserving fruit is gaunnae break the finances.  In lieu of that, the freezer hauds bags that are slowly fult o’er weeks wi “Reduced” fruit, or foraged fruit tae there is enough fur me tae make her a load of fruity breads, crumbles; enough that will make it worth the price a turning on the oven.  

Even celery.  Bits a chopped up celery are saved in the freezer when there is a big soup day in the house.  The bits a frozen vegetables are added tae stews or beans, or whatever on another big cook day. It’s where the herbs go efter they’re picked fae her plant pots, washed, sorted and bagged up.  Oor Betters are forever telling us not tae waste food.  They’ll be assuming we live like they dae.  Waste food! If I’d my wey, the freezer wid be twice the size. Bulk buying and cooking is cheaper.  But keeping it running?  We’ll hiv tae see how that goes.

There is nae food processor tae be put away.  Jist a tiny chopper she uses tae turn stale bread intae breadcrumbs an a hand blender I got her fur making homemade tomato soup.  That blender is how she gets a lot mair vegetables intae herself than she did afore.  I don’t want tae take that away fae her.  She’ll be needing hot soup made wi fresh vegetables on dark, cauld winter nights.  And so wull her neighbours.  

A wide-neck flask might be a good idea.  That wid mean she can hiv hot soup at night, and it wid still be hot the next efternin.  A decent wide neck flask that kin dae that is dear though.  But noo, no as dear as leccie bills wull be o’er the next few year.  

There are nae electric knives, nae toasty makers, nae deep fat fryers or any of the other things that litter kitchen work-surfaces and cupboards in so many other kitchens.  Jist her kettle and her much-loved slow-cooker.  She adores her slow cooker wi her socket-timer.  If she’s lucky enough tae hiv a bit a meat, the waft greets her at the kitchen door when she gets up efter a good night’s sleep.  Wee pleasures are everything, especially in dark cauld winters.  

Or mibbes there is a rice pudding, or a cake in there fur a Friday night, fulling the hoose wi the smell of ginger making her mooth water.  There’s talk a energy rationing.  Wull the electricity be on long enough fur her tae use her slow-cooker? 

Then there is the washing machine. Wi her eyesight and rickety wrists, her worsening arthritis, she is heavy on tea towels and kitchen cloths.  I’ve cut down on the number of washes in the machine by buying her mountains of them  “Nawe, Ma, yer no pittin 6 tea towels in fur a 15 minute wash.  Wait tae ye hiv a full load first”  

And as for kitchen cloths, her habit has always been tae bleach them o’er night. Heavy on water usage, light on the leccie bill. Woollies are always haunwashed in ma family. Washed, wrapped in a towel tae get a load a water oot, then dried flat.  She’s no got the biggest selection tae be putting on her back, so dis she hiv enough tae wait on the long drying times? If the hoose is warm enough fur anything tae dry at a’. In the middle a winter? 

I save the dregs fae the kettle in the narrow-necked flask. As the day goes on, there is usually enough tae full that hot water bottle and mibbes even get a basin a her smalls washed.  Aye.  I haunwash ma Mawe’s wee things noo cos that’s whit needs tae be done tae get by.  I’ll hiv tae start washing everything fur her, by haun?  Ma gran wid never hiv thought her granddaughter wid be wantin a mangle tae help  save money.  But she does, in 2022.

The last kitchen thing is hot water.  Suddenly everybody is feart a the cost a hot water?  She’s been feart a that since Thatcher started her destruction a working class communities.  We a’ hiv been. That wis a long time ago and nothin his changed.  Noo she his a gas boiler.  It’s switched aff a’ day every day, tae it’s dish washing time.  

Dishes are stacked up through the day, unless it is a baking day. Aye.  We never gave them up. But dish washin time is a problem.  She insists she’s capable.  The plates are no always clean when she’s washed and dried em.  Shit eyes, ye see.  It’s taken long enough tae get her tae let me help. She’s human, so she’s her pride and dignity and it’s got tae be looked efter.  Dignity is fragile. She washes.  I haun the plate back tae be washed again.  “Missed a bit there Ma”.  If I’m no there, it means I’ve tae go through the cupboard checking a’ the plates tae see whit bit of plate is no properly clean, same wi the pots and utensils the next time I nip roon tae her hoose.  Anything no right, I re-wash em fur her.  Mair hot water.  If I don’t?  Well, food poisoning is never good, but in a wee frail auld biddie? That can be catastrophic. Morning wash?  That’s water fae the kettle while her tea is brewing.  Whit ma niece calls a bird-bath.

Her living room his two big lights that work aff the wan switch.  Wan a them can lose it’s bulb.  Like her bedroom, the big light is only on long enough fur her tae get tae her lamp and turn that on.  Then there is her telly and digital box.  I’ve weaned her aff her telly habit o’er the past year.  Noo, it disnae get turned on tae her tea is on it’s plate.  She’s her radio.  Cheaper tae run that than a big telly  Her phone.  Nothing in her living room tae be confiscated, tucked away on a high shelf in a cupboard tae be forgotten about tae the socialist utopia finally arrives.  It’ll be a bad day when the telly is put away even at night time.  The fucking leccie man can dae that himsel.  I’m no takin it aff her.

A battery charger sits on the bookcase shelf.  It was always cheaper tae recharge batteries fur clocks – wind-up clocks were ten a penny when I wis a wean, but the Haves decided we all hid tae move wi the times, like it or lump it – torches and her remote control fur the telly than tae buy single-use batteries.  It’s ma job tae charge the batteries fur her.  Every month, I check the wee torches that extend into a wee lamp fur her, wan kept on her bookcase and the other under her kitchen sink.

During the winter a discontent, our Mas and Das were terrified we’d play with the caunles.  Or try tae help by lighting them.   And noo it’s me, worried about Mawe, trying tae light a caunle, trying tae get it tae stey upright in the dish when the light his suddenly gaun oot fur whitever reason.  We hiv power cuts aroon here every year or two, so the torches are ey there ready tae use.  This time it might be a power cut.  It might be a disconnection.  Wi the price of electricity, wan is as likely as the other noo.  I’ve a wee stack a tealights under her sink.  Tall candles.  Found them away in at the back.  Auld bugger so she is.  They’ve been wheeched aff oot a there.  That guy that steys across the close, no a bean tae his name, that boy.  He’s glad a them and wull manage em a lot mair safer than she ever will.

I don’t know whit else tae dae.  I’ll check whit warm claethes she’s got, whit she needs, check her bedding, make sure there is enough that’ll be warm enough.  Check the thick duvet I got in the sales when winter turned tae summer is still there, waiting tae be used.  She can sleep on the auld wan and hiv this o’er her if the cauld is bad. The new hot water bottle is there tae.  I’ve got wan wool cover made up fur her auld wan.  Wan mair tae go.  Wool covers fur them haud the heat in and it lasts a lot longer during the night.  It’ll last a lot longer when she’s sitting in her chair snuggled up in front a the telly wi it, tae. She thinks I’m spoiling her knitting her bits’n pieces.  Mair like at the end a ma tether trying tae figure oot how tae stey safe fae the cauld. It’s only the umpteenth time I’ve checked.  Then I can get on wi some chopping and freezing, and planting another pot a totties tae grow oot in her itsy wee bit by the door in the hope there might be a meal or two’s worth in the dirt in a few months time while I try tae figure oot WHIT THE FUCK ARE WE GAUNNAE DAE!

I’m sitting here wi the letters fae her energy suppliers.  It’s been a week since the prices doubled.  I’ve no opened them.  I don’t want tae. There’s enough stress in ma life without this. I know it’ll be panic-attack inducing.  But I’ll hiv tae open them.  

Dae I open them the noo?  Or wait tae efter I’ve gave her her tea?  Cos I’m gaunnae hiv tae tell her how bad it is.  

Right? 

How the fuck am I gaunnae keep ma auld mammie warm? 

I swore tae ma mammie a the years ago that if she ran fae him and his fists that I’d make it OK, I’d look efter her, make sure she wis alright.  How the fuck can I make this OK?  

How am I gaunnae keep ma wee mammie warm wi a hot meal in her?  HOW!?!

How the fuck am I gaunnae keep ma mammie warm?

Our thanks to Eva Comrie for putting us in touch with Rattlecans. 'The Last Crushing' was originally published on Eva's blog, here:

Most poignant guest post from our friend Rattlecans. – One-legged woman speaks (oneleggedwomanspeaks.uk)

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