Saturday, February 21, 2015


You wouldn't think that a dry, desert environment that habitually reaches 100 degrees and more in the summer would be so cold and damp in the winter. I didn't think so until this year, when I spent the winter in an apartment at least a few hundred years old, half of which is below ground level and obviously has no vapor barrier between its outside walls and the terra firma.

We're at about 2300 feet above sea level here, so it gets chilly in winter. I suppose the moist air
coming from the Mediterranean Sea has something to do with the humidity. I'm no weather man. All I know is it's cold and damp.

I have no idea how old the apartment is. It's been remodeled so I have electricity and plumbing, but the two hot-water radiators for heat are powered by 11-liter propane tanks that I have to buy frequently if I want to enjoy central heating. I don't.

Most people who live in the ancient part of town and who don't want to buy propane gas on a weekly basis do without central heat if possible. Instead, they use this "One weird trick that the utility companies hate!" (That's an internet joke.) I have a small dining table in my living/dining/music room that I've covered with a cheap blanket. Under the table I have a small, inexpensive, 1200-watt electric heater. When I'm in the apartment the heater is on and I'm normally working at the computer at the dining table with the blanket over my legs. When my hands get too cold I put them under the table where the electric heater keeps the temperature in the high 80s. I always wear a sweater so, with that and warm feet and legs, I'm pretty comfortable. The propane powers the stove and hot water, but since I joined a health club and shower there, I use very little hot water so only have to buy propane about every six weeks.

That problem was solved pretty easily, but there's another that won't go away until summer: mold. Yep, without a vapor barrier which, I suppose wasn't too common several hundred years ago when the building was built, the walls, being mostly below ground level are always damp. Sometimes they're plain old wet. The back splash for the kitchen sink and stove is tile. Water condenses on it and drips down to the counter top. Every morning I have to mop up the water on the counter. The cabinet where I keep dishes is against a wall that's below ground level, so it's always damp inside from condensation. Any dish that's not used and washed daily has to be washed before I use it because of the mold. I've started leaving the cabinet doors open, which helps.

Then there's the armoire in the bedroom, thoughtfully provided by the owner because there's no closet. The back of the armoire was against a wall that of course is below ground level and always damp. It was damp enough to seep through the back of the armoire. I discovered one day, to my chagrin, that inside on the center of the back was a very healthy crop of mold. Any clothing that was touching the back wall was happily participating in the science experiment, and even the clothing that was not in direct contact with the mold was beginning to join the party. Everything in it smelled of mold, whether it was visible or not. I suppose I needed an excuse to wash all my clothes anyway. I cleaned the armoire with bleach and moved it away from the wall. That gives me even less room in the tiny bedroom, but since I live alone and have no "social life," no one is too inconvenienced.

Maybe it's just my circumstances, living in a cold apartment and all, but I'm longing for the days of
HEAT. There's no place to go to get warm. I mentioned that I joined a health club, but they don't seem to spend any money on heat. I suppose they figure the body heat of their exercising clientele is plenty. It's not. I can't go to a bar to warm up because they're all cold also. People here are used to sitting outside at restaurants and bars, especially since it's illegal to smoke inside any public building in Spain. And since 99.9% of everyone in Spain smokes (that's a rough estimate, but based on a lot of observation) lots of people sit outside even in the cold. So, the doors are always open for the waiters to go in and out. It's as cold inside as out.

I don't know if I've mentioned, but I sing in the cathedral choir. The cathedral is 500 years old. Do you think it's heated? Not on your life. Even the rehearsal space is unheated. We practice in coats. We perform in coats and most people wear scarves. I'd wear gloves but that makes it difficult to turn the page of the music.

Such is life in Granada, Spain in winter. Sitting in the shade of a dry 100-degree afternoon with a cold beer sounds like heaven.

P.S. I live just a few minutes walk from a tiny grocery store where I buy a lot of necessities -- bread, coffee, fruits, vegetables, and wine. Having been here several months, the owners know me as a regular. They're a couple in their sixties, I'm guessing. The store doesn't have a cash register -- they just total what you buy with paper and pencil. Money is kept in a metal box under the counter. Strange thing though -- the wife of the couple doesn't know the price of things in the store and many of the products are not labeled. I've gone there a few times when the husband, who either knows the prices of everything or makes them up as he goes along (I haven't figured out which) isn't there. Since I'm a regular, the wife tells me to just take what I need. I stop by another day when the husband is there, tell him what I took, and pay up.

Granada is a nice place to live.

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