How’s sub-zero January going for you?

Candles lit in every room, wearing a head torch and a coat to prepare a tuna salad supper, a strict spreadsheet to ration electricity and make the most efficient use the washing machine and dishwasher.

Then there's the TV and laptops being replaced by evenings watching the dials and digits on the Smart Meter in the corner from under blankets warmed by drinks kept hot in a Thermos flask.

Households who took up their energy suppliers’ offer of switching off power on Monday evening to avoid the nation plunging into a blackout were rewarded £9 by their altruism. Although, saving the best part of a day’s electricity was driven more by need than selflessness. Every little bit counts.

The word is that the great switch off wasn’t a one-off gimmick, a mid-winter precaution, but a move towards a new national attitude and habit as, bit by bit, the choice of how we live is being eroded and we’re forced to live with increasing restrictions and prices across the board.

Martin Lewis asked in a Twitter poll this week would every household voluntarily reduce energy usage at peak times between 4.30-6pm if the state announced a risk of blackout  and 55% said they would happily and 19% said they would grudgingly.

What a compliant lot we are. For a nation long proud of its right to choose on so much, we’re so easily leaning into compliance and an insidious  erosion of choice.

Of course, the switch off was at the time of greatest demand, at the end of school and work times, with people going home to cold homes wanting to get warm, eat a hot meal and relax. 

And it’s positive that everyone, children included, have a greater awareness of the system, resources supply, how energy consumption works, and how fortunate we are to live in a society where we have relatively easy access to it all whenever we want.

It’s a great education in mindful use and the crime of waste, to use what we need and that energy, water and every service we take for granted isn’t endless.

For children and young people to realise that an hour’s use of a tumble drier is far from free and is very much part of a family’s budgeting is a valuable life lesson.

We moan and groan that young people are let loose into the world with little understanding of how life works because it’s not on a school curriculum, but, with today’s household pressures of rising costs across the board, it is the perfect time to help them learn what things cost and how to balance the books.

Spending the least in the most effective way is becoming not only a necessity, but a means of satisfaction for many, and it’s not necessarily unhealthy. Awareness and knowledge are power.

But what worries me is the gradual withdrawal of choice and subliminal conditioning that pressures are not going to ease and this is life for the foreseeable. This is it. Put up with it.

Despite falling wholesale energy prices, we’re warned not to expect cheaper prices any time soon.

Food prices are 16.8% higher than last year – the biggest increase since 1977 led by milk and cheese – and, again, we’re told nothing will change soon, just like rocketing mortgage rates.

If Tesco’s chairman says food companies may be using inflation as an excuse to hike prices more than necessary, and energy companies insist we must keep rationing and paying more, who can we trust? 

John Allan said it was “entirely possible” that food producers were taking advantage of the poorest in society by using inflation as an excuse to put their prices up, falling out with some of the nation’s favourite brands, like Heinz last year, with ketchup and soups missing from its shelves. 

Farmer, growers and producers, of course, jump straight in accusing him of living in a parallel universe, citing their own pressures of huge hikes in production costs and their businesses impacted by costs of  energy, ingredients, transport packaging and labour.

Again, who do we trust? Who can we trust? 

Then, in the week we learned that Norwich walk-in centre on Rouen Road might close with the 5,666 appointments a month apparently to be redistributed somehow, former health secretary Sajid Javid suggests means tested charges for GP and A&E appointments, to alleviate the massive waiting lists.

It all feels bonkers. We pay taxes and national insurance to have an NHS. When GP appointments are like hen’s teeth is some parts, 111 operators directs people to walk in centres and A&Es are swamped, there is no sense.

It’s evident that the 75-year-old NHS is unsustainable as it is and is in urgent need of a root and branch restructure, but paid appointments will never be the way, and do nothing for the future health of an increasingly unhealthy nation. A consultation fee will make people even more irresponsible and head in the sand about their health leading to even more acute cases and late diagnosis.

Root and branch restructure, including the five-year government term, which leads to nothing significant being achieved nor consistency of policy or change.

For many now, life is about survival. Living in a right royal muddle, getting by and through, resigned to trusting no one or nothing, with no choice and worse to come. 

And some people are still managing Dry January too. Heroes.

It’ll soon be summer.