A Chill Wind...
This is our third winter living in Spain, and we have both decided that it may well be the toughest yet. This week, the temperatures have absolutely plummeted, and we have had rain and snow and everything that one associates with winter. This is all very well, apart from the fact that we are in a rental house that was patently put together for summer holiday rentals, with little or no thought given to inclement months.
We have both been ill. Andrew is hardly ever ill, but the recent trip back to UK evidently took its toll and almost as soon as we got back, some dreaded lurgy pounced and the poor soul has been quite off colour ever since, with a ghastly hacking cough. I, on the other hand, never to be outdone, have been suffering from some sort of allergic reaction to the house in which we live. Whenever we take a break from our rented abode, my symptoms of runny nose and sneezing disappear but almost as soon as I step back in the house, the sneezing starts all over again. I am not a hay fever sufferer, nor am I prone to allergies, but there is something here that is upsetting my equilibrium.
We have two duvets on the bed, wouldn’t dream of getting tucked up without our now-essential hot water bottles, and thermal undergarments have become much-cherished friends. I am beginning to feel (and probably look) not unlike some old Victorian granny swathed in wincyette. We both went to school in great big, poorly insulated piles in cold and wet parts of the United Kingdom, and considered ourselves to be fairly inured to the worst that mother nature can muster. However, winter here in southern Spain can be relentless. Once winter sets in, the nights are either cold or very cold, and central heating is not commonplace. In days gone by the locals used to huddle around tables draped with thick cloth and with a brasero beneath, pumping out fumes from the burning charcoal contained within. This form of heating still exists, but the burning coals have been replaced with electric heaters. If we had an old copper or brass bed warmer to hand, it would come into its own right now. The fire is lit first thing, and we have resorted to using electric heaters at every opportunity. If Andrew didn’t take the chill off his office with the little heater we have available I’d doubtless go up one day to find him completely petrified from the cold. Not having any form of central heating means that the fabric of the house barely gets above freezing every day.
It is not just cold, but it is damp too. If we leave the house for a day or two, any vestige of warmth follows us out and the house adopts a Narnia-like mantle, turning its chilly back on us like a spurned wintery lover. Unpleasant spots of black mould bloom in corners of the bathroom, and bedroom walls seem to retain every drop of icy moisture, leaving no room for any faint wave of heat promised by the January sun.
We wear thermal socks, slippers, vests, jumpers that never saw the light of day in relatively mild London. As I am writing this, Andrew is sitting beside me in a quilted body warmer that he has barely taken off since he bought it.
Nothing like the weather to evoke a whinge, and we are in a whingey mood. Our disgruntled attitude is probably exacerbated by the fact that our new house is so tantalisingly close, both in terms of geography and build-duration. We cannot wait to get installed, so much so that we will probably light the two fires the minute we take up occupation, even if we have to wait until June. No, we have given the builders a deadline of 15th March, but they have already started to indicate that when we say the 15th March, we probably mean the beginning of April….
We have started to buy furniture. We bought the ovens for the kitchen today, probably because we are so fixated on anything that generates heat. We bought the dining table and chairs yesterday, because we have become obsessed by food - hot, substantial food. I mentioned to Andrew the other day that I can empathise totally with animals that stuff themselves before winter and then find a warm and cosy hole in which to hibernate for the duration.
Psychologically, by buying things that will fill the house, we feel that we are that little bit closer, and every day we go and marvel at every new stage of the build - the position of the radiators, the size of the fireplace. We have all but forgotten that summer temperatures can top 40 degrees.
All that said, today the clouds had gone and we were greeted by a stunning day. There was still a bitingly chilly wind blowing off the freshly snow-covered Sierra Nevada. We set out for a walk, and the countryside that surrounds our village looked glorious. The almond blossom is bursting forth, set against a backdrop of green meadow and ever-present olive foliage. Wild irises did their best to withstand the buffeting wind, and there was a heady scent of herb and flower as we found ourselves immersed in just the sounds of the wind and the tumbling river in the gorge below. On days like today, you can forgive the damp and cold house, and the need to wear ten layers of clothing and force-feed yourself chocolate to ward off winter melancholy. In the brilliant sunshine, for a moment, winter seems a long way away and this gorgeous part of the world reminds us that our trivial gripes are nothing. Spring is on its way and summer will follow behind. The fire is lit, we’ve had our roast pork and we sit here with our blanket. Soon it will be time to fill those hot water bottles, and shimmy up the narrow stairs to the fridge that is our bedroom, and here we will toss and turn beneath our mountain of duvet as the hours pass until another bright day dawns once more.
This week, the children arrive and we will all trot off for a few days’ skiing in the mountains. It’s got to be warmer than staying at home! And surely our new house will be finished by the time we get back….?