I have a morning cat feeding routine. The kettle goes on as I run water to wash the cats' bowls. I fire up the portable gas heater. When the water has boiled I put a little of it into our tea mugs and then put the mugs on top of the heater. It's to warm the cups. If we don't warm the cups we end up with lukewarm tea. The kitchen temperature is such that crockery and cutlery come out of the cupboards icy cold.
The minimum temperatures recorded at the Pinoso weather station over the last week are -1.5ºC, -2ºC, -1.1ºC. -2ºC, +1.3ºC, -7.2ºC and -5.3ºC. It's not that they're arctic or anything but neither are they tropical. It has been colder. We had a couple of days last month when there was no morning water because of frozen pipes. Lots of shop and office workers in Pinoso work at their computers wearing coats. Several of our friends wear fleeces inside their houses. We're not for that. We're for banging on the heating. Maggie was so fed up of being cold a couple of years ago that she spent serious money on installing a pellet burner which now blasts 10kw of heat into our living room. We have portable 4kw gas heaters in the kitchen and as a back up in the living room too and there are electric heaters here and there. Since the temperatures began to drop we've bought ten 12kg gas bottles, twenty odd 15kg sacks of pellets and our December electric bill is 50% higher than the one in November.
The problem is that the heat is not background heat. It isn't on all the time. The insulation in our house, and in the majority of the Spanish houses that we know in this area, is so minimal that basically as heat is poured in it flies out. As soon as we turn off the heating the cold re-invades the house and, even when the heating is on in any one room the icy cold chill is waiting behind the door.
We don't leave heating on in the bedroom. The goose down duvet we use is really a set of a thinner and a thicker quilt. The two will fasten together and that's what we do in the depths of winter. It means that we can stay warm in bed. In fact it's a bit too hot and the duvet is uncomfortably heavy. I think we both follow the same routine. We wake up at something a.m. dripping in sweat, far too hot, we stick an arm or a leg out from under the covers till the exposed limb goes numb with cold and then we retreat under the covers and hope that the balance of body temperatures will allow us to get back to sleep.
Outside the daytime temperature is generally quite pleasant. I've thought that it has been colder recently than usual although I have no data to back up that. I'm just going on things like the feeling that I might die of cold as I rode the bike into work the other morning! If I were describing a typical winter's day around here I would describe a sunny day with a bright blue sky so the recent crop of grey days has been a bit out of character.
As I pick up a freezing cold knife from the cutlery drawer or as I gasp with cold on opening the door to the unheated office it's hard to recall those endlessly hot summer days when the cicadas sang all night long. But, what keeps me going is that I know they'll be back!