And those who don’t have their own houses but who, like me, would rather be hungry than cold, find themselves at the mercy of the mean and sadistic. In Athens, the owners of large blocks of flats — who are, almost by definition, far better off than their tenants, and who usually live far away — will set the timer on the central heating boiler to come on only briefly, and the thermostat to a miserably low temperature. Last winter there were several deaths of small children whose mothers, trying to keep them warm but not being able to afford supplementary electric heating, had put those deadly traditional devices known as Mangalia — little charcoal braziers — in rooms whose windows were tight shut against the cold. But why should the landlord care?
A friend of mine, living in a house divided into individually rented rooms with common bathrooms and kitchens, co-operated with other tenants in finding an ingenious solution: the landlord of course lived in a warm house far away, so they investigated the ‘heating’ system but found that the thermostat was locked away in a little cupboard. So they took all the ice cubes out of the ’fridge, put them in a plastic bag, and attached the bag to the outside of the cupboard, thus fooling the thermostat into thinking it was even colder than it really was, and turning on the heating.
Technical note: most thermostats work on the bimettalic strip principle: if you fix strips of two metals with different coefficients of expansion together and then heat or cool them, the strip will of course bend. A couple of strategically-placed electrical contacts, and hey presto, the thermostat.
Sorry about the blurriness of the picture, but you should see the idea.