MY FIRST WINTER in Ireland comes rolling back to me in waves whenever something touches my toes. Because during December 1994, I remember the days when I could feel my toes on the days when they weren't numb. Rewind to the 15th of December 1994, when I found a charming little flat in Greystones going at a dirt cheap rate so I snapped it up and discovered the reason for its inexpensive pricing: no heat, no electrical connections for a kitchen stove, no kitchen sink. This charming little bungalow taught me more about the concept of fuel poverty in three short weeks than expert agencies would explain to me the next 14 years. I had never gone about heating a living space without simply arranging for a delivery of oil or coal. And I never tried cooking for myself while washing up everything in the bathtub. So I bought candles--lots of candles. And I also bought several varieties of space heaters, burning through piles of punts trying to get the right mix without inducing asphyxiation. Today, I walk alongside terraced houses insulated no better than that Greystones flat, knowing how cold inside walls must be to the touch, wondering when the Irish government will energise grants to retrofit homes where people living on the edge might have a warmer Christmas in the years ahead. I'll never forget how cold it was for my first Christmas in Ireland and today, I buy more candles than we'll need to help warm the memory that I have of this winter season. And I also spin the radio dial towards BBC Radio One, whose signal is quite strong along the eastern Irish coast, and I hear a mix of like the one embedded in this blog post.