Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Daily update parte nove

It’s been a while. Seems like ages in fact since I last ventured into blogland. Truth is, it’s been hectic, moving into an incomplete house and all, swamped by boxes, trying to get used to a new way of life in our “back to nature” (ish) abode. There’s no “automatic” central heating or hot water system, see, just a “camino” – a wood-and-other-material-burning stove that circulates hot water to the radiators and to the showers and sinks. Which means having to constantly keep the fires burning (literally), and, in the morning, getting them going again.

It’s been an adjustment, on top of all the other moving in challenges that one meets along the way. Like not having doors on any of the rooms, including the only complete bathroom – the incomplete one at least has a door and a working shower and toilet, just no basin (which we’ve waited for over 6 months for, and the stonemason who’s making it keeps telling us that it’ll be ready “tomorrow”, or perhaps “the day after tomorrow”, perhaps to add some hint of authenticity to his claim. Only trouble is, tomorrow of course simply never comes, let alone the day after tomorrow.)

Back to the camino – first order of business is finding the wood to burn. Like everything else in this part of the world, one gets wood from a guy that somebody knows. We’ve found two and had a delivery from each. Neither load burns spectacularly well, but then I’m apparently a skinflint when it comes to how much wood I put on – the locals pile it up like a bonfire, so to keep some semblance of warmth circulating we need to emulate (somewhat against my grain).

Then there’s the showering. Radiator warmth is one thing, maintainable with a moderately-burning, moderately-hot fire. A shower, however, requires us to crank up the heat and keep it there so that the showerer isn’t left shivering as the temperature plummets after a brief flirting with the high degrees. It’s been a bit of trial and error, but one learns quickly when the lesson comes in the form of a wintry chill while completely starkers.

Overall it’s added a whole new dimension to the list of daily household chores – just cleaning out the fireplace, fetching the day’s first load of wood from outside, and getting the fire going with kindling damp from the incessant rain, consumes a good half-hour each morning. I’m not complaining, mind – I rather enjoy the fact that we’re independent of the exorbitant gas prices that everyone else is paying. We’ll probably end up paying about ¼ of what everyone else does for heat and hot water.

Of course, just as the heating lessons were starting, and the chaos of living in the shambles around us was becoming “evident”, should we say, two things happened: (1) Maria decided she needed a break, and sped off for Germany for 2-½ weeks, leaving me to deal with it all, Julius and his schedule included of course, and (2) I got a writing assignment with a very rapid turnaround, requiring me to more or less drop everything to get it done. Just what I needed.

Of course I got through the trial, as one always does, even managing a couple of trips into the snow-and-wind of the mountains, not to mention a rather scary folly of a foray into the muddy mire of the waterlogged backroads and farmtracks at the goading of my son, miffed at my lack of adventurous spirit. (We made it out of this last sortie OK, but only after a few hair-raising, completely out-of-control sideway-slides down and along “roads” with mud a foot thick.) Under the circumstances I was rather impressed at just being able to maintain the status quo, and even make a little progress on getting things done around the house. Naturally, however, not everyone is as impressed at my effort as I am, and I’m now going through a great learning experience being told about all the mistakes that I made in my blissfully unaware, honest endeavours as a temporary single parent and home-keeper.

Things are moving along, though. We have a nice new shiny fridge, a similarly shiny dishwasher (hallelujah), an equally shiny washing machine, and a beautiful but somewhat ill-fitting granite countertop in the kitchen. We also have Sky TV, affording live viewing of South African rugby, the English Premiership, and the Champion’s League. And we’ve now unpacked enough boxes to know that we have enough storage space for about ¼ of our belongings. So instead of living out of boxes, we’re living directly off the floor …