Attending a private school in Dublin has the association of being well off. Additionally, speaking with a southside accent, termed as posh by other kids, had its challenges growing up. At the age of 8 years old, my parents split up, leaving us in the family home in Dublin 18. A large flat-roofed 1960’s bungalow with extensive floor to ceiling windows, with OFCH, no insulation, and rising damp. As a kid, you didn’t really think about the fact that the house was so cold. There was black mold on most of the walls of the rooms, although the large master bedroom had mushrooms growing on the walls. The decision was made to close off that room. I remember feeling a little embarrassed. For years I remember constantly of been woken by the cold air. I just presumed this was how everyone lived. The constant call to ‘close the doors’ you’ll let the heat out or ‘wear more layers’. I always felt anxious to see the look on my dads face, when I met him, to talk about the bills.
My mum was single, proud and stayed at home to look after myself and my two siblings. She received a monthly maintenance from my father. Day to day we just got on with it. We probably had a higher amount of colds and cases of flu, although you’re not aware that you are any different than anyone else. I was only until into early adulthood I began to realise how dilapidated the quality of our home was. We only used the main living room at Christmas time due to the amount of heat it needed to get it warm. We never opened the windows in winter. We were constantly replacing/removing carpets, repainting moldy walls and the house felt constantly damp.
We finally got my mum out and into a new place, after 35 years, in the last few months. It took an enormous effort to sell a G-Rated home with the problems it had. I really became aware, over the last 10 years, of how important it was to get her into somewhere warm and dry, especially as she was getting older and more vulnerable. Working on the Fuel Poverty Conference for the past 3 years has made me realise how many people or unaware of fuel poverty or that they might have lived or do live in it. I’ve heard so many people talk about their own childhoods of damp homes, turning off the heating to save money and been told to wear more clothes indoors.