Sunday, 20 December 2009

Frozen Goobers

The sun is out. The yellow sun is over the ochre house. It shines blindingly white on the 8 cm. of snowfall. I did not know until this morning how extraordinary it all is.

Everyone enjoys a nice white snow, especially when it´s followed by a clear blue sky. Still, though, we are reminded of how American/English we are. Today, it was our water pipes that reminded us. We do not live on Lake Erie anymore. Winters here are mild compared to what we have  survived. We´ve grown lazy.

We did not leave a tap dribbling overnight. We did not insulate the little stretch of pipe that runs from the alley and along the patio wall. It never gets really bad here, we thought... And so, this morning, we woke to find we have no water.

Lately we´ve had a few village-wide water outages, so this morning I phoned José, brother of Mayor Estebanito, to let The Authorities know there was a problem. (For some reason we only have José´s telephone number, so he gets to screen his brother´s calls from us. So far it works, as nobody has corrected this little problem yet -- possibly because José seems to understand our Spanish a bit better than Esteban does. And when our car is in a ditch at the city dump, we are just as glad to see José come grinding up in the John Deere as his powerful and enchufada brother.)

Anyway, José showed up at the door about a half-hour later. (How´s that for municipal service in the depths of a deep, dark Socialist country?) We´d assumed the entire village was waterless, seeing as the water fountain in the plaza was also frozen solid. But José said everyone else has lots of water. He looked at our water meter, and looked at the pipes, and said whomever installed that was not a professional plumber. (Matter of fact, his uncle installed it. But who´s keeping track?)

The next-door neighbor came over to advise. The pipe is frozen, she said. Get some wood. Build a fire along the ground where the pipe runs. You have firewood? You need some? We have lots, she said.
"We have a monton of firewood," Paddy said, "Thanks anyway."
"And we have hot water. You need water, come on over, with total confidence," the neighbor said.
"We may just do that," I told her. I rather like taking showers. I do it almost every day. She may be getting into more than she thinks.

We looked at the line of concrete and the pipes and the wall that stands between us and the alley, where the water meter is. I thought about woodsmoke and the patio walls -- whitewashed on the inside and newly painted yellow on the outside. I thought about the new tiles laid so carefully along there this summer by dear old Tomas. I looked at the exposed pipes, with their pitiful little sheaths of foam insulation. They are made of PVC plastic.
"No fuego," I said. "No fire."
"¡Hollín!" José said. "Those pipes are plastic. They´d melt."
Ummm. Yeah. Right. Vale.

We have an electric blow-dryer, though. And an electric heating-pad, which I do not know the Spanish word for. And we did manage to communicate to our kindly neighbors that we can deal with this crisis without resorting to flames and combustibles.

And so differing lengths of pipe are taking turns being wrapped in the heating pad, which registers 40 degrees Centigrade over 120-minute periods. Hopefully the therapy that works so well on seized-up musculature will work the same magic on pipes.

The sun is out now, melting the snow. But the sun don´t shine in the corner where our pipes are. The heating pad is doing its nut. José said he is maybe 40 years old, and he´s never seen it so cold here so many days in a row. That´s why the pipes froze. Too cold too long. It´s extraordinario, he said through his muffler and down jacket.

I did not tell him, standing there in my jeans and sweatshirt and sneakers, that I hadn´t noticed.  Yes, I just finished respiratory therapy, and yes, I am not wearing five layers of clothes. But I lived too coldly, too many years up there on the Great Lakes, and my inner thermostat is still set on "Arctic."  Here in Spain, in Celsius, it´s two below zero. But where I come from, that´s 28 degrees. And for someone who lived in the mid-Atlantic USA through the winter of 1977, that´s nothing. Nada.

José and the neighbor lady know better. And so do the pipes. The weather is supposed to warm up a bit, starting tomorrow, after another inch of snow falls overnight. Worse comes to worst, we can always go to the Hotel Posh in Sahagún. Or the bodega. It´s always 62 degrees in there, all year ´round, and all the wine you could want. Never mind the spiders.

Stupid foreigners. ("Goobers" in English). At least we´ve got plenty of wood for the fire, and plenty of good wine in the bodega, and a ton of eggs to eat. We might not get a shower for a day or so, but we won´t freeze. The neighbors will make sure of that. We have total confidence.


Gary White said...

Look on the bright side—it will make a good story for your book.

Sorry for all the trouble you are having. Let us know if there is anything we can do from this end.

Anonymous said...

Here, North of Burgos we reached -14C.

Jo said...

Wow, no water eh? Sounds familiar... :P But this time there's really no water! I'm sure it will work out ok in the end.

We walked up O'Cebreiro yesterday in 30cm of snow, following in each other's footsteps. Pretty insane. Luckily the albergue was heated at the top of the mountain! We haven't had many of those lately. Getting a tad sick of it, actually. The only thing I don't particularly love about winter walking.

Merry Christmas! (Soon!)

peter said...

Sorry to read about your inconvenience, but I'm glad to know that is how you're experiencing it.

When the notion of doing a winter pilgrimage first crossed my mind and I started to research, I saw references to the "bitter cold" that people may experience. And then I saw the average temperature charts and chuckled. When I left for work at 5:00 AM today, the temperature in Toronto was 12 Fahrenheit.

Anonymous said...

In Spain doesn't stay cold for long but last week has been very cold. 12F equals -11C. In some areas of Spain temperatures have reached -20C (-4C) last week. That is bitter cold here or in Toronto.