Would you like some mercury with your tea?

Acch. I’ve officially joined the ranks of the stupid (or the reckless, feckless and neckless as I like to think of them).

I’m sure most office workers have experienced the bizarre gender split over what is a comfortable temperature in the workplace. Just yesterday exactly such a debate was raging in the studios of Radio 5 Live. Drive presenter Peter Allen accused his stand-in co-presenter, Rachel Burden, of wanting a studio like a sauna. She retorted that she was fed up working in an ice box.

Such is my lot in the office of Holyrood PR. As they say round here, the nights are fair drawing in. And yes, their really is a shiver running down my spine. Not because of any sort of temperature drop. It’s simple dread at the approach of winter and the endless office moans about it being too hot or too cold.

I realise this sounds like a particularly scintillating white paper from the Health and Safety anoraks, but in our office the divide  is so pronounced as to be freaky. My ears will be burning, palms sweating and I’ll come over like a middle-aged women going through the change – all because at times it gets oppressively warm.

Yet at exaclty the same time, the women in the office will be donning scarves, cardigans – and even filling hot water bottles while mutteing bitterly about how cold it is.

This schism led to the purchase of several common or garden (actually kitchen) thermometers, to monitor the situaton. Raymond and I were dead set on maintaining an ambient temperature come …. well, sunshine or snow.

Last week (balmy in my opinion) the muttering started about the unacceptable chill in the office. Since I was sweltering in my shirtsleeves, I was slightly miffed by the sloshing sound of hot water bottles being filled.

It was time to check our wee friend from Kitchen Craft. The mercury doesn’t lie – and even though it was situated close to the front door (draughts and all) it was registering 24C. Quod Erat Demonstrandum and all that.

Rubbish! shouted those from the cold camp. I was aghast. Not only was I being painted as some preternturally hot and sweaty freak. Now my finely tuned scientific instrument was being called into question.

Anyone who studed chemistry at school may remember the particularly memorable day when they were taught how to calibrate a thermometer. Water freezes as 0C, while it boils at 100C. Once you’ve got those two points, it is easy to work out the rest.

To prove our thermometer was working accurately it was deposited in the freezer. Sadly, I then forgot about it and an hour or so later it came out reading somewhere below minus 10. Not a good start but quickly remedied – by dropping it into a kettle of boiling water.

You’ve probably spotted the flaw in my theory already.  Transferring a wee glass tube directly from a freezer to a kettle of boiling water is not a good idea.

If Pilkington (or more likely NASA) have yet come up with thin glass which will withstand such a pronounced and immediate temperature change, then I’m pretty sure they don’t fit it in £2.99 kithcen thermometers.

Not only did the plastic casing warp agonisingly, the glass tube shattered and the chemical contenst leaked into the kettle. Here is the photographic evidence.

So, I spectacularly failed to settle the too warm/too cold debate – and I also poisoned the office tea supply.

Cuppa anyone?


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