Part 13: That First Winter
Our first winter in the house turned out to be, above all else, a learning experience. The cast iron, wood-burning stove that had been installed by the builders during the dog days of August proved to be the source of one very educational experience.
We had become accustomed to using its flat top as just another shelf, a particularly handy place to leave spare change and car keys. This habit was to prove inconvenient on one spectacular occasion. Around about the end of October the temperature finally fell enough to require its debut. After rolling up sufficient sheets of newspaper into balls, lighting said balls with a cigarette lighter we had somehow acquired – neither of us
smoke – we added kindling that I had chopped with my own fair city boy hands. After the kindling came pieces of holm oak of ever increasing thickness, until after some twenty minutes or so we had a roaring fire going, our first of the winter. At which point I returned the cigarette lighter to its former place on the shelf.
siesta was interrupted some thirty minutes later as my sleeping nostrils detected the presence of something that smelled very rum indeed. When I opened my eyes, thick black smoke, from the remains of the plastic lighter, was filling the room. I immediately woke Cheryl, who had been having a siesta on the other sofa. We beat a hasty retreat into the patio, after having opened every window in the house. Three hours later and just before the onset of hypothermia, the smoke had finally cleared enough to allow our re-occupation of the house.
The wood-burning stove
requires a regular supply of firewood, which is supplied by a friendly neighbour at the reasonable price of 40 Euros for a trailer load, which depending upon the
weather, usually lasts somewhere between four and five weeks. Most of the logs delivered are of an entirely manageable size and fit into the stove with no problem. Just occasionally, however, a rogue log slips through the net. No problem, our neighbour offered to trim any such logs down to a more suitable size with his chainsaw. No need to worry I told him, I had recently invested in a particularly large and macho axe, which I was keen to estrenar (use for the first time) as they say in Spanish.
A few days later I came across the first rogue log and promptly took it out to patio and placed it on the chopping block. I took a mighty swing at it, using all my weight and strength, and I think I may have mentioned it before, I am not a small bloke. The resultant blow as axe hit wood reverberated through my shoulder blade and shook me to the soles of my boots. I looked down, fully expecting the log to be rent asunder into two neatly manageable slices. Upon further inspection I could just about make out a slight scratch on the surface of the bark at about the place where the blade of the axe must have made contact. A
Spanish friend of mine once told me that the holm oak tree – encina in Spanish – was the toughest tree in the world. The nagging pain in my shoulder still serves to remind me on cold days that he may very well have been right.
And as for the beams that had formerly held the weight of the old roof, and which I had somewhat optimistically hoped to turn into rustic
garden furniture, well they are still lying under the orange tree, waiting for the day when I can swallow my pride and ask our neighbour with the chainsaw to come round and finally sort them out once and for all.
Articles in the series:
Introduction to Pete's Tale
Part 1: Village Life
Part 2: Bichos
Part 3: A Two-Bar Town
Part 4: Fruit and Veg
Part 5: Summer
Part 6: Politics
Part 7: Noise
Part 8: Our natural park
Part 9: New Year's Eve
Part 10: Timetables
Part 11: The Land Where the Pig is King
Part 12: How Not to Buy a House
Part 13: That First Winter
Part 14: The Extremeño Spring
Part 15: To be a Pilgrim
Part 16: A Change is Coming
Part 17: Wine Talk
Part 18: Free For All
Part 19: How Do You Spell Asparagus?
Part 20: Designer Peas