Sunday, December 10, 2006

Feel the Heat

Winter time in rural Spain can be surprisingly cold. Even houses just a few years old do not have insulation incorporated in the fabric of the building. Tiled floor surfaces which are so pleasant on a hot summers day can be a nightmare in winter.

Our house came with a half built chimney in the lounge which is single storey, the previous owner told us that the chimney was functional which it wasn’t. During the cold spell of last winter; the construction workers employed on the house renovation would open all the doors and windows to let the dust out whilst they worked. As the days passed the nights were getting colder and colder, and I had to sleep fully clothed and with two Nordic quilts on the bed.

I bought firewood and built a fire to try and take the chill of the room and prevent it from becoming damp. The fire looked fine and the heat it gave off was lifting the room temperature by a few degrees it was almost comfortable. Having solved one problem I needed to address the next issue which was hunger. I was living without a kitchen and eating breakfast cereal and sandwiches everyday was becoming a chore. It was nearly11pm and I knew that if I rushed I might just make McDonalds in Figueres before they closed. Fast food not very wholesome but at least it was hot, problem solved I felt warmer already.

As I drove back home, I noticed that the wind was getting stronger with each passing moment, and in the course of my short journey a full blown Tramontana had developed. Opening the door to the villa revealed a new problem, the house was now filled with smoke. The embers of the fire were extinguished to stop it compounding the problem. The Tramontana had prevented the smoke rising up the chimney and instead the fumes spilled into the living quarters.

Tramontana or not I had to ventilate the house and so had to open all the doors and windows. I stood outside learning all about wind chill for what seemed an eternity. Finally at 2am I was able to secure the house and retire to bed for another miserable night.

The house has come a long way in a year, and we now have an inset wood burning fire, it is unspectacular but functional and efficiently burns such firewood as we have.