21 Jan Not boiling hot!
It’s been snowing on the sierras. We woke on Thursday morning to a sprinkling of the white stuff on the slopes just above the village. Bedar is at 404 metres above sea level so the snow line is at about 420! Quite a shock, I can tell you, this wreaking of northern European weather onto southern European soil; unexpected and unwelcome and quite a turn up for the books here where snow is a rare event. One of the women I meet at Peni’s Pilates (more on that soon) has only seen this sort of cold snap two or three times in the 30 years she’s been living here.
Once you’ve got over the disappointment and put on an extra layer, the weather pattern in this corner of Spain is fascinating. A mere 20 miles from here and officially classified as ‘desert’ is a place called Tabernas, the stage set for many of the famous spaghetti westerns, home of The Man with No Name. All bare, windblown canyons and arid as hell. And yet, from there it’s only a couple of hours drive up to the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Being Scottish, I am highly attuned to ‘weather’ but this is out of scope for me – a thoroughly confounding climate system. From +20° feeling more like 23-24°on the terrace in full sun on Wednesday, to overcast and damp and 5° at best on Thursday, the shift was dramatic.
Almost as dramatic as the display of petulance from the central heating system. Anyone who read last year’s blog from the sierra may recall that this modest little cortijo is home to a truly splendid array of state-of-the-art, super-sleek and ludicrously complicated electronic gadgetry: SMEG kitchen appliances; a Smart TV; a sophisticated electronic weather station that sits on top of the fuse box cupboard giving out information that is perfectly accessible by just looking out of the window! Each of these has a fat instruction booklet that provides very limited help for the technically ungifted (although the extensive source of vocabulary in at least 10 languages is compensation, perhaps). The heating system is not up there with these brain-teasing beauties. Nope, it’s a cranky old boiler that sulks in a little outside cupboard round the back, attached by thick black pipes to big orange gas canisters. No controls in the house; no thermostat to gently nudge when the evenings arrive and the temperatures fall. There is only one page of instructions, hidden away with the leaflets about local restaurants and aquatic adventure parks, and they are in Portuguese! Mind you, we mostly rely on the wood-burning stove and a steady supply of logs purchased from Cristobal at our expense and thus with the added benefit of keeping the absentee landlord (we’ll call him Pete), who prefers to be ‘careful’ with his money, happy. However, it does get cold in the evenings and a boost of central heating to take the chill off the bedroom is such a boon for maybe just a couple of hours before lights out.
Anyway, the boiler had been cantankerous over the last week. Indeed, it went on the blink last Wednesday, blinking to the point of non-functioning. So nothing. No heating. No hot water. No showers. Nada. The helpful repair engineer came and pronounced it in need of substantial investment. Actually, a new one is probably the answer but clearly Pete might baulk at this and would need time to consider it. So he made a nifty little adjustment, bypassing the broken thermostat and wiring in a makeshift switch that we can operate. Wizard. All fine and we were back to washing and showering and Jim popping out morning and night to switch it on an off. In the middle of the snowy night, suddenly all the central heating, carefully switched off before going to bed, started up on its own, water whooshing and gurgling through the pipes unbidden, radiators pumping out the heat and the system proving impossible to turn OFF! We were starting to suspect a sprite was lurking in the boiler room having a bit of fun with us.
We have the answer – something about inbuilt thermostats and low ambient temperatures – but it’s much too technically demanding to explain and, I feel sure, won’t make good reading. The snow has gone, ceding to a dismal day of rain on Friday, like a wet November in Blighty. But we have logs and heating that’s at least broken at ON so we’re fine……And the sun is due back tomorrow.