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The joys of snuggling with my hottie

In a world where technology continues to develop beyond our wildest dreams and nightmares, one archaic piece of domestic equipment continues to provide warmth and comfort, both literal and metaphorical.

I’m talking about the humble hot water bottle, what we used to call a ‘hottie’ for short, until that term was commandeered to mean something else.

Despite decades of electric blankets and all manner of trendy wheat packs and the like, nothing seems to have replaced the HWB, if the shelves in chemists and supermarkets are any indication.

Tummy ache, backache, neckache, headache, period pain – just about anything feels better with a hottie clutched close. These bitter winter nights, there are few things more delightful than extending your feet between your sheets and discovering – oh joy – that your partner has done the HWB duty.

Once I’m in bed, the hottie goes on heavy rotation. It starts by warming my popsicle toes, to quote an old Michael Franks song from the 70s, then makes its way north to lodge cosily between my knees. From there it is hoisted to my abdomen, and once that is thoroughly warmed, it nestles against the small of my back.

There are tricks to maximising the heat retention of a hot water bottle, as any devotee knows. Warm it well first, with just-off-the-boil water. Once it feels toasty, fill will freshly heated water, not so full that you risk bursting it, but full enough that it keeps its heat into the wee small hours.

Then of course, there is the cover, without which HWBs can be dangerous. If you’re really stuck, you can improvise with a pillowcase or an old T-shirt, but it’s much nicer to have a custom designed cover, of which there are all manner of soft, colourful and quirky versions on sale. I decided my boyfriend was a keeper when he knitted me a hottie cover with my name knitted into it; when said keeper and I started reproducing, I did the same for our kids.

Hotties, like decent cups of tea, take time to prepare. Made for yourself, they are a sign that you are about to relax, just as the slow steep of tea in a pot is. Made by someone else, they are a sign of the kind of love that shows itself in practical care. No matter if your need for comfort is physical or emotional, a hot water bottle helps. I defy technology to invent anything half as effective.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 31 July 2017

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