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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The amazingly heroic heater

It was online. It was not pretty, but it was cheap, so I bought one. It came in a box the size you could have stowed an illegal immigrant in, but it was in pristine condition. Its sheer size was impressive.

I was amused, though faintly annoyed by the feeling that I'd been totally suckered, when I discovered that it had one tiny motor at the top pumping out the warmed air, from just one small portion of the generous vents at the top. The whole thing could have been redesigned into something the size of a grapefruit.

Never mind. I got what I paid for, and that wasn't much. It was placed in a very safe place in the bathroom far from any water. Turned on before a shower, it would slowly warm the room and disperse the humidity.

As it turned out, it had unexpected advantages relating to various portions of the body it could dry while I exercised at the same time, lifting feet alternately, all two of them, to dry the space betwixt the toes - and other bodily areas that aren't your business, but still need to be dry.

It was about five years ago when I got it. I can't complain. I've had my money's worth no matter what.

So it was last Thursday when I was standing towelling off and got caught by a savage seizure. The right leg, quickly paralysing after spasming, buckled. I, like a giant Redwood – oh all right then, like a small Bottle Tree – toppled to the right, scraped a paralysed right arm against the wall, and crashed to the tiled floor like ... well ... that little Baobab Tree. [Warning: not a flattering comparison with the human body.]

Simultaneously with my paralysed and bare right buttock striking the floor and my downward momentum cracking vertebrae like hazelnuts, my back struck the good old el cheapo convection heater. All I heard was a sound like the small cannon that went off in St James's Part on Remembrance Day in London, 1980. [St James's Part?? What an unfortunate typo. Even more unfortunate for St James. Let me correct that. "Park", not "Part".]

The heater, which I was now jammed up against, remained ON, pumping out its gentle stream of air away from my naked, wet, Adonis-like body. This was fortunate, as freezing tiles are amazingly cold against bare immovable buttocks. The front panel of the heater was reassuringly warm; not hot, thanks to the remarkable inefficiency of the original design.

With a lot of trouble, Tracey extracted me from this mess once I got a bit of power back to the right side of my body. But this isn't about me. This is about the heater.

I inspected it closely only last night, I'm afraid. Mostly everything's been about me since that event.

Only now do I realise what a grand sacrifice it made. The front was pushed in fairly badly where it had taken the lateral force of my back. That was obvious from the start.

But what wasn't obvious was the immense buckle the back panel had taken. Like those cars with crumple zones, it had absorbed much more of the sideways thrust of my fall than the front panel. Without its being there, bruising to my back would have been so severe against the unyielding surface behind the heater that any Avastin infusion would have been delayed god knows how long.

Even more significantly, had the heater not been in that exact place, the back of my head would have struck the front edge of a low solid pine shelf, and taken the full lateral shock of the fall. The entire damage to the heater shows what that was. I don't have to spell out the likely consequences of that with a brain tumour stuck in my head. Put it this way; I wouldn't have been writing this.

The heater prevented any head contact with any hard surface. I don't think my head even came into contact with the heater, but if so, its yielding front surface would only have acted as a cushion.

We turned the heater on again later, but its little heart had died. Obviously its noble final exertions as I rested against it were too much to bear. With no motor to push out the heated air, it would rapidly have seized up like a car engine with no oil. It had made the supreme sacrifice. RIP, heater.

So there you go. You never know who or what might turn out to be your saviour, do you? 


  1. Oh God Denis was I supposed to laugh??? Well I did. Several times. Well a couple of times anyway,jand a wide smile. I shall join you in a requiem for that brave el cheapo heater. Brave el cheapo el champion heater. Respect.

    1. You were indeed supposed to laugh, Deb. I'd rather find some amusing side to my own misfortune than wallow in misery. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. I've never shed a tear for a heater before. And this phrase - 'thanks to the remarkable inefficiency of the original design' - will bring joy to the hearts of second-rate but eager-to-please designers the world over.

    1. As you may have gathered, it was a Chinese heater - not that I regard all Chinese products as inferior, because they're not - but this one was certainly aimed at a particular market.

      So I must stick with my well-worn but no less appropriate Chinese Taoist saying, 'Who knows what's good or bad?'

