The winter is nearly over.
It seems churlish to be sat writing about the downside of living in a country where I've been extremely happy to live in for over 18 months but, like living anywhere or doing most things, there are often downsides. I prefer to call them ‘allowable faults’ as the benefits of being happy far outweigh the negatives. I write this as much for anyone who is considering coming out here to live in the future. We often don’t realise how fortunate we are sometimes, to be living in the age we are. This blog is a personal opinion that made me remember my childhood of poor heating, damp walls, outdoor toilet, tin bath and ice on the windows of our inner city house. I live in my mid 50’s in a world where I am able to use a different toilet every time I need to go, swim if i’m too warm, enjoy a meal with a glass of wine outside (not to mention Barbecues) as often as I wish or hit the beach most days of the year! However…
This is our second winter in Spain. Last winter we were pleasantly surprised at how warm and sunny it all was. OK, when we planned living here the informed information estimated 320 days of sunshine every year but as a pessimistic soul I really didn't believe there would be 320 days of sunshine? As it happens I didn't count them but if I had I'm sure it would have been around that figure. Locals we spoke to assured us that it was the best winter they could remember and various news reports suggested it had been the best winter weather wise for a long time.
Of course those who live here in Spain know already that because of the long hot summers, much of the older housing is often ill prepared for less favourable aspects of the winter. Our apartment last winter had no heating and during the colder spells in which the nightly temperature dipped into single figures and it occasionally rained meant that some mould appeared inside of the outside walls (if you know what I mean). So long as you keep on top of it however it is easily managed, a minor inconvenience.
As the weather cooled towards the end of last November we approached the winter in our new villa. We had the small heater we had bought last year but the wood burner in our living room was how we would combat anything the Spanish winter would throw at us.
As a child in Liverpool in the 1960s into the very early 1970s I remember our coal fired heating which my parents would light with relative ease and with expert skill, keep ablaze the whole day long. My mum even had the knack of being able to go out for hours on end and return to a still lit fire, I don't know how she did it A wood burner therefore would be a doddle compared, surely? I won’t go into all the details but various combinations of firelighters, paper, damp wood, large wood, ventilation meant periods of trial and error before we got a consistent blaze.
Wood burner tackled, our next issue was insulation or lack of it. I’m not sure how old our villa is but it’s been built to keep cool in the hot climate, not to keep heat in during the winter. Our single glazed wooden windows just couldn’t hack the cold temperature, letting in tiny draughts. That together with the stone floors and walls do not make for cozy.
When the sun is out its still warm. We spent much of Christmas Day on the beach at La Zenia in temperatures of around 20 degrees and possibly more. When you get home the house is very cool, well actually no, it’s cold. The real problem came with the storms that came with a vengeance one week before Christmas. Three days of constant heavy rain together with a continuous thunderstorm both day and night started as intriguing but became quite concerning as it went on.
We are halfway up a hill so the river that flowed outside did not affect us unless we went out shopping. It tended to keep most people inside as the bars and restaurants were very quiet. The water in our pool, which is quite a decent size began to get perilously near to the top. There was a foot of water around the rear of the house akin to a moat and after two days the windows began to let in rain which trickled down the inside wall. Mould also followed on the inside white stone walls and you could say winter had arrived. News came in that some areas of Spain had succumbed to quite major floods, especially Los Alcazares where five people died in flood related incidents. It put our situation in perspective as after three days the bad weather subsided and things for us at least, returned to normal.
Mouldy walls can be cleaned and many stores locally began to run out of anti mould paint. In mid January we had quite a snowfall which, according to many sources was the first snow in up to 50 years. Even though we've been here for 18 months, it did seem strange having snow here, surreal in fact. It was followed by another three day storm. Our moat returned and our pool was topped up again. At the risk of completely shattering any credibility I ever had… did I mention we also have a water bottle each?
It’s nearing March now and it appears the bad weather has gone, at least for now. The days are generally warm, if a little windy at times, our mould hasn't returned since it was painted and Mr & Mrs hot water bottle have been consigned to storage. The reality is that if we wanted a more modern villa our rent would increase significantly. The 9 months of pretty much unbroken fine weather means the ‘allowable faults’ can be tackled somewhat in advance so we can prepare for next winter and I imagine that in a few weeks the cold, damp and snow will be all but forgotten and we will return outside as per our new life.