It’s cold here. That’s what the folks around here say.
I think this village has lived without time, and timelessness warms the imagination, lights it – the light glows revealing the forgotten.
Yes, it’s cold here, when the wind blows, and I am standing on the terrace at night. The house is made of stone and plaster and wood. There are two fireplaces, which are intended to warm the cold stone, but they don’t. To cut the cold, there are several electric radiators and stand-alone heating units. They, too, are inadequate.
Today, we called the electrician because our house is cold, and the radiators are all linked on one circuit on the breaker box. We can’t control the radiators – they are either “on” of “off.”
Even when they are on, they do not warm the home. At best they make it less cold. The previous tenants breached the connection to the thermostat to simplify the heating. “On” or “Off” – “Warm” or “Cold.” The house was either vaguely warmer by the full-on grace of the four electric radiators, or the electronic radiators were off — cold and powerless, as the walls where they hung. We suppose it was convenient to wire them that way?
At first, I tried to rewire the individual radiators. I thought it would be easy to find a schematic online and reconnect the thermostat. I found no schematics. I did locate the company website, Climacity, which publicized the model and its specs, but there were no wire diagrams.
Without the schematic, I began to reconnect each wire: the brown to brown and blue to blue. Each wire I reconfigured blew the circuit and turned the house dark.
Near the end of my wit and experience, we polled the neighbors to find an electrician.
Our preference is to heat our home with wood, firing up the two fireplaces and saving money on the electric bill. The dreams of city folk.
We don’t have any firewood, so for the first two weeks we have been driving to Los Mazalinos – to “las salegas” to retrieve firewood from my wife’s grandparent’s barn. The barn is filled with discards of the family: hand-made wooden chest, garden tools, chairs, benches, rusted locks, and a toothbrush. To our surprise, in the far back, stacked neatly against the stone trough was a sizable pile of oak. This firewood could be 40 years old?
Each day we drove down from El Tremedal in a small, blue Citroen with two plastic crates to retrieve firewood. While we were fortunate to discover the stack of seasoned oak, due to its dryness, it burned quickly and left no coals in the fireplace. Our newness to the process, our naivety, and our innocence, left no benchmark, no comparable experience. Simply, we didn’t know anything about firewood, seasoning, and the various types of wood. Despite this, we enthusiastically explored the barn, took its wood, and uselessly burned it in the inadequate fireplaces.
Each morning we would awake to temperatures around 9 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in our home. Turning on the radiators, making coffee, and building a fire became our morning ritual. After a few hours, the home’s temperature would rise to 12 degrees. Our naivety became our reason for the cold. We blamed our poor fire-building skills, we experimented with the flue, we maintained two fires, we wore our winter jackets over our sweaters.
The bathroom is the coldest room. Prior to turning on the radiators, the temperature was 3 degrees. After a 30 minute warming, the bathroom temperatures would rise to 6 degrees. Taking a shower became an event. Shivering as we removed layers of clothing, the warm spray from the shower was a delight. Its water warmed the body for about 2 hours. We took turns, chose our days for a shower. We needed to plan these warming events because the water-heater is tiny. It gives 20 minutes of hot water before it too gives way to the cold. At night, we would bundle up in layers of clothing, and rush under the blankets, shivering and awaiting the captured heat of our bodies to be trapped inside. The nighttime cold reminded us of camping in sub-freezing temperatures in northern Nevada.
Last summer my wife brought me to Los Mazalinos – for years she had referred to it as “her grandmother’s village.” Los Mazalinos is tucked in the Gredos mountains in western Spain. Her father drove the nine hours from Vilanova y la Gitru, taking back-roads through forgotten villages to introduce me to his family roots. Helena’s uncle owns grandmother’s home – and he, his wife, and my wife’s cousin would be waiting for us. That first night we gathered at “Las Salegas” to watch shooting stars within the crisp summer night.