Couple sleep in coats and ‘can’t imagine using heating again’ as energy bills double


Exclusives:

Gerald Porter, 83, and wife Mair Porter, 80, from Melksham, Wiltshire, say they won’t be using the central heating again after their energy bills more than doubled and they now rely on hot water bottles and fleece jackets to stay warm

Gerald Porter and wife Mair have stopped donating to charities as he can no longer afford it

An elderly couple are being forced to wear coats to bed as they can no longer afford their heating bills since they more than doubled last month, saying the increase has “taken over their lives”.

Gerald Porter, 83, is even debating going back to work to get more money to support his wife Mair, 80, who has just been diagnosed with dementia.

The couple, who live in Melksham, Wiltshire, have been forced to give up their social lives as cash is so tight and have even stopped using their oven to keep bills down.

Gerald served in the Royal Air Force for 18 years and feels the country has devoted his life to letting him down.

He tells The Mirror: “I don’t want to complain really because I’ve had a good life, but it comes as a huge disappointment.







80-year-old Mair Porter is particularly susceptible to the cold so relies on hot water bottles and fleece hoodies throughout the day
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Image:

Gerald Porter)







83-year-old Gerald Porter served in the RAF for 18 years
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Gerald Porter)

“In the quiet hours when you sit and think, well we did all that and we’ve ended up with all this worry. You’re sort of living on the edge really.

“I don’t know if it’s a matter of age but you think, what did we do all that for?

“Life has changed completely. Before, we would go out lunching and that sort of thing, meeting friends – but we don’t do that anymore. We can’t afford it, every penny has got to be watched.

“For years, I’ve contributed to causes like the Salvation Army or UNICEF. I give them maybe £5 or £10 a month – not much – but that’s all stopped.

“I just can’t afford it. It grieves me to do it, but there you go, I just can’t do anything about it.”

Since their bills jumped from £110 to £295, Gerald and Mair have started setting strict budgets for their daily gas and electricity usage, which means giving up the use of their central heating altogether.

Gerald has worked out that it costs him 3p to boil his kettle – a cheaper solution that allows both him and Mair to surround themselves with multiple hot water bottles to stay warm while at home.







The couple have set strict budgets for their daily gas and electricity usage in fear that they won’t be able to afford their next bill
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Image:

Gerald Porter)







Gerald and Mair Porter are “watching every penny” to ensure they keep costs low
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Image:

Gerald Porter)

They’ve also stopped using the oven to keep costs low, relying instead on their microwave.

He said: “We’re on a fixed income so there’s nothing we can do about it. I can put it on and go into debt but I just want somebody to do something.

“I can’t imagine a time that I can turn the heating on again, there’s nothing in sight and there’s nothing else I can do”

“The difference between £110 and £295 – it’s a chasm that I can’t cross. I’m not putting the heating on because I refuse to go into debt.”

Gerald added: “At night, we cover the bed in coats and use an extra blanket because Mair is particularly susceptible to the cold.

“We wear coats indoors now. They’re like long jackets lined with synthetic wool. We’re having to use those in bed too just to make sure we keep warm. As you get older, the extremes of heat and cold affect you more .

“We’ve got an Aga, but we have no plans to use that. Putting it on would be absolutely catastrophic. We just use it for storage – it’s just a nice piece of furniture now, nothing else.”







Gerald has realized it is cheaper to hold a hot water bottle than using the heating
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Gerald Porter)







Mair was recently diagnosed with vascular dementia
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MARC GIDDINGS)

And yet this isn’t the only difficulty that the couple are facing, as the cost increase came shortly after 80-year-old Mair was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

Gerald added: “I’m trying to take it in my stride. It’s unavoidable, but just another thing to worry about really.

“I’m afraid with my wife’s illness, they sort of retreat within themselves. She doesn’t have opinions now. She has very basic feelings like ‘I’m too cold’ or ‘I’m too hot.'”

Gerald went viral on Twitter last month after sharing a message about how the price hikes are impacting their lives.







A young Gerald pictured in Singapore in 1960 whilst serving for the RAF
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Gerald Porter)







Mair Porter ‘many moons ago’ before she was diagnosed with vascular dementia
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Gerald Porter)

He said: “Our heating is the biggest expense we’ve got. We live on very average pensions, and the reason why I put the tweet out wasn’t an appeal for help or anything, it was anger. I was so angry. When I worked the figures out I thought, my God, what am I doing?

“I had loads of people come back to me and say, ‘we’ll give you some money’. I even had a young woman say, I’m a single mum but I’ve got some money put away and you’re welcome to half of it.”

He added: “From a large point of view, there is help. I’ve also got my family. You’re a telephone away from home if you need anybody. My granddaughter is wonderful. I couldn’t manage without it. I I’m very lucky.”

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Since Mair’s diagnosis, Gerald has sent out an application for her to receive an Attendance Allowance and hope it will take away some of their financial strain.

“It would definitely help. It’d cover bills full stop,” says Gerald.

But Gerald believes that he shouldn’t have to rely on others to support him financially, and that the government should be held responsible for the effects that the cost of living crises are having on regular people like himself.







Gerald is grateful for the support he’s received from his granddaughter Sharon
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Image:

Gerald Porter)

“I detest the thought of relying on benefits. The kindness of strangers. I really hate that. People are generous. I know that from the tweet. That really surprised me.

“But it’s just the thought that you are really an individual. Now you’re on your own. You’ve got to get over it and there’s nothing I can do, except sell stuff. That’s what I could do.

“I’m afraid I’ve lost complete patience with anything the Government says, or any politician really. I’ve seen a lot of governments, and these people are the worst, worst of the lot.”

The pair have acknowledged that while the cost of living crisis has forced them to live frugally, they could have been much worse off.

Gerald said “There must be a lot of people a lot worse off than me, and not just elderly people either. I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t have any debts. If you’ve got a mortgage and a couple of children, it’s going to be really tricky.”

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Even at 83-years-old, Gerald is considering going back to work to “earn a few extra pennies”.

“I don’t want to do it but I’m hoping I can. It would have to be from home and it would have to be a computer device. One of the first things I looked at was working remotely for Amazon but I’ I’m not even sure of how it works.”

Despite the drastic changes they’ve already made, Gerald believes there is still a long way to go.

He said: “I think it may get worse, particularly with the administration that is in charge of the country now. The way they operate, the stereotypical Tory administration – the sole incentive is profit.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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