  3. Good thought Denis. If my history serves me correctly, Frodo was ultimately saved by his previous tolerance of the unspeakable Gollum. You never know what is going to come in useful ... which was my lame excuse when trying to find my way around 40 years of accumulated junk under the house.
    And a sense of whimsy is a wonderful thing - I liked your anthropomorphic reference to your heroic heater. Our long-time, most regularly read book is Wind in the Willows ... we define everyone as rats, moles, badgers or toads - even, sometimes otters or wild wooders. Our cars, and trailers, have names, our patched teddy bears have survived generations. When we bought a new car, Julie cried when the salesman drove away our 10-year-old trade-in. I now have high hopes for a few white elephants around the place which I once bought in fits of misguided enthusiasm.

    1. From one hoarder to another, I can only sympathise heartily, while applauding your Wind in the Willows book taste.

  4. And, so to unfortunate typos. When I was 24 years old, I taught myself to touch type from a commercial shorthand and typing book ... something that has stood me in good stead all my life. Anyway, back to the typing.
    So determined was I to succeed that I took out a bet with a neighbour that I would be able to type 40 wpm without error within three months.
    It went pretty well until, before the expectant crowd, I closed my eyes and rapidly typed:
    "U can type wuth my eyes shit".
    Oh well, it was a start.

    1. You failed to account for the 'under pressure' syndrome, didn't you?

      I hope the cameras were rolling, and available for all to see on the big screen as it happened. That would have been spectacular.

      Great story!

  5. Thanks Denis, this is my day for churning out words - poor though they may be. I do try, however, to make up in quantity what is lacking in quality. (Every time I place the word 'however' I think of you!)

    Anyway, I have been thinking of you sitting there today, watching your results with trepidation, and it prompted these rambling thoughts.

    This morning I was reflecting on your blog … what it has done for you and what it has done for your friends … and suddenly (better late than never) I realised that we are living through a major change in the way the world and its societies function.

    I spend about 30 hours/week on the computer: researching and writing a book; reading and writing poetry; trying to make progress with my memoirs; a lot of work on body corporate matters; emails in and out; the weather; ebook sales; ebook downloads; banking; booking a trip; the news; (not forgetting the happy hours trying to fix ‘Windows Explorer has stopped working – WE is looking for a solution – Sorry, WE is closing down and restarting’) … etc. etc. etc. But this is all modern, fairly standard activity concerned with the daily nuts and bolts.

    Where the big change is taking place is in relationships and friendships. Julie and I, through various Facebook and FB groups, keep up with our family, with current friends, as well as friends with whom we have become reunited after 50 years or more. We have also developed friendships with people we don’t know and have never met. These friendships are very real and become (dare I say it) ‘caring’ relationships in which our feelings and communications are often just as involved as with those of friends and family who are physically closer to us.

    For example, my before-breakfast routine every day (and then 3-4 times a day thereafter) is: Check and reply to emails – ABC News – Denis’ What’s New and blog (sorry about the third placing) – Facebook messages and responses – weather.

    In common with the whole of society, I can now keep up close friendships, obtain information, and live my life largely online. Nobody needs to be isolated any more. We even have a friend who, in later life, met a partner online – both of whom have now been wonderfully happy for a couple of years. (I know that there are disappointments too with Internet romances, but probably no more or less so than with arranged marriages - or our own haphazard way of selecting a partner).

    Where is it all leading? Are we going to increasingly adopt virtual lives? Is a virtual life any less real than a ‘real’ life. Are the friends I’ve never met and who live in Teheran, Dubai, Lebanon, any less my friends than somebody I grew up with but see only once a decade. Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if there is nobody there to hear it? If you hear the sound, do you need to see the tree fall?

    It's all very confusing. Maybe virtual lives could be the way to world peace … if only there were no barbarians at the gate.

  6. It is truly a heroic heater! It didn’t just keep you warm and dry, but it actually helped save your life by catching your fall. Even though it had flaws on its design, it’s actually worth the money you spent. Sadly, the heater got damaged and can’t work anymore. I just hope you find another heater that is amazing like the previous one.

  7. Luckily your heater was there to save you! Do be more careful next time so you won’t find yourself in a very inconvenient position like that again. I hope that you weren’t seriously injured, and the worst that you had was just a broken heater. Anyway, you can always get another replacement for it.

    -Darryl Iorio

  8. Wow! Good thing that heater was there to catch your fall! Otherwise, you would have probably been in a worse condition than you were after. Talk about being an undersized hero there. You can certainly call your heater heroic! Sadly, it did end up getting broken. Well, in the long run, you did get more than what you paid for – it heated your room and saved your back!


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