Sunday, 18 November 2007

Fumey Sunday

It´s a sunny and very nippy Sunday in Moratinos. When we got here this morning the faucet in the watering trough was frozen, and the washing machine would not run due to the cold. Scary stuff. We got a little heater going in the bathroom to thaw out the washer mechanism. And we got a fire going in the kitchen fireplace to keep our own blood moving... a bit smoky but now just lovely. Woohoo! There´s frost on the punkin, granny!

The town is smoky and fumey, as all the neighbors have their fireplaces and glorias going, too. In Palencia they still use ´gloria´ furnaces, tunnels dug underneath the floors of the main living areas. There´s a big door (the ´glory hole´) at one end, usually under the steps, and a chimney on the other. They stuff a pile of straw and kindling in the door end and light it, bank it down so it smolders slowly, and close it up. It´s under-floor radiant heat, almost exactly the way the Romans did it 2,000 years ago, and boy is it NICE.

We have a gloria underneath our kitchen, but when we lit it last winter we discovered its ceiling was cracked. (Woodsmoke was streaming up through the tiles and the weave in the jute rug... a very odd, disco-esque effect. Subsequent efforts to repair it left us with a foot-wide hole in the middle of the most-walked-on floor in the place. I will not go into the pantomime required to repair that thing, but suffice it to say we now depend on a deeply interred tire jack from a 1987 Fiat to keep our feet on the ground, and we´ve retired our gloria for fear of carbon monoxide. (Our neighbors think we are spendthrift, but then we do not harvest 16 tons of free straw each year to use for heating fuel.) Our fireplace may be inefficient, but it is romantic. And if it gets way too cold we can just go back to Sahagún and switch on the gasoil furnace.

However, We are taking steps to protect our critters from Jack Frost, seeing as my asthma has barred them from their accustomed hearthside sprawls. Lib and I put the dogs´ crate inside the barn, and covered it over with one of the baby-blue and purple paisley counterpanes that came with the house. It is so lurid and loud I wonder how anyone could sleep in the same room with it, much less buy TWO of them and put them in the same room together. But round here you don´t always have a lotta choice. The beds are a very odd size: 120 cm. across. Just try finding sheets that size at leading retailers. We really needed sheets, though, and I finally tracked some down at a little mom-and-pop corner store that sells stuff like yarn, bedroom slippers, shampoo, and liquid propane gas. The guy behind the counter said "Yeah, we got em! It´s a really popular size around here!" And he produced exactly two sets of sheets, each in a different atrocious pattern. I went with the lesser of two evils. And that is how decorating is done, Out On The Perimeter. The dogs so far report no repercussions after their night inside the barn. (if that is, indeed, where they slept. God knows what they get up to when we are gone.)

Likewise, Paddy put a very sensible cardboard box full of hay in the Chick N Shak. Once the weather warms up a bit we´re going to block a few of the drafts with the same kind of polyurethane foam the roofers used. Libby says the Chicken Girls are doing just fine, full of beans even. Blodwyn pecked her a good one today, and all three gave up their customary egg without a fuss. So their internal machinery must not be frozen yet.

In church this morning the holy water was ice in the font, and the host was stale as hell. Everyone sang all the Alleluias and said the responses enthusiastically, I think just to keep warm, but maybe because you could see your breath whenever you talked. The church is about 600 years old, made from adobe and brick, and it´s cold in there even in midsummer. I envied Don Santiago his long layers of robes! Usually everyone hangs out a while afterward to talk, but today we all scurried outta there when the Mass was finished. Outdoors in the sunshine it didn´t feel so bad.

The only other news is I gave Patrick his Christmas gift pretty early this year, as in yesterday. It´s an IPod Nano MP3 player, which will enable him to listen to all his favorite podcasts of USC philosophy lectures without having to sit, attached by headphone wires, to the laptop. Not that he really minds sitting for hours at a time listening to the latest trends in Kant and Wittgensteinian izzits... But this enables him to visit the loo without stopping the flow of witty discourse. He likes it! Which makes me happy. He´s really quite impossible to buy anything for. And this will keep him off the streets while we are away in Paris.

And now it is nap time. God bless us, every one.

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