febrerillo, el loco
Andrew and I do not like February as a month. I don’t like Valentine’s Day and never have; Andrew may be slightly more tolerant. I was always the one at school who never received a Valentine’s Card, and have never seen the need for a ‘special day’ to tell someone that you love them. The days are still too short, the weather invariably foul and there is still far too long a wait until the temperatures start to rise above freezing.
To be honest, February in Spain is also neither here nor there. Yes, Christmas is out of the way, and there are very tantalising glimpses of Spring, but do not get lulled into a false sense of security, as Winter is still very much in evidence.
We have learned, in our limited time here, that Andalucia is a region made up of many small areas with their own microclimates. We know people living on the coast, no more than 30 minutes’ drive away, who enjoy bright, sunny and warm days while we languish in chilly mountainous breezes that make it very clear that now is not the time to start stripping off the layers of clothing.
We have, once again, enrolled in Spanish School, and as we drive into Granada each morning, the temperature gauge in the car drops steadily down until the warning sounds indicating that we are at risk of ice. It is cold. This weekend, it is also grey and there is a heavy rain that looks set to continue. What is more, the one thing I managed to bring back from London was a cold. We visited for a few days, and taking a journey while we were there that involved the bus, tube and an overground train was destined to be disastrous. As soon as I entered the fetid, thick air inside the bus, I may as well have gone straight to the Common Cold Unit and stuck my nose into every incubator in sight.
Before we returned to the UK for a week, we had electrical problems that meant we had to resort to one or two ‘strip washes’, that highlight of ignominy, trying to wash 15 stone of humanity with a square of towelling measuring 10” square. We had hoped that these electrical problems might have been rectified during our absence, but no….we returned from the UK to a dark house and had to fumble around to locate the master trip switch to restore power. Since then, that master trip switch has played a game of cat-and-mouse. The electrician cannot find the source of any problems, yet the switch will just trip whenever it feels so inclined, and with no reason whatsoever: in the middle of the night, when no other appliance is switched on; several times in the afternoon in quick succession, just to test our reflexes. Mornings are especially fun, with a cold, having been woken up with a tickly cough and runny nose, to discover that the switch has tripped and it is then necessary to stumble, bleary-eyed, down cold stone steps to the switch cupboard to coax said switch back into the ‘on’ position.
The electrician is due back next week, with ‘spare parts’. We are still not sure if the underlying problem has been identified, but we can but hope. This evening, I expect, Andrew will be in full creative flow at his computer when we will be plunged into darkness.
All that said, you only need to venture outdoors (in thermal underwear, jumpers, scarves, gloves and coats) to marvel at the amazing displays of Spring in Spain. The Valley in which we live is dense with orange, olive and almond groves, and now is the time for the almond blossom. It is no exaggeration to say that, when the blossom really starts to bloom, the hillsides are colour-washed in various shades of white and pink as far as the eye can see. It is a spectacle that is difficult to describe, and the only way that I have been able to explain what it is like is to recall images of snow-capped Mount Fuji, in Japan, providing a backdrop to the orchards of cherry trees in that country. So it is here: hillsides and pastures filled with stunning pastel colours set against the dramatic and, at times, completely surreal backdrop of the crisp whiteness of the Sierra Nevada peaks.
I can only conclude by saying that February across Europe is probably not a month to be relished, but thank goodness it is short. Mind you, in Europe, I would far sooner be here, in this stunning country with its lovely people, than anywhere else. And London can, to be frank, keep its flaming cold viruses to itself